– Seconds Rep Side Beat First Grade

I think this game would be one of a time, well certainly the result was.

In 1924 there were seven first grade teams in the Sydney Football competition.  This followed the loss of the Police team which had competed for the previous two seasons in the top grade.  However not all of the teams had reserve or second grade sides.

The senior teams were Newtown (2), Railway, North Sydney, Paddington (2), East Sydney, Sydney (2) and Balmain.  Those without (2) were the clubs without a seconds so other district clubs played before those particular senior games as curtain raisers.

In late July the South Broken Hill Club journeyed to Sydney to play a game against a combined metropolitan team, then called Metropolis.  The Sydney side contained thirteen of the twenty or so who were selected in the NSW State Team which went on to compete in the Australian Football Carnival in Tasmania in weeks following this encounter.  South Broken Hill won the match 9-8 (62) to 8-10 (58) before a crowd estimated at 6,000;  The Broken Hill team were described as “brilliant”.

The lead-up game on the day was a Combined Junior (second grade) team versus a combined team selected from the Sydney First Grade.  The second grade was often referred to as ‘junior’ although it was open age football.  The Sydney First Grade team was the one selected to play Victoria in Sydney in seven days time.

No-one gave the seconds a chance but they easily got over their opponents 6-11 to 3-6.  The scores of the early games in those days were nearly always modest due to the  population’s working conditions of five and a half days a week which included Saturday Mornings; curtain raisers began at 1:30pm and were mostly played in four x 15 minute quarters.

It is worth reading a passage on the game from the leading sporting paper of the day, The Referee:

The early game was between the team picked to play against Victoria, and Combined Reserve Grade. Nine of the representative teams failed to turn up and other players not picked, who were at the ground, filled the gaps. But the team which took the field was little inferior to the original selection; The dash of youth proved too good for the has-beens. In every phase of the game, in every position, even in the ruck, where they were expected to be weak, the juniors were markedly superior, and gave the seniors such a lesson in getting to the ball and doing something with it that the selectors must take note and strengthen the team to play against Victoria by the inclusion of some of the boys. The best football is in a youth when he is round about 19 and 20; if he does not show it then he never will. The selectors plea that the boys are too young and cannot stand the buffeting was shown to be mere moonshine. The juniors were never headed, and cleverly won an epoch making game, in which the scores were: First quarter. 2-5 to 1-3; half time, 5-7 to 2-4: third quarter, 5-10 to 8-4; final scores, 6-11 (47) to 3-6 (24). Goalkickers; Second Grade, Flynn (4), Holder (2) ; and Finch Rudolph and Powers for the Firsts. For the winners, every player was at his top, and Woolnough handled Ills side in masterly fashion. For the losers Finch, Eagle, McFarlane, Reynolds,”

Incidentally, on the same weekend, the North Broken Hill side defeated a combined Northern Tasmanian team at York Park, Launceston before 6,500 people, 8-6 (42) to 5-10 (40).

Referee Newspaper, 30 July 1924 page 13;
Sydney Sun, 27 July 1924, page 8
SMH, 28 July 1924, page 6;

– 1903 Collingwood v Fitzroy in Sydney – it nearly didn’t happen!

Mostly through bad management and petty squabbles, the game failed and ceased to exist in Sydney in 1895.

This had been after a long and arduous period of getting the game established and accepted in Sydney.  The first clubs, Sydney and East Sydney were formed in 1881 which played under the NSW Football Association formed the year before.

Despite its demise, many of the proponents of the game were still keen about in the early 1900s and one, Harry Hedger, who had put his heart and sole into the game as a player and official in the aforementioned period, was very keen to see it rekindled.

After the NSW Football League had been formed in January 1903, he visited Melbourne late in the next month especially to attend a meeting of the VFL and club delegates where he outlined the need for support to have the game re-established in the NSW capital.

