Tough as Teak Hard as Cement

“Where is this bloke from?” asks Channel 7 football comentator Lou Richards.

“North Wagga” replies co-comentator Peter Landy.

It is just before half-time of the National Escort Championships between New South Wales and VFL club Fitzroy at the Sydney Showgrounds and the “rotund full-forward” from NSW had just kicked his 5th goal to give the Blues an eleven point lead at half-time.

The player in question was Laurie Pendrick, the NSW skipper, who had kicked his first 3 goals in quick succession early in the first quarter on the Victorian representative full-back Harvey Merrigan.

“When the Fitzroy runner came out to change him (Merrigan) over with the bloke wearing the head-gear (Chris Smith), I told him he’s no good either! I’ve played on better in the Riverina!”, Pendrick told me in the interview for this piece.

Such was the supreme confidence that was the trademark of arguably Wagga’s best-ever locally-produced player not to go to the VFL/AFL, although he did receive multiple offers to go to South Melbourne in the mid-1970s.

NSW playing under legendary VFL coach Allan Jeans took the game right up to Fitzroy in that pre-season game at the Sydney Showgrounds but faded in the second half to lose by 56 points. Penrick ended up kicking six goals and being named best for NSW.

Laurie Pendrick was a young Wayne Carey’s hero when “Lozza” ruled the roost at McPherson Oval, North Wagga in the 1970s through what has been the club’s most successful period. Carey told Neil Cordy in a recent interview for the AFL NSW Hall of Fame nominations that,

“Laurie was my first football hero. 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”.

Pendrick grew up over the back fence from the Careys in the Mt Austin area in Wagga.

Laurie recalls playing kick-to-kick with Wayne’s older brother Dick in the back-yard; later, they would play and coach together at Collingullie in the twilight of their illustrious careers.

The Turvey Park Midget League is where Laurie began his football at the age of five playing for the “Magpies”. He would graduate through the ranks and make his debut at 16 for Turvey Park in the South West League in 1967.

The pivotal moment that turned Laurie into a top-line footballer, and ultimately a successful coach was the arrival of Graham “Curly” Ion to coach Turvey Park in 1969. “Curly” was a star in Footscray’s 1961 grand final team under Ted Whitten but went to coach Deniliquin in 1966 leading them to a premiership and winning the competition best and fairest award.

“I was in awe of ‘Curly’. I wanted to be just like him, both on and off the field!” said Pendrick. “I became assistant coach to him and travelled to games with him in his brand-new Monaro GTS 350. He taught me everything.”

In 1973 “Lozza” went across the river to North Wagga to be assistant coach to Allan Hayes. Together they led the Saints to their first premiership since 1935.

Pendrick took up his first senior coaching appointment at Grong Grong Matong in 1975. He lifted the combine from the bottom rungs of the ladder into finals contention. He recalled his time at “Grongy” with great affection:

“Great people, passionate about their football club. If we won the farmers would give me a fistful of dollars in the change rooms, buy me drinks at the pub, and leave a side of dressed lamb on the back seat of the car”.

He returned to North Wagga as captain-coach in 1976. He led North Wagga to a premiership over Collingullie and topped the Farrer league goal-kicking with 114 goals.

The following season “Lozza” had probably his best season of football: he won the Baz medal, topped the goal-kicking with 132 goals, and led the Saints into another grand final.

It was during this season that South Melbourne tried its hardest to entice Pendrick to the VFL. The Swans offered him $10K to sign and two players on the senior list to North Wagga as replacements similar to a deal that they had done to secure Colin Hounsell from Collingullie. But North Wagga insisted he honour his contract to coach the club.

Pendrick would continue on as captain-coach of North Wagga, but then would embark on a remarkable football odyssey that would see him play and/or coach Newtown in Sydney (1979), QAFL club Coorparoo (1980 & 1984-86 including two premierships), North Wagga in 1981-83 (winning a Clear Medal) and again in 1987-88, Palm Beach-Currumbin on the Gold Coast (1989-90), Latrobe in Tasmania (1993), Collingullie (1996-1998), and Yarraville in the Western FL in Melbourne (2000-2001 including a premiership).

