– 1947 Job Offers

 The 1947 NSW
Carnival Team Opening
Parade @ Hobart

In 1947, an All-States Carnival was played in Hobart.

These seven team contests were played about every four years.  After World War II because of the disparity in standard, the Australian National Football Council,  divided the competition into two divisions.  New South Wales found themselves in division two along with Queensland, Tasmania and Canberra.  This meant in Hobart they should have played three matches;  They won their games quite handsomely against Queensland Canberra then went down in the final game against Tasmania by ten points 13-18 (96) to 16-10 (106).  They also played South Australia who were a Division I team however were convincingly defeated.

A 1950 pic
of Jim Cracknell
at his best

Following the game it was reported that five of the New South Wales Australian players in their carnival team were offered contracts by two Tasmanian clubs.

The Hobart Club offered Sydney’s captain-coach, Jim Cracknell, Albury FC’s star centre Jim Mathews, and Newtown’s Emrys Owen £10 a week, including a job. Clarence Football Club offered Roy Watterson from the Newtown Club, who would later go on to coach in the Riverina, and South Sydney’s Ron Matthews a job at £8 a week and a retainer of £3 a week.

The report said that the offers would hold good for the following season. Apparently the players are considering the offers, but unknown if they took them up.

– N.S.W. Made Mincemeat of Famous St Kilda

1945 NSW Team v St KildaNSW made mincemeat of Famous St Kilda.  Well thats what the news headlines said following the game.

In September 1945, the Second World War had just about finished and while residents of Sydney as well as the interstate servicemen based there had their footy needs well met during the conflict through some top line players who were participating in the competition, officials saw a need for an interstate fixture;  one with perhaps a touch of glamour and competitiveness that could attract a crowd and a gate ($$).

The NSW Football League had received invitations from both Queensland and Canberra Leagues to visit that year but they declined both because, they said “of travel and accommodation difficulties” but more particularly because such matches were “a bit premature.”

In the preceding two weeks, 54,000 and 46,000 people had witnessed the two VFL semi-final matches in Melbourne so there was a sense of a nation beginning to return to football normality.

Subsequently, late in the season the NSWAFL tendered an invitation to the St Kilda Football Club to visit Sydney and play a series of games.  They accepted and in fact extended their visit to a 10 day stay beginning September 14.  On the same weekend as their match against NSW, Hawthorn played a game in Albury.  So maybe more than two VFL clubs participated in exhibition matches away from their home base?

During their stay St Kilda club officials estimated that their party would spend £1,500 ($103,000 today) which included £358 in accommodation and £370 in travel.  They considered the remainder would just be spent in other areas by those in the contingent.

Of all the VFL clubs who had played in Sydney since 1881, St Kilda was not one so this visit would be a first – and last.  In 1945 the Saints finished at the bottom of the twelve team competition.

Their schedule in Sydney included three games; two against NSW and a midweek fixture against a Combined Services outfit.

The first was against NSW then the game against a NSW Services Team (combined military personnel) both of which were played at Erskineville Oval.  Unfortunately the NSW League could not secure a ground for their second of their two match (or third St Kilda game) contest. We imagine the reasons being, 1) because the period was a ground changeover to summer sport, and 2) perhaps the military still occupied many of the city and suburban grounds.

League officials went to extraordinary lengths to hire a ground for this game.  They even tried to procure Cumberland Oval at Parramatta but the attempt failed.  It is interesting to note that Parramatta in the days of WWII could almost be classified as ‘country’ with no Australian football at all played in the area.  Other grounds that were tried included Henson Park as well as Marrickville and Lidcombe Ovals.

Nevertheless and as a fine gesture, the St Kilda club donated 70% of the £163 net gate from their only NSW match to the League.

In a strange twist of fate, St Kilda included the 24 year old energetic Sam Loxton in their team.  Loxton was recruited by the Saints in 1942 and played with them up until 1945 when following his promotion to the rank of sergeant in the Australian Army, he was transferred to Sydney.  There, he was immediately appointed captain of the Eastern Suburbs Club.  During the season however when on leave in Melbourne, Loxton played in the round 11 clash against North Melbourne much to the delight of their fans.

The ‘Serviceman’s Rule’ of the time permitted those in the military to turnout with their parent club if they be registered in another state, circumstances muchSam Loxton akin to Loxton’s.

Strangely this talented footballer/cricketer was ‘dropped’ from the NSW team a week out from the game then immediately selected at full forward for St Kilda.  A fact not lost on the media.   Sam failed to kick a goal in the game although as an aside, he won the NSWAFL leading goalkicking award for 1945 booting 71 goals.

