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.

Codes Unite

Co-operation smallAfter the resuscitation of the game in Sydney in 1903, administrators of the Australian became quite concerned that players disqualified in one code could cross and play with another, be that Australian, rugby or under British rules (to use the term of the day now known as soccer).

So the following year they arranged a conference between officials from the three codes to discuss the matter with the ensuing result:

“On the Initiation of the N.S.W. Football League (Australian Rules), a meeting of delegates from the N.S.W League (Australian Rules), the N.S.W. Association (British Rules – soccer), and the Metropolitan Rugby Union, (Rugby League had not then been introduced in Australia) was held at the Sports Depot (NSW Sports Club) Hunter Street on Friday, to consider tho subject of reciprocity in disqualification.  It has been considered for sometime that it is desirable that disqualification by one executive should carry disqualification by all. The delegates meeting fully endorsed this view and unanimously  agreed to record to their various executives the following :

  1. That in the event of any player being disqualified, the N.S.W. Football League (Australian Rules), the Metropolitan Rugby Union, or the N.S.W. Football Association – (British Rules), the disqualification shall be endorsed by tho remaining bodies.
  2. That no application from a disqualified player be entertained by any of the three bodies until the disqualification is removed by the body disqualifying.  That this shall not be retrospective except in the case of disqualification for life.

As disqualification is not enforced except for a serious offence, it should help to keep, up the tone of football if the penalty is recognised by all the bodies. The action of the League in taking the Initiative in ‘this matter Is to be commended.”

It has to make you wonder how long these rules existed for and how committed the three bodies were in their application.  Which one defaulted first?

This is the first time we have read of any such rule and today it certainly would be an eye opener for readers in states other than NSW and Queensland where Australian football reigns supreme.

By 1904 Rugby Union was a massive winter sport in NSW and it was only with the introduction of Rugby League in 1908 that ‘Rugby’ lost its strangle hold on the men and boys of these two states.

YES, WHAT’S IN A NAME?

NSW Football LeagueFootball in NSW or more particularly, Sydney, has undergone scores of changes over the years.  Different name, different administration but in the end, its all just football.  Much like government departments when a new party gets into power or a new bureaucrat takes over, “Change the name, it will produce a better result.

Here the changes over the years:

 

PERIOD

NAME
1880-1994 New South Wales Football Association
1903-25 New South Wales Football League
1926-73 New South Wales Australian National Football League
1974-79 New South Wales Australian Football League
1980-86 NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
1987-90 NSWAFL (NSW State Football League)
1991-98 NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
1999- AFL (NSW-ACT)  – AFL Sydney

 

What does it really mean and did these changes produce a better result?

Well when football was resurrected in 1903 after an eight year hiatus, it was a good thing.  Apart from a road bump in 1915 when the game nearly again fell over, the next change was in 1926.  This year brought with it other changes:

East Sydney FC combined with the Paddington FC to form a brand new, Eastern Suburbs Australian Football Club. With the reintroduction of District Football, where the name of a club had to represent an electoral district, the Railway Club disappeared, oddly so too did Balmain.  The North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs Clubs somehow both slid under the radar with this district business.  The north side club changed their name from ˜North Sydney” back to North Shore.  A further change was the introduction of the Western Suburbs Club into the competition.

NSWANFLIn the opinion of officials, adding of the word ˜National” to the the league’s title gave it and the game more of an Australian embracing influence.  So yes, here too, the change in the name did coincide with other changes to the competition.  In response, the attendance figures increased in the 1926 season.

But by now other competitions throughout NSW began to question the value of affiliation with the NSW Body.

These leagues included those in the Riverina, Broken Hill as well as an on-again, off-again competition in Newcastle.  There were no others. The Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) was formed in 1927 and by 1933 all the leagues in the Riverina, led by Digger Carroll, had gone over to the VCFL, leaving the NSWANFL as an almost solitary beacon for Australian football within the state.

Really, the NSWANFL could offer very little to other leagues.  Unlike the major associations in the rest of Australia and certainly footballing centres in country Victoria and southern NSW, attendances in Sydney, by comparison were very meagre resulting in little money coming into the system.  Just as importantly the NSWANFL were saddled with a poor profile which in turn did not attract skilled and solid leadership.

So, incorporated in  all the responsibilities of a state sporting body, the same group had to conduct a football competition in Sydney on a shoestring budget, all run by volunteers.

NSWAFLThrough to 1974 then without any fanfare, the word ˜National”  was removed from the title .  There was no significant changes to the competition, nor the game in general in that period.  It was, and had been for decades, the poor relation in Sydney sport and yet it continued to survive.

