So What Happened?

Hereunder is an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 2 June 1866.

“Football Club -The first annual meeting of the Sydney Foot Ball Club was held last night, at the hotel of Mr. B. Palmer, Pitt and King streets. The chair was occupied by Mr. Oliver. The minutes of last meeting having been read and confirmed, the secretary, Mr. R. C. Hewitt,read the following report, and it was adopted – In submitting this our first report to you, your committee feel much pleasure in complimenting you upon the steady and favourable progress the club has made from its formation throughout its first season. Although at first, many prejudices were held against us in our infancy, and in spite of great opposition the club has clearly shown that foot ball properly played, is not a perilous break-neck folly, but a means of health, giving recreative enjoyment. The number of members elected during last season, was 66, out of whom only 24 paid their subscriptions, but before the finish of the ensuing season, from present prospects, your committee feel much pleasure in announcing to you that they have sanguine hopes that the number of members will be greatly increased. Your committee have also great pleasure in being able to inform you that not only is the club favourably looked upon in this city, but that its fame (principally through the report of its excellent matches with the Australian and University Clubs) has extended to the neighbouring colony of Victoria, and your secretary has received an intimation of the willingness of the football players of that colony to inaugurate a series of intercolonial football matches, and to show the earnestness of the Victorians, they would visit Sydney during the forthcoming season, could a team able to compete with them be got together and us guaranteeing to play them a return match during the next season in Melbourne. In conclusion, your committee would urge upon their suc-cessors the desirability of at once selecting some other ground more suitable than that on which the club played last season-namely, Hyde Park-as it is certainly dangerous to all who play thereon, also to endeavour, as has always been their maxim, to keep the club well supplied with ‘the sinews of war’ ‘ The following gentlemen were unanimously elected to the offices prefixed to their names -President, Mr Richard Driver, M L.A. , secretary and treasurer Mr. Richard C. Hewitt, committee, Messrs Shepherd, Samuel Cohen, Dawson, Charles Oliver, and Leslie J.Park. Nine new members were elected. A resolution was carried to the effect that the “Victorian Rules of Football, agreed to at a meeting of delegates of clubs held at Melbourne on the 8th of May 1866, be adopted as the rules of the Club. ” The secretary stated that he had received a challenge from Melbourne to play a match in Sydney, and the proposal was very favourably entertained, Mr Hewitt and Mr Cohen were elected delegates to confer with the represetatives of other clubs with a view to make the arrangements for accepting the challenge. The business was concluded with a vote of thanks to the chairman.” (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 2 June 1866, page 6)

We will endeavour to get the answer to this very vexed but important question.  More news on this coming  and just who were these people: Hewitt, Cohen and Charles Oliver.

Footy in the Depression

As the depression bit in the 1930s it had a defined impact on football in NSW.

Affiliation fees were reduced as were admission prices to grounds.

Sydneysiders were used to top class interstate teams and club sides coming to their town to play against a local representative outfit.  This was mostly used as a fillip for the game where promotion meant so much not only for its advancement in Sydney but also to its very existence.

The games attracted reasonable crowds which kept the turnstiles clicking. On a number of occasions, any profit after expenses, were left with the NSW Football League.

It is interesting to see the effect of the depression had on football in this table:

YEAR

REP GAMES

AT
HOME

AWAY

CARNIVAL

LEAGUE  ANNUAL
PROFIT/LOSS
*1926

4

3

1

No

+£314
1927

8

4

4

4

+£44
**1928

3

3

No

+£28
1929

5

4

1

No

-£200
1930

7

2

5

4

-£47
1931

1

1

No

-£14
1932

1

1

No

+£120
#1933

5

5

5

-£117
1934

3

1

2

No

-£54

 

*The VFL paid the entire expenses of the NSW team’s visit to Melbourne and allowed the NSWAFL to retain the entire gate receipts from the return match in Sydney.  This helped in the investment of  £125 for improvements at Erskineville Oval.  In the following year the league wrote off £100 which had been put aside for more work on the ground.

** This was after a £150 loan repayment to the VFL.

# Sydney hosted a national carnival at the SCG over 10 days.

In at least two of the seasons mentioned two respective  VFL clubs visited Sydney to play exhibition games.  After expenses were deducted the balance was left with the NSWAFL.

In the early 1920s one league treasurer bemoaned the fact that the league spent money it did not have, in anticipation of a good finals series or a representative game/s that would carry them through.  In those days the league operated and took the gate takings at club games which became the major source of income for the association for a number of years.

Regardless of finances, the game always went on, matches were always played.  In numerous seasons the league made a loss which can only be blamed on poor decision making.

In several of the 1920s seasons the league only got through with a loan from the VFL.  In late 1929 the league received a £200 ($15,000 in today’s money) bill from the Erskineville Park Trust – a substantial amount which it could not pay until the following April when Australian Football Council forwarded them some funds.

It makes you wonder where the game could be in Sydney had the right decision been made.

Why Football Did Not Kick in Sydney

axe 2There have been several reasons why Australian football never kicked on in Sydney.  Most of these have been offered by people who have little knowledge of the background and history of its development in the city.

Here, Hugh Stone, a Sydney based journalist of the late 1880s and early twentieth century offers his opinion.  If you have a moment, its not a bad read.  It was written in 1920 and appears verbatim:

Season 1923

In a progressive research programme of football in Sydney, one of the most interesting and successful seasons was 1923.

