– 1904 Continued

The Maroons

There is more interesting data about football in Sydney in 1904.  Space did not allow us to publish it in its entirety in the last issue.


“MELBOURNE DEFEAT ESSENDON IN AN INTERESTING GAME On a Wet Ground at the SCG — 6000 People Present

The Adverse Weather Committee decided at 11 o’clock that the game Melbourne v Essendon must be played. As the rain was then falling in torrents at the SCG, with every prospect of continuing, many  thought the game would be not worth looking at.  At 1 o’clock a change took place, and by 2 the sun was shining and the rain had cleared off.”


So reported the local media with the VFL playing this round 4 clash in Sydney in a further effort to re-establish the game in there.

In local football, North Shore, or the Maroons, as they were known then, were easily the best side in the competition winning the flag over Balmain 5-13 to 2-8 after a season without defeat.  The previous year the club finished runner-up.

In July North Shore played the strong Melbourne School side, Wesley College when they toured Sydney.  Wesley easily won all their games leading up to the Shore match including a game on 12 July  against a team of teachers 29-19  to 6-4 at the SCG.  [1]

Then, there was so much rain though on the scheduled date of the North Shore encounter it was put over until the following Wednesday and on this occasion one of the spectators was the NSW Govenor, Sir Harry Rawson.  North Shore won 9-10 to 6-17 before a good mid week crowd. [2]

A month later on 13 August North Shore took on the strong Albury Imperials side also at the SCG and won 8-6 to 7-10 before a poor crowd estimated at 500 people.   Albury was at that stage, also undefeated in their local competition and strongly fancied their chances. [3}

In first grade, the Alexandria club were absorbed into the nearby Redfern side.

1904 though was a satisfying season for the league.  We have mentioned in a previous article the schools that participated in the regular weekly schools competition.  One of the organisers was Albert Nash, president of the NSWFL.  He told a meeting that 57 Sydney public schools were involved. [4]

The Catholic Primary Schools’ Association also held a competition involving the following schools :— St Patrick’s (Church Hill), St. Mary’s (City), Sacred Heart (Darlinghurst), St. Francis’ (Paddington), St. Charles (Waverley), St. Francis (City), St. Benedict’s (George Street), St. Vincent’s (Redfern), St. James (Forest Lodge), St. Augustine’s (East Balmain), St. Joseph’s (Balmain) and St. Mary’s (North Shore). Bro. Bonaventure, of St. Francis, acted as hon. sec. of the Association. [5]

The Reserve grade was conducted as a separate competition and not by the League.  It was known as the NSW Football Association and involved Hawkesbury Ag College, South Sydney, Darlinghurst, St Leonards, Sydney A and Balmain A teams.

The final was played at Richmond on the Hawkesbury Ag College ground where they defeated the young South Sydney team 6-10 to 1-8 but not without incident:

1907 Premiership Ladder

“Sir, — I read in your issue of last night a letter from Mr. Millard on the final match for the above, between Hawkesbery College and South Sydney, and would like to make a few remarks concerning the game. There was never a match won more on its merits. The College were leading by 31 points when the South Sydney team complained that it was too dark to continue, and started to walk off the field. The umpire agreed in my presence to go on with the game, but the South Sydney sportsmen kept arguing with him till it became too dark. The College timekeeper, when play ceased, made one and a half min. short of full time, and the South Sydney timekeeper then said there were three minutes to go, but since I think he has stretched It a bit. As the Australian rules are trying to get a footing in New South Wales it is a pity some thorough sportsmen cannot, be induced to play the game in place of some of the players who would call themselves such. It Is also a pity that when a team is fairly and badly beaten they cannot take their defeat In the proper spirit. — Yours. &c.,

K. C. HARPER, Hawkesbury College, Rlchmond, Aug. 30, ’04.” [6]

A month earlier the Hawkesbury side had received a “drubbing”at the hands of the the visiting Wesley College when the latter visited their Richmond ground.  The final score Wesley 14-11 to 2-6. [7]

[1]   Australian Star 13 July 1904, page 2
[2]   Australian Star 14 July 1904, page 2
[3]   Sydney Morning Herald 15 August 1904, page 4
[4]  Sydney Sportsman, Wednesday 28 September 1904, page 7
[5]  ibit

[6]   Australian Star, Friday 2 September 1904, page 2
[7]   Australian Star, Friday 8 July 1904, page 2

– Marngrook Again

The subject of Marngrook, the perceived game played by Aborigines in the 19th century, has once again surfaced this time by other academics who apparently and whole heartedly support the premise that the game of Australian Football was based or influenced by a game played by aborigines.