Loxton went on to play cricket for Victoria and later Australia.  He was also a member of Don Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’ that toured England in 1948.

St Kilda also a boasted a former local in their lineup in Reg Garvin.  A past Newtown player and ex-junior who was recruited by the Saints in 1937.  Garvin captained and coached St Kilda for two seasons during his 1937-46 career with the club.

Also in the Saints lineup was Billy Wells who tragically injured his spine when a troop train he was on was attacked in Egypt in 1941.  Doctors said he would never walk again and yet amazingly when he to Australia he again took up with North Melbourne and then onto St Kilda for the 1944-45 seasons.

Action in the NSW v St Kilda match Two of the bigger St Kilda players were vice captain Sid Snell and Col Williamson, both members of the Victorian Police Force.  Snell had represented Victoria on two occasions and also excelled as a sprinter, winning the Maryborough Gift in 1938.

Williamson played 165 games for the Saints in a ten year career, coaching them in 1952-53.

The day of the match contained boisterous weather and conditions that mitigated against a good display of football and yet it was said 8,000 attended the game.  Fifty three year old local umpire, Bill Hunkin, had control.

Reg GarvinThe match didn’t start well for St Kilda.  They were down by 22 points at the first change and it wasn’t until the second term that saw them produce a more competitive effort allowing them to take the lead at half time by the narrowest of margins.

In the third term it was all NSW.  They booted 4-6 to the Saints nil.  Although assisted by a stiff breeze in the final quarter, St Kilda again made no impression on the scoreboard.  They were beaten 10-18 (78) to 4-24 (48), with many of their behinds being kicked only metres from the line.

The NSW team was made up mostly of service personnel, many of whom only came together on the morning of the match; they played strong hard football.  All in the team participated for their respective Sydney clubs with a number however based at distant camps so attending training was out of the question.

St Kilda’s team too contained several servicemen all of whom were members of their club.  It is likely that several of these were more than likely stationed in Sydney or surrounds at the time of the game.  They included: Eric Comeford, Geoff Driver, Terry O’Brien, Bill Phillips and Bob Wilkie.

Given that these players along with Loxton PLUS their seconds coach, Jack Brenchley who at 34 had the role of coach of the team during their NSW tour, all played for St Kilda in this game certainly questions of the depth of the team.

The subsequent midweek fixture against Combined Services saw a closer 7-17 (59) to 7-10 (59) win to the Saints with captain for the match, Reg Garvin getting them in front minutes before the end with a 40 metre drop kick goal.  Then another by Bob Wilkie seconds before the end of the game sealed the victory.

At this stage the only NSW players we have been able to identify are:

Stan W Taylor  – capt (South Sydney – Norwood)

Jim Cracknell (Sydney Naval)

Reg Parker (Newtown)

Ray Jones (Sydney Naval)

Adrian Dullard (St George – Melbourne)

Evan Rees (South Sydney – Footscray)

Jack Thompson (RAAF)

Basil O’Halloran (St George)

J. Martin (RAAF)

Joe Hughes (Newtown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE ABOUT VFA GAME AT WOLLONGONG

More has come to light following some further research into the 1949 VFA Premiers, Williamstown’s game at Wollongong.

Arrangements had been made well in advance of the October 9 game for Williamstown to visit Wollongong and as it turned out, ‘Willy’ finished the VFA season as premiers defeating Oakleigh in a very tight grand final only the week before.  The visit reportedly cost the club one thousand pounds ($2,000), a huge sum of money in those days.

Their attendance was arranged in an effort to promote the code in the city and surrounds with local officials under the impression that they had secured as opposition, the likely Sydney premiers, Newtown, to play a combined Williamstown/Illawarra combination in an exhibition match at the Wollongong Showground on Saturday 8 October.

At the time, Newtown were the gun side in Sydney.  They had won the 1945-48 flags and went on to win the premiership again in 1949-50, giving them six successive titles in Sydney football.  They suffered only one defeat in 1949 so would have been perfect opponents for the VFA premiers.  Only a week before Newtown had defeated the Eastern Suburbs club by one point to annex the premiership at the Sydney Showground.

On the Sunday of the weekend, nine NSW representative players had been included in the Illawarra team to play a full strength Williamstown side on the same venue with the proceeds to go to the Illawarra District Ambulance.  So the weekend was looked upon as a carnival for Australian football in Wollongong.

However a bombshell hit organisers early on Saturday when Illawarra FC secretary, Bob Watkins, received a telegram from the NSW AFL Secretary, Ken Ferguson that Newtown would not be making the trip so a last minute re-arrangement of teams had to be made.

