Another Footy Legend Passes

     Ralph Turner

Quite often we are alerted to the passing of former NSW footballers but they don’t always receive a particular special mention in our blog.

However, recently we were informed of the death of Ralph Turner at the age of 83.

Ralph won two Phelan Medals, the first with South Sydney in 1959 when he polled an amazing 37 votes and the second in 1961 when he was captain and coach of the Sydney Naval side.

Born in 1936, Ralph joined the Navy from his West Preston home in Victoria in 1954; at the time he potentially had a promising career with Coburg in the VFA.

After his initial training with the Navy at HMAS Cerebus he was posted to HMAS Albatross at Nowra where he served most of his six years in that force.

Along with a number of other Albatross based players he joined the South Sydney club in 1955 and travelled to and from Sydney with his mates to play during those years until 1960 when he transferred over to Sydney Naval.  This was the same year he left the Navy and although he had made an application to re-enter the service, it did not come to fruition.

Ralph Turner
Phelan Medal Winner

Sydney Naval won the Sydney premiership that year and the following season Ralph took over as coach.  He coached them to the grand final in 1961 and in the next season took ‘Naval to another flag, winning over Newtown.  He remained with the club until the end of 1964.

Ralph represented NSW on several occasions, in several he was named in the best.

After labouring for a few years Ralph had joined the Air Force and in 1968, at 32, was captain coach of the Werribee Club in the VFA.  Following this and with a subsequent posting to Richmond in NSW, he re-entered the Sydney’s football arena coaching Sydney Naval’s third grade.  The following year was elected president of the new Combined Services club which played in the Sydney Second Division.  That year he was also captain-coach and in 1973, just coach, although he did play a few games at the age of 37 and in one game, booted nine goals!

He was made a member of the Sydney AFL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Ralph retired to the Newcastle area and in his later years suffered from Parkinsons disease.  He died peacefully in his sleep on Monday, 13 May.

 

– 1938 – A Year to Remember
in Sydney Football

1938-st-george-v-south-sydney
St George – in yellow & black, v South Sydney
in 1938

A number of interesting events occurred in 1938.

Because of a good financial season in 1937, the league voted ten pounds ($860.00 in today’s money) to each of the six Sydney clubs before the commencement of the competition.

A Team At Wollongong?
Early in the year, the Metropolitan Aust National Football Association (second division) refused an application by a group from Wollongong to compete in the second division competition citing the lack of a home ground.  The applicants were encouraged to form a local competition rather than enter one team in the Sydney League.  Nothing came of it.

Sunday football was a big talking point in the league and in fact in all codes of football.  For the Australian Game the decided lack of grounds where a gate could be charged was the issue.

Basically there were six first grade clubs and two grounds where the league could control the attendance gate:  Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  They wanted an additional ground or alternatively to use one of the Saturday grounds again on a Sunday.

Kensington Oval at Kingsford was the third alternative but only honest people paid so the league was flat out earning fifteen shillings a game.

Traditionalists in the league however soundly defeated the Sunday proposal but it was only a matter of time before Sunday games successfully became part of the league’s calendar.

North Sydney Oval
After a lapse of  ten years, North Shore again played on the small North Sydney Oval,  a ground noted for its particularly hard surface.  There, an estimated crowd of 4,000 witnessed South Sydney defeat North 14-15 to 9-11.  The first semi-final again between North Shore and South Sydney was played there on September 3.

Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
In another first, St George played their first match on Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, now home to St George Rugby League Club on Monday 13 June also before of 4,000 spectators.  Here too a semi-final was played on 3 September ironically between the same teams participated in that initial game:  St George and Newtown.

These were the first occasions, certainly in more recent years, that any finals match was played away from the then league headquarters of Erskineville Oval.

In a very controversial incident at Kensington Oval, central umpire Bill Hunkin reported two players AND the timekeepers in the game between South Sydney and St George on 2 July.

It was alleged that the timekeepers failed to record time-on whilst the umpire attended to a fight and in the meantime rang the bell for full time just as a South Sydney player kicked for goal.  The goal, which would have won the game for Souths was disallowed.

A subsequent hearing found the timekeepers had erred, they had stopped the game 1 minute early, the goal was allowed and the game was awarded to South Sydney.

In the same year South Sydney altered their jumper design from a green jumper with a very wide horizontal bar across the centre to one of green with a red V.

Four time Phelan Medalist, Jack Williamson, registered 100 games for the Eastern Suburbs Club in early May.  He was reported in 1938 for abusive language but must have beat the charge because he won his fourth Phelan in that year.

