Don’t Trespass

1906- Robert ErrolThere is a message in this for those who might be prone to take a short cut and walk across an Australian football field, rather than around the boundary.

In 1907, Bob Errol (pictured), who was a pretty fair player of the game was charged with ˜maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm” upon one such person.

Errol was playing for the YMCA side in a Sydney competition match against East Sydney on Moore Park in Sydney. Now this ground would have been directly opposite the SCG between Driver Avenue and what is now Anzac Parade.

A seventeen year old, Thomas Lambert, together with a couple of mates had just left the Sydney Cricket Ground after watching a rugby game between University and Glebe and began to walk across the field of play whilst the Australian football game was in progress.

They were abused by the footballers telling the group in no uncertain terms to ˜get off the ground” and ˜give the players a chance.” Lambert and co. refused and retorted in an aggressive manner that the game was “a dirty rotten Australian game.”

The three lads stood in front of the not so tall ruckman, Errol obstructing his path towards the ball. ˜Give me a chance” he requested of the trio but they came to him in a menacing manner using what was described as ˜filthy language.”

Lambert threw a punch at Errol, but he was picking on the wrong man. At 26 and a former professional fighter Errol fended off the blow while another grabbed him around his shoulders.

It was then that Errol threw a straight left which broke Lambert’s jaw.

This action eventually saw Errol in the Sydney Quarter Sessions at Taylor’s Square in Sydney before a judge and jury.

Errol had some very well regarded persons on his side with a number of these giving supporting evidence. One of whom was the former legendary Sydney footballer, Harry Hedger, a magistrate and a member of the board of directors of the Young Men’s Christian Association as well as a vice president of the NSW Football Association.

He was found not guilty with the jury concluding that Errol, a nine time representative player, had acted in self-defence.

Errol had served with the Third Victorian (Bushman’s) Contingent in the Boer war and later in Gallipoli, where he said of his time: ‘I was blown clean out of a trench by a shell and now I am stone deaf, and suffering from shock, but I understand they are going to send me back to Hell’s hole ” Gallipoli, but I don’t mind.’

Errol was discharged from the army in 1916 but re-enlisted for garrison duty in Australia. He died of wounds in 1924.

Linking the Past with a Current Movie

1914 Cyril Hughes thumbnailThe latest Russell Crowe movie, Water Diviner, demonstrates a significant bond between one of our WWI footballing diggers and his story.

Central to the early core of the film is the character, Cyril Hughes (pictured), played by Jai Courtney.  Hughes, after entering the army in January 1915 in the 1st Light Horse as a trooper, was whisked away to the Middle East two weeks later.

He was a Tasmanian born in 1890; after serving four years as an articled engineer/surveyor with the company, C M Archer, he moved to Sydney probably in about 1912.  Because of limited employment opportunities at the time in Australia, it is reasonable to assume that Hughes was one of a wave of young men who travelled the country in search of work.

Cyril Hughes was a footballer, but not one of particular note, it was his brother Eric who inherited those genes.  But Cyril had the brains and by 1913 was secretary of the South Sydney club and the following year, assumed the responsibility as delegate to the NSW Football League.  At 1.83m he was tall for the times but weighed in at only just over 68kg.

A surveyor and single, he volunteered to survey the league’s major new purchase of a 10 acre former racecourse in Botany Road at Mascot and spent his spare time organising earthworks and other structural duties at the site.

It is quite likely that Hughes’ professional work included surveying duties in the adjoining model suburb of Rosebery, which at the time and from 1912 was being divided into building blocks.

His unit, the Light Horse, were initially considered unsuitable for the Gallipoli operation, but were soon deployed without their horses to reinforce the infantry. The 1st Light Horse Regiment landed on 12 May 1915 and was attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division. It played a defensive role for most of the campaign but mounted an attack on the Turkish position known as ‘the Chessboard’ as part of the August Offensive on 7 August.  Two hundred men were involved, 147 became casualties. Hughes was part of all this.

Someone realised his ability and in October 1915 he was transferred to the 4th Field Engineers.  Like many, he was in and out of hospital suffering pyrexia, diarrioeha and finally malaria. By 1917 Hughes was in Egypt and given administrative duties.  At one time he was promoted to the unit’s quartermaster. By February he was elevated to commission rank and later began survey duties.

At the very end of the war Hughes was asked to ‘soldier on’ and was given the onerous task of surveying the battle and grave sites at Gallipoli.  He was part of the Graves Registration Unit.  His promotions slowly continued however he was finally discharged as a captain in England in July 1919.

