– School Football in the Sutherland – St George Districts

In the early 1960’s, the High School Australian rules competition in the Sutherland Shire and St George districts was very healthy, in fact the best in Sydney.

Played of a Wednesday afternoon competition was made up of teams from the following schools:

Port Hacking High Caringbah High Heathcote High James Cook High
Janalli High Cronulla High Blakehurst High Hurstville High

Each of these High Schools usually fielded a senior plus a junior team.

In 1962, Port Hacking High School defeated Janalli High in the Final played at Old Park, Peakhurst, the home of the St George Club.

Players of interest in the 1962 team were the captain John Preston, who won the Kealey Medalist in the 1962 Sydney Under 19 competition.  Another was  Russell Warnken who also played in the St George under 19’s that year.  Along with Preston, they were both members of the victorious St George under 19 Premiership team of 1961.

Others included Bob Patterson who went on to record a successful football career with Sydney University as well as St George.  He later became the captain-coach of the Barrellan club in the Riverina and in 1979 had a season with the Campbelltown Club.

The 1963 Port Hacking school team lost a lot of experienced players from the previous season and finished second to Janalli High during the year, but won the final by a few points.  

Interestingly, the finals system played at that time was not the Page system, but one based on an old British system which was also used by the Sydney and other competitions prior to 1932.

Because Janalli High finished on top of the competition but lost the final, they had the right to again challenge the winners.   Port Hacking again won this challenge final by 17 points in a game played at Hurstville Oval before a large attendance from both High Schools.

A noteworthy player in the 1963 team was Bob Morris, the 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner and winner of many other touring car races in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

– Grounds in Sydney

An aerial image of Kensington Oval in 1943
An aerial image of Kensington Oval in 1943

You would be surprised at the list of different grounds that have been used in Sydney over the years.

Today we are used to say, Picken Oval, Olds Park and maybe Henson Park, but there have been many, many others.

One obscure ground is Kensington Oval which is located in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, between Kensington and Kingsford.  It is not longer used by the code.

It was constructed in 1928 from a sandy area on land which was also part of the catchment for the Botany Swamps which was used for Sydney’s water supply in the 19th century.

The ground came online in 1928 and in 1929 was one secured by the league as a venue for first grade matches at a lease fee of £60 ($4,500 today) per annum.  At the same time the league paid £500 for year for six years for the use of Erskineville Oval with £100 ($7,500) of that money to be used for improvements to the ground.  A challenge by Rugby Union pushed the fee for the use of Trumper Park from £100 in 1928 to £160 ($12,000) in 1929; and these when in the times when admission to the ground was one shilling ($3.75), grandstand one and six ($5.65) or patrons could purchase a season ticket for twelve shillings and sixpence ($47.00).

Chart of Sydney Ground Gate Takings 1930-50
Chart of Sydney Gate Takings 1930-50

Randwick Council built a grandstand for patrons but because the ground was not totally fenced, charging admission was a folly and most wrote off the use of the ground as a financial stream to the league.

South Sydney started training at the ground in 1928, previous to this they had trained at the now built on, Australian Football Ground which was on the corner of Botany and Gardeners Road, Alexandria.  Prior on Moore Park.

During the 1930s depression the out of work players and those on shift work volunteered their time to realign the ground and at the same time lengthen it.  A report from the Sydney Football Record in 1937 said

“There were scenes of great activity at Kensington Oval during the week.  A small army of workmen cut away the high ground outside certain portions of the fence to enable the extension of the playing area to comply with the measurements required by the code.

This, coupled with the fact that the ground has been newly top-dressed and harrowed will make the oval comparable with the best Australian Football Ground in the state.  By 8 May the full playing area will be ready to use.  No more will it be known as the despised ‘marble ring’ as the added length and wide pockets will give ample room to flank men thus opening up possibilities for more brilliant play.

The dimensions of the oval will be 140 yards x 150 yards, five yards less than the Sydney Cricket Ground and the major axis will run parallel to the grandstand, thus affording the spectators a better view.”

The ground fell out of permanent match use when the league introduced Sunday matches which made available Erskineville Oval or Trumper Park to be used on consecutive days over the weekend.

