1963 Sydney Grand Final

1963 Wests Coach, Neil Wright smallThe story of the Sydney 1963 grand final is worth telling.

This was the time of only one division in Sydney with three grades, first, reserves and under 19.

Like all competitions you had the winners and the losers, the well run clubs and those, for whatever reason, that struggled.

The league had just come through a rather tumultuous period.  Just previous to this the fulltime secretary had been suspended, the treasurer had resigned, the books were in an absolute mess and then the stand-in permanent secretary got his marching orders resulting in court action.  The league began the season £500 in the red ($13,500 in today’s money).

Ern McFarlane, that “hail fellow, well met” long term Newtown official and player, who didn’t mind a drink, had taken the reigns in 1961 and was in the chair during all of this upheaval.

Besides this the league underwent some change, but not enough;  The had tried a 16 aside competition which was continually denounced until they returned to the status quo.

And then there was the obvious disparity in the standard of the competition and while two divisions were discussed, it never happened with the next year resulting in the amalgamation of some clubs.  That too eventually failed.

It was a time when the University club was coming out of its recession and UNSW was just about to emerge as their own entity so if the league had bitten the bullet, maybe Sydney football could have been different rather than waiting until the early 1970s and the introduction of a second division.

A former Western Suburbs then Bankstown ruckman, Rhys Giddey, who was a member of the league’s administration, took over the fulltime secretary’s position working out of what could only be described as a very disorganised brick building at Trumper Park – since demolished.

1963 Balmain v Parramatta thumbnailHe soon moved the offices to a ‘suite’ (room) at 307 Sussex Street in the city.

Action image shows Balmain’s captain-coach, Ray Rocher marking in front of a Parramatta opponent in a match during the season.  Click to enlarge.

The final four was a reasonably close finish.  Wests, well recognized as the money club following its successful venture to a licensed club, finished on top with 56 points, then came North Shore on 48, Sydney Naval on 46 and Newtown on 44.

Wests scored an easy win over North Shore in the second semi to move into the grand final while Newtown on the other hand battled their way from fourth with a first semi win, then a preliminary final victory over Norths to reach the decider.

The scene was set and a fine day brought out a big crowd at Trumper Park, allegedly eclipsing any that had previously attended an Australian football game at the ground, and were in for a treat.

Never one to let an opportunity pass, league secretary, Giddey told the press that the crowd totalled 11,377 who paid £2,235 though the gate.  It was later revealed that Rhys could be a bit loose with the truth freely admitting to his over zealous statement in the years that followed.

Unfortunately for Wests they had their strapping 1.94cm ruckman coach, former VFA representative player, Neil Wright in hospital with hepatitus A.  Wright had played a big part in the Magpies success and was one of their best in the second semi.  He had coached country club Finley the year before.

Newtown had as their captain and coach, the big policeman in Ellis Noack, a current member of the History Society.

As was the norm for Sydney grand finals it started with a fight, but it never really ended there, the conflict continued throughout the game.  The main target of Newtown’s attack was Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, a wonderful player from the RAAF who had won the Phelan Medal in the same year.  In one incident, Sharrock had cleared the ball downfield when a Newtown ruckman ran 20 metres to strike him from behind, knocking Sharrock to the ground, unconscious.

On two occasions, spectators twice fired beer cans onto the field which stopped play for some time.  Not long after that a Wests player heavily dumped the opposition player who had attacked Sharrock and so it was on again.1963 Ray Sharrock small

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock and John Griffiths from Wests were reported during the game for fighting.

At the first break Newtown led 4-5 to 2-2 increasing their lead to 7-9 to 4-4 by half time.  An upset was on the cards.

But Newtown could not sustain their opponents third term onslaught;  at one stage Wests hit the front but Newtown countered to hold a nine point lead at the final change.

Early in the last quarter Western Suburbs piled on five quick goals and it was only for the sheer talent and determination of Sharrock at fullback that kept Newtown regaining the lead.  His finger tip marking was a sight to see.

By this time secretary Giddey had called the police who came en-mass lining the ground as well as the players race.  Giddey himself came inside the fence line waiting for the bell to ring thinking his presence could contain any further violence.  Giddey was a big man.