In the same year he went back as part of a British unit where he and his men began the task of locating cemeteries, marking graves and burying the unburied dead.  And that is how his character had a part in the movie.Hughes @ Gallipoli thumbnail

During the Gallipoli campaign at Anzac many battlefield cemeteries were constructed. With war’s end in 1918 and the defeat of Turkey, British units were dispatched to the Gallipoli peninsula where they began the task of locating cemeteries, marking graves and burying the unburied dead. This work was carried out initially by British Graves Registration personnel and in the Anzac sector it was overseen by  Australian Gallipoli veteran, and now Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Hughes following his appointment as Inspector of Works and Supervising Engineer at Gallipoli

The image shows Hughes mapping out a grave at Gallipoli with Sergeant Woolley.  click to enlarge

Under him was a mixed labour force of Turks, Greeks and White Russians, none of whom spoke English. Hughes, in his own words, communicated with them in ˜a mixture of Arabic, Turkish, and Greeks. He found that ˜the fact that I’m an Australian is better still. Hughes was also impressed by their capacity for work and remarked ˜Thank goodness all my fellows can do about fifteen things.

For the building work Hughes developed a Turkish quarry on Gallipoli at Ulgardere. According to one authority, the stone there was of ˜that same class as that of which the Homeric walls of Troy were built. Some of this stone was brought in by lorry but the rest was transported by sea to North Beach where an aerial ropeway was constructed to take it up on to the ridge and down to Lone Pine. As construction work proceeded, the peninsula received its first visitors, although the intention was to keep them firmly away until all work was finished. In April 1920 Hughes wrote of someone who may have been the first Anzac pilgrim:

One old chap managed to get here from Australia looking for his son’s grave; we looked after him and he’s pushed off to Italy now.

For his contribution to the war effort, Hughes was awarded a British Empire Medal in the military division in 1919.  The following year he was awarded a CBE by the King and the British Government for his work with war graves etc.

He never did return to live in Australia.  Hughes married the daughter of a British Government Official in Egypt after WWI and lived there for the majority of his life, working for the War Graves Commission and as Australian Trade Commissioner in Egypt.  He returned for brief visits to Australia in the 1930s.

Hughes died on 2 March 1958.

So if you have seen the movie or intend going, you will see the handsome young man who portrays someone who played a significant part in Sydney football and accordingly will receive appropriate recognition in our forthcoming book.

Significant Date Passes This Week

1914 Carnival Advertisement SMH 5-8-1914 smallWorld War I started one hundred years ago this week and we should not let the opportunity pass without paying homage to those Sydney footballers who served.

I am guessing here that most football and other sporting competitions around the nation will permit the day to roll by without so much of a murmur or thought about any of their number who enlisted for WWI, those perhaps who were killed or returned maimed, resulting in their inability to continue to play.

In 1914 Sydney had six clubs: Newtown, Sydney, South Sydney North Sydney (Shore), East Sydney and Paddington.  Only one is left today.

When the war was announced, with the time difference, the ball was being bounced on the Sydney Cricket Ground for the first game, in the third All-States National Carnival.

Ralph Robertson, the very well respected 32 year old Sydney footballer in the first decade of the last century, captained NSW.  It was his 35th appearance for the NSW and/or Sydney since 1903.  He had captained the state in the two previous national carnivals, 1908 in Melbourne and 1911 in Adelaide and was a product of St Kilda FC in 1899-1900.

He played in four of the five games for NSW in August 1914 then enlisted, citing his previous experience in the Militia as a criteria for early enrolment.  He was joined by fellow state team member Teddy McFadden and later Tom Watson from the North Sydney Club.  They all sailed to New Guinea with the little known or recognized, Australian Naval and Military Expedition Force.  This was not a big contingent but their involvement with the then German New Guinea, helped in the capture of the province.  The trio were back in Australia by February 1915.

All three eventually went to Europe.  Robertson resigned from the Australian force to take up a commission in the British Army.  He later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and was killed in a training accident in 1917 when the plane he was flying collided with another over Egypt.

Tom Watson went on to Gallipoli where he was killed in August 1915.

Teddy McFadden (pictured), a former South Sydney player, signed on with the 1st AIF in April 1915 and his involvement proved to be a whole different kettle of fish than the former two.

He was posted overseas in June 1915.  Right from the start he found himself in strife, receiving unit punishment for menial indiscretions.

