– Services Team Struggled

In 1940 the New South Wales Australian Football League resolved to hold a fund raising match between a NSW representative side and an Services team comprised of men in the military from camps in and around Sydney.

The NSW team was reasonably strong mostly made-up of players who had already represented the state in previous years.

The services side, with most if not all, playing for Sydney clubs came from camps such as the Sydney Showground and Ingleburn.  Some were in the RAAF based at Lindfield, Camden and Richmond.  There were no representatives from the Navy so the term Combined Services is really a misnomer.

Micky Stiff

Unfortunately selected players Smith, Ron Stoll, Colin Metherall and Hayes from the camp at Ingleburn did not arrive so the Services team was left short.  One who volunteered to play in their stead was state rover, Micky Stiff.  Stiff, at 24 had already represented NSW on over a dozen occasions from 1935 and his exploits on the football field were quite often extolled in delightful superlatives.  He was the brother of another courageous and talented NSW rover, Jimmy Stiff, who was killed in 1937.

The game was played on the Sydney Cricket Ground, No. 2, which was a small ground, with grandstand, immediately north of the SCG itself and since encompassed by the Sydney Football Stadium.

The pace was on from the first bell, and it was obvious early that both teams were out to keep the game open. NSW picked out their men better along the wings, but in the first half the services were more successful in the air. Mickey Stiff  was responsible for more than half of their goals in the first half — several from his own boot, and others coming from attacks initiated by the wiry little South Sydney star. Stephens, Whitbourne, Carlaw. and Baker were others largely responsible for the services lead at 10-5 to 6-15.

John Cruise from the Ingleburn camp was carried off with an injured ankle just on the half time break leaving the services side again short.

Reg Garvin

His place was taken by 29 year old Reg Garvin, a former Newtown player who had been recruited by St Kilda (that wouldn’t happen today) in 1937 and by this stage had played over 60 games with the Saints and would go on to captain-coach the club in 1942-43.  A fireman in Melbourne, he was in Sydney on holidays visiting his parents at Erskineville and just happened to be at the game.

Obviously his presence in the ruck added strength to the side when adopted a straight down the centre play combined with hard ruck work.  The Servlces had New South Wales unbalanced for a time but the better understanding between the New South Wales players more than equalised matters as the quarter progressed.

Their play in this term contrasted with Its earlier failures and with the Services lacking in condition they were unable to find a counter In stopping the brilliant play of their opponents adding 8-7 to 0-1.  New South Wales had a winning lead at three-quarter time of 14-22 lo 10-6.

The Services came back in the final quarter but it was too late.  They booted six goals to New South Wale’s five with the latter winning 19-23 (114) to 16-12 (108).

It is unknown how much was raised for the Australian Services Comforts Fund but this wasn’t the only game played in Sydney during the war to raise funds for our servicemen.

– N.S.W. Made Mincemeat of Famous St Kilda

1945 NSW Team v St KildaNSW made mincemeat of Famous St Kilda.  Well thats what the news headlines said following the game.

In September 1945, the Second World War had just about finished and while residents of Sydney as well as the interstate servicemen based there had their footy needs well met during the conflict through some top line players who were participating in the competition, officials saw a need for an interstate fixture;  one with perhaps a touch of glamour and competitiveness that could attract a crowd and a gate ($$).

The NSW Football League had received invitations from both Queensland and Canberra Leagues to visit that year but they declined both because, they said “of travel and accommodation difficulties” but more particularly because such matches were “a bit premature.”

In the preceding two weeks, 54,000 and 46,000 people had witnessed the two VFL semi-final matches in Melbourne so there was a sense of a nation beginning to return to football normality.

Subsequently, late in the season the NSWAFL tendered an invitation to the St Kilda Football Club to visit Sydney and play a series of games.  They accepted and in fact extended their visit to a 10 day stay beginning September 14.  On the same weekend as their match against NSW, Hawthorn played a game in Albury.  So maybe more than two VFL clubs participated in exhibition matches away from their home base?