As captain-coach of Cooparoo he promoted Churchie school-boy Jason Dunstall to full-forward, who, of course, went onto forge a legendary career at Hawthorn following “Lozza’s” recommendation to his old NSW coach Allan Jeans, with whom he maintained a close relationship. Mary Jeans called him, at Allan’s request, just before he passed away.

According to long-time Wagga Tigers’ opponent Bevan Rowe, “Laurie was almost an unbeatable opponent. He had wonderful skills, enormous confidence, and was just so hard. He had massive influence on his teams, they followed him, and were absolutely fearless with him at the helm”.

Laurie Pendrick represented NSW on 11 occasions including captain-coach, and Queensland nine times including coaching the Maroons to Division II championship wins in 1985.

Two N.S.W Indigenous All-Stars

Sydney boasts two of the greatest indigenous players in history with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin. But long before they moved to the Swans there were another pair who were dazzling NSW footy fans with their skill, courage and athleticism.

Rod Gillett profiles the nominations of Sid Robins and “Ossie” Grose to the inaugural NSW Hall of Fame to celebrate 140 years of football in NSW.

Sid Robins   Ossie Grose

Sid Robins is regarded as the Griffith Football Club’s best-ever local player and is the club’s record games holder with 317 appearances in a stellar career from 1963 to 1980.

He won the competition’s best and fairest award, the Gammage medal in 1972, and was a pivotal member of the Swans’ 1968 premiership triumph under goal-kicking machine “Gelignite” Ron O’Neill.

Sid won the club’s best and fairest award four times in succession, 1969-1972, during the most successful period for the Griffith club in the South West league.

Standing six feet (1.8m) tall he started as a winger but became the main-stay of the Griffith defence at centre half-back taking on the super stars of the competition such as ex St Kilda star Frank Hodgkin (Ganmain), Brownlow medalist Peter Box (Narrandera), locally-produced star  Des Lyons (Leeton) and ex Fitzroy forward Vern Drake (Ariah Park-Mirrool coach).

He started his football with the Griffith schoolboys but went to play with Beelbangera-Yenda in 1962 under Bobby Spears in the Barellan League.

He returned to Griffith the next season and was to remain with the club until his retirement in 1980. Sid also represented the South West league on ten occasions in representative fixtures.

Part of folklore at Griffith are the club notes in the match program in 1973 after a big win over fierce local rival Whitton, “But the one goal that captured the imagination of the crowd was that of Sid Robins. Running 50 yards against a 30 knot breeze and with seven players hanging off him, he kicked the ball 100 yards for a goal – well done Sid.”

Sid Robins only ever kicked three goals for Griffith in his 317 club games.

At the club’s centenary function in 2014 he was named in the Griffith Swans ‘Team of the Century’ at centre half-back.



John Mervyn “Ossie” Grose came to Sydney from Kempsey with his family and settled in Erskineville just around the corner from Erskineville Oval. He gained first grade selection with Newtown after a season in the Under 18s. He had not previously played Australian football.

A diminutive 5’2” (1.57m) rover, “Ossie” became a key player in the Blood-Stained Angels premiership team of 1942 continuing on to play in another three premierships for Newtown between 1945-47 during a “golden era” for the club.

He was described in the Sydney Football Record for the 1947 grand final as “Newtown’s classy rover. Intelligence and unselfishness are the key notes of his play”.

“Ossie” played over 300 games for the Newtown club in his career and represented NSW on twelve occasions including the 1947 ANFC Carnival in Hobart and the 1950 carnival in Brisbane. He often featured in the best players and was a renowned goal-sneak

At the 1947 carnival he was in the best players against Queensland (3 goals), Tasmania (3 goals) and South Australia (2 goals)

In 1948 he was recruited by the Leeton Redlegs in the Riverina where he was a contract player. The following year he was captain and coach of Leeton.

“Ossie” returned to Newtown in 1950 to play in the team that won the premiership for the sixth successive season. He played until 1968, in his later years, mostly in the reserves.

