– Player Clearance Refused to VFL Club

It doesn’t happen now, players with talent are immediately absorbed into an AFL club with the blessing of their parent club.

In the old days however certainly Sydney, and I imagine country clubs, were very reluctant to let their players go.

1921 NSW State Schools Team – Fred is front row on the right

Such was the situation with Freddie Davies.  A product of Double Bay School and later the Eastern Suburbs Club, Fred was bathed in talent.  He represented NSW Schoolboys in 1921 and again in Brisbane in 1922 as captain.  He later captained the NSW state team at the age of 23 against the VFL at the SCG.

Prior to this Fred represented the state in the 1927 National All-States Carnival and was beseiged by VFL clubs for his signature.

In those days local clubs and state bodies frowned on such action and went to great lengths to discredit the Melbourne clubs.

In early 1928 when North Melbourne attempted to secure his clearance they were exposed when it was reported that:
“It was a big offer (£4/10/ a week to play football) and a job in the bargain for Davies to turn down. He did not know what the other players had been offered. Mr. Thomas, (said Mr. Smith) explained the whole position and there was not the slightest possible doubt that negotiations with the three players had reached an advanced stage when Mr. Thomas called on me. THE THREE PLAYERS. Fred Davies was the best all-round player in the League last season. Twenty years of age, he weighs 11st. and is 5ft 11 in. With his exceptional capacity for ‘mixing it’ in any company, Davies would he sure to succeed in Melbourne League football. He moves into position well, and, in addition to handling the ball ably, is a fine kick and marksman. He is a product of the Double Bay School. When several Victorian critics endeavoured to select an Australian team after tbe recent Carnival games in Melbourne, Davies was the only New South Wales player to receive popular recognition.” [1}

Then, on the same day, the Sydney Sun reported on a letter sent to North Melbourne from the Secretary of Davies’s Eastern Suburbs club:

SYDNEY FOOTBALLER

CLEARANCE REFUSED FOR VICTORIAN CLUB MELBOURNE, Wednesday.

The Eastern Suburbs Australian Rules Football Club, Sydney, has refused a clearance to the North Melbourne Club of F. Davies.   Alrc McWhinney, secretary of the club, explains the position in the following letter to Stan Thomas, secretary of the North Melbourne Club: — “Your committee and yourself cannot realise the strenuous fight that we in Sydney have had in the past to foster the good old Australian game. If, when we are making steady progress, we have to lose players of the type of F. Davles (by trafficking), then we in Sydney will have to close up business and go back to Rugby. “It is only on very rare occasions that we get a local, player like Davles; who is not only a draw for our club, but a big draw for our game In general and while we can produce his class of player the game is going to make rapid strides in Sydney. Therefore my committee appeals to your club to refrain from encouraging players from Sydney when you have so many to choose from In Victoria.” [2]

1934 image of the Fitzroy Team. Freddie Davies is highlighted. The mercurial Hayden Bunton is on his right

Now today there would be hell to pay if a club took this action but it kept ‘Snowy’ Davies in Sydney until 1930 when he took the field for Fitzroy.  During that time Easts were runners  up in 1928 but failed to make the four in 1929.

Fitzroy were a strong club in those days while North, who hadonly been admitted to the League in 1924, struggled.

Davies went on to play from 1930-34 for Fitzroy and captained the side in his final year.  Upon his return to Sydney he played for St George, firstly under Ted Shields, then Bub Phelan and finally under former Footscray player, Jack Hayes.  He was appointed captain and coach of the club in 1938 when they won their second consecutive premiership.  Fred was 32.

The only other player we know of who had problems gaining a clearance was Mark McClure when he was recruited by Carlton from East Sydney (same club).  Easts officials delayed the clearance in the hope of a securing substantial ‘transfer fee’ only to have the Carlton Secretary tell them ” …. if you don’t clear him we will sign someone else and he can stay in Sydney.” (or words to that effect) [3]  The clearance was quickly despatched to Melbourne after the matter went before a special meeting of the NSWAFL administration on June 21, just before the clearance cutoff date. [4]   McClure went on to play 243 games over eleven seasons with Carlton and was captain of the club in 1986.

[1]  Referee  Wednesday 15 February 1928 p 13 Article
[2]  Sun  Wednesday 15 February 1928, page 7
[3]  Anecdotal – club official
[4]  Sydney Sun 23 June 1973

– Umpiring

1972 Umpires at Training, Erskineville Oval

Each time I watch the AFL on TV it amazes me how quick the reactions are by umpires when they detect a free kick etc.

I guess its the same with all sports but Australian Football umpires are right on the spot, and in the big games, there are three of them!

