Before the Tomahawk there was Jumping Jack

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.

Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Jack Hawkins for the Hall of Fame:

Tom and Jack Hawkins on the family farm in Finley in southern NSW Photo: Herald-Sun

‘Jumping Jack’ Hawkins went about his footy in a different way to his famous son Tom but his high flying marks in the 1970s and 1980s gave Cats fans a nice warm up for what was to come 26 years later.

While Tom’s career is still going strong at 32 Jack’s was sadly cut short by a knee injury at only 27. He returned home to Finley to run the family farm and play footy but the injury restricted him to just 2 games.

His contribution to footy however was far from over and Jack has helped run the Finley Football Club and the Murray Football League for more than four decades.

Not surprisingly his extended time in NSW footy has been supplemented by plenty of time watching his son carve out a stellar career at his old stomping ground, Kardinia Park. Looking back at his time there Jack says he couldn’t have ended up at a better club.

“It (Geelong) was a great place for a country lad to be. I was very comfortable. And as a farmer, I found a wife!” he told me for this story.

Jack studied agriculture at the Marcus Oldham College and then worked on a farm just outside Geelong. But at the end of each football season he would head back to the family farm for the harvest and not return until the end of January. It was the age of the part-time footballer.

On the field he was renowned for his vertical leaps to take marks on the last line of defence. A team-mate, Phil Stevens bestowed on him the nickname, “Jumping Jack”. Then colourful VFL commentator Lou Richards got hold of it, and it stuck.

He played 182 games and kicked twenty goals for the Cats from 1973 to 1981. He also represented Victoria.

Upon returning home, Jack joined the committee, and later became president of the Finley Football Club from 1987-89. He also served on the Murray Football League executive from 1990 before having a spell for five years then he returned as president in 2009 until he stepped down at the end of the 2017 season.

During his period in office there was a transformation in the Murray league with new clubs such as Tongala, Moama, Echuca United and Rumbularra coming in, and the exit of foundation clubs: Tocumwal, Berrigan and Strathmerton to the nearby Picola & District League.

Also towards the end of his term, Tungamah and Katandra came into the competition after a dispute between the Picola league and AFL Victoria to bring the number of clubs up to 14.

Jack also became a selector for NSW State teams at the behest of old mate and rival Terry Daniher, who was coach of the NSW State team while coaching Wagga Tigers at the time. This included the match against the VFA as a curtain-raiser to the Victoria v South Australia match at the MCG in 1995 when Teddy Whitten was emotionally farewelled.

It was to be the VFA’s last-ever representative match. NSW had first played the VFA in 1881.

    Jumping Jack            Hawkins

Jack would drive up to Wagga for training accompanied by prospective State players from the Murray League, a round trip of almost five hours.

“It was a lot of fun with TD. There was nothing complicated about training. He kept it simple. But he would tell a player if he wasn’t up to the required level. There was always a convivial drink afterwards”.

The connection between the Geelong and Finley footy clubs runs deep in the Hawkins family. Jack’s brothers, Michael and Robb, also both played in the VFL for Geelong. Michael and Jack played together for Finley in the 1971 premiership win over Deniliquin.

Jack’s eldest son Tom has already played in two premiership teams and kicked 594 goals in the AFL. Tom is the current leader in the Coleman Medal at the end of round 17. He also leads the Football History Society’s Carey-Bunton Medal for the Best NSW player in the AFL. Younger son, Charlie is playing for Old Geelong in the Victorian Amateurs footy after beginning at Finley.

HAWKINS CLAN – A footballing family from Finley NSW

Tom HawkinsThe Hawkins clan are an exceptional footballing family from Finley in southern NSW.

Four members of the family were on the selection list for the NSW Greatest Team.

Current Geelong power forward Tom Hawkins, who was named an All-Australian for the second time in 2019, was selected on the interchange bench in the NSW Greatest Team.

