– Regent Street Gone

The League premises at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale

There would not be too many still involved in Sydney football who would remember the NSWAFL Headquarters at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale.

It was purchased by the League, with the help of loans from the Western Suburbs Licensed Club and a four thousand pounds advance from the Australian Football Council in 1964.

At the time it was a disused shop with residence above and part of a group of five similar adjoined buildings constructed in 1920.  All of these have recently been demolished to be replaced by a residential complex with most probably a series of commercial premises at street level.

The 1964 purchase by the league was a bold move by a body which had seen a series of homes since its disconnection from the NSW Sports Club in George Street, Sydney in about 1960.  The Sports Club had been the league’s home for almost 50 years and it too closed its doors recently.  They had use of a meeting room and minimal storage facilities.

The management committee of the league at the time were very proud of their new acquisition.  This committee was comprised of a number of men most of whom were also involved with various clubs Many of these put their hearts and soul into making something of this old building.

The League Headquarters in Regent Street at the time of purchase

It wasn’t long before a ground floor brick extension was added which took the boundary of the building back to the fence which borders the main Sydney rail line.  The front too had its timber and glass façade removed and replaced with brick surrounding an aluminium framed entry.

A most recent image of 64 Regent Street Chippendale (blue)

Initially it accommodated a fulltime secretary and typist and then over the years became a venue for all facets and committees of the league.

The building was lost to football when a coup in 1978 voted the long serving league president, Bill Hart out of office.  Eventually most of his loyal lieutenants followed and the replacement group forced the sale of the premises in 1981 for $77,500 with the league moving their offices to the Newtown Rules Club at the nearby 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern.  One of the reasons given for the sale was that the building was alive with white ants and yet it stood for another 36 years.  The electric sign you see in the top black and white image protruding over the footpath remained attached to the building for over 20 years after its sale.

Since 1981, the building has changed hands several times with the last sale in 2016 realising $1,300,000.00.

With its demolition goes part of football history in NSW.

– NSW Football League in 1970

The League premises at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale
NSWAFL premises at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale

We have found an article in a popular 1970 sporting magazine about Sydney Football.

The NSWAFL had purchased their own premises in 64 Regent Street, Chippendale with the help of the Australian Football Council and licensed club of the Western Suburbs Aussie Rules Club, Croydon Park.

Within a few years of that purchase they had renovated the building and added a single storey brick addition at the rear.  This then almost backed onto the rail lines which ran between Central and Redfern.  It is still there but now not owned by the football league.

Things were looking up;  The management of the league was in good hands, they were making a profit each year, the competition was expanding with football being introduced to areas where it was not normally played nor accepted.

You will see in this article (click here) that those in charge were ambitious and keen to see the game develop and they had big ideas for the future of the code in New South Wales.

 The 1970 NSWAFL Staff
The 1970
NSWAFL Staff

Some of these did come to fruition but maybe in a different manner than these people envisaged.

As time goes by, so do the people and three of those in these images are now deceased.

 

1970

1970 Football Record thumbnailIts 46 years since a triumphant Newtown won the flag in Sydney – their last.  And looking back makes you realise how old we are getting.

We have selected a page from the then popular Football Record which highlights an article on the proposed sale of Picken Oval by its owner.

Wests had use of the ground for almost 20 years before ‘an incident’ occurred between the licensed club and a member of the owner’s family.  This resulted in the owner banning use of the ground by the club.

This event took Wests for a spin.  They could not longer train nor play on the ground, in fact the league also lost use of the ground which was a great blow to the game in Sydney.

It might be said that at the time the Wests licensed club were negotiating with the owner to purchase the land, of course this all fell through.

Wests were then forced to look for an alternate venue which included Bankstown’s Jensen Oval and Mac Uni’s Roger Sheeran Oval, Henson Park before they settled on the disused brickpit which became Wagener Oval, Ashbury.  The title of the oval was named after a former umpire and president of Wests in their halcyon days, Bill Wagener.

The owner then began talks with developers with one proposal to build a super mall containing Coles and other variety stores on the parcel of land.  Following urging of local residents, many of whom were Wests supporters, the local council took the matter to the Land and Environment Court which disallowed any development and decreed that the site be maintained as open space/recreational.

