Happy 140th Anniversary – NSW Australian Football

    First match of football played under Victorian Rules
         in Sydney 1877 between Waratahs and Carlton

“That the gentlemen present, or those who desire to do so, form themselves into an association to be called the New South Wales Football Association, and that they adopt the Victorian Football Association rules.” (Sydney Mail, 1 July 1880).

At a meeting at Henry Hook’s Freemason’s Hotel in York St, Sydney on 30 June 1880 the NSW Football Association was formed to play under “Victorian Rules”.

It is estimated that over 100 persons attended the meeting to form the Association.  It was claimed in the press that the attendance was the largest gathering of football players ever assembled in NSW.

The election of office bearers was put over to the following Wednesday when another well attended meeting also at the Freemason Hotel. It saw a motion by C W Beal that Phillip Sheridan, a trustee of the Association Cricket Ground be elected to the position of president.

Sheridan was one of the first trustees of the Sydney Cricket Ground, then known as the Association Ground, who was appointed to that position in 1875, and served in that and a similar position capacity until his death in 1910.

Other office bearers of the NSW FA including the Charles W Beal, a vice president of the SRFU and player with the Waratah Club, as secretary. Another Waratah player, William C Hinwood was named  the treasurer. The

                       Freemasons Hotel, Sydney 1880
                Image with thanks to the City of Sydney Archives

committee was made up of Messrs. *George F Bowen, *Harry Williams, William Fordham, *J W Wilkinson, A. McLean, Joseph J Allen, *^Walter C Marshall, George A Crisp, *William Druce, *Robert Thallon (who, a short time later was elected to a rules committee for the rugby union), Mr. Powell, M. Chambers, *Fred Hayman, *^Billy Newing and Frederick Lyon Weiss (* players of the Waratah Rugby Club ^ex-Carlton FC)

The meeting also resolved to set the subscription for members at five shillings. Within days of the formation of the Association, interest in the game began to increase.

A scratch match was organised at the Waratah (rugby) Ground which was at the Randwick end of Moore Park 36 for 10 July but because of the limited size of the playing field, numbers were restricted to 15 aside. At the time Moore Park was a large expanse of parkland and in the winter it was divided into several football grounds.

A week later on 17 July the Waratah Club played an exhibition match of Victorian football against the Burwood (rugby) club. The team that went on to play Waratah that day was made up of ‘Old Victorians’ and a few of the Burwood players (Daily Telegraph, 19 July 1880).

Despite their leaning toward Victorian Rules football, the Waratah Club continued to participate in the SRFU. Significantly, the Waratahs had played the first game of football under Victorian Rules in 1877 when they hosted the Carlton Football Club to matches in football and rugby.

   Bill Newing      image with thanks

Then, on 6 August, a meeting was convened by George Bowen to form the Sydney Football Club, playing under Victorian rules at Weber’s Post Office Hotel in York Street.  The club was formed and the colours of dark blue with a red cap and red hose were adopted.

This was followed on Tuesday 10 August, by a meeting at the Cambridge Club Hotel, on the corner of Oxford and Liverpool Streets, to form the East Sydney Football Club. The meeting enrolled a total of 40 members. The team adopted the colours of a blue and white jersey and hose with blue knickerbockers and cap.

Source: Ian Granland’s unpublished work The History of Australian Football in Sydney 1877-1895 (2014 v5)

Two Of Football’s Early Pioneers in NSW

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile the nominees:

The NSW Australian Football Association was formed in 1880 to play “under Victorian football rules” (Sydney Mail, 13 July 1880).
Two of the leading figures in the establishment of the game in Sydney have been nominated for the inaugural Australian Football New South Wales Hall of Fame. They are the inaugural president Phillip Sheridan and George Crisp, who convened the meeting to form the new football body, and later, became a star player for NSW.

Phillip Sheridan

Phillip Sheridan, was one of the first trustees of the Sydney Cricket Ground (then known as Association ground) elected as president of the new Football Association (NSWFA  aka NSWAFL). He was to hold that office until 1890.