His father, Jack, was in serious contention for a back pocket berth but was edged out by dual premiership players Chris Lethbridge (Sydney YMCA/Fitzroy) and Ross Henshaw (North Albury/North Melbourne).

Jack’s brothers, Michael and Robb, who both played in the VFL for Geelong, were also on the list.

Since being drafted under the father-son rule by Geelong in 2006, Tom Hawkins has played 254 games for the Cats. In his football career to date he has won two premierships (2009 & 2011), seven leading goal-kicking awards, a club best and fairest (2012), and booted 550 goals (at the end round 22, 2019).

Hawkins was born and raised in Finley and went to the local high school before moving south to be a boarder at Melbourne Grammar, a school his father also attended. He played his early football for Finley in the Murray League as well as when returning home for school holidays.

“Away from the farm, I loved playing sport – I played football and cricket for Finley. There used to be social tennis on Monday night, and I enjoyed that. My parents encouraged us to be involved in sport”, he told Country Style (1 May 2018).

Tom’s father, “Jumping” Jack Hawkins was a cult-figure at Geelong where he played from 1973 to 1981 accumulating 182 games and kicking twenty goals. He also represented Victoria.

He was renowned for his vertical leaping to take marks on the last line of defence. He was the school high jump champion. Hence his nickname, “Jumping Jack”.Jumping <br>Jack Hawkins

Jack suffered a serious knee injury in 1982 which resulted in his retirement from football in 1983.

He went home to the farm but could only play only one game for the local side due to the debilitating knee injury. He did however play in a premiership team for Finley in 1971 with his brother Michael. They beat Deniliquin in the grand final under journeyman country football coach Wally Mumford.

Jack later became president of the Finley Football Club from 1987-89 and then served on the MFL executive from 1990 including the last nine years as president until he stepped down at the end of last season.

He said he needed more time to relax and time to see both of his sons play football.

“I’ve been trying to balance out Murray league duties and watch Charlie playing for Finley as well as travelling to Geelong to watch Tom”, he told the Southern Riverina Weekly (3 January 2018).

Michael played two senior games on match permits with Geelong in 1973 when Finley had byes. He replaced the injured Ian “Bluey” Hampshire as first ruck.

He continued to play for Finley and was a key member of the 1981-82 premierships under ex Fitzroy player Mark Newton. He was also a regular Murray league representative in NSW State and country championship fixtures. Michael was recently inducted into the Finley Football Club Hall of Fame.

Robb Hawkins also went to Geelong under zoning but after not playing a senior game he went to South Adelaide in the SANFL in 1979 where he carved out a niche career of 115 games, two best and fairest awards, and state selection in 1981.

He returned to Geelong in 1984 but only played three games. He went to Sydney in 1984 but injuries curtailed his career at the highest level.

Robb returned home to the farm and to play for Finley. He led the club to the 1988 premiership. He has had three stints coaching the club as well as coaching juniors and a member of the match committee.

Wynne HawkinsThe father of the Hawkins brothers, Wynne, played for near neighbours and arch rivals, Tocumwal. He sought a clearance from Toc. when he moved to a farm near to Finley. It was denied and he never played again. He was aged in his mid-twenties.

There is a history of acrimony between Tocumwal and Finley. This is captured on the Tocumwal Football Club’s website, which has excellent coverage of the club’s history. There is a section entitled “Bloody Finley”, which details some of the more colourful incidents between the two clubs. (

One of the most interesting concerns the coach of the NSW Greatest Team and legendary St Kilda & Hawthorn premiership coach Allan Jeans.

Jeans was recruited to St Kilda from Finley in 1955, but he was originally a Tocumwal player. He was enticed to play for Finley in 1952 by a good offer to play and work in a local pub when the 1951 Toc. coach Bert DeAbbel went to coach Finley and run the Albion Hotel.  Tocumwal refused the clearance and Jeans stood out of football for a year. He was cleared to Finley the next year.