South Sydney initially had use of the top potion of the grandstand as a clubroom however it was soon taken over by the local council to use as a library repository.  Local junior rugby league began to use the ground for weekend matches and in 1974 South Sydney moved to Erskineville Oval as a training venue.

1978 Sydney Football League DVDs Available

DVD smallFollowing a lengthy period of production and other arrangements, the Society has finally made available twelve unique DVDs of various Sydney Football games.

These are in colour, of good quality and were originally shown on TV in 1978 with Kevin Taylor now of Footystats fame.  There is no audio, apart from the whistle, umpire instructions and crowd noise.

The games were recorded at Trumper Park, Rosedale Oval, Olds Park, Ern Holmes Oval and Erskineville Oval.  Seven out of the eight clubs which comprised the first grade in 1978 are featured.  Strangely, there are no North Shore FC games which leads us to suspect that the films involving the club were removed before they came into the hands of the Society.

You can view the list of games here and by clicking any of the matches listed on this page you will be able to view a short clip of the particular game.

These DVDs are available for sale at $24.50 plus $5.40 postage, total $29.90 and orders can be placed on our Merchandise Sales page here and then follow the instructions.

A number of former players and officials will really get a buzz out of seeing these matches and the purchase of a DVD would make an ideal present for a father, uncle, brother or grand father.

What Happened in 1963

1963 Neil Wright - Wests coach smallAll years in Sydney football are different but 50 years ago, 1963 just appeared to be that little bit different.

A year after 2UW broadcast the VFL Grand Final in Sydney in what can only be described as a very unique media event, the league started the year five hundred pounds ($1,000) in the red.  Prior to this the league finished 1962 with a deficit of five hundred and forty three pounds ($1086.00), four hundred and one pounds ($802.00) in 1961 and three hundred and seventy five pounds ($750.00) in 1960. This may not sound like much money today but back then, they were almost insurmountable figures for a struggling code.

Former Western Suburbs and Bankstown player, Rhys Giddey had been appointed the league’s secretary working out of a small building at Trumper Park.  He went on to assume a fulltime appointment in the position.

1963 followed at least one season of administrative turmoil and because the previous (honorary) secretary had been summarily dismissed in mid January (1963) officials failed to get hold of any of the financial records until nearly three months in so a set of unaudited accounts were presented to members at the AGM.

The league certainly had their problems.

On the club scene, calls for a two division system were ignored.  The Liverpool and Bankstown clubs amalgamated which reduced the competition to eleven clubs, necessitating a bye and there were suggestions that two other unnamed clubs should also amalgamate. It didn’t happen.

However the league engineered the draw so that the top teams from 1962 played each other twice as did the lower five clubs.  Top and bottom sides then only had to meet on one occasion.  This ensured the presentation of the game overall at a generally higher standard with the lower clubs meeting under more equitable conditions.

Western Suburbs were hailed as the glamour club upon the construction of their licensed premises fronting onto Picken Oval was complete.

The club signed a former VFA player, ruckman Neil Wright (pictured) as their coach on a four figure fee, something unheard of in Sydney football.  This is when St George paid their ex-VFL coach two hundred and fifty pounds ($500) and South Sydney paid theirs, one hundred pounds ($200).  Wests also openly announced that it would pay both their first AND reserve grade players.  Another exceptional occurrence in the league.

In total the Magpies had fifteen new players from interstate and country areas.  They also afforded the top dressing their Picken Oval ground for the season.

Then on the eve of the finals Wests were hit with a savage blow when coach Wright was admitted to Prince Henry Hospital with hepatitis.  His place was taken by former club captain, Peter Kuschert.

Meanwhile, Hurstville Council decided to call for tenders for a large scale development of Olds Park and the St George Club was one which submitted a proposal for a successful 21 year lease for the site.

Rain forced the postponement of all round 4 matches in late April

The Parramatta club got themselves into strife in a match against St George in early May when they played 16 unregistered players.  These were all former players with Liverpool which had amalgamated with Bankstown and their registration was locked into the last placed, Liverpool/Bankstown Club.  Parramatta were fined a hefty fifty pounds ($100).