Here we give a potted view of what happened in that year:

  • In March the league sanction the formation of the NSW Junior Football League.  Two competitions were played under this umbrella.  A grade, which was in effect the reserve grade and a B grade which we think was an Under 18 or Under 16 division. Not all clubs fielded reserve grade teams and not all reserve graded clubs fielded a first grade, however the scheduling of matches worked out perfectly.  The B grade juniors competition which was composed of Newtown, Lane Cove, Glenmore Road (Glenmore Road Public School old boys), South Sydney and Dockyards teams.  (Check out this unique copy of a late July Reserve Grade ladder).  The Illawarra team mentioned here is a team from around the St George area and a forerunner to the present day club.  In this year it was coached by former Collingwood player, Con McCormack.  The Ashfield team changed its name to Western Suburbs in 1924 and played in the competition until 1929.
  •  The availability of grounds and in particular grounds with the capacity to charge an admission fee was a real problem.  Because of this, certain sections of the league wanted to reduce the number of first grade clubs from eight to seven which would then free up one venue per week.  Obviously the Police and Railway clubs were the prime targets for this exercise.  It failed.
  • On the subject of grounds, the NSW Aust Football League outbid the NSW Rugby League for the use of North Sydney Oval numbers 1 & 2 grounds.  No. 2 is now known as St Leonards Park.  They paid an incredible one thousand nine hundred and sixty pounds ($3920.00) as the hire fee for one season which, at a time a five room waterside bungalow at Drummoyne was selling for one thousand eight hundred and fifty pounds ($3700.00) or you could pick up a modern brick cottage at Auburn for five hundred and eighty pounds ($1160.00).  Game officials in Melbourne were over the moon with the acquisition of the ground and forwarded the league one hundred and fifty pound ($300), as a loan, to help with the payment.  And this was all before the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built, so getting to the ground was not all that simple.  At times, ground scheduling saw two south of the harbour clubs, playing on the ground.
  • At their March annual meeting the league declared a profit of four hundred and thirty four pounds ($868.00) and gave each of the clubs ten pounds ($20) on the proviso that this money go towards the purchase of new jumpers.
  • The 1922 last placed Sydney club amalgamated with second grade club, Public Service.  In all amalgamations, one consumes the other and Sydney did not change their name or colours.  State Taxation Department employee, (yes, the states conducted the taxation system then), Billy McKoy from Albury, was one of those Sydney gained in the amalgamation.  He went on to win two league best and fairest awards.
  • In April Sydney hosted an interstate railways carnival played at Erskineville Oval.  The NSW v SA match drew a crowd of 4,000.
  • By mid May there were 278 players registered in the league.
  • In June the NSW team travelled to Melbourne where they were defeated by the VFL 11.8 (74) to 8.12 (60) on the MCG before a crowd of  16,300. (photograph on right.  NSW players Cec Pedler is No. 7 while Billy McKoy is in jumper No. 5)
  • In July the NSW Rugby League, the winter lease holders of the SCG, refuse a request by the NSW Aust Football League for a date in August to play the VFL in a return game.
  • In July Paddy O’Shea is appointed coach of the NSW team which beat the Melbourne FC on Erskineville Oval 14.12 (96) before a crowd of 8,000.  Melbourne finish last in the VFL that year.
  • Early in August the Sydney club defeated Paddington before a crowd of 2,000 at Erskineville Oval and around the same period, is the first time that Hampden Oval is referred to as Trumper Park.
  • Flush with success over Melbourne, the NSW side takes on Carlton, again at Erskineville Oval, in August but comes away with a hiding, 18.16 (124) to 11.6 (72) before a crowd 10,000.  Sydney umpire, Chas Murray was the umpire.  Carlton finished in seventh place in 1923.
  • Before 8,000 spectators on 18 August, NSW 15.11 (101) beats the VFL 11.19 (85) at Erskineville Oval. Again, Chas Murray umpires the game.
  • In mid September, Sydney FC 10.7 (67) defeat Newtown 8.15 (63) before 6,000 people at Erskineville Oval.  Charlie Murray is the umpire.
  •  A week later St Kilda visit Sydney and played a mid-week game against the local premiers, Sydney on Erskineville Oval.  The Saints win the game 17.15 (117) to 9.15 (69).  A crowd of 1500 attend.  Leading St Kilda FC distance kicker, Dave McNamara gave an exhibition of his skill, booting the ball 72 metres.
  • The Paddington club travelled by train to the Riverina in late September where they played a combined league side and on the following Monday, the Leeton Club.  Newtown FC also travelled to the Riverina where they played Culcairn and other matches.
  • In the first week of October, the Ballarat FC visited Newcastle where they played the local league.  The previous year, the St Kilda FC had played a post season game in Newcastle.
  • The league finish the 1923 year with a credit balance of three hundred and ninety five pounds ($790.00).  Of this, they invested three hundred pounds ($600.00) the following year into the improvement of facilities at Erskineville Oval.  It also celebrates the year with the announcement of the appointment of a fulltime secretary from 1924.

The reason we have mentioned Chas Murray as the umpire of several of the games is because he went on to umpire a number of VFA grand finals and several VFL games after he moved to Melbourne in 1924.  We will have more on this man later.

This newspaper advertisement shows the list of pending matches.  Note the tax on the admission fee.