– Player Clearance Refused to VFL Club

It doesn’t happen now, players with talent are immediately absorbed into an AFL club with the blessing of their parent club.

In the old days however certainly Sydney, and I imagine country clubs, were very reluctant to let their players go.

1921 NSW State Schools Team – Fred is front row on the right

Such was the situation with Freddie Davies.  A product of Double Bay School and later the Eastern Suburbs Club, Fred was bathed in talent.  He represented NSW Schoolboys in 1921 and again in Brisbane in 1922 as captain.  He later captained the NSW state team at the age of 23 against the VFL at the SCG.

Prior to this Fred represented the state in the 1927 National All-States Carnival and was beseiged by VFL clubs for his signature.

In those days local clubs and state bodies frowned on such action and went to great lengths to discredit the Melbourne clubs.

In early 1928 when North Melbourne attempted to secure his clearance they were exposed when it was reported that:
“It was a big offer (£4/10/ a week to play football) and a job in the bargain for Davies to turn down. He did not know what the other players had been offered. Mr. Thomas, (said Mr. Smith) explained the whole position and there was not the slightest possible doubt that negotiations with the three players had reached an advanced stage when Mr. Thomas called on me. THE THREE PLAYERS. Fred Davies was the best all-round player in the League last season. Twenty years of age, he weighs 11st. and is 5ft 11 in. With his exceptional capacity for ‘mixing it’ in any company, Davies would he sure to succeed in Melbourne League football. He moves into position well, and, in addition to handling the ball ably, is a fine kick and marksman. He is a product of the Double Bay School. When several Victorian critics endeavoured to select an Australian team after tbe recent Carnival games in Melbourne, Davies was the only New South Wales player to receive popular recognition.” [1}

Then, on the same day, the Sydney Sun reported on a letter sent to North Melbourne from the Secretary of Davies’s Eastern Suburbs club:

SYDNEY FOOTBALLER

CLEARANCE REFUSED FOR VICTORIAN CLUB MELBOURNE, Wednesday.

The Eastern Suburbs Australian Rules Football Club, Sydney, has refused a clearance to the North Melbourne Club of F. Davies.   Alrc McWhinney, secretary of the club, explains the position in the following letter to Stan Thomas, secretary of the North Melbourne Club: — “Your committee and yourself cannot realise the strenuous fight that we in Sydney have had in the past to foster the good old Australian game. If, when we are making steady progress, we have to lose players of the type of F. Davles (by trafficking), then we in Sydney will have to close up business and go back to Rugby. “It is only on very rare occasions that we get a local, player like Davles; who is not only a draw for our club, but a big draw for our game In general and while we can produce his class of player the game is going to make rapid strides in Sydney. Therefore my committee appeals to your club to refrain from encouraging players from Sydney when you have so many to choose from In Victoria.” [2]

1934 image of the Fitzroy Team. Freddie Davies is highlighted. The mercurial Hayden Bunton is on his right

Now today there would be hell to pay if a club took this action but it kept ‘Snowy’ Davies in Sydney until 1930 when he took the field for Fitzroy.  During that time Easts were runners  up in 1928 but failed to make the four in 1929.

Fitzroy were a strong club in those days while North, who hadonly been admitted to the League in 1924, struggled.

Davies went on to play from 1930-34 for Fitzroy and captained the side in his final year.  Upon his return to Sydney he played for St George, firstly under Ted Shields, then Bub Phelan and finally under former Footscray player, Jack Hayes.  He was appointed captain and coach of the club in 1938 when they won their second consecutive premiership.  Fred was 32.

The only other player we know of who had problems gaining a clearance was Mark McClure when he was recruited by Carlton from East Sydney (same club).  Easts officials delayed the clearance in the hope of a securing substantial ‘transfer fee’ only to have the Carlton Secretary tell them ” …. if you don’t clear him we will sign someone else and he can stay in Sydney.” (or words to that effect) [3]  The clearance was quickly despatched to Melbourne after the matter went before a special meeting of the NSWAFL administration on June 21, just before the clearance cutoff date. [4]   McClure went on to play 243 games over eleven seasons with Carlton and was captain of the club in 1986.

[1]  Referee  Wednesday 15 February 1928 p 13 Article
[2]  Sun  Wednesday 15 February 1928, page 7
[3]  Anecdotal – club official
[4]  Sydney Sun 23 June 1973

1966

19661966 could be judged as just another year in Sydney football.  The footy system went on as normal but we take a deeper look at the season which is just 48 years ago.

