The Make-Up of the NSW’s Greatest Team Ever

When Jack Fleming made his debut for South Melbourne in the newly-formed VFL in 1897 he became the first player from NSW to play at what was to become, the highest-level. Fleming was born in Inverell in northern NSW but went to South Melbourne from the South Broken Hill club.

Nick Blakey

Nick Blakey aged 18 and fresh out of Waverly College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, became the 453rd player from NSW to play VFL/AFL football when he debuted for the Sydney Swans against the Western Bulldogs in round one of the 2019 season. He continued the rich tradition of players from NSW playing at the highest level that had begun with Jack Fleming 122 years ago.

The list of NSW’s Greatest Players provided the basis for the selection of the NSW Greatest Team Ever at the Carbine Club’s function in May this year.  You can view the entire list here, however to facilitate the list in its entirety, it has been reduced in size.  (You can enlarge the document for easier viewing by holding down your CONTROL button and press the + button at the same time.  To reverse this, hold down the CONTROL button and press the minus [ – ] button.)

Initially, a list of 423 players was provided by the AFL. Former Sydney Swans and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL Commission chairman Richard Colless, the convener of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team, was convinced that there were more players than this and asked the NSW Football History Society representatives on the panel, Ian Granland and Rod Gillett, to investigate.

Between them they boosted the number on the list to 453.

Using his geographical and football knowledge of southern NSW particularly along the border region, Gillett was able to add a substantial number to the list that had been overlooked by the AFL’s historians.

This included the likes of former Carlton and Richmond ruckman David Honybun from Coleambly who was recruited by the Blues from Scotch College, ex-St Kilda defender Jon Lilley (Hay) who went to Xavier College, dual Richmond premiership rover Bill Brown also from Hay who went to work for the State Savings Bank in Melbourne;  he also plaPaul Kelly, Bill Mohr, yed for the bank team in the amateurs.  then there was Damian Sexton (St Kilda) from Finley who was recruited from Ovens and Murray league club, Yarrawonga.

A gem of a find was the late Sir Doug Nichols, who grew up and played football at the Cummeragunja aboriginal mission on the NSW side of the Murray River opposite Barmah, near Echuca. Sir Doug played for the mission in the district competition before making his mark with Fitzroy in the VFL. Ironically, he played for Victoria against NSW in the 1933 ANFC Carnival in Sydney.

They also came up with the names of some outstanding SANFL players that had originally been recruited from Broken Hill. Two of these players, West Adelaide’s Bruce McGregor and Neil Davies from Glenelg, were subsequently selected in the Greatest Team. Both captained South Australia in interstate matches and were selected in ANFC All-Australian teams.

Broken Hill has been a rich source of players for both the VFL and the SANFL competitions. Forty-eight players on the list came from Broken Hill’s four clubs: Norths (13), Centrals (9), Souths (11), and Wests (15).

The Albury Football Club provided the most number of players on the list with 49 including five from the Strang family starting with Bill Strang (South Melbourne) in 1904, his three sons Doug (Richmond), Gordon (Richmond) and Alan (South Melbourne) and Doug’s son Geoff, who played in Richmond’s 1967 and 1969 premiership sides.

Rival Ovens & Murray League club Corowa, that merged with Rutherglen for the 1979 season, provided twenty players including current Sydney Swans coach John Longmire (North Melbourne), 1975 North Melbourne premiership star Peter Chisnall and Swans 2005 premiership player Ben Matthews.

The Sydney clubs have supplied 106 players on the list with Eastern Suburbs providing the highest number with twenty-four, the most notable being Carlton champion Mark “Sellers” McClure; Newtown with eleven including Footscray’s 1954 premiership player Roger Duffy, ten from North Shore, nine from Pennant Hills which included the former St Kilda champion Lenny Hayes.

The Riverina was also a fertile area for the list. The highest number of players came from the Wagga Tigers which provided 20 players including 1995 Brownlow medalist Paul Kelly (Swans), the sublimely skilled John Pitura (South Melbourne/Richmond), and the NSW Greatest Team full forward, Bill Mohr (St Kilda) who topped the VFL goal-kicking in 1936 with 101 goals.

Leeton (12), Ganmain (10) and Narranderra (9) also supplied high numbers of players for the list.

South Melbourne/Sydney Swans have been the main beneficiary of players from NSW. One hundred and seventeen players have turned out for the Swans since 1897.

Under zoning by the VFL of Victorian Country/Southern NSW from 1967-1986 the Riverina was allocated to South Melbourne. In this period Rick Quade (Ariah Park-Mirrool), Doug Priest (Holbrook), Ross Elwin (Leeton), Colin Hounsell (Collingullie), Brett Scott (The Rock-Yerong Creek), Paul Hawke (Wagga Tigers), Dennis Carroll (Lockhart) and Jim Prentice (Ariah Park-Mirrool) were recruited from the Swans’ zone.

When the club moved to Sydney in 1982, the number of players from the local competition increased. This included Terry Thripp (Pennant Hills), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (North Shore), Nick Davis (St George), Kieran Jack (Pennant Hills), Arthur Chilcott (Western Suburbs), and Neil Brunton (Holroyd-Parramatta) and many more.

