Rep Games in 1947

One of the gun NSW Players from 1947: Frank Larkin

During the past ten months or so we have written a number of stories on the year 1947 but we found there is more to be said.

In that year the NSW Football League (NSWANFL) played TWELVE representative matches – four of which were played on consecutive days over respective weekends (see green shade). Three of these games were played in Sydney and the other in Broken Hill;  all were against different opponents.  Of course the respective NSW teams that played on the both days of these same weekends were made up of different players.

Now if you have ever been involved with representative football or even club football, putting a team on the field requires a fair amount of planning, commitment and work.  The team which travelled to Tasmania comprised of players from Sydney, Broken Hill, Riverina and Albury.

Now granted 1947 was a year of a national carnival, played in Hobart (shaded in yellow) which made up four of the games, but nevertheless the other matches required players, managers, trainers, jumpers, shorts and socks and the list goes on.

In one of our earlier posts about 1947 we mentioned that the league secretary of the time, Ken Ferguson, made a public appeal for ‘clothing coupons’ in order to purchase player ‘clothing.’  Remember, this was just two years after the finish of WWII and the general public were still operating under the coupon system for food and clothing etc.

When the NSW Carnival team returned from Hobart, as if they didn’t have enough football, the league arranged for this side to play “The Rest” on the following weekend.

‘The Rest’ were made up from players not chosen in the NSW Carnival contingent but were Sydney players selected in the other NSW teams whilst the main team was in Tasmania.

So from a competition of seven Sydney clubs a total of 66 players were involved in representative football during that year. A further six were selected from clubs outside the metropolitan area.

Here are the matches:

1947-05-25 Sydney Queensland 20.13 (133) 15-17 (107) Won
1947-06-01 Sydney Broken Hill 18-15 (123) 8-13 (61) Won
1947-06-14 Broken Hill Broken Hill 12-12 (84) 11-9 (75) Lost
1947-06-15 Sydney Canberra 21-9 (135) 19-16 (130) Won
1947-06-21 Brisbane Queensland 18-22 (130) 18-24 (132) Won
1947-07-30 Hobart Canberra 13-18 (96) 7-8 (50) Won
1947-08-01 Hobart Tasmania 6-10 (46) 16-10 (106) Lost
1947-08-06 Hobart South Australia 14-12 (86) 17-9 (111) Lost
1947-08-08 Hobart Queensland 12-6 (76) 5-12 (42) Won
1947-08-09 Sydney Subiaco FC 8-11 (59) 11-10 (76) Lost
1947-08-10 Sydney East Fremantle FC 20-13 (133) 15-11 (101) Lost
1947-08-17 Sydney “The Rest” 21-18 (144) 13-16 (94) Won

You can see by the last score that the better players in the Sydney competition were chosen for the main NSW team.
All NSW games from 1881-1947, together with all their details, players, umpires and scores are listed here.

NSWAFL 1947 annual report
NSWAFFL 1947 Football Records
Metropolitan and Broken Hill newspapers of the day

– Appeal For Clothing Coupons

Copy of coupons

 As the expression goes “things are crook in Talarook”.

Well they were in the Second World War when the Federal Government introduced food and clothing rationing for everyone, from the elderly to babies.  Such rationing regulations were gazetted on 14 May 1942. It was introduced to manage shortages and control civilian consumption. It aimed to curb inflation, reduce total consumer spending and limit impending shortages of essential goods.

Football Record acknowledgement

These rationing restrictions were not relaxed until a number of years after the war.  In the case of clothing it was June 1948 and tea in July 1950! [1]  This extended action after the war by the Labor Government proved very unpopular.

“What has all this to do with football you ask?”

In 1947 the NSW Football League played an incredible seven representative games and were also involved in an additional four during an All-States Carnival, played in Hobart.  The issue with this was the league did not have the capacity to purchase the necessary equipment, ie jumpers, short, socks, blazers etc., to outfit the team which travelled to Tasmania. (blazers may have been an over statement)

In one weekend in June, the League sent a representative team to play in Broken Hill while at the same time hosted a Canberra rep team in a match at Trumper Park.  In this game, the NSW AFL team wore Newtown’s red and white jumpers.