Former Newtown player and long-time official John Armstrong rated him “the best rover in Sydney in the 1940s and early 1950s”.

“Ossie” Grose was admitted into the Sydney AFL Hall of Fame in 2008.


                            John “Ossie” Grose kicks a goal against Tasmania at the 1947 Carnival in Hobart





– Player availability at the 1947 Carnival

In past days, the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) the peak body for the game in Australia, since absorbed by the AFL, conducted regular interstate carnivals where states played against other states in a round robin situation.  Since WWII, because of the obvious disparity in standard, these carnivals were comprised of two divisions. They do not hold these type of events any more.

In 1947 Hobart hosted the first carnival following the war, the overall attendance and gate was marginally larger than the 1924 carnival, also held at Hobart (see image).

Carnivals of this nature are a testing time for players.  The 1947 event was conducted over 10 days (including rest days) which is a fair commitment for all the players and officials who also at that time had to hold down a job, so it meant taking holidays.

New South Wales played four games:

  1.   defeated Canberra (as the nation’s capital team was then known, now ACT) 18-22 (130) to 7-8 (50)
  2.   lost to Tasmania in what was described as a fantastic match 16-10 (106) to 13-18 (96)
  3.   lost to South Australia 17-9 (111) to 5-10 (40)
  4.   defeated Queensland 14-16 (100) to 5-12 (42)

The major issue of the carnival was the weather.  Before their third game against South Australia officials seriously considered cancelling the game.  The North Hobart Oval was described as a “mud pie – again” and “atrocious” by a number of newspapers.  It was so bad that the umpire could not bounce the ball and for the division 1 games officials decided to use a new ball each quarter however the poor old division 2 matches could only get a new ball at half time in their games!

The other problem for New South Wales, in particular, was the growing injury list.  By the last game they had ten injured players and under normal circumstances these men would not have played but the team had no replacements.

It was so bad that an application was made to the authorities to allow the NSW coach, 38 year old Frank Dixon to play.  Initially the request was granted along with permission for an Eastern Suburbs player, Jack Nicholls, a visitor to the carnival but subsequently permission was withdrawn because other teams did not have the same luxury.  Dixon who had successfully captained and coached the South Sydney Club before the war had not played since his return to Australia following a severe wound received at El Alemein in North Africa during WWII.

These were the days before interchange and NSW took the field with the bare eighteeen players along with Newtown’s injured Frank Larkin standing by, hoping not to play as 19th man.  And that was their complement for the match. Queensland, by the way, had similar problems.

Frank Larkin

NSW won the game easily however Larkin had to take the field late in the last quarter as a replacement for another injured player.  When the game finished, Larkin was the only player standing with a clean, sky blue jumper.  In an act of frivolity his team mates rushed to Larkin and rolled him in the mud so he finished up in the same fashion as themselves.

In the evening the North Hobart Club organised a ball for the wounded NSW team.

You can check out the games on our site here.

– Appeal For Clothing Coupons

Copy of coupons

 As the expression goes “things are crook in Talarook”.

Well they were in the Second World War when the Federal Government introduced food and clothing rationing for everyone, from the elderly to babies.  Such rationing regulations were gazetted on 14 May 1942. It was introduced to manage shortages and control civilian consumption. It aimed to curb inflation, reduce total consumer spending and limit impending shortages of essential goods.

Football Record acknowledgement

These rationing restrictions were not relaxed until a number of years after the war.  In the case of clothing it was June 1948 and tea in July 1950! [1]  This extended action after the war by the Labor Government proved very unpopular.

“What has all this to do with football you ask?”

In 1947 the NSW Football League played an incredible seven representative games and were also involved in an additional four during an All-States Carnival, played in Hobart.  The issue with this was the league did not have the capacity to purchase the necessary equipment, ie jumpers, short, socks, blazers etc., to outfit the team which travelled to Tasmania. (blazers may have been an over statement)

In one weekend in June, the League sent a representative team to play in Broken Hill while at the same time hosted a Canberra rep team in a match at Trumper Park.  In this game, the NSW AFL team wore Newtown’s red and white jumpers.