After Hedger harangued delegates until 2.30am, “Mr. C. M. Hickey (Fitzroy) said that his club was willing to go to Sydney at its own expense, and to forego any share of the gate receipts. Eventually Mr. Copeland, on behalf of the Collingwood club, agreed to make the trip. The cost to each of these clubs will probably be about £300, and they will each lose the proceeds of the match, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been played in Melbourne. Thus either the Fitzroy or the Collingwood ground will lose one of its most productive games. In order to compensate the two clubs for the sacrifice it was decided that the proceeds of the games played in Victoria on that day shall be pooled and divided equally between all the clubs in the league; and, further, that the ground which suffers by the arrangement shall be awarded one of the semi-final matches. ” [1]

But the Collingwood membership were not all that too happy with the decision.  At the annual meeting of the Collingwood Football Club on March 9, some members of the club resented the action of their committee in making the interstate arrangement.  One member, a Mr. Mansergh, said “that he thought the committee had exceeded its powers in committing the club to such a course. The members had a right to be consulted, and they should have decided. The match with Fitzroy was the most popular game of the season, and he did not think it fair that members should be deprived of the game.”

Mansergh then move that  “This meeting disagrees with the action of the committee of the club in deciding to play a premiership match in Sydney.  The motion was declared carried on a show of hands.” [2]

The decision of the members of the Collingwood club did not affect the Sydney visit, but had the potential to rob the match of its interest as far as the premiership was concerned”

In the meantime football euphoria had gripped Sydney with the two biggest clubs in Australia to visit in May.  Sydney was a Rugby town (Rugby League had not yet been introduced) and as well, soccer was played but not as popular as it is today.  Despite all this, eleven new first grade clubs were formed – and there were others.

However Collingwood had more problems when it comes to impediments to their proposed match. In May 1903 Victoria was gripped with a rail strike which subjected the match to a good deal of uncertainty.  The May 9 game of Geelong v Carlton game had to be postponed because of the strike.  The sudden impact of the strike had stifled any arrangements for travel to Geelong by boat because any such arrangements had not been considered early enough. [3]

There is more to this story …. stay tuned.

[1] Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser – 4 March 1903, p.570
[2} The Argus 10 March 1903 p.7
[3] 1903 VFL results

Leo Harry – forever an umpire

Leo Harry, NSW AFL Life Member and Vice President
Leo Harry, NSW AFL Life Member and Vice President

We pulled this out of a 1931 newspaper.

Leo Harry, chairman of tho Umpire Sydney Appointment Board, played for Northcote (Vic.) for three years, and in Sydney for 13 years. He holds what is believed to be an Australian record for umpire’s fees in any code of football.  In 1923 he received 18 guineas (believe it or not, $1200 in today’s money) for umpiring a match at Corowa, NSW. The fee was so high because Leo had to pay another man to do the work he vacated by taking the time off for the trip to the ‘bush’. Mr. Harry is a son of the (very) late Jack Harry, the famous Victorian cricketer of Northcote (Vic.). His son Jack, though only three years of age, promises to follow in his footsteps. Leo says the, youngster can run like a deer.”

Leo came to Sydney following WWI and became involved in football, firstly as an umpire and later as a league official.

He was active as a Vice President of the NSW Football League, Chairman of the Umpires’ Appointment Board for many years, NSW state team manager on several occasions and ground manager at many interstate games and finals.

It was reported in 1929:
Leo. Harry, hon. secretary and founder of the New South Wales Australian Rules Umpires’ Association, will retire at the end of the present season after ten years meritorious service.  Mr. Harry refers with pride to the fact that, when he formed the Association of Umpires ten years ago (1919), they were paid 2/6 ($9 in today’s money) a match. To-day they are paid £1/2/6 ($81 in today’s money). Mr. Harry’s loss will be almost irreparable.”

Then in 1947 a report said:
Leo Harry, claims a record for the code in this State.
He possesses life-membership medals of the N.S.W. League (1940), the NSW Australian National Football Umpire’s Association, and the Metropolitan Juniors’ Association.”

It’s amazing that people, like Leo, do so much for football and they become forgotten with the passing of time.  Leo died in 1962 aged 72.


1919The 1919 season for football  in NSW was a particularly difficult one.

The war was over in the previous November but the return of servicemen from England and Europe was slow.  Many of these were country based so, unlike when they were posted to Sydney, they did not stay.

Of those footballers who signed up, some did not return, some returned with permanent injuries, some were just not fit to play for one reason or another and the number who did again take up the game were limited.

All this was coupled with the world wide outbreak of Spanish Influenza which killed between 50-100 million people world wide, 10,000 of whom were in Australia.  Because of the country’s relative isolation, the flu didn’t really hit here until 1919 and with no anti-biotics, authorities were virtually powerless to prevent its evolution.

In Sydney there were only five senior clubs in 1919: Paddington, Newtown, Balmain, East Sydney and Sydney with the South Sydney club failing to reappear from the previous year.

A forerunner to the Western Suburbs club of the 1920s, Ashfield Old Boys, who played on Ashfield Park, competed in the reserve grade competition.

At the last minute negotiations to play on the league’s former venue, the Australian Football Ground at Mascot, failed and while they were able to secure some dates for SCG No. 2, a number of games had to be played on the fenceless Moore Park, opposite the Bat & Ball Hotel, which was and still is a venue for the game over the years.  There, when officials remembered, the boundary was marked with small flags.  Rushcutters Bay and Alexandria Oval were also used as venues while Erskineville Oval was the only permanent ground where a gate could be charged.

During the first war period, the VFL had lent the NSW Football League one hundred and fifty pounds, perhaps in an effort to overcome their dire financial position resulting from major problems in 1914.  Early in 1919, the NSWFL repaid seventy five pounds of their debt.

On a brighter side there was a third grade or junior division for players 17 years and under.  This was composed of teams from Paddington, Newtown, Western Suburbs, Ashfield Old Boys and Gardeners Road School.  These teams were charged ten shillings and six pence ($1.05) affiliation fee and required to pay two shilling and six pence (25c) umpire fee per game.

Late in the season there was a complaint by the Gardeners Road team which identified three Newtown juniors as being over age in a finals game.

Mid season the Gardeners Road School had made arrangements to play a game at the new Duntroon College but the match had to be cancelled because of an influenza outbreak at the school.

A number of country associations affiliated with the NSWFL including Bolagamy & Dist, Culcairn & Dist., South Wests Dist Football Assn., Kamarah, Wagga United, Southern Riverina, as well as the Beckom and Barellan football Association.

1919 was the first year Stan Milton made an appearance in Sydney football playing for Paddington.  He went on to kick over 1200 goals in the Stan Miltoncompetition and 150 in representative football.  The Sydney competition’s senior goalkicking award is named after him.

East Sydney travelled to Lithgow, where a team which included some former VFL players, to play a game.  The umpire who travelled with the team complained that his expenses were not paid.  The South West Dist Football Association also asked for Sydney umpires for their finals.  For this they had to pay two pounds each.

An interesting comment came from the league minutes in August 1919 after a club goal umpire had made a decision in an East Sydney v Balmain match which altered the make up of the final four.  An official said following a complaint ” …. the league has done everything possible, short of securing paid appointees, which is an impossibility”

The league put two proposals forward at the Australian National Football Council’s December meeting.  One, that throwing of the ball be permitted and secondly that a cross bar be place between the two goal posts.  Both were rejected.

Another to allow injured players to be replaced up until the end of the second quarter was also not entertained.  Prior to this no player could be replaced on the field and if one was injured and had to leave the field, the team just played short.

Shortly we will be posting NSW Football League minutes for 1919 & 20 on the website, accessible through the Collections Box on the bottom right or the main page.