So while the land never did end up in the hands of Wests, the club was granted use of the as their home ground.

The page also provides advertisements, one from Allen Sigsworth, a player with the Newtown Club who later went on to become an umpire and Jim Mitchell who conducted a sports store in Crofts Avenue Hurstville.  Jim was a former player with St George and most if not all clubs in Sydney did their business with Jim.

It provides the names and contact numbers of the Sydney club secretaries, some of whom have passed but a number are still with us and at least two, John Armstrong and George McGifford are members of the Football History Society.

The photograph shows Newtown’s captain and coach, David Sykes (also a member), accepting the trophy after winning the 1970 premiership.  League president, Bill Hart is on his right along with a delightful young lady who also managed to get into view.  She would be well in her fifties by now!

Enjoy the read, just click the image above.

A Testing Time

1956 Alf Snow 001In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.

We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.

1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.

The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”

Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.

So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.

Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.

Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.

Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.

The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.

1960
So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.

It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did 1969 Hart, Felstead, Ferguson & Hayes thumbnailnot show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.

The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of  the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.

Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”

However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.

Deficits
From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).

By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.

The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.

The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s.  From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.

 

YES, WHAT’S IN A NAME?

NSW Football LeagueFootball in NSW or more particularly, Sydney, has undergone scores of changes over the years.  Different name, different administration but in the end, its all just football.  Much like government departments when a new party gets into power or a new bureaucrat takes over, “Change the name, it will produce a better result.

Here the changes over the years:

 

PERIOD

NAME
1880-1994 New South Wales Football Association
1903-25 New South Wales Football League
1926-73 New South Wales Australian National Football League
1974-79 New South Wales Australian Football League
1980-86 NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
1987-90 NSWAFL (NSW State Football League)
1991-98 NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
1999- AFL (NSW-ACT)  – AFL Sydney

 

What does it really mean and did these changes produce a better result?

Well when football was resurrected in 1903 after an eight year hiatus, it was a good thing.  Apart from a road bump in 1915 when the game nearly again fell over, the next change was in 1926.  This year brought with it other changes:

East Sydney FC combined with the Paddington FC to form a brand new, Eastern Suburbs Australian Football Club. With the reintroduction of District Football, where the name of a club had to represent an electoral district, the Railway Club disappeared, oddly so too did Balmain.  The North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs Clubs somehow both slid under the radar with this district business.  The north side club changed their name from ˜North Sydney” back to North Shore.  A further change was the introduction of the Western Suburbs Club into the competition.

NSWANFLIn the opinion of officials, adding of the word ˜National” to the the league’s title gave it and the game more of an Australian embracing influence.  So yes, here too, the change in the name did coincide with other changes to the competition.  In response, the attendance figures increased in the 1926 season.

But by now other competitions throughout NSW began to question the value of affiliation with the NSW Body.

These leagues included those in the Riverina, Broken Hill as well as an on-again, off-again competition in Newcastle.  There were no others. The Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) was formed in 1927 and by 1933 all the leagues in the Riverina, led by Digger Carroll, had gone over to the VCFL, leaving the NSWANFL as an almost solitary beacon for Australian football within the state.

Really, the NSWANFL could offer very little to other leagues.  Unlike the major associations in the rest of Australia and certainly footballing centres in country Victoria and southern NSW, attendances in Sydney, by comparison were very meagre resulting in little money coming into the system.  Just as importantly the NSWANFL were saddled with a poor profile which in turn did not attract skilled and solid leadership.

So, incorporated in  all the responsibilities of a state sporting body, the same group had to conduct a football competition in Sydney on a shoestring budget, all run by volunteers.

NSWAFLThrough to 1974 then without any fanfare, the word ˜National”  was removed from the title .  There was no significant changes to the competition, nor the game in general in that period.  It was, and had been for decades, the poor relation in Sydney sport and yet it continued to survive.

1979 saw the emergence of a reform group who rolled the incumbent and long term NSWAFL president, Bill Hart, the previous December.

The motivation to this was the perceived backing from influential elements in the VFL who promised funding for an experienced football administrator to run Sydney football and the NSWAFL, subject to support on a national level, for interstate VFL games to be played in Sydney of a Sunday.