Such was the shortage, a plea went out for clothing coupons to the greater football population in Sydney which could be pooled to purchase the required gear.

Gradually people donated their coupons, a huge sacrifice from their family’s allocation and this was two years after the war had finished!  The League Secretary (General Manager), Ken Ferguson, himself donated 48 coupons and he was at the time, a person with a young family.  These donations were acknowledged in the Sydney Football Record – see attachments.

So when the time came, the NSW team to Hobart went smartly dressed and well decked out.

There was no mention of this in the league’s 1947 annual report with the only expenditure item listed was ‘Uniforms – eighteen pounds and sixpence’.  The league sold the ties and representative team photos.  They did receive a seven hundred and ninety pound allocation from the Australian National Football Council (the promoters of the carnival) and a refund of their players’ and officials fares, which by the way, was by train to Melbourne and boat to Tasmania.

[1] AWM – Website – Food and clothing rationing during the Second World War.

Sixteen a side

Sixteen a side, an interesting concept isn’t it?

The old VFA played sixteen a side for years, with great success I might add and there are probably many leagues throughout our land which still play with the same number.

Ever wonder why soccer is so popular?  Besides the fact that Mum thinks little Johnny won’t get hurt, here is the answer:

There are eleven players on each side;  not many to rustle up for a kick around is it?  Team A kicks (or faces) one way and Team B kicks the other.  The object is by not touching the ball with the hand, kick it through those goal posts at the other end.  Simple isn’t it?

If you are a junior coach in soccer how easy is it?  “You face this way and if the ball comes near you, kick it that way.”  And if you win the comp everyone thinks you are a genius. I have often thought “what a simple principle”  But what do we do?  We invent the best game in the world and muddle it up by introducing all these rules.  In 1859 there were 12.  How many are there now?

Plus, now the central umpire – there are three in the big time where this booming voice comes from secreted part of the ground to Intermittently adjudicate on a score – has the discretion to allow a free kick to go unheeded in order to ‘keep the game flowing.’   Great idea, but what pressure does that put on our umpires while Waldo Bloggs, who might be watching the game for the first time must ask himself, “what is going on?”

Anyhow16aside, enough of that.  The game was started with 20 players on each side with NO reserves or interchange.  All that changed in the 1890s when the new competition, the Victorian Football League, changed it to 18 aside.  Still no reserves.

Did you know that in 1935 the Eastern Suburbs Club in Sydney, a club long lost in the mix-up of clubs, names and teams put forward a proposal to cut the number of players from 18 to 16 (great idea).  At the same time they proposed a crossbar be put between the goalposts and a goal had to be kicked through and under the crossbar (I dont know about that one).  Starting to complicate things, isn’t it?  Well the concept went off to the long gone Australian National Football Council which failed to give it any support.

Then along came a ‘new broom’  in 1960-61  when Joe Boulus, from Broken Hill was appointed fulltime secretary of the NSW AFL (it was all honorary before then).  He followed Ken Ferguson who gave the league 35 years of his time as league secretary.  A fair effort and Ken was a lovely bloke.

They introduced sixteen aside in the Sydney competition.  However the traditionalists of the game howled it down, although they agreed they were playing on smaller grounds than most of Australia “but it wasn’t real football if there weren’t eighteen on the paddock.”  One reason Sydney football has failed is because some couldn’t see 16aside 3the forest for the trees.

So six months later and mid-season it was back to 18 aside.

Then in 1998 when the AFL usurped control over the game in NSW with an appointed administration as opposed to an one elected, John Livvy, the new CEO changed Sydney team numbers to 16. GOOD!  But it too didn’t last long so here we are, the majority of the teams in a what can broadly be described as a successful but sometimes struggling code in NSW, where if you can’t get the required numbers, you forfeit and yet we are still yet to get to where they would be happy with numbers playing the game.

Or is it that the majority of our young now play their sport on a tablet?

Do you know that in some soccer comps play 5 aside?

A Testing Time

1956 Alf Snow 001In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.

We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.

1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.

The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”

Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.

So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.

Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.

Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.

Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.

The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.

So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.