Such was the shortage, a plea went out for clothing coupons to the greater football population in Sydney which could be pooled to purchase the required gear.

Gradually people donated their coupons, a huge sacrifice from their family’s allocation and this was two years after the war had finished!  The League Secretary (General Manager), Ken Ferguson, himself donated 48 coupons and he was at the time, a person with a young family.  These donations were acknowledged in the Sydney Football Record – see attachments.

So when the time came, the NSW team to Hobart went smartly dressed and well decked out.

There was no mention of this in the league’s 1947 annual report with the only expenditure item listed was ‘Uniforms – eighteen pounds and sixpence’.  The league sold the ties and representative team photos.  They did receive a seven hundred and ninety pound allocation from the Australian National Football Council (the promoters of the carnival) and a refund of their players’ and officials fares, which by the way, was by train to Melbourne and boat to Tasmania.

[1] AWM – Website – Food and clothing rationing during the Second World War.

Movement in the Seventies

The development and expansion of NSW football took place mostly in the 1970s really makes you ask why?

The last major addition to Sydney football was in 1948 when Western Suburbs and Balmain re-emerged and Sydney University were formed.

But in the seventies not only did new clubs appear in Sydney, including Manly, St Ives, Sutherland, Blacktown, Mac Uni, Bankstown Sports, Campbelltown, Pennant Hills etc. but new leagues developed on the South Coast, the Illawarra and Central Coast  all spawning new teams.

One reason offered for the expansion of the game was that the baby boomers began moving out to the suburbs and regional areas.

City clubs like Sydney Naval, South Sydney and later Newtown felt that exit and went out of business.  These were inner city clubs that excelled during the first half of the last century but struggled when the youth was no longer there to take over.

The East Sydney Club, formerly Eastern Suburbs, emerged out of an amalgamation of Paddington and East Sydney Clubs in 1926.  They withstood the exodus for most of the century however they began to rely heavily on interstate players and players from out of their area.  They kept a junior division but it struggled to sustain the re-supply of players needed at senior club level.  Eventually they combined with the University of NSW in 2000 to form a new club, UNSW-ES.

This was the first time their officials saw the need to merge whilst Sydney (Naval) on the other hand had combined with the reserve grade Public Service Club in 1923 and not that much later with Balmain in 1926.  On both occasions they stuck with their given name.  They did however toy with the idea of changing the title to Glebe in about 1930, shortly after shifting their home ground to Wentworth Park, but, they maintained the title, Sydney, until 1944 when the naval influence in the club resolved to alter it to Sydney Naval.

Clubs have come and gone;  the present Blacktown club for example is the third to assume that name.

While Newtown faded off to oblivion there did appear to be a whisker of light with the emergence of a new Newtown junior club some years ago. The aging South Sydney faithful may hold out a glimmer of hope that one day the Randwick Saints might work their way to the purpose built Australian football ground at Kensington Oval.  But, like Trumper Park, the grandstand there has been demolished.


Newsletter image with background colourThe Society will issue their latest newsletter next week after the final touches were added today.

“We had a bit of space that we needed to fill and couldn’t come up with anything of real interest to the members so it sat there for weeks” the Society’s news editor told us late this week.  “But we were fortunate to gain a couple of interesting enough fillers which allowed the document to go to our proof reader who gave it the green light, so it should be posted out shortly.”

The best part about the issue of the September newsletter will be the addition of the Society’s first annual journal.  This 50 page document has been put together by committeeman, Paul Macpherson and proof read by our sub editor who also gave this publication a tick, so its all systems go.

Memberships Officer, Jenny Hancock (pictured) said she expects both of these documents will be well received by the members.Jenny-Hancock2

“A fair bit of work has gone into putting them together and I for one am very pleased with the result” Jenny said.

“People will find the journal an absorbing read while the newsletter is full of worthwhile articles most of which are very relative to what members want to know.”

Both will be available to members only.

Jenny also reports that the numbers are quickly growing for the Newtown Football Club reunion.  Now only four weeks away officials are speculating whether they should put a limit on the number attending.

