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.