It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did 1969 Hart, Felstead, Ferguson & Hayes thumbnailnot show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.

The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of  the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.

Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”

However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.

From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).

By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.

The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.

The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s.  From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.


Bob Merrick – Goalkicker

1917 Bob MerrickWe came across some interesting information when researching Sydney goalkickers.

The Sydney 1st grade goalkicking list is far from complete although we are slowly closing the gaps. Next to no records were kept of the goalkickers (or any other players for that fact) until the league went through a minor restructure in 1926.  Then though, the scant record keeping started from that year.

That was when the successful Paddington Club joined together with East Sydney to form Eastern Suburbs to play in the familiar red, white and blue.

Balmain and Railway clubs disappeared and “District” football was reintroduced.

It was almost from then that football achievements were recorded, mainly due to the efforts of long term league secretary, Ken Ferguson.

Bob Merrick was a Port Melbourne Gun. He was small for a full forward at 175cm and sometimes was used in other positions but mainly he kept on the forward line. At 21 he won Port’s leading goalkicking award in 191,  then again in 1914 & 15. His 1915 effort also saw him top the VFA goalkicking list with 43 goals. In July of that year he kicked 10 against Brighton and his form was so good that early in that season, the Carlton Club offered Port Melbourne £50 ($100 or $ today) to “buy him out”. In other words, pay Port Melbourne to transfer Merrick to the Blues.

However in mid July he was on crutches after hospitalisation with an injured knee he received while playing. The injury kept him off the field and presumably out of work for 15 weeks. So much did it effect him that his club were obliged to hold a benefit night and fund for him.

Merrick 1 small Merrick 2 small Merrick 3 small

By December, Merrick was playing cricket so he obviously overcame his disability.

What, I can hear you ask does all this have to do with NSW Football?

Well in May of the next year, Bob Merrick turned out for the East Sydney Club. This in a period that the VFA had gone into recess because of WWI and the lack of man power.

At full forward, Merrick won Sydney Football’s 1917 Leading Goalkicking Award booting 35 majors. In the same year he was married. Merrick also played the 1918 year for East Sydney and again figured prominently in the goals.

In 1919 at aged 27 he transferred to the Fitzroy Club where he went on to play 59 games booting 181 goals. He topped Fitzroy’s goalkicking in 1919, 20 & 22. In round 16, 1919 he booted 12 goals against the Melbourne FC at Brunswick Street.  He missed playing in the Maroon’s 1922 premiership due to his re-occurring knee injury.

Merrick played country football and had one last shot at the VFL in 1926. He then tried his hand at umpiring.

Rosebery Football Club

Between 1923 – 1953, what we would know as a second division, The Metropolitan Australian National Football Association, operated in Sydney.

We have written before about this competition before, however in the past few days, documents have come to light which shed more details on the Association but more particularly on one of the participants, the Rosebery Football Club.

Rosebery is a southern suburb of Sydney, near Mascot, and land was first released there in 1912 on which it was intended to build a ‘model suburb’.

Initially the vast majority of the houses were built of that dark brick so common of the houses of the day.

Many dwellings were constructed between 1912-20 in the numerous streets which make up the suburb and most of the children would have attended the Gardeners Road Public School which is located on the corner of Gardeners and Botany Roads, Rosebery.  At one stage around that period the school population boasted 1800 students.

Rupert Browne, a teacher and sports master at the school from 1911-50, promoted Australian football and was responsible for many young men taking on the game and playing for clubs throughout Sydney.

Besides junior teams, the Rosebery Football Club fielded an A grade in the Metropolitan Association for most of its existence, apart from WWII when manpower was scarce.

Rosebery A Grade Premiers 1928 small1937 Rosebery Football Club - 1st Grade small 1939 Rosebery Football Club - 1st Grade thumbnail


We now have several images of the club’s premiership teams from the 1920s and 1930s.

Jack Hayes, a former junior of the club, who went on to play with Footscray and later coached St George, coached the club’s premiership sides of 1937 & 39.  For those who remember, the familiar faces of long term NSWAFL Secretary, Ken Ferguson and South Sydney official, Alby Young, appear in the 1928 photograph.