In May, St George took the opportunity to travel to Newcastle on their bye weekend where they defeated the Hamilton Club 8.15 (63) to 6.11 (47).  A week later they scored an impressive 15.15 (105) to 0.2 (2) win over Eastern Suburbs at Trumper Park, however in mid June they too had a shock when a last minute goal by Sydney University’s John Weissel gave the students a rare win over the Saints.

The East’s loss was their greatest in the club’s history and many attributed the atrocious weather conditions as one of the reasons for their poor performance.

Most fans chuckled quietly in round 6 when Parramatta included an untried 199.5cm American, Harvey Haddock in their side to meet Eastern Suburbs.  Hadock was a sailor on the USS aircraft carrier, Coral Sea which was visiting Sydney.  Easts won 17.7 (109) to 13.14 (92).  Hadcock battled to get a kick.

NSW played three interstate games that year and lost the lot.  A two goal loss to Queensland in Brisbane, an eleven point defeat by the ACT in Canberra and an eight goal loss to Combined Universities on the June long weekend.

On 14 July, Eastern Suburbs backman, John Grey was charged with kicking boundary umpire Leo Farley in a game against St George.  Grey was outed by the Tribunal for five years.

Burly Newtown captain-coach, Ellis Noack won the league’s goalkicking with 55 majors while versatile, Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, who played most of the season in a back brace, won the Phelan Medal.

Sharrock was instrumental in his club’s grand final victory over Newtown before a record crowd at Trumper Park.  League secretary, Rhys Giddey gave the attendance as 11,337 but admitted years later that he may well over liberally over-estimated the number.

As in many of Sydney’s grand finals, the 1963 version was no exception  It opened sensationally with an all-in brawl after an incident in the ruck snowballed and players from all parts of the field rushed to join in the melee.

Players from both sides stood trading punches until central umpire Mal Lee together with goal and boundary umpires separated them.

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock, in later years a leading figure in the Bankstown Sports club, was reported for striking and Wests John Griffiths was charged with kicking.  Wests won 14.14 (98) to Newtown’s 12.16 (88)  after the Magpies were down by nine points at the final change.

The league cancelled the proposed 15 September two hundred and fifty pound ($500), Premiers v The Rest Game and replaced it with a final of the post season knock-out competition between St George and South Sydney.

Not to spoil their poor record, the league again finished the 1963 season in the red.  This time though it was a much more manageable figure of thirty seven pounds ($74.00)

The Coup of 1978

Towards the end of the 1970s a certain section of the Sydney football community were tiring of the league administration led by long term president, Bill Hart.

As successful as it was in its own way, it was seen as old fashion, not up with the times, anti VFL and still followed doctrine that had been laid out earlier in the century.

Added to this was the growing interest the VFL was showing to extend their influence into Sydney.  In 1974 Victoria v South Australia played at the SCG which attracted 20,000 fans but more importantly the game was televised live to W.A., Tasmania, South Australia, ACT and most country areas of NSW.

In those days the Victorian Government would not permit the VFL to play their games on Sundays in that state so they began looking for different venues where their football could be televised back into Melbourne.  Sydney was one such location which had the potential to fill the void most admirably.  It is safe to say at that stage, there was no premeditated vision to expand the competition interstate.

A lot of the acrimony in Sydney had to do with the NSWAFL’s participation in the Escort Championships.  This was a separate knock-out competition which began in 1977 involving then only the 12 VFL clubs but by 1979 it also included all WAFL clubs, NSW, Tasmania and the ACT.  The following year all clubs in the SANFL became involved along with Queensland.

NSW’s involvement was not without distress when the NSWAFL Board of Management resolved in August, 1978 to involve the state in the series but only after a fairly volatile debate which was then followed by a very close vote.

So with this underlying feeling that the old school would not move with the time plus and rancour in NSW’s involvement in the Escort Championships, a clandestine group began to meet at the then Newtown Rules Club, 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern, with the ultimate aim of unseating the administration of the league at the December 1978 AGM.  At that time and for the previous 75 years, the NSWAFL conducted not only the football affairs of part of NSW but also the Sydney competitions.

If successful the group were promised by the VFL the appointment of a ‘fulltime professional administrator for the league.’  This was despite the fact that the NSWAFL had had a fulltime secretary with assistant, since 1964.

