Sydney AFL Grand Final week brings back memories of Wests’ win in 1965

Again the Football History Society’s, Vice President, Dr Rod Gillett, has sought out a great period in NSW football:

Western Suburbs were the most successful club in Sydney football in the 1960s. The Magpies, which had been re-formed in 1948, played in seven grand finals winning four.

Under dual Melbourne premiership player Athol Webb, Wests convincingly beat St George in the 1965 grand final at Trumper Park, 17-15 (117) to 12-9 (81).

Wests had become a powerhouse through sound administration, access to its own ground  in Picken Oval and the establishment of the first licensed club for Australian football in NSW in 1962.

Club secretary Bill Hart, later to be president of the NSWANFL from 1966-1978, was instrumental in getting Webb to come to Sydney from Tasmania.  The previous year he had coached the East Launceston FC (1962-63) in the NTFA and prior, the New Norfolk FC (1960-61) after finishing up in the VFL where he played with the Melbourne club from 1955-59.

Webb was essentially a full-time coach with Wests.  In addition to coaching duties, he worked in the licensed club and ran school programs in the inner west. He resided in a house next to the club which they also owned.

Western Suburbs finished on top of the table with 15 wins in 1965 and only two losses in the home-and-away matches to St George and North Shore. Wests lost to St George under Col Harris in the second semi final but came back to comfortably beat Newtown in the preliminary final.

Statistics were provided in the NSWANFL Football Record (19 September 1965) that show the following:

Kicks Marks Hand Passes Free Kicks Hit Outs
Western Suburbs 181 63 13 12 53
Newtown 147 52 17 25 30

Wests ruckman Russ Lockett, later a long-term secretary-manager of the licensed club, led the ruck division to a decisive advantage over Newtown, 53 hit-outs to 30.

In an interview for this piece, Athol Webb, now aged 85 and living in The Rock where he went to coach after Wests, recalled it was a “very hot day, 97° F” but “we were pretty well set-up to win”.

The grand final victory which was described by the President Herb Conlon in the club’s annual report for 1965 as “an inspired performance to outplay St George in every position”.

Amongst the best players for Wests were “close-playing” full back Peter Burgess, “fearless rover” Cliff Hayes (later an umpire), key forward John Godwin “a former rugby player” and “versatile” vice-captain Roger Nobes (quotes from the Football Record for the Grand Final).

Western Suburbs FC contingent boarding the plane for NZ

Wests went on an end-of-season trip to Auckland to play an exhibition match. A party of 43 players, officials and committeemen journeyed to New Zealand. The match played at Cromwell Park attracted a crowd of 7000. The Kiwi team proved to good for Wests. The game covered on the national television news on the Sunday following the game.

 

The next year, Athol Webb was enticed to southern NSW to coach The Rock-Yerong Creek in the strong Farrer League. Webb coached TR-YC for three seasons and stayed on as a player for a further six years.

Athol told me that The Rock was a “terrific little spot” and a great place to raise a family.

Asked to name the highlights of his career, Athol modestly told me, “Kicking 5 goals in the 1956 VFL grand final against Collingwood, I suppose”, but then he lit up when he said “also winning the Tassie One Thousand (professional foot race) at Burnie”. When pressed about his share of the purse he said, “750 quid!”.

Athol Webb (pictured left in Tasmanian jumper) is described in the Encyclopedia of VFL/AFL Footballers Since 1897 (2003) as a “former Tasmanian forward whose speed and elusive style made him a constant menace to opposition sides”. He played 74 games and kicked 146 goals for Melbourne from 1955-59.

He told me that Norm Smith was a “master coach”, “…he knew how to get the best out of everyone, every week”

He was captain-coach of NSW in 1965 and also in 1964 in matches against North Melbourne and Hawthorn in Sydney.

He also represented Victoria and Tasmania and kicked the match-sealing goal when Tassie famously beat Victoria at York Park, Launceston in 1960.

Athol Webb has been nominated for a place in the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

 

1966

19661966 could be judged as just another year in Sydney football.  The footy system went on as normal but we take a deeper look at the season which is just 48 years ago.

Wests won the flag before a crowd of 7,000 at Trumper Park, Sydney Naval’s Norm Tuxford took out the Phelan Medal, Don McKenna an army recruit from the St George club booted 71 goals to win the first grade Leading Goalking Award, the league returned a (never to be repeated) profit of $2,575 on the Football Record, Eastern Suburb’s Roy Hayes, was made life member of the league, a junior competition was started in the Balmain-Ryde area which included North Ryde, Ermington, Pennant Hills-Normanhurst as well as a Balmain junior club and long term league secretary, Ken Ferguson once again took the reigns at the league, this time in a fulltime capacity.

The league consolidated their newly acquired premises at 64 Regent Street Chippendale, (a photo of which now adorns the website front page in a rotating banner) and again recorded their recognition and appreciation for its purchase to the Western Suburbs Licensed Club.  Sydney Naval and Eastern Suburbs clubs, separately, had their applications for a licensed rejected by the Licensing Court.

A direct and live broadcast (albeit of the second half) by Channel 7 of the Western Suburbs v Sydney Naval game on June 4 game gave the code a lift while East’s captain-coach, Alan Gray was transferred to Wagga prior to the end of the season, upsetting the club’s plans for the finals  Souths had a foreign legion in the senior side which only contained three locals.