Police Intervention
In late August a local police inspector pulled the captains of Newtown and South Sydney Clubs, as well as the umpires aside before the commencement of their game at Erskineville Oval warning them against any repeat of the violent play that dominated the last time they met.  He warned them and the umpires that if a repetition of the previous week’s violent play between the two occurred again the police would enter the ground and arrest any offender.  He said “if the league official (umpire) did not intend to stop that sort of play, the police would.”

There were a few occasions when players lost their tempers but no reports.

Interstate
During the latter part of the season NSW were defeated by East Fremantle on the RAS Showground in front of a crowd of 6,000 while the state team performed poorly at the National Amateur Football Carnival in Launceston where they were defeated by South Australia and Victoria.  They managed a win in the last game against Canberra.

An interstate Railways Carnival was played on Erskineville Oval.  NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania competed.  The interstate teams arrived in Sydney by train as did the country representatives in the NSW team.  The carnival was won by Victoria.

A Last Minute Goal – or was it?

1925-08-17 Evening News p.1 (15 Aug match - NSW v VFL) thumbnailIt is August 1925 and you are sitting in a 10,000 strong crowd at the old Erskineville Oval (photo below), watching the second match of a bi-annual series between a NSW combination and a team representing the VFL.  This is the only surviving image taken in the game.

Only weeks before, 12,500 saw Victoria thump NSW at the MCG by over 40 points, which was pretty much the norm since the beginning of these matches in 1903. In that period, NSW had been victorious in only one of their twelve encounters that win was in Sydney.

After WWI the VFL and NSWAFL reached an agreement to play two representative games a year; one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney.

The only issue with this was that the VFL also played other representative games on the same day, normally against South Australia but on occasions against areas like Ballarat and Bendigo. Accordingly, their strongest team was chosen for the major interstate clash with South Australia. This was the situation with this game.

The side playing NSW included three players from St Kilda, two each from the then new clubs of Hawthorn (last), Footscray (second last), North Melbourne (third last), South Melbourne and Richmond together with one each from Geelong (eventually premiers), Essendon (runner-up) , Collingwood (fourth), Carlton, Fitzroy. So the level of talent was less than the best.

Nevertheless the game you watched was keenly fought with the lead changing over the course of the afternoon. You recognize the umpire as a former Richmond and Collingwood player, Len Gibb.

Excitement as the Vics go into the last quarter holding a narrow nine point lead then with six minutes to go, and with Victoria still in front 13-8 to 11-10 there was a sudden burst by NSW — and a successful one, too. Eventually South Sydney player, ‘Flop’ Flynn kicked a beautiful goal. This reduced the VFL’s lead to four points with just three minutes to go.1935 Erskineville Oval (old) 001 small

You hear the crowd’s teeth chatter in delight. Up, up, went the ball towards Victoria’s goal. Free kick! Cheers. It was NSW wingman Bill McKoy’s chance. He took it. Cheers again. He was within the distance. It was almost time for the bell. The crowd was frantic with excitement. A hush enveloped the ground; McKoy took aim. He kicked. Would it reach the distance? In a flash it seemed as nothing would get near to impede its flight but it dropped in elevation and looked as if the ball did not go through the posts. In fact it appeared to be touched. Then, a huge cheer as the umpire’s two flags went up and NSW were in front.

But there were still two minutes to go. Victoria dashed into their stride as the ball was bounced and before time was called, had a shot for goal, which brought only a point. The bell rang, leaving New South Wales victors of a great game by a bare point, 13-10 (88) to Victoria’s 13 9 (87).

But there were questions asked –

Was it a Goal?

The last goal by McKoy, a dual Phelan Medalist, was view with a good degree of conjecture. It was said that a Victorian player marked the ball fully a foot (300mm) inside the playing arena and that if recognized would have saved victory for the visiting side but for (as another said) “the undoubted mistake the goal umpire made just on time by awarding New South Wales a goal …”

Another commentator said:

“One point I wish to make. That last goal. No, it wasn’t, certainly it wasn’t. A Victorian player marked it a foot within the placing space. But it was such a lowly drop-kick, and it sailed so beautifully in the air that one could almost forgive the umpire’s indiscretion in making the wish father to the thought. McKoy is to be congratulated for his coolness during those few seconds when everything depended on the kick.”

However the result is on the board and today we look back 90 years to view a view result with as much pleasure as those who were there.

