In the late 1880s senior clubs from Newcastle and the Hunter competed with Sydne y teams for a premiership. In 1887 Northumberland won the title.
Northumberland was the name adopted by the team from West Maitland, here is a brief description from a 1887 newspaper of the day on their development and participation.
Firstly though we might say that the club continued quite successfully for a number of years but were last heard of in 1894. This was a period of deep depression for Australia but certainly did not hit other football codes and we can only suppose this might be one reason for their disappearance, or probably more succinctly there was no-one to take their place.
“In this issue we give the portraits of the crack northern team of New South Wales for the past season; The Northumberland Club was formed in 1883 by Mr. E. J. Young, who saw the club through its first difficulties, acting as honorary secretary for two seasons. This club was the first to adopt the Australian Rules in the northern district of New South Wales; and considerable difficulty was experienced in raising a team of twenty players, as the feeling against the Victorian, game (as it was then called) was rather bitter. During the first season of the club a series of scratch matches was indulged in; and it was thought at first that the club would have to disband, as there were no fields to conquer. However, early in the next season a match was arranged with the West Maitland Rugby team, which defeated the N.F.C. at its own game. Subsequently little difficulty was experienced in getting players together. The renowned Sydney Club visited Maitland, and gave quite an impetus to the game.
Many gentlemen who had at first held back came forward, and by their exertions as players and in other ways greatly helped to place the club in the proud position it now occupies in the north. About this time also a club was started in Newcastle; and, having some able exponents of the game who hailed from Victoria, such as Le Neveu, Murrell, Woodlands, and others, it also managed to defeat the pioneer club. Those reverses naturally gave additional interest to the game, more especially as the rivalry between Newcastle and Maitland in any kind of athletic exorcise is always very keen. Wallsend about this time made its debut; the matches between these three clubs being always close and exciting.
During 1885 and 1880 the Northumberlands, although they never went lower on the list than second for the northern premiership, could not manage to get to the top of the tree. First Newcastle and then Wallsend held the coveted position. During the season just over the Northumberland Club gained that place, and made a bid for the premiership of the colony, having won and lost a match with the renowned metropolitan premiers.
The following summary of the club’s doings for the Season compares favourably with the record of any club in the colony:
|Matches Played||Won||Lost||Drawn||Goals For||Goals Against|
Among the office bearers who have stuck to the club since it was started may be mentioned the Rev. Canon Tyrrell, president; messrs; John Bourke and John Gillies, vice presidents ; and the popular and genial Mr. Harry Williams, who has been captain all through the club’s existence. Among the players of the 20 may be found some of the swiftest men in the north on the running track. Many of them are only just commencing to master the difficulties of a game where experience and skill are required to make a team excel. Most of the players are young, and will no doubt greatly improve as the seasons roll on. Consequently we may hear of the N.F.C. making a successful bid of the premiership of the colony in the time to come.”
Then A 1894 Report Shows:
“The Northumberland Club will open their campaign on Saturday, 5th May, at Wallsend, against the local twenty. The Norths this season are not as strong as of yore, but have a fair team, and possibly before the season closes they will beat more than will down them.
The Australian game of football is slowly but surely gaining a strong hold m the Northern district, more especially in the mining districts of Newcastle. There is an additional senior team in the field this year, to wit, the old Hamilton Club, who have returned to the fold, and no less than fourteen junior teams have entered for the junior badges.”
“The game in Sydney also appears to be again likely to thrive, some seven teams having decided to play this season, one of which is composed entirely of Victorian players employed at the firm of Pope and Matter’s foundry. The Norths have their hands pretty full to the date of the commencement of the premiership matches, as the following matches have been arranged :— May 5, Wallsend, at Wallsend ; May 12, Wallsend at Maitland; May 19, Hamilton, at Hamilton; May 24, Burwood, at Maitland ; May 26, Wallsend, at Newcastle; June 2, Merryland Fitz Roy [no idea where this is – ed.], at Maitland ; June 9, Hamilton, at Maitland ; June 16, Charlestown, at Maitland. All these matches should prove interesting and our town representatives should practice during the week and try and keep up their good position at the top of the list for season 1894.”
But alas, there was no more.