– 1938 – A Year to Remember
in Sydney Football

1938-st-george-v-south-sydney
St George – in yellow & black, v South Sydney
in 1938

A number of interesting events occurred in 1938.

Because of a good financial season in 1937, the league voted ten pounds ($860.00 in today’s money) to each of the six Sydney clubs before the commencement of the competition.

A Team At Wollongong?
Early in the year, the Metropolitan Aust National Football Association (second division) refused an application by a group from Wollongong to compete in the second division competition citing the lack of a home ground.  The applicants were encouraged to form a local competition rather than enter one team in the Sydney League.  Nothing came of it.

Sunday football was a big talking point in the league and in fact in all codes of football.  For the Australian Game the decided lack of grounds where a gate could be charged was the issue.

Basically there were six first grade clubs and two grounds where the league could control the attendance gate:  Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  They wanted an additional ground or alternatively to use one of the Saturday grounds again on a Sunday.

Kensington Oval at Kingsford was the third alternative but only honest people paid so the league was flat out earning fifteen shillings a game.

Traditionalists in the league however soundly defeated the Sunday proposal but it was only a matter of time before Sunday games successfully became part of the league’s calendar.

North Sydney Oval
After a lapse of  ten years, North Shore again played on the small North Sydney Oval,  a ground noted for its particularly hard surface.  There, an estimated crowd of 4,000 witnessed South Sydney defeat North 14-15 to 9-11.  The first semi-final again between North Shore and South Sydney was played there on September 3.

Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
In another first, St George played their first match on Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, now home to St George Rugby League Club on Monday 13 June also before of 4,000 spectators.  Here too a semi-final was played on 3 September ironically between the same teams participated in that initial game:  St George and Newtown.

These were the first occasions, certainly in more recent years, that any finals match was played away from the then league headquarters of Erskineville Oval.

In a very controversial incident at Kensington Oval, central umpire Bill Hunkin reported two players AND the timekeepers in the game between South Sydney and St George on 2 July.

It was alleged that the timekeepers failed to record time-on whilst the umpire attended to a fight and in the meantime rang the bell for full time just as a South Sydney player kicked for goal.  The goal, which would have won the game for Souths was disallowed.

A subsequent hearing found the timekeepers had erred, they had stopped the game 1 minute early, the goal was allowed and the game was awarded to South Sydney.

In the same year South Sydney altered their jumper design from a green jumper with a very wide horizontal bar across the centre to one of green with a red V.

Four time Phelan Medalist, Jack Williamson, registered 100 games for the Eastern Suburbs Club in early May.  He was reported in 1938 for abusive language but must have beat the charge because he won his fourth Phelan in that year.

Police Intervention
In late August a local police inspector pulled the captains of Newtown and South Sydney Clubs, as well as the umpires aside before the commencement of their game at Erskineville Oval warning them against any repeat of the violent play that dominated the last time they met.  He warned them and the umpires that if a repetition of the previous week’s violent play between the two occurred again the police would enter the ground and arrest any offender.  He said “if the league official (umpire) did not intend to stop that sort of play, the police would.”

There were a few occasions when players lost their tempers but no reports.

Interstate
During the latter part of the season NSW were defeated by East Fremantle on the RAS Showground in front of a crowd of 6,000 while the state team performed poorly at the National Amateur Football Carnival in Launceston where they were defeated by South Australia and Victoria.  They managed a win in the last game against Canberra.

An interstate Railways Carnival was played on Erskineville Oval.  NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania competed.  The interstate teams arrived in Sydney by train as did the country representatives in the NSW team.  The carnival was won by Victoria.

1922 Ground Problems

Ground thumbnailSearching through Sydney newspaper we came across the following article in a 1922 issue.

It had to do with the allocation of grounds and the author didn’t spare any ‘beg your pardons’ in his appraisal of the situation:

“There is one thing vexing the New South Wales League, that is, the question, are Australians foreigners? This Question is prompted by the grossly unfair treatment accorded the New South Wales League by the Marrickville, Hurstville and Ashfield Municipal Councils, who “dressed in a little brief of authority cut such fantastic tricks before high Heaven as make the angels weep”.

The cause of the kick is this: It is usual, prior to the opening of the Winter season for all Councils controlling grounds to advertise in the daily press calling tenders for the leasing of their grounds for Winter Sports.