During their stay St Kilda club officials estimated that their party would spend £1,500 ($103,000 today) which included £358 in accommodation and £370 in travel.  They considered the remainder would just be spent in other areas by those in the contingent.

Of all the VFL clubs who had played in Sydney since 1881, St Kilda was not one so this visit would be a first – and last.  In 1945 the Saints finished at the bottom of the twelve team competition.

Their schedule in Sydney included three games; two against NSW and a midweek fixture against a Combined Services outfit.

The first was against NSW then the game against a NSW Services Team (combined military personnel) both of which were played at Erskineville Oval.  Unfortunately the NSW League could not secure a ground for their second of their two match (or third St Kilda game) contest. We imagine the reasons being, 1) because the period was a ground changeover to summer sport, and 2) perhaps the military still occupied many of the city and suburban grounds.

League officials went to extraordinary lengths to hire a ground for this game.  They even tried to procure Cumberland Oval at Parramatta but the attempt failed.  It is interesting to note that Parramatta in the days of WWII could almost be classified as ‘country’ with no Australian football at all played in the area.  Other grounds that were tried included Henson Park as well as Marrickville and Lidcombe Ovals.

Nevertheless and as a fine gesture, the St Kilda club donated 70% of the £163 net gate from their only NSW match to the League.

In a strange twist of fate, St Kilda included the 24 year old energetic Sam Loxton in their team.  Loxton was recruited by the Saints in 1942 and played with them up until 1945 when following his promotion to the rank of sergeant in the Australian Army, he was transferred to Sydney.  There, he was immediately appointed captain of the Eastern Suburbs Club.  During the season however when on leave in Melbourne, Loxton played in the round 11 clash against North Melbourne much to the delight of their fans.

The ‘Serviceman’s Rule’ of the time permitted those in the military to turnout with their parent club if they be registered in another state, circumstances muchSam Loxton akin to Loxton’s.

Strangely this talented footballer/cricketer was ‘dropped’ from the NSW team a week out from the game then immediately selected at full forward for St Kilda.  A fact not lost on the media.   Sam failed to kick a goal in the game although as an aside, he won the NSWAFL leading goalkicking award for 1945 booting 71 goals.

Loxton went on to play cricket for Victoria and later Australia.  He was also a member of Don Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’ that toured England in 1948.

St Kilda also a boasted a former local in their lineup in Reg Garvin.  A past Newtown player and ex-junior who was recruited by the Saints in 1937.  Garvin captained and coached St Kilda for two seasons during his 1937-46 career with the club.

Also in the Saints lineup was Billy Wells who tragically injured his spine when a troop train he was on was attacked in Egypt in 1941.  Doctors said he would never walk again and yet amazingly when he to Australia he again took up with North Melbourne and then onto St Kilda for the 1944-45 seasons.

Action in the NSW v St Kilda match Two of the bigger St Kilda players were vice captain Sid Snell and Col Williamson, both members of the Victorian Police Force.  Snell had represented Victoria on two occasions and also excelled as a sprinter, winning the Maryborough Gift in 1938.

Williamson played 165 games for the Saints in a ten year career, coaching them in 1952-53.

The day of the match contained boisterous weather and conditions that mitigated against a good display of football and yet it was said 8,000 attended the game.  Fifty three year old local umpire, Bill Hunkin, had control.

Reg GarvinThe match didn’t start well for St Kilda.  They were down by 22 points at the first change and it wasn’t until the second term that saw them produce a more competitive effort allowing them to take the lead at half time by the narrowest of margins.

In the third term it was all NSW.  They booted 4-6 to the Saints nil.  Although assisted by a stiff breeze in the final quarter, St Kilda again made no impression on the scoreboard.  They were beaten 10-18 (78) to 4-24 (48), with many of their behinds being kicked only metres from the line.

The NSW team was made up mostly of service personnel, many of whom only came together on the morning of the match; they played strong hard football.  All in the team participated for their respective Sydney clubs with a number however based at distant camps so attending training was out of the question.