Mr Ferguson entirely blamed the Newtown club for their lack of attendance whom he said had previously agreed to the encounter some six weeks previous.  He said the Newtown club delegate had informed his club secretary of the match only a matter of days before the game but it took until Saturday before Newtown announced their decision not to participate!

Quite understandably, Wollongong officials were furious with Newtown’s non-attendance and in terms which could be reported here said that “it was inexcusable and not only disheartening to Illawarra officials but would give the visiting team a very poor impression on the conduct of the code in this state.”

Five Williamstown players had been sent ahead of the main group for the Saturday game and the NSW league only could scrape up only two Sydney players: Seventeen year old Ray Millington (who would go onto play with Fitzroy) and Western Suburb’s, Tommy Lamb.

The game was re-arranged with only two hours notice and fortunately a set of Eastern Suburbs jumpers had been sent with Millington to enable two teams to take the field.  It was not surprising that the Illawarra-Williamstown combination won this game 13.14 (92) to the composite team’s 9.9 (63).

Despite the re-arrangements, the pre-arranged local second grade baseball premiership challenge match between Cringila Cardinals and Port Kembla was still played as a prelude to the Saturday game.

In all sixty three had made the trip to Wollongong, including 24 players and, it was reported, a further sixty supporters would have also travelled with the group if accommodation could have been found.   The entire contingent stayed at the now closed Headlands Hotel, Austinmer, a village well north of Wollongong itself.

They had travelled by rail from Melbourne to Moss Vale where they changed trains to travel cross country through Robertson on the now ‘freight-only’ and special excursion train track.  This line is one of the most scenic in New South Wales, and for the first 20 km after leaving Unanderra has an almost continuous grade 1 in 30 providing spectacular view over the Illawarra coastline.

On arrival at Wollongong the party were accorded a civic reception by the Mayor, Ald Graham who was joined by other dignitaries in welcoming the group.

During their week long stay they:

*  Were guests of the Illawarra Greyhound Racing Club on the Monday night;
*  Paid a visit to BHP Steelworks, Port Kembla on Tuesday;
*  On Tuesday night were guests of the Civic Theatre in Wollongong;
*  Travelled to Sydney on the Wednesday where the entire party became lost and on their return stopped at the top of Bulli Pass over looking Wollongong and the Illawarra, where they describedthe view
as “breath-taking” and “beyond description” and a vista never before seen by the group;

*  Then on the Thursday saw them entertained at a dance arranged by the Illawarra FC at the Agricultural Hall in Wollongong.
*  On Friday the contingent travelled south to the village of Kiama where they were entertained viewing the sights of the area including the Kiama Blow Hole.
*  On the last night of their stay, the proprietor at the Headlands Hotel, Mrs Vera Kelly, afforded the group a farewell social evening where they all dressed up in various garb taking off the many
    personalities of the club and other civil dignitaries of the Williamstown club and area.  It was reported that the hostess, Mrs Kelly, received a presentation from her visitors, “as did the pianiste, Mrs
Sullivan.”

On Sunday however, and despite the wet track, two games were played as curtain raisers.  In the first at 12 noon, a NSW junior state team, most probably Under 16s, played ‘The Rest’.  All of these boys came from Sydney with the NSW side winning 11.11 (77) to 7.7 (49).

In the second 1.30pm game, Liverpool, which was playing in the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association (MANFA) A grade, defeated Illawarra 3.16 (34) to 2.3 (15).  The Illawarra side was mostly comprised of their second grade, with a few others who had little chance against the Liverpool team who only a few years later were elevated to the Sydney league.

In the main game, the Illawarra/Sydney combination were behind at each change but offered a concerted challenge at the last minute with the ball in their attacking zone just as the bell sounded.

The star for the locals was Eastern Suburbs legend Roy Hayes, who, at 25 created havoc in the centre for the opposition.  Another Hall of Fame member, Jack Armstrong in the ruck was named as an additional good contributor as was the 1949-50 Phelan Medalist and Illawarra FC player, Ken Gilbert who had a battle royal against his roving opponent, Johnny Molyneaux.

Strong Sydney Naval FC captain-coach, Jimmy Cracknell at forward booted three goals but not before the opposition had two put on him in an attempt to reduce his influence on the game.

South Sydney tough man, Geoff Lendrum, played on Williamtown’s iconic forward, Ron Todd and kept him to four goals.  Lendrum was commended for his effort as was the team in an effort that was considered “well up to Melbourne standard.”

It is worth noting that the 1949 season was one of the wettest on record in Sydney and coastal areas.

Photograph shows the Williamstown team of 1949.