In early 1963 the NSW Football League formed a committee to investigate ways of improving the code in New South Wales and most particularly in Sydney.
Football had had its ups and downs but thankfully this group felt the need to push the game in a better direction.
Looking at the names involved in the league’s management committee that year one stands out and that is Rhys Giddey. He grew up in Western Sydney and was formerly a ruckman with the Western Suburbs Club who later transferred to the then new Bankstown side (1958-62) that played out of Memorial Oval. In those years Giddey described himself as a ‘teacher’.
As a player, Giddey was all arms and legs but gave no quarter if it came to who was in charge on the field. He was a big man. In many circles his business judgement perhaps did not get the respect it eventually deserved and in not so many years he had ditched football to become a millionaire in the business world.
But nevertheless he moved from a player with Bankstown to a member of the League’s Board of Management in 1962 during a period of absolute turmoil for the competition.
At the time it was subject to litigation from a former league secretary and the league itself was broke after what seemed a generation of debt; but no-one seemed to care, they just kept rolling along season after season continuing declaring a debit balance, a situation that was quite the opposite to what happened in 1954 when a healthy profit was revealed. For a league this size, these figures were big money in those days. The average yearly wage for male managers and clerks in 1950 was £433 1s 4d
|These figures have been rounded off|
Giddey declared in his 1963 report to the league as fulltime secretary (General Manager):
“ …. it has also been under pressures which, in 60 years, had not previously been experienced.
The season saw the League once again with a new Secretary, the third in as many years and also saw the unprecedented action of the immediate past Secretary issuing three writs against members of the Board, a writ against the President, together with a summons against the members of the Board. The writ against the President and two of the other writs have had judgment signed in favour of the defendants. The latest writ and the summons is still current….”
The group charged with formulating the report was the NSWANFL Advisory Board, sometimes seen as a bunch of old timers whose opinions really did not count. The Advisory Board was somewhere to park these men who had formerly been involved in the game.
But this time their beliefs did count and they tabled their report in late August 1963.
The league then was comprised of only eleven clubs:
Western Suburbs, Newtown, North Shore, Eastern Suburbs, St George, Sydney Naval, Sydney University, South Sydney, Balmain, Liverpool/Bankstown (they combined at the start of 1963) and new club Parramatta.
Over the previous number of years then, there had been six or so stand out clubs: Western Suburbs, Sydney Naval, St George, Eastern Suburbs, Newtown and North Shore, then came the rest.
It was reported that the calibre of the bottom five clubs was “sub-standard” and Giddey said
“…in the main, the Senior League Clubs are run by men with some commercial acumen. These men realise that there is no such thing as a stable position – that you either progress or fall behind. The onus is on the executive of all Clubs to consider the affairs of their Club in the light of this axiom.
He continued in what is very positive and futuristic speak “…The time has come when the people holding office in the Clubs must consider and equate the interests of their Club in relation to the overall aims and objects of the League which they go to make up.
It is to be regretted that the majority of the Senior League Clubs have shirked their responsibilities in regard to the promotion of Third Grade teams. This short-sighted attitude is flying in the face of established precedent. Every successful Senior Club has always been supported by a strong Junior Team.”
The report forecast two divisions in Sydney. “It would” the report said “ensure a better standard of play in what would be the number one division.”
Of course history will record that it all came to nothing. Even Giddey’s words of encouragement fell on deaf ears.
Clubs in that time of democratic administration, had two votes apiece plus that of each board member so with the five clubs subject to relegation representing ten votes together with any sympathetic life member (life members also had a vote at league meetings) there was no chance the system could be changed.
So the strong got stronger and the weak stumbled through. A second division was not introduced until 1971 and even then it was more made up of new clubs within the Sydney area. At the same time new leagues also began to pop up in areas forever considered rugby strongholds in the state.
But time changes everything.
Who would ever think in 1963 that today four of the clubs are no more, another has joined with one of the newer clubs while a ‘fringy’, having gone through so many name changes will probably never aspire to the senior league, not that they would probably want to.
When Giddey said in 1963 “The Board will consider carefully the possibility of promoting football in suburban areas which fringe the city Clubs.” Basically he was right, although ‘the Board’ didn’t do any promoting of football in the burgeoning areas of Sydney and beyond. It was footy people who moved there to start new clubs for the most part with little or no assistance, that changed the character and the structure of the league and football in NSW.
There have been about four published reviews of Sydney football over the years with this one in 1963, the first.
Most contained idealistic words of growth, development and success.
In 2017 football is definitely better; the competitions are better structured and there is a more diverse group of people running the game now who appear much more informed generally.
NSWAFL Annual Reports 1954-64
SMH 25 August 1963
State Library of Victoria, Wages in Victora