In the material we have been given are the 1946 and 1947 annual reports which give a glimpse of football of that level in those days.  You can peruse these documents by clicking either of the years.

They make for a very interesting read, particularly an expense item in 1946 for ‘sherry’ which was often given to players during the breaks on a cold day.


As this season fades into history, we have been looking round for something to write about.  The question is, where do we start.

Then we identified a year which heralded so much change to football in NSW: 1970.

It would take several sessions to outline what did take place in that year, so we have centred on just a few events.

It was Australia’s Bi-Centenary.  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh together with Princess Anne and Prince Charles visited Australia to join with the rest of the country in the celebrations.

And they didn’t miss watching a game of Australian football as shown in the photo – details below

And in Sydney, a show for the Royals was put on at the Trocodero in Sydney’s George Street.  This was a large dance and concert hall that operated between 1936 and 1971.  It was once regarded as the “most glamorous dance palace in Sydney and accommodated up to 2,000 people”. It was the favoured venue for university and school ‘formals’, and hosted many important local rock and pop concerts during the 1960s.  The block of cinemas has replaced the old Troc. between Liverpool and Bathurst Streets.

It was April when the Royal party “met young sportsmen (we don’t know if the word sportsmen refers to both genders) from all parts of the state” we were told.

Our Australian Rules representatives included David Sykes, captain coach of Newtown, Rodney Tubbs the captain coach of Sydney University Club, Bob Sterling and Emmanuel (Manny) Keriniaua from the St George Club.  Also Ian Allen, North Shore and NSW centre half back and Chris Huon, one of the young brigade of umpires making their mark on Sydney football.”

Both David Sykes, Ian Allen and Chris Huon are members of the Football History Society.

On the opening day of the season a team of Northern Territory Aboriginal Schoolboys played a Sydney Schoolboys team in an Under 16 match.  The boys from the north cleaned up the Sydney side, 17-12 (114) to 11-12 (78) at Picken Oval.

It is interesting to look at the names of some of the Sydney players and the junior clubs they came from. For example:



Alan Bouch (son of NSWAFL Board Member, Doug) Warringah
Graeme Foster  –  later Balmain, East Sydney and NSW player Ermington
Mark Andrews(son of Brian, a former state player and Balmain coach) who played with North Shore Warringah
David McVey –  who went on to win a Kealey Medal with St George
Mark McClurelater captain of Carlton FC Eastern Suburbs
Greg Harris –  later state player and captain coach of East Sydney FC St George
Bill Free  – former Newtown player was the coach
Other junior clubs that no longer exist or have had a name change: Warwick Farm, Holsworthy, Green Valley, Bankstown Sports, Manly/Seaforth


In 1970, the long term league secretary Ken Ferguson retired and was given a well attended sendoff at the Western Suburbs Club.

At last the league introduced a second division after years of half-hearted attempts to cater for burgeoning clubs in Sydney.  The clubs that comprised the league’s other open age competition since the demise of the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association in 1952 were: Warringah, St Ives, Salasians, Penshurst, UNSW, Sydney University and Western Suburbs.  Later, North Shore and South Sydney also entered teams.

The second division thing just wasn’t right, it was unbalanced.  Because they didn’t have enough clubs to go round in a stand alone competition, Sydney Uni, UNSW, South Sydney and Macquarie University fielded their senior teams in the normal open age reserve grade, which, like today, created problems at away games.  This was corrected the following season.

1970-04-01 - Chris Huon Invitation to Royal Reception small1970 was Sydney Naval’s last hurrah.  It was their final year in the competition after such a splendid involvement in the game dating back to 1881.  There was an attempt to combine the club with the struggling South Sydney side but that too failed. South in fact, were on their knees after being relegated following a number of poor seasons.  But with a band of willing workers they managed a further half a dozen years.

There were early moves to play a Victoria v South Australia game at the SCG mid season.  The expenses were estimated at in excess of $30,000 (assessed using the Reserve Bank of Australia’s calculator today at $317,647.06), seems a bit rich, but thats the reason the game did not go ahead and Sydney had to wait until 1974 to see the Vics play the Crows at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Big news during the season was that Wests were to lose their home ground of Picken Oval to a supermarket complex.  Canterbury Council failed to give the idea the green light so it was shelved but it didn’t take too many years before a further and very damaging issue effected the relationship between Wests and their ground.