A final comment was made: “A thousand pities. The incident robbed the game of that little bit of glimmer that adds polish to a most delectable feast. For feast it was. Here were our boys not only holding their own with a picked team from the champion State of Australasia, but also whipping them. Congratulations to New South Wales.” (it doesn’t happen much)

 

Team 1st Qtr Half Time ¾ Time Fulltime
NSW 3-3 8-6 9-7 13-10 (88)
VFL 5-3 7-5 12-7 13-9 (87)
Goals:
NSW Flynn 6, McKoy 2, Vockler 2, Keane, Little, Knott 1 ea
VFL Shelton 5, Hayes 3, Hopkins 3, Brushfield, McCashney 1 ea.
Best:
NSW Vockler, London, Keane, Little, Davies, Flynn, Cooper
VFL Splatt, Carr, Lewis, Murphy, Scanlon, Hayes, Hopkins

 

K.T. ILL

A lifetime servant of the game and one who has been familiar to many on the Sydney scene over the past 35 years or so, Kevin Taylor is reportedly suffering from a severe lung infection.

He may not appreciate the world knowing his situation but we think what Kevin did for Sydney football, should be recognized.

He came to the state’s capital in the late 1970s with the motion picture industry and soon found himself involved in the game, first on the North Shore FC’s coKevin Taylor smallmmittee then with the league, as assistant secretary then later and in two or three separate sessions, undertaking his real love as Football Record editor.  He was at onetime in his youth, Football Record Editor for the Diamond Valley FL in Melbourne.

In 1978 Kevin hosted the Australian Football World.  This was a local football panel on Channel 7 shown at half time in their (only) Saturday match of the day each week.  You might see the panel in one of the revolving banners on the front page of this site.

Later he reported “live” on the VFL Match of Day at the SCG following the Swans early arrival in Sydney.  Working for several Sydney radio stations he always reported “exclusively” for each – at the same time!!!.  During this period he also wrote a regular column for a Sydney Sunday Newspaper.

A prolific writer on football, Kevin wrote several papers relating to Sydney football in and around 1980.  It was called “Tween Seasons” and you can view a copy by clicking here.

Kevin was one of the first to put his hand up when the League’s history committee was first formed in the mid 1990s.  He continued as secretary of the group for a number of seasons.  His minute taking was a sight to behold and since the reorganisation of the group has joined the Society at Benefactor level.

Two years ago Kevin was voted in as a life member of AFL Sydney, receiving his award on the Phelan Medal Night.

Not so long ago, Kevin turned 80 but still kept his hand in football with his website: Footystats where you can find next to every detail, particularly about the AFL for almost the past 20 years or so.  There is also a fair bit of old Sydney football there too.  Unfortunately he has been unable to continue with his reporting over the past few weeks because of his medical condition.

A great and very dedicated football disciple is Kevin and we know you will join us in wishing him the very best with his health.

Trophies and Awards

As the reputation of the History Society becomes more prominent, the existence of awards, trophies, medals and other material from past years is slowly emerging.

Recently the Society received a note from Rob Powers, the grandson of R H Powers, a former state representative and captain on the Sydney Club during the twenties.

Mr Powers presented photographs of the medal his grandfather won in 1926 playing for Sydney.  It was for the best and fairest in the Sydney competition and at the time called, The Ellis Trophy.  The name was changed to the Provan Trophy and in 1936, the Phelan Medal, in recognition of the service Jim Phelan provided the NSW football community during his lifetime.

1926 was the first occasion the award was made and followed closely on the heels of the VFL which established the Brownlow Medal in 1924.  It was created and named in honour of Charles Brownlow, a former Geelong footballer (1880-1891), club secretary (1885-1923) and VFL president (1918-19).

Mr Powers said he came across the medal whilst cleaning out the estate of his late parents.

More recently a NSWAFL Life Membership Medal which was awarded to Rupert Browne in 1932 has surfaced.  Mr Browne was a school teacher and sports master at the Rupert Browne smallGardeners Road Public School, Mascot from 1911-1950.

Together with two other Sydney teachers, he was responsible for putting hundreds of young boys through the game, most of whom went on to play with the South Sydney Club but others filtered out to different clubs within the city.  Many, many of these boys represented the state and at least one, Frank Gascoigne, won the Phelan Medal, the competition’s best and fairest.

He died in 1953, aged 66 after being hit by a car in suburban Sydney.  Certainly a cruel way to take a man who had given so much to the code.  As a mark of respect to the memory of Mr Browne, former students erected memorial gates at the school, which still stand today.

So these medals and trophies are out there but neither of these two mentioned are in the Society’s possession.  We would be pleased to hear from other readers who might know of the existence of similar awards.

OUT IN STRAIGHT SETS

Premiers smallerOver the years in Sydney football there have been a number of teams who finished minor premiers and yet lost their two finals games eliminating them from the challenge or grand final. (see tables below)

The worst of those have to be the years when the minor premier went through the season undefeated only to be unceremoniously and embarrassing dumped in the preliminary final.

