1908 Australian Football National Carnival

1908 Carnival Sourvenir ProgrammeIn 1908 NSW competed in an All-States Football Carnival in Melbourne which celebrated 50 years since the birth of the game.

Each state was permitted to include a maximum of 25 players which was quite a number in those days considering teams were only permitted 18 on-field players with no reserves or interchange.

The NSW contingent comprised players from Sydney, two from the Wagga district, one from Hay and eight from Broken Hill.

These eight were: A T Conlin, Ethelbert (Bert) Renfrey (picutured, and you can read about him by clicking herea very interesting character), G Colley, RRenfrey Bert - 1908 Scott, Jack Hunter, Bennet Eric Gluyas, Robert Rahilly, and A Millhouse – [details of their given names would be appreciated if known].

Football was a very serious business in Broken Hill in 1908, so a comprehensive agreement was drawn up between the Barrier Ranges Football Association and each player which they were required to sign.

Some of the articles in the agreement included:

  1. That each player must return to Broken Hill within a month of departure, all expenses over 19 days would be borne by the players;
  2. They would be under the control of a manager appointed by the football association (J M Ford) and were to be of good conduct.
  3. Whilst in Adelaide (they travelled by train to Adelaide, then train to Melbourne) they were to remain with the group.
  4. Whilst in Melbourne they were under the charge of the NSW team manager.
  5. They must attend all functions with the team.
  6. They must meet with the managers of the touring party when instructed.
  7. The Barrier Rangers had full power to report any of the players for a breach of conduct.
  8. The Manager was empowered to suspend or disqualify any of the players.

Particular offences were considered as:

  • * Being absent without leave.
  • * Irregularity of hours, insobriety, any action which would prejudice fitness.
  • * Any action which would bring discredit on the team.
  • * Refusal to carry out any reasonable instruction.
  • * That they must appear in the uniform hats supplied for the tour (each player was issued with a straw hat).  These hats had a light blue ribbon with an embroided       waratah.

We have no evidence that others, particularly those from Sydney, had to sign such an agreement.  We can only speculate that the boys from Broken Hill must have been a wild bunch!

The team stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel, St Kilda.  They trained at the St Kilda Cricket Ground under the direction of former St Kilda player, E L (Curly) Jones.  The captain was Ralph Robertson and manager, E W Butler, both from the East Sydney club.


NSW Score


Opposition Score


NSW 8-14 (62)


New Zealand 9-9 (63)


NSW 4-11 (35)


Tasmania 8-14 (62)


NSW 12-3 (75)


Western Aust 17-12 (124)


NSW 13-15 (93)


Queensland 8-11 (59)


1908 Ralph Robertson 1The coaching of Jones, although appreciated, was not considered beneficial, particularly in the loss to New Zealand.  This was in the days when, apart from the very major clubs, captains ran the teams and did the coaching.  Such was the case in Sydney.
(image shows NSW captain, Ralph Robertson)

The carnival was quite a significant milestone in the recognition and evolution of Australian Football in the newly federated country, despite recording a significant loss on the series.  H C A Harrison, acknowledged as the Father of the Game and author of the first rules, was in attendance where he made many speeches and gave several interviews, a number of which reflected on the very beginnings of the game.

Ironically enough, our research has revealed that Bert Watts, a former captain of the Paddington Club who also performed that role when he returned to Sydney from a military posting on Thursday Island, was a member of the Queensland team.

Watts will figure prominently in the book the Society is publishing on the Impact WWI had on Australian Football in Sydney.

Details of NSW’s participation in the 1908 carnival are currently being loaded into the website’s database.  Click here to view the games. (use the date option, 1908, for best results).

Victoria won the championship and each of their players was presented with a silk pennant and gold medal.  We wonder where any of these items are now?

Football in WWI

Jim Phelan - 1914 smallIn undertaking a massive amount of research for our ANZAC project, we have come across an article, or a report, from the NSW Football League’s 1915 annual report, and a latter piece written in 1939, both probably by Jim Phelan, which you might find interesting:

“Through want of proper organisation on the part of some of the clubs and recognition of the duty owed the League in this important matter, your committee regret that no complete list of players at the front, or in preparatory training camps has up to the present been prepared.  Even with the incomplete figures to hand it is safe to assert that 50 per cent of players of 1914 have responded to the call.  From lists to hand and other sources, it is known that the Southern portion of the State has contributed a large quota of players.

When country and metropolitan returns are finalised it is estimated that over 1500 players have gone to take part in the greatest game the world has yet witnessed.”

NEWTOWN CLUB’S HONOR LISTJ Ashton, W H Bolan, F G Barnett, H Brooks, M Caffyn, A A Ellis, A Eason, J Furlong, C Holliday, H P Horton, H Jarman, N Jeffries, F. Meadows, H Miller, J H Munro, J McTaggart, C Pearson, A D S Provan, V Provan, K Probert, N Squires, F C Squires MM, G H Sanders, R Sharp, B Swindell, J Walker, R Weiss, F Whidden.

Killed: H Blackburn, W Earle, J Gorman, O B Henderson, T D McKay, W H MacKay, L Provan, L G Smith, W H Solomon, R C Scanes, E Young, G Young.

In that fateful year, 1915, the spirit which gave birth to the word ANZAC was evidenced by the few enthusiastic followers of the game in Sydney who faced with untold difficulties, unknown to the majority of present day followers of the game, kept the six-starred flag of Australian Football flying.

With a heritage a heritage of debt from the previous administrative body, which ceased operations after the outbreak of war in 1914, the newly formed body depending wholly on local resources for finance presented a credit balance for the year’s operations after donating the whole of the gate receipts from the premiership final game between Paddington and Newtown to the ‘Australia Day Fund’ and catering for 780  public schoolboys, the winners of each competition receiving medals.

In a sense 1915 may be termed as the darkest and brightest year in the history of the game in Sydney [this latter section was written in 1939].

The addendum to the Annual Report of the League on March, 27, 1916, by the then president, the late E W Butler, is one of the most cherished possessions of the veteran J E Phelan, then the Hon. Secretary.