Timekeeping

Timekeepers Clock
Timekeepers  Clock

We have written much about football and its peripheral activities and now one subject comes up that takes place in each game and at times continues to be as vexatious as ever:  Timekeeping.

The rules of the game say that each team must supply a timekeeper and the reason for this is simple.  It ensures that the time each quarter, breaks and match itself is timed correctly and stops cheating.

The rules also say that each timekeeper must have his or her own timepiece with which they should maintain the times of those periods.

The president of the History Society, Ian Granland, is a person with undoubted credentials in this area, after he told us that he first began to keep time for a first grade match in Sydney at age 17.

“Like many struggling clubs, there was no-one else.  I was handed the clock and team sheet and told to go and sit in the press box with someone from the other club and keep time.” Granland said.

“What?  That’s not my idea of a fun day at the footy” I thought.  “That’s for old blokes who can no longer play or who don’t want to pick up the jumpers after the game” but, he went on “I was stuck with it.”

“I was a quick learner and soon found out that a good timekeeper can win or lose you a game.  I went on to work with some solid shonks in the local football fraternity, an area you probably don’t think counts.”

“First, I was told, ‘look, you write down the goalkickers and I’ll keep the time, don’t bother using your clock’ (I never could work out why there were two clocks in the first place – but there was a reason).

So on a windswept day at Erskineville Oval in Sydney, a naive young Ian Granland sat in the back seats of the grandstand (there was no pressbox) with his opposition number to keep time.  “It didn’t take me long to realise that although my colleague feigned stopping the clock (for time out) when my1988 Erskineville Oval 001 small team was kicking with the wind, he didn’t and the reserve was the case with his side.  My education in timekeeping had started.  And there were and still are, other lurks to the caper.”

There is nothing like a good club timekeeper, who comes along to the game does their job, interferes with no-one and goes home.  For every club, that’s one big and important job out of the way.

But of course on the other hand there are other disorganised clubs, many of whom are college teams, that just sit an injured player on the seat and expect them to perform.  No, it doesn’t work like that.

Umpires and their signals are another question.  If there is a prolonged stoppage in play, the officiating umpire must signal time out by raising their hand in the air and blowing the whistle.  Some forget and it’s not the timekeeper’s job to take on that responsibility, so if you see the clock ticking away while a stretcher is on the ground it’s maybe because the umpire is a bit lax.

But, the rules do provide for umpires who forget to signal ‘time back in’.  Should the umpire fail to do this the timekeeper/s can take it upon themselves to restart the clock. Sometimes umpires just raise their hand.  You have to watch the game.

Then of course, if you are at a match where a timepiece, more likely digital these days, is able to be viewed by the public, you might see the clock either stopped or operating when it should not and in fact the game stoppage has been addressed by the umpire.  This could be because of slack timekeepers.  Or if a timekeeper has been taken short and there is no-one to replace him or her….. and so the list goes on.

Every league will have bad timekeeping stories, there are no good ones because no-one notices the timekeeper if all goes well.  And, as an aside, did you know that many local rules provide for if and when the two goal umpires cannot decide on the score, they must consult with the timekeepers, who too, are supposed to be noting the score each time a point or goal is kicked.

But here’s a great story: In 1961 Newtown FC protested the result of its six point loss in the preliminary final to Sydney Naval when it was revealed that the siren sounded 12 minutes early to end the first quarter. This came about when the president of marching girls team (which was to perform at half time), plugged her music into the power board and in testing it, pressed the wrong switch which sounded the siren.  Nothing could be done because the players stopped and changed ends (there were no quarter time huddles then).

This certainly caused a conundrum with officials quickly deciding to spread those lost 12 minutes over the next three quarters. However they failed to tell anyone.  Was that a wise move? Was it within the rules? Maybe a situation like this had not been considered possible?

