– Football On The Domain

More than likely, the majority of those reading this will have no idea where ‘the Domain’ is in Sydney.

In 1816 Governor Macquarie inaugurated what are now the Royal Botanic Gardens and the ‘Domain’, on land that his predecessor, Arthur Phillip had set aside as a ‘Governor’s demesne’ [a piece of land attached to a manor and retained by the owner for their own use] late in the eighteenth century.

It is situated to the south of the Opera House and behind the NSW Parliament Building.  The land is home to the NSW Art Gallery and also Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

The subsequent growth of Sydney’s magnificent Botanic Gardens was at the expense of the Domain. The Domain now exists only in four small precincts, where once it covered all the area from Woolloomooloo Bay to Circular Quay, and south to Hyde Park. Encroachments over time – such as in 1942, when Domain land was taken for naval fuel tanks, and during the 1960s when land was taken for ramps for freeways and traffic tunnels – have greatly diminished its original size.

The venue was also used for political orators of a Sunday who used to gather people in their thousands to listen to these various soap box speakers.  Sadly this part of Sydney’s history is gone.

However at lunch time, midweek, a few sports are still played there, in particular soccer and touch football while netball courts are located on top of the Domain carpark.  The park was also the scene of a midweek city business houses rugby league competition in the fifties, sixties and seventies.

People could be seen hurrying from their city offices the short distance to the Domain to watch or play sport their during their luncheon period.

Clinton Wines

On Wednesday 27 August 1947 a lunch-hour game of Australian Football was played before a crowd of 500 people at the Sydney Domain.  Eastern Suburbs player and former Carlton star, Clinton Wines, was instrumental in having the game played.  The teams were made up of a number of Sydney first grade player including test cricketer, Keith Miller who then played with the Sydney Club.

Although reports on the game (we think there was only one), are scant we can provide some detail on the leadup to the match:

Test cricketer Keith Miller, and NSW captain Roy Hayes lead the two teams in what was described as a lunch-hour promotional match.

Nine State players and other outstanding first-graders took part. Many of the players worked in the city, but others travelled from distant suburbs to participate.

Besides Wines, Newtown captain Alan Smythe along with Ron Matthews, policeman Neil Stevens, Roy Geddes, Ted Larsen and Darcy Coleman were all involved.  It was reported “that many spectators, who have never seen the code, would get an idea just how spectacular it is,” said Hayes, the captain and coach of the Eastern Suburbs Club.

“The Australian Council is spending money on fostering the code in NSW and Queensland, but there Is no better way of making progress than ‘to bring the game before the public. “Hundreds of people walk in the Domain and Gardens In the lunch-hour, and we want them to see the match.” he added.

Roy Hayes

The game was played in two 25 minutes halves.  Many of the players had to dash from their city offices at 1:00pm then be back at their work place by 2:00pm.

Jack Dean, (now deceased) a former member of the History Society Committee played in the game and said it was very popular amongst the lunchtime crowd.  Dean, a plumber, had to organise himself to be ready to go at 1:00pm and then back to his work in the Eastern Sububs of Sydney.

We have no record if other matches were played or the actual result of the game but were told that further games were planned for 1948.  They did not go ahead.

The concept of Lunchtime AFL at the Domain could well be taken up by present day administrators of the game in Sydney who might want to schedule an AFL 9s game or a modified Womens AFL match on this popular Sydney lunchtime venue.


Officials have finally identified a date for a reunion of former members of the NSW Police Australian Football Team.

The side was formed in 1958 under the direction of a high ranked officer.  By that stage there were more than enough police playing in the Sydney weekend competition to make up a team which went on to compete in the mid week services league.

Names like Neil Stevens (pictured at lower right), Brian Andrews and Ellis Noack were just a few who were to fill the ranks of the team.

Participant’s names would be published in a weekly police circular which provided the officers in charge of the respective stations and roster staff the information and authority to allocate police to the game.  A number of police cadets also competed, mainly because their involvement was counted as part of their duty and they got the afternoon off work!!!!

The side’s home ground was Moore Park, adjacent to South Dowling Street.  This was the same venue used by very early teams in the Sydney weekend competition.  The fact that the ground was across the road from the Bat and Ball Hotel had no bearing on officials’ choice to use the oval.

The date for the reunion is Saturday, 19 May 2012 commencing at 12 midday.  The venue is still to be decided with Society officials currently investigating various watering holes locations with appropriate facilities.

The team was well known for playing some non-police when they were short and these people too are invited to attend.

Persons interested can contact the Society here to be place on the list for more information when it becomes available.

The above photograph of the team was taken in 1965 at Moore Park.  Click to enlarge.   It includes some we can identify as: Neil Stevens (Easts), Bob Barnetson (Balmain), Nick Stoves (Easts), Tom Ely (Newtown/Sthn Dists), Brian Peters (cadet), Vince McCourt (St George- cadet), Noddy Durbin (Souths), Fred Griffin (STP), Barry Mackie (Souths), Tex Allen (Newtown), Greg Hickey (Balmain), Barry Fielding (Parramatta), Stan Anderson (Wests), Ellis Noack (Sthn Dists), Graham Kemp (St George), Peter Burgess (Wests).