– Football On The Domain

More than likely, the majority of those reading this will have no idea where ‘the Domain’ is in Sydney.

In 1816 Governor Macquarie inaugurated what are now the Royal Botanic Gardens and the ‘Domain’, on land that his predecessor, Arthur Phillip had set aside as a ‘Governor’s demesne’ [a piece of land attached to a manor and retained by the owner for their own use] late in the eighteenth century.

It is situated to the south of the Opera House and behind the NSW Parliament Building.  The land is home to the NSW Art Gallery and also Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

The subsequent growth of Sydney’s magnificent Botanic Gardens was at the expense of the Domain. The Domain now exists only in four small precincts, where once it covered all the area from Woolloomooloo Bay to Circular Quay, and south to Hyde Park. Encroachments over time – such as in 1942, when Domain land was taken for naval fuel tanks, and during the 1960s when land was taken for ramps for freeways and traffic tunnels – have greatly diminished its original size.

The venue was also used for political orators of a Sunday who used to gather people in their thousands to listen to these various soap box speakers.  Sadly this part of Sydney’s history is gone.

However at lunch time, midweek, a few sports are still played there, in particular soccer and touch football while netball courts are located on top of the Domain carpark.  The park was also the scene of a midweek city business houses rugby league competition in the fifties, sixties and seventies.

People could be seen hurrying from their city offices the short distance to the Domain to watch or play sport their during their luncheon period.

Clinton Wines

On Wednesday 27 August 1947 a lunch-hour game of Australian Football was played before a crowd of 500 people at the Sydney Domain.  Eastern Suburbs player and former Carlton star, Clinton Wines, was instrumental in having the game played.  The teams were made up of a number of Sydney first grade player including test cricketer, Keith Miller who then played with the Sydney Club.

Although reports on the game (we think there was only one), are scant we can provide some detail on the leadup to the match:

Test cricketer Keith Miller, and NSW captain Roy Hayes lead the two teams in what was described as a lunch-hour promotional match.

Nine State players and other outstanding first-graders took part. Many of the players worked in the city, but others travelled from distant suburbs to participate.

Besides Wines, Newtown captain Alan Smythe along with Ron Matthews, policeman Neil Stevens, Roy Geddes, Ted Larsen and Darcy Coleman were all involved.  It was reported “that many spectators, who have never seen the code, would get an idea just how spectacular it is,” said Hayes, the captain and coach of the Eastern Suburbs Club.

“The Australian Council is spending money on fostering the code in NSW and Queensland, but there Is no better way of making progress than ‘to bring the game before the public. “Hundreds of people walk in the Domain and Gardens In the lunch-hour, and we want them to see the match.” he added.

Roy Hayes

The game was played in two 25 minutes halves.  Many of the players had to dash from their city offices at 1:00pm then be back at their work place by 2:00pm.

Jack Dean, (now deceased) a former member of the History Society Committee played in the game and said it was very popular amongst the lunchtime crowd.  Dean, a plumber, had to organise himself to be ready to go at 1:00pm and then back to his work in the Eastern Sububs of Sydney.

We have no record if other matches were played or the actual result of the game but were told that further games were planned for 1948.  They did not go ahead.

The concept of Lunchtime AFL at the Domain could well be taken up by present day administrators of the game in Sydney who might want to schedule an AFL 9s game or a modified Womens AFL match on this popular Sydney lunchtime venue.

Great Football In Sydney During WWII

Phonse Kyne

It would be reasonable to say that Australian Football in Sydney has failed to reach the dizzy heights of World War II.

If you played junior football in Sydney in the fifties and sixties you were forever the target of misguided abuse from people who were traditionally biased and ignorant to our great game.

However during World War II the number of top grade players who either passed through Sydney or were posted here in the services was incredible.

Some players who had no contacts in Sydney simply turned up at a match with their togs seeking a game, such was the movement of men.  Club officials may well have given the player a run in the seconds to check him out then take him off at quarter time in order to play him in the firsts or  if he were a well known VFL player  merely select him in the team, sight unseen, simply relying on reputation.  Clearances for the military or servicemen did not appear to apply in the days of strict rules governing the movement of players.

If you think that these players turning up for a game may have put someone out of the side, well quite often, and certainly during the early part of the war, when teams struggled for numbers, it did not but with the influx of servicemen it must have caused some local angst.

With the introduction of Sunday football into Sydney in 1943 and the inclusion of so many stars the attendances soared, some suggest over the 10,000 mark.  Australian Sydney Football Attendances Graph smallfootball became a very popular sport, even the Prime Minister, John Curtin, turned up at a few games at Trumper Park in 1943.  The increase in crowds was put down to two reasons, 1. the number of servicemen in Sydney attending matches and 2. the great and talented (servicemen) players in the competition who drew more locals to the games.

Some of these players included Phonse Kyne, who won the Copeland Trophy twice and went on to captain then coach the mighty Collingwood side.  Bill Morris was another.  He won the Brownlow Medal in 1948 and won Richmond’s B & F on three occasions.  Several played in VFL premiership teams after the war.

The names of these players included:

St George
Phonse Kyne – Collingwood (Collingwood B & F, captain and later coach)
Norm Campbell – Collingwood
Adrian Dullard – Melbourne
Len Pabst – Hawthorn
Jim Hovey – Geelong
South Sydney
Bill Morris – Richmond (1948 Brownlow Medalist 3 times Richmond B & F )
Jim Miller – Footscray
Bruce Fountain – Footscray
Don Seymour – Footscray
Bill Wood – Footscray
Evan Rees – Footscray
Norm Webb – Footscray
Max Piggott – South Melbourne
Bluey Truscott – Melbourne
Clyde Helmer – Geelong & Melbourne (Geelong Leading Goalkicker)
Terry Moriarty – Perth (Sandover Medalist)
Jim Matthews – St Kilda
Ray Garby – Carlton
A J (Jack) Smith – Norwood captain
Eastern Suburbs
Sam Loxton – St Kilda (St Kilda Leading Goalkicker)
Clinton Wines – Carlton
Jim Mitchell – Melbourne
Newtown
Jack Green- Collingwood
Alex Pender – Port Adelaide
Jack Disher – Sturt
Sydney (Naval)
Jack Sheedy – East Fremantle (Member AFL Hall of Fame)
Bob Neate – Hawthorn
Bob McLean – St Kilda
RAAF
Alby Morrison – Footscray (former captain of Footscray and twice B & F winner & Footscray Hall of Fame)
Ern Henfrey – Carlton
Marty McDonnell – Footscray
George Tilley – Sturt

 

Bill Wood small AlbyMorrison Bill Morris small Ern Henfrey small Jack Sheedy 1 small Ray Garby small
Bill Wood
Footscray
Alby Morrison
Footscray
Bill Morris
Richmond
Ern Henfrey
Carlton
Jack Sheedy
East Fremantle
Ray Garvey
Carlton

 

Of course there were many more footballers of some note who played football  in Sydney during that period.  It has been a long time ago since they graced the grounds like Trumper Park and Erskineville Oval but the memories of their participation still lingers if only just and the Sydney football population of those days must have been extremely thankful to watch these stars in action.  Many of these went on to play for their respective states on numerous occasions.

After the war officials failed to capitalise or possibly recognize the new heights that football had reached.

Separate Image: Phonse Kyne