Former Newtown player is Recognized by State Government

            Capt Reg Saunders

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following story contains images of deceased persons.

Former Newtown premiership player, Reg Saunders MBE, an Australian indigenous WWII and Korean War veteran, will have the new metro station in Pitt Street Sydney named in his honour.

Transport Minister David Elliott, is keen to see Reg’s legacy live on.

Reg played in Newtown’s 1948 premiership team, coached by Jack Darling, that beat Sydney Naval 16-17 (113) to 8-11 (59) in the grand final at Henson Park.  Also in the Newtown side were state players, Arch Pilling, Harry Free, Ossie Grose, Billy Cottis, Frank Larkin and Emrys Owen.
“Reg was still about when I started playing in 1955” former Newtown player, Greg Schroder said this morning. “He was a great bloke, a true gentleman.”

                     Reg Saunders in Korea

Born in Purnim Victoria, north of Warrnambool, Reg joined the army in 1940 as a private.  He saw service in both Europe and South West Pacific campaigns in the in the 2/7 Battalion.  In 1944 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, the first indigenous Australian to attain that level.  Reg was discharged from the army in 1945 and found work firstly as a shipping clerk and, later a builder’s labourer in Sydney. It was during this period that he played for Newtown. 

As conflict developed on the in Korean peninsula in 1950 he re-joined the army serving in the Australian Staff Corps and was promoted to the rank of captain.  He saw service in the Korean War with the 3rd Battalion in tours of duty from November 1950- November 1951.  

Reg playing       district        football in     Melbourne

On returning to Australia, Reg was posted to National Service Training but, dissatisfied with the training regimen,  he left the army in 1954 and found work first as a logging contractor in Gippsland, Victoria then upon returning to Sydney, worked at the Austral Bronze factory in Alexandria, Sydney, near Erskineville Oval.

In 1967 he joined the Office of Aboriginal Affairs as a liaison and public relations officer and was awarded The Order of the British Empire – Member (Civil) (Imperial) in 1971 for services to the Aboriginal community.

Reg died in Sydney in 1990.

Rep Games in 1947

One of the gun NSW Players from 1947: Frank Larkin

During the past ten months or so we have written a number of stories on the year 1947 but we found there is more to be said.

In that year the NSW Football League (NSWANFL) played TWELVE representative matches – four of which were played on consecutive days over respective weekends (see green shade). Three of these games were played in Sydney and the other in Broken Hill;  all were against different opponents.  Of course the respective NSW teams that played on the both days of these same weekends were made up of different players.

Now if you have ever been involved with representative football or even club football, putting a team on the field requires a fair amount of planning, commitment and work.  The team which travelled to Tasmania comprised of players from Sydney, Broken Hill, Riverina and Albury.

Now granted 1947 was a year of a national carnival, played in Hobart (shaded in yellow) which made up four of the games, but nevertheless the other matches required players, managers, trainers, jumpers, shorts and socks and the list goes on.

In one of our earlier posts about 1947 we mentioned that the league secretary of the time, Ken Ferguson, made a public appeal for ‘clothing coupons’ in order to purchase player ‘clothing.’  Remember, this was just two years after the finish of WWII and the general public were still operating under the coupon system for food and clothing etc.

When the NSW Carnival team returned from Hobart, as if they didn’t have enough football, the league arranged for this side to play “The Rest” on the following weekend.

‘The Rest’ were made up from players not chosen in the NSW Carnival contingent but were Sydney players selected in the other NSW teams whilst the main team was in Tasmania.

So from a competition of seven Sydney clubs a total of 66 players were involved in representative football during that year. A further six were selected from clubs outside the metropolitan area.