Finley has been a rich source of players for the VFL/AFL. Other players on the NSW Greatest Team list from Finley are David Murphy (Sydney Swans), Peter Baldwin (Geelong), Damian Sexton (St Kilda), Bert Taylor (Melbourne), Darren Jackson (Geelong), Shane Crawford (Hawthorn) and Mark Whiley (GWS & Carlton).

However, it is the Hawkins that name is the most strongly linked with Finley and they have all contributed significantly to the Finley FC, the Murray League and the game in NSW.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: David Murphy (Sydney), Hamish Bull (Deniliquin), Mick Taylor & Mark O’Bryan (champions and stalwarts of the Finley Football Club) and the Tocumwal Football Club) for information and feedback.  Author – Rod Gillett

– 1903 Collingwood v Fitzroy in Sydney – it nearly didn’t happen!

Mostly through bad management and petty squabbles, the game failed and ceased to exist in Sydney in 1895.

This had been after a long and arduous period of getting the game established and accepted in Sydney.  The first clubs, Sydney and East Sydney were formed in 1881 which played under the NSW Football Association formed the year before.

Despite its demise, many of the proponents of the game were still keen about in the early 1900s and one, Harry Hedger, who had put his heart and sole into the game as a player and official in the aforementioned period, was very keen to see it rekindled.

After the NSW Football League had been formed in January 1903, he visited Melbourne late in the next month especially to attend a meeting of the VFL and club delegates where he outlined the need for support to have the game re-established in the NSW capital.

After Hedger harangued delegates until 2.30am, “Mr. C. M. Hickey (Fitzroy) said that his club was willing to go to Sydney at its own expense, and to forego any share of the gate receipts. Eventually Mr. Copeland, on behalf of the Collingwood club, agreed to make the trip. The cost to each of these clubs will probably be about £300, and they will each lose the proceeds of the match, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been played in Melbourne. Thus either the Fitzroy or the Collingwood ground will lose one of its most productive games. In order to compensate the two clubs for the sacrifice it was decided that the proceeds of the games played in Victoria on that day shall be pooled and divided equally between all the clubs in the league; and, further, that the ground which suffers by the arrangement shall be awarded one of the semi-final matches. ” [1]

But the Collingwood membership were not all that too happy with the decision.  At the annual meeting of the Collingwood Football Club on March 9, some members of the club resented the action of their committee in making the interstate arrangement.  One member, a Mr. Mansergh, said “that he thought the committee had exceeded its powers in committing the club to such a course. The members had a right to be consulted, and they should have decided. The match with Fitzroy was the most popular game of the season, and he did not think it fair that members should be deprived of the game.”

Mansergh then move that  “This meeting disagrees with the action of the committee of the club in deciding to play a premiership match in Sydney.  The motion was declared carried on a show of hands.” [2]

The decision of the members of the Collingwood club did not affect the Sydney visit, but had the potential to rob the match of its interest as far as the premiership was concerned”

In the meantime football euphoria had gripped Sydney with the two biggest clubs in Australia to visit in May.  Sydney was a Rugby town (Rugby League had not yet been introduced) and as well, soccer was played but not as popular as it is today.  Despite all this, eleven new first grade clubs were formed – and there were others.

However Collingwood had more problems when it comes to impediments to their proposed match. In May 1903 Victoria was gripped with a rail strike which subjected the match to a good deal of uncertainty.  The May 9 game of Geelong v Carlton game had to be postponed because of the strike.  The sudden impact of the strike had stifled any arrangements for travel to Geelong by boat because any such arrangements had not been considered early enough. [3]

There is more to this story …. stay tuned.

[1] Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser – 4 March 1903, p.570
[2} The Argus 10 March 1903 p.7
[3] 1903 VFL results

The Old Argument of Who Invented the Australian Game of Football

H C A HarrisonGoing through various newspapers of past years we came across the following article in a September 1908 issue of the Referee (Sporting) Newspaper.

It refers to Harrison as often being referred to as the father of the game (of Australian Football) and decries that title.  It goes on to say the initial rules were drawn up by an ad-hoc committee, over a few drinks following what would be described as a rough game.