Wests won the game by 10 points 14-14 (98) to 12-16 (88).  As soon as the match finished so too did the violence.  The win gave Wests their second flag since their re-entry into the competition in 1948.

A Testing Time

1956 Alf Snow 001In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.

We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.

1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.

The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”

Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.

So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.

Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.

Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.

Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.

The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.

1960
So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.

It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did 1969 Hart, Felstead, Ferguson & Hayes thumbnailnot show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.

The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of  the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.

Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”

However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.

Deficits
From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).

By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.

The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.

The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s.  From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.

 

NO TYPEWRITER IN 1962

Typewriter1962 was a real problem year for football in Sydney.

Ernie McFarlane, the former long term Newtown FC Secretary and player was in his second year as president of the league after accepting the position, that apparently not many wanted.  He was a member of the board of control for several years before this.  McFarlane took over from Wilf Holmes, a shipping executive, who, in his one year as president, was clearly out of his depth in what could only be described as a volatile Sydney football environment.

McFarlane had been a dynamo at Newtown but struggled as president of the league.  Early in the year two board members, Joe Armstrong and Ern Holmes, and later, University coach and league vice president, Frank Bird, resigned their positions.  Then secretary of the junior organisation, the NSW Football Union, Arthur Bridgewater, was suspended from the board following a disagreement.

Ernie McFarlane I
Ern McFarlane

Wilf Holmes - NSW AFL Life Member
Wilf Holmes

Arthur Bridgewater
Arthur Bridgewater

 

Fortunately, principal of a leading accounting firm, Arthur Davey of Sylvania, had taken over as treasurer midway during the previous year but in doing so walked into a financial minefield.  His predecessor had resigned and the fulltime secretary of the league had been suspended.  There had been some allegations of impropriety, while Davey would probably have used the term, ‘incompetence’, particularly when it took almost a month before he could get hold of the books for examination.

Things were so bad that the Australian National Football Council, the then national body for control of the game, withheld payment of their second installment of seven hundred and fifty pounds ($1400) towards the salary of the league’s fulltime secretary until such time that the accounts were audited and all clubs had paid their liabilities.

In that period, unlike today, there was no mechanism in place to compel clubs to pay their accounts to the league.  Then, and in particular, the main areas of liability to the league by clubs included affiliation fees, season tickets for entry to the ground and a levy for the employment of a fulltime secretary.

Davey eventually audited the accounts himself and in doing so found an outstanding contingent liability of five hundred and twenty one pounds ten shillings ($1043.00) owing to the clubs since 1957  This had involved a complicated method of financial reward to clubs based on the Club Championship for that year.  For a number of years around that period, the league concluded their seasons in debt, at times the amounts involved were quite sizable.

So early in 1962 the mood was very gloomy in Sydney football, certainly at a league level.

Some on the board wanted to re-appoint a fulltime secretary while others did not and this in itself caused continual bickering resulting in the resignations and suspension, mentioned above.

Further it was said “The New South Wales League has no funds”.

“We don’t even have a typewriter or an office desk” one board member said.  “The league was formed 59 years ago, but I doubt if we have ever been in worse financial position.”

Despite all this, the league re-introduced Sydney University to the first grade competition along with new club, Parramatta, bringing the number of clubs to twelve.  This was a perfect opportunity to establish a second division, but football would have to wait almost 10 years before this took place.  In the meantime four of the 1962 clubs had either folded or amalgamated.

At the end of the year Davey again showed that he was no shrinking violet and let his feeling be known in a lengthy report to the league where he urged a restructure of the organisation, particularly after it again finished the year in debt.  This time though the amount had been substantially reduced from those of previous seasons.

Rhys Giddey replaced Joe Boulus as honorary secretary between the end of the season and the subsequent annual general meeting which was held in February 1963.  Giddey went on to fill the fulltime league secretary’s role for the next two years.  He described his first 12 months in the job as one that had “been under pressures which, in 60 years, had not previously been experienced.”

This was particularly the case after Boulus had issued three writs against members of the Board of Management following the severance of his association with the league.

Just as the story gets interesting we have to end it here because we we are limited for space.