The Australian Rules League of New South Wales tendered £150 for Marrickville Oval. The Rugby League’s tender for same was £135. The latter was accepted. Why in the name of heaven was £15 thus thrown away by the little Puddlington of Marrickville the ratepayers should want to know. Not only this, why should the Australians be boycotted when they were prepared to pay cash in advance? Will the other body do the same? What strings were pulled to influence the decision of the tender?   It is British fair play which we hear so much about, or are Hun methods still running the Marrickville Municipality?

At Hurstville something similar was enacted. The “Aussies” tendered £25 for Penshurst Park. The wise men of Hurstville evidently did not require money to put their streets and parks in order, the ratepayers can find the brass for those purposes. The Rugby League tender for exactly half that amount was accepted. It looks like more boodling, what! The City Council Tammany Ring was not a circumstance to it.

At Ashfield, tenders were called for Pratten Park. Australians bid £200, Rugby £155. Again Rugby scooped the pool, but under somewhat different circumstances.   The Ashfield Council in their wisdom decided that tenders were not high enough. Fresh tenders were invited. Australian League bid £250, but still Rugby secured the bacon. How do they do it? Surely there are enough fair-minded patriots and sports in these particular suburbs to see that justice is done. The Dinkum Aussie only asks a fair deal without fear or favour, not only for Australian football but for all and any other winter sport; and they protest against one body securing the whole of the playing spaces in and around Sydney to the detriment of all other sports. If such practices continue there is only one course  to pursue, for all the other sporting bodies to combine and secure grounds which they may share on an equitable basis.

At present the League, which happens for the moment to be top dog, secures all the bone, but may find that a united attack by the smaller tribe may deprive it of the spoil. Remember the adage of the dog and the shadow, where he tried to collar too much and lost all – moral, don’t be too greedy.”

All this came hot on the heels of the NSW Australian Football League successfully tendering for North Sydney Oval in 1921.

Their offer of five hundred pounds (an unbelievable $37,500 in today’s money) plus 20% of the gate for the winter lease of North Sydney Oval was accepted.  The offer tipped out the long term Rugby League tenants, North Sydney Rugby League club, who offered one hundred pounds plus 10% of the gate.  The AFL’s offer, considering the limited crowds the game attracted then, (but 1000 times more than now) could be viewed as quite farcical.

One of the great issues of the period was the number of enclosed grounds in Sydney, unlike Melbourne, there were not that many and it was an annual challenge between Rugby Union, Rugby League, Soccer and Australian Football as to who got what ground.  Of course Rugby League were successful in most although Australian Football only required three grounds per weekend.

In 1922 the Australian game only ended up with two enclosed grounds, Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  They had to play their other games on open parks like Alexandria Oval, Moore Park and North Sydney Oval No. 2, now St Leonards Park.  There was no football played on Sundays in those days.

Grounds In Sydney’s Major League

Ground imageClubs in Sydney have used many different grounds throughout their history.  As well as the home grounds set out below, there are also many other neutral grounds that clubs have used over the years.

Manly Warringah have used Weldon Oval at Curl Curl for nearly all of their history. The only exception to this was for two years from 2009 to 2010 when Pittwater Oval was used.  During those years, Weldon Oval was being redeveloped, and was out of commission.

Pennant Hills have also had a reasonably stable ground tenancy. Ern Holmes Oval, previously called Pennant Hills Oval No 2, has been used for almost all of its history.  The narrow shape of the ground was the main factor leading to Pennant Hills recent relocation to Mike Kenny Oval at Cherrybrook.

The Western Suburbs Club is another case altogether.  They have used several grounds throughout their history.  In the early years after their formation in 1947/48 Wests firstly played their home games at Henson Park Marrickville.  They then moved to St Lukes Oval, Concord. Matches were also possibly played at the nearby, Concord Oval. In 1957, Wests moved to Picken Oval at Croydon Park.  That was a privately owned ground by Bill Picken, a trotting trainer.  A trotting track surrounded the ground where the horses were used in training.  Wests built their licensed club adjacent to the ground.  Unfortunately, a dispute between the licensed club and a member of Mr Picken’s family led to the club losing the use of the ground.

The then club set about redeveloping a disused brick pit at Ashbury, which was to become W H Wagener Oval.  Many hours of volunteer labour were put into the new ground, but several years were to pass whilst the surface settled after its being filled.  During that period, Wests used Macquarie University Oval for its home games.  The club found that crossing the Parramatta River was just too far for the club’s supporters, and no doubt fewer people ventured back to the licensed club.  so the Club then moved its home games for one season to Outer Jensen Oval at Sefton.  That was the home ground of Bankstown Sports Club (who later moved to Kelso Oval).

