1914 ANFC Carnival in Sydney

Have you thought about this?  Today (November 11) is Armistice Day 2021.
Dr Rodney Gillett looks back at the 1914 National Carnival, one hundred and seven years ago, that started just two days after World War 1 was declared and remembers a number of those, locally, who served.

“Today will witness the start of the greatest event in the football history of N.S.W.
For why? Well, because the whole of the States will battle out for the A.F.C. premiership.
(Sydney Sportsman, 5 August 1914).

The best footballers from around Australia came to play at the ANFC Carnival in Sydney in 1914. The six states, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and hosts, New South Wales all played against each other in the same division at the SCG.

The first-ever interstate carnival played in Melbourne in 1908, was won by Victoria. The next carnival was held in Adelaide in 1911, was won by South Australia.

There were high hopes that NSW could follow the trend and secure a victory at home. The contemporary sporting press featured extensive coverage of the event and The Referee (1 August 1914) presented profiles on the players selected in the team in a double page spread.

  Dick Condon

The New South Wales team was coached by former Collingwood and Richmond mentor Dick Condon, who had moved to Sydney following a colourful VFL career that included a Copeland Trophy and premierships in 1902-03.  The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers regards Condon as “probably the greatest player of his era”. Condon was referred to as “that fiery football genius” who possessed “a combination of brimstone oratory and skilful tactics” (The Referee 31 May 1914).”. He was a former team-mate of NSW manager/ assistant coach Billy Strickland at Collingwood. Strickland had captained Collingwood’s first-ever premiership in the VFA in 1896 and played in the club’s first season in the VFL in 1897.


The Sky Blues were led by North Shore skipper Ralph Robertson (formerly of East Sydney), who had led NSW at the 1908 and 1911 carnivals. In the preview The Referee (1 August 1914), stated that “Robby” had played the finest game on the       ground against Victoria at Adelaide in the 1911 Carnival.  Robertson was awarded the medal for the best NSW player at the 1914 Carnival despite missing the final game against Western Australia to enlist in the Australian expeditionary forces to fight in World War 1

(All-Australian teams were not selected until after WWII; conceivably, Robertson would have been selected in three as he was awarded NSW’s best player at each Carnival. He should be in the AFL Hall of Fame – Ed.)

Strong as Hercules, with a quick-thinking brain, Albert loses no time in getting rid of the ball, to the advantage of the side. And those side-steps of his are very effective. Vincent is very hard to shift off his pins.

Albert Vincent – centreman
Sydney (1906-1914)
NSW – 10 games


Andrew RatcliffeMeteoric — yes, that’s the word that fits Andy Ratcliffe. No wonder the spectators like to watch him. There is always something worth looking at when Andy grabs the inflated leather.
Andy Ratcliffe – wing

Central Western 1913-14 (Balmain 1915-17, Roseberry 1923)
NSW – 4 games
(Played 43 first class games for NSW as a wicket-keeper/batsman from 1913-14 to 1928/29 making four centuries with a top score of 161)

There are few — if any — of our footballers who have attained such popularity as ‘Shorts’ McCann. The harder the contract the more he appears to relish it. McCann is certainly wonderfully clever for his inches.
Vincent McCann – rover

Paddington 1912-1923 (YMCA 1910-11)
NSW – 9 games


Freddy is certainly the most attractive half back here; he is neatness personified. He has an exceptionally taking style, being dodgy, a good mark, and foot passes cleverly.

Frederick McGargill – centre half back
Sydney – 1911-1927
NSW – 7 games


NSW opened the Carnival with a convincing 77-point win over Queensland, 13.15.93 to 2.4.16. Ralph Robertson was voted best-on-ground with other good players being vice-captain Desmond Baird (Paddington), key forward Andy Radcliffe (Central Western), clever rover Vincent “Bing” McCann (Paddington), and half-forward Les Clark (Sydney).

In the next round NSW easily accounted for Tasmania, 15.14.104 to 5.13.43. Robertson was gain voted best-on-ground booting two goals, while other good players were centre half-back Frederick “Freddy Mack” McGargill (Sydney), full-forward Fred “Sailor” Meadows (originally from Broken Hill) who booted four goals, and Paddington team-mates, Baird and McCann.

However, the Sky Blues winning run came to an end against reigning champions South Australia losing by 53 points. Best player was Paddington full-back Walter Abotomey, Robertson (2 goals), McCann, Baird (1 goal), and “Freddy Mack” at centre half-back.

Victoria proved far too strong for NSW in the final match of the minor round, winning by 136 points in what had been the biggest losing margin to date for NSW against Victoria. Robertson was best-on-ground, while also named in the best were follower Jack Webb (Central Western), Baird in the centre and McGargill across the half-back line.

