1914 ANFC Carnival in Sydney

Have you thought about this?  Today (November 11) is Armistice Day 2021.
Dr Rodney Gillett looks back at the 1914 National Carnival, one hundred and seven years ago, that started just two days after World War 1 was declared and remembers a number of those, locally, who served.

“Today will witness the start of the greatest event in the football history of N.S.W.
For why? Well, because the whole of the States will battle out for the A.F.C. premiership.
(Sydney Sportsman, 5 August 1914).

The best footballers from around Australia came to play at the ANFC Carnival in Sydney in 1914. The six states, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and hosts, New South Wales all played against each other in the same division at the SCG.

The first-ever interstate carnival played in Melbourne in 1908, was won by Victoria. The next carnival was held in Adelaide in 1911, was won by South Australia.

There were high hopes that NSW could follow the trend and secure a victory at home. The contemporary sporting press featured extensive coverage of the event and The Referee (1 August 1914) presented profiles on the players selected in the team in a double page spread.

  Dick Condon

The New South Wales team was coached by former Collingwood and Richmond mentor Dick Condon, who had moved to Sydney following a colourful VFL career that included a Copeland Trophy and premierships in 1902-03.  The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers regards Condon as “probably the greatest player of his era”. Condon was referred to as “that fiery football genius” who possessed “a combination of brimstone oratory and skilful tactics” (The Referee 31 May 1914).”. He was a former team-mate of NSW manager/ assistant coach Billy Strickland at Collingwood. Strickland had captained Collingwood’s first-ever premiership in the VFA in 1896 and played in the club’s first season in the VFL in 1897.


The Sky Blues were led by North Shore skipper Ralph Robertson (formerly of East Sydney), who had led NSW at the 1908 and 1911 carnivals. In the preview The Referee (1 August 1914), stated that “Robby” had played the finest game on the       ground against Victoria at Adelaide in the 1911 Carnival.  Robertson was awarded the medal for the best NSW player at the 1914 Carnival despite missing the final game against Western Australia to enlist in the Australian expeditionary forces to fight in World War 1

(All-Australian teams were not selected until after WWII; conceivably, Robertson would have been selected in three as he was awarded NSW’s best player at each Carnival. He should be in the AFL Hall of Fame – Ed.)

Strong as Hercules, with a quick-thinking brain, Albert loses no time in getting rid of the ball, to the advantage of the side. And those side-steps of his are very effective. Vincent is very hard to shift off his pins.

Albert Vincent – centreman
Sydney (1906-1914)
NSW – 10 games


Andrew RatcliffeMeteoric — yes, that’s the word that fits Andy Ratcliffe. No wonder the spectators like to watch him. There is always something worth looking at when Andy grabs the inflated leather.
Andy Ratcliffe – wing

Central Western 1913-14 (Balmain 1915-17, Roseberry 1923)
NSW – 4 games
(Played 43 first class games for NSW as a wicket-keeper/batsman from 1913-14 to 1928/29 making four centuries with a top score of 161)

There are few — if any — of our footballers who have attained such popularity as ‘Shorts’ McCann. The harder the contract the more he appears to relish it. McCann is certainly wonderfully clever for his inches.
Vincent McCann – rover

Paddington 1912-1923 (YMCA 1910-11)
NSW – 9 games


Freddy is certainly the most attractive half back here; he is neatness personified. He has an exceptionally taking style, being dodgy, a good mark, and foot passes cleverly.

Frederick McGargill – centre half back
Sydney – 1911-1927
NSW – 7 games


NSW opened the Carnival with a convincing 77-point win over Queensland, 13.15.93 to 2.4.16. Ralph Robertson was voted best-on-ground with other good players being vice-captain Desmond Baird (Paddington), key forward Andy Radcliffe (Central Western), clever rover Vincent “Bing” McCann (Paddington), and half-forward Les Clark (Sydney).

In the next round NSW easily accounted for Tasmania, 15.14.104 to 5.13.43. Robertson was gain voted best-on-ground booting two goals, while other good players were centre half-back Frederick “Freddy Mack” McGargill (Sydney), full-forward Fred “Sailor” Meadows (originally from Broken Hill) who booted four goals, and Paddington team-mates, Baird and McCann.