1979 saw the emergence of a reform group who rolled the incumbent and long term NSWAFL president, Bill Hart, the previous December.

The motivation to this was the perceived backing from influential elements in the VFL who promised funding for an experienced football administrator to run Sydney football and the NSWAFL, subject to support on a national level, for interstate VFL games to be played in Sydney of a Sunday.

The revitalised Sydney league was initially all spirited, enthusiastic and gung-ho.  A new man from Melbourne was appointed as the General Manager, the league’s offices at 64 Regent Street Chippendale were sold off and the administration moved to nearby premises at the Scan.BMPNewtown Rules Club in Cleveland Street, Redfern.

Eventually the independent Board was replaced by a board of club directors a move which would produce cronyism and ‘caucusing’ where the strong got stronger and the other clubs just rolled along.  Football in Sydney now primarily  promoted Sydney and the NSWAFL was put on the back burner as other sub-state bodies grew in stature and did their own thing.

NSW State FLBy 1987 there was yet a further change.  Sydney and the NSWAFL were broke and badly in debt.  An independent group managing the affairs of the NSWAFL told the Sydney clubs to sink or swim.  Either agree to a change in the administration or go out of business.  Really, there was no alternative.  That initial energy for change and a more ‘Sydney’ influence had well dissipated.

There was a big transformation in Sydney Football – there had to be – with three divisions again established, most of the sub groups abolished and the NSWAFL was back in charge.  The Sydney component became known as the NSW State Football League with a long term view of incorporating clubs from around the state.  Thankfully it did not happen but gradually the league moved into a position of financial stability.

In 1991 the NSW State Football League designation was abolished to revert to the Sydney Football League with the administration marginally re-arranged, but not much else took place.

Then in 1998 following yet another report on the state of health of football in NSW, a further change saw the introduction of the AFL(NSW-ACT).  This produced a few on-field alterations to Sydney footy like 16 aside etc. yes a major move but again, little else came about in the structure and framework of the actual competition.

AFL Sydney had now assumed full control of the Sydney league with full funding from the major AFL body in Melbourne.  They also funded football development throughout the state but unlike the Sydney open age football, most of the leagues in NSW were left to finance their own activities.

The major change came in 2009 when under the then Sydney Football Operations Manager, Garry Burkinshaw, divisionalisation took place.  This was the biggest adjustment to Sydney football since 1948 when Balmain, Western Suburbs (both for the second time) and Sydney University were introduced to the competition or perhaps it was 1926 changes?

NSW’s RECORD IN INTERSTATE FOOTY

1938 NSW State Team to Launceston 1 smallWe have often been asked about NSWs history of interstate games and how successful they had been over the years.

Well we can tell you that the NSW Football Association, the forerunner to the NSW Australian Football League, played their first representative game at the MCG on 1 July 1881.  The match was against the then VFA which was the first controlling body for football in Victoria.  The VFL was formed in 1897 from some clubs that then comprised the VFA.

Behinds were not counted in the score in those days, winners were judged by the number of goals they kicked and just as well in this first game because the VFA or Victoria, kicked 9-24 to 0-1.  The game in Sydney had only been going for 12 months while of course it was founded in Melbourne with the first game recognized as being played in 1858.

NSW played twenty six representative games between 1881 and until the Association’s demise in 1894 and only won against their regular nemeses, Queensland.  They drew several of their other matches, mostly because behinds were not counted, an anomaly in the game that was changed in 1897.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, VFL clubs were falling over themselves to visit and play against the locals.  Some of the games were listed as NSW versus … or Metropolitan or alternatively, Combined Sydney and many of the records of the matches were lost or no effort was kept to maintain them.  So it has taken many long years of research and investigation to locate details of the respective games.

NSW’s most significant victories have been two over the VFL which were both played in Sydney.  They won the first of these in 1923, 15-11 to 11-19 and the other two years later by a point 13-10 to 13-9.  It is fair to say though on the weekends these games were played, the VFL fielded at least two other representative sides playing other interstate games so maybe their top side was not that which was fielded against NSW.

In the first thirty years of the last century they defeated Queensland (on several occasions), Port Adelaide, Geelong (twice), Tasmania (twice), South Adelaide, West Torrens, Melbourne, ACT, Sth Aust Football Assn and most of these games were played in Sydney.  They lost the rest which we have calculated as seventy.

The state has competed in numerous national carnivals, which up until the first war were played every three years in different states however in latter decades were relegated to competition between Tasmania, ACT and Queensland while the other states played in the same carnival but against supposedly (and more correctly) stronger opposition between themselves.