“This is another area in which I am involved” Jenny said.  “My former husband, Gordon, played with Newtown in the 1960s and I know many of those registering their participation on the day.  It should be a wonderful event and I want to appeal to all those coming along to bring any photos or other memorabilia they have for everyone to see.”


Gordon Bowman colour smallWe don’t often publish news of the death of former Sydney footballers, mostly because, as life has it unfortunately this happens every day.

However it is worth noting the passing of a person who had a considerable influence on Sydney football, certainly very much in the eve of his football playing career.

His name was Gordon Bowman.  It probably means little to contemporary players and administrators of today but back in the late sixties this 40 year old, as captain coach of the Newtown Club, took his side to successive premierships in 1967-68 and a grand final the following year.

Playing at 41, he tied for the 1968 first grade leading goalkicking award with Easts, Jack Hamilton.

If anyone deserved recognition in football it was this man.

Originally from the East Malvern club in suburban Melbourne, he made his debut with Melbourne FC as an 18 year old in 1945.  He went on to play 53 games with the Dees, mostly on the forward flank and was a member of the 1948 VFL premiership team following the famous draw with Essendon in the initial grand final.

After Melbourne, Bowman had two seasons with Hawthorn then moved to Tasmania where he captained-coached the Sandy Bay Club to a premiership in his first year.  At the same time he also coached the Tasmanian side.

He later moved to Brisbane where he captained and coached the Mayne Club, which included two premierships in his time with them, as well as the Queensland state side.

Moving to Sydney with his employment in 1967 he was talked into coaching the highly famous Newtown Club, which had been starved of a premiership for 17 years, by a young and enthusiastic club secretary, John Armstrong.

Bowman was the general manager of Hume Industries, at the time the well established manufacturers of concrete pipes.

He changed the culture at Newtown and an official of the time said he “made average players do extra-ordinary things”.

Following his time with the Red and Whites Bowman coached the North Shore club in 1970-71 but could only manage third place.  He returned to Newtown in 1973 but failed to achieve the success of earlier years.

Bowman eventually retired to Tasmania about 15 years ago where, amongst other things, he involved himself with horses in the trotting industry.

Bowman was named in the best 25 players ever at the Sandy Bay Club and is a member of Queensland Football’s, Hall of Fame.  In fact he possesses what we believe is a unique record: He played in premiership teams in four different senior state leagues: Melbourne, Sandy Bay, Mayne and Newtown.

His passing followed a period of illness and his presence in football will be sorely missed.


Scanning through the number of publications the Society has in their records, we have come across some humorous, stoic and some genuinely interesting bits of information:

In a 1972 Football Record it said “Wests Third Grade coach, Alan Sales, is talking with a much deeper voice these days.  No, he hasn’t got laryngitis, he’s just changed tailors.  The result is his short shorts are not as short as before.”

* * * * *

Also in 1972 popular Rugby League caller, Tiger Black, hosted a sports show on radio station 2KY of a Saturday Morning at 11:00am.  Clubs were rostered for one of their number to attend the satellite, Eastlakes Studios to be interviewed by the aging Tiger.  The show was sponsored by Tooheys and called the Toohey’s Sports Parade.

* * * * *

In 1919 the Newtown Football Club in Sydney released details of those club members who served in WWI.

They had sixty-one enlist of whom eleven were killed in battle.  Two were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal as well as the Military Medal while three were promoted in the field to Lieutenant.

* * * * *

In 1974, the strong Western Suburbs Licensed Club at Picken Oval, where our Society rooms are situated, advertised a Sunday Smorgasbord Lunch when games were played at the ground for $1.20 a head – casual dress.

* * * * *

NSW have hosted two All-States Carnivals.  The first was in 1914 and the opening game was played the day WWI was announced.  Needless to say, the seven day series was a flop and financially ruined the league, resulting in the resignation of the trustees who had care and management of the new Australian Football Ground at Alexandria – that was also lost.

The next was in 1933 also held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.  NSW fielded quite a handy side but could not match it with Victoria or Western Australia.