The Newtown club opened clubrooms on the normally unknown mid level in the grandstand at Erskineville Oval.  It wasn’t long though before they moved their social activities to the old Stage Club at 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern which became the Newtown Rules Club.

And finally for the first time in Sydney, the ABC telecast highlights of two VFL games each Saturday Night at the very late time of 10:50pm, well before the introduction of domestic VCR – recorders.  It didn’t take long before the then very conservative ABC decided to ditch the show producing howls of complaint from footy followers.  So much so that the league printed a form on which supporters could register their PROTEST to the Director of Programmes, ABC 2, Sydney. It worked and these highlights were retained for the rest of the season.

Our photograph of course is not Sydney football, but the Queen being introduced to the Fitzroy team in the same year.  Some questions for you about this event:

*  What ground was the game played at?
*  Which team played Fitzroy on that day?
*  What was the most unusual and in fact unique circumstance of this game?

And seeing Australia lost probably its most iconic prime minister this week, it is worth a mention that either in the late fifties or early sixties, Gough took one of his sons along to Rosedale Oval to learn the game of Australian football.  We don’t think there were many follow up visits.

You can send your answers to this address: Click here.


19661966 could be judged as just another year in Sydney football.  The footy system went on as normal but we take a deeper look at the season which is just 48 years ago.

Wests won the flag before a crowd of 7,000 at Trumper Park, Sydney Naval’s Norm Tuxford took out the Phelan Medal, Don McKenna an army recruit from the St George club booted 71 goals to win the first grade Leading Goalking Award, the league returned a (never to be repeated) profit of $2,575 on the Football Record, Eastern Suburb’s Roy Hayes, was made life member of the league, a junior competition was started in the Balmain-Ryde area which included North Ryde, Ermington, Pennant Hills-Normanhurst as well as a Balmain junior club and long term league secretary, Ken Ferguson once again took the reigns at the league, this time in a fulltime capacity.

The league consolidated their newly acquired premises at 64 Regent Street Chippendale, (a photo of which now adorns the website front page in a rotating banner) and again recorded their recognition and appreciation for its purchase to the Western Suburbs Licensed Club.  Sydney Naval and Eastern Suburbs clubs, separately, had their applications for a licensed rejected by the Licensing Court.

A direct and live broadcast (albeit of the second half) by Channel 7 of the Western Suburbs v Sydney Naval game on June 4 game gave the code a lift while East’s captain-coach, Alan Gray was transferred to Wagga prior to the end of the season, upsetting the club’s plans for the finals  Souths had a foreign legion in the senior side which only contained three locals.

Junior players in the state’s Under 15 training squad included Jack Slade (Newtown), Phil Fenny (Wests), Paul Paitry (Easts), Chris Bucko and Paul McCook (St George) were some who would go on to play senior football in Sydney.  Peter Hastings, SC, QC, former Tribunal Chairman who now heads the NSW Crime Commission, was president and player of the Sydney University Club.

Forty-two year old, Jack Armstrong, The Black Fella, retired from umpiring.  Incidentally the Society is working on a story of this once legend of Sydney football which will be published soon.  Ellis Noack was captain-coach of the Southern Districts club.  St George moved to their new home on the site of a former quarry which became Olds Park.  In the rules of the game, the flick-pass was ditched.

History Society president, Ian Granland, began his long journey in football administration when elected secretary of the South Sydney club at age 17 and Vice President, Bill Carey, played his 100th consecutive first grade game for Balmain.

Former VFL umpire and Sydney Naval Coach, Bill Quinn, who went on to become a wonderful supporter of the Sydney Swans club, was appointed coach of the NSW Umpires Assn.  And who could not forget the appointment of Ray Catherall as Sydney Naval’s coach.  Ray, a restauranteur,  had Mother’s Cellar and Moby Dicks restaurants at Kings Cross in his stable.  He gained international notoriety by playing ‘soothing’ music to his players in the change rooms at half time breaks.  He only last one season at the club only to move on to coach Sydney University the following year.

