The Make-Up of the NSW’s Greatest Team Ever

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

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.

Best NSW Team Ever Announced

       Wayne Carey

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.

The team is:

 

 

 

 

Click here for criteria and bio of each player

 

Gillett joins the Board

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.

Rod Gillett

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).

Paul Macpherson

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.

– Visit by AFLNSWACT

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

– Society Inspects Material at State Library

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.

– Annual Meeting Results

President, Ian Granland congratulates the Secretary on her re-election

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

Ellis Noack

Ellis Noack with the NSW Police Commissioner, Fred Hanson

Probably one of the best known players and later administrators of the game in Sydney during the 1950s, 70s & 80s.

There was no-one in Sydney who didn’t know or know of Ellis.

He came to Sydney in 1956 from Ariah Park, NSW to join the NSW Police Force and during his time in football played with:

  • Eastern Suburbs FC
  • St George FC
  • Newtown FC – as captain-coach
  • Southern Districts FC
  • South Sydney FC
  • Campbelltown FC

Ellis with the Police Team

And during the week in the season he played for the Police Football Club.

He amassed probably close to 500 senior games in his career and besides life member of the Sydney Football League and clubs, he was admitted to the Sydney Hall of Fame some years ago.

 

 
This is a short interview made during a function at the Alexandria Hotel in Sydney.

 

– Society Cements History Links With Swans

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.”

 

– Marngrook Again

The subject of Marngrook, the perceived game played by Aborigines in the 19th century, has once again surfaced this time by other academics who apparently and whole heartedly support the premise that the game of Australian Football was based or influenced by a game played by aborigines.

Many have debunked this notion as mere speculation but some seem to want it to become a fact and want the AFL to recognize it as such.

In 2012, the president of the NSW Football History Society, Ian Granland, provided the AFL with a version of the facts as he knew them.

Not an academic nor a person who has a PhD, Granland, if anything, is certainly a student of the game, having been deeply involved in it since the early 1960s.  He is widely read on football and is known to have written and spoken on many subjects relating to the code over the years.  He was awarded an Order of Australia medal for his services to the game in 2002.

In 2012 Granland was flown to Melbourne where he gave a recorded version on his opinion of the origin of the game; the origins of the game in NSW and how the AFL should treat VFA premierships and players records prior to the establishment of the VFL in 1897.

Recently, ABC’s Radio National interviewed Professor Jenny Hocking of the School of Journalism, Australian and Indigenous Studies at Monash University, particularly on the subject of Marngrook and its influence on Australian Football.  The interview can be heard here.

Granland’s presentation to the AFL in 2012 is as follows:

What role did Marngrook play in the formation of Australian Football?

I take a purely pragmatic view of this subject and ask that it be viewed as such.

This is no evidence of which I am aware, that supports the theory that Marngrook influenced the game of Australian Football whatsoever.

Writing in the Sydney Mail of 25 August 1883, William Hammersley a journalist and one of the signatories to the first recognized set of rules of the game, said, at the time these first rules were written:That “Tom Wills suggested the Rugby rules but no-body understood them but himself.”

Following this statement, (and a game) a group of men retired to the Parade Hotel where, after a period, they resolved to form themselves into a committee to “draw up a simple code of rules, and as few as possible, so that anyone could quickly understand.”

These rules were principally for the Melbourne Football Club and written by the aforementioned, all of whom were of European heritage.  One would think they are simple, straight forward and quite logical to act as a guide for people of the day to adopt and play by.

Thomas Wills was the only one of the seven who is recognized as having had any involvement with aborigines.  And yet it would appear that the rules do not reflect any abnormal deviation from what a reasonably minded person of the day would write.

Had Wills had a more dominant say in the construction of these rules, one would think that with his history and involvement in the rugby game, together with his abovementioned and a subsequently disregarded suggestion that those rules be adopted, would have held sway.  It clearly was not and I therefore submit that had he made any suggestion at the time to involve any part of the Marngrook game, these proposals would have been similarly treated.

