– Sunday Football – Not All That Easy

Playing football or any sport for that matter on the weekend is just a given these days, but that wasn’t always the case.

The Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave approval of the 40-hour five-day working week nationally beginning on 1 January 1948.

Prior to this most of Australia’s workers laboured on Saturday Morning which in turn impacted on football:
• Games started later on Saturday afternoons. In Sydney, senior matches commenced at 3:00pm while the reserve grade started at 1:30pm, normally with limited quarters and no time on. Rugby League started their games at 3:15pm and Rugby Union 3:20pm.

• The development of junior football was restricted because of the needs of adults to work on Saturday Mornings. In some areas this led to Sunday Morning football. Most, but not all junior football was left to schools. There was however the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association which was like a Second Division in Sydney, supporting at times, grades as low as Under 16s.

• Many senior games in the country were played of a Sunday but in a number of cases this incurred the wrath of the church and many politicians. Some country councils would not allow any sport at all on Sunday so this then restricted the limits of football competitions, particularly in the country, where time would not permit distant travel to an opposition town to play.

When senior sport attempted to play or apply for use of grounds in Sydney on Sunday in the late 1930s they were met with attitudes like this from the Town Clerk (General Manager) of the Randwick Council: “that Sabbatarianism and muddied oafs is a blend that may not be quaffed on grounds under his council’s control.”

But this wasn’t the stance in all parts of NSW. Sunday games had been played on and off in Broken Hill since the early part of the 20th century but it wasn’t until 1939 that a Sunday Football League was established.

In June 1919 the Temora Rugby League Club presented a petition signed by 600 inhabitants of the town requesting that the resolution to ban the use of the Recreation Ground for football on Sundays be lifted. It was not successful so in September of the same year, Temora chose to play Junee on a private piece of land in the town.

By 1920 Rugby League in Junee area was being regularly played of a Sunday,  but perhaps not in all parts of the Riverina.

By December 1936 Bathurst remained the only town in the Central West where Sunday football was not sanctioned however by 1937 ‘the extension of Sunday football in country areas ’had pretty much crept throughout the rugby league community.

The South West District (Australian) Football League in the Riverina was reformed just before WWII and they began to play of a Sunday, which proved exceptionally popular. The league was comprised of clubs moving from other competitions.

With Sydney though it would appear the matter was a very vexed question when the Australian Football body considered playing games on a Sunday in early 1938.

Newtown FC secretary, Les Blackmore said “Sunday football has never been officially discussed by our club and until it comes before my committee, nobody can assert that we are ln favour of the proposal. There might have been some unofficial talks on the subject, and, from what I can gather, opinions are about equally divided. Personally, I am against, the Idea.”

Why did Sydney football administrators consider moving to Sunday?

Ostensibly they said it was because of a lack of three grounds where an entry fee could be charged. So one way or the other, it was all about money.

At the adjourned 1938 annual meeting of the New South Wales Australian National Football League, Mr. J. McKeown, president of the Sydney club, moved a motion that the competition matches should be divided, two games to be played on Saturdays and one game on the Sunday. It was resolved to refer a decision to the individual clubs for an expression of opinion.

Mr. McKeown said that, “for many reasons, Saturday football was not revenue producing, and the trend now was wholly in favour of Sunday football. Owing to the Housing Board having taken charge of Erskineville Park, the approaches were in such a bad state that people would not visit the oval, and if Erskineville Oval could not pay, as it had always done, for the other grounds, the results at the end of the season would not be as good as they had been in the past.”

[Note: This was when the old Erskineville Oval was being demolished and moved to its present location.  The ground in this year was playable but the venue was not attractive.]

Bruce O’Grady, the Sydney Club secretary said “Erskineville Oval gets a big crowd on Saturday, because the best game is staged there. Trumper Park is not as good while Kensington Oval is useless, we are lucky if we get 50 shillings at Kensington but if we can get £50 out of the ‘gate’ on a Sunday at Trumper we will be satisfied.”

In what can only be described as a weak move, instead of making the decision themselves, the N.S.W. Australian National Football League decided to ask the clubs to ascertain the views of players and to report back to the League by April 4, 1938.

At a subsequent meeting of the N.S.W. National Football League the introduction of Sunday football in Sydney was soundly defeated by an overwhelming majority .  Strangely, the decision followed a vote by the players, of whom 73 were against and 29 in favour. The South Sydney Club was the only club to support the scheme. Following this vote, the chairman, Mr. W. H. Fitt, said that “it would have been impossible to carry out the idea, owing the lack of grounds. ”We canvassed all councils for a ground without success.”

By 1943 however it was all different. The League president, Mr N P Joseph announced that “with the admission of an R.A.A.F. team into the competition, (virtually replacing North Shore FC which withdrew during WWII) it would be necessary to play one match each Sunday. A shortage of playing area would not allow of three games being played on Saturday.”  And so we ask, “What changed?”

And boy did it improve the gate takings.

Of course there is more to the story which we shall go into in a later story. Below is the graph of gate takings at Sydney football between 1930-60.

References:
Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga
Barrier Miner, Broken Hill
Sydney Morning Herald 16 March 1943 p.7
Sydney Morning Herald, 23 March 1938, p.21
Sun, Sydney, 23 March 1938, p.21
Sun, Sydney, 24 March 1938, p.47
Truth, Sydney, 27 March 1938, p. 7
Cootamundra Herald, 6 April 1938, p.2
NSWANFL 1938 & 1943 Annual Reports

SCHOOLBOYS FOOTY – new photo

1922 NSW Schoolboys Team 2 smallEver thought about where our footballers came from years ago?  I mean what junior football did they participate in.