NSW have also played in at least three amateur carnivals, the most recent in a country championships carnival in Wagga in 2012.  The other two were held in Adelaide in 1936 and Launceston in 1938 and we have included a photograph of the team taken as they travelled to the apple isle by boat.

As part of the 1988 Bi-Centenary celebrations, a pure State of Origin team was selected to compete in the carnival in Adelaide.  They lost their game against South Australia but recorded their first ever win over WA 10-8 to 9-12.

Some might remember the pseudo State of Origin team NSW fielded on a rainy night game against the VFL on May 22 at the SCG.  They won that match 13-8 to 10-16, much to the chargrin of Victorian selector, Ted Whitton.  We say pseudo because the team contained several Sydney Swans players who were not born, nor played their junior football in NSW.

To sum it up, NSW have lost far more than they have won in interstate contests and now the state combines their fortunes with players selected from the ACT, so here’s to the future.

NO TYPEWRITER IN 1962

Typewriter1962 was a real problem year for football in Sydney.

Ernie McFarlane, the former long term Newtown FC Secretary and player was in his second year as president of the league after accepting the position, that apparently not many wanted.  He was a member of the board of control for several years before this.  McFarlane took over from Wilf Holmes, a shipping executive, who, in his one year as president, was clearly out of his depth in what could only be described as a volatile Sydney football environment.

McFarlane had been a dynamo at Newtown but struggled as president of the league.  Early in the year two board members, Joe Armstrong and Ern Holmes, and later, University coach and league vice president, Frank Bird, resigned their positions.  Then secretary of the junior organisation, the NSW Football Union, Arthur Bridgewater, was suspended from the board following a disagreement.

Ernie McFarlane I
Ern McFarlane

Wilf Holmes - NSW AFL Life Member
Wilf Holmes

Arthur Bridgewater
Arthur Bridgewater

 

Fortunately, principal of a leading accounting firm, Arthur Davey of Sylvania, had taken over as treasurer midway during the previous year but in doing so walked into a financial minefield.  His predecessor had resigned and the fulltime secretary of the league had been suspended.  There had been some allegations of impropriety, while Davey would probably have used the term, ‘incompetence’, particularly when it took almost a month before he could get hold of the books for examination.

Things were so bad that the Australian National Football Council, the then national body for control of the game, withheld payment of their second installment of seven hundred and fifty pounds ($1400) towards the salary of the league’s fulltime secretary until such time that the accounts were audited and all clubs had paid their liabilities.

In that period, unlike today, there was no mechanism in place to compel clubs to pay their accounts to the league.  Then, and in particular, the main areas of liability to the league by clubs included affiliation fees, season tickets for entry to the ground and a levy for the employment of a fulltime secretary.

Davey eventually audited the accounts himself and in doing so found an outstanding contingent liability of five hundred and twenty one pounds ten shillings ($1043.00) owing to the clubs since 1957  This had involved a complicated method of financial reward to clubs based on the Club Championship for that year.  For a number of years around that period, the league concluded their seasons in debt, at times the amounts involved were quite sizable.

So early in 1962 the mood was very gloomy in Sydney football, certainly at a league level.

Some on the board wanted to re-appoint a fulltime secretary while others did not and this in itself caused continual bickering resulting in the resignations and suspension, mentioned above.

Further it was said “The New South Wales League has no funds”.

“We don’t even have a typewriter or an office desk” one board member said.  “The league was formed 59 years ago, but I doubt if we have ever been in worse financial position.”

Despite all this, the league re-introduced Sydney University to the first grade competition along with new club, Parramatta, bringing the number of clubs to twelve.  This was a perfect opportunity to establish a second division, but football would have to wait almost 10 years before this took place.  In the meantime four of the 1962 clubs had either folded or amalgamated.

At the end of the year Davey again showed that he was no shrinking violet and let his feeling be known in a lengthy report to the league where he urged a restructure of the organisation, particularly after it again finished the year in debt.  This time though the amount had been substantially reduced from those of previous seasons.

Rhys Giddey replaced Joe Boulus as honorary secretary between the end of the season and the subsequent annual general meeting which was held in February 1963.  Giddey went on to fill the fulltime league secretary’s role for the next two years.  He described his first 12 months in the job as one that had “been under pressures which, in 60 years, had not previously been experienced.”

This was particularly the case after Boulus had issued three writs against members of the Board of Management following the severance of his association with the league.

Just as the story gets interesting we have to end it here because we we are limited for space.