The Greatest Night of All

NSW beat Victoria 1990 SCG 22 May 1990
From the inner-sanctum of the pre-match preparations and on-the-field Neil Cordy recalls playing for NSW in a glorious victory over Victoria at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1990

                  Daniher brothers warm-up at the SCG play together for the first time – for NSW v Victoria
                                                         l-r:  Neale, Chris, Anthony and Terry

The bus ride from the team hotel to the SCG was only a few k’s but it was taking forever as we crawled through Sydney’s peak hour traffic in pouring rain.

The delay provided the opportunity for one of my team-mates, who will remain nameless, to call his bookmaker.

“Can you believe we are 7-1 to win this thing?” he said. “And the line is at 55 points.”

Plenty got on. Why wouldn’t you? It had been raining all day in Sydney and didn’t look like stopping. Teams would be flat out scoring 55 points let alone winning by 55 points and the odds of 7-1 in a two horse race were almost unheard of. It was a matter of principle to not let this opportunity pass by. The line bet of nine goals plus looked a certainty and we also fancied our chances for the win.

The wet and heavy conditions in Sydney would not be to the Vic’s liking and this was a midweek match in May. Travelling interstate wasn’t as common as it is now and many of their players would be focused on club responsibilities a few days later.

Plus we were on our home deck, the SCG, and had it all to play for.

What a scalp this would be!

The Big V was full of superstars but we had our fair share of talent as well. All Australian and Bob Skilton medallist Barry Mitchell was one of a number of Victorian-born Sydney Swans players lining up in the sky blue. As were Steve Wright, David Bolton, Tony Morwood and myself.

But the vast majority were NSW born and we had some big names ourselves including John Longmire, Wayne Carey and Billy Brownless who led the attack.

There was also a little bit of magic in the air for the NSW boys. This would be the first time all four Daniher brothers, Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris lined up together. They all played for Essendon but injuries had conspired to prevent them appearing together for the Bombers. It would happen later that year when Kevin Sheedy put all four in for Neale’s last game (Round 22, St Kilda) but this was the first.

Terry was our skipper and one of the game’s greatest leaders. He was a dual premiership (Essendon 1984-1985) and All Australian captain. I’d played under Terry for NSW at the Bi-Centennial Australian Carnival in Adelaide a couple years earlier. We went down narrowly to hosts South Australia and beat Western Australia. It was an honour to play under him.

John Longmire was also inspired by the opportunity to play alongside Terry and his brothers.

“It really had an impact on me, playing with Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris,” Longmire said.

‘Horse’ was up for it as were the rest of us when we ran out onto a sodden SCG but mid-way through the second quarter the Big V pushed out to a five goal lead.

Cue the kid from Corowa.

By half time he had six goals on the board in a stunning burst against some of the best defenders the game has seen in Steve Silvagni, Chris Langford and Danny Frawley. His performance shouldn’t have surprised us, going into the match ‘Horse’ had booted 33 goals in the first eight games of the season including 12 against Richmond in round two.

While the Kangaroos star was on a rampage it wasn’t completely a one man show. NSW coach Col Kinnear had handed out a number of defensive assignments including one for me on the wing against Collingwood captain Gavin Brown.

While I had my hands full with Brownie the biggest job for the Sky Blues was given to another Magpie Mick Gayfer. Like Longmire Gayfer came from Corowa-Rutherglen but he was schooled in the dark arts of defence. This night the human blanket nullified Dermott Brereton. It was a vital role in such a closely contested match.

Mick was at his best as the Vics surged late in the third term. There was nothing in it at the last change, Longmire’s eighth early in the last was vital and enough to see NSW hang on for an historic 10 point victory.

“I roomed with Neale and we didn’t miss a chance to enjoy the win,” Longmire said recently.

“The whole Daniher family were there including their five sisters and parents Jim and Edna. Neale got back to the room at about 4 am and woke me up to have a cup of tea and tell me about the 80 metre goal he kicked. It’s a great memory because the Danihers are one of the great NSW footy families.”

His North Melbourne team mate Wayne Carey was also proud to be wearing the sky blue. The 19 year old Carey had just played just 12 senior games for North Melbourne at that stage but expectations were high for the teenage sensation.