St Kilda’s team too contained several servicemen all of whom were members of their club.  It is likely that several of these were more than likely stationed in Sydney or surrounds at the time of the game.  They included: Eric Comeford, Geoff Driver, Terry O’Brien, Bill Phillips and Bob Wilkie.

Given that these players along with Loxton PLUS their seconds coach, Jack Brenchley who at 34 had the role of coach of the team during their NSW tour, all played for St Kilda in this game certainly questions of the depth of the team.

The subsequent midweek fixture against Combined Services saw a closer 7-17 (59) to 7-10 (59) win to the Saints with captain for the match, Reg Garvin getting them in front minutes before the end with a 40 metre drop kick goal.  Then another by Bob Wilkie seconds before the end of the game sealed the victory.

At this stage the only NSW players we have been able to identify are:

Stan W Taylor  – capt (South Sydney – Norwood)

Jim Cracknell (Sydney Naval)

Reg Parker (Newtown)

Ray Jones (Sydney Naval)

Adrian Dullard (St George – Melbourne)

Evan Rees (South Sydney – Footscray)

Jack Thompson (RAAF)

Basil O’Halloran (St George)

J. Martin (RAAF)

Joe Hughes (Newtown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interesting Article

Recently, we came across and interesting article written by Jim Phelan, after whom the Phelan Medal was named, in a 1934 Sydney Football Record.

His recollections of times that passed before him are spelt out in some detail in a number of those publications during the 1930s.  This one concerns an interstate match between NSW and Queensland.  The most interesting part is the contribution players made to offset costs.

“To-day’s (1934) match at Brisbane should provide be of interest to followers of the game in both of the States named.  In Carnival games N.S.W. hold an unbeaten record against Queensland, but in interstate games played in Sydney and Brisbane, the Queenslanders have proved worthy opponents.

The last victory gained by N.S.W. over Queensland in interstate games was at Brisbane in 1928, when a thrilling match was won on the post by N.S.W. which scored 6-10 (46) to 5-13 (43).

J. Phelan (Jim Phelan’s son) then playing his first season in the first grade, scoring 3 of the six goals credited to N.S.W.

The 1928 N.S.W. team were: Clendon Eastment, Frank Cawsey, Preston, Gordon Shennan, Burns, Clarke, Loel, F Hudson, Gough, Vernon, Ossie Green, Rex Ferguson, A Ferguson, James (Bub) Phelan, Frank Smith, J Kennedy, Bert Brown-Parker and M. Lane (captain).  [The article also listed the Queensland team].

Loel, Phelan, Hudson, Preston, Brown-Parker, Lane, Clarke and the two Fergusons were singled out for good play by the Brisbane Press.

It is perhaps noteworthy, that the majority of the players in the team and each of whom paid two pounds ten shillings (in today’s terms with inflation this equates to $184.00) towards the expenses of the trip, were overlooked by the selectors in 1929, when Queensland beat N.S.W. after a splendid game at the S.C.G.  The team was given a rousing sendoff at Central Station by officials and friends who were there in numbers as the 7.33pm train slowly steamed out of the station.  Such was the enthusiasm of the1934 June 3 - Qld v NSW @ Perry Park - 2(2) small supporters with their streamers etc. it took the conductor until Gosford to clean up the bunting. (how times change…)

The N.S.W. team contained Reg Garvin, who would later go on to play for then captain and coach St Kilda FC.  Also Jack Williamson who won four Phelan Medals and Jimmy Stiff, of whom we have written so much.

The coach of the N.S.W. team in 1934 was Dave Ryan.

“Dave Ryan has been for the past few seasons the coach of the Sydney club and his methods have proved to be very successful, judging from the position the Sydney Club generally occupies in the premiership table.

His association with the National Code dates back quite a long while.

For many years he was associated with the famous Collingwood Football Club (played 101 games between 1906-12).  Since his arrival in Sydney he has associated himself with the Sydney Club.

Its strange to note the jumpers worn by the N.S.W. players which were red, white and blue.  It is very doubtful that these were club jumpers, given that this period was deep in the 1930s depression and money was scarce.  The Eastern Suburbs FC of the day wore a different jumper design.  Both the jumpers and socks look to be in new condition and were again worn later in the year when N.S.W. again played Queensland at the SCG.  They were never worn again by the state team.

