Sydney Touring the Riverina

Prior to the first world war, the NSW Football League, as it was known then, undertook two Riverina tours with a Sydney representative team playing at different centres.

Several football associations in the Riverina had affiliated with the (almost) new NSWAFL, following its re-birth in 1903.  In response it was almost expected that the Sydney league would send teams into the area to play.  Besides representative teams, Sydney club sides also made the journey deep into the Riverina.

These representative tours took place in 1907 and 1908, and had a duration of seven days plus.  This was during a time when a separate and top line NSW team played elsewhere in an interstate fixture, so the Riverina touring side, for the most part, was Sydney’s second team“ comprised of those available.

The financial arrangements of these tours are not spelt out but we would assume that:

“Those who  ‘volunteered’ to play in these representative teams had the time to
do so. These were the days, certainly for manual workers, shop assistants,
carters and the like to be working 60 hours a week, some, even every day.  So
we are at a loss to say how they were able to  absent themselves from their
work unless they: were self-employed, the bosses son, took leave  (and not all
employees had the benefit of holidays) or were out of work.  Because of thee
restrictions it is reasonable to assume that those ˜selected’ (or who volunteered
to play), were not always the best players in the competition.
Also, in many cases in those early days of representative football, one of their
number, would second as the team manager, so a bare eighteen might travel “
there was no interchange or  reserves in those days.
The host league would pay the travel and accommodation costs.
All that the NSW Football League would do was to supply the jumpers, and
possibly the shorts and socks, all of which would have to be returned.
The number of representative games in the first decade or so of the last century was incredible and it is little wonder that the league almost persistently recorded an annual deficit.  Although it is fair to say that in the few years immediately following 1903, prominent interstate teams did not make a claim on the gate and in fact left any and all proceeds from their matches in Sydney with the local league.

 

YEAR

NSWAFL ANNUAL PROFIT
OR DEFICIT (-)

RBA 2013 INFLATION CALCULATION

KNOWN
REPRESENTATIVE GAMES

1907 £400.00 -$54,857.00

9

1908 £174.00 -$22,459.00

10

1909 £123.00 +$15,876.00

4

1910 £166.00 -$21,014.00

10

1911 £110.00 +13,662.00

6

1912 £39.00 -$5,476.00

3

1913 £165.00 -$18,409.00

5

Does this show a pattern?  The 1911 profit is almost certainly due to the subsidy of £225.00 (with inflation in today’s money: $27,946.00) received from the Australian National Football Council as NSW’s share of gate receipts from the all states carnival in Adelaide.

In 1907 and 1908, Sydney teams toured and played at Hay, Narrandera, Coolamon and Wagga.  The first of these tours was disastrous with some virtual unknowns making the trip in the Sydney team, probably due to their availability.  In their final game against the Wagga Association, the Sydney side had to call upon five players from Narrandera and Hay to make up their number.  Whether this was because of injury or withdrawal has not been established.

The next year they had a stronger team which included the NSW captain, Ralph Robertson, but nevertheless could not match it with some of their Riverina opponents.

 

YEAR

SYDNEY SCORE

OPPOSITION
SCORE

1907 2-10 (22) Hay F C 5-11 (47)
1907 2-1 (13) Narrandera F C 10-19 (79)
1907 5-6 (36) Coolamon F C 3-9 (27)
1907 5-5 (35) Wagga F A 10-27 (87)
1908 9-7 (61) Hay F C 7-22 (64)
1908 10-18 (78) Narrandera F C 8-14 (62)
1908 6-9 (45) Wagga F A 10-19 (79)

 

Unlike today, the trip to all centres was by train.  The first stop (passing through most of the others) was at Hay which is 755 rail kilometres from Sydney.  Incidentally and interesting piece came to light when researching this article, it was talking about Narrandera and Lockhart “Teams travel tremendous distances to take part in these matches – from ten to forty miles.  Greater difficulty will be experienced this season (1908) in bringing off these matches, owing to the scarcity of horses, brought about by the drought.  They must be very enthusiastic ……”

It was some years before more Sydney representative teams toured the area again, although a number of requests were received, even during the first world war.

Eastern Suburbs FC big 1946 win in the Riverina – more

footscray jumper small‘What, might you ask was the Eastern Suburbs Club, the tri-colours or the Bulldogs, doing in 1946?

Strange, because I just happen to have some information which might be of interest.

The Eastern Suburbs Club received an invitation to visit Narandera to play a series of matches over the June long weekend.  Wait, wait.  The spelling of Narandera?  Well, thats how it was spelt in the official reports.  Not only that, that’s how the title of the newspaper we read, the ‘Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser’ spelt their name – why then the change?

The team left from platform 3 at Sydney’s Central Station on the 11:00pm Riverina Mail on the Friday Night, travelling 584 kilometres to  Narandera by train.  They arrived at their destination about 12 noon on the Saturday where they were greeted at a civic reception at the Town Hall hosted by the mayor, Alderman W J Gammage.  Also present was the president of the South West League, W H Logan and Ald T Gordon, president of the Narandera Imperials Football Club.

Following the reception the group proceeded to the Memorial Gardens where Mr Les Horton, President of the Eastern Suburbs Club, placed a wreath in memory of the fallen

That afternoon, East met a strong South West District Representative Team and after a splendid game emerged victors, 8-10 (58) to 6-14 (50).  They were the first visiting team to defeat the League since 1907!

The locals were very pleased with the football and were loud in their praise of the game which was followed by dinner at the Star Hotel and a dance plus euchre at the Railway Institute.  Some of the players attended the local greyhound meeting while others visited the Soldiers’ Club and these were the days before poker machines and licensed clubs.

The following morning the team visited several places of interest which were arranged by the local officials.  All of the touring side were very complimentary about the hospitality showed by the Narandera people.

Then Easts backed up on the Sunday, after you can imagine what was a heavy Saturday Night for some, and they repeated their performance this time against the Narandera Team itself at the Sports Ground winning 9-14 (68) to 5-10 (40).  It was in this game that Easts introduced a number of their junior players giving them a taste of senior football.

Easts outstanding players in the two games were captain-coach, Jim McCallum, Doug Edgeworth, Vic McGuinnes, Arthur Kemp, Fred Edwards and a young Frank Horton.

The gate receipts for both matches totalled an incredible two hundred pounds, “easily,” the locals said “the best football figures here for many a day.  A further report said that “last weekend was reminiscent of the halcyon days of football in this district and the £200 gate receipts for the two matches indicated that the Australian code had lost none of its popularity.  When it is taken into consideration that the League could not charter special trains to bring the people to Narrandera, the attendance of so many people was really remarkable.”

The contingent left Narrandera at 9:00am on the Monday Morning, “all very happy and cheerful after one of the most pleasant and successful trips ever experienced by any club.” Some players remained behind to compete in the local league’s long weekend knock-out competition.

Easts were knocked off in the 1946 preliminary final by St George and this was only a few years before the club went through a wonderful period of premierships in the 1950s.  Narrandera on the other hand were defeated by Ganmain in the SWDFL grand final by 22 points.