The carnival was not particularly well patronised, given that it was held deep  in the depression.  Admission to the outer was one shilling (ten cents) and 2/4½ (not too sure how that is represented in today’s currency, so I will call it, twenty five cents) to the stands.

One real plus for NSW was the selection of South Sydneys’, rover,  Jimmy Stiff (pictured) as best and fairest in the carnival.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather” Stiff said, describing how he felt when he learned of the award.

“As a matter of fact, I never gave it a thought.  There were so many good players from other states.”

The Hawthorn Football club showed definite interest in recruiting Stiff but he said he had a good home and job and that he was satisfied living in Sydney.

The rugby league also wanted Stiff and was almost talked into playing with South Sydney Rugby League side by their ace administrator, Cecil Blinkhorn.

“I thought it over hard” Stiff said, “but just as I was going to give it a flutter I remembered the ‘Rules carnival that was to be held here and I gave up the idea.”

In the next couple of years Stiff did play first grade rugby league for Souths and just to demonstrate what a great sportsman he was, Stiff was a regular first grade cricketer with the then Glebe Club which played in the Sydney competition.

Unfortunately, the daring and diminutive Stiff was killed in a road accident in 1937.  He was one of the first selected in the AFL NSW, Hall of Fame.

The image at the top of the story shows Jimmy Stiff at the base of the pack ready to dive on the ball in a carnival game against Tasmania at the SCG in 1933.


We have written before about how WWII saw a huge increase in crowds attending Australian football in Sydney mainly brought about by the talented servicemen footballers transferred to the city for training and depot work.

Recently a document passed across our desk which provided hard statistics of crowd fluctuations pre and post hostilities.

This 1945 paper said that crowds had increased more than 400 percent over pre-war days.

It went on to state that attendances in 1944 were the highest for 20 years and yet the total competition gate during the first eight rounds in 1945 had topped the corresponding period in the previous year by 25%.

From 1920-25 the average weekend attendance was between 4,000 to 6,000 however that figure dropped to less than half in the ensuing eight seasons.  Even during the depression of the 1930s attendances declined further.

It all changed during the war when gradually crowds began to grow and there is no doubt the introduction of Sunday fixtures, as shown in our graph, had a huge impact on attendances at games.  It must be remembered here when viewing these statistics that there were only three senior games played in Sydney each weekend and they include the regular increase in attendance fees which cannot be differentiated.

The Sunday factor was highlighted in round 6, 1945 when a total of over 12,000 witnessed the games over the weekend of June 2 & 3.

Four thousand attended the Newtown v St George fixture at Erskinville Oval on the Saturday while over at Trumper Park, another 3,000 saw the RAAF side, full of VFL stars, gain its first win over premiers, Sydney Naval.

It was on the following day however, when Eastern Suburbs hung on for a thrilling five point victory over South Sydney 12.12 to 12.7, before a record home and away crowd in excess of 5,000 people.

It just goes to show that, under the circumstances and given the right conditions, people did attend football in Sydney in big numbers in Sydney.


Jim PhelanIf you have been involved in Sydney football for any length of time you will be familiar with the the Phelan Medal.



It was named after Jim Phelan, who is regarded as the father of football in Sydney following his commitment to the game through WWI and later.  Jim was secretary of the strong Newtown for some time and also secretary of the NSW Football League.  He was also the NSW Director on the Australian National Football Council.

In late April of 1911 the Newtown and YMCA clubs travelled to Orange where they played an exhibition match at Wade Park in an effort to pump up the newly formed local club.  The group was most cordially met when the train reached the station by a bevy of local dignitaries and the eventually game played in good spirit.

However before they left the following is recorded about Jim Phelan, then secretary of the Newtown club:

He was confused at the Sydney station before the train started through every man who came catching him by the hand and saying “How are you Jim?”  Jim would reply “All right.”  Then one of the crowd would say “Are you quite sure, Jim?”  Then all the other fellows seemed to gather around to hear the answer.

At last Jim became a bit nettled and when the twentieth earnest inquiry was made, he said “Here, what’s up?  What’s the matter with you fellows?”  Then one of them said: “We only wanted to make sure that there was no ill Phelan amongst the team!”