These original rules were amended in July 1859 at a meeting where Tom Wills was not present.  The amendment was put by William Hammersley, an Englishman. 1

In terms of the original rules that were adopted and in particular, the distance between goal posts, the size of the ground, that captains should toss as to who should kick off, how a goal should be scored, what is meant as kicking ‘behind’ the goal and that a player shall call mark if he catches the ball – were very similar, if not the same as the rules used in the rugby game.

That the ball may be taken in hand “only” when caught from the foot, or on the hop and in “no case” shall it be “lifted” from the ground I believe was inserted to placate both rugby and soccer enthusiasts just the same as the rule prohibiting throwing was inserted in the interests of the soccer playing fraternity.

To quote from an article by A G Daws in a 1958 edition of the Quandrant Magazine, “the main aim of the early rules was to do away with the Rugby practice of running with the ball, because of the inevitable frequent scrimmages, hacking and tripping that went with it”

The rules were first amended in 1860 with an eventual redrafting of the laws in 1866 by H C A Harrison, at which Wills again was not present.  None of these changes in any way suggest an aboriginal influence.

The 1860 changes included:

Rule 8: Was deleted and replaced with: “The ball may not be lifted from the ground under any circumstances, or taken in hand, except as, provided for in rule 6 (catch from the foot), or when on the first hop. It shall not be run with in any case.” 2 

It is said, the most significant change was the provision for captains and umpiring in the newly added Rule 11: “In case of a deliberate infringement of any of the above rules, by either side, the captain of the opposite side may claim that any one of his party may have a free kick from the place where the breach of the rules was made; the two captains in all cases, save where umpires are appointed, to be the sole judges of “infringements”

A newspaper article further reports that “The remaining rules were confirmed without opposition. ”  I must ask,  “what remaining rules?”  Already I have found mention in a somewhat official medium of changes to rules 3 and 7 that were adopted however several newspaper articles of the time rebuke any alterations to those rules at that stage.  The article does go on to say “The Melbourne Football Club may fairly congratulate themselves on the fact, that their rules, with one exception, were formally adopted by the representatives of the (eight)  different clubs present. ” So clearly the rules the respective clubs abided by in 1860 and what we accept today as the foundation of the Laws of the Game, were still those of the Melbourne Football Club.

Therefore to say that Marngrook somehow motivated or shaped the early rules of the game is, to my mind, pure fantasy.  There is no real evidence nor is there any trace of anything that could support such a proposition and if the games were similar in some respects, I believe this was simply a co-incidence.

Without prejudice, let us not forget the social status of aborigines of the day and what we can surmise Europeans would have thought of incorporating rules of the aboriginal game into an effort to standardise what was purely a game of football played, at that time, and for the most part, by Europeans.  Today, it would well be different.

Finally, some contemporary writers fail to recognize how unstructured sport and in particular, football was in the mid-nineteenth century, and how racism was more than an accepted practice by the white community of the time.”

1.   Argus Newspaper, 4 July 1959 page 6
2.  Argus Newspaper, 28 May 1860 page 4
3.  Argus Newspaper, 29 May 1860 page 4

– Committee Re-elected

A reasonable turnout at Magpie Sports yesterday saw those on the committee who stood for election, re-appointed to their positions.

The include:

  • President                      –       Ian Granland
  • Vice President             –       Paul Macpherson
  • Secretary                      –        Heather White
  • Treasurer                      –        John Addison
  • Committee Persons –        Jenny Hancock, Tom Mahon, Ian Wright & Gus McKernan

A comprehensive annual report was tabled and the president moved through the document explaining its contents.  He also commended the members of the committee for their commitment and contribution over the past 12 months.  He also said that while four persons stood as Committee there was provision for the addition of an extra person with whom he had discussions with in recent weeks.

Following the meeting a Special General Meeting was held to approve the changes to the constitution.  These now bring the organisation in line with the updated requirements of the Incorporated Associations Act and the rules and guidelines set by the Department of Fair Trading.  A copy of this had been posted on this website.

After the formalities, attendees were invited to inspect the facilities in the Society’s room at Magpie Sports.  This is where a photograph was taken of some and include from left: Mark Spooner, Tom Mahon (standing),  Ian Allan (son of Bill),  Ian Granland, Bill Allan, Jim McSweeney, Ian Wright.