– Second Grade or Second Division in Sydney?

Sydney football holds a wonderful hoard of historical and interesting data and when we drill down deeper into some of these records we are able to discover new information that provides a far wider view of a particular situation or event.

Such is the case with reserve grade football which later morphed  into another division part of which became ‘Sydney Districts Association’ then Second Division.

When the game was first introduced to Sydney in 1880, clubs only had one grade.  Because some became numerically stronger they formed a second twenty (teams played with twenty players in those days) which on many occasions was called a ‘junior’ grade.  When first researching the subject it took a lot of intense examination to separate an actual ‘junior’ or under age team from a ‘junior’ or second twenty side.

These second twenty teams at first played either between themselves, school teams or clubs that were seen as less talented and just starting.  If they played against a ‘senior’ team, on most occasions they were permitted to play with twenty two or three players on the field as an advantage over the opposition.

When the game was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, eleven clubs fielded senior teams in a competition conducted by the NSW Australian Football League.  The administration in what we would call the reserve grade was conducted by a separate and autonomous group called the NSW Football Association.  Players were not permitted to move between the two grades regardless if they played for the same club.

This group folded during WWI because of the lack of numbers only to be revived in 1919 with similar management and a separate draw.

By 1922 the following clubs participated in the reserve grade: Ashfield, Public Service, Railway, East Sydney, South Sydney, Paddington, Illawarra (St George) and Botany.  In that year there were also eight teams in the first grade.  The trouble was, not all first grade teams had reserve grade sides and this caused problems with the draw.

In the following season the League took over the operation of the seconds and called the competition the NSW Junior Football League.  The errant second grade teams were then officially placed with a singular first grade team and played as the curtain raiser to that particular senior fixture.

Around that time there was also an expansion in the third grade or under 18 in the ‘junior competition’which included:  Dockyards, Glenmore, South Sydney, Lane Cove, Newtown all playing under the governance of the junior football league, not the league.

In 1925 moves were being made to restructure the league and those one team reserve grade clubs were either being told or to put it simply, ‘encouraged’ to fit in with the first grade they were playing before.  Then in 1926 when the league was re-organised, all first grade teams had to field a second grade side with players then able to move freely between each.  Almost none of the reserve grades aligned themselves with the particular first grade club, having said that, some amalgamated.

Then in 1933 the name of the subservient competition was changed to the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association with an autonomous administration continuing to control their operation.  This group functioned completely separate to the league.

Despite an hiatus during WWII the association operated until about 1953 when the senior grade came under a new ‘Sydney Districts Association’ but this appeared to fold in 1954.

It took until 1970 when the Sydney Districts Association was revived which turned into the Second Division the following year and the rest is history.

Check out the history of the clubs in the MANFA.

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.

1970

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:

PLAYER

CLUB

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
Boystown
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.