A number of interesting events occurred in 1938.
Because of a good financial season in 1937, the league voted ten pounds ($860.00 in today’s money) to each of the six Sydney clubs before the commencement of the competition.
A Team At Wollongong?
Early in the year, the Metropolitan Aust National Football Association (second division) refused an application by a group from Wollongong to compete in the second division competition citing the lack of a home ground. The applicants were encouraged to form a local competition rather than enter one team in the Sydney League. Nothing came of it.
Sunday football was a big talking point in the league and in fact in all codes of football. For the Australian Game the decided lack of grounds where a gate could be charged was the issue.
Basically there were six first grade clubs and two grounds where the league could control the attendance gate: Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park. They wanted an additional ground or alternatively to use one of the Saturday grounds again on a Sunday.
Kensington Oval at Kingsford was the third alternative but only honest people paid so the league was flat out earning fifteen shillings a game.
Traditionalists in the league however soundly defeated the Sunday proposal but it was only a matter of time before Sunday games successfully became part of the league’s calendar.
North Sydney Oval
After a lapse of ten years, North Shore again played on the small North Sydney Oval, a ground noted for its particularly hard surface. There, an estimated crowd of 4,000 witnessed South Sydney defeat North 14-15 to 9-11. The first semi-final again between North Shore and South Sydney was played there on September 3.
Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
In another first, St George played their first match on Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, now home to St George Rugby League Club on Monday 13 June also before of 4,000 spectators. Here too a semi-final was played on 3 September ironically between the same teams participated in that initial game: St George and Newtown.
These were the first occasions, certainly in more recent years, that any finals match was played away from the then league headquarters of Erskineville Oval.
In a very controversial incident at Kensington Oval, central umpire Bill Hunkin reported two players AND the timekeepers in the game between South Sydney and St George on 2 July.
It was alleged that the timekeepers failed to record time-on whilst the umpire attended to a fight and in the meantime rang the bell for full time just as a South Sydney player kicked for goal. The goal, which would have won the game for Souths was disallowed.
A subsequent hearing found the timekeepers had erred, they had stopped the game 1 minute early, the goal was allowed and the game was awarded to South Sydney.
In the same year South Sydney altered their jumper design from a green jumper with a very wide horizontal bar across the centre to one of green with a red V.
Four time Phelan Medalist, Jack Williamson, registered 100 games for the Eastern Suburbs Club in early May. He was reported in 1938 for abusive language but must have beat the charge because he won his fourth Phelan in that year.
In late August a local police inspector pulled the captains of Newtown and South Sydney Clubs, as well as the umpires aside before the commencement of their game at Erskineville Oval warning them against any repeat of the violent play that dominated the last time they met. He warned them and the umpires that if a repetition of the previous week’s violent play between the two occurred again the police would enter the ground and arrest any offender. He said “if the league official (umpire) did not intend to stop that sort of play, the police would.”
There were a few occasions when players lost their tempers but no reports.
During the latter part of the season NSW were defeated by East Fremantle on the RAS Showground in front of a crowd of 6,000 while the state team performed poorly at the National Amateur Football Carnival in Launceston where they were defeated by South Australia and Victoria. They managed a win in the last game against Canberra.
An interstate Railways Carnival was played on Erskineville Oval. NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania competed. The interstate teams arrived in Sydney by train as did the country representatives in the NSW team. The carnival was won by Victoria.