Two Of Football’s Early Pioneers in NSW

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile the nominees:

The NSW Australian Football Association was formed in 1880 to play “under Victorian football rules” (Sydney Mail, 13 July 1880).
Two of the leading figures in the establishment of the game in Sydney have been nominated for the inaugural Australian Football New South Wales Hall of Fame. They are the inaugural president Phillip Sheridan and George Crisp, who convened the meeting to form the new football body, and later, became a star player for NSW.

Phillip Sheridan

Phillip Sheridan, was one of the first trustees of the Sydney Cricket Ground (then known as Association ground) elected as president of the new Football Association (NSWFA  aka NSWAFL). He was to hold that office until 1890.

Sheridan was highly prominent in sporting circles in Sydney at that time, particularly in cricket. He had been instrumental in the formation of the Sydney Cricket Club and was a delegate to the NSW Cricket Association.

He had been appointed as a trustee of the SCG by the government in 1875. In 1895 he became its full time manager, a position he held until his death in 1910. The new Smokers Stand at the SCG was named in honour of Sheridan after his death. It was replaced by the Clive Churchill Stand in 1986.

In nominating Sheridan as President of the Football Association, Charles W. Beal (who was elected as Secretary) said in support of Sheridan’s nomination that “…. he was one of the most prominent supporters of cricket and other outdoor sports in this colony. He was a supporter of football as played in Victoria and was likely to prove energetic in promoting the interests of the association” (Sydney Mail, 10 July 1880).

Sheridan played a pivotal role in providing the NSW Football Association to access the SCG during the winter season when the ground was not being used for cricket. At the time there was strong competition for use of the ground with the Southern Rugby Union (SRU), later the NSW Rugby Union.  There were very limited grounds in Sydney where an admission could be charged.

The first inter-colonial match of any football code was played between NSW and the Victorian Football Association (VFA) at the SCG on 6 August 1881. An inter-colonial rugby match between NSW and Queensland was not played there until 1882.

The NSW Football Association regularly played matches between its clubs: Sydney and East Sydney (both formed in 1880) on the SCG in 1881, and throughout the 1880s, including all the interstate matches against the VFA, Queensland, Melbourne clubs and other interstate sides even a game against New Zealand in 1890.

 

   George Crisp,   first promoter of        the game in   Sydney in 1880

George Crisp who grew up in Melbourne moved to Sydney at the age of 20 with his family. In June 1880 he placed an advertisement in the Sydney Mail seeking players to form a football club to play under “Victorian Rules”. The meeting was held at Statton’s Hotel, Woollahra on 23 June 1880.

The turn-out was low and another was arranged for 30 June at the Freemason’s Hotel in the city at which New South Wales Football Association was formed. It was reported that “the attendance at the meeting was the largest gathering of football players ever assembled in NSW” (Sydney Mail 3 July 1880). It is estimated that over one hundred persons attended.

The election of office bearers was held over to the following Wednesday when at another well attended meeting, Sheridan was elected president and Crisp to the committee.

Crisp represented NSW on 19 occasions including the historic first inter-colonial matches against the VFA at the MCG on 1 July 1881 and the return game on the SCG, both won easily by the Victorians. He was named best NSW player in the latter game. Crisp was NSW captain in 1884.

He was also a founding member of the Sydney Football club (formed on 6 August 1880) and was elected to the committee and club captain, a position he held in 1880-82, 1884, and 1888-89.

On 7 August 1880, a scratch match was held on Moore Park, between team selected by former Carlton player, Bill Newing, and a team led by George Crisp.

Then, on 10 August, the East Sydney Football Club was formed.

On 14 August another game of football under Victorian Rules was played on Moore Park with the final game of the season played on 21 August. Thus, football in Sydney got underway.

REFERENCE: Ian Granland’s unpublished work, The History of Australian Football in Sydney 1877-1895 (2014)

Images supplied be the NSW Australian Football History Society

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member part of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

Rod Gillett has written extensively about the game in NSW for country newspapers, the Sun-Herald, Inside Football and other publications. He has also had chapters published in the Footy Almanac and Footy Town. Rod was a member of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team in 2019 and is currently a member of the AFL NSW Hall of Fame selection committee.

First Game At Goulburn

Recently we found details of a game of football played at Collector in 1936 between a Collector/Goulburn combined team and Metropolitan Aust Football Assn Team, Rosebery (a suburb near Mascot).  You can view that report here.