The only two seasons we can find were the East Sydney experience in 1979 when the side won twenty out of twenty h & a games and were at unbackable odds to take the flag.  The other was the strong Western Suburbs combination of 1957 that won their eighteen competition games straight.  They took 58 minutes to kick their first goal in the preliminary final and went into the rooms for the long break 30 points down.  They failed to get their machine in motion losing the game to Sydney Naval 10-8 to 4-11.

In 1979 East enjoyed some mammoth wins during the season.  In round 2 they defeated St George 32-22 (214) to 8-6 (54) at Olds Park.  They again belted the Saints in round 16, 35-12 (222) to 7-8 (50).  Ironically St George did not earn the wooden spoon that season; the title went to Southern Districts.

Easts was coached by former Fitzroy gun, Alex Ruscuklic, a non playing coach who used some unusual tactics to gain victory.  One was to have his side run a victory lap following a win and get a player to call out “What’s in the bag?” with the remainder of the side answering “The flag.”  This was not a popular move amongst many in the side.

1979 was the start of a new, but eventually unsuccessful change in Sydney football.  There had been a coup at the previous year’s league annual meeting which introduced a new influence on the league and competition.

In that year, Tasmanian, Rob Claridge, playing with Easts, won the Phelan Medal and the club’s goalkicking sensation, recently deceased, Peter Ruscuklic, won the league’s leading goalkicking award, booting 121 at full forward. The club won the reserves grand final and conducted a successful licensed club at Bondi Junction.  All that alluded them wasPeter Ruscuklic small the premiership flag.

With twenty wins and no losses, no sane person could be guilty of betting against them but it all started in the second semi where East had to fight back from a 12 goal deficit in the third quarter.  Not even a bag of a dozen goals from Peter Ruscuklic could help his side to victory and they went down 26-12 (168) to 21-13 (139).

The following week their failure came in the dying seconds of the preliminary final when eventual premiers, North Shore, won by just five points, 16-13 (109) to 15-14 (104).

In the history of the league from 1903,  Western Suburbs in 1957 and East Sydney in 1979 are the only clubs to have endured the pain of no home and away losses and no final wins.  In 1916 Balmain, 1952 Western Suburbs and again in 1973 along with East Coast Eagles in 2006 all finished minor premiers without defeat but failed to win the flag.  These sides though, all made it through to the grand final.

Image shows the mercurial Peter Ruscuklic, Easts goalkicking machine.  Unfortunately Peter passed away last week from an asbestos related disease.
His goalkicking feats in Sydney will long beremembered.

 

Out in Straight Sets Table - 2

ATE

Minor Premiers Not Premiers

Statistics do not include Sydney football between 1880-94 when the Sydney Football Association was the controlling body for the game.

UNIQUE TROPHIES REPAIRED

Jimmy Stiff's Trophies original smallFirstly sorry to our readers about the stagnant situation of our website over the past few days.  It appears our hosting company has had some problems.

In the meantime, the Society has had some unique trophies from the 1930s repaired and returned to the organisation for display. (click images to enlarge)

Almost two years ago a person contacted the Society saying he had found two ‘Australian Rules’ trophies at a metal re-cycle place (image above) on the Central Coast of NSW and asked if we were interested in them.

These trophies, which were in a very poor condition, had been awarded to a former top line player in Sydney during the 1930s, of whom we have written many lines.

His name was Jimmy Stiff and he played with the South Sydney Club and in interviews before their death, three separate leading Sydney football identities said Jimmy Stiff was the best player they had seen in Sydney football, and these judges were no slouches.1931 Jimmy Stiff small

Jim lived at Mascot and attended the Gardeners Road School.  While there and under the tutelage of teacher-mentor, Rupert Browne, he, like many members of his family, began to play Australian Football.

At an early age he was selected in the NSW schoolboys team where he excelled.  Then, at 17, while playing with the South Sydney Club, he was chosen to represent NSW.  In and out of the reserves, in 1930 he came equal third in the Phelan Medal and  also runner up in the Sanders Medal (reserves B & F).  He had won the Sanders Medal in 1928.  Then in 1931, at age 20, he was named as the best player in the state’s match against Victoria on the SCG.

In 1933, again playing for NSW, Jim won the best player at the All-States Carnival held in Sydney over 10 days – against all the stars from other states, including the likes of triple Brownlow Medalist, Hayden Bunton.  At 1.6m and 64.5kg he was a dynamo but possessed an erratic attitude towards football.

He was tragically killed in a motor cycle accident in 1937.