In October 1978, part-time television personality, Kevin Taylor, who, by that time, had been sacked by the league as their media representative, laid out the plans of the new group in an article in a local inner-city newspaper, The Sydney Shout, so it was quite clear that the clandestine tag had been quickly lost with the machinations of the time.

Along with Taylor, Bern Heafey was one of the prime movers in the Sydney football power play.  He was an affable character who had football at heart.  Heafey had one year as president of the North Shore Club in 1951 but later involved himself with St Ives, a second division club, where he was president.  In time he was to become the face of the new faction but only for a short period.

The idea of change came with the suggestion of new and exciting possibilities and additional meetings were held at other venues, including Easts Rules Club, Bond Junction, St George Clubrooms at Olds Park and even Bankstown Sports Club.  Tension was building with the group’s activities because not all clubs were involved with this action.

The 1978 Annual General Meeting of the NSWAFL was set for Monday 11 December at their offices, 64 Regent Street, Chippendale.

Unusually, the actual meeting was held in the front reception area of the small attached brick building where there was standing room only for most.

League officials were very much aware of the move against them with both camps working overtime to secure sufficient votes to get over the line.

Each of the nine Sydney first division clubs had two votes.  The eight second division clubs each had one vote as did the NSW Junior Football Council, Newcastle AFL, South Coast AFL, NSW Country AFL, Central Coast AFL, Illawarra AFL and each board member of the league.  Life members also had the opportunity to exercise a vote but historically not many of these personnel turned out for the annual meetings.  Perhaps if they had  realised the significance of the possible outcome, they might have made the effort.

The meeting was extremely acrimonious with chairman, Bill Hart, flat out controlling the sometimes raucous attendees who were full of interjections.

Hart (shown here on the left) was defeated by Heafey in a close vote.  Country representative, Allen Baker was appointed to the Vice President’s position.

Many of the incumbent Board of Management were re-elected but several, along with Heafey, only lasted a year or two with a number of resignations listed in 1980.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the change was the sale of premises at 64 Regent Street, which incidentally the purchase of which was mainly funded by the Western Suburbs Football Club Ltd.  The building was far from salubrious but did represent the code with a main street location and somewhere to call ‘home’.

After the sale, League officials were then housed in the top floor at the Newtown Rules Club at 303 Cleveland Street Redfern, a converted picture theatre, until 1985 when they moved to new premises under the Bill O’Reilly stand at the SCG.

The enthusiasm and new Sydney Football League entity which resulted from the coup, did not last and when a new administration took control not that many years later, it all changed again.

SYD FELSTEAD PASSES

While reported on the passing of Alf Penno this week yet another legend of Sydney football, not a player but an administrator, has died suddenly.

He former long term St George president and league official, Syd Felstead, passed away in June 2011, he was 92.

St George Football Club historian, Pat McCourt, penned a profile of this very well respected man who really had the game at heart:

Syd’s journey through life is an amazing story!  His contribution to Australian Rules at St George, throughout Sydney and NSW is invaluable.  I will be brief in my summary; however on Syd’s passing we have to pay a tribute, acknowledge who Syd Felstead was and what he did to establish junior competitions of Australian Rules throughout Sydney.

Syd Felstead born 26 August 1919, Bendigo Victoria, his father dying in early 1920s as result service at Gallipoli and gassing received in France in WW1.  After moves around Victoria, and Paddington in Sydney in 1928, Syd and his mother moved to Dora St Hurstville in 1930 at start of the depression. A time when Syd and his mother eked out a living; Syd on his bike, he named “Greenie” doing deliveries and collecting manure in his billy cart [made from a fruit box and wheels off a pram], selling a cart load to neighbours for sixpence [now five cents]!

In 1934 at age 15, having passed the Intermediate certificate, Syd left school eventually got an apprenticeship at ACI Glassworks as a crystal glass cutter, earning eleven shillings and sixpence per week [today’s currency; one dollar and fifteen cents]. He traded his bike “Greenie” on a new Malvern Star, paying it off at two shillings per week [present currency; twenty cents] and played junior Rules matches in local school and local park competitions! Syd commenced in 1938 with St George AFC, in Reserve Grade [St George Third grade was not formed until 1958].