However, the Sky Blues winning run came to an end against reigning champions South Australia losing by 53 points. Best player was Paddington full-back Walter Abotomey, Robertson (2 goals), McCann, Baird (1 goal), and “Freddy Mack” at centre half-back.

Victoria proved far too strong for NSW in the final match of the minor round, winning by 136 points in what had been the biggest losing margin to date for NSW against Victoria. Robertson was best-on-ground, while also named in the best were follower Jack Webb (Central Western), Baird in the centre and McGargill across the half-back line.

By dint of having finished fourth after the minor round matches, NSW took on Western Australia in a play-off for third-place but the Sandgropers were far too accomplished and ran out easy victors by 104 points. Full-back Abotomey was NSW’s best player along with winger Andy Ratcliffe, replacement skipper Albert Vincent (filling in for Robertson who had enlisted), rover McCann and Paddington key forward Mick McInerny who booted 3 goals.

In the play-off for the championship title in front of a crowd of 14,000, Victoria defeated South Australia, 11.11.77 to 5.10.40 with their “big guns” St Kilda long-kicking superstar Dave McNamara, Collingwood’s first champion full-forward Dick Lee and South Melbourne’s star centreman Bruce Sloss (who was tragically killed in WWI) leading the way.

The full set of results from the 1914 ANFC Carnival:

Wednesday, 5 August (12:45pm) New South Wales 13.15 (93) def. Queensland 2.4 (16) Sydney Cricket Ground
Wednesday, 5 August (3:00pm) South Australia 12.16 (88) def. Western Australia 12.11 (83) Sydney Cricket Ground
Thursday, 6 August (3:00pm) Victoria 28.20 (188) def. Tasmania 8.9 (57) Sydney Cricket Ground
Friday, 7 August (3:00pm) South Australia 32.18 (210) def. Queensland 2.9 (21) Sydney Cricket Ground
Saturday, 8 August (1:30pm) New South Wales 15.14 (104) def. Tasmania 5.13 (43) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 8,000 C-R))
Saturday, 8 August (3:00pm) Victoria 13.16 (94) def. Western Australia 11.14 (80) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 8,000)
Monday, 10 August (1:30pm) Tasmania 15.17 (107) def. Queensland 4.5 (29) Sydney Cricket Ground
Monday, 10 August (3:30pm) South Australia 16.20 (106) def. New South Wales 10.3 (63) Sydney Cricket Ground
Tuesday, 11 August (1:30pm) Western Australia 33.31 (229) def. Queensland 6.5 (41) Sydney Cricket Ground
Tuesday, 11 August (3:00pm) Victoria 24.20 (164) def. New South Wales 4.7 (31) Sydney Cricket Ground
Wednesday, 12 August (3:00pm) South Australia 18.23 (131) def. Tasmania 5.7 (37) Sydney Cricket Ground
Thursday, 13 August (1:30pm) Western Australia 29.14 (188) def. Tasmania 12.8 (80) Sydney Cricket Ground
Thursday, 13 August (3:00pm) Victoria 28.22 (190) def. Queensland 4.3 (27) Sydney Cricket Ground
Saturday, 15 August (12:40pm) Western Australia 23.24 (162) def. New South Wales 8.10 (58) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 12,000 C-R))
Saturday, 15 August (3:00pm) Victoria 11.11 (77) def. South Australia 5.10 (44) Sydney Cricket Ground (crowd: 12,000)

Walter Abotomey** – AIF 1st Battalion
Les Clark – AIF 2nd Battalion
Jack Fisher – ???
Bert Ellis – AIF 30th Battalion
Albert Erickson – AIF 3rd Battalion
Eric Hughes – 12th Light Horse
Allan Jackson* – AIF 55th Battalion
Teddy McFadden – Naval & Military Expedition Force/12th Light Horse
Fred McGargill  – AIF 13th Battalion
Frank Meadows – 5th Machine Gun Company
Jim Munro – 4th Divisional Ammunition Column
Albert Vincent ­- 3rd Australian General Hospital
Ralph Robertson* – Naval & Military Expedition Force/Royal Flying Corps

* Did not return
**Died of war-related injuries