Rep Games in 1947

One of the gun NSW Players from 1947: Frank Larkin

During the past ten months or so we have written a number of stories on the year 1947 but we found there is more to be said.

In that year the NSW Football League (NSWANFL) played TWELVE representative matches – four of which were played on consecutive days over respective weekends (see green shade). Three of these games were played in Sydney and the other in Broken Hill;  all were against different opponents.  Of course the respective NSW teams that played on the both days of these same weekends were made up of different players.

Now if you have ever been involved with representative football or even club football, putting a team on the field requires a fair amount of planning, commitment and work.  The team which travelled to Tasmania comprised of players from Sydney, Broken Hill, Riverina and Albury.

Now granted 1947 was a year of a national carnival, played in Hobart (shaded in yellow) which made up four of the games, but nevertheless the other matches required players, managers, trainers, jumpers, shorts and socks and the list goes on.

In one of our earlier posts about 1947 we mentioned that the league secretary of the time, Ken Ferguson, made a public appeal for ‘clothing coupons’ in order to purchase player ‘clothing.’  Remember, this was just two years after the finish of WWII and the general public were still operating under the coupon system for food and clothing etc.

When the NSW Carnival team returned from Hobart, as if they didn’t have enough football, the league arranged for this side to play “The Rest” on the following weekend.

‘The Rest’ were made up from players not chosen in the NSW Carnival contingent but were Sydney players selected in the other NSW teams whilst the main team was in Tasmania.

So from a competition of seven Sydney clubs a total of 66 players were involved in representative football during that year. A further six were selected from clubs outside the metropolitan area.

Here are the matches:

1947-05-25 Sydney Queensland 20.13 (133) 15-17 (107) Won
1947-06-01 Sydney Broken Hill 18-15 (123) 8-13 (61) Won
1947-06-14 Broken Hill Broken Hill 12-12 (84) 11-9 (75) Lost
1947-06-15 Sydney Canberra 21-9 (135) 19-16 (130) Won
1947-06-21 Brisbane Queensland 18-22 (130) 18-24 (132) Won
1947-07-30 Hobart Canberra 13-18 (96) 7-8 (50) Won
1947-08-01 Hobart Tasmania 6-10 (46) 16-10 (106) Lost
1947-08-06 Hobart South Australia 14-12 (86) 17-9 (111) Lost
1947-08-08 Hobart Queensland 8-11 (59) 5-12 (42) Won
1947-08-09 Sydney Subiaco FC 12-6 (76) 11-10 (76) Lost
1947-08-10 Sydney East Fremantle FC 20-13 (133) 15-11 (101) Lost
1947-08-17 Sydney “The Rest” 21-18 (144) 13-16 (94) Won

You can see by the last score that the better players in the Sydney competition were chosen for the main NSW team.
All NSW games from 1881-1947, together with all their details, players, umpires and scores are listed here.

NSWAFL 1947 annual report
NSWAFFL 1947 Football Records
Metropolitan and Broken Hill newspapers of the day

– 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.


Norman P Joseph - NSWAFL President 1936-45
Norman P Joseph NSWANFL President 1936-45

That’s what the president of the New South Wales Australian National Football League, Norman P Joseph, said in 1941 when there were moves to ban sport during WWII.

Horse racing was restricted with the military taking over many of the race courses, certainly in Sydney;  and there were many more then, than there are today.

He made these remarks in the Sydney Football Record at the beginning of the 1941 season:

“Once again we start our season in the midst of a World War which is the cause of the greatest anxiety to all members of the sporting fraternity.

There is not one of us who has not some member of our family or near relative, serving with some branch of the forces.

A great deal has been said recently about the advisibility of carry on sport during war time.  After earnest consideration by the NSW League it is considered by us that no good purpose can be served in eliminating our sport.

If it could be definitely proved that the war effort can be helped by curtailing our activities we should be one of the first to fall in line with the Government’s wishes.

Up to the present we cannot see how it would help by either curtailing or stopping football.

Whatever the outlook on this matter, it is certain that the reaction of the war demands some outlet for our feelings and we cannot see any better way than by the

The Prime Minister's reaction to sport and the war
The Prime Minister’s reaction to sport and the war

continuation of such a healthy game as football.  It not alone gives pleasure to onlookers and players, but helps largely in maintaining the physical standard of our youth.

We, therefore, embark on our 1941 season with every confidence that we will be able to maintain our usual programme.

A large influx of southern players will be of great assistance to the various clubs and should improve the standard of the game.

The League is fortunate in being in a financial position that has enabled us to secure the new oval at Erskineville (Erskineville Oval had been slightly relocated and rebuilt immediately prior to this statement)

The public will now be able to regularly attend a ground that is ideal for playing the National Code.

This alone should ensure us an increased support.

In addition we have secured for the season our old venues in Trumper Park and Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2.

Therefore, despite all the abnormal conditions brought about by the war, the public can look forward to a season of bring vigorous football of a higher standard, played under the most advantageous circumstances that we have ever had.”