Wests won the flag before a crowd of 7,000 at Trumper Park, Sydney Naval’s Norm Tuxford took out the Phelan Medal, Don McKenna an army recruit from the St George club booted 71 goals to win the first grade Leading Goalking Award, the league returned a (never to be repeated) profit of $2,575 on the Football Record, Eastern Suburb’s Roy Hayes, was made life member of the league, a junior competition was started in the Balmain-Ryde area which included North Ryde, Ermington, Pennant Hills-Normanhurst as well as a Balmain junior club and long term league secretary, Ken Ferguson once again took the reigns at the league, this time in a fulltime capacity.

The league consolidated their newly acquired premises at 64 Regent Street Chippendale, (a photo of which now adorns the website front page in a rotating banner) and again recorded their recognition and appreciation for its purchase to the Western Suburbs Licensed Club.  Sydney Naval and Eastern Suburbs clubs, separately, had their applications for a licensed rejected by the Licensing Court.

A direct and live broadcast (albeit of the second half) by Channel 7 of the Western Suburbs v Sydney Naval game on June 4 game gave the code a lift while East’s captain-coach, Alan Gray was transferred to Wagga prior to the end of the season, upsetting the club’s plans for the finals  Souths had a foreign legion in the senior side which only contained three locals.

Junior players in the state’s Under 15 training squad included Jack Slade (Newtown), Phil Fenny (Wests), Paul Paitry (Easts), Chris Bucko and Paul McCook (St George) were some who would go on to play senior football in Sydney.  Peter Hastings, SC, QC, former Tribunal Chairman who now heads the NSW Crime Commission, was president and player of the Sydney University Club.

Forty-two year old, Jack Armstrong, The Black Fella, retired from umpiring.  Incidentally the Society is working on a story of this once legend of Sydney football which will be published soon.  Ellis Noack was captain-coach of the Southern Districts club.  St George moved to their new home on the site of a former quarry which became Olds Park.  In the rules of the game, the flick-pass was ditched.

History Society president, Ian Granland, began his long journey in football administration when elected secretary of the South Sydney club at age 17 and Vice President, Bill Carey, played his 100th consecutive first grade game for Balmain.

Former VFL umpire and Sydney Naval Coach, Bill Quinn, who went on to become a wonderful supporter of the Sydney Swans club, was appointed coach of the NSW Umpires Assn.  And who could not forget the appointment of Ray Catherall as Sydney Naval’s coach.  Ray, a restauranteur,  had Mother’s Cellar and Moby Dicks restaurants at Kings Cross in his stable.  He gained international notoriety by playing ‘soothing’ music to his players in the change rooms at half time breaks.  He only last one season at the club only to move on to coach Sydney University the following year.

However one of the biggest and least remembered events of the season was the umpiring furore at Trumper Park on July 10 when NSW played North Melbourne.

Our last featured photograph prompted a few memories when, in the days of one (central) umpire, the then Umpires’ Assn secretary and the 1965 Sydney grand final umpire, Len Palmer, was ‘unappointed’ from the game and replaced by VFL umpire, Stan Fisher.

We contacted the Ettalong based Palmer to get the real story.

KilligrewHe said he was at the ground and had begun to change into his umpiring attire when Kangaroo’s coach, the 168cm former St Kilda dynamo, Alan Killigrew (pictured) told officials that “he would not let his boys be umpired by someone from a football outpost like Sydney.”  When asked to be reasonable about the matter and that the 31 year old Palmer, who was after all,  was straight off the VFL Reserves Umpiring list in 1964 and quite competent of handling the match, but the volatile Killigrew refused and stood his ground.

Minutes before the start of the game, Sydney officials had no choice but to capitulate.

Palmer said he had been told before the match that a VFL umpire was at the ground but he did not know his identity.  North Melbourne had brought Fisher to Sydney for the game but there appeared to be no prior communication on the appointment between the two organising parties.

Fisher, who began his VFL umpiring career in 1963 and by then had umpired over 40 league games, was embarrassed about the controversy and suggested to Palmer that they eac do one half.  Palmer could see the problems this could cause and declined his offer.  He then sat on the sideline as the reserve umpire but joined in the after-match hospitality at the Wests Club.

NSW was soundly beaten 20.17 (137) to 7.11 (53).  And incidentally, several current members of the Society were in that NSW team including Brian Tyler, Denis Aitken and Peter Burgess.

As a show of their support for Palmer, the league had sent him to Canberra only weeks before to umpire the Queensland v ACT game at Manuka Oval.  He 1966 NSWANFL 1st Semi Final 1 smallalso umpired the 1966 Sydney Grand Final before he retired from umpiring due to his work in the TAB.

When asked if he had any regrets he said no, “Football gave me a great journey through life and I have made some wonderful friends.  I wouldn’t change a thing” he replied.

Our photograph shows Len Palmer taking the field for the 1966 Sydney Grand Final at Trumper Park.  Note the crowd.  The footballs the umpires had in their hands were used for bouncing and throw-in practice.  None was the match ball.