– 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.

Movements in the Society – more….

This article is providing some news on events and activities within the Society.

Magical Football Tour
Bus tour smallFollowing on from an early discussion the committee is closer to organising a magical mystery tour of Sydney football landmarks with an oral description on this bus guided trip.

The idea is to take members and those interested on a bus tour around Sydney where various football sights and attractions will be visited and a brief description given on their relation to the game.  It will take about four hours.

Some of the places identified are Trumper Park, Erskineville Oval, the site of the Australian Football Ground at Alexandria, Mascot Oval, three of the leagues offices at the Sydney Sports Club, 64 Regent Street Chippendale and the Newtown Rules Club.  The tour will also visit some old club watering holes and a few other mystery venues where football had an impact all those years ago.  If you are interested, let us know, click here.

More Football Records Online
Recently we have been loading more Sydney Football Records on our site.  Today we will load the two remaining missing years in the 1950 decade which will provide all the Football Records we have from 1927 (the initial year of the publication) to 1960.  You can access them by going to the Collections link on the front page of the website or by clicking here.  Included in the 1953 Football Records is the programme for the Intervarsity Carnival held in Sydney.

Just as interesting are the newly posted 1957 Football Records.  They too contain an Intervarsity Programme as well as a match programme for the Australian State Schools Carnival held in Melbourne.  Also old league and club minutes have and will continue to be added.

Should you have any minutes that relate to football in NSW or annual reports, please pass them on for scanning and adding to our collection.  We will post them online for all to see.

1978 Sydney Football Films
We have previously announced that we have digitised several 10 minute films of Sydney games taken in 1978.  These are still on sale and we are working on having a film day at the Wests Club, probably now after the season, where all the films will be shown and the digitised copies can be obtained at a special price.  These would make great presents for dad or an uncle etc. who played during that period.

Bunnings Bar-B-QueBunnings logo small
The committee will be hard at it at Bunnings Ashfield on Sunday (3 May) selling sausage sandwiches in an attempt to raise more funds for the projects the Society enters into.  Let us know if you can help out.  Any time between say 7am – 3pm.

Website Revamp
Out latest project is to give our website a facelift.  The current one has been with us now for four years and we feel it needs a bit of refurbishment.  We hope to have this done over the next few months.

Bertie Filgate
Braidwood Cenotaph thumbnailIf you go to our ANZAC profiles by clicking here or accessing them through the link on the front page of the website you will see an article about Bertie Filgate.  Killed moments after he left the boat and headed up the hills at Gallipoli he was a star player in Sydney over 100 years ago.

Although born in Victoria, his last employment was as a eucalyptus expert (work that one out) at Braidwood, NSW.  There, he is remembered on an honour board in the Anglican Church;  a trip through the town last week also found his name on the cenotaph in the main street of the village.  His story certainly is unusual.  Have you read it?

Grounds In Sydney’s Major League

Ground imageClubs in Sydney have used many different grounds throughout their history.  As well as the home grounds set out below, there are also many other neutral grounds that clubs have used over the years.

Manly Warringah have used Weldon Oval at Curl Curl for nearly all of their history. The only exception to this was for two years from 2009 to 2010 when Pittwater Oval was used.  During those years, Weldon Oval was being redeveloped, and was out of commission.

Pennant Hills have also had a reasonably stable ground tenancy. Ern Holmes Oval, previously called Pennant Hills Oval No 2, has been used for almost all of its history.  The narrow shape of the ground was the main factor leading to Pennant Hills recent relocation to Mike Kenny Oval at Cherrybrook.

The Western Suburbs Club is another case altogether.  They have used several grounds throughout their history.  In the early years after their formation in 1947/48 Wests firstly played their home games at Henson Park Marrickville.  They then moved to St Lukes Oval, Concord. Matches were also possibly played at the nearby, Concord Oval. In 1957, Wests moved to Picken Oval at Croydon Park.  That was a privately owned ground by Bill Picken, a trotting trainer.  A trotting track surrounded the ground where the horses were used in training.  Wests built their licensed club adjacent to the ground.  Unfortunately, a dispute between the licensed club and a member of Mr Picken’s family led to the club losing the use of the ground.

The then club set about redeveloping a disused brick pit at Ashbury, which was to become W H Wagener Oval.  Many hours of volunteer labour were put into the new ground, but several years were to pass whilst the surface settled after its being filled.  During that period, Wests used Macquarie University Oval for its home games.  The club found that crossing the Parramatta River was just too far for the club’s supporters, and no doubt fewer people ventured back to the licensed club.  so the Club then moved its home games for one season to Outer Jensen Oval at Sefton.  That was the home ground of Bankstown Sports Club (who later moved to Kelso Oval).