The revitalised Sydney league was initially all spirited, enthusiastic and gung-ho.  A new man from Melbourne was appointed as the General Manager, the league’s offices at 64 Regent Street Chippendale were sold off and the administration moved to nearby premises at the Scan.BMPNewtown Rules Club in Cleveland Street, Redfern.

Eventually the independent Board was replaced by a board of club directors a move which would produce cronyism and ‘caucusing’ where the strong got stronger and the other clubs just rolled along.  Football in Sydney now primarily  promoted Sydney and the NSWAFL was put on the back burner as other sub-state bodies grew in stature and did their own thing.

NSW State FLBy 1987 there was yet a further change.  Sydney and the NSWAFL were broke and badly in debt.  An independent group managing the affairs of the NSWAFL told the Sydney clubs to sink or swim.  Either agree to a change in the administration or go out of business.  Really, there was no alternative.  That initial energy for change and a more ‘Sydney’ influence had well dissipated.

There was a big transformation in Sydney Football – there had to be – with three divisions again established, most of the sub groups abolished and the NSWAFL was back in charge.  The Sydney component became known as the NSW State Football League with a long term view of incorporating clubs from around the state.  Thankfully it did not happen but gradually the league moved into a position of financial stability.

In 1991 the NSW State Football League designation was abolished to revert to the Sydney Football League with the administration marginally re-arranged, but not much else took place.

Then in 1998 following yet another report on the state of health of football in NSW, a further change saw the introduction of the AFL(NSW-ACT).  This produced a few on-field alterations to Sydney footy like 16 aside etc. yes a major move but again, little else came about in the structure and framework of the actual competition.

AFL Sydney had now assumed full control of the Sydney league with full funding from the major AFL body in Melbourne.  They also funded football development throughout the state but unlike the Sydney open age football, most of the leagues in NSW were left to finance their own activities.

The major change came in 2009 when under the then Sydney Football Operations Manager, Garry Burkinshaw, divisionalisation took place.  This was the biggest adjustment to Sydney football since 1948 when Balmain, Western Suburbs (both for the second time) and Sydney University were introduced to the competition or perhaps it was 1926 changes?

The Changing Face of Football in Sydney

Australian football has always owned the tag as the poor relation in Sydney.

The game was first introduced to the city in 1880 upon the formation of the NSW Football Association.  It took until the following year before any clubs were formed: Sydney and East Sydney were the first and the East Sydney of those days should not be confused with the East Sydney of the 1980s & 90s.

Immediately the game attracted the wrath of rugby officials led by top protagonist, Monty Arnold who said at the Association’s formation “if the Melbourne and Carlton clubs were playing a match in Melbourne, and the Kelly gang were firing within a quarter of a mile of them, he did not believe there would be a soul looking at the football”

Arnold and his co-horts were absolutely opposed and vitriolic to the new game and its introduction was made all the worse when some tried to change the rules of rugby because of its many dangerous aspects.  Paradoxically, they welcomed the formation of the soccer association.

A few Sydney journalists were sympathetic to the Victorian game but when it sank into anarchy, in-fighting and bitterness they dropped off and the game failed to move into the 1895 season.

Harry Hedger 1908It was left the since unrecognized enthusiast and former player, Harry Hedger, pictured, to lead the resurgence of the game in Sydney in 1903.

Its development went well and the game became stronger reaching out to schools and junior grades.  Poor management in the purchase of the original Rosebery Racecourse site on the corner of Botany and Gardeners Road, Mascot and the onset of WWI put the game back to almost a zero base.  But with steady work and commitment from officials of the league it clung on, despite being comprised of only five clubs in 1917.  There was no second grade during the war and for the most part the junior competition also disappeared.

There was a spark of hope during the 1920s when NSW defeated the VFL in 1923 and again in 1925 but it again slumped into its familiar rung on the ladder as the least favoured game in the city.

The depression years of the thirties brought no solace and for the most part the league was locked with six clubs and only two grounds where they could truly derive a gate – the strength of their income.

Then WWII brought new hope.  Australian football was the first sport to move to Sunday football, for no other reason than they desperately needed that additional Sydney Football Attendances Graph smallvenue where a gate could be charged.  It was during this period that servicemen from interstate were in or moving through Sydney and they played with local clubs.