Of course, like players, the game hasn’t always been particularly kind to umpires over the years but in more recent times umpiring as a discipline has become more professional and their role much more appreciated.

In 1973 Rod Humphries was a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and he authored a great piece about umpires and their training.

He began with:
“Any casual observer who happens to look in at Erskineville Oval between 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock on Wednesday nights is likely to make a quick retreat to the Park View (hotel), just across the street.

At one end of the ground a team of deaf and dumb Rugby League players ginger their way through training, while at the other end an assorted bunch of men spend much of their training running BACKWARDS.”

Umpires in Sydney have used many training grounds over the years.  Erskineville Oval, Moore Park, Reg Bartley Oval at Rushcutters Bay, Fraser Park at Sydenham and Trumper Park, just to name a few.

Jack Armstrong playing for NSW as a ruckman

And they have had their share of characters in their number whether it be field, goal, boundary, their coaches and/or officials.  None though, could have been a more controversial character than ‘Black’ Jack Armstrong.

He played first grade in Sydney for over 15 years after he moved with his family from Coolamon in 1943.  Although the family settled in Ashmore Street, Erskineville, a stones throw from Erskineville Oval, Jack couldn’t get a game with the the nearby Newtown Club who were on the verge of a seven consecutive premiership run, so, along with his brother, he signed with the South Sydney club.

Jack spent six years with South before moving back to Newtown.  He was appointed captain-coach of the club in 1953 a position he held for three years.  Then he moved out west and played with the Liverpool club where he was also coach.  In 1960 he moved back to captain and coach Newtown then, in 1961, he gave away playing and began to umpire.

So here was a player who had probably been reported more times than any other Sydney footballer at that time who was now umpiring Sydney first grade.  If you listen to our podcast on the Jack Dean interview, he says that Jack was the hardest and most difficult oppenent he had opposed in his 20 year history.

jack’s umpiring career only lasted five years but during that time he officiated in club, final and interstate matches.  Lke his brother Joe  ten years before, Jack umpired the 1964 Sydney first grade grand final.  Then went back to the South Sydney Club at 44 years of age as captain-coach in 1967.  Of course he was reported again but used as his defence at the tribunal, “insanity”.  He got off.

1957 Jack Armstrong with Liverpool, in the thick of it. Ellis Noack is about to cop it

Humphries went on his article about umpires – and Jack, telling the readers “Jack was umpiring a third grade game before doing first grade and had cause to send the coach, a first grade player off the field for abusing him.”

“We were all in the same dressing room and he had a shot at me.  I told him if I wasn’t an umpire I would do something about it.  He said I didn’t have the guts”

“It was a sweet left hook’ Jack said laughing “and they had to drag him out of the mens’ toilet trough…”

So as you can imagine, he was one hell of an umpire!  and during his time, he knew almost everyone in Sydney football certainly during the 1950s and 60s.

In 1971 a car pinned him up against a brick wall which eventually led to the removal of his leg but he never lost his passion for the game.

Players Strike!

1930 East v Sydney at Trumper Park smallIn late July 1929, a number of the Eastern Suburbs Football Club players refused to take their place in the team at Erskineville Oval in a match against South Sydney.

The game was originally scheduled for Trumper Park but the South Sydney club thought they could secure a bigger gate if the game was moved to Erskineville.

At that stage, South Sydney was sitting in second place with five wins and three losses, while Eastern Suburbs was in fifth spot with four wins and four losses. East had won their first round encounter against the Rabbits and naturally enough, were reluctant to give their opponents any perceived advantage in the match.

South Sydney put the proposal to change the venue to a meeting of the League on July 22 which voted 9-2 in favour.

On the day, only seven from East’s eighteen took the field, the remainder of the team was made up of reserve grade players, all of whom had backed-up.

Two of East’s stars, Stan Milton (pictured), after whom the Sydney Football Goalkicking Award is named and Fred Davies, who later went on to 1930 - Stan Milton smallcaptain Fitzroy, were among those who stood out.

With a scheduled 3.00pm start, it was not until 15 minutes before that it was certain that East would field a team. Sam Organ, Kean, Sanders, Hyland, Stoppelbein, Nicholas and Lindsay Kelton were the only senior players who made up the first grade team that day.

It turns out that the decision not to play was not without warning.  It had been made in the week prior to the match and this decision was conveyed to the League Secretary by the president and secretary of the club. It stated that their team would not take the field against South Sydney unless the game was played at the originally scheduled venue of Trumper Park.

In anticipation of no game the League had made arrangements for patrons to be reimbursed their entry fee.

The decision by the players was not a popular one with the public and League officials besieged with complaints and seeking information as to what action could be taken against the recalcitrant players.