However one of the biggest and least remembered events of the season was the umpiring furore at Trumper Park on July 10 when NSW played North Melbourne.

Our last featured photograph prompted a few memories when, in the days of one (central) umpire, the then Umpires’ Assn secretary and the 1965 Sydney grand final umpire, Len Palmer, was ‘unappointed’ from the game and replaced by VFL umpire, Stan Fisher.

We contacted the Ettalong based Palmer to get the real story.

KilligrewHe said he was at the ground and had begun to change into his umpiring attire when Kangaroo’s coach, the 168cm former St Kilda dynamo, Alan Killigrew (pictured) told officials that “he would not let his boys be umpired by someone from a football outpost like Sydney.”  When asked to be reasonable about the matter and that the 31 year old Palmer, who was after all,  was straight off the VFL Reserves Umpiring list in 1964 and quite competent of handling the match, but the volatile Killigrew refused and stood his ground.

Minutes before the start of the game, Sydney officials had no choice but to capitulate.

Palmer said he had been told before the match that a VFL umpire was at the ground but he did not know his identity.  North Melbourne had brought Fisher to Sydney for the game but there appeared to be no prior communication on the appointment between the two organising parties.

Fisher, who began his VFL umpiring career in 1963 and by then had umpired over 40 league games, was embarrassed about the controversy and suggested to Palmer that they eac do one half.  Palmer could see the problems this could cause and declined his offer.  He then sat on the sideline as the reserve umpire but joined in the after-match hospitality at the Wests Club.

NSW was soundly beaten 20.17 (137) to 7.11 (53).  And incidentally, several current members of the Society were in that NSW team including Brian Tyler, Denis Aitken and Peter Burgess.

As a show of their support for Palmer, the league had sent him to Canberra only weeks before to umpire the Queensland v ACT game at Manuka Oval.  He 1966 NSWANFL 1st Semi Final 1 smallalso umpired the 1966 Sydney Grand Final before he retired from umpiring due to his work in the TAB.

When asked if he had any regrets he said no, “Football gave me a great journey through life and I have made some wonderful friends.  I wouldn’t change a thing” he replied.

Our photograph shows Len Palmer taking the field for the 1966 Sydney Grand Final at Trumper Park.  Note the crowd.  The footballs the umpires had in their hands were used for bouncing and throw-in practice.  None was the match ball.


Some of us are into statistics, some are not.

Obviously the honorary secretary of the NSWAFL from 1936-60 and then fulltime secretary between 1966-69, Ken Ferguson, was. (A young Ken Ferguson is pictured)

In a meticulous effort, Ferguson, a clerk with NSW Railways, maintained a chart of the gate takings from the attendances at all grounds in Sydney between 1930-50.

Right up until the early 1980s, the league took the gate takings at all games.  They paid gate keepers and also for the hire of the grounds and kept club affiliation fees to a minimum.

Ferguson kept a record of gate takings in each year; The competition matches, finals, the particular ground at which the income was received as well the takings at interstate matches that were held in Sydney.  His details were all recorded in Australia’s former currency of pounds, however, in our main graph (left)  we have converted the figures to dollars.  The problem is we don’t, at this stage, have sufficient information to provide the changes in gate charges and their respective increases over the years.  Also, there was an additional charge for those who wanted seating in grandstands at the grounds.  This was only available in that period at Trumper Park and Erskineville Oval.  The difference between the actual gate charges and the additional payment for grandstand seating was was never separated.

Another statistic we have not shown is say, the average male wage of the day, to the admission charge, which would give you some idea of the depth of the fee.

Previously, we have shown a graph of the total gate takings over the years and in fact up to 1960.  We have replicated this graph for our story.  The income is shown in pounds.

Our primary graph showing the yearly takings at the respective grounds may be a little difficult to understand, particularly when reading from 1948-50 because more grounds came online when three additional clubs, Western Suburbs, Balmain and University, joined the competition.  Additionally the programme does not allow us to feature more colours and/or line designs to differentiate the many number of grounds displayed.

You will see in green, the enormous jump in gate takings when Sunday football at Trumper Park was introduced during the war.