By dint of having finished fourth after the minor round matches, NSW took on Western Australia in a play-off for third-place but the Sandgropers were far too accomplished and ran out easy victors by 104 points. Full-back Abotomey was NSW’s best player along with winger Andy Ratcliffe, replacement skipper Albert Vincent (filling in for Robertson who had enlisted), rover McCann and Paddington key forward Mick McInerny who booted 3 goals.

In the play-off for the championship title in front of a crowd of 14,000, Victoria defeated South Australia, 11.11.77 to 5.10.40 with their “big guns” St Kilda long-kicking superstar Dave McNamara, Collingwood’s first champion full-forward Dick Lee and South Melbourne’s star centreman Bruce Sloss (who was tragically killed in WWI) leading the way.

The full set of results from the 1914 ANFC Carnival:

Wednesday, 5 August (12:45pm) New South Wales 13.15 (93) def. Queensland 2.4 (16) Sydney Cricket Ground
Wednesday, 5 August (3:00pm) South Australia 12.16 (88) def. Western Australia 12.11 (83) Sydney Cricket Ground
Thursday, 6 August (3:00pm) Victoria 28.20 (188) def. Tasmania 8.9 (57) Sydney Cricket Ground
Friday, 7 August (3:00pm) South Australia 32.18 (210) def. Queensland 2.9 (21) Sydney Cricket Ground
Saturday, 8 August (1:30pm) New South Wales 15.14 (104) def. Tasmania 5.13 (43) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 8,000 C-R))
Saturday, 8 August (3:00pm) Victoria 13.16 (94) def. Western Australia 11.14 (80) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 8,000)
Monday, 10 August (1:30pm) Tasmania 15.17 (107) def. Queensland 4.5 (29) Sydney Cricket Ground
Monday, 10 August (3:30pm) South Australia 16.20 (106) def. New South Wales 10.3 (63) Sydney Cricket Ground
Tuesday, 11 August (1:30pm) Western Australia 33.31 (229) def. Queensland 6.5 (41) Sydney Cricket Ground
Tuesday, 11 August (3:00pm) Victoria 24.20 (164) def. New South Wales 4.7 (31) Sydney Cricket Ground
Wednesday, 12 August (3:00pm) South Australia 18.23 (131) def. Tasmania 5.7 (37) Sydney Cricket Ground
Thursday, 13 August (1:30pm) Western Australia 29.14 (188) def. Tasmania 12.8 (80) Sydney Cricket Ground
Thursday, 13 August (3:00pm) Victoria 28.22 (190) def. Queensland 4.3 (27) Sydney Cricket Ground
Saturday, 15 August (12:40pm) Western Australia 23.24 (162) def. New South Wales 8.10 (58) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 12,000 C-R))
Saturday, 15 August (3:00pm) Victoria 11.11 (77) def. South Australia 5.10 (44) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 12,000)

Walter Abotomey** – AIF 1st Battalion
Les Clark – AIF 2nd Battalion
Jack Fisher – ???
Bert Ellis – AIF 30th Battalion
Albert Erickson – AIF 3rd Battalion
Eric Hughes – 12th Light Horse
Allan Jackson* – AIF 55th Battalion
Teddy McFadden – Naval & Military Expedition Force/12th Light Horse
Fred McGargill  – AIF 13th Battalion
Frank Meadows – 5th Machine Gun Company
Jim Munro – 4th Divisional Ammunition Column
Albert Vincent ­- 3rd Australian General Hospital
Ralph Robertson* – Naval & Military Expedition Force/Royal Flying Corps

* Did not return
**Died of war-related injuries




First match for points in the VFL played at the SCG

Society vice-president Dr Rodney Gillett continues the series on significant matches played on the SCG since Australian football was first played on the ground in 1881.

When was the first VFL/AFL match for points played outside of Victoria?

It was not when the Swans first came to play in Sydney in 1982, nor was it the “National Round” in 1952 when matches were played in country Victoria, Hobart, Brisbane, Albury and Sydney; it was, in fact, in 1903 when then VFL heavy-weights Collingwood and Fitzroy played for match points at the SCG.

The unbeaten Fitzroy defeated the reigning premier Collingwood, 7-20 (62) to 6-9 (45) to move to the head of the VFL ladder after round 6.

The Maroons were led by star forward Gerald Brosnan, who would captain Fitzroy to the 1905 premiership, along with full-back Geoff Moriarty (who became Fitzroy’s first coach in 1911), goal-kicking rover Percy Trotter and follower Herbert “Boxer” Milne.

Collingwod were led by Lawrence “Lardie” Tulloch and included some of the Magpies all-time greats such as rover Dick Condon (who later moved to Sydney where he umpired), winger Charlie Pannan, key forward Ted Rowell, defender Bob Rush, and first-year player Jock McHale, returning to the city of his birth.

