How often do you get the Prime Minister bouncing the ball to start a match – IN SYDNEY?
Well it happened in 1933 when the Prime Minister, Joe Lyons was the country’s leader. Lyons was from Northern Tasmania and trained as a school teacher. He played both cricket and football before entering the Tasmanian State Parliament. Originally a Labor man, he was Premier of Tasmania between 1923-28.
In 1933 the Australian National Football Council, since usurped by the AFL, conducted their triennial national carnival at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The NSW side comprised several players from Broken Hill, many of whom reported back to their league following the carnival that they were not treated well. The eight players from Broken Hill were housed in the Hotel Morris in Pitt Street while those players in the NSW team from Sydney resided at their normal homes. The Queensland and Canberra teams were also domiciled at the hotel.
Incidentally, the Hotel Morris is still there, at the Railway Square end but now caters mostly for backpackers.
Lyons wasn’t the main act in the opening of the Carnival. Australia’s first locally born Governor General, Isaac Isaacs, did the honours in the middle of the ground surrounded by a number of other dignitaries, see image.
However, like the 1914 Carnival in Sydney it was not a success. It lost over £1,000 which equates to $96,500 in today’s terms.
Lyons however was talked into bouncing the ball in the opening game between NSW and Victoria and we have been able to obtain a photograph of the event with him in his suit and tie. Its not in best of condition nevertheless, it captures the moment the prime minister of the time got himself involved in our game – literally.
New South Wales had a reasonably successful carnival despite being trounced in the first match against the VFL. Having said that the draw for the series was contrived so that the locals were not that hard pressed in most of their games. They played all but South Australia and finished in fourth place. The only real standout for them was the naming of local star, Jimmy Stiff, as the carnival’s best player.
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