Neil Cordy – Sydney footy’s Media Man

“The Swans, and the code of AFL football, are very grateful to have had someone with a strong media presence who had a deep understanding of the game” – John Longmire
Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Neil Cordy to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy has established an impressive record as a “breaking news” sports journalist across the media landscape in Sydney over the past twenty-seven years.

He has become the pre-eminent AFL media expert in Sydney after a 15-season 235 game career at Footscray (139) and the Sydney Swans (96) in the VFL/AFL ended in 1993.

After his football career, Neil stayed on in Sydney and became a sports journalist. While working for News Ltd he broke the story of the Buddy Franklin transfer to Sydney from Hawthorn in 2013, one of the biggest news stories of the decade.

But what can now be revealed is the story that “Cords” (or “Slacks” as he was known by his Swans team-mates) chose not to break.

That was the tragic death of Swans trainer Wally Jackson on the sidelines in the last quarter of the Sydney v North Melbourne game at the SCG in 2004.

Doing the “boundary-riding” for the Channel Ten live coverage of the match, Neil elected not to report on the story unfolding right before his eyes on the Swans bench as Dr Nathan Gibbs tried valiantly but ultimately unsuccessfully to revive the much-loved Swans trainer.

Channel Ten’s executive producer of sport, David Barham, just happened to be working that night fully supported Neil’s decision not to break the story.

“David and I talked the situation through. It was obvious Wally was in serious trouble. We agreed not to report on the situation unless the game was stopped and we would be forced to. It was out of respect for Wally’s family” Neil told me in the interview for this profile.

This goes to the heart of Neil Cordy’s integrity and ethics as a journalist that enabled him to earn the trust of the AFL coaches in Sydney to get access to news-breaking stories.

Sydney Swans coach John Longmire told me, “The Swans, and the code of AFL football, are very grateful to have had someone with a strong media presence who had a deep understanding of the game”.

Following his retirement from the AFL half-way through 1993 Neil started in print journalism by writing columns for The Sydney Morning Herald. He also started working on match-days for the ABC’s live broadcasts of footy in Sydney as an experts commentator.

The next season he was a boundary-rider for the Seven Network’s telecasts of AFL games in Sydney. He took up an on-air role for Galaxy Sport (the fore-runner to Fox Sports) in 1995 during the infancy of sport on pay TV in Australia.

“Cords” was lured to Channel Ten in 1996 to present sport on Ten News and reports on Sports Tonight based in Melbourne for five years then returning to Sydney where he performed the role for ten years as well as a football commentator when Ten had the rights.

He was a key member of the Ten telecast team for the AFL Grand Finals in 2005-06 that featured the Swans including the 72-year drought-breaking victory in 2005.

After ten years with Ten, Neil went to News Ltd as the Head Reporter of the AFL for the biggest selling daily newspaper in NSW, the Daily Telegraph.

Neil carved out a strong reputation as an insightful and knowledgeable reporter of football that increased following for the game in this medium. During this period he frequently appeared on Fox Sports programs such as the Back Page and Bill and Boz which did much to lift the profile of the game.

Neil finished up with the Tele at the end of the 2018 season and has since been doing match-day work for ABC Sport, which of course, has been severely disrupted this season by Covoid 19. He has, however, relished taking up the opportunity to write profiles for the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame including former team-mates and opponents.

In terms of playing football, Neil had a highly distinguished career and is a member of the AFL 200 Club. He was runner-up best and fairest at the Swans in 1987 and third in 1991.

He represented Victoria twice and was a key member of NSW’s successful Origin teams in 1988 & in 1990 when the Sky Blues beat Victoria.

After finishing in the AFL, Neil joined East Sydney in 1994 as co-coach with former team-mate and great friend Rob Kerr, thus finishing off an auspicious playing career in the red, white, and blue.

The boy from East Gippsland has enjoyed the pizzazz of “bright lights, big city” life in Sydney and carved out a very fulfilling career in both football and the media. Now he has announced his retirement, and he and his wife Jeanette, will move to the Gold Coast.

 

Wayne Carey: The Greatest Player Ever

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney on 30 June 1880.

To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy interviews his former NSW State-of-Origin team-mate Wayne Carey:

 

       A Young Wayne Carey

In the week NSW Australian Football turned 140 its greatest player, Wayne Carey, has revealed he grew up barracking for the Parramatta Eels and South Melbourne.

Its salt in the wounds for Swans fans who lost Carey and John Longmire to North Melbourne for $70,000 in 1988.

But the news should be taken with a grain of the same stuff when the prospect of losing the Kangaroos champion to Rugby League was a real one.

Carey was an Eels fan but his move to his auntie’s house in North Wagga brought footy into the mix. Auntie Pam and Uncle Bob Causley lived on William Street just 50 metres from McPherson Oval.

“They were my happiest childhood memories there at McPherson Oval,” Carey said. “They were really good times for me. I started playing at 8am in the under 10s. The fog would set in sometimes and you couldn’t see the other end of the ground. I would be there all day. I’d run the boundary in the reserves and sometimes, the seniors. I got a pie and a can of coke for doing it”.

“My footy boots were hand me downs from a cousin. The first proper footy I got, a Sherrin, was one I won at a Carnival when I was 10. I treated it like a baby, I polished it and never kicked it on the road. I didn’t trust my brother (Sam) to mark it. If Sam was kicking with me it had to be on the grass.”

Forty years later the game is celebrating their good fortune and Carey’s contribution by including his name alongside triple Brownlow medallist Hayden Bunton’s on the Carey-Bunton medal.

It will recognise the best player from NSW annually through the AFL Coaches Association voting.

The Coaches Association award started in 2004, and previous NSW winners including Brett Kirk, Lenny Hayes, Taylor Walker, Kieran Jack, and Zac Williams will be awarded the medal retrospectively. A team of the year will also be named with Carey one of the selectors along with Mark McClure, Gerard Healy, Mike Sheahan and Richard Colless (conveynor).

It’s a fitting tribute to Carey’s impact on footy north of the Murray and south as well. In 2008 he was named as the greatest player ever in a book titled ‘The Australian Game of Football’. The book, published by the AFL, included a list of the top 50 players of all time.

Remarkably Carey’s inspiration didn’t come from any of the champions listed. His was a home-grown product of Wagga, Laurie Pendrick (pictured below)

“Laurie was my first football hero,” Carey said. “He was a very good player and a standout in Wagga. He played in the centre but could go forward and kick goals. He was tough and hard and opposition fans hated him and North Wagga fans loved him”.

“He was the captain coach and had a really deep voice. The rooms were pretty small back then so they didn’t let many in. I tried to get in as often as I could and I loved the smell of the deep heat and the rah rah. If I wasn’t in the room I had my head sticking through the door. You could usually hear him outside the rooms because his voice was so loud.”

   Wayne Carey in his playing days with North Melbourne

North Wagga wasn’t the most exclusive area of the town and money was scarce. When Carey was named in the NSW primary school team the footy club raised the finance which allowed him to make the trip.

“North Wagga had raffles and raised funds for me to go to Darwin,” Carey said.

“The trip to Darwin was big and my first meeting with John Longmire”.

Carey cut his foot swimming near an oyster bed but did enough to impress then Swans recruiter Greg Miller. A decade later when Miller was working for North Melbourne came calling on the young pair of New South Welshmen.

Carey says at that stage he was the junior partner in the deal which would help secure the Kangaroos amazing run of success through the 1990s.

“Greg Miller remembered me from the carnival in Darwin and threw me in with the deal with John when we went to North,” Carey said. “They paid $70,000 for us and Horse was $60,000 of that and I was $10,000. John was a very accomplished player at a young age, he had every VFL club after him.”

It is the deal which broke Sydney fans hearts and still lingers in their collective memory, especially those who watched North Melbourne beat the Swans in the 1996 grand final.

The pill is made even more bitter by the fact Carey grew up following the red and white.

“I barracked for the Swans,” Carey said. “The Sydney blokes would come down and do clinics. That’s where I met Stevie Wright. He was my first VFL/AFL hero, he pulled me aside at a clinic and had a kick with me and I loved him from that time on.

“The reason why I wore the number 26 in the 1990 state game against Victoria was because of Stevie Wright.”

Wright coached Clarence (Tasmania FL) to back to back flags in 1993 and 1994 and is still involved in football. He is currently coaching Meeniyan-Dumbalk in the Alberton League in South Gippsland, Victoria.

“Wayne told me the story about the footy clinic but I hadn’t heard about him wearing the number 26 for NSW,” Wright said. “It’s obviously nice to hear that Wayne remembered me, it just goes to show what a difference it makes when you show interest in kids wherever they are.” (Ed. Steve Wright was vice-captain of the 1990 Origin team and wore #12 in that game).

The kid Steve took some time with is now the ‘King’ or ‘Duck’ depending on who you talk with.

He’s looking forward to presenting the first Carey-Bunton Medal later this year.

“I’ve always felt strong about where I come from,” Carey said. “I was born and bred in Wagga and I’m proud of that.”

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

 

30 Years Ago NSW Downs the Big V in Monumental Upset

“In the mud and slush of a rainy Sydney night thirty years ago (22 May 1990), a motley crew of New South Welshmen upset the Victorians at their own game.

When the star-studded Victorian Sate of Origin side arrived in Sydney to take on the footy minnows of New South Wales in 1990, they brought their arrogance and swagger.

A team containing some of the game’s all-time greats such as Stephen Silvagni, Dermott Brereton, Dale Weightman and Paul Salmon expected an easy Tuesday night at the SCG.

What they copped was a reality check.

Torrential rain greeted the Vics that afternoon and by the time the ball was bounced the conditions weren’t much better.

All the media talk pre-match had been about the Big V and how much they’d embarrass the local boys coached by then Sydney Swans coach Col Kinnear.

But the visitors didn’t count on the state pride of NSW players such as the Daniher brothers- Terry, team captain, Neale, Anthony and Chris – who were playing together for the first time in senior company, hardman Bernard “Huck” Toohey or North Melbourne teenage prodigies Wayne Carey and John Longmire”.

This excerpt from the NSW AFL Annual Report 1990 captures the pride, joy and excitement of the NSW State of Origin team beating Victoria in an interstate match for the first time since 1925 (https://nswfootballhistory.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/1990-NSWAFL-Annual-Report.pdf).

        Craig Davis

“I stuck it up Teddy Whitten” recalls NSWAFL General Manager Craig Davis (pictured left) with a laugh in his voice. Davis had put the game together in less than a month and did a magnificent job to pull all the parts and people together. Even better the outcome of his efforts was a momentous victory for NSW.

“I still can picture Ted Whitten sitting in the Ladies Stand looking absolutely bewildered” he added.

“It remains the biggest off-field initiative of mine in the game, only surpassed by (son) Nick’s 2005 AFL Premiership with the Swans” Davis recalls with immense satisfaction.

On the night of the match Nick Davis was staying in the family home of Bernard Toohey in Barooga with Bernard’s parents the late Vince and Jill; Nick was playing in the NSW PSSA Carnival.

After the after-match Davis drove through the night to Barooga arriving at the licensed Sports Club for breakfast, and in time to watch Nick play that morning on the club’s ground.

RESULT:

N.S.W. 2-4 8-5 11-6 13-8 (86)

Victoria 4-5 7-8 9-12 10-16 (76)

Attendance: 14,000

Best Players: John Longmire, Brett Allison, Mark Eustice, Tim Powell, Syevie Wright, John lronmonger

Goals: N.S.W.: John Longmire 8, Terry Daniher, Wayne Carey, Bernard Toohey, Neale Daniher, Mark Roberts John Ironmonger

Player of the Match: John Longmire

N.S.W. TEAM

PLAYERS: Terry Daniher (Captain), Steve Wright (Vice-Captain), Anthony Daniher, Michael Gayfer, Brett Allison, Tim Powell, Bill Brownless, Mark Eustice, David Bolton, Wayne Carey, Craig Potter, Neil Cordy, John Longmire, Bernard Toohey, Steve Wright, Chris Daniher, Michael Werner, Michael Phyland, Barry Mitchell, John Ironmonger, Neale Daniher, Mark Roberts, and Russell Morris

COACH & SELECTORS: Colin Kinnear (Coach), Rick Quade (Chairman of Selectors), Tony Franklin, Craig Davis, and John Reid

MEDICAL/TRAINERS: Phil Loxley (Doctor), Doug Coleman (Physiotherapist), Bruce Hunter (Head Trainer), Alex Kair, Matt Sheedy, Colin Moore, Gary Zealand, and Barry Snowden (Trainers)

OFFICIALS: Tim Johnson (Team Manager), Laurie Axford (Fitness Advisor), Peter Krisihos (Statistics), Mike Mealand (Property Manager), Bob McConnell (Timekeeper) Rod Gillett (Property Steward), Bernie Dowling (Doo

Two Of Football’s Early Pioneers in NSW

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile the nominees:

The NSW Australian Football Association was formed in 1880 to play “under Victorian football rules” (Sydney Mail, 13 July 1880).
Two of the leading figures in the establishment of the game in Sydney have been nominated for the inaugural Australian Football New South Wales Hall of Fame. They are the inaugural president Phillip Sheridan and George Crisp, who convened the meeting to form the new football body, and later, became a star player for NSW.