Many have debunked this notion as mere speculation but some seem to want it to become a fact and want the AFL to recognize it as such.

In 2012, the president of the NSW Football History Society, Ian Granland, provided the AFL with a version of the facts as he knew them.

Not an academic nor a person who has a PhD, Granland, if anything, is certainly a student of the game, having been deeply involved in it since the early 1960s.  He is widely read on football and is known to have written and spoken on many subjects relating to the code over the years.  He was awarded an Order of Australia medal for his services to the game in 2002.

In 2012 Granland was flown to Melbourne where he gave a recorded version on his opinion of the origin of the game; the origins of the game in NSW and how the AFL should treat VFA premierships and players records prior to the establishment of the VFL in 1897.

Recently, ABC’s Radio National interviewed Professor Jenny Hocking of the School of Journalism, Australian and Indigenous Studies at Monash University, particularly on the subject of Marngrook and its influence on Australian Football.  The interview can be heard here.

Granland’s presentation to the AFL in 2012 is as follows:

What role did Marngrook play in the formation of Australian Football?

I take a purely pragmatic view of this subject and ask that it be viewed as such.

This is no evidence of which I am aware, that supports the theory that Marngrook influenced the game of Australian Football whatsoever.

Writing in the Sydney Mail of 25 August 1883, William Hammersley a journalist and one of the signatories to the first recognized set of rules of the game, said, at the time these first rules were written:That “Tom Wills suggested the Rugby rules but no-body understood them but himself.”

Following this statement, (and a game) a group of men retired to the Parade Hotel where, after a period, they resolved to form themselves into a committee to “draw up a simple code of rules, and as few as possible, so that anyone could quickly understand.”

These rules were principally for the Melbourne Football Club and written by the aforementioned, all of whom were of European heritage.  One would think they are simple, straight forward and quite logical to act as a guide for people of the day to adopt and play by.

Thomas Wills was the only one of the seven who is recognized as having had any involvement with aborigines.  And yet it would appear that the rules do not reflect any abnormal deviation from what a reasonably minded person of the day would write.

Had Wills had a more dominant say in the construction of these rules, one would think that with his history and involvement in the rugby game, together with his abovementioned and a subsequently disregarded suggestion that those rules be adopted, would have held sway.  It clearly was not and I therefore submit that had he made any suggestion at the time to involve any part of the Marngrook game, these proposals would have been similarly treated.

These original rules were amended in July 1859 at a meeting where Tom Wills was not present.  The amendment was put by William Hammersley, an Englishman. 1

In terms of the original rules that were adopted and in particular, the distance between goal posts, the size of the ground, that captains should toss as to who should kick off, how a goal should be scored, what is meant as kicking ‘behind’ the goal and that a player shall call mark if he catches the ball – were very similar, if not the same as the rules used in the rugby game.

That the ball may be taken in hand “only” when caught from the foot, or on the hop and in “no case” shall it be “lifted” from the ground I believe was inserted to placate both rugby and soccer enthusiasts just the same as the rule prohibiting throwing was inserted in the interests of the soccer playing fraternity.

To quote from an article by A G Daws in a 1958 edition of the Quandrant Magazine, “the main aim of the early rules was to do away with the Rugby practice of running with the ball, because of the inevitable frequent scrimmages, hacking and tripping that went with it”

The rules were first amended in 1860 with an eventual redrafting of the laws in 1866 by H C A Harrison, at which Wills again was not present.  None of these changes in any way suggest an aboriginal influence.