At a subsequent meeting of the League, Eastern Suburbs FC officials said they had arranged a meeting with all their players over the matter. It was pointed out however, that the club had fulfilled its obligation and did field a team in the match.

The League however refused to select any of the subject Eastern Suburbs players to play for NSW against the visiting Perth FC team the following week.

At their club meeting an amicable agreement had been arrived at and a guarantee given that no further trouble would be found from these players.

This result was placed before a League meeting where the offending players were pardoned after they had expressed regret for their action and had promised not to offend in a like manner again.

Whether as a result of this decision or not, Arch Kerr, a former League Secretary, submitted his resignation at that meeting from all positions on the League, accusing those in charge of the league of “apathy and mismanagement”.

It was later ascertained that Kerr’s resignation was due to the parlous financial position the League had found itself in.  At the meeting it was revealed that the League was one hundred and sixty pounds ($11,860 in today’s money) in debt with the incumbent secretary informing the league that he had been unable to convene a quorum of the management committee for over a month.

Jack Dean Passes 2

1958 Jack Dean smallSydney Hall of Fame member and just about a legend in Sydney, if not NSW football, Jack Dean, passed away this week he was 87.

He had an active involvement in Sydney football between 1944-1982.

Born in Sydney and due to his father’s influence (Joe Dean who also played for Easts) he joined Eastern Suburbs Football Club aged 16.

He didn’t play many junior games but almost straight into the seconds then after a short apprenticeship he was elevated to the seniors where he stayed for many years.

He was chosen to play for NSW as a 17 year old and went on to become a driving force as a ruckman for Eastern Suburbs, representing NSW on 25 occasions.

He played in the Eastern Suburbs Club’s record breaking premierships 1953-58 and then moved to Ardlethan in the Riverina where he coached for the 1959 & 1960 season.  He returned to coach Eastern Suburbs in 1961.

The following year Jack crossed to the Sydney Naval Club, which also used Trumper Park as its home ground and played there until he retired in 1966.

He won four Best & Fairest awards with the Bulldogs as well was runner up four times at Easts.

In 1958 he won the Best & Fairest trophy for Division II representing NSW in the Centenary Carnival in Melbourne.

Jack was president of Easts from 1970-82, when the club won six premierships.

He received the ANFC Merit Award for Service to Australian Football in 1977.

He was a junior state coach and selector and also selector in the senior division, including the period of Alan Jean’s involvement.

In a playing career spanning 22 years, Jack played 420 senior games.

Later in life Jack joined the NSW Football History Committee which eventually morphed into what it has become today, the Football History Society.1961 - Jack Dean marking over John McKenzie (Newt.) thumbnail

Travel to new rooms at the Western Suburbs Club precluded him for continuous involvement however he maintained his membership and was a strong supporter of the organisation encouraging many of his football friends and his family to join.

He looked forward to receiving our publications and getting along to the annual Christmas gathering, where possible.  This year Jack attended the launch of the Society’s book on the impact WWI had on Sydney football.

The football world is a poorer place because of his demise but his contribution has and will continue to be immortalised in Sydney football.

SYDNEY PLAYERS WHO PLAYED IN THE VFL/AFL

How many players can you name who went from Sydney football to play in the VFL or AFL?

With the advent of the Sydney Swans in Sydney it becomes a little easier but the list goes way back to the 1880s.  So we were not always the back water when it comes to football talent.

We can name three Sydney footballers who went on to captain VFL/AFL sides:  Former Double Bay Primary School player who later turned out with the Eastern Suburbs and St George Clubs, Freddy Davies, captained Fitzroy in 1934.  Then in 1940, former Newtown player, Stan Lloyd, captained St Kilda in 1940 followed two years later by fellow Newtown team mate and Phelan Medal Winner, Reg Garvin, who captained the Saints for the 1942-3 seasons.  Garvin finished equal 4th in the 1941 Brownlow Medal the same year he won the first of his two St Kilda best and fairest awards, the other coming in 1944. For the 1942 and 1943 seasons he was not only captain but also coach of the club.

In 2004, former Pennant Hills junior, Lenny Hayes was captain of the St Kilda Club.

History Society committee member, Bob Wilton is compiling a list of players to go from the Sydney competition to the VFL/AFL.  There have been some, as senior players from interstate or another senior NSW competition, who have come into the Sydney competition then off to Melbourne so unfortunately, they do not qualify for Bob’s list.

Are you able to contribute some names that Bob may miss?  If so,  simply email us at history@aflnswact.com.au with the player’s name, his Sydney club, the approximate years he played in Sydney and the VFL/AFL club he played with.  We shall publish the final list in due course.

Our photograph shows Reg Garvin as a 21 year old representing NSW against WA on the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1933 – courtesy of the State Library of NSW.