At last W H Wagener Oval became West’s ground , although a relatively short distance from Wests Licensed Club it was still a reasonable barrier to patrons returning to the clubrooms.  In more recent years, Picken Oval reverted to Council ownership, and the juniors played their games there.  An upgrade to Picken, including the building of an amenities area, led to Western Suburbs returning to their home at Picken Oval not that long ago.

St George in its earliest years mainly used the grounds arranged by the league including SCG No 2, Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  Home games were played occasionally at Kogarah Jubilee Oval.  Hurstville Oval became St George’s home ground for several years, before Olds Park at Mortdale became their home in 1965.  Some matches have been played at Olds Park No 2, but mainly for lower grades.  Redevelopment of Olds Park led St George to also play some games at Bankstown Memorial Oval as well as Kelso Oval, Panania.

Most of Sydney Uni’s games have been played at University Oval No 1.  The adjacent University Oval No 2 has also hosted games.  Recently several games have also been played at St Paul’s Oval which is also on the University campus with then entry off City Road.

Both of the founding clubs of University of NSW- East Sydney have had several home grounds.  For this discussion, Eastern Suburbs for most of their existence played at Trumper Park, Paddington.  Easts also played some home games in the 1950s at Waverley Oval, Bondi and slightly earlier at The Sydney Sports Ground.  The Sports Ground no longer exists, but it was in Driver Avenue, Moore Park, next to the also demolished, SCG No 2.  This was basically where the SCG car park is today.

University of NSW originally played on neutral grounds such as Trumper Park and Erskineville Oval.  In the late 1970s they used the Little Bay Sports Complex, part of the Uni of NSW Sports Fields. The land was later sold off and used for housing.  The facilities at Little Bay were quite good, but the ground was often subject to strong winds, being very close to the coast.  Uni of NSW moved to the Village Green at the main campus at Kensington.  Village Green is the home ground of the new unified club.

North Sydney Oval was, for a long period, used as North Shore’s ground. Chatswood Oval was also used in the 1930s.

The church across the road from North Sydney Oval in Miller Street used to object to the sounds of the whistle, and the bell or siren to mark the quarter start or endings, whilst their services were conducted on Sunday Mornings.  This forced their Under 19s games during the 1960s and 1970s to be played at the desolate, Gore Hill Oval, whilst Reserve and First Grade were played at North Sydney Oval No 1.

The ground was really too small for Australian Football and costs became prohibitive when the council redeveloped the ground building extensive and historic grandstands.  North Shore then relocated to Gore Hill Oval at St Leonards.  During their relocation era, a number of home games were also played at Macquarie University Oval.

UTS, despite being the most recently formed club participating in Premier League, have already played at two different home grounds.  Trumper Park was no longer used for senior football when East Sydney merged with Uni of NSW, so UTS secured the long term AFL ground.  UTS adopted the Bats emblem from the fruit bats that occupy the large trees surrounding Trumper Oval. More recently, Waverley Oval, with its newly constructed grandstand is now shared with Trumper Oval for UTS home games.

When the Campbelltown club first entered the senior competition in Sydney in the mid 1970s, they played at the Ingleburn Army Base ground. Then they relocated to Memorial Oval, Ingleburn.  Upon their promotion to what is now Premier League they moved to Macquarie Fields Oval, originally called Edelsten Oval after Dr Geoffrey Edelsten.  The ground has since had several name changes.


2013 NSWAFHS Journal Cover smallThe Society’s first attempt at the publication of a journal has met with resounding acceptance by members.

The concept of this type of bulletin was floated following the lead of similar history groups which publish annual booklets, no so much on their day to day activities, but  of articles on the history of their organisation’s theme.

Committeeman, Paul Macpherson volunteered to compile  stories for the journal all of which were taken from the Society’s website articles posted in 2012.  He also came up with the title, Time On.  In addition to this Paul arranged the setting out, initial edit and booklet structure.

The 2013 Journal is an unpretentious 50 page document containing stories and photographs relating to a number of subjects including the start of football in Sydney, past seasons, organisation of the game in Sydney, grounds & personalities.

“This is our first attempt at a project of this nature” Society president, Ian Granland said.

“We intend to make it an annual publication available to all of our members.  Although it is a very interesting football booklet, we will not be selling it commercially.  It is restricted to members only, so if people want a copy they will have to join!”

“One thing we do want is for people to contribute their stories to our website for possible publication in the journal.  What was the line in that TV series, Naked City?  “There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.”

The journal was posted out last week together with a copy of the Society’s latest newsletter.

Oh and by the way, the Australian Police Football Championships are being held at Picken Oval, Croydon Park this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Six states are involved.  Details of the times and matches are at this stage unknown, but we will keep you up to date as soon as the information comes in.

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)