Behind Post Snaps Hopefield-Buraja to Victory in the 1960 Coreen & District Grand Final

Late in the third quarter of the 1960 Coreen Football league grand final young Jerilderie defender Stan “Brickie” Taylor in a desperate effort in defence to halt the relentless attack on goal by Hopefield-Buraja collided heavily with the behind post snapping it off at ground level.

It was only rural ingenuity that enabled the game to continue at the Daysdale Recreation Reserve. A farmer just happened to have a star picket fencing post in the back of his ute that league officials managed to attach to the point post using fencing wire and drive it back into the ground.

Buraja had gradually pulled back Jerilderie’s lead established through a commanding first quarter score of 28 to 8 to lead 8-11 (59) to 8-8 (56) at three-quarter time.

With the delay in replacing the post and the third quarter break it was expected that Jerilderie would recover but the combine (H-B) swept to victory by kicking 3-1 in the final quarter to Jerilderie’s 1-1.

The Hopefield-Buraja club had been the result of a merger for the 1947 season between two of the foundation clubs when the league was formed in 1894. Usually with mergers, the first name becomes the nomenclature for a club, but in this case, mainly because games were played at Buruja, this became the popular name

Jerilderie had come into the league in 1957 from the Murray League Seconds. The Demons, as they became known in 1961 won the premiership in 1963 by beating unbeaten Daysdale, after having won only one game in the previous season, transferred to the Murray Football League in 1964.

Jeriderie returned for the league’s centenary season in 1994 when the Daysdale, Oaklands, and Hopefield-Buraja clubs also celebrated their centenaries.

This bought the number of clubs in the league up to ten: Coleambly, Jerilderie, Daysdale, Rand, Hopefield-Buraja, Coreen, Oaklands, Rennie, Urana along with the Victorian-based club, Wahgunyah.

However, by the 2007 season the continuing decline in the population in the district particularly of the drift of young people to the regional towns and metropolitan cities for further study and employment, the league was reduced to six clubs.

Ironically, all of the original clubs were involved in the grand final albeit in a merged form – CDHB United – an amalgamation of Coreen, Daysdale, Hopefield and Buraja defeated the Billabong Crows made up of Urana, Cullivel and Oaklands. And the grand final was played at Rennie.

CDHBU and the Billabong Crows are now in the Hume League, as are Rand that merged firstly with Walbundrie, and then with Walla while Jerilderie and Rennie are in the Picola League, and Coleambly is in the Farrer League.

But as Alan Norman documents in his excellent book Coreen & District Football League Finals History, in 1960, it was Hopefield-Buraja that scraped into the 1960 Coreen Football League finals with a draw over Rennie in the final round to edge out Urana-Cullivel, and then went all the way through the finals to win the premiership.

Buraja were led by former Corowa star Dinny Carroll, a tough ruck-rover, who led from the front. Other good players in the grand final win were key forward Bruce “Huck” Ash who booted four goals, another former Corowa player Ken “Stakey” Lavis, and Hopefield farming brothers Henry (3 goals) and Peter Kingston.

Jerilderie were best served by captain-coach Gavin Moran (ex-Geelong), centreman Brendan Carlin, ruckman Keith Ledwidge and forward Tony Brownless (father of Billy), Blair and Anson.

The estimated crowd at the grand final was 1600.

The Dennis Trophy for competition best and fairest was won by Daysdale’s David McFarlane one vote ahead of Urana-Cullivel’s Max Urquhart, who went onto play at Collingwood from 1963-69. The leading goalkicker was Hopefield-Buraja’s Bruce Ash with 51 goals.

References:

Coreen & District Football League Finals History 1894-1994 by Alan Norman

Special thanks to former Jerilderie players Peter Dowdle and Peter Quirk.

Written by Dr Rodney Gillett

History Society launches New Awards for NSW Player and Team of the Year in AFL

                 Swan’s, Isaac Heeney leading after R3

Following on from the resounding success of last year’s selection of the NSW Greatest Team Ever, the NSW AFL History Society has launched two new annual awards to recognise the Best Player in the AFL and the selection of a State of Origin team from players in the AFL.

