– 1884 NSW Football Tour of Queensland

1900 Edward C Weller smallJust four years after the game was introduced into Sydney, the NSW Football Association took the bold step of an 18 day tour of Queensland.  Was it a success?

Sydney officials pondered over their decision but because their northern neighbours offered to pay all expenses, which was normal for the time, and rugby had already had a foot in the door, they agreed.

The offer was an attractive one and the contingent was made up of twenty five players and “one visitor.”

Australian football in Sydney commenced in 1880 with the formation of the Association, not that much later Sydney and East Sydney clubs were founded.  By 1884 four clubs were competing but this was in the face of rugby which by this stage had fifty odd clubs spread across NSW.

Of the four clubs, three were senior clubs and it was from these that the representative team was mostly chosen.  George Crisp, recognized as the founder of the game in Sydney, was appointed captain.

Queenlanders’ attitude towards football was a generic one.  It appeared most clubs played football under both Australian and Rugby rules, although the early preference seemed to be towards the Australian.

The NSW contingent was comprised of: Edward Weller (Manager – pictured), R B Sibley, William Butler, J Fitzpatrick, George O’Neill, William Goer, Charles Dew, Robert Grainger, Arthur McHarg, Samuel W Kirke, James B Tooher, Harry T Williams, Walter C Marshall, George A Crisp, James M Conroy, Robert Buchan, Henry Wren, Charles Hardie, Claude Fletcher, Hugh A Munro, W H Parkinson, J McGuigan, George Jones, Michael Sullivan, George Bailey and William Battye.

Wren and Hardie were selected from Wagga.  It must have been a fair effort for all of these men to make the trip which covered a period of 18 days.  This was when a six day working week was the norm. No question.  As to how they managed to be away for this period of time is baffling, given there was no annual leave.  Several players chosen did not make the trip and were replaced.

Because the northern rail line had not been connected, travel to Brisbane was by way of steamer in which the contingent travelled ‘saloon’ class.

They were met upon their arrival by a considerable number of the local football fraternity and quickly whisked away to their place of residence where a marvellous period of hospitality began.

Their first game was against Queensland.  Like Sydney, the number of players Queensland could select from was limited and several who claimed a rugby background were included.  NSW won the encounter.

In all they played seven matches:

1884 Qld i-state game roster smallNote: Behinds were recorded in scores but not counted in the total. Goals had the value of 1 point.

To play the Combined Darling Downs game, the team left Brisbane on the 6:00am Monday train for the 132km trip to Toowoomba.  The government set aside a special carriage for the team in their six hour journey.  A very large crowd met them at the station when the train arrived a little late.

Newspaper Notice of closure of shops

Again, the level of hospitality shown the visiting group was astounding.  That given in Brisbane was extra ordinary, but in Toowoomba, and later Ipswich, a half holiday was declared in honour of the visit.  They stayed at another Phillips Hotel, in fact, one of the largest in the district, where a special luncheon was provided and presided over by the Mayor and speaker in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, Hon. William H Groom.  And all this was just prior to a match against the combined Darling Downs side which was played on the Aubigny Cricket Club Ground.

The NSW team had their photo taken by local photographer, Mr Roggenkamp at the residence of the Hon. Mr James Taylor, located almost opposite the ground. Heaven knows where a copy of the photo might be.

The team was defeated in their final game against Queensland, 3.7 to 2.9 but they were not without their chances.  The crowd estimated at 2000 burst into thunderous applause at the conclusion of the game and the Queensland captain Kelly was chaired from the ground.

Then on Monday 1 September, a ball was given in the team’s honour.  It was held at the Albert Hall with merriment continuing until 4:00am.
1884 Cricket Game by NSW Fball team small
The following day they played a game of social cricket against the Trimble Bros. Reading Club in Brisbane.  In the evening, the team was afforded a dinner hosted by Mr H W Sizer of the Globe Hotel.  The team left by steamer the next day.

Then upon their return to Sydney an official reception was extended to them at the Cambridge Club Hotel in Oxford Street.  There, George Crisp spoke in glowing terms of the hospitality the team received in Queensland.


In July 1882 the Geelong Football Club played a series of games in Sydney.

While such visits by the (then) VFA clubs were seen as supporting the struggling code in NSW, the locals were never any match for these strong Melbourne district clubs.  They kept coming but the press in Sydney soon grew tired of promoting and reporting on contests which were severely one sided.

Charles Brownlow, after whom the Brownlow Medal is named, was playing for Geelong at the time and was one of the 23 players in the Geelong party.

They arrived on the 7:00am train from Melbourne at the Redfern Railway Station – Central had yet to be constructed. There, they were met by a large number of the local footballing community and driven in two drags to the Cambridge Hotel in Oxford Street.

Geelong played four games during their stay, each of which they won decidedly.

On Saturday 10 July they played the East Sydney club at the SCG.  Unfortunately it rained throughout the match, at times quite heavily and to such an extent that officials considered calling the match off.  The conditions were understandably very sloppy with some players flat out holding the ball.

It was estimated that only 300 braved the elements to see the visitors win 7.15 to 0.7 (only goals in that period were counted in the score although behinds were nearly always shown in the results).

The following Tuesday Geelong met the Sydney Club, also at the SCG, this time in fine weather where the crowd was recorded as between 500-600.   Sydney wore a navy blue uniform with scarlet caps and hose (socks).

They could do little to stem the might of the Geelong side who won this encounter 15.22 to 1.1.

Then, two days later, Geelong met the Petersham club at the same ground.  This was a minor side that only last two or three seasons when Petersham was considered a small village outside Sydney.

They were captained by Fred Wedd,  who had previously played with the Melbourne FC and represented Victoria.  His team appeared to have a few local talented ring-ins making up their number.

By this time the Geelong players realised that they could do it pretty easily and won this match 5.17 to 0.2.

On the following Saturday, Geelong played the NSW team who were made up from the 100 or so footballers participating in the game in Sydney at the time.

This game was again at the SCG before a more respectable attendance of around 3,000.

The weather was recorded as splendid and special trams had been put on to transport the spectators to and from the ground.  Former Melbourne FC player, R B Sibley, captained the NSW team which performed much more creditably than Geelong’s three previous encounters.

It is worth noting part of the description of the game in the Sydney Morning Herald where the journalist reported: “Sydney players were believed to have been profitably instructed by the illustrations of their (Geelong’s) intimate knowledge of the game, and hopes were also expressed that their visit to Sydney would be repeated.”

On the 17th, the Geelong contingent left Sydney by train bound for Albury where they were scheduled to play a match against local representatives.  A large muster of Sydney footballers were on hand to bid them farewell.