The 1860 changes included:

Rule 8: Was deleted and replaced with: “The ball may not be lifted from the ground under any circumstances, or taken in hand, except as, provided for in rule 6 (catch from the foot), or when on the first hop. It shall not be run with in any case.” 2 

It is said, the most significant change was the provision for captains and umpiring in the newly added Rule 11: “In case of a deliberate infringement of any of the above rules, by either side, the captain of the opposite side may claim that any one of his party may have a free kick from the place where the breach of the rules was made; the two captains in all cases, save where umpires are appointed, to be the sole judges of “infringements”

A newspaper article further reports that “The remaining rules were confirmed without opposition. ”  I must ask,  “what remaining rules?”  Already I have found mention in a somewhat official medium of changes to rules 3 and 7 that were adopted however several newspaper articles of the time rebuke any alterations to those rules at that stage.  The article does go on to say “The Melbourne Football Club may fairly congratulate themselves on the fact, that their rules, with one exception, were formally adopted by the representatives of the (eight)  different clubs present. ” So clearly the rules the respective clubs abided by in 1860 and what we accept today as the foundation of the Laws of the Game, were still those of the Melbourne Football Club.

Therefore to say that Marngrook somehow motivated or shaped the early rules of the game is, to my mind, pure fantasy.  There is no real evidence nor is there any trace of anything that could support such a proposition and if the games were similar in some respects, I believe this was simply a co-incidence.

Without prejudice, let us not forget the social status of aborigines of the day and what we can surmise Europeans would have thought of incorporating rules of the aboriginal game into an effort to standardise what was purely a game of football played, at that time, and for the most part, by Europeans.  Today, it would well be different.

Finally, some contemporary writers fail to recognize how unstructured sport and in particular, football was in the mid-nineteenth century, and how racism was more than an accepted practice by the white community of the time.”

1.   Argus Newspaper, 4 July 1959 page 6
2.  Argus Newspaper, 28 May 1860 page 4
3.  Argus Newspaper, 29 May 1860 page 4

NSW v Melbourne FC

Ever s1923-07-31 Sydney Sportsman p.1 A thumbnailince football was played in NSW, a highlight of the season has been the visitation of an interstate team.

Before the establishment of the VFL in 1897 they came from the VFA and South Australia, then after the resurrection of the game in Sydney in 1903 visiting teams came thick and fast:  Geelong, South Melbourne, Williamstown, Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, North Adelaide, Norwood and the list goes on and on.

You can view what teams did visit and how they performed up to 1930 by clicking here and search under ‘Advanced Search’.

On most occasions the visitors left the gate with the NSW Football League to further enhance the game in Sydney.  But, the league battled.  There was never any real foresight, planning and strategies put in place to develop and grow the game in the early days.  They merely survived from year to year.

One club that did visit Sydney on four occasions was the Melbourne Football Club.

They played NSW or a Combined Sydney side on four separate occasions, winning one and losing three, but two of those were within a very close margin.

The game they crowed about was the win in 1911.  NSW won the game 14-12 (96) to 10-14 (74) and didn’t the local press pump up the win.  One headline read: Victors a Trifle Superior All Round, and Home Team Wins Brilliantly but the best read: NSW Whips Melbourne.  Were victories against these interstate teams all that rare – The Answer: Yes.

NSW’s RECORD IN INTERSTATE FOOTY

1938 NSW State Team to Launceston 1 smallWe have often been asked about NSWs history of interstate games and how successful they had been over the years.

Well we can tell you that the NSW Football Association, the forerunner to the NSW Australian Football League, played their first representative game at the MCG on 1 July 1881.  The match was against the then VFA which was the first controlling body for football in Victoria.  The VFL was formed in 1897 from some clubs that then comprised the VFA.

Behinds were not counted in the score in those days, winners were judged by the number of goals they kicked and just as well in this first game because the VFA or Victoria, kicked 9-24 to 0-1.  The game in Sydney had only been going for 12 months while of course it was founded in Melbourne with the first game recognized as being played in 1858.

NSW played twenty six representative games between 1881 and until the Association’s demise in 1894 and only won against their regular nemeses, Queensland.  They drew several of their other matches, mostly because behinds were not counted, an anomaly in the game that was changed in 1897.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, VFL clubs were falling over themselves to visit and play against the locals.  Some of the games were listed as NSW versus … or Metropolitan or alternatively, Combined Sydney and many of the records of the matches were lost or no effort was kept to maintain them.  So it has taken many long years of research and investigation to locate details of the respective games.