Society president Ian Granland OAM said, “The inauguration of these awards will add to the rich tapestry of the history of football in NSW, that is this year, celebrating its 140th year”.

“This initiative has been driven by our Patron, Richard Colless AM, who has secured the support of the AFL Coaches Association for the voting structure for the Best Player and the Daily Telegraph to publish the tally board of the votes each Wednesday, starting today”.

“There are currently forty-nine players from NSW on the lists of the clubs in the AFL. The Giants have the greatest number of players with twelve. Hawthorn are next with six, while the Swans have five. There are only three clubs without NSW origin players” Granland added.

The winner of the NSW Player of the Year award will receive the Carey – Bunton Medal that honours the two greatest NSW players of all time.

The votes of the AFL coaches is highly respected and will provide a credible and valid voting system to determine the winner. Each coach votes on a 5,4,3,2,1 basis after each home and away game and the votes are aggregated.

Meanwhile, Colless has confirmed the addition of two of the players selected in the Greatest Team, Wayne Carey and Mark McClure, will join the selection panel. Carey was named as captain of the team.

The cornerstones of last year’s selection panel for the Greatest Team, Mike Sheahan and Gerard Healy have agreed to stay involved. Colless will be the convenor and History Society vice-president Rod Gillett will be the non-voting secretary.

“I’m delighted to have Wayne and Mark join the panel. All of the selectors are currently active in the media and have a very close view of all games in the AFL each round” Colless said.

“To have the very strong support of the AFL Coaches Association for the Player of the Year award is really a reflection of the status that NSW now enjoys in the AFL landscape. I want to thank the CEO Mark Brayshaw and his staff for their commitment to this award.”

“It is a highly respected award for which the votes are aggregated and available weekly” added Colless.

Votes after round 3 are:

Isaac Heeney (SS) 19 (9 votes Syd v NM);
Harry Perryman (GWS) 13 (3 votes GWS v WB);
Isaac Smith (HAW) 8 (8 votes Haw v Rich);
Jarrod Witts (GCS) 8 (8 votes GCS v Ad);
Dane Rampe (SS) 6;
Jacob Townsend (ESS) 4;
Luke Bruest (HAW) 3;
Jacob Hopper (GWS) 2;
Todd Marshall (PA) 2.

The AFLCA award was instituted in 2004 and it is our intention to award the medal retrospectively to all the winners 2004-2019. Some of the previous winners will include Brett Kirk, Lenny Hayes, Taylor Walker, Kieran Jack, and in 2019, Zac Williams.

Two Of Football’s Early Pioneers in NSW

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile the nominees:

The NSW Australian Football Association was formed in 1880 to play “under Victorian football rules” (Sydney Mail, 13 July 1880).
Two of the leading figures in the establishment of the game in Sydney have been nominated for the inaugural Australian Football New South Wales Hall of Fame. They are the inaugural president Phillip Sheridan and George Crisp, who convened the meeting to form the new football body, and later, became a star player for NSW.

Phillip Sheridan

Phillip Sheridan, was one of the first trustees of the Sydney Cricket Ground (then known as Association ground) elected as president of the new Football Association (NSWFA  aka NSWAFL). He was to hold that office until 1890.

Sheridan was highly prominent in sporting circles in Sydney at that time, particularly in cricket. He had been instrumental in the formation of the Sydney Cricket Club and was a delegate to the NSW Cricket Association.

He had been appointed as a trustee of the SCG by the government in 1875. In 1895 he became its full time manager, a position he held until his death in 1910. The new Smokers Stand at the SCG was named in honour of Sheridan after his death. It was replaced by the Clive Churchill Stand in 1986.