The graph below shows the income in pounds from Sydney games from 1930-60. You can see how it jumped when Sunday football was introduced in 1943.  The further increase relates to more clubs and games played during the 1950s.

Sydney Football Attendances Graph



I guess you have to be an absolute footy aficionado to appreciate a lot of what comes across our desk.

We see and read and see lots of stuff from Sydney’s footy history but sometimes we come across some real gems.

In our efforts to include more data on our OCR programme we have almost finished scanning all the NSW Football League’s, or as they are now titled, AFL(NSW/ACT) annual reports.  (We must tell you here that the organisation has had several name changes over the years.)

Reading some of these publications can have a profound affect on those really interested in football history.

For example, skimming through early WWII league annual reports, just shows what a battle it was to conduct the competition in Sydney.

For a start there was a paper shortage so in 1941 the report only consisted of four pages and to conserve paper, the normal page two, where officials were listed, was published on the front cover.  The other pages were printed front to back for the remainder in the roneoed document..

Right up to the 1980s, the league’s annual report began with the greeting “Gentlemen ….”  Not many women in executive positions in those days.

In some of those war year’s issues, there were personal notes written against peoples names and the room would be full on the night of the meeting.

The venue for the league’s annual meeting varied from various locations in the city, all of which have since been demolished.  But they were the times when the vast majority of the attendees (sample shown in photo above taken at the Sydney Sports Club, Hunter Street), club delegates, league officials and umpiring officials would have had to have caught a tram, bus or train home after the gathering – given that the meeting did not begin until 8:00pm.

Competition was fierce to gain a place on the league’s administration and it may have taken several years to be elected to a seat on the board.  A public vote was always taken for life members and there would have been severe embarrassment for those who were voted down, which sometimes happened.  They was not hidden ballots then.

Finding volunteers to administer the game then, as is the case now, was not easy.  Clubs could reasonably rely on ex-players to taken on positions but those who conducted league affairs were few and far between and these honorary officials really had to be dedicated.  There were sub-committees most had to join up to and it was not uncommon for the league secretary and treasurer to attend in excess of 40 meetings a year.

The photograph is of a young Ken Ferguson who was league Secretary for a total of 28 years, 24 of those in an honorary capacity.

The league board met each Monday night during the season right up until 1980.

In 1943 there were some wonderful footballers playing in Sydney having been posted here for training during hostilities.  For the most part they were evenly, but directed,  shared around the clubs and many were from the VFL, SANFL and WANFL.

In 1943 the nation’s prime minister, John Curtin, one of the country’s most outstanding leaders ever in our history was patron of the league.  The former VFA player attended several games at Trumper Park during the season and on one one occasion addressed both teams in their rooms after the game.

This was the year that football first began to play of a Sunday mostly due to the lack of grounds but the initiative saw attendances sky-rocket.

In 1944, Corporal Alby Morrison, former captain of Footscray was the leader of the RAAF club that competed in the Sydney competition during that period.  Although the awarding of the Phelan Medal (the league’s B & F) had been suspended, the talented Morrison, who had represented Victoria and would subsequently be chosen in Footscray’s Team of the Century, was presented with a cup in 1944 for The Best and Most Consistent Player in the Sydney league.

Also in the same year, Collingwood captain, Private Phonse Kyne, who was also stationed in Sydney and captain coach of the St George club, was awarded a cup for Outstanding Fair Play.  Kyne would go on to win three Copeland Trophies at Collingwood and coach the club to two premierships.  Neither of these clubs won the premiership in 1943 or 1944.

Jim Phelan’s Writings

Jim Phelan was one of the most influential and hard working honorary officials Sydney has seen.

A product of the Victorian Gold Mining boom, he learned his football around Ballarat and upon moving to Sydney played with the Waratah Club in 1888-9. He re-emerged in 1892 as Secretary and player of the East Sydney Club.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, following an almost ten year hiatus, he became the inaugural secretary of the Newtown Club until the outbreak of World War I when, mainly due to financial and man-power reasons, the game in Sydney again almost came to a crashing halt.

Between 1914-25 Jim took on the position of honorary Secretary of the League (General Manager) and was a huge influence in it’s continuation, particularly during the first war.

It was also during this time that Jim wrote, on a casual basis, about football in Sydney  for The Arrow, one of the many Sporting Publications.  It is from his accurate and to the point reporting of the game, at a time of distress for Sydney football, that we are able to form a picture of how the game was played and organised during that period.  We shall present these at a later date.

Jim was made a life member of the NSW Football League, then, following his prolonged period as the NSW delegate to the Australian Football Council – a national body representing each state and territory (since absorbed by the AFL), he was bestowed with life membership to this organisation in 1924.

So much did the football people of Sydney respect the tenacity and ability of this determined confectionery salesman, that the title of the Best and Fairest Medal was altered during the mid 1930s to bear his name.

Fortunately, Jim also wrote about many of his experiences and past times which were published  in the Football Record of the day, some of which we have transcribed and are included here for you to read.
Click Here for Phelans writings