Syd was associated with some greats of that St George era; likes of Phonse Kyne, Jack Browne, and Stan Powditch and was lucky to witness St George’s Premiership in 1938.  Syd also had a strong affiliation with the committee and between 1938 and 1957 (allowing for time spent overseas in WWII with RAAF, crewing in Wellington and Lancaster bombers), played a total of 128 senior games; was a member of 1951 Reserve Grade premiership.

After returning from war, Syd with partners started their own cut glass business, and continued playing with St George, mainly as fullback.  During his time as a player, Syd was an active committee member, with Andrew Glass as President. In 1955 Syd became President, holding the position for 20 years when he stepped aside in 1974.  Under his Presidency, St George played in three consecutive Grand finals between 1964 and 1966; winning 1964 Premiership!

Behind the scenes with colleagues from various Sydney Clubs, Syd was active developing the junior base of all Sydney Clubs. He chaired committees to establish St George junior clubs in 1950s; likes of Como, Peakhurst and Boys Town [all since faded into history]. Present junior Clubs [Ramsgate, Miranda, Cronulla and Penshurst] established with assistance from; Ruben Fraser, Alan Gibbons, Alex Melville.  Some of Syd’s achievements, included –

Life Memberships and Awards

 Life member of St George AFC – awarded 1953

Life member of AFL (NSW/ACT) – awarded 1967

In 2000, received from Prime Minister an Honour Award for 2000 Bi Centennial celebrations – for past contributions to Australian Rules

St George AFC ‘Hall of Fame’ –  inducted in 2005 one of five initial inductees

 

Some other contributions and achievements [there were many] –

[As recorded in Syd’s hand written notes, held by me]

Elected to Board of Management of NSW ANFL 1956

Appointed Team Manager for NSW Teams from 1958 to 1965

In 1966 appointed by Sutherland Council to Ground Allocation Committee

Awarded Australian Sports Medal by Commonwealth Government

Served as Chair Person in formation of both Junior Assoc, and St George body of NSW ANFL Junior Planning Committee

Chaired formation committee of St George All Age Comp/Open Age League [now defunct]; subsequently became NSW League Second division comp

Included in book published [2000] recording “History of Hurstville Oval”

Suggested, had passed initial concept of Club Championship Points at NSW League

Held positions in 1950s and 1960s as President and Delegate to NSW ANFL

Awarded ˜Merit Award” by Australian Football Council

Olds Park – Syd was instrumental in 1968/1969 in securing the initial 21 year lease on Olds Park when St George made the move from Hurstville Oval.  Syd was involved in 1970 in the unsuccessful application to obtain a liquor licence for St George at Olds Park which was backed at time by Bill Picken [Western Suburbs fame].

Due to his strong Australian wide connections in Aussie Rules circles, whilst President, Syd was instrumental in getting the likes of Dale Dalton, Don McKenna, Dennis & Ray Pegg, Ralph Todd, Graham Cornes and many other interstate recruits to play with St George.

Syd was always strongly supported by his wife, Betty [nee O’Reilly b.1924] whom he married during the war and had four children; Graham, Sandra, Robyn and David. Both boys played briefly at St George, where Betty was a pillar of strength, working in the canteen at Hurstville Oval, selling raffle tickets and organising social functions. They retired to live at Vincentia, where Betty passed away in May 2005.

It can be categorically stated; Syd fathered the St George AFC junior competition as it stands today – Patrick McCourt was a member of initial team that started Miranda junior club! Syd’s blue print to establish St George junior clubs, was adopted by other Sydney Clubs.

Syd Felstead made a valuable contribution to successes enjoyed by a vast base of Australian Rules players, supporters. He established basis for present day operations for many persons who continue to participate, enjoy Australian Rules throughout Sydney and NSW. St George benefited from Syd’s earlier work; winning eleven, Third Grade Premierships between 1958 and 1980; with two runner ups and only three times did it not make the final four in that era.

Australian Rules is poorer upon the passing of Syd Felstead. Syd was a pioneer; St George has lost an icon!

For contemporary players and followers of Sydney football, Syd was a regular attendee at the league’s annual Phelan Medal Night.  Syd Felstead “was really a nice guy.”