In nominating Sheridan as President of the Football Association, Charles W. Beal (who was elected as Secretary) said in support of Sheridan’s nomination that “…. he was one of the most prominent supporters of cricket and other outdoor sports in this colony. He was a supporter of football as played in Victoria and was likely to prove energetic in promoting the interests of the association” (Sydney Mail, 10 July 1880).

Sheridan played a pivotal role in providing the NSW Football Association to access the SCG during the winter season when the ground was not being used for cricket. At the time there was strong competition for use of the ground with the Southern Rugby Union (SRU), later the NSW Rugby Union.  There were very limited grounds in Sydney where an admission could be charged.

The first inter-colonial match of any football code was played between NSW and the Victorian Football Association (VFA) at the SCG on 6 August 1881. An inter-colonial rugby match between NSW and Queensland was not played there until 1882.

The NSW Football Association regularly played matches between its clubs: Sydney and East Sydney (both formed in 1880) on the SCG in 1881, and throughout the 1880s, including all the interstate matches against the VFA, Queensland, Melbourne clubs and other interstate sides even a game against New Zealand in 1890.

 

   George Crisp,   first promoter of        the game in   Sydney in 1880

George Crisp who grew up in Melbourne moved to Sydney at the age of 20 with his family. In June 1880 he placed an advertisement in the Sydney Mail seeking players to form a football club to play under “Victorian Rules”. The meeting was held at Statton’s Hotel, Woollahra on 23 June 1880.

The turn-out was low and another was arranged for 30 June at the Freemason’s Hotel in the city at which New South Wales Football Association was formed. It was reported that “the attendance at the meeting was the largest gathering of football players ever assembled in NSW” (Sydney Mail 3 July 1880). It is estimated that over one hundred persons attended.

The election of office bearers was held over to the following Wednesday when at another well attended meeting, Sheridan was elected president and Crisp to the committee.

Crisp represented NSW on 19 occasions including the historic first inter-colonial matches against the VFA at the MCG on 1 July 1881 and the return game on the SCG, both won easily by the Victorians. He was named best NSW player in the latter game. Crisp was NSW captain in 1884.

He was also a founding member of the Sydney Football club (formed on 6 August 1880) and was elected to the committee and club captain, a position he held in 1880-82, 1884, and 1888-89.

On 7 August 1880, a scratch match was held on Moore Park, between team selected by former Carlton player, Bill Newing, and a team led by George Crisp.

Then, on 10 August, the East Sydney Football Club was formed.

On 14 August another game of football under Victorian Rules was played on Moore Park with the final game of the season played on 21 August. Thus, football in Sydney got underway.

REFERENCE: Ian Granland’s unpublished work, The History of Australian Football in Sydney 1877-1895 (2014)

Images supplied be the NSW Australian Football History Society

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member part of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

Rod Gillett has written extensively about the game in NSW for country newspapers, the Sun-Herald, Inside Football and other publications. He has also had chapters published in the Footy Almanac and Footy Town. Rod was a member of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team in 2019 and is currently a member of the AFL NSW Hall of Fame selection committee.

Society’s AGM – Most re-elected

 Ian Granland

Fearing CV19’s growing restrictions might interfere with the holding of the Society’s Annual General Meeting, officials were quick to get that and the Special General Meeting finalised yesterday at Magpie Sports Club.

“We had a reasonable turnout attending” Society President Ian Granland said “but I feel the recent edict of the restrictions to the amount of people permitted in groups, might have added to the fact that there was a smaller number there yesterday than normal, however there was well more than enough for a quorum” he continued.

All but Tom Mahon stood for re-election and those that did were re-installed to their previous posts.

The Society issued a comprehensive annual report which outline their activities throughout last year with the treasurer declaring a healthy bank balance.  Click here to read the report.

This year they will appoint a patron with negotiations currently being formalised.

There is much more work being undertaken with treasurer John Addison, suggesting a new and revised method to make all that is stored in the Society’s collection being able to be viewed on line.  Discussions are currently ongoing with the Society’s programmer to facilitate this and other moves to improve their administrative and archival systems.