SYDNEY’S RICH AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL HISTORY

This article is written by Miles Wilks, former member of the Society’s management committee and author of a very detailed and well researched book, Australian Football Clubs in NSW.  To read more about his book and how to get copy click here.

Miles is passionate about this subject and welcomes any comments that can be directed here.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It is a commonly held belief that Sydneysiders have had an almost non-existent role in the game at the top level, yet the fact is that as many as 80 players have been recruited from Sydney to the VFL/AFL.  Amongst the players recruited from Sydney is a player who kicked the winning goal in a VFL grand final, a Norm Smith medallist, eleven premiership players and a couple of record-holding goal kickers. It is a record of achievement that deserves more kudos.

In comparison, although one must preface this by stating I don’t have an intimate knowledge of rugby league recruiting, this figure of 80 players from Sydney to the VFL/AFL would presumably be larger than the combined number of rugby league players recruited from Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Darwin rugby league clubs to the NRL.

Decade by decade- number of players recruited from Sydney clubs to the VFL/AFL

1897-1909 –  4 players

1910s – 6 players

1920s – 12 players

1930s – 10 players

1940s –  2 players

1950s –  7 players

1960s – 1 player

1970s – 5 players

1980s – 11 players

1990s – 9 players

2000s – 11 players

2010-11 – 2 players

In 2012, there are 20 players who have been recruited from Sydney who are on AFL lists. Eight of these twenty have debuted in league football.

1897-1910
Sydney’s first playe
r: Bob Kenny
Bob Kenny was the first player recruited from a Sydney club to play in the VFL. He debuted in 1899 and played just two games for St Kilda. He was followed soon after by John Stephenson, who was recruited from the Balmain football club and played 10 games for Essendon in 1907. Marshall Herbert, a recruit from Redfern, was the most successful of these early Sydney recruits, as he played 51 games with the Pies from 1908 to 1910. At this stage it should be noted that the only major football code that competed with Australian football in Sydney for players was rugby union, as rugby league was not played in Sydney until 1908.

1910s
The 1910s was a decade that resulted in the recruitment of two Sydneysiders who had a significant impact in the VFL.

STAR PLAYERS: Bob Merrick and Chris Laird.  Recruited from East Sydney, Merrick established a goal-kicking record for his adopted Victorian team of Fitzroy in 1919 when he kicked a total of 12 goals in a match. This feat of 12 goals in a match was never bettered by any other Fitzroy player in the history of that club. Bob headed Fitzroy’s goalkicking list each year between 1919-22.

The other Sydneysider to have an impact in the big league during this decade was Chris Laird. He was recruited from the eastern suburbs club of Paddington and is one of the few players in the history of the game to live the dream of kicking a clutch goal in a grand final with just vital seconds remaining in the match. Laird changed the fortune of the 1918 VFL grand final when he kicked the winning goal for South Melbourne with less than a minute remaining in the match.

1920s
The 1920s saw a twofold increase over the previous decade in the number of players from Sydney making the transition to the best Australian football competition in the land. Six Sydneysiders played in the VFL in the 1910s and as many as twelve Sydneysiders were recruited in the 1920s.

Fred Davies, who was another recruit from Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, was the pick of the
Sydney recruits in this decade. His most notable achievement was being named as the captain of Fitzroy in 1934. Nevertheless, few of the other Sydney players had a large impact during this decade.

1930s
Ten players from Sydney made the transition to the VFL in the 1930s. The pick of the players was Newtown’s Reg Garvin.

STAR PLAYER: Reg Garvin
Before he played football for the Sydney club of Newtown,
Reg Garvin had played soccer and rugby. Garvin was recruited from Sydney by St Kilda and he was a star player for that club, as he won the Saint’s best and fairest award in
1941 & 1944 and also captain-coached the club.