In Sydney, junior club football was almost non-existent until about 1923 when the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association was formed.  And even then the lowest grade was Under 16.

Previous to this there was a junior league in Sydney but the age group was more for boys 18 or 19.  A Young Australian Association also existed for some time up to the first war, but again, the age group was not for minors.

Ironically, football was played quite extensively at schools during the first decade of the twentieth century in Sydney.  The NSW league even had a fulltime school football organiser.

In 1906 a schools competition in Sydney had one A Division group comprising Petersham, Fort Street, Pyrmont, Waverley and Kogarah, the first two teams to give the others handicaps while 37 schools made up the remaining seven groups in B Division .

Eight Catholic schools participated.

Petersham Superior School won the final game that year against Double Bay for the schools premiership and also the right to travel to Melbourne in an all expenses paid trip to play for the schools championship on the MCG.  Their headmaster however, Mr James Rickard waived their claim which permitted the winners of a match between Double Bay and Fort Street to go.

The following year the Young Australian competition reported that 29 teams participated in their competition.  New teams include: Ryde, Nth Annandale, Bexley and a second St Leonards.

A Grade consisted of Ryde, Nth Shore, Kegworth, Paddington, Kegworth B, Sydney B, St Leonards, Illawarra (Hustville), Drummoyne, Petersham, YMCA, Newtown, Balmain, Eastern Suburbs and Northern Suburbs.

The B Grade included Newtown, Kegworth, Summer Hill, Sydney, Balmain A., Summer Hill and Bexley all playing of a Friday afternoon.

In 1909 the secretary of the PSAAA committee, Mr Garden suggested that rather than send a single school team to Melbourne each year, maybe it would be more stimulating to send a representative side.

As a consequence a schoolboys team comprised of: W. Stafford, F. Crozier, E. Cullen-Ward, R. Smith, B. O’Grady, S. Russell (Fort St); A Stenhouse, L. Dunbar, J. Kelly (Petersham), Ron Swan (Ryde), Arthur Emanuel, & Bede (Erskineville), J. Adams (Double Bay); Walker, John Iler, Thompson & George Thew, Gordon, (Burwood).  Emergencies: Ernie Messenger (Double Bay), Dean (Ryde), Hadden (Hurstville) & Stan Morehouse (Erskineville) was chosen.

They had no chance against a team representing the public schools of Victoria.  The match was played on the MCC Ground on 24 September, prior to the VFL final and it was a very one sided affair, the home boys winning by no fewer than 116 points.  The Victorian boys were heavier and bigger than the visitors.  Final scores: Victoria 17.14 (116) NSW 1.6 (12).

In 1912, under the control of Mr G Perry of Burwood Superior School, announced he would have six teams in the competition. “It was,” he said, “intended to reduce the age of the players in the Young Australian League to 18 years, so that boys at school, and those who have just left school, but who are too youthful for the association team, may enter it’s ranks.”

The war however changed everything with school and junior football.

Eventually it was left to people like Rupert Browne, a teacher of the Gardeners Road Public School at Mascot (formerly of Kegworth school in Sydney) who in April 1914 suggested the concept of introducing an under 16 competition in Sydney schools.

Gardeners Road school in those days was an intermediate high school or in contemporary terms a junior high school.  They also offered advanced education at night and by 1918 had a school population of 1800 students.

PSSA or PSAAA (as it was called in those days) have nurtured many young footballers in their state teams over the years.  These are the best primary schoolboys who play annually in a national carnival at a venue around Australia.

Strangely not a high percentage of these boys over the years, have gone on to play top level football.  Some don’t even go on at all.

The interstate schoolboy carnivals began in 1921 after NSW separately played Victoria and Queensland in school football in the years immediately after WWI.

The first carnival was held in Brisbane where the Victorian side went through undefeated.

Initially the NSW team was drawn from schools like, Paddington, Newtown, Double Bay, Glenmore Road (Paddington), Kogarah, Hurstville, Coolamon, Narrandera, Newcastle and Gardeners Road.

NSW won the 1923 and 1924 national PSAAA.  Both years the side contained some great local talent.  Some of whom would go on to represent the state at a senior level and Gardeners_Rd_School_1925 smallat least two, a Double Bay and Gardeners Road boys, played in the VFL.  One captained Fitzroy.

This photo on the right shows the NSW schoolboys team in 1925 in their visit to Brisbane.  They are wearing jumpers from the Gardeners Road Public School and amongst their number includes Stan Lloyd who played 117 games with and captained St Kilda, Lionel Hastie, who played 13 games with the strong Fitzroy Club in 1931, Stan Powditch winner of three NSW Football League’s leading goalkicking award in  the 1930s and of course little Jimmy Stiff, who won the best player award in the 1933 Sydney All-States National Carnival.

We have all the names of these boys but aligning them with a face is most difficult.

By 1926 the Sydney Schools competition had split into two divisions, Northern, which included Lane Cove, Artarmon, Willoughby, Gordon, Chatswood, Hornsby, Lindfield, Naremburn, Crows Nest, Neutral Bay & Mosman schools.  The other was called Metropolitan which included: Gardiners Road, Glenmore Road, Double Bay, Epping, Erskineville, Newtown.

One item I dragged out of the archives from August 1926 you might like is the following:

“The Victorian Central Schools defeated Metropolis (Sydney Metro) at Chatswood Oval yesterday by 70 to 44. Caravagh (2) Jimmy Stiff (2) Reed, Burge and Smith were the goalscorers for the local team.”

But, it all changes.