However further research finds a further game played much earlier at Goulburn between the then newly formed Goulburn Imperials and the Sydney Football Club.

“First Football Match in Goulburn
On Saturday last the members of the Sydney Football Club and numbers of their supporters journeyed to Goulburn to try conclusions with the newly-formed club at Goulburn named the Imperials.

This was the first match ever played in Goulburn under the Australian rules, the district hitherto being a very big stronghold of Rugby, but after the match played on Saturday a very large number have decided to play the Australian game in the future, and which speaks well for the career of the local club.

The match was played on the Olympic Ground, which was located between the Goulburn Paceway and Garoorigang, in the presence of about 1000 spectators. There was a very big gathering of the fair sex at the match.

Joe Arnold captained the Sydney team, and W. Sandford led the Goulburn. The Sydneys scored 4 goals to 1 in the first quarter. The Goulburn team for the rest of the game played splendidly, especially in the third quarter, when the Sydney players seemed disorganised. However, in the last quarter Sydney played more together, and scored a couple of goals. Goulburn, as a team, played splendidly, considering it was their first game, and they have the makings of a good team. *Crisp (3), Clausen (2), Murrell, Hodgkinson and Poole for the Goulburn and Noonan (3), Potter, Jessop, Shipton, Giles, the Brothers Arnold, Sullivan (2), for Sydney, all played well. The College boys, Sandford, Jessop, Noonan, and Potter tried hard to evert defeat. The final result was: Sydney 8 goals 20 behinds Goulburn, 6 goals 8 behinds. Mr. Murray umpired the match in his usual impartial way. In the evening the Sydney boys were entertained at a splendid banquet at the Oddfellows Hall in Auburn Street,

Mr. Siegel in the chair. After justice had been done to the excellent spread various toasts were gone through with musical honours. Messrs. Alexander, M. Sullivan, Ashton, Dick, Jessop, Sandford and others gave assistance with songs and recitations. The Sydneys returned to town on Monday morning, everyone being thoroughly pleased with his outing in the country.”

Another game or two was played in Goulburn over the next couple of years but interest petered out.  A club however, was formally organised at Goulburn in June 1905.
*George Crisp, recognized as one of the founders of the game in Sydney was still playing with the Sydney Club in 1892.  He probably played with the combined side on that day to help out.

(Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 – 1939), Wednesday 17 August 1892, page 8)

– 1884 NSW Football Tour of Queensland

1900 Edward C Weller smallJust four years after the game was introduced into Sydney, the NSW Football Association took the bold step of an 18 day tour of Queensland.  Was it a success?

Sydney officials pondered over their decision but because their northern neighbours offered to pay all expenses, which was normal for the time, and rugby had already had a foot in the door, they agreed.

The offer was an attractive one and the contingent was made up of twenty five players and “one visitor.”

Australian football in Sydney commenced in 1880 with the formation of the Association, not that much later Sydney and East Sydney clubs were founded.  By 1884 four clubs were competing but this was in the face of rugby which by this stage had fifty odd clubs spread across NSW.

Of the four clubs, three were senior clubs and it was from these that the representative team was mostly chosen.  George Crisp, recognized as the founder of the game in Sydney, was appointed captain.

Queenlanders’ attitude towards football was a generic one.  It appeared most clubs played football under both Australian and Rugby rules, although the early preference seemed to be towards the Australian.

The NSW contingent was comprised of: Edward Weller (Manager – pictured), R B Sibley, William Butler, J Fitzpatrick, George O’Neill, William Goer, Charles Dew, Robert Grainger, Arthur McHarg, Samuel W Kirke, James B Tooher, Harry T Williams, Walter C Marshall, George A Crisp, James M Conroy, Robert Buchan, Henry Wren, Charles Hardie, Claude Fletcher, Hugh A Munro, W H Parkinson, J McGuigan, George Jones, Michael Sullivan, George Bailey and William Battye.

Wren and Hardie were selected from Wagga.  It must have been a fair effort for all of these men to make the trip which covered a period of 18 days.  This was when a six day working week was the norm. No question.  As to how they managed to be away for this period of time is baffling, given there was no annual leave.  Several players chosen did not make the trip and were replaced.

Because the northern rail line had not been connected, travel to Brisbane was by way of steamer in which the contingent travelled ‘saloon’ class.

They were met upon their arrival by a considerable number of the local football fraternity and quickly whisked away to their place of residence where a marvellous period of hospitality began.

