– Services Team Struggled

In 1940 the New South Wales Australian Football League resolved to hold a fund raising match between a NSW representative side and an Services team comprised of men in the military from camps in and around Sydney.

The NSW team was reasonably strong mostly made-up of players who had already represented the state in previous years.

The services side, with most if not all, playing for Sydney clubs came from camps such as the Sydney Showground and Ingleburn.  Some were in the RAAF based at Lindfield, Camden and Richmond.  There were no representatives from the Navy so the term Combined Services is really a misnomer.

Micky Stiff

Unfortunately selected players Smith, Ron Stoll, Colin Metherall and Hayes from the camp at Ingleburn did not arrive so the Services team was left short.  One who volunteered to play in their stead was state rover, Micky Stiff.  Stiff, at 24 had already represented NSW on over a dozen occasions from 1935 and his exploits on the football field were quite often extolled in delightful superlatives.  He was the brother of another courageous and talented NSW rover, Jimmy Stiff, who was killed in 1937.

The game was played on the Sydney Cricket Ground, No. 2, which was a small ground, with grandstand, immediately north of the SCG itself and since encompassed by the Sydney Football Stadium.

The pace was on from the first bell, and it was obvious early that both teams were out to keep the game open. NSW picked out their men better along the wings, but in the first half the services were more successful in the air. Mickey Stiff  was responsible for more than half of their goals in the first half — several from his own boot, and others coming from attacks initiated by the wiry little South Sydney star. Stephens, Whitbourne, Carlaw. and Baker were others largely responsible for the services lead at 10-5 to 6-15.

John Cruise from the Ingleburn camp was carried off with an injured ankle just on the half time break leaving the services side again short.

Reg Garvin

His place was taken by 29 year old Reg Garvin, a former Newtown player who had been recruited by St Kilda (that wouldn’t happen today) in 1937 and by this stage had played over 60 games with the Saints and would go on to captain-coach the club in 1942-43.  A fireman in Melbourne, he was in Sydney on holidays visiting his parents at Erskineville and just happened to be at the game.

Obviously his presence in the ruck added strength to the side when adopted a straight down the centre play combined with hard ruck work.  The Servlces had New South Wales unbalanced for a time but the better understanding between the New South Wales players more than equalised matters as the quarter progressed.

Their play in this term contrasted with Its earlier failures and with the Services lacking in condition they were unable to find a counter In stopping the brilliant play of their opponents adding 8-7 to 0-1.  New South Wales had a winning lead at three-quarter time of 14-22 lo 10-6.

The Services came back in the final quarter but it was too late.  They booted six goals to New South Wale’s five with the latter winning 19-23 (114) to 16-12 (108).

It is unknown how much was raised for the Australian Services Comforts Fund but this wasn’t the only game played in Sydney during the war to raise funds for our servicemen.