Sunday football was not primarily introduced in an attempt to raise more revenue for the league.  Sport played on Sundays was not only frowned upon but virtually illegal and the league almost found themselves in court over the issue.

They were however, the first sport (in particular, of all football codes) to play on Sundays.  This came about because of the lack of grounds at which they could charge a gate and gate money was by far the largest income stream for the league.

Fortuitously, and as we have mentioned, this occurred during WWII, and because there were so many servicemen in Sydney, many of whom were star players from other states, patrons (and in particular, other servicemen) thronged to Trumper Park to watch them play.

In retrospect it was an element of their time that officials in Sydney not only failed to recognize but more importantly, failed to capitalise upon this boost in popularity in the sport.  This increased income from the gate, as you can see, grew into the thousands, but where did the money go?  Another opportunity lost for Sydney football.


We mentioned recently that Sydney University first put their toe in the water in the Sydney competition in 1887 but only lasted for a season and a half.

With some of their history, we have taken the following from the club’s website ( :

In 1935 attempts were made to re-establish the Sydney University Australian Football Club but without success. Again in April 1936, a notice was published in “Honi Soit” inviting students to form a club. Some Australian football must have been played at about that time as Alan Grozier is recorded as having been awarded a Blue in Australian football, but was not until 1947 that the club finally reincarnated itself. Even then its entry to the competition was delayed and it was not until 1948 that it started to play officially. The club got off to a promising start and seemed to have a number of good players. The club captain, John Marshall, was a former Canberra representative and the coach was “Bubber”  Phelan, a famous name in Sydney football. Len Fulton, a 19-year-old rover was selected in the State team to play South Fremantle. Tom O’Byrne a centreman from Tasmania was selected to play against Broken Hill in the same year and in 1949 was State captain. The Club received instant recognition within the University and was awarded three Blues in 1948, three in 1949 and three in 1950. The captain, John Marshall, ruckman and later Doctor John Neasey (who had played for Hobart University) and  Tom O’Byrne were the recipients in 1948.

The Club was soon back in the Intervarsity competition which was held in Sydney in 1949 in the course of which Sydney University actually defeated Adelaide University.

The revival was well timed because from 1951 the government commenced to fund fees for sporting institutions at universities which led to approval by the Sydney University Senate for the improvement of sporting facilities including the provision of dressing sheds on the ovals for those participating in athletics, rugby union, Australian rules and soccer.

It did not take long before the club established one of its long-standing traditions by playing the same team in first and reserve grades in 1951 after the annual inter-varsity competition. The club lost most of its games that year and attracted considerable criticism for not being competitive, but the most stinging criticism came in the Sunday paper of 3 June 1951 when it was reported that some of the University players engaged in inappropriate conduct because they wore odd socks and, even worse, one player took the field sockless.

In 1952 it was reported that the post-inter-varsity tradition was fulfilled again when on 9 July 1952 in a match against South Sydney 13 reserve grade players doubled up as a number of players had  arrived back in Sydney at noon for the game that afternoon after travelling by train from Adelaide which they had left at 6 PM on Thursday. The club was in trouble because the team had travelled to Adelaide without having obtained permission from the League, but the secretary, Ken Ferguson, showed some compassion by indicating that in his view any player who played after so many hours on a train deserved praise. (with thanks to their website manager for this information)

As we scoured through our records we found some additions that might well be of interest.

Firstly, as you will see, is a photograph of their 1949 match in the Intervarsity carnival against the University of Adelaide.

Second is the programme from the 1949 Carnival which you can read by clicking here.  In addition to this we have been able to dig up the match programme from the 1953 series, also held in Sydney and you can view this document by clicking here.

If these documents prove too big to view, simply print a copy.

With the club’s elevation into the NEAFL it will be very interesting to see how they perform, not only on the field but how their administration stacks up.  It is no secret that prior to Mark Skinner’s involvement, the club struggled off the field.  Since however, they have become a very well oiled unit and begin their quest in the big time competition with training commencing 6.15pm, from 9 January at St Pauls Oval, Sydney University.  We are unsure if you can follow their progress on Tweet.