Phillip Sheridan

Phillip Sheridan, was one of the first trustees of the Sydney Cricket Ground (then known as Association ground) elected as president of the new Football Association (NSWFA  aka NSWAFL). He was to hold that office until 1890.

Sheridan was highly prominent in sporting circles in Sydney at that time, particularly in cricket. He had been instrumental in the formation of the Sydney Cricket Club and was a delegate to the NSW Cricket Association.

He had been appointed as a trustee of the SCG by the government in 1875. In 1895 he became its full time manager, a position he held until his death in 1910. The new Smokers Stand at the SCG was named in honour of Sheridan after his death. It was replaced by the Clive Churchill Stand in 1986.

In nominating Sheridan as President of the Football Association, Charles W. Beal (who was elected as Secretary) said in support of Sheridan’s nomination that “…. he was one of the most prominent supporters of cricket and other outdoor sports in this colony. He was a supporter of football as played in Victoria and was likely to prove energetic in promoting the interests of the association” (Sydney Mail, 10 July 1880).

Sheridan played a pivotal role in providing the NSW Football Association to access the SCG during the winter season when the ground was not being used for cricket. At the time there was strong competition for use of the ground with the Southern Rugby Union (SRU), later the NSW Rugby Union.  There were very limited grounds in Sydney where an admission could be charged.

The first inter-colonial match of any football code was played between NSW and the Victorian Football Association (VFA) at the SCG on 6 August 1881. An inter-colonial rugby match between NSW and Queensland was not played there until 1882.

The NSW Football Association regularly played matches between its clubs: Sydney and East Sydney (both formed in 1880) on the SCG in 1881, and throughout the 1880s, including all the interstate matches against the VFA, Queensland, Melbourne clubs and other interstate sides even a game against New Zealand in 1890.

 

   George Crisp,   first promoter of        the game in   Sydney in 1880

George Crisp who grew up in Melbourne moved to Sydney at the age of 20 with his family. In June 1880 he placed an advertisement in the Sydney Mail seeking players to form a football club to play under “Victorian Rules”. The meeting was held at Statton’s Hotel, Woollahra on 23 June 1880.

The turn-out was low and another was arranged for 30 June at the Freemason’s Hotel in the city at which New South Wales Football Association was formed. It was reported that “the attendance at the meeting was the largest gathering of football players ever assembled in NSW” (Sydney Mail 3 July 1880). It is estimated that over one hundred persons attended.

The election of office bearers was held over to the following Wednesday when at another well attended meeting, Sheridan was elected president and Crisp to the committee.

Crisp represented NSW on 19 occasions including the historic first inter-colonial matches against the VFA at the MCG on 1 July 1881 and the return game on the SCG, both won easily by the Victorians. He was named best NSW player in the latter game. Crisp was NSW captain in 1884.

He was also a founding member of the Sydney Football club (formed on 6 August 1880) and was elected to the committee and club captain, a position he held in 1880-82, 1884, and 1888-89.

On 7 August 1880, a scratch match was held on Moore Park, between team selected by former Carlton player, Bill Newing, and a team led by George Crisp.

Then, on 10 August, the East Sydney Football Club was formed.

On 14 August another game of football under Victorian Rules was played on Moore Park with the final game of the season played on 21 August. Thus, football in Sydney got underway.

REFERENCE: Ian Granland’s unpublished work, The History of Australian Football in Sydney 1877-1895 (2014)

Images supplied be the NSW Australian Football History Society

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member part of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

Rod Gillett has written extensively about the game in NSW for country newspapers, the Sun-Herald, Inside Football and other publications. He has also had chapters published in the Footy Almanac and Footy Town. Rod was a member of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team in 2019 and is currently a member of the AFL NSW Hall of Fame selection committee.