He changed Corps and was promoted and demoted finally finishing up in the VD Hospital at Bulford, England where he was placed on the Syphilis Register in May, 1917.  He remained there for over 3 months until eventually deserting from the army only to pop up again and living in Darlinghurst, a suburbs of Sydney, in 1922.  He wasn’t the only WWI serviceman to suffer from this virtually incurable disease.  Many Australians suffered the same fate.

Because of his desertion, he was cut-off from any Government assistance and tagged an Illegal Absentee and officially discharged from the army in 1920.

They were not keen to have anything to do with Teddy.  He was not awarded any medals, apart from a service medal for his involvement in the New Guinea campaign, not Europe.Teddy McFadden cropped 1 smaller

He married in 1926 then slipped into obscurity.

There were others too, most returned but some never stepped a foot back into Australia again.  A minority, like Jacky Furlong, a Newtown player, who returned with a missing thumb and Les Mitchell, an East Sydney player who was wounded by shrapnel.  Both played again in Sydney, Furlong at 29 and Mitchell, 26.

And yet there were others:  Jim McInnes, a Sydney FC player who died of measles or Edward Dennis Hickey, former Newtown captain coach, then Sydney player, who was invalided back to Australia with arthritis.  Several others who played again, like many of their era, just slipped into anonymity.

To honour the time and those who served, the History Society is producing a book on the effect World War I had on Sydney football.  It has an anticipated release date immediately prior to Anzac Day, 1915.

This publication is not a book of empty, pathetic rhetoric.  It is about real people and real events.  Young men who played football in Sydney and in other parts of Australia who served in what was called the Great War.  Also though, it is about footballing events in Sydney before, during and after the conflict.  This book will comprise part of the country’s official Centenary of ANZAC as a lasting legacy to the period and those who served.

If you are interested in football history, this limited production book is a MUST for your collection.  There is a progress link on the front page of this website.


Sportsmens Recruitment Poster smallWith the centenary of ANZAC now under two years away a small number of  Society officials have been appointed to a sub-committee to further investigate how football in Sydney did handle Australia’s entry into WWI.  Already this has resulted in the emergence of some fascinating information.

At the time football consisted of two spheres in Sydney, the league, which consisted of half a dozen or so clubs and also a reserve grade, conducted by a separate association.  Some school football was also played but with the onset of the war, this, for the most part, had petered out.

The North Shore club failed to nominate for the 1915 season and East Sydney struggled to get the numbers.  By mid-season they had begun to forfeit games.

With young men signing up for overseas duty all sport suffered, particularly Australian football.

On the plus side, if there was one, many players from interstate passed through Sydney either for training or transportation to Gallipoli or the Middle East by boat.  A number of these played in the competition.

Once there they began to write home.  In one letter, South Sydney player, Cyril Hughes, wrote that he had landed at Gallipoli and been promoted and was “now in charge of a machine gun.”  He went on to say that he had had some marvellous escapes and on one occasion a bullet had smashed his water bottle which was slung over his shoulder.

The Society has urged the AFL to play a greater role in supporting research and the documentation of those footballers who served in the Great War.

Later in the war, as replacement numbers from Australia began to fall, the government resorted to furtive methods to recruit men to the ranks even suggesting sportsmen, as seen in the attached poster, should sign up.  There was at least one battalion called the Sportsmen’s Battalion which was formed from sportsmen from various codes and activities and sent off to the Western Front, some never to return.


While reported on the passing of Alf Penno this week yet another legend of Sydney football, not a player but an administrator, has died suddenly.

He former long term St George president and league official, Syd Felstead, passed away in June 2011, he was 92.

St George Football Club historian, Pat McCourt, penned a profile of this very well respected man who really had the game at heart:

Syd’s journey through life is an amazing story!  His contribution to Australian Rules at St George, throughout Sydney and NSW is invaluable.  I will be brief in my summary; however on Syd’s passing we have to pay a tribute, acknowledge who Syd Felstead was and what he did to establish junior competitions of Australian Rules throughout Sydney.

Syd Felstead born 26 August 1919, Bendigo Victoria, his father dying in early 1920s as result service at Gallipoli and gassing received in France in WW1.  After moves around Victoria, and Paddington in Sydney in 1928, Syd and his mother moved to Dora St Hurstville in 1930 at start of the depression. A time when Syd and his mother eked out a living; Syd on his bike, he named “Greenie” doing deliveries and collecting manure in his billy cart [made from a fruit box and wheels off a pram], selling a cart load to neighbours for sixpence [now five cents]!

