VFL Moves to Sydney

How long is it since South Melbourne relocated to Sydney and went on to become the Sydney Swans?

If you said thirty-three years you would be right.

They have now established themselves as part of the Sydney sporting scene, trend setters in a number of ways and accepted by many whom 30 years ago could not spell Australian football.  Of course now its the turn of GWS to make their mark in Sydney.

But those who orchestrated the move, who pushed the VFL into playing outside of Melbourne, a move which eventually led to the creation of a national competition?  Who were they? Well, they now have all but gone.

You might ask, who was it that came up with the Sydney idea and why?

The VFL president at the time, Allen Aylett, (pictured) certainly was in the box seat for the change and history will probably recognize him as the man responsible for change.

Allen is now 82 and there is no doubting his footballing talent.  He played 220 games with the North Melbourne club, captain and later president leading North to change its image from also-rans into that of a football powerhouse.

But the VFL had to tread on egg-shells in their effort, not so much to make a presence in Sydney, but to convince their clubs of the move, to overcome the straitlaced Victorian Government’s ‘no football on Sunday policy’ (apart from the VFA) and at the same time appease the struggling grass roots football fraternity in Sydney.

In 1980 the fractured NSW Football League administration met with Aylett and VFL General Manager, Jack Hamilton with regards to the possible establishment of a VFL club in Sydney.

The then erstwhile secretary of the NSWAFL, Kevin Taylor, a fastidious administrator who left no stone unturned in documenting a record of the meeting, gave a very factual account of the gathering in the league’s 1980 annual report which can be read here.

More specifically, Kevin’s record of the meeting and what was said is set out here.

Let us not forget that certainly in the first year of South Melbourne’s move to Sydney, the VFL:  rostered a Sydney Football League match as curtain raiser to the main game, paid the Sydney Football League $1,000 as compensation (for what is unsure) each time a VFL game was played at the SCG and most importantly negotiated with the VFL television carrier to telecast the match Australia wide.

And how will history judge Allen Aylett, the dentist who gave so much of his time and energy to change only to have his wings clipped by the VFL in 1983.  We hope people see Allen as a true champion and leader of our great game.

Alas these memories are soon cast aside as life moves on through time and some other issue grabs the attention of the footballing public.  But never so much as the time of the VFL’s move to Sydney.


Gordon Bowman colour smallWe don’t often publish news of the death of former Sydney footballers, mostly because, as life has it unfortunately this happens every day.

However it is worth noting the passing of a person who had a considerable influence on Sydney football, certainly very much in the eve of his football playing career.

His name was Gordon Bowman.  It probably means little to contemporary players and administrators of today but back in the late sixties this 40 year old, as captain coach of the Newtown Club, took his side to successive premierships in 1967-68 and a grand final the following year.

Playing at 41, he tied for the 1968 first grade leading goalkicking award with Easts, Jack Hamilton.

If anyone deserved recognition in football it was this man.

Originally from the East Malvern club in suburban Melbourne, he made his debut with Melbourne FC as an 18 year old in 1945.  He went on to play 53 games with the Dees, mostly on the forward flank and was a member of the 1948 VFL premiership team following the famous draw with Essendon in the initial grand final.

After Melbourne, Bowman had two seasons with Hawthorn then moved to Tasmania where he captained-coached the Sandy Bay Club to a premiership in his first year.  At the same time he also coached the Tasmanian side.

He later moved to Brisbane where he captained and coached the Mayne Club, which included two premierships in his time with them, as well as the Queensland state side.

Moving to Sydney with his employment in 1967 he was talked into coaching the highly famous Newtown Club, which had been starved of a premiership for 17 years, by a young and enthusiastic club secretary, John Armstrong.

Bowman was the general manager of Hume Industries, at the time the well established manufacturers of concrete pipes.

He changed the culture at Newtown and an official of the time said he “made average players do extra-ordinary things”.

Following his time with the Red and Whites Bowman coached the North Shore club in 1970-71 but could only manage third place.  He returned to Newtown in 1973 but failed to achieve the success of earlier years.

Bowman eventually retired to Tasmania about 15 years ago where, amongst other things, he involved himself with horses in the trotting industry.

Bowman was named in the best 25 players ever at the Sandy Bay Club and is a member of Queensland Football’s, Hall of Fame.  In fact he possesses what we believe is a unique record: He played in premiership teams in four different senior state leagues: Melbourne, Sandy Bay, Mayne and Newtown.

His passing followed a period of illness and his presence in football will be sorely missed.