Sheridan was highly prominent in sporting circles in Sydney at that time, particularly in cricket. He had been instrumental in the formation of the Sydney Cricket Club and was a delegate to the NSW Cricket Association.

He had been appointed as a trustee of the SCG by the government in 1875. In 1895 he became its full time manager, a position he held until his death in 1910. The new Smokers Stand at the SCG was named in honour of Sheridan after his death. It was replaced by the Clive Churchill Stand in 1986.

In nominating Sheridan as President of the Football Association, Charles W. Beal (who was elected as Secretary) said in support of Sheridan’s nomination that “…. he was one of the most prominent supporters of cricket and other outdoor sports in this colony. He was a supporter of football as played in Victoria and was likely to prove energetic in promoting the interests of the association” (Sydney Mail, 10 July 1880).

Sheridan played a pivotal role in providing the NSW Football Association to access the SCG during the winter season when the ground was not being used for cricket. At the time there was strong competition for use of the ground with the Southern Rugby Union (SRU), later the NSW Rugby Union.  There were very limited grounds in Sydney where an admission could be charged.

The first inter-colonial match of any football code was played between NSW and the Victorian Football Association (VFA) at the SCG on 6 August 1881. An inter-colonial rugby match between NSW and Queensland was not played there until 1882.

The NSW Football Association regularly played matches between its clubs: Sydney and East Sydney (both formed in 1880) on the SCG in 1881, and throughout the 1880s, including all the interstate matches against the VFA, Queensland, Melbourne clubs and other interstate sides even a game against New Zealand in 1890.


   George Crisp,   first promoter of        the game in   Sydney in 1880

George Crisp who grew up in Melbourne moved to Sydney at the age of 20 with his family. In June 1880 he placed an advertisement in the Sydney Mail seeking players to form a football club to play under “Victorian Rules”. The meeting was held at Statton’s Hotel, Woollahra on 23 June 1880.

The turn-out was low and another was arranged for 30 June at the Freemason’s Hotel in the city at which New South Wales Football Association was formed. It was reported that “the attendance at the meeting was the largest gathering of football players ever assembled in NSW” (Sydney Mail 3 July 1880). It is estimated that over one hundred persons attended.

The election of office bearers was held over to the following Wednesday when at another well attended meeting, Sheridan was elected president and Crisp to the committee.

Crisp represented NSW on 19 occasions including the historic first inter-colonial matches against the VFA at the MCG on 1 July 1881 and the return game on the SCG, both won easily by the Victorians. He was named best NSW player in the latter game. Crisp was NSW captain in 1884.

He was also a founding member of the Sydney Football club (formed on 6 August 1880) and was elected to the committee and club captain, a position he held in 1880-82, 1884, and 1888-89.

On 7 August 1880, a scratch match was held on Moore Park, between team selected by former Carlton player, Bill Newing, and a team led by George Crisp.

Then, on 10 August, the East Sydney Football Club was formed.

On 14 August another game of football under Victorian Rules was played on Moore Park with the final game of the season played on 21 August. Thus, football in Sydney got underway.

REFERENCE: Ian Granland’s unpublished work, The History of Australian Football in Sydney 1877-1895 (2014)

Images supplied be the NSW Australian Football History Society

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member part of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

Rod Gillett has written extensively about the game in NSW for country newspapers, the Sun-Herald, Inside Football and other publications. He has also had chapters published in the Footy Almanac and Footy Town. Rod was a member of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team in 2019 and is currently a member of the AFL NSW Hall of Fame selection committee.

Why Football Did Not Kick in Sydney

axe 2There have been several reasons why Australian football never kicked on in Sydney.  Most of these have been offered by people who have little knowledge of the background and history of its development in the city.

Here, Hugh Stone, a Sydney based journalist of the late 1880s and early twentieth century offers his opinion.  If you have a moment, its not a bad read.  It was written in 1920 and appears verbatim: