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, 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 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)
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.
Fearing CV19’s growing restrictions might interfere with the holding of the Society’s Annual General Meeting, officials were quick to get that and the Special General Meeting finalised yesterday at Magpie Sports Club.
“We had a reasonable turnout attending” Society President Ian Granland said “but I feel the recent edict of the restrictions to the amount of people permitted in groups, might have added to the fact that there was a smaller number there yesterday than normal, however there was well more than enough for a quorum” he continued.
All but Tom Mahon stood for re-election and those that did were re-installed to their previous posts.
The Society issued a comprehensive annual report which outline their activities throughout last year with the treasurer declaring a healthy bank balance. Click here to read the report.
This year they will appoint a patron with negotiations currently being formalised.
There is much more work being undertaken with treasurer John Addison, suggesting a new and revised method to make all that is stored in the Society’s collection being able to be viewed on line. Discussions are currently ongoing with the Society’s programmer to facilitate this and other moves to improve their administrative and archival systems.
When Jack Fleming made his debut for South Melbourne in the newly-formed VFL in 1897 he became the first player from NSW to play at what was to become, the highest-level. Fleming was born in Inverell in northern NSW but went to South Melbourne from the South Broken Hill club.
Nick Blakey aged 18 and fresh out of Waverly College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, became the 453rd player from NSW to play VFL/AFL football when he debuted for the Sydney Swans against the Western Bulldogs in round one of the 2019 season. He continued the rich tradition of players from NSW playing at the highest level that had begun with Jack Fleming 122 years ago.
The list of NSW’s Greatest Players provided the basis for the selection of the NSW Greatest Team Ever at the Carbine Club’s function in May this year. You can view the entire list here, however to facilitate the list in its entirety, it has been reduced in size. (You can enlarge the document for easier viewing by holding down your CONTROL button and press the + button at the same time. To reverse this, hold down the CONTROL button and press the minus [ – ] button.)
Initially, a list of 423 players was provided by the AFL. Former Sydney Swans and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL Commission chairman Richard Colless, the convener of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team, was convinced that there were more players than this and asked the NSW Football History Society representatives on the panel, Ian Granland and Rod Gillett, to investigate.
Between them they boosted the number on the list to 453.
Using his geographical and football knowledge of southern NSW particularly along the border region, Gillett was able to add a substantial number to the list that had been overlooked by the AFL’s historians.
This included the likes of former Carlton and Richmond ruckman David Honybun from Coleambly who was recruited by the Blues from Scotch College, ex-St Kilda defender Jon Lilley (Hay) who went to Xavier College, dual Richmond premiership rover Bill Brown also from Hay who went to work for the State Savings Bank in Melbourne; he also plaPaul Kelly, Bill Mohr, yed for the bank team in the amateurs. then there was Damian Sexton (St Kilda) from Finley who was recruited from Ovens and Murray league club, Yarrawonga.
A gem of a find was the late Sir Doug Nichols, who grew up and played football at the Cummeragunja aboriginal mission on the NSW side of the Murray River opposite Barmah, near Echuca. Sir Doug played for the mission in the district competition before making his mark with Fitzroy in the VFL. Ironically, he played for Victoria against NSW in the 1933 ANFC Carnival in Sydney.
They also came up with the names of some outstanding SANFL players that had originally been recruited from Broken Hill. Two of these players, West Adelaide’s Bruce McGregor and Neil Davies from Glenelg, were subsequently selected in the Greatest Team. Both captained South Australia in interstate matches and were selected in ANFC All-Australian teams.
Broken Hill has been a rich source of players for both the VFL and the SANFL competitions. Forty-eight players on the list came from Broken Hill’s four clubs: Norths (13), Centrals (9), Souths (11), and Wests (15).
The Albury Football Club provided the most number of players on the list with 49 including five from the Strang family starting with Bill Strang (South Melbourne) in 1904, his three sons Doug (Richmond), Gordon (Richmond) and Alan (South Melbourne) and Doug’s son Geoff, who played in Richmond’s 1967 and 1969 premiership sides.
Rival Ovens & Murray League club Corowa, that merged with Rutherglen for the 1979 season, provided twenty players including current Sydney Swans coach John Longmire (North Melbourne), 1975 North Melbourne premiership star Peter Chisnall and Swans 2005 premiership player Ben Matthews.
The Sydney clubs have supplied 106 players on the list with Eastern Suburbs providing the highest number with twenty-four, the most notable being Carlton champion Mark “Sellers” McClure; Newtown with eleven including Footscray’s 1954 premiership player Roger Duffy, ten from North Shore, nine from Pennant Hills which included the former St Kilda champion Lenny Hayes.
The Riverina was also a fertile area for the list. The highest number of players came from the Wagga Tigers which provided 20 players including 1995 Brownlow medalist Paul Kelly (Swans), the sublimely skilled John Pitura (South Melbourne/Richmond), and the NSW Greatest Team full forward, Bill Mohr (St Kilda) who topped the VFL goal-kicking in 1936 with 101 goals.
Leeton (12), Ganmain (10) and Narranderra (9) also supplied high numbers of players for the list.
South Melbourne/Sydney Swans have been the main beneficiary of players from NSW. One hundred and seventeen players have turned out for the Swans since 1897.
Under zoning by the VFL of Victorian Country/Southern NSW from 1967-1986 the Riverina was allocated to South Melbourne. In this period Rick Quade (Ariah Park-Mirrool), Doug Priest (Holbrook), Ross Elwin (Leeton), Colin Hounsell (Collingullie), Brett Scott (The Rock-Yerong Creek), Paul Hawke (Wagga Tigers), Dennis Carroll (Lockhart) and Jim Prentice (Ariah Park-Mirrool) were recruited from the Swans’ zone.
When the club moved to Sydney in 1982, the number of players from the local competition increased. This included Terry Thripp (Pennant Hills), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (North Shore), Nick Davis (St George), Kieran Jack (Pennant Hills), Arthur Chilcott (Western Suburbs), and Neil Brunton (Holroyd-Parramatta) and many more.
The Greater Western Sydney Giants have also recruited players from NSW since their entry into the AFL in 2012. Their number of players from NSW currently stands at eighteen following the debut of Penrith local and national decathlon champion, Jake Stein in round 12 against North Melbourne.
Stein became the 454th player to play in the VFL/AFL. The list was boosted to over 500 highly skilled players to recognise those from the city and the bush that didn’t go to the big leagues and the players from Broken Hill that represented the SANFL.
The player regarded by many as the best player to ever play the game, Wayne Carey, has been named as captain of the Greatest NSW Team at the Carbine Club of NSW annual AFL Lunch today (9th May, 2019).
“The King” captained North Melbourne to two premierships in the 1990s and was selected in seven All Australian teams and was named captain four times. He won four best and fairest awards at North Melbourne and was leading goal-kicker five times. He captained the club from 1993-2001.
Carey played in the NSW team that beat Victoria at the SCG in 1990 and led a NSW/ACT team against Victoria at the MCG in 1993.
He began his football journey at North Wagga and strongly identifies with that club where his brother and nephews played. His boy-hood hero was the illustrious North Wagga captain-coach Laurie Pendrick.
The selection of the NSW Greatest Team was jointly sponsored by the NSW Australian Football History Society and the AFL NSW/ACT.
A panel of experts was assembled to undertake this extraordinarily challenging exercise. Senior selectors were Mike Sheahan and Gerard Healy supported by NSW Australian Football Society executive members Ian Granland and Rod Gillett and society member and author Miles Wilks. AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham and AFL Commissioner Gabrielle Trainor represented the AFL.
The panel was chaired by former Sydney Swans chairman and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL chairman, Richard Colless, who is the AFL convenor for the Carbine Club of NSW.
Nearly 500 NSW players have since 1897 played senior football in the VFL/AFL and a smaller number in the SANFL.
NSW players have won seven Brownlow Medals, five Magarey Medals, and three Sandover Medals.
There have been various attempts to select teams that represent part of NSW, e.g. Southern NSW/ACT, Riverina and Sydney teams. And there have also been a number of teams selected by historians and supporters that have been posted on the internet.
There has however, never been an official NSW team that embraces the game’s 140-year history and includes every part of the State in which the game indigenous has been played.
One of the issues is that there has never been a natural senior competition in NSW. Broken Hill, Sydney, and various Southern NSW and Riverina Leagues have at one stage or another been ascendant.
Nonetheless the game has a very rich history in NSW and the selection of the Greatest Team represents a major celebration for Australian Football in this state.
Academic and long term supporter and football modernist, Doctor Rod Gillett joined the board of the Football History Society at their annual general meeting held today.
Gillett has had a long involvement with the game commencing as a lad at Kyabram, Victoria then later Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Sydney and Wagga.
In the 1980s a young Rodney Gillett was vice president of the NSW Football League and later one of the initial members when the Society was formed as a committee of the AFL NSW/ACT but moved on to progress his academic career with postings in Fiji, South Korea, Dubai and currently in Singapore.
He is retiring from work shortly and will settle in Sydney. Gillett is keen to focus on football jumping at the opportunity to re-ignite his interest in the history of the game.
In other moves, professional archivist Paul Macpherson was voted in as secretary while the incumbent, Heather White moved to the back bench: (the committee).
Ian Granland was returned as president and John Addison, treasurer. With the addition of Heather White, Ian Wright, Jenny Hancock, Mandy Keevil and Tom Mahon, take up the remainder of the committee positions.
Treasurer, John Addison announced an operating profit for the year of $2,218.00 but cautioned in his report that it is not the objective of the Society to hold surplus funds and outlined a series of spending projects the committee has agreed to for the coming months.
On Tuesday this week two high level employees from the AFLNSWACT made a visit to the History Society offices at Croydon Park; they were Simon Wilson, Regional Manager, Sydney Harbour and Illawarra and Jonathan Drennan, State Manager, Media & Communications.
Both spoke at length about recent developments and changes with the league and the goals the organisation has within the foreseeable future. The duo also showed a great deal of interest in the operation of the Society and were at pains to demonstrate their appreciation and admiration they and the staff at the league has for the work the History Society have undertaken.
Jonathan told those on the committee who were in attendance that the work the Society undertakes in the recording of history of the game in NSW is more than likely unique in Australia. He also said other major sports were beginning to realise the importance of their history with a number establishing fulltime archival departments within their organisations.
Simon confirmed that a memorandum of understanding between the league and the society will be drawn up so that the relationship and responsibilities are more easily identified and lines of communication firmly established.
Image shows from left: Jonothan Drennan, Society President, Ian Granland and Simon Wilson
When the History Society was first engaged, it began as a ‘sub committee” to trace and record this history of football within the state, not only Sydney but in the entire state of NSW.
The committee evolved into the NSW Australian Football History Society, which has gone from strength to strength and now boasts a membership of over 90 people.
Initially the group was receiving and accepting material that could not be stored. These boxes of items which include some great historical football stuff ended up in various peoples’ garages and in a number of cases their partners complained so it was eventually forwarded on to the State Library of NSW in Sydney.
When the Society gained rooms at the Western Suburbs Footy Club (Magpie Sports) at Croydon Park, and new material was started to be stored there in a systematic and arranged process, they still longed for the 40 odd boxes already at the State Library. Unfortunately when you donate items to places like the State Library, you don’t get them back.
However following several years of negotiation the Society gained access to the material which sice has exploded into 92 boxes.
The president, Ian Granland, Vice President Paul Macpherson and Secretary, Heather White arranged a time and date to inspect these items at the library.
They were ushered into the Special Viewing Room at the Mitchell Library and after a robust identification procedure, spent the following six hours examining the pages, photographs and publications stored in these boxes.
After an exhausting period they came up with quite a number of boxes that they have suggested to the library that they would like copied which+, besides being stored could be posted on the Football History Society’s website.
These include several annual reports from the North Shore Club of which Society officials had no knowledge.
“We were thrilled to find these publications” Vice president Paul said. “Of all the material we have, there is little from the North Shore Club and these items really fill a void. We will go through them all and soon post them for all to see.
These will make a great special article for the website when they are copied, so stayed tuned.
Image show Paul Macpherson in deep thought while processing the various items provided by the Library.
A number of members turned out today to see the committee re-elected at the Society’s Annual General Meeting.
The annual report, which was previously circulated to all members, was tabled which included the activities of the Societies throughout 2017 and their ambitions for this year.
President, Ian Granland, singled out several people, besides those on the committee for special mention.
He highlighted the work social media manager, Mark Spooner is doing with Facebook and Twitter. He also mentioned that Mark will shortly embark on a Instagram profile for the Society.
Others he spoke about included (member), John Acheson who is compiling a complete list of current and former NSW clubs; their location, colours, ground etc. He also mentioned Roger Dunkley who is working on identifying the grounds football in this state was either played upon or used as a training venue over the past 130 years.
David Pitts is another. David is an Australian living in Canada who has joined the Society and is working with the Society on compiling a complete list of leading goalkickers for the Sydney competition. Much of this list has already been posted with only a few gaps in what has become a remarkable achievement.
There are others who are helping with the history of football in NSW. One is working on listing all the Sydney Football first grade scores from 1903 and there are others.
Following the meeting, committee members continued with their work on compiling the history of the game in Sydney much of which will be posted on this site soon.
The 2017 committee is comprised of:
President: Ian Granland Vice President: Paul Mcpherson Secretary: Heather White Treasurer: John Addison Committee Persons: Jenny Hancock, Ian Wright, Tom Mahon, Mandy Keevil
Society officials, President Ian Granland and Vice President Paul Macpherson met with executives from the Sydney Swans Football Club today to discuss football heritage in NSW, as well as what the club has achieved prior to 1982 and within the sport in this State.
For some time the History Society has been gathering as much material as possible on the game from throughout NSW, both tangible and digital, to add to its ever expanding repository of significant historical items and events of the game.
The Swans intention is aimed at documenting the heritage of their club, including the days of South Melbourne FC, and educating their steadily growing membership, which is likely to top 60,000 by year’s end, with not only their history but the history of football in NSW.
Swans CEO Andrew Ireland was very positive in his endeavours to promote the concept and could not have chosen a better mentor than Paul Macpherson, an archivist and librarian by occupation. His expertise will afford an solid guide to those trainees regarding what is expected in the serious business of seeking out and preserving the heritage of the club during an era which extends well over a period of one hundred years.
The promoter of the concept, former Swans Chairman and now a member of the SCG Trust, Richard Colless AM, was passionate in his efforts to facilitate this gathering of the two parties.
Finally, Society Vice President, Paul Macpherson said “our group looks forward to the next practical steps with the Swans in spreading more widely the knowledge of the long and fascinating history of football in NSW.”