Names like Collingwood’s captain, Phonse Kyne was the captain and coach of St George, Alby Morrison who was chosen in Footscray’s team of the century was with the RAAF team, future Brownlow Medalist, Bill Morris played with South Sydney while 17 year old Western Australian, Jack Sheedy, another AFL Hall of Famer, turned out for the Sydney Club.

These are just a very few of the football talent in Sydney during the war.

Following hostilities the game was riding high in public opinion, particularly so when three new clubs, Western Suburbs, Balmain and Sydney University were added to the competition in 1948.

During the fifties the image of the game lapsed especially when newspapers highlighted the negative parts of the game: fights and problems in matches.

More clubs were formed and joined the competition leading to twelve in 1962 “a perfect time to turn the competition into two divisions.”  It didn’t happen and the change from 18 aside to 16 aside in  1960 was also overturned mid-season.

By this time though, Western Suburbs gained their liquor licence and became very much a supporter and promoter of the game playing out of the same Picken Oval as now, but then it was surrounded by a training trotting track and privately owned.  The club though pumped thousands of dollars into the game and supported the league’s purchase of offices in Regent Street, Chippendale.

Football didn’t really move, they had lost many chances though by the seventies two new divisions had been formed.

Bill Hart, President NSWAFL 1966-78
Bill Hart, President NSWAFL 1966-78

In 1978 a coup threw out the popular league president Bill Hart and eventually his cronies went with him.  The VFL backed move with promised support didn’t last long before the administration in Sydney really struggled.

Then came the Sydney Swans and new VFL money and finance through the Swans licence scheme.  This eventually fell over and the club was subsequently taken over by the league.  Sydney football though had solidified and were well led with a move to more permanent offices in the Wentworth Park Grandstand, Glebe, where a number of other sports were domiciled.

Of course things always change and in 1998 there was a further takeover by the AFL which has funded the league and NSW football ever since.  It resulted in more staff, more people on the ground but are there more playing the game?

The elected officials have gone and the game is run by bureaucrats in their central Moore Park Offices.

Makes you wonder with all the changes the game has endured over the past 134 years, what the future holds for Sydney football?

In some sense it doesn’t have much but in others it has a lot.  It certainly has a rich past.

A LOOK BACK TO 1987

My beautiful pictureAlmost 30 years ago now, yet another new regime took hold of NSW football.

Only a few years prior to this, a new broom under president, Bernie Heafey, in a coup, swept aside the congenial governance of Bill Hart, which, for the most part, had followed the operational football pattern based on that set when the game was resuscitated in Sydney in 1903.

The VFL supported Heafey management lasted no more than half a dozen years following the bluff and bluster of their introduction.  In fact it sent a very divided Sydney and NSW football administration almost broke.  In late 1986 the NSWAFL auditors advised that the league would be declared bankrupt.

By this time a new regime which followed and was linked to the private ownership of the Sydney Swans, and had, as part of their licence, to guarantee $417,000 per year for development of the game in NSW, had taken root.  But in all the manoeuvrings, conivings and plottings which in the end produced poor management as opposed the good and benefit of football, had made its mark.

Players and officials from clubs and country leagues knew little of of the problems and issues of the inner sanctum of NSW/Sydney Football.  Their main concern was their little patch and so long as the game went ahead on the weekend, these issues were of little concern.

By mid 1986 the turmoil faltered to an administrative staff of two: the aging former St George official, Bob McConnell whose role was to deal with player clearances together with the office typist, who both conducted the day to day activities of the league.

Queanbeyan FC guru, Ron Fowlie had resigned his job as CEO of the NSW Football League to return to his club while the machinations of the Sydney competition itself started to show signs of self destruction.

NSWAFL was under the direction of the affable and relatively young, Rod Gillett (pictured), who had made a name for himself working at a number of university student unions throughout the state.  The vital asset Gillett had over his four man committee of Pritchard, Smith and Thomas was his commitment and passion for the game and in particular NSW football.  Fortunately, and in probability with some bias, they made the very important appointment of Ian Granland to the role of CEO of the league.