Junior players in the state’s Under 15 training squad included Jack Slade (Newtown), Phil Fenny (Wests), Paul Paitry (Easts), Chris Bucko and Paul McCook (St George) were some who would go on to play senior football in Sydney.  Peter Hastings, SC, QC, former Tribunal Chairman who now heads the NSW Crime Commission, was president and player of the Sydney University Club.

Forty-two year old, Jack Armstrong, The Black Fella, retired from umpiring.  Incidentally the Society is working on a story of this once legend of Sydney football which will be published soon.  Ellis Noack was captain-coach of the Southern Districts club.  St George moved to their new home on the site of a former quarry which became Olds Park.  In the rules of the game, the flick-pass was ditched.

History Society president, Ian Granland, began his long journey in football administration when elected secretary of the South Sydney club at age 17 and Vice President, Bill Carey, played his 100th consecutive first grade game for Balmain.

Former VFL umpire and Sydney Naval Coach, Bill Quinn, who went on to become a wonderful supporter of the Sydney Swans club, was appointed coach of the NSW Umpires Assn.  And who could not forget the appointment of Ray Catherall as Sydney Naval’s coach.  Ray, a restauranteur,  had Mother’s Cellar and Moby Dicks restaurants at Kings Cross in his stable.  He gained international notoriety by playing ‘soothing’ music to his players in the change rooms at half time breaks.  He only last one season at the club only to move on to coach Sydney University the following year.

However one of the biggest and least remembered events of the season was the umpiring furore at Trumper Park on July 10 when NSW played North Melbourne.

Our last featured photograph prompted a few memories when, in the days of one (central) umpire, the then Umpires’ Assn secretary and the 1965 Sydney grand final umpire, Len Palmer, was ‘unappointed’ from the game and replaced by VFL umpire, Stan Fisher.

We contacted the Ettalong based Palmer to get the real story.

KilligrewHe said he was at the ground and had begun to change into his umpiring attire when Kangaroo’s coach, the 168cm former St Kilda dynamo, Alan Killigrew (pictured) told officials that “he would not let his boys be umpired by someone from a football outpost like Sydney.”  When asked to be reasonable about the matter and that the 31 year old Palmer, who was after all,  was straight off the VFL Reserves Umpiring list in 1964 and quite competent of handling the match, but the volatile Killigrew refused and stood his ground.

Minutes before the start of the game, Sydney officials had no choice but to capitulate.

Palmer said he had been told before the match that a VFL umpire was at the ground but he did not know his identity.  North Melbourne had brought Fisher to Sydney for the game but there appeared to be no prior communication on the appointment between the two organising parties.

Fisher, who began his VFL umpiring career in 1963 and by then had umpired over 40 league games, was embarrassed about the controversy and suggested to Palmer that they eac do one half.  Palmer could see the problems this could cause and declined his offer.  He then sat on the sideline as the reserve umpire but joined in the after-match hospitality at the Wests Club.

NSW was soundly beaten 20.17 (137) to 7.11 (53).  And incidentally, several current members of the Society were in that NSW team including Brian Tyler, Denis Aitken and Peter Burgess.

As a show of their support for Palmer, the league had sent him to Canberra only weeks before to umpire the Queensland v ACT game at Manuka Oval.  He 1966 NSWANFL 1st Semi Final 1 smallalso umpired the 1966 Sydney Grand Final before he retired from umpiring due to his work in the TAB.

When asked if he had any regrets he said no, “Football gave me a great journey through life and I have made some wonderful friends.  I wouldn’t change a thing” he replied.

Our photograph shows Len Palmer taking the field for the 1966 Sydney Grand Final at Trumper Park.  Note the crowd.  The footballs the umpires had in their hands were used for bouncing and throw-in practice.  None was the match ball.

POLICE TEAM REUNION

Officials have finally identified a date for a reunion of former members of the NSW Police Australian Football Team.

The side was formed in 1958 under the direction of a high ranked officer.  By that stage there were more than enough police playing in the Sydney weekend competition to make up a team which went on to compete in the mid week services league.

Names like Neil Stevens (pictured at lower right), Brian Andrews and Ellis Noack were just a few who were to fill the ranks of the team.

Participant’s names would be published in a weekly police circular which provided the officers in charge of the respective stations and roster staff the information and authority to allocate police to the game.  A number of police cadets also competed, mainly because their involvement was counted as part of their duty and they got the afternoon off work!!!!

The side’s home ground was Moore Park, adjacent to South Dowling Street.  This was the same venue used by very early teams in the Sydney weekend competition.  The fact that the ground was across the road from the Bat and Ball Hotel had no bearing on officials’ choice to use the oval.

The date for the reunion is Saturday, 19 May 2012 commencing at 12 midday.  The venue is still to be decided with Society officials currently investigating various watering holes locations with appropriate facilities.

The team was well known for playing some non-police when they were short and these people too are invited to attend.

Persons interested can contact the Society here to be place on the list for more information when it becomes available.

The above photograph of the team was taken in 1965 at Moore Park.  Click to enlarge.   It includes some we can identify as: Neil Stevens (Easts), Bob Barnetson (Balmain), Nick Stoves (Easts), Tom Ely (Newtown/Sthn Dists), Brian Peters (cadet), Vince McCourt (St George- cadet), Noddy Durbin (Souths), Fred Griffin (STP), Barry Mackie (Souths), Tex Allen (Newtown), Greg Hickey (Balmain), Barry Fielding (Parramatta), Stan Anderson (Wests), Ellis Noack (Sthn Dists), Graham Kemp (St George), Peter Burgess (Wests).