NSW’s most significant victories have been two over the VFL which were both played in Sydney.  They won the first of these in 1923, 15-11 to 11-19 and the other two years later by a point 13-10 to 13-9.  It is fair to say though on the weekends these games were played, the VFL fielded at least two other representative sides playing other interstate games so maybe their top side was not that which was fielded against NSW.

In the first thirty years of the last century they defeated Queensland (on several occasions), Port Adelaide, Geelong (twice), Tasmania (twice), South Adelaide, West Torrens, Melbourne, ACT, Sth Aust Football Assn and most of these games were played in Sydney.  They lost the rest which we have calculated as seventy.

The state has competed in numerous national carnivals, which up until the first war were played every three years in different states however in latter decades were relegated to competition between Tasmania, ACT and Queensland while the other states played in the same carnival but against supposedly (and more correctly) stronger opposition between themselves.

NSW have also played in at least three amateur carnivals, the most recent in a country championships carnival in Wagga in 2012.  The other two were held in Adelaide in 1936 and Launceston in 1938 and we have included a photograph of the team taken as they travelled to the apple isle by boat.

As part of the 1988 Bi-Centenary celebrations, a pure State of Origin team was selected to compete in the carnival in Adelaide.  They lost their game against South Australia but recorded their first ever win over WA 10-8 to 9-12.

Some might remember the pseudo State of Origin team NSW fielded on a rainy night game against the VFL on May 22 at the SCG.  They won that match 13-8 to 10-16, much to the chargrin of Victorian selector, Ted Whitton.  We say pseudo because the team contained several Sydney Swans players who were not born, nor played their junior football in NSW.

To sum it up, NSW have lost far more than they have won in interstate contests and now the state combines their fortunes with players selected from the ACT, so here’s to the future.

GORDON BOWMAN PASSES

Gordon Bowman colour smallWe don’t often publish news of the death of former Sydney footballers, mostly because, as life has it unfortunately this happens every day.

However it is worth noting the passing of a person who had a considerable influence on Sydney football, certainly very much in the eve of his football playing career.

His name was Gordon Bowman.  It probably means little to contemporary players and administrators of today but back in the late sixties this 40 year old, as captain coach of the Newtown Club, took his side to successive premierships in 1967-68 and a grand final the following year.

Playing at 41, he tied for the 1968 first grade leading goalkicking award with Easts, Jack Hamilton.

If anyone deserved recognition in football it was this man.

Originally from the East Malvern club in suburban Melbourne, he made his debut with Melbourne FC as an 18 year old in 1945.  He went on to play 53 games with the Dees, mostly on the forward flank and was a member of the 1948 VFL premiership team following the famous draw with Essendon in the initial grand final.

After Melbourne, Bowman had two seasons with Hawthorn then moved to Tasmania where he captained-coached the Sandy Bay Club to a premiership in his first year.  At the same time he also coached the Tasmanian side.

He later moved to Brisbane where he captained and coached the Mayne Club, which included two premierships in his time with them, as well as the Queensland state side.

Moving to Sydney with his employment in 1967 he was talked into coaching the highly famous Newtown Club, which had been starved of a premiership for 17 years, by a young and enthusiastic club secretary, John Armstrong.

Bowman was the general manager of Hume Industries, at the time the well established manufacturers of concrete pipes.

He changed the culture at Newtown and an official of the time said he “made average players do extra-ordinary things”.

Following his time with the Red and Whites Bowman coached the North Shore club in 1970-71 but could only manage third place.  He returned to Newtown in 1973 but failed to achieve the success of earlier years.

Bowman eventually retired to Tasmania about 15 years ago where, amongst other things, he involved himself with horses in the trotting industry.

Bowman was named in the best 25 players ever at the Sandy Bay Club and is a member of Queensland Football’s, Hall of Fame.  In fact he possesses what we believe is a unique record: He played in premiership teams in four different senior state leagues: Melbourne, Sandy Bay, Mayne and Newtown.

His passing followed a period of illness and his presence in football will be sorely missed.