Important because Granland was a local, he had been a club secretary in Sydney and had an extensive involvement at club and league level.  He understood Sydney football and his heart beat for football.  He knew and understood the problems, the issues and the politics.

Bob Pritchard, who gained his notoriety with Powerplay in the Edelsten years at the Sydney Swans, called a meeting of Sydney Club presidents at the Western Suburbs Licensed Club premises in late 1986.  He laid the options on the table, which included a commission to run the league.  Either relinquish ‘power’ to his group and continue as a viable league or go under.  He also sold the blueprint of a state wide league to operate in NSW which would incorporate some but not all Sydney clubs.  Incidentally this never came to fruition although a similar competition was later tried.

At the same time, Pritchard had arranged for cricket legend, Keith Miller, a former St Kilda, Victoria and NSW player to take on the position of Chief Commissioner ( president) of the NSWAFL.  Miller was reluctant but had Gillett as his accomplished offsider.

The clubs acquiesced.  Authority was once again vested in the NSW Australian Football League.  Change was swift.  The NSW Junior Football Union, which had acquired some dominance over junior football in the state, most particularly because of their influence in the selection and promotion of junior state teams, was abolished.

Next to go was the NSW Country Australian Football Leauge, of which Granland had been a leading advocate. Ironically, it was he who wielded the axe.

The roles of both these organisations was then vested in the NSW Football League, of which, Sydney became one and not a dominant partner. Many of the positions undertaken by volunteers were assumed by paid administrators and the coaching of young state representative teams was in time, assigned to professional football people.

Then there were changes to Sydney football.  Make no mistake, the league was broke.  They had creditors of $50,000 and debtors of $30,000. The competition was split into three divisions, affiliation fees were substantially increased, an individual player registration fee was introduced and those clubs that were in debt to the league were told to pay up or go and play somewhere else.  All but one paid.  The plan was to make the three divisions pay their way, instead of relying on the major clubs to contribute the lions’ share.

There were other subtle changes  The accounts were split, the major one concerning the $417,000 was isolated and the Sydney development officers, all of whom were Sydney Swans players, had their job descriptions better defined to be capably overseen under manager, Greg Harris and later Craig Davis.

Despite some heartache and fractured egos, the foundations were well and truly laid for a revised and viable NSW Australian Football League until the October 1987 world stock market crash bit into the private ownership of the Sydney Swans, effecting the cash flow of the annual $417,000 development money.

My beautiful picture Bob Pritchard 2 My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture
Keith Miller Bob Pritchard Ian Granland Ron Thomas Greg Harris Bob McConnell
My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture
1987 Sydney Swans Development Officers
Brett Scott Craig Davis Dennis Carroll Mark Browning Paul Hawke Stevie Wright

North Shore Licensed Club

1974 North Shore Licensed Club smallNorth Shore obtained a liquor licence from the court on 13 August 1973.  The club was opened on 18 December, Just in time for Christmas.

The whole exercise though had been a long and costly journey with a number of the club’s officials putting their hand in their pocket to make it all happen.  Former club president, Jim Tuton, wrote in April of 1973 that  “the licensed club project has proved to be a long and drawn out affair and in this vital time needs the maximum of support.”

The entire saga took 20 months and a great deal of time, effort, commitment and money.  The club were not granted a licence in the conventional manner.  Polonia-Northside Soccer Club had licensed premises at 92 Arthur Street North Sydney and went broke.

Polonia were a soccer club which participated in the NSW State League.

It is alleged that in those days what we could term as ‘shady characters’ funded some innocent and somewhat gullible sporting clubs in NSW in order for them to get a license but their involvement didn’t end there.  Somehow these people organised a major share in their involvement written into the agreement with the club and when the license was eventually granted, moved in to conduct the affairs of the business.  The particular club and the people who had the members received next to nothing from the enterprise while those who funded the project cleaned up, mainly from the proceeds of the poker machines of the day which were very loosely policed and not taxed.  There was a fair chance that such a club was Polonia Northside.

At least one Australian football club in Sydney was approached by this or a similar group at the time but the venture never got off the ground.

Those running North Shore at the time got to hear of the plight of the soccer club (the licensed club was a complete separate entity from their onfield ‘kicking’ club) and made inquiries about a takeover.