The Greater Western Sydney Giants have also recruited players from NSW since their entry into the AFL in 2012. Their number of players from NSW currently stands at eighteen following the debut of Penrith local and national decathlon champion, Jake Stein in round 12 against North Melbourne.

Stein became the 454th player to play in the VFL/AFL. The list was boosted to over 500 highly skilled players to recognise those from the city and the bush that didn’t go to the big leagues and the players from Broken Hill that represented the SANFL.

FILM CONVERSION GIVEN GREEN LIGHT

2014-08-19 Film cannisters smallThe Society’s Committee today agreed to digitise eleven cannisters of 1978 16mm film which were found recently.

The exercise is an expensive one with a quote of $35 per 100 feet (30.5 metres) accepted by officials however they have resolved to apply a ceiling limit to costs.

A box of the films, including a cannister of offcuts, were located at the league offices, Moore Park.  Apparently no-one there knew the origin of the film but since, former league CEO, Craig Davis, has indicated that he had the box together with other historical material, in a store room for some years.  The image shows two of the Society’s committee, Jenny Hancock and Ian Wright with the film.

Also, author of the website, Footystats Diary and former League Publicity Officer, Kevin Taylor, told the Society they were part of his World of Australian Football Panel Show which filled the half time slot in Channel Seven’s VFL direct Saturday telecast.

“A number of the rolls of film do not have sound but I believe they are in excellent condition, possibly only being shown once” Taylor, now 81, said.

“We used them in the show and those on the panel with me would comment on the games.  There was only one cameraman at the ground but from memory he did an excellent job with a range of lenses to capture the games with his camera in a very professional manner.”

Those were the days of some great footballers in Sydney, including one of the best to come out of NSW, John Pitura, who was coach of North Shore.  He was recruited from Wagga to South Melbourne then transferred to Richmond.

All the senior teams in the competition are shown in this vision, apart from Balmain.  Some are shown on a number of occasions.

These are the match film currently being processed:

ROUND DATE MATCH VENUE
2 9 April Western Suburbs v Pennant Hills Macquarie Uni
4 23 April St George v Newtown Olds Park
5 30 April Southern Districts v St George Rosedale Oval
6 7 May East Sydney v Southern Districts Trumper Park
8 21 May East Sydney v Western Suburbs Trumper Park
9 28 May Newtown v Southern Districts Erskineville Oval
10 4 June East Sydney v Newtown Trumper Park
16 16 July East Sydney v St George Trumper Park
18 30 July St George v Newtown Trumper Park
19 6 August Pennant Hills v Newtown Trumper Park
1st Semi 27 August Newtown v Western Suburbs Erskineville Oval

 

Also, besides the players it will give an idea of the grounds and facilities clubs had to put up with 46 years ago and obviously too, show some of the supporters and patrons of the game in Sydney in the period.

The decision to digitise the film was motivated by a need to secure the vision while still in a good condition and then make these games available to the public on DVD for a reasonable cost.

1978 Sydney All-Stars

Kevin TaylorIn 1978, current renowned online football columnist with Footystats, Kevin Taylor (pictured), was the anchor in Sydney’s channel 7  VFL match of the day.  He had several cronies on his half time,1978 All Stars small Football World panel, all of whom were Sydney local football identities.

At the end of the season they selected a Sydney All-Star Team, or putting it simply, a team of the year.  Click green image to view.

We are again publishing the team but this time adding the Phelan Medal Votes those selected received in that year:

NAME

CLUB

VOTES

Bob Bell

St George

5

Steve Bird

St George

2

Jim Bourke

Western Suburbs

11

Kent Coburn

Newtown

9

Keith DeLooze

Pennant Hills

3

Graeme Foster

East Sydney

5

Brett Francis

St George

24

Ian Geddes

East Sydney

8

Wayne Goss

East Sydney

20

Barry Greaves

Western Suburbs

10

Ian Harry

Western Suburbs

5

Lindsay Hetherington

Western Suburbs

6

Bob Hill

St George

5

Jack McCormack

Southern Districts

*26

Richard Morgan

North Shore

6

Kevin O’Halloran

Newtown

14

John Pitura

North Shore

12

Wes Preston

Western Suburbs

2

Graham Shiel

Western Suburbs

Nil

Alan Woodhams

North Shore

6

PHIL HAYES

UMPIRE

*Won the Phelan Medal

CLUB REPRESENTATION IN THE TEAM

East Sydney

3

Pennant Hills

1

Newtown

2

North Shore

3

Southern Districts

1

St George

4

Western Suburbs

6

TOTAL:

20

 

1978 FINAL LADDER

TEAM

PLAYED

WON

LOST

DRAWN

FOR

AGAINST

%

PTS

North Shore

21

19

2

2622

1953

134.2

76

Western Subs

21

15

6

2363

1755

134.6

60

St George

21

13

7

1

2210

1995

110.8

54

East Sydney

21

11

10

2233

2132

104.7

44

Newtown

21

9

11

1

2017

1933

104.3

38

Pennant Hills

21

8

13

2013

2080

96.8

32

Southern Dists

21

7

12

2

1795

2033

88.3

32

Balmain

21

21

1462

2734

53.5

 

North Shore won the grand final: 17-17 (119) to Western Suburbs 13-12 (90).