Sydney Touring the Riverina

Prior to the first world war, the NSW Football League, as it was known then, undertook two Riverina tours with a Sydney representative team playing at different centres.

Several football associations in the Riverina had affiliated with the (almost) new NSWAFL, following its re-birth in 1903.  In response it was almost expected that the Sydney league would send teams into the area to play.  Besides representative teams, Sydney club sides also made the journey deep into the Riverina.

These representative tours took place in 1907 and 1908, and had a duration of seven days plus.  This was during a time when a separate and top line NSW team played elsewhere in an interstate fixture, so the Riverina touring side, for the most part, was Sydney’s second team“ comprised of those available.

The financial arrangements of these tours are not spelt out but we would assume that:

“Those who  ‘volunteered’ to play in these representative teams had the time to
do so. These were the days, certainly for manual workers, shop assistants,
carters and the like to be working 60 hours a week, some, even every day.  So
we are at a loss to say how they were able to  absent themselves from their
work unless they: were self-employed, the bosses son, took leave  (and not all
employees had the benefit of holidays) or were out of work.  Because of thee
restrictions it is reasonable to assume that those ˜selected’ (or who volunteered
to play), were not always the best players in the competition.
Also, in many cases in those early days of representative football, one of their
number, would second as the team manager, so a bare eighteen might travel “
there was no interchange or  reserves in those days.
The host league would pay the travel and accommodation costs.
All that the NSW Football League would do was to supply the jumpers, and
possibly the shorts and socks, all of which would have to be returned.
The number of representative games in the first decade or so of the last century was incredible and it is little wonder that the league almost persistently recorded an annual deficit.  Although it is fair to say that in the few years immediately following 1903, prominent interstate teams did not make a claim on the gate and in fact left any and all proceeds from their matches in Sydney with the local league.

 

YEAR

NSWAFL ANNUAL PROFIT
OR DEFICIT (-)

RBA 2013 INFLATION CALCULATION

KNOWN
REPRESENTATIVE GAMES

1907 £400.00 -$54,857.00

9

1908 £174.00 -$22,459.00

10

1909 £123.00 +$15,876.00

4

1910 £166.00 -$21,014.00

10

1911 £110.00 +13,662.00

6

1912 £39.00 -$5,476.00

3

1913 £165.00 -$18,409.00

5

Does this show a pattern?  The 1911 profit is almost certainly due to the subsidy of £225.00 (with inflation in today’s money: $27,946.00) received from the Australian National Football Council as NSW’s share of gate receipts from the all states carnival in Adelaide.

In 1907 and 1908, Sydney teams toured and played at Hay, Narrandera, Coolamon and Wagga.  The first of these tours was disastrous with some virtual unknowns making the trip in the Sydney team, probably due to their availability.  In their final game against the Wagga Association, the Sydney side had to call upon five players from Narrandera and Hay to make up their number.  Whether this was because of injury or withdrawal has not been established.

The next year they had a stronger team which included the NSW captain, Ralph Robertson, but nevertheless could not match it with some of their Riverina opponents.

 

YEAR

SYDNEY SCORE

OPPOSITION
SCORE

1907 2-10 (22) Hay F C 5-11 (47)
1907 2-1 (13) Narrandera F C 10-19 (79)
1907 5-6 (36) Coolamon F C 3-9 (27)
1907 5-5 (35) Wagga F A 10-27 (87)
1908 9-7 (61) Hay F C 7-22 (64)
1908 10-18 (78) Narrandera F C 8-14 (62)
1908 6-9 (45) Wagga F A 10-19 (79)

 

Unlike today, the trip to all centres was by train.  The first stop (passing through most of the others) was at Hay which is 755 rail kilometres from Sydney.  Incidentally and interesting piece came to light when researching this article, it was talking about Narrandera and Lockhart “Teams travel tremendous distances to take part in these matches – from ten to forty miles.  Greater difficulty will be experienced this season (1908) in bringing off these matches, owing to the scarcity of horses, brought about by the drought.  They must be very enthusiastic ……”

It was some years before more Sydney representative teams toured the area again, although a number of requests were received, even during the first world war.