The matter ended up in the Equity Court where Mr Justice Street gave final and absolute approval for the North Shore organisers’ scheme to ‘reconstruct a club which was in liquidation.’

It was through the foresight and effort of people like Fred Mackay, Bill Bairstow, Phillip Loiterton and Jim Tuton who spearheaded the operation which was not only supported by members of the North Shore Club but also members of other Australian football clubs in Sydney.

The whole project would not have been possible without the wonderful financial support of the Western Suburbs Australian Football Club Ltd and the personal support of the president of the NSW Football League, Bill Hart and his board of management.

Also the executive of the Australian National Football Council were very empathetic in their stand.

The North Shore (licensed) club obtained a loan from the Australian Football Council through the NSW Football League for $10,000 which mortgaged their offices at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale as guarantee.  This was further guaranteed by the Western Suburbs Club.

The club in North Sydney functioned for about six years or so but eventually failed.  There were a number of reasons put forward for this, none the less was the need for more professional administration.

Another was the location, right opposite the Warringah Expressway.  The club needed to capitalise on the lunchtime crowd in North Sydney because weekends, for the most part, were dead.  The area had moved away from residential housing to that of a commercial hub.

Such a shame for North Shore and football.

The other club which gained their license in the same year as North Shore was the Riverina Australian Football Club at Wagga.  It too has had its ups and downs but now appears to have stabilised.

1961

The 1961 season in Sydney was one full of action, the employment of a full time employee, the tragic death of an up and coming footballer, accusations of missing money, stuff ups in the final series but best of all, great football.

This is a long read, so grab a cup of coffee and sit down a learn a bit of Sydney footy history.

Sydney University were readmitted to the competition but not in the first grade.Uni Blues, Uni Bolds,   Instead they  fielded two teams in the reserve grade: Uni Blues and Uni Golds.  Neither won the premiership but cleaned up in the League Best & Fairest, the Sanders Medal, with the top three places going to Uni players.

Balmain failed to turn up for a pre-season game against North Shore at Trumper Park.  This brought their tenure in the competition under some scrutiny.  The following week they came out and cleaned up the strong Eastern Suburbs club by four goals in round 1.

The competition started with a dramatic change to 16-aside, a decision which was continually ridiculed as being anti-football and almost unAustralian until the league was almost forced to revert to the normal 18 per team, mid season.

Long term Sydney tough player and coach, Jack Armstrong, turned his hand to umpiring and was ultimately appointed to the competition’s 1st semi final..

South Melbourne FC defeated a combined Sydney team 17.29 (131) to 6.6. (42) at Trumper Park before a good crowd on 28 May.

Eventual premiers, North Shore, kicked 2.13 (25) to defeat the lowly Bankstown side 2.11 (23).  This was one of the lowest post WWII scores in Sydney football.

Bankstown were known by the very bizarre name as the Boomerangs.  Western Suburbs were the Pirates, Balmain the Magpies, St George the Tigers and North Shore the Bears.

There was an Umpires strike in round 15 but football went ahead with the league using stand-in personnel.  The forty year old South Sydney captain-coach, Jack Atkins, umpired a second grade game then backed up as boundary for the firsts only to eventually replace central umpire, the University and NSW coach, Frank Bird, who broke down.

The competition was shocked when 20 year old soldier, Roger Challis, was killed whilst hitch hiking from Puckapunyal in Victoria to play with the South Sydney club.  This talented full forward had played in the Sydney team against South Melbourne the previous month.  He was buried at the Waverley Cemetery with full Military Honours.  Read Football Records article here.

In a bit of embarrassing news, the league full time secretary, Jack Holman, was reported to be admitted to hospital in July. The Football Record had to print a retraction when Jack, who never did get there, had several people visit the hospital and others send get-well wishes and flowers with many wondering where he was.  We guess they could have accepted this had it happened on April 1.

The Australian Football Club Limited (a licensed club venture) held weekly get togethers at Aarons Hotel in Pitt Street.  Membership was an expensive thirty shillings per year ($3).  Sylvania accountant and league board member, Arthur Davey was the prime mover in this project which never did get off the ground.