An interesting sidelight to the match was that it was the first time that numbers were used on the backs of players’ jumpers in a VFL match. However, it would not be until 1912 that numbers would be fully adopted for all matches.

Collingwood did not lose another game for the rest of the 1903 season. The Magpies won the return match at Victoria Park by 20 points, and then the Grand Final by two points after Fitzroy star Gerald Brosnan missed a shot after the final bell.

Both teams travelled to Sydney by train and took care of all their own expenses as part of a pledge to support the newly reformed NSW Football League. The gate of £600 was passed over by the VFL to the new football league in Sydney to promote their activities.

For the two visiting teams, there were picnics on the harbour, a night at Fitzgerald’s Circus, a trip to Tooth’s Brewery and a “smoke concert” at the Grand Hotel.

The match attracted the political and social elite of Sydney including the Governor-General Lord Tennyson, the State Governor, Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, and former Premier Sir George Reid, who would be elected Prime Minister in 1904.

The match had been arranged by NSW Football League official Harry Hedger, who had been pivotal to the foundation of the game in 1880s, as an official and as a player. Hedger played for NSW against Victoria in the first-ever football match at the SCG in 1881.

After the NSW Football League had been formed in January 1903, he travelled by train at his own expense to Melbourne to attend a meeting of the VFL club delegates where he outlined the need for support to have the game re-established in Sydney.

In a meeting that lasted until 2:30am, Hedger managed to convince the club delegates to support the bid. Mr. C. M. Hickey (Fitzroy) said that his club was willing to go to Sydney at its own expense, and to forego any share of the gate receipts. Eventually Mr. Copeland (for whom Collingwood’s B & F medal is named), on behalf of the Collingwood club, agreed to make the trip.

Later, in the season Geelong and Carlton played a match for points in Sydney on 3 August at the SCG following a rail strike that prevented Carlton from travelling to Corio Oval for the game earlier in the season.

The match was scheduled for Saturday 1 August but heavy rains pushed the game back to the Monday. Geelong won, 8-7 (55) to Carlton’s 6-9 (450. The crowd attendance was 6000.

Footy fans in Sydney had to wait until the national round in 1952, when all VFL matches were played outside Melbourne, to witness another VFL game for points when Collingwood again came to Sydney, this time to play Richmond at the SCG. The attendance was 24,174.

Then there was another long wait until 1979 when the previous year’s grand finalists Hawthorn played North Melbourne at the SCG in front of 31,391 as part of a series of matches in Sydney between 1979-1981 to ascertain the viability of basing a VFL club in Sydney.

South Melbourne played its “home” games at the SCG in 1982 before moving permanently to Sydney in 1983, and becoming the Sydney Swans

– 1914 Tamworth v Newtown Match

Australian Rules TitleFootball in one of the state’s largest regional centres, Tamworth, had an early start with Australian football followed by a very short history probably brought on with the advent of World War 1.

Australian football was no more than a novelty in the area when in June of the 1913 under the hand of O R Smith, some of the locals formed themselves into a club.  This was followed by a game against Queensland who travelled to Tamworth in September following their decision not to go on to Sydney for an interstate clash against NSW because of the smallpox outbreak at this time.

The following February the club held their first meeting with local electrician, Harry Ewins, the secretary.

In June 1914 the Tamworth club invited Sydney side, Newtown to play a game in their city in what was termed as the opening of the “opening of the Australian Rules Season.”

Dick Condon, a former Collingwood player, travelled with the Newtown team to umpire the match.

There was some type of a problem with the local council regarding the letting of it to the local Australian Football Group however the local Rugby League permitted the their adversaries the use of the No. 2 Ground in Tamworth.  Not to be outdone the Central Northern Rugby League then scheduled a match between Tamworth and Sydney club, Western Suburbs on the adjoining ground which understandably outdrew the Australian Football game and in fact considerably affected their gate, admission was one shilling ($5.60).  The CNRL advertised their game by saying the Western Suburbs game was the match of the season and that “the league is popular”.

Rugby Union still held sway in country NSW in 1914 but the Rugby League were steadily eating into their base.

The Tamworth Australian Football team included: Ben Boon (captain), F G Roberts, F Smith, Knox (2), Bell, Scott, Rodgers, Leathley, E Campbell, Yelland, Willis, Lawther, Ross, Fred & George Hombsch, Lee, McRitchie and Curran.  Emergencies were Winn, Harrington, Doyle, Smith and A. Read.  They did not appear to have any local teams as competitors and certainly no operational competition.  The captain, Ben Boon was a bank clerk.

The game was a very one sided affair.  The locals failed to combine and play well and were completely outclassed although a number of individuals performed quite well.

Newtown won 10-10 (70) to 0-5 (5).  The attendance was not mentioned.

There was no further football activity in the town until the 1970s when the North West Australian Rules Football Association was formed.  This folded with the more recent Tamworth Australian Football League now in full swing.