One of our members, Greg de Moore wrote a especially interesting book, a Game of Our Own, on the one he labels as the game’s founder, T W Wills.

Nevertheless the article from 1908 makes interesting reading and it was written after there was much celebration in Melbourne at the time over the 50 year anniversary of the game:

“I previously touched on the origin of the Australian Game of Football, and quoted evidence to show that the title, ‘The Father of the Game”, has been incorrectly conferred, by the Press of Melbourne upon Mr. H. C. A. Harrison. The evidence was from the writings of Mr T W Wills and J. B. Thompson, two of the committee of four which drafted the first set of rules just 50 years ago. I received two letters on the subject from Melbourne footballers, but while agreeing with the statements I put forward they throw no fresh light on the matter.

As Mr. Harrison is still quoted on all sides in the Press and at official functions as the father of the game, further reference to the first code of rules to what is to-day known as the Australian Game having been drawn up by a committee consisting of Messrs. T. W. Wills, J. Hammersley, J. B. Thompson and T Smith, is timely. The evidence of Messrs. Wills and Thompson is thoroughly born out by the late Mr. Hammersley, who for 18 years was sporting editor of The Australasian.

In 1883, after he had withdrawn from regular journalistic harness, Mr. Hammersley, in an, article referring to football in Victoria, made the following statement:” When the game was first started in Victoria on anything like a sound footing (and that was in 1857) , it was a very rough game and no mistake. My shins now show honourable scars, and I often had blood trickling down my legs. No wonder, for hacking [kicking at another’s leg] was permitted and no objection was taken to spiked shoes. One day however, after a severe fight in the old Richmond Paddock, where blood had been drawn freely and some smart raps exchanged and a leg broken, it occurred to some of us that if we had rules to play under it would be better. Tom Wills suggested the rugby rules but no one understood them except himself and the result was, adjourn to the Parade Hotel, close by. This we did, with the following result: several drinks and the formation of a committee consisting of: Tom Wills, myself, J B Thompson and Football Smith, as he was termed, a master at the Scotch College, rattling fine player and a splendid kick, but of a very peppery temper. We decided to draw up a simple code of rules and as simple as possible so that anyone could quickly understand. We did so and the result was the rules then drawn up form the basis of the present code under which the game is universally played in Victoria and in most other parts of Australia. I feel sure that neither Rugby nor the Association code will ever supplant them.

This article has gained some merit over the years and is recognized as good foundation at which to consider the actual starting of the game of Australian Football.  The above quote is not entirely accurate, there were others whose signatures appear at the bottom of the original rules of football which are still in existence and are on display at the MCG Museum.

It is true though, that in 1866, H C A Harrison was asked to revise the rules of the game, which he did.  His amended rules were accepted without change and they remained the code’s principle rules until they were further revised a number of years later.

Harrison was prominent in very early football He was captain of both Melbourne and Geelong football clubs at various times.  When the VFA was formed he was made a vice president and when the VFL was instigated they made him their first life member.  He was also made a life member of the Australian Football Council when it was first formed.

He was also deeply involved in cricket, in particular with the Melbourne Cricket Club which he had an association, first as a player, then an official from 1861.  Harrison died in 1929 and while the title Father of the Game may be up for argument, he was certainly there and active in the very early days of the game.

Early Sydney Uni FC days?

UniversityIn 1908 someone wrote a letter to a Tasmanian newspaper extolling the efforts of the then, Australian (National) Football Council, later the National Football League (a national organisation considered the peak body for the game in Australia.  All states were equally represented on it).

In particular it went on to explain the effort the Council was doing in spreading the game of Australian football across the nation as well as in New Zealand and how this was done.

It said “the great obstacle to be overcome, of course, is the predominant and apparently lasting popularity of Rugby football (Rugby League had only just been established) in New South Wales and New Zealand.”