Here are the matches:

DATE VENUE OPPOSITION NSW SCORE OPPOSITION
SCORE
WON/LOST
1947-05-25 Sydney Queensland 20.13 (133) 15-17 (107) Won
1947-06-01 Sydney Broken Hill 18-15 (123) 8-13 (61) Won
1947-06-14 Broken Hill Broken Hill 12-12 (84) 11-9 (75) Lost
1947-06-15 Sydney Canberra 21-9 (135) 19-16 (130) Won
1947-06-21 Brisbane Queensland 18-22 (130) 18-24 (132) Won
1947-07-30 Hobart Canberra 13-18 (96) 7-8 (50) Won
1947-08-01 Hobart Tasmania 6-10 (46) 16-10 (106) Lost
1947-08-06 Hobart South Australia 14-12 (86) 17-9 (111) Lost
1947-08-08 Hobart Queensland 12-6 (76) 5-12 (42) Won
1947-08-09 Sydney Subiaco FC 8-11 (59) 11-10 (76) Lost
1947-08-10 Sydney East Fremantle FC 20-13 (133) 15-11 (101) Lost
1947-08-17 Sydney “The Rest” 21-18 (144) 13-16 (94) Won

You can see by the last score that the better players in the Sydney competition were chosen for the main NSW team.
All NSW games from 1881-1947, together with all their details, players, umpires and scores are listed here.

Ref.
NSWAFL 1947 annual report
NSWAFFL 1947 Football Records
Metropolitan and Broken Hill newspapers of the day

– Player availability at the 1947 Carnival

In past days, the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) the peak body for the game in Australia, since absorbed by the AFL, conducted regular interstate carnivals where states played against other states in a round robin situation.  Since WWII, because of the obvious disparity in standard, these carnivals were comprised of two divisions. They do not hold these type of events any more.

In 1947 Hobart hosted the first carnival following the war, the overall attendance and gate was marginally larger than the 1924 carnival, also held at Hobart (see image).

Carnivals of this nature are a testing time for players.  The 1947 event was conducted over 10 days (including rest days) which is a fair commitment for all the players and officials who also at that time had to hold down a job, so it meant taking holidays.

New South Wales played four games:

  1.   defeated Canberra (as the nation’s capital team was then known, now ACT) 18-22 (130) to 7-8 (50)
  2.   lost to Tasmania in what was described as a fantastic match 16-10 (106) to 13-18 (96)
  3.   lost to South Australia 17-9 (111) to 5-10 (40)
  4.   defeated Queensland 14-16 (100) to 5-12 (42)

The major issue of the carnival was the weather.  Before their third game against South Australia officials seriously considered cancelling the game.  The North Hobart Oval was described as a “mud pie – again” and “atrocious” by a number of newspapers.  It was so bad that the umpire could not bounce the ball and for the division 1 games officials decided to use a new ball each quarter however the poor old division 2 matches could only get a new ball at half time in their games!

The other problem for New South Wales, in particular, was the growing injury list.  By the last game they had ten injured players and under normal circumstances these men would not have played but the team had no replacements.

It was so bad that an application was made to the authorities to allow the NSW coach, 38 year old Frank Dixon to play.  Initially the request was granted along with permission for an Eastern Suburbs player, Jack Nicholls, a visitor to the carnival but subsequently permission was withdrawn because other teams did not have the same luxury.  Dixon who had successfully captained and coached the South Sydney Club before the war had not played since his return to Australia following a severe wound received at El Alemein in North Africa during WWII.

These were the days before interchange and NSW took the field with the bare eighteeen players along with Newtown’s injured Frank Larkin standing by, hoping not to play as 19th man.  And that was their complement for the match. Queensland, by the way, had similar problems.

Frank Larkin

NSW won the game easily however Larkin had to take the field late in the last quarter as a replacement for another injured player.  When the game finished, Larkin was the only player standing with a clean, sky blue jumper.  In an act of frivolity his team mates rushed to Larkin and rolled him in the mud so he finished up in the same fashion as themselves.

In the evening the North Hobart Club organised a ball for the wounded NSW team.

You can check out the games on our site here.