To add insult to injury, at the end of the game the sole central umpire failed to hear the final siren with both teams level on 88 points.  Sydney Naval player, Jack Harding had marked 40m out but his kick failed to reach the goal just as the siren sounded.  Oblivious to this, umpire Colbert called “play on” which allowed Naval player, Alan Waack, to gather the ball and boot a goal.  Sydney Naval had won by six points! The umpire even returned to the centre of the ground for the bounce before he finally acknowledged ‘time’.

Now you’re not going to believe this but a few weeks later in the grand final between North Shore and Sydney Naval there was a further timekeeping issue.

When starting to pack up towards the end of the of the match, acting league secretary, Joe Boulus, in dismantling the public address system, accidentally sounded the siren eight minutes before the end of the last quarter. Vice President, George Henry, jumped the fence and ran to tell the umpire but it was too late.

Let me tell you, similar things still go on today around Australia, we just don’t hear of them.

One thing I often see on the TV at times, is the clock being stopped in AFL games because of a complication in the game, when clearly the umpire has not signalled time out.  Have the rules changed?

Hail the long forgotten administrator in our game, The Timekeeper.  Lets have a Timekeepers Round for the thousands each weekend who perform that duty.

(We were going to publish a story about the introduction of the timekeepers clock into VFL football in 1923 but that can wait for another day.)

1961

The 1961 season in Sydney was one full of action, the employment of a full time employee, the tragic death of an up and coming footballer, accusations of missing money, stuff ups in the final series but best of all, great football.

This is a long read, so grab a cup of coffee and sit down a learn a bit of Sydney footy history.

Sydney University were readmitted to the competition but not in the first grade.Uni Blues, Uni Bolds,   Instead they  fielded two teams in the reserve grade: Uni Blues and Uni Golds.  Neither won the premiership but cleaned up in the League Best & Fairest, the Sanders Medal, with the top three places going to Uni players.

Balmain failed to turn up for a pre-season game against North Shore at Trumper Park.  This brought their tenure in the competition under some scrutiny.  The following week they came out and cleaned up the strong Eastern Suburbs club by four goals in round 1.

The competition started with a dramatic change to 16-aside, a decision which was continually ridiculed as being anti-football and almost unAustralian until the league was almost forced to revert to the normal 18 per team, mid season.

Long term Sydney tough player and coach, Jack Armstrong, turned his hand to umpiring and was ultimately appointed to the competition’s 1st semi final..

South Melbourne FC defeated a combined Sydney team 17.29 (131) to 6.6. (42) at Trumper Park before a good crowd on 28 May.

Eventual premiers, North Shore, kicked 2.13 (25) to defeat the lowly Bankstown side 2.11 (23).  This was one of the lowest post WWII scores in Sydney football.

Bankstown were known by the very bizarre name as the Boomerangs.  Western Suburbs were the Pirates, Balmain the Magpies, St George the Tigers and North Shore the Bears.

There was an Umpires strike in round 15 but football went ahead with the league using stand-in personnel.  The forty year old South Sydney captain-coach, Jack Atkins, umpired a second grade game then backed up as boundary for the firsts only to eventually replace central umpire, the University and NSW coach, Frank Bird, who broke down.

The competition was shocked when 20 year old soldier, Roger Challis, was killed whilst hitch hiking from Puckapunyal in Victoria to play with the South Sydney club.  This talented full forward had played in the Sydney team against South Melbourne the previous month.  He was buried at the Waverley Cemetery with full Military Honours.  Read Football Records article here.

In a bit of embarrassing news, the league full time secretary, Jack Holman, was reported to be admitted to hospital in July. The Football Record had to print a retraction when Jack, who never did get there, had several people visit the hospital and others send get-well wishes and flowers with many wondering where he was.  We guess they could have accepted this had it happened on April 1.

The Australian Football Club Limited (a licensed club venture) held weekly get togethers at Aarons Hotel in Pitt Street.  Membership was an expensive thirty shillings per year ($3).  Sylvania accountant and league board member, Arthur Davey was the prime mover in this project which never did get off the ground.