The letter went on to mention the success the game was having in the schools in this state and then turned its attention to the University.  Sydney University was then the only such institution in the NSW.

The letter maintained that one reason the VFL accepted Melbourne University into their ranks, as a club, was “in anticipation that inter-university games in Australian football between the Melbourne and Sydney universities would be hastened.”  (That’s drawing a long bow – ed.)

More interestingly it said that “in the 1908 season, there were 14 students of Sydney University playing with senior clubs in Sydney so that the university should soon be able to send a good team to Melbourne.”

The article went on “the Australian Football Council over the summer of 1907-08 distributed five hundred pounds ($63,300 in today’s money) between the state football bodies in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and New Zealand.  This money was the balance from a levy made by the Council of 5% of the takings of all Associations (presumably the state football leagues, ie VFL – ed.).  The Victorian quota was the largest at three hundred and twenty pounds ($40,500) with NSW receiving two hundred pounds ($25,300), the bulk share of the total funding.”

A team called Training College competed in first grade in the Sydney competition between 1909-12.  Unfortunately they came last each season and apparently with lack of enthusiasm AND success they folded.

There is not a lot documented about the Training College side, but through some careful research we have found that the club was representative of the Sydney Teachers College, then located at Blackfriars, which is situated just off Broadway in Chippendale, Sydney.  It also had an annex which operated out of Hereford House at Glebe.

In 1910 a Combined Colleges team played Fitzroy FC at Erskineville Oval as a curtain raiser to NSW v Geelong FC.  Both VFL teams were on a visit to Sydney at that time.  The ‘Combined Colleges’ included some from the Sydney University and was comprised of the following: Ashton, Barker, Alfred Kiesling, Weiss, Woodward, Edwards, Dennis, Thompson, J Shannon (captain), Michael Mahoney, Williams, Cunningham, Bennett, Chapman, Osborne, Dyer, H Tubman, William Rice.

In the early 1920s, the Training College fielded a team in the reserve grade competition but it was not until 1948, with an influx of students studying veterinary science at the University, that they again fielded a team in the Sydney competition.


1938 NSW State Team to Launceston 1 smallWe have often been asked about NSWs history of interstate games and how successful they had been over the years.

Well we can tell you that the NSW Football Association, the forerunner to the NSW Australian Football League, played their first representative game at the MCG on 1 July 1881.  The match was against the then VFA which was the first controlling body for football in Victoria.  The VFL was formed in 1897 from some clubs that then comprised the VFA.

Behinds were not counted in the score in those days, winners were judged by the number of goals they kicked and just as well in this first game because the VFA or Victoria, kicked 9-24 to 0-1.  The game in Sydney had only been going for 12 months while of course it was founded in Melbourne with the first game recognized as being played in 1858.

NSW played twenty six representative games between 1881 and until the Association’s demise in 1894 and only won against their regular nemeses, Queensland.  They drew several of their other matches, mostly because behinds were not counted, an anomaly in the game that was changed in 1897.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, VFL clubs were falling over themselves to visit and play against the locals.  Some of the games were listed as NSW versus … or Metropolitan or alternatively, Combined Sydney and many of the records of the matches were lost or no effort was kept to maintain them.  So it has taken many long years of research and investigation to locate details of the respective games.

NSW’s most significant victories have been two over the VFL which were both played in Sydney.  They won the first of these in 1923, 15-11 to 11-19 and the other two years later by a point 13-10 to 13-9.  It is fair to say though on the weekends these games were played, the VFL fielded at least two other representative sides playing other interstate games so maybe their top side was not that which was fielded against NSW.

In the first thirty years of the last century they defeated Queensland (on several occasions), Port Adelaide, Geelong (twice), Tasmania (twice), South Adelaide, West Torrens, Melbourne, ACT, Sth Aust Football Assn and most of these games were played in Sydney.  They lost the rest which we have calculated as seventy.