At last W H Wagener Oval became West’s ground , although a relatively short distance from Wests Licensed Club it was still a reasonable barrier to patrons returning to the clubrooms.  In more recent years, Picken Oval reverted to Council ownership, and the juniors played their games there.  An upgrade to Picken, including the building of an amenities area, led to Western Suburbs returning to their home at Picken Oval not that long ago.

St George in its earliest years mainly used the grounds arranged by the league including SCG No 2, Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  Home games were played occasionally at Kogarah Jubilee Oval.  Hurstville Oval became St George’s home ground for several years, before Olds Park at Mortdale became their home in 1965.  Some matches have been played at Olds Park No 2, but mainly for lower grades.  Redevelopment of Olds Park led St George to also play some games at Bankstown Memorial Oval as well as Kelso Oval, Panania.

Most of Sydney Uni’s games have been played at University Oval No 1.  The adjacent University Oval No 2 has also hosted games.  Recently several games have also been played at St Paul’s Oval which is also on the University campus with then entry off City Road.

Both of the founding clubs of University of NSW- East Sydney have had several home grounds.  For this discussion, Eastern Suburbs for most of their existence played at Trumper Park, Paddington.  Easts also played some home games in the 1950s at Waverley Oval, Bondi and slightly earlier at The Sydney Sports Ground.  The Sports Ground no longer exists, but it was in Driver Avenue, Moore Park, next to the also demolished, SCG No 2.  This was basically where the SCG car park is today.

University of NSW originally played on neutral grounds such as Trumper Park and Erskineville Oval.  In the late 1970s they used the Little Bay Sports Complex, part of the Uni of NSW Sports Fields. The land was later sold off and used for housing.  The facilities at Little Bay were quite good, but the ground was often subject to strong winds, being very close to the coast.  Uni of NSW moved to the Village Green at the main campus at Kensington.  Village Green is the home ground of the new unified club.

North Sydney Oval was, for a long period, used as North Shore’s ground. Chatswood Oval was also used in the 1930s.

The church across the road from North Sydney Oval in Miller Street used to object to the sounds of the whistle, and the bell or siren to mark the quarter start or endings, whilst their services were conducted on Sunday Mornings.  This forced their Under 19s games during the 1960s and 1970s to be played at the desolate, Gore Hill Oval, whilst Reserve and First Grade were played at North Sydney Oval No 1.

The ground was really too small for Australian Football and costs became prohibitive when the council redeveloped the ground building extensive and historic grandstands.  North Shore then relocated to Gore Hill Oval at St Leonards.  During their relocation era, a number of home games were also played at Macquarie University Oval.

UTS, despite being the most recently formed club participating in Premier League, have already played at two different home grounds.  Trumper Park was no longer used for senior football when East Sydney merged with Uni of NSW, so UTS secured the long term AFL ground.  UTS adopted the Bats emblem from the fruit bats that occupy the large trees surrounding Trumper Oval. More recently, Waverley Oval, with its newly constructed grandstand is now shared with Trumper Oval for UTS home games.

When the Campbelltown club first entered the senior competition in Sydney in the mid 1970s, they played at the Ingleburn Army Base ground. Then they relocated to Memorial Oval, Ingleburn.  Upon their promotion to what is now Premier League they moved to Macquarie Fields Oval, originally called Edelsten Oval after Dr Geoffrey Edelsten.  The ground has since had several name changes.

It Pays To Remember

In 1921 & 22 the North Sydney Rugby League Club won the premiership in Sydney.  They were going very well.

Unfortunately the following season  it appeared that they were caught napping when applying for their home ground of North Sydney Oval, a venue which they normally packed out at their home games.  So much so that the club’s revenue from the 1922 season was their greatest to date.

The NSW Australian Football League either outbid them or the rugby league club failed to put in an application for the oval and lost the use of the two grounds, (North Sydney No 1 & No. 2) for the 1923 season.  So the use of it for 1923 went to the local AFL club, North Shore, then known as ‘The Shoremen’.

This came hot on the heels of the Glebe Rugby League Club (they were in the NSWRL competition then) losing the use of Wentworth Park, at Glebe, to soccer a couple of years before.

Just goes to show that you cannot be too complacent in thinking that the ground would normally always go to the incumbent.  Amazingly, this isn’t the first time that this has happened in local sport but certainly unheard of at that level.

The North Sydney Rugby League club finished fifth in 1923.