Mac Uni – 50 Years and Still There – and same umpire!!

                      Umpire from Mac Uni’s 1970 game,
                 Jim McSweeney tossing the 1911 penny

In the early 1970s the NSW Football League were at a loss what to do with the new clubs that began to emerge, certainly in Sydney.

In 1969 Western Suburbs, Newtown, North Shore and a burgeoning Balmain headed the senior list, by miles.

Sydney Naval were on their last legs and South Sydney (both original Sydney Clubs) were getting defeated by a cricket score each week.  These two were at the bottom of the table in firsts and seconds.

Then there were the Universities.  Sydney University had swapped places with UNSW from firsts to reserve grade which earnt them a premiership,  UNSW went no-where in the top grade finishing just above Sydney Naval.

So 1970 presented a problem.  The Metropolitan Australian National Football Association (MANFA – the old second division) went out of business 20 odd years before however league officials were reluctant to engage a new second division into the Sydney competition, but the pressure was there.

In the end Sydney Uni, UNSW & South Sydney teams were slotted into the senior division reserve grade along with a new contender, Macquarie University.  Later St Ives, Warringah, Salesians and Penshurst made up the new Sydney Districts Association along with minor teams from some of the senior clubs.  Almost ludicrously that year, 8 teams played in First Grade, with 12 teams in Reserve Grade – such was the skill differential.  So on numerous occasions the seconds did not play at the same venue as the first grade, déjà vu perhaps?

  A Younger Jim McSweeney

Macquarie University’s first opponent (ever) in their initial season was South Sydney; a relegated club trying to make the best of it.  That was 1970.

In that first ever competition match on 4th April 1970 against South Sydney, at Erskineville Oval, Jim McSweeney was the Field Umpire. In those times it was just one Central Umpire. South Sydney went on to beat Macquarie Uni 13-13 (91) to 3-6 (24).

However fast forward to last weekend when the Sydney AFL Season finally got their 2020 season underway.

Macquarie University AFL Club celebrating their 50th anniversary were opposed to last year’s premiers, Southern Power.

To commemorate the 50 years, Macquarie Uni invited the 80 plus Jim, a member of the Football History Society, to conduct the coin toss.  Macquarie are now in Platinum Division and the game was a rematch of the 2019 Grand Final which Southern Power won.

In a very tightly contested and exciting game, this time played at Macquarie’s home ground, resulted in the lead changing twice in the last quarter. It was Macquarie who reversed the result of last year’s Grand Final, winning by 4 points 5-7 (37) to 4-9 (33).

Movement in the Seventies

The development and expansion of NSW football took place mostly in the 1970s really makes you ask why?

The last major addition to Sydney football was in 1948 when Western Suburbs and Balmain re-emerged and Sydney University were formed.

But in the seventies not only did new clubs appear in Sydney, including Manly, St Ives, Sutherland, Blacktown, Mac Uni, Bankstown Sports, Campbelltown, Pennant Hills etc. but new leagues developed on the South Coast, the Illawarra and Central Coast  all spawning new teams.

One reason offered for the expansion of the game was that the baby boomers began moving out to the suburbs and regional areas.

City clubs like Sydney Naval, South Sydney and later Newtown felt that exit and went out of business.  These were inner city clubs that excelled during the first half of the last century but struggled when the youth was no longer there to take over.

The East Sydney Club, formerly Eastern Suburbs, emerged out of an amalgamation of Paddington and East Sydney Clubs in 1926.  They withstood the exodus for most of the century however they began to rely heavily on interstate players and players from out of their area.  They kept a junior division but it struggled to sustain the re-supply of players needed at senior club level.  Eventually they combined with the University of NSW in 2000 to form a new club, UNSW-ES.

This was the first time their officials saw the need to merge whilst Sydney (Naval) on the other hand had combined with the reserve grade Public Service Club in 1923 and not that much later with Balmain in 1926.  On both occasions they stuck with their given name.  They did however toy with the idea of changing the title to Glebe in about 1930, shortly after shifting their home ground to Wentworth Park, but, they maintained the title, Sydney, until 1944 when the naval influence in the club resolved to alter it to Sydney Naval.

Clubs have come and gone;  the present Blacktown club for example is the third to assume that name.

While Newtown faded off to oblivion there did appear to be a whisker of light with the emergence of a new Newtown junior club some years ago. The aging South Sydney faithful may hold out a glimmer of hope that one day the Randwick Saints might work their way to the purpose built Australian football ground at Kensington Oval.  But, like Trumper Park, the grandstand there has been demolished.