The state has competed in numerous national carnivals, which up until the first war were played every three years in different states however in latter decades were relegated to competition between Tasmania, ACT and Queensland while the other states played in the same carnival but against supposedly (and more correctly) stronger opposition between themselves.

NSW have also played in at least three amateur carnivals, the most recent in a country championships carnival in Wagga in 2012.  The other two were held in Adelaide in 1936 and Launceston in 1938 and we have included a photograph of the team taken as they travelled to the apple isle by boat.

As part of the 1988 Bi-Centenary celebrations, a pure State of Origin team was selected to compete in the carnival in Adelaide.  They lost their game against South Australia but recorded their first ever win over WA 10-8 to 9-12.

Some might remember the pseudo State of Origin team NSW fielded on a rainy night game against the VFL on May 22 at the SCG.  They won that match 13-8 to 10-16, much to the chargrin of Victorian selector, Ted Whitten.  We say pseudo because the team contained several Sydney Swans players who were not born, nor played their junior football in NSW.

To sum it up, NSW have lost far more than they have won in interstate contests and now the state combines their fortunes with players selected from the ACT, so here’s to the future.


Mick Grace smallNSW normally participates in one or two interstate games a year.  This then placates the representative faction so domestic football can continue.

However in 1910, the NSW Football League played an incredible eleven representative games over a six week period which restricted their home and away games and pushed the finals deep into September.

On three occasions during the season, the league had to field two representative teams on the same day just to fulfill their obligations.

It was no secret that the NSW Football League were poor managers of their finances and continually finished their seasons in the red.  The main reason for this was that many games were played on Moore Park, which was and still is an open and unfenced arena near Sydney central.  They might well have attracted 2-3,000 spectators to these free games but it didn’t reflect in the finances of the league when they were the ones who manned and took the gate.

Fortunately the league entered the 1910 season with a very rare surplus of one hundred and twenty three pounds ($246.00), thanks to a round robin series between South Melbourne, Geelong, Collingwood Clubs plus the NSW League state team in Sydney the previous year.  The then VFL clubs made no claim on the gate and left the entire amount with the league.

Queensland games were one source of continuing wastage.  Games would attract a poor crowd when they played in Sydney and conversely a big-hearted NSW would not make a full claim on the gate at their Brisbane matches.  In 1910, NSW played Queensland twice, once in Brisbane and an additional match in Sydney. In the middle of all these games, Queensland too played Riverina in Sydney, but were easily outclassed.



NSW Team

Local Team Score





Erskineville Oval


12-7 (7(9)


Nth Adelaide FC

18-12 (120)




9-15 (69)



5-7 (37)


Erskineville Oval


6-6 (42)


Nth Adelaide Fc

10-14 (74)


Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

9-11 (65)


Nth Broken Hill FC

9-8 (62)


Erskineville Oval


19-12 (128)


Geelong FC

16-12 (108)


Erskineville Oval


11-3 (69)


Geelong FC

16-12 (108)


Erskineville Oval


6-8 (44)


Fitzroy FC

6-17 (53)


Erskineville Oval


6-11 (47


Fitzroy FC

9-14 (68)


Erskineville Oval


10-14 (74)



5-11 (41)


Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

13-21 (99)



8-4 (52)


Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

14-22 (106)



4-11 (35)

In this year the NSW League employed the services of Mick Grace as coach.  He was a very well known VFL footballer who had played with Fitzroy, Carlton and also St Kilda, the latter in a captain-coach capacity.

Grace lived in Sydney for almost two years, coaching NSW.  In 1911 he coached the state at the National Carnival ion Adelaide, but when he took ill, Grace returned to Melbourne where he died a year later from tuberculosis at the age of 37.  Although he was in the employ of the league, it is unknown who actually paid his salary but considering the league finished 1910 with a debt of one hundred and sixty six pounds ($332.00), the revenue stream of which included all the rep games, most h & a and finals – some of which attracted crowds in their thousands, it is difficult to say that they did not.