The league relocated their offices from the NSW Sports Club in Hunter Street, Sydney to Trumper Park, Paddington.

Western Suburbs club were granted a liquor licence, the first for an Australian football club in NSW.  Future league long term president, Bill Hart was in his eighth season as football club secretary at Wests.

A Parramatta Club was formed in July with Ron Cameron elected its president, Kevin Little secretary and Peter Clark, the treasurer.  They adopted pale blue and white as their colours with a jumper design in alternate panel colours.  The meeting was held at the Parramatta Town Hall.  This new club had a four goal win against Newcastle at Trumper Park on 2 September.

In the popular annual Army v Navy game at Trumper Park, the Navy side recorded an easy 14.18 to 11.12 win with all proceeds raised on the day going to the Royal NSW Institute for the Deaf and Blind Children.

The game received good media coverage after reportedly securing the services of a promotion company, Recreation International, to market the game in Sydney.

The last round saw St George, South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs all on equal points in fourth place.  Saints had to play the stronger third placed Sydney Naval in their final game, Souths were opposed the seventh place, Western Suburbs while East were up against the hapless Liverpool team.

St George lost, Souths had a 10 goal win over Wests but Easts belted Liverpool by 165 points to grab fourth place with a percentage 122.2 just in front of South Sydney’s 120.0.  Souths therefore missed their opportunity to play in the finals for the first time since 1949 when, ironically, they were beaten by Easts by one point in the first semi.

Voting for the Phelan, Sanders and Kealey Medals, league B & F Medals, was counted on the second semi final day at Trumper Park with the winners announced over the PA system.  How times have changed.

And now for the fun….

Newtown FC protested the result of their six point preliminary final loss to Sydney Naval at Trumper Park when it was revealed that the siren sounded 12 MINUTES early to end the first quarter.

This came about when the president of marching girls team (who were to perform at half time), plugged her music into the power board and when she tested it, pressed the wrong switch which sounded the siren.  Nothing could be done because the players stopped and changed ends (there was no quarter time huddles then).

This certainly caused an conundrum with officials quickly deciding to spread those 12 minutes over the next three quarters, but they failed to tell anyone.  Was that a wise move, AND, was it within the rules or maybe a situation like this had not been considered possible?

(But wait, theres more…)  To add insult to injury, at the end of the game the (only) central umpire failed to hear the final siren with both teams level on 88 points.  Sydney Naval player, Jack Harding had  marked 40m out but his kick failed to reach the goal just as the siren sounded.  Oblivious to this, umpire Colbert called “play on” which allowed Naval player, Alan Waack to gather the ball and boot a goal.  Sydney Naval by six points!

The umpire even returned to the centre of the ground for the bounce before he acknowledged ‘time’.

The Newtown protest was upheld and the game replayed.  By the way, the marching girls raised a goodly twenty pounds ($40) in their blanket collection for the day.

Another calamity happened in the replay
When starting to pack up towards the end of the replayed preliminary final, league acting secretary, Joe Boulus in dismantling the public address system, accidentally sounded the siren 8 MINUTES before the end of the last quarter – don’t you just hate that?  League Vice President, George Henry, jumped the fence and ran to tell the umpire but it was too late.  Sydney Naval won 10.14 (74) to 7.10 (52).

No protest was lodged after this game.

This impediment put the grand final back a week and because Trumper Park was unavailable and the only ground of some consequence which the league could use was the RAS Showground at Moore Park.  So, on the same day, the Rugby Union held their grand final on the Sydney Sports Ground, the NSW Rugby League grand final on the SCG and the AFL decider next door.  All grounds adjoin each other so besides general bedlam, parking and public transport would have been at a premium.

On top of all this was the resignation of the treasurer in June when it was revealed that the accounts were in a mess.  This was quickly followed by the suspension of the full time secretary when questions were asked about missing money and work that simply had not been done.  But all this will be told in a later story.  Your eyes must be getting sore?

Oh by the way, we have activated our Twitter account.  You can follow us there.

The Coup of 1978

Towards the end of the 1970s a certain section of the Sydney football community were tiring of the league administration led by long term president, Bill Hart.

As successful as it was in its own way, it was seen as old fashion, not up with the times, anti VFL and still followed doctrine that had been laid out earlier in the century.

