NSW’s RECORD IN INTERSTATE FOOTY

1938 NSW State Team to Launceston 1 smallWe have often been asked about NSWs history of interstate games and how successful they had been over the years.

Well we can tell you that the NSW Football Association, the forerunner to the NSW Australian Football League, played their first representative game at the MCG on 1 July 1881.  The match was against the then VFA which was the first controlling body for football in Victoria.  The VFL was formed in 1897 from some clubs that then comprised the VFA.

Behinds were not counted in the score in those days, winners were judged by the number of goals they kicked and just as well in this first game because the VFA or Victoria, kicked 9-24 to 0-1.  The game in Sydney had only been going for 12 months while of course it was founded in Melbourne with the first game recognized as being played in 1858.

NSW played twenty six representative games between 1881 and until the Association’s demise in 1894 and only won against their regular nemeses, Queensland.  They drew several of their other matches, mostly because behinds were not counted, an anomaly in the game that was changed in 1897.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, VFL clubs were falling over themselves to visit and play against the locals.  Some of the games were listed as NSW versus … or Metropolitan or alternatively, Combined Sydney and many of the records of the matches were lost or no effort was kept to maintain them.  So it has taken many long years of research and investigation to locate details of the respective games.

NSW’s most significant victories have been two over the VFL which were both played in Sydney.  They won the first of these in 1923, 15-11 to 11-19 and the other two years later by a point 13-10 to 13-9.  It is fair to say though on the weekends these games were played, the VFL fielded at least two other representative sides playing other interstate games so maybe their top side was not that which was fielded against NSW.

In the first thirty years of the last century they defeated Queensland (on several occasions), Port Adelaide, Geelong (twice), Tasmania (twice), South Adelaide, West Torrens, Melbourne, ACT, Sth Aust Football Assn and most of these games were played in Sydney.  They lost the rest which we have calculated as seventy.

The state has competed in numerous national carnivals, which up until the first war were played every three years in different states however in latter decades were relegated to competition between Tasmania, ACT and Queensland while the other states played in the same carnival but against supposedly (and more correctly) stronger opposition between themselves.

NSW have also played in at least three amateur carnivals, the most recent in a country championships carnival in Wagga in 2012.  The other two were held in Adelaide in 1936 and Launceston in 1938 and we have included a photograph of the team taken as they travelled to the apple isle by boat.

As part of the 1988 Bi-Centenary celebrations, a pure State of Origin team was selected to compete in the carnival in Adelaide.  They lost their game against South Australia but recorded their first ever win over WA 10-8 to 9-12.

Some might remember the pseudo State of Origin team NSW fielded on a rainy night game against the VFL on May 22 at the SCG.  They won that match 13-8 to 10-16, much to the chargrin of Victorian selector, Ted Whitton.  We say pseudo because the team contained several Sydney Swans players who were not born, nor played their junior football in NSW.

To sum it up, NSW have lost far more than they have won in interstate contests and now the state combines their fortunes with players selected from the ACT, so here’s to the future.

He Slipped Under the Radar

Jack AshleySydney has produced some great footballers, quite a number of whom went on to play in the VFL and or AFL.

We have uncovered one who went to South Australia where he won the Magarey Medal, the SANFL’s best player.

His name is Jack Ashley or if we are correct, William John (Jack) Ashley.

He was probably born in South Australia in about 1890 and apparently moved to Sydney with his family early in the next decade.  They settled around Balmain and the young Ashley attended a local school and began playing with the club’s one junior team.

It wasn’t long before he caught the eye of the  selectors and by 1907, still under age, began playing senior football along with his older brother, Henry.

The next year Ashley began to show great form.  He was selected to represent Combined Sydney against visiting S.A. club, Norwood.  Then the next year he represented against South Melbourne, Geelong, Collingwood and Queensland.

When Balmain fell over in 1910 together with his brother, he transferred to the East Sydney Club where he again starred.

A classic piece of 1910 journalism exemplifies his ability “Last week I stated that Jack Ashley would win matches for East Sydney by his fine kicking. He did the trick against Newtown with a magnificent drop kick a few minutes before the final bell rang”

And another said “Up till three-quarter time he was not quite so prominent as he had been against Sydney, but brought all his guns into action in the concluding quarter. Of course, he was carefully watched all through  “particularly in the early stages,”  and was opposed by a stronger team. It was his resourcefulness that charmed the critical onlooker. Frequently an opponent grabbed him, he dropped tho ball at once, skilfully knocked it so that when he got loose he was able to gather it in and dart off like the wind.”

He was part of East Sydney’s grand final team of 1910 and their premiership side the following season.  That was the same year Ashley represented NSW in the National Carnival at Adelaide where he came under the eye of the astute Port Adelaide FC Officials who eventually recruited him.

Outstanding Sydney footballer of the period and captain of NSW in three National Carnivals, 1908, 1911 and 1914, Ralph Robertson said of Ashley: ” ‘We have had some fine players in Sydney during the past few years. Some of them have gained places in teams in the other States and acquitted themselves well. Jack Ashley, of course, comes readily to my mind. A natural footballer, and one of the fairest I have met.”

Before we leave Sydney, it is fair to again eulogize his talents as described in several Sydney newspapers:

“Against Y.M.C.A. Jack Ashley was again East Sydney’s best player. While roving he was hardly so effective as usual, but when placed on the half-back line his dash and marking were excellent, while his telling kicks always placed the ball out of danger to his side” and,1914 Port Adelaide FC small

“It is customary to voice an opinion as to the season’s champion player. There might have been differences in that respect in past seasons, but for the season 1911 Jack Ashley stands the Undisputed League Champion.”

He turned out with Port Adelaide FC in the 1912 season and despite an early injury was selected in the South Australian team which played Victoria in Melbourne in July.  The team was beaten but Ashley performed creditably.  The following year he was a member of Port Adelaide’s premiership team.

In 1914 he won the Magarey Medal playing for premiers, Port Adelaide (pictured) and was a member of their team which won the post season Championship of Australia title over VFL premiers, Carlton.

He continued with Port for 1915 but with the advent of WWI when the SANFL went into recess he decided to return to Sydney and play.

Initially he shocked the locals when he signed with the Balmain Rugby League Club where he played one or two early season first grade games but this was only while waiting for his clearance to come through.  Upon gaining permission to play he was appointed captain-coach of the Balmain Australian Football Club and led them to what appeared to be an effortless undefeated run through the home and away season.

Unfortunately their form in the finals didn’t stand the pressure and they went out in straight sets.

1917 saw him back in Adelaide playing for Port in a competition akin to the major league.

By 1919 the SANFL was back in full swing where he again represented South Australia against Victoria.  He played a few games in 1920 but a nagging knee injury which forced him out of the state side also stopped his selection in the club’s grand final team of that year and eventually, it led to his retirement.

South Australian’s hold their champions in very high esteem and in 1946 a contemporary wrote of him “Jack Ashley did something one day which I’ve never seen done before or since. He and I were racing to the ball, and Jack over shot it a little. I was just about to pick it up when he back-kicked it — for 30 yards. After the match he told me he had played rugby in New South Wales, and had learnt the back kick there. It was a new and surprising move to me.”

By 1933 Jack had moved to Melbourne where he operated his own business.

We believe he died without fanfare or recognition in Sydney in 1968.

Ashley is certainly one player Balmain should have in their Team of the Century.

The team image is of the 1914 Port Adelaide FC.  Ashley is one of those shown.