That night he wore the number 26 in honour of Sydney Swans stalwart and NSW team mate Steve Wright. A few years earlier Wright had taken Carey aside at a footy clinic in Wagga Wagga for chat and a kick. Wright had forgotten the moment but Carey hadn’t.

It was a memorable night for everybody involved in the NSW team. To topple a full strength Victorian team on our home ground, the SCG, in front of our fans meant so much. Not just for the players but all the coaches and support staff involved as well as the wider Aussie Rules community throughout the state.

Personally the win over the Vics remains one of my proudest football achievements.

For a team which had very little time together there was a remarkable team spirit.

It was great to be a part of.

More than 30 years on NSW has two very successful teams in the AFL and is producing more elite talent than ever through the Swans and Giants academies, strong community and school competitions.

I’d like to think that win over the Vics helped change the way footy in NSW was viewed around the country and how the state looked at itself.

(For the record NSW beat Victoria 13.8.86 to 10.16.76.- Editor)

Neil Cordy At The SCG In the Media

As footy celebrates 140 years at the SCG former Footscray and Sydney Swans defender, and media commentator, Neil Cordy reflects on his 40 years active involvement at the ground. In this second instalment he looks back at his days working in the media.

         Neil Cordy at the SCG Reporting for Channel 7

Being able to play footy for the Sydney Swans and NSW was a pleasure and honour in itself.

But I’ve enjoyed the rare gift of being able to continue my connection with the great sporting arenas as a TV, radio and newspaper reporter.

The year (1994) following my retirement I was back at the SCG in a new role as a boundary rider for Channel Seven and their coverage of the AFL.

Two years later I changed employers and was working for Network Ten. In my first year there I had the thrill of reporting on the Swans first grand final appearance since 1945.

It was a busy week in the build up with Andrew Dunkley initially suspended from the grand final before the Swans took out a court injunction to allowing the Sydney full back to play in the season decider.

Over the following decades I ended up spending more time at SCG press conferences than I did as a player.

It was a golden era for the Swans and newsworthy events just kept on coming. In 1996 Tony Lockett set the SCG rocking like never before when he kicked a point after the siren to send them into their first grand final since 1945.

He made more history three years later when he broke Gordon Coventry’s record of 1,299 career goals.

They lost the 1996 grand final to North Melbourne but played in another five over the next 25 years, finally breaking their 72 year premiership drought beating West Coast in 2005.

Working as a boundary rider for Ten on the coverage of the 2005 grand final I had the honour of interviewing Leo Barry just moments after his match saving mark. As a defender I had to ask him if it had crossed his mind to punch the ball instead of going for the grab. Thank god he didn’t.

Over my decades of reporting at the SCG the stories were by far the good news type. But the saddest by far was the death of Swans head trainer Wally Jackson who died of a heart attack during the round 19 match against the Kangaroos. I was working as a boundary rider for Network Ten on the match and could see everything unfolding within a few metres of where I was sitting.

Wally suffered the attack right alongside the interchange area during the third quarter.

Swans Doctor Nathan Gibbs worked desperately to save Wally’s life before an ambulance arrived but he couldn’t be revived at the ground or at the hospital.

As the horrible scene unfolded I was in communication with my producer David Barham. I knew Wally had a wife and children but didn’t know if they were at the ground. Because of the grave nature of what was happening David and I agreed not to report on the incident unless it stopped the game.

Looking back on the tragic circumstances it was a decision I’m glad we made. Wally’s passing was a rare low point in my time at the SCG.

One of the greatest thrills was watching the career of the great Adam Goodes unfold. After playing a season in the reserves in 1998 he blossomed into a true legend of the game highlighted by two Brownlow Medals (2003, 2006) and playing in two premierships (2005 and 2012).

By the time he hung up his boots in 2015 he’d played 372 games, 143 of them at the SCG more than any other player in the history of the game.

His career would intersect the arrival of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin to Sydney’s most famous sporting venue. They played two years together as Swans fans witnessed a passing of the baton from one champ to another.

Neil Cordy At The SCG Playing Days

As footy celebrates 140 years at the SCG, former Footscray and Sydney Swans defender, and media commentator, Neil Cordy, our footy correspondent, reflects on his 40 years active involvement at the ground. Here he looks back on his playing days. The next instalment will be about his media work.

                                                Neil Cordy

Like many sportsmen and women the SCG is a special place to me.

My long association with the famous venue started more than 40 years ago and the first encounter was slightly bizarre.

In the three seasons leading up to the Swans arrival in Sydney, 1979, 80’ and 81’, the VFL decided to play eight games in Sydney to promote Aussie Rules with a view to eventually moving the Red and White Swans there in 1982.

I played in one of these matches, it was a round five contest in 1980 between Footscray v North Melbourne.

It was a strange choice of match up to promote the game in Sydney because neither club had a great profile.

The crowd was recorded as 13,476, but it felt like less.

Not many Bulldogs or North fans had travelled up the Hume highway or jumped on a plane. Back then the idea of playing a club game interstate was foreign to the average footy fan.

So the majority of those in attendance were from the harbour city and had only a moderate connection with what we were getting up to on the field.

Adding to the lack of atmosphere was the likelihood most had free tickets and therefore very little flesh in the game.

Local footy was still strong in Sydney but we were in Rugby League heartland.

In fairness to those who made the effort to turn up we, the Bulldogs, didn’t do much to help the spectacle. We were terrible. As Tommy Hafey used to say, “We couldn’t have played worse if we were dead.”

We were so bad in fact I won the Bulldogs Best Player award despite having five goals kicked on me playing at full back.

It was almost as bad as the night Carlton defender Robert Klomp won a TV set for his nine possession game in night match against Fitzroy the following year.

My award wasn’t a TV but a watch.

On balance I actually did a little better than Robert Klomp picking up 19 possessions and taking six intercept marks for the afternoon. The real reason I won the award was because I was playing on the great Malcolm Blight.

Blighty was a dual premiership player and bound for the Hall of Fame, he was also at the peak of his powers. I was in my second season of senior footy playing in just my 19th game.

It was a mismatch and Malcolm could easily have kicked 10 that day. He had plenty of opportunities, the ball was parked inside the Kangaroos front half for the duration of the match and they won by 122 points.

The reason Blighty didn’t reach double figures was he was suffering a bout of food poisoning. He told me he’d been up all night vomiting and shouldn’t have been out there. During the match he must have thrown up half a dozen times.

I didn’t pass any of this information onto the Bulldogs match committee who saw me take a few marks over Malcolm and win a couple of one on ones. Nor did I mention any of this in my short acceptance speech when Charlie Sutton presented me the watch after the game.

I still have the watch and value it highly because of who presented it to me, even if I won it in slightly unfair circumstances playing on a very sick Malcom Blight..

Seven years later (1987) I was back at the SCG in Swans gear and singing Cheer, cheer the red and the white. The vocal chords had a good work out in those days with Sydney winning a lot more than they lost.

I got my antidote to the 122 point thrashing at the hands of North Melbourne three times that year. In successive matches at the SCG the Swans beat West Coast by 130 points in round 16, Essendon by 163 in round 17 and Richmond by 91 in round 18.

The Swans kicked 30 goals or more three games in a row which has never been repeated.

It also improved the Swanette’s fitness levels as they celebrated each of the 97 goals with their dance routine.

The game against Essendon was the one I remember the most clearly. In 1987 the Bombers were still a very strong team, they’d gone back to back in 1984-85 and still had a host of their stars from that era. Terry Daniher, Simon Madden, Paul Salmon and Roger Merrett were all still in very good nick. Roger and his partner in crime Bill Duckworth were still as hard as they ever were.

I can honestly say our round 17 clash was the hardest 163 point win I’ve played in.

We finished third on the ladder and should have hosted a final at the SCG but we were still playing in the VFL and despite finishing above Melbourne on the ladder we played our qualifying final against them on their home ground the MCG. We lost the match by 76 points.

When I arrived at the SCG in 1987 I was 28 and expected to play another two or three seasons before retiring. I ended up playing seven seasons and 96 games for Sydney finishing up in 1993. My last game was coached by the legendary Ron Barassi which was a thrill for a kid who grew up barracking for Carlton.

Ron dropped me after one game in the seniors and told me he would be playing the young kids. That was fair enough, I was 34 years old and told him I was honoured to have my career finished up by him.

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 (

        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.


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


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.