HOW MANY REP GAMES CAN YOU PLAY?

Mick Grace smallNSW normally participates in one or two interstate games a year.  This then placates the representative faction so domestic football can continue.

However in 1910, the NSW Football League played an incredible eleven representative games over a six week period which restricted their home and away games and pushed the finals deep into September.

On three occasions during the season, the league had to field two representative teams on the same day just to fulfill their obligations.

It was no secret that the NSW Football League were poor managers of their finances and continually finished their seasons in the red.  The main reason for this was that many games were played on Moore Park, which was and still is an open and unfenced arena near Sydney central.  They might well have attracted 2-3,000 spectators to these free games but it didn’t reflect in the finances of the league when they were the ones who manned and took the gate.

Fortunately the league entered the 1910 season with a very rare surplus of one hundred and twenty three pounds ($246.00), thanks to a round robin series between South Melbourne, Geelong, Collingwood Clubs plus the NSW League state team in Sydney the previous year.  The then VFL clubs made no claim on the gate and left the entire amount with the league.

Queensland games were one source of continuing wastage.  Games would attract a poor crowd when they played in Sydney and conversely a big-hearted NSW would not make a full claim on the gate at their Brisbane matches.  In 1910, NSW played Queensland twice, once in Brisbane and an additional match in Sydney. In the middle of all these games, Queensland too played Riverina in Sydney, but were easily outclassed.

DATE

VENUE

NSW Team

Local Team Score

RESULT

OPPOSITION

SCORE

1910-06-11

Erskineville Oval

NSW

12-7 (7(9)

Lost

Nth Adelaide FC

18-12 (120)

1910-06-11

Brisbane

NSW

9-15 (69)

Won

Queensland

5-7 (37)

1910-06-15

Erskineville Oval

NSW

6-6 (42)

Lost

Nth Adelaide Fc

10-14 (74)

1910-07-30

Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

9-11 (65)

Won

Nth Broken Hill FC

9-8 (62)

1910-08-10

Erskineville Oval

NSW

19-12 (128)

Won

Geelong FC

16-12 (108)

1910-08-13

Erskineville Oval

NSW

11-3 (69)

Lost

Geelong FC

16-12 (108)

1910-08-13

Erskineville Oval

NSW

6-8 (44)

Lost

Fitzroy FC

6-17 (53)

1910-08-17

Erskineville Oval

NSW

6-11 (47

Lost

Fitzroy FC

9-14 (68)

1910-08-20

Erskineville Oval

NSW

10-14 (74)

Won

Queensland

5-11 (41)

1910-08-20

Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

13-21 (99)

Won

Riverina

8-4 (52)

1910-08-27

Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

14-22 (106)

Won

Riverina

4-11 (35)

In this year the NSW League employed the services of Mick Grace as coach.  He was a very well known VFL footballer who had played with Fitzroy, Carlton and also St Kilda, the latter in a captain-coach capacity.

Grace lived in Sydney for almost two years, coaching NSW.  In 1911 he coached the state at the National Carnival ion Adelaide, but when he took ill, Grace returned to Melbourne where he died a year later from tuberculosis at the age of 37.  Although he was in the employ of the league, it is unknown who actually paid his salary but considering the league finished 1910 with a debt of one hundred and sixty six pounds ($332.00), the revenue stream of which included all the rep games, most h & a and finals – some of which attracted crowds in their thousands, it is difficult to say that they did not.

The acquisition of Erskineville Oval in 1910 was a real bonus for the league.  For the most part, it was the only ground where a gate could be charged with the then three remaining weekly fixtures played at different venues on the expansive Moore Park.

The league put up one hundred pounds ($200) to the trustees of Erskineville Park as rent in advance for the facility. (In that era, the old Erskineville Oval was located more west of the present site, about where the Department of Housing flats are situated with an east-west configuration.)