Jimmy Stiffs Trophies smallWe found one of the trophies to be of a very significant nature. It is the 1933 best & fairest award at the All-States Carnival in Sydney – the Major Condor Trophy – now 80 years old!

When we got it, it was in bits and not in good condition.

We gave it to an antique restorer who worked tirelessly to bring this and another that Stiff had won playing for South Sydney in 1935, back to life.

They now take pride of place amongst the many former football trophies the Society has on show at the rooms in the Western Suburbs Football Club at Croydon Park, Sydney.

1963 – 2

Sherrin angle with 1963 grey backgroundAll seasons in Sydney football are different but 50 years ago, 1963, just appeared to be that little bit different again.

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 1963 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) then 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.  This necessitated 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 at a generally higher standard overall with the lower clubs “meeting under more equitable condi1963 Neil Wright - Wests coach smalltions.”

Western Suburbs were hailed as the glamor club upon the construction of the only Sydney licensed premises fronting onto Picken Oval.

The club signed a former VFA player, ruckman Neil Wright as their coach on a four figure fee, something unheard of in Sydney football.  This was 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 and made it difficult for other clubs.

In total the Magpies had fifteen new players from interstate and country areas in 1963.  They also afforded the top dressing of their Picken Oval ground in preparation 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 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 of the Liverpool club which had since amalgamated with Bankstown and the players’ registration was locked in with 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.  It was a poor season for Easts, finishing second last.

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.  There was 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 at Trumper Park.

On 14 July, Eastern Suburbs backman, John Grey was charged with kicking boundary umpire Leo Farley in a game against St George.  Grey was subsequently 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 have over liberally over-estimated the figure.

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 again in the red.  This time though it was a much more manageable figure of thirty seven pounds ($74.00)

St George Celebrate

2013 St George Building Opening smallerSome officials of the Society were guests of the St George Club yesterday at the official opening of additions to their Peakhust Clubrooms.  Our photo is taken later in the day and we apologise for the poor quality.

The development of the ground and facilities have come a long way since 1965 when they moved their base from Hurstville Oval to their present site.

The additions include gymnasium and other facilities as well as an upgrade to the ground.

Amongst the one hundred or so invitees were a number of former club players including some of the club’s Phelan Medal Winners: Noel Reading (1965), Dale Dalton (1977), David West (1991), Tony Quinn (1993) and Simon Wilson (1997).

Here we have a photograph of Noel Reading taken yesterday, one of him receiving his medal  and a further photo action photo of Noel taken in 1966 at Trumper Park in a finals match against Wests.

2013 Noel Reading small 1965 Noel Reading receiving his medal 1965 Grand Final John Godwin (W) & Noel Reading (StG) small

 

THE AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL GROUND – New Map

Some time ago we wrote about a ground in Sydney that was owned by the NSW Australian Football League.

It was situated on the north west corner of Gardeners and Botany Roads and was part of the Cooper Estate. (Daniel Cooper was a wealthy land owner, merchant, philanthropist and politician who owned 566.5 hectares land in the suburbs of Waterloo, Alexandria, Redfern and Rosebery.  This was commonly referred to as the Cooper Estate).

The particular parcel of land was initially sand dunes and swamp and in mid 1894 was leased on which was constructed the first Rosebery Racecourse.  We have very recently obtained an 1885 map of the Alexandria Municipality on right, showing the position of the ground in red outline.

Not too many years later the NSW Gaming Act was amended to proscribe horse racing on any track less than 6 furlongs (1200 metres) and so arrangements were made for the racecourse to be relocated to an area in Gardeners Road, Mascot (now Eastlakes).  The attached tender advertisement refers to the first Rosebery Racecourse.

The former course was used for a variety of activities before being ‘purchased’ by the NSW Australian Football League at a reported price of one hundred and eighty pounds ($360) per acre (one acre = .4046 hectares).  The site would go on to become a very valuable piece of land.

More research has revealed greater details of the property and an initial map of the land but further inquiries are needed firstly at the Lands Department to ascertain an exact map of the ground itself, whose name it was in and its eventual legal fate.

It is recognized that the events of WWI put paid to any committed ownership of the ground by the league and as Jim Phelan (of Phelan Medal fame) wrote in 1938:

On August 4, when all the state teams were assembled at the Australian Football Ground for the purpose of distance contests at the carnival games, the news was flashed by cable that England had declared war against Germany.  Fate had stepped in and dealt a cruel blow.  Had England’s declaration of war been made a few weeks earlier or later, all might have been well as regards the continuity of ownership of the Australian Football Ground by the NSW Football League.

So much for the maligned future and occupation of Australian football in Sydney.

As we gain more information we will post a further report and eventually release a definitive account of the ground itself in an appropriate publication.