Added to this was the growing interest the VFL was showing to extend their influence into Sydney.  In 1974 Victoria v South Australia played at the SCG which attracted 20,000 fans but more importantly the game was televised live to W.A., Tasmania, South Australia, ACT and most country areas of NSW.

In those days the Victorian Government would not permit the VFL to play their games on Sundays in that state so they began looking for different venues where their football could be televised back into Melbourne.  Sydney was one such location which had the potential to fill the void most admirably.  It is safe to say at that stage, there was no premeditated vision to expand the competition interstate.

A lot of the acrimony in Sydney had to do with the NSWAFL’s participation in the Escort Championships.  This was a separate knock-out competition which began in 1977 involving then only the 12 VFL clubs but by 1979 it also included all WAFL clubs, NSW, Tasmania and the ACT.  The following year all clubs in the SANFL became involved along with Queensland.

NSW’s involvement was not without distress when the NSWAFL Board of Management resolved in August, 1978 to involve the state in the series but only after a fairly volatile debate which was then followed by a very close vote.

So with this underlying feeling that the old school would not move with the time plus and rancour in NSW’s involvement in the Escort Championships, a clandestine group began to meet at the then Newtown Rules Club, 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern, with the ultimate aim of unseating the administration of the league at the December 1978 AGM.  At that time and for the previous 75 years, the NSWAFL conducted not only the football affairs of part of NSW but also the Sydney competitions.

If successful the group were promised by the VFL the appointment of a ‘fulltime professional administrator for the league.’  This was despite the fact that the NSWAFL had had a fulltime secretary with assistant, since 1964.

In October 1978, part-time television personality, Kevin Taylor, who, by that time, had been sacked by the league as their media representative, laid out the plans of the new group in an article in a local inner-city newspaper, The Sydney Shout, so it was quite clear that the clandestine tag had been quickly lost with the machinations of the time.

Along with Taylor, Bern Heafey was one of the prime movers in the Sydney football power play.  He was an affable character who had football at heart.  Heafey had one year as president of the North Shore Club in 1951 but later involved himself with St Ives, a second division club, where he was president.  In time he was to become the face of the new faction but only for a short period.

The idea of change came with the suggestion of new and exciting possibilities and additional meetings were held at other venues, including Easts Rules Club, Bond Junction, St George Clubrooms at Olds Park and even Bankstown Sports Club.  Tension was building with the group’s activities because not all clubs were involved with this action.

The 1978 Annual General Meeting of the NSWAFL was set for Monday 11 December at their offices, 64 Regent Street, Chippendale.

Unusually, the actual meeting was held in the front reception area of the small attached brick building where there was standing room only for most.

League officials were very much aware of the move against them with both camps working overtime to secure sufficient votes to get over the line.

Each of the nine Sydney first division clubs had two votes.  The eight second division clubs each had one vote as did the NSW Junior Football Council, Newcastle AFL, South Coast AFL, NSW Country AFL, Central Coast AFL, Illawarra AFL and each board member of the league.  Life members also had the opportunity to exercise a vote but historically not many of these personnel turned out for the annual meetings.  Perhaps if they had  realised the significance of the possible outcome, they might have made the effort.

The meeting was extremely acrimonious with chairman, Bill Hart, flat out controlling the sometimes raucous attendees who were full of interjections.

Hart (shown here on the left) was defeated by Heafey in a close vote.  Country representative, Allen Baker was appointed to the Vice President’s position.

Many of the incumbent Board of Management were re-elected but several, along with Heafey, only lasted a year or two with a number of resignations listed in 1980.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the change was the sale of premises at 64 Regent Street, which incidentally the purchase of which was mainly funded by the Western Suburbs Football Club Ltd.  The building was far from salubrious but did represent the code with a main street location and somewhere to call ‘home’.

After the sale, League officials were then housed in the top floor at the Newtown Rules Club at 303 Cleveland Street Redfern, a converted picture theatre, until 1985 when they moved to new premises under the Bill O’Reilly stand at the SCG.

The enthusiasm and new Sydney Football League entity which resulted from the coup, did not last and when a new administration took control not that many years later, it all changed again.