In 1934 at age 15, having passed the Intermediate certificate, Syd left school eventually got an apprenticeship at ACI Glassworks as a crystal glass cutter, earning eleven shillings and sixpence per week [today’s currency; one dollar and fifteen cents]. He traded his bike “Greenie” on a new Malvern Star, paying it off at two shillings per week [present currency; twenty cents] and played junior Rules matches in local school and local park competitions! Syd commenced in 1938 with St George AFC, in Reserve Grade [St George Third grade was not formed until 1958].

Syd was associated with some greats of that St George era; likes of Phonse Kyne, Jack Browne, and Stan Powditch and was lucky to witness St George’s Premiership in 1938.  Syd also had a strong affiliation with the committee and between 1938 and 1957 (allowing for time spent overseas in WWII with RAAF, crewing in Wellington and Lancaster bombers), played a total of 128 senior games; was a member of 1951 Reserve Grade premiership.

After returning from war, Syd with partners started their own cut glass business, and continued playing with St George, mainly as fullback.  During his time as a player, Syd was an active committee member, with Andrew Glass as President. In 1955 Syd became President, holding the position for 20 years when he stepped aside in 1974.  Under his Presidency, St George played in three consecutive Grand finals between 1964 and 1966; winning 1964 Premiership!

Behind the scenes with colleagues from various Sydney Clubs, Syd was active developing the junior base of all Sydney Clubs. He chaired committees to establish St George junior clubs in 1950s; likes of Como, Peakhurst and Boys Town [all since faded into history]. Present junior Clubs [Ramsgate, Miranda, Cronulla and Penshurst] established with assistance from; Ruben Fraser, Alan Gibbons, Alex Melville.  Some of Syd’s achievements, included –

Life Memberships and Awards

 Life member of St George AFC – awarded 1953

Life member of AFL (NSW/ACT) – awarded 1967

In 2000, received from Prime Minister an Honour Award for 2000 Bi Centennial celebrations – for past contributions to Australian Rules

St George AFC ‘Hall of Fame’ –  inducted in 2005 one of five initial inductees


Some other contributions and achievements [there were many] –

[As recorded in Syd’s hand written notes, held by me]

Elected to Board of Management of NSW ANFL 1956

Appointed Team Manager for NSW Teams from 1958 to 1965

In 1966 appointed by Sutherland Council to Ground Allocation Committee

Awarded Australian Sports Medal by Commonwealth Government

Served as Chair Person in formation of both Junior Assoc, and St George body of NSW ANFL Junior Planning Committee

Chaired formation committee of St George All Age Comp/Open Age League [now defunct]; subsequently became NSW League Second division comp

Included in book published [2000] recording “History of Hurstville Oval”

Suggested, had passed initial concept of Club Championship Points at NSW League

Held positions in 1950s and 1960s as President and Delegate to NSW ANFL

Awarded ˜Merit Award” by Australian Football Council

Olds Park – Syd was instrumental in 1968/1969 in securing the initial 21 year lease on Olds Park when St George made the move from Hurstville Oval.  Syd was involved in 1970 in the unsuccessful application to obtain a liquor licence for St George at Olds Park which was backed at time by Bill Picken [Western Suburbs fame].

Due to his strong Australian wide connections in Aussie Rules circles, whilst President, Syd was instrumental in getting the likes of Dale Dalton, Don McKenna, Dennis & Ray Pegg, Ralph Todd, Graham Cornes and many other interstate recruits to play with St George.

Syd was always strongly supported by his wife, Betty [nee O’Reilly b.1924] whom he married during the war and had four children; Graham, Sandra, Robyn and David. Both boys played briefly at St George, where Betty was a pillar of strength, working in the canteen at Hurstville Oval, selling raffle tickets and organising social functions. They retired to live at Vincentia, where Betty passed away in May 2005.

It can be categorically stated; Syd fathered the St George AFC junior competition as it stands today – Patrick McCourt was a member of initial team that started Miranda junior club! Syd’s blue print to establish St George junior clubs, was adopted by other Sydney Clubs.

Syd Felstead made a valuable contribution to successes enjoyed by a vast base of Australian Rules players, supporters. He established basis for present day operations for many persons who continue to participate, enjoy Australian Rules throughout Sydney and NSW. St George benefited from Syd’s earlier work; winning eleven, Third Grade Premierships between 1958 and 1980; with two runner ups and only three times did it not make the final four in that era.

Australian Rules is poorer upon the passing of Syd Felstead. Syd was a pioneer; St George has lost an icon!

For contemporary players and followers of Sydney football, Syd was a regular attendee at the league’s annual Phelan Medal Night.  Syd Felstead “was really a nice guy.”