1940s
The 1940s was a decade in which there was a noticeable drop-off in the numbers of high quality players making their way from Sydney clubs to the VFL, obviously due to WWII. Ron Hall, from St George, was one of only two players recruited from Sydney to the VFL in the 1940s. The other player was Arthur Richardson, who played just five games for the Swans.

1950s
The 1950s was another decade in which only a small number of Sydney players were recruited to the top league.  One of the recruits, however, had a large impact in the VFL.

STAR PLAYER: Roger Duffy –
Another Newtown player.   Duffy played his junior football for the South Sydney Australian football club and then for the nearby rivals Newtown.
He was an exceptional player in the Sydney league, and was a Newtown premiership player as well as the leading goal kicking for the Sydney football league in 1950 and 1951.
Duffy achieved the premiership and goal-kicking double by being a premiership player and a goal-kicking leader in two states.
His premiership wins were with Newtown (NSW)and Footscray (Vic) and he was the leading goal kicker with Newtown (1950-51) and with Footscray (1952).

 1960s
The 1960s was Sydney footballs lowest point in terms of the number of players recruited from Sydney clubs to the VFL.  Barry Fitzgerald was the only player recruited directly from a Sydney club to the VFL during this decade.  And he played just 35 games for Fitzroy.

1970s
The 1970s can be viewed as a decade of revival for football recruiting from Sydney. Whilst the 1960s was a low point in terms of player recruitment, the 1970s saw the recruitment of two stars of the game – Mark Marclure and Michael Byrne.

STAR PLAYER:Mark Maclure
Maclure played junior football for East Sydney and also won the Sanders Medal as the best player in Sydney’s reserve grade competition as a 17 year old. From there he tried out with Carlton’s under 19s team and was eventually lured to Carlton by their master recruiter Bert Deacon.
Of all the players to have been recruited from Sydney, Mark Maclure is the player who can boast as having the greatest CV. On top of his list of achievements is being a member of three premiership teams (1979, 1981 and 1982). Maclure is the only player recruited from a Sydney football club to have played in as many as three VFL/AFL premiership teams. On top of this, he was the captain of his AFL club (in 1986), won his club’s goal kicking award (1979 and 1985) and played over 200 games for his beloved Blues.
STAR PLAYER: Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne is Sydney born and raised, having come through the ranks of local Sydney football on the northern beaches and then playing for the Sydney club of North Shore.
Byrne’s induction into football was a tough one, as he played in the ruck for North Shore in the bloodbath Sydney grand final of 1976 at Trumper Park. This match was infamous in Sydney football for being punctuated by rolling brawls involving almost every player on the ground. After he left Sydney, Byrne became a premiership player with Hawthorn in 1983 and he produced on the big day, as he was the 2nd highest goal kicker for Hawthorn in the grand final after the legendary Leigh Matthews. Playing during Hawthorn’s greatest era.  Byrne also had the honour of being runner up for the club’s best and fairest in 1984.

1980s
The 1980s saw the introduction of the Sydney Swans into the VFL competition and it was a decade in which there was a large upswing in the numbers of players recruited from Sydney.

Only one player (1960s) and five players (1970s) made the transition to the top league in the two previous decades, but 11 players made the transition in the 1980s. Amongst these players was St George’s Mark Roberts, who was a premiership player with North Melbourne in 1996.

1990s
The 1990s was a remarkable decade in terms of the contribution of Sydney footballers to the AFL. It was the starting point for the careers of three Sydneysiders who played over 200 games of AFL football. The three players from Sydney who pulled on the guernsey in over 200 games of AFL football were Mark McVeigh [pictured left] (Essendon), Lenny Hayes (St Kilda) and Greg Stafford (Sydney and Richmond). McVeigh and Hayes were recruited from the Pennant Hills football club and Greg Stafford was recruited from Western Suburbs.

 

STAR PLAYER: Lenny Hayes
Hayes became the first player from Sydney to win the Norm Smith medal. His last quarter performance in the 2010 grand final for the Saints was one for the record books, as he willed his team back into the contest by obtaining 11 possessions as well as kicking an inspiring goal from 50 metres out.