Their first game was against Queensland.  Like Sydney, the number of players Queensland could select from was limited and several who claimed a rugby background were included.  NSW won the encounter.

In all they played seven matches:

1884 Qld i-state game roster smallNote: Behinds were recorded in scores but not counted in the total. Goals had the value of 1 point.

To play the Combined Darling Downs game, the team left Brisbane on the 6:00am Monday train for the 132km trip to Toowoomba.  The government set aside a special carriage for the team in their six hour journey.  A very large crowd met them at the station when the train arrived a little late.

Newspaper Notice of closure of shops

Again, the level of hospitality shown the visiting group was astounding.  That given in Brisbane was extra ordinary, but in Toowoomba, and later Ipswich, a half holiday was declared in honour of the visit.  They stayed at another Phillips Hotel, in fact, one of the largest in the district, where a special luncheon was provided and presided over by the Mayor and speaker in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, Hon. William H Groom.  And all this was just prior to a match against the combined Darling Downs side which was played on the Aubigny Cricket Club Ground.

The NSW team had their photo taken by local photographer, Mr Roggenkamp at the residence of the Hon. Mr James Taylor, located almost opposite the ground. Heaven knows where a copy of the photo might be.

The team was defeated in their final game against Queensland, 3.7 to 2.9 but they were not without their chances.  The crowd estimated at 2000 burst into thunderous applause at the conclusion of the game and the Queensland captain Kelly was chaired from the ground.

Then on Monday 1 September, a ball was given in the team’s honour.  It was held at the Albert Hall with merriment continuing until 4:00am.
1884 Cricket Game by NSW Fball team small
The following day they played a game of social cricket against the Trimble Bros. Reading Club in Brisbane.  In the evening, the team was afforded a dinner hosted by Mr H W Sizer of the Globe Hotel.  The team left by steamer the next day.

Then upon their return to Sydney an official reception was extended to them at the Cambridge Club Hotel in Oxford Street.  There, George Crisp spoke in glowing terms of the hospitality the team received in Queensland.

South Adelaide Football Club Tour

In 1884, only a few years after the, NSW Football Association (a forerunner to the NSW Aust Football League), South Australian Club, South Adelaide, which were formed in 1876, toured the Eastern States and played a series of matches in Sydney.

They stayed for two weeks and played in five games and team included most of the players who would go on to be premiers in South Australia the following season.

Their first, in Newcastle had to be abandoned because of the state of the ground following tumultuous rain so in an impromptu match on Thursday 26 at the SCG, they played local club, Waratah.  This was the only club to change its allegiance from rugby to the Victorian game during those very early years of the formation of the game in Sydney.

A crowd described as meagre attended the match where the South Australian club ran over the top of Waratah, 10.8 to 1.1.  In those days behinds, although displayed, were not counted in a teams score and as well,  matches were not played in four quarters, but two halves.  South Adelaide kicked 9 goals in the second term.

The following Saturday also on the SCG, they drew their game with NSW 3.15 to 3.9.  The tramway department arranged for additional trams to run at frequent intervals to the ground during the afternoon in an expectation of a large crowd.  Only 1500 turned up to watch the match.

During the afternoon the City Temperance band kindly volunteered their services and “performed some choice selections of music which were greatly appreciated by the occupants of the grand stand.”

On Tuesday before a crowd estimated at only 100, South Adelaide defeated East Sydney by one goal, but because of their inaccurate kicking, they kicked twenty one (uncounted) behinds while East could failed to score however were noted as registering three behinds.

Two days later their scheduled game against the Sydney club was postponed, again because of the weather, and on Saturday 5 July at the SCG they easily defeated a defiant NSW team 9.8 to 5.7.

The Sydney Club wanted their share of glory and challenged South Adelaide to a game on the following Monday – the day of their departure from the city.

     Billy Goer

Sydney fared better than East however the captain of the Sydney team, George Crisp, complained that several members of his team failed to follow his direction in the game and the committee of the Association indicated that if it re-occurred they would name the delinquents.

A strange comment coming from Crisp who along with Billy Goer, former Carlton Vice Captain, did not play.  The fact that the game had to be played early because of the scheduled departure of the South Australian team by rail in the afternoon could well have accounted for their late non-appearance.

Following the game, some members of the Sydney club drove the opposition team to the (then) Redfern rail head by a four horse drawn bus where, after “after the usual shaking of hands,three lusty cheers were given as the train moved away.”