The acquisition of Erskineville Oval in 1910 was a real bonus for the league.  For the most part, it was the only ground where a gate could be charged with the then three remaining weekly fixtures played at different venues on the expansive Moore Park.

The league put up one hundred pounds ($200) to the trustees of Erskineville Park as rent in advance for the facility. (In that era, the old Erskineville Oval was located more west of the present site, about where the Department of Housing flats are situated with an east-west configuration.)


In July 1882 the Geelong Football Club played a series of games in Sydney.

While such visits by the (then) VFA clubs were seen as supporting the struggling code in NSW, the locals were never any match for these strong Melbourne district clubs.  They kept coming but the press in Sydney soon grew tired of promoting and reporting on contests which were severely one sided.

Charles Brownlow, after whom the Brownlow Medal is named, was playing for Geelong at the time and was one of the 23 players in the Geelong party.

They arrived on the 7:00am train from Melbourne at the Redfern Railway Station – Central had yet to be constructed. There, they were met by a large number of the local footballing community and driven in two drags to the Cambridge Hotel in Oxford Street.

Geelong played four games during their stay, each of which they won decidedly.

On Saturday 10 July they played the East Sydney club at the SCG.  Unfortunately it rained throughout the match, at times quite heavily and to such an extent that officials considered calling the match off.  The conditions were understandably very sloppy with some players flat out holding the ball.

It was estimated that only 300 braved the elements to see the visitors win 7.15 to 0.7 (only goals in that period were counted in the score although behinds were nearly always shown in the results).

The following Tuesday Geelong met the Sydney Club, also at the SCG, this time in fine weather where the crowd was recorded as between 500-600.   Sydney wore a navy blue uniform with scarlet caps and hose (socks).

They could do little to stem the might of the Geelong side who won this encounter 15.22 to 1.1.

Then, two days later, Geelong met the Petersham club at the same ground.  This was a minor side that only last two or three seasons when Petersham was considered a small village outside Sydney.

They were captained by Fred Wedd,  who had previously played with the Melbourne FC and represented Victoria.  His team appeared to have a few local talented ring-ins making up their number.

By this time the Geelong players realised that they could do it pretty easily and won this match 5.17 to 0.2.

On the following Saturday, Geelong played the NSW team who were made up from the 100 or so footballers participating in the game in Sydney at the time.

This game was again at the SCG before a more respectable attendance of around 3,000.

The weather was recorded as splendid and special trams had been put on to transport the spectators to and from the ground.  Former Melbourne FC player, R B Sibley, captained the NSW team which performed much more creditably than Geelong’s three previous encounters.

It is worth noting part of the description of the game in the Sydney Morning Herald where the journalist reported: “Sydney players were believed to have been profitably instructed by the illustrations of their (Geelong’s) intimate knowledge of the game, and hopes were also expressed that their visit to Sydney would be repeated.”

On the 17th, the Geelong contingent left Sydney by train bound for Albury where they were scheduled to play a match against local representatives.  A large muster of Sydney footballers were on hand to bid them farewell.


In an effort to kickstart the game in Sydney after it had imploded in the mid 1890s, Fitzroy and Collingwood played a competition match at the SCG on 23 May 1903 attracting 20,000 spectators.

We have displayed a very rare programme from the match where, for the first time, players names and jumper numbers were published for spectators to view.

Both clubs paid their own costs and left the six hundred pound gate with the newly formed, NSWAFL, to further promote the game in Sydney.

Prior to these arrangements the Collingwood fans attempted to veto their involvement in the match because it meant losing one of their competition games, so it was decided that the entire gate from that weekend’s football in Melbourne would be pooled and divided equally amongst the then eight clubs of the league.  The club (Fitzroy) that lost their home game in this encounter was also allocated a semi final to their ground.

In round 2 of the same year a rail strike prevented the Carlton players from journeying to Geelong for their match so the game was postponed.  Quick to act, NSWAFL officials asked that the game be played in Sydney, which it was.