STAR PLAYER:  Nick Davis
Nick Davis, recruited from Ramsgate juniors, didn’t have the longevity of career that Hayes, McVeigh or Stafford had, but he produced one of the defining moments in finals history and arguably the Swan’s greatest moment outside the 2005 grand final when he kicked four goals in the last quarter of the 2005 semi-final against Geelong. That blitz of goal turned the match around and secured the Swans a vital 3-point victory and the passage to a grand final victory.

2000s
Two exceptional footballers were recruited from the Pennant Hills football club in the 1990s (Lenny Hayes and Mark McVeigh), and the feat was replicated in the noughties, as two further Pennant Hills juniors of exceptional talent, Jarrad McVeigh and Kieran Jack, made their transition to the AFL.

STAR PLAYER: Jarrad McVeigh
McVeigh won the Sydney Swan’s best and fairest award in 2008. This was a noticeable feat as McVeigh became the first player to be recruited from a local Sydney football club to win the award. It took 26 years after the club started in Sydney for a Sydney local to win the award, yet it only took a further two years for the next Sydney local to win the award when Kieran Jack was deemed Sydney’s best and fairest player in 2010.

STAR PLAYER:  Kieran Jack
Jack started his career for the Swans as a dogged tagger in 2007, yet it was only three years later that he won the club best and fairest award. Displaying unbridled determination,

Kieran Jack won the award in 2010 largely because he had become a vital attacking option for the Swans. In his best and fairest year of 2010, Jack kicked 21 goals whilst still largely working in the midfield. In 2012, he is in contention for All-Australian selection as he continues to combine attacking flair with an ability to win the contested ball.

Many may question if the introduction of the Swans has been a success, yet from a recruiting viewpoint for Sydneysiders it has been. Only one player from Sydney in the 80 years prior to the Swans introduction into the Sydney sporting landscape played over 200 games of top grade football. Since the Swans moved to Sydney there have been three 200 game players from Sydney .

The players recruited from Sydney clubs in the years ahead will be following in the footsteps of exceptional footballers such as Roger Duffy, Michael Byrne, Lenny Hayes and the McVeigh brothers amongst others. Over the journey, the record of Sydneysiders at the top level is far better than what many would presume is the case“ there have been premiership players, club captains, club coaches, and best and fairest winners. Sydneysiders have achieved at the highest level of the Australian game, but just not with all the fanfare of players from other cities.

SYDNEY PLAYERS WHO PLAYED IN THE VFL/AFL

How many players can you name who went from Sydney football to play in the VFL or AFL?

With the advent of the Sydney Swans in Sydney it becomes a little easier but the list goes way back to the 1880s.  So we were not always the back water when it comes to football talent.

We can name three Sydney footballers who went on to captain VFL/AFL sides:  Former Double Bay Primary School player who later turned out with the Eastern Suburbs and St George Clubs, Freddy Davies, captained Fitzroy in 1934.  Then in 1940, former Newtown player, Stan Lloyd, captained St Kilda in 1940 followed two years later by fellow Newtown team mate and Phelan Medal Winner, Reg Garvin, who captained the Saints for the 1942-3 seasons.  Garvin finished equal 4th in the 1941 Brownlow Medal the same year he won the first of his two St Kilda best and fairest awards, the other coming in 1944. For the 1942 and 1943 seasons he was not only captain but also coach of the club.

In 2004, former Pennant Hills junior, Lenny Hayes was captain of the St Kilda Club.

History Society committee member, Bob Wilton is compiling a list of players to go from the Sydney competition to the VFL/AFL.  There have been some, as senior players from interstate or another senior NSW competition, who have come into the Sydney competition then off to Melbourne so unfortunately, they do not qualify for Bob’s list.

Are you able to contribute some names that Bob may miss?  If so,  simply email us at history@aflnswact.com.au with the player’s name, his Sydney club, the approximate years he played in Sydney and the VFL/AFL club he played with.  We shall publish the final list in due course.

Our photograph shows Reg Garvin as a 21 year old representing NSW against WA on the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1933 – courtesy of the State Library of NSW.