The league relocated their offices from the NSW Sports Club in Hunter Street, Sydney to Trumper Park, Paddington.

Western Suburbs club were granted a liquor licence, the first for an Australian football club in NSW.  Future league long term president, Bill Hart was in his eighth season as football club secretary at Wests.

A Parramatta Club was formed in July with Ron Cameron elected its president, Kevin Little secretary and Peter Clark, the treasurer.  They adopted pale blue and white as their colours with a jumper design in alternate panel colours.  The meeting was held at the Parramatta Town Hall.  This new club had a four goal win against Newcastle at Trumper Park on 2 September.

In the popular annual Army v Navy game at Trumper Park, the Navy side recorded an easy 14.18 to 11.12 win with all proceeds raised on the day going to the Royal NSW Institute for the Deaf and Blind Children.

The game received good media coverage after reportedly securing the services of a promotion company, Recreation International, to market the game in Sydney.

The last round saw St George, South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs all on equal points in fourth place.  Saints had to play the stronger third placed Sydney Naval in their final game, Souths were opposed the seventh place, Western Suburbs while East were up against the hapless Liverpool team.

St George lost, Souths had a 10 goal win over Wests but Easts belted Liverpool by 165 points to grab fourth place with a percentage 122.2 just in front of South Sydney’s 120.0.  Souths therefore missed their opportunity to play in the finals for the first time since 1949 when, ironically, they were beaten by Easts by one point in the first semi.

Voting for the Phelan, Sanders and Kealey Medals, league B & F Medals, was counted on the second semi final day at Trumper Park with the winners announced over the PA system.  How times have changed.

And now for the fun….

Newtown FC protested the result of their six point preliminary final loss to Sydney Naval at Trumper Park when it was revealed that the siren sounded 12 MINUTES early to end the first quarter.

This came about when the president of marching girls team (who were to perform at half time), plugged her music into the power board and when she tested it, pressed the wrong switch which sounded the siren.  Nothing could be done because the players stopped and changed ends (there was no quarter time huddles then).

This certainly caused an conundrum with officials quickly deciding to spread those 12 minutes over the next three quarters, but they failed to tell anyone.  Was that a wise move, AND, was it within the rules or maybe a situation like this had not been considered possible?

(But wait, theres more…)  To add insult to injury, at the end of the game the (only) central umpire failed to hear the final siren with both teams level on 88 points.  Sydney Naval player, Jack Harding had  marked 40m out but his kick failed to reach the goal just as the siren sounded.  Oblivious to this, umpire Colbert called “play on” which allowed Naval player, Alan Waack to gather the ball and boot a goal.  Sydney Naval by six points!

The umpire even returned to the centre of the ground for the bounce before he acknowledged ‘time’.

The Newtown protest was upheld and the game replayed.  By the way, the marching girls raised a goodly twenty pounds ($40) in their blanket collection for the day.

Another calamity happened in the replay
When starting to pack up towards the end of the replayed preliminary final, league acting secretary, Joe Boulus in dismantling the public address system, accidentally sounded the siren 8 MINUTES before the end of the last quarter – don’t you just hate that?  League Vice President, George Henry, jumped the fence and ran to tell the umpire but it was too late.  Sydney Naval won 10.14 (74) to 7.10 (52).

No protest was lodged after this game.

This impediment put the grand final back a week and because Trumper Park was unavailable and the only ground of some consequence which the league could use was the RAS Showground at Moore Park.  So, on the same day, the Rugby Union held their grand final on the Sydney Sports Ground, the NSW Rugby League grand final on the SCG and the AFL decider next door.  All grounds adjoin each other so besides general bedlam, parking and public transport would have been at a premium.

On top of all this was the resignation of the treasurer in June when it was revealed that the accounts were in a mess.  This was quickly followed by the suspension of the full time secretary when questions were asked about missing money and work that simply had not been done.  But all this will be told in a later story.  Your eyes must be getting sore?

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