However this game too had trouble when rain washed out their 1 August clash at the SCG forcing a postponement until the following Monday.  Then, before 5,000, including the Governor of NSW, Geelong defeated the Blues by 10 points.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  The following year Melbourne played Essendon on 28 May also at the SCG.  As things would have it the rain came again and this time it was torrential.  Newspapers reported that the rain “was phenomenal” and that in the morning of the match, any chance of a game would be remote.  However, the rain stopped around midday and after 1.00pm there was not a cloud in the sky.

The rain however had done its damage however and only 6,000 ventured to witness the match which was easily won by Melbourne.

The Bombers took their time going home, this time by ship.  They did not get to Melbourne until late on the following Thursday night after a rocky journey in big seas.  The side did not train and four of their best were unavailable for their subsequent game against Fitzroy which they lost convincingly.

One or two VFL matches were played in Sydney following this period but generally, the euphoria had gone and the Sydney officials were left popularise the game themselves.


From time to time, mostly before the 1930s depression, interstate clubs toured NSW and more particularly, Sydney.

Many of these clubs played matches against a state representative team and a few against the leading city club of the day.

We are going to run a series of articles about such games.

In August 1927, before an attendance of 21,229, Carlton played Geelong in an exhibition game at the SCG .  Both teams were able to travel away from Melbourne because of the national carnival between all states, being played on the MCG.

Carlton led all throughout the game to win 11.10 (76) to 9.6 (60).

On the following Wednesday Geelong accepted a challenge to play the leading Sydney club,  Eastern Suburbs, who at that stage, were undefeated with fourteen wins.

The venue was Trumper Park at despite being mid week, the 2,000 who attended were certainly not disappointed.

At 3:00pm, the Mayor of Paddington, Ald Maurie O’Sullivan, also the publican at the Lord Dudley Hotel, bounced the ball to start the game.

Geelong, who had some players in the Victorian team, fielded their strongest combination possible.  It included Jocka Todd who went on the win their 1927 B&F, the captain, Cliff Rankin, the immortal Cargi Greeves and Reg Hickey, all of whom were subsequently selected in the club’s team of the century.

Eastern Suburbs, on the other hand, had their share of players in the NSW side in Melbourne so as odds would have it, they were both represented by their best eighteens at the time.  All of the Eastern Suburbs side were able to get off work for the game.

Geelong seemed to have trouble with the small ground and took a while to adjust while Easts star full forward, Stan Milton, the league’s leading goalkicker in almost every year during the 1920s was at his best.  The play was close and tight however Geelong led 5.3 to 3.3 at quarter time.

Each side scored 5 goals in the second term and the play was again very evenly matched.  Despite their reputation, Geelong did not pull away from their opponents as predicted and in facts Easts commendably kept pace at every turn.  The score at half time was Geelong 10.8 to Eastern Suburbs 8.6.

The Cats were worried.  This wasn’t what the script said and they had trouble getting the machine that got them to third place in the VFL ladder that year in motion.

Both teams remained unchanged for the third quarter and finding they could keep pace with their far talented opposition, the Eastern Suburbs players seemed to gain in confidence.  Milton delighted onlookers with his clever play but this couldn’t shake Geelong’s lead with the score at the final change: 15.10 to 14.11

Although Geelong scored soon after the resumption of play, Milton and Hagger put full points on the board for the Sydney side getting them one point in front and holding their own against such a star studded team.

The lead then changed hands several times and it was only a goal from clever play by their captain, Rankin, who incidentially played rugby union in Europe during WWI, which gave Geelong the game by three points 18.17 (125) to 18.14 (122).  The goal brought his tally for the game to nine.

It was Milton who was  Eastern Suburb’s star.  The small forward booted eleven goals and nearly got his side over the line.

Best for Geelong were Rankin, Greeves, Todd, Hickey and Keppell while Easts were best served by Milton Crout, Saunders, Green and Dunn.

Top photographs shows George ‘Jocka’ Todd.  The one on the right is Cliff Rankin.