2020 Officials

Position Person
President: Ian Granland
Vice President:  Dr Rod Gillett
Secretary: Paul Macpherson
Treasurer: John Addison
Committee:
Persons
Ian Wright
Amanda Keevil
Jenny Hancock
Heather White

 

 

 

The Make-Up of the NSW’s Greatest Team Ever

When Jack Fleming made his debut for South Melbourne in the newly-formed VFL in 1897 he became the first player from NSW to play at what was to become, the highest-level. Fleming was born in Inverell in northern NSW but went to South Melbourne from the South Broken Hill club.

Nick Blakey

Nick Blakey aged 18 and fresh out of Waverly College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, became the 453rd player from NSW to play VFL/AFL football when he debuted for the Sydney Swans against the Western Bulldogs in round one of the 2019 season. He continued the rich tradition of players from NSW playing at the highest level that had begun with Jack Fleming 122 years ago.

The list of NSW’s Greatest Players provided the basis for the selection of the NSW Greatest Team Ever at the Carbine Club’s function in May this year.  You can view the entire list here, however to facilitate the list in its entirety, it has been reduced in size.  (You can enlarge the document for easier viewing by holding down your CONTROL button and press the + button at the same time.  To reverse this, hold down the CONTROL button and press the minus [ – ] button.)

Initially, a list of 423 players was provided by the AFL. Former Sydney Swans and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL Commission chairman Richard Colless, the convener of the selection panel for the NSW Greatest Team, was convinced that there were more players than this and asked the NSW Football History Society representatives on the panel, Ian Granland and Rod Gillett, to investigate.

Between them they boosted the number on the list to 453.

Using his geographical and football knowledge of southern NSW particularly along the border region, Gillett was able to add a substantial number to the list that had been overlooked by the AFL’s historians.

This included the likes of former Carlton and Richmond ruckman David Honybun from Coleambly who was recruited by the Blues from Scotch College, ex-St Kilda defender Jon Lilley (Hay) who went to Xavier College, dual Richmond premiership rover Bill Brown also from Hay who went to work for the State Savings Bank in Melbourne;  he also plaPaul Kelly, Bill Mohr, yed for the bank team in the amateurs.  then there was Damian Sexton (St Kilda) from Finley who was recruited from Ovens and Murray league club, Yarrawonga.

A gem of a find was the late Sir Doug Nichols, who grew up and played football at the Cummeragunja aboriginal mission on the NSW side of the Murray River opposite Barmah, near Echuca. Sir Doug played for the mission in the district competition before making his mark with Fitzroy in the VFL. Ironically, he played for Victoria against NSW in the 1933 ANFC Carnival in Sydney.

They also came up with the names of some outstanding SANFL players that had originally been recruited from Broken Hill. Two of these players, West Adelaide’s Bruce McGregor and Neil Davies from Glenelg, were subsequently selected in the Greatest Team. Both captained South Australia in interstate matches and were selected in ANFC All-Australian teams.

Broken Hill has been a rich source of players for both the VFL and the SANFL competitions. Forty-eight players on the list came from Broken Hill’s four clubs: Norths (13), Centrals (9), Souths (11), and Wests (15).

The Albury Football Club provided the most number of players on the list with 49 including five from the Strang family starting with Bill Strang (South Melbourne) in 1904, his three sons Doug (Richmond), Gordon (Richmond) and Alan (South Melbourne) and Doug’s son Geoff, who played in Richmond’s 1967 and 1969 premiership sides.

Rival Ovens & Murray League club Corowa, that merged with Rutherglen for the 1979 season, provided twenty players including current Sydney Swans coach John Longmire (North Melbourne), 1975 North Melbourne premiership star Peter Chisnall and Swans 2005 premiership player Ben Matthews.

The Sydney clubs have supplied 106 players on the list with Eastern Suburbs providing the highest number with twenty-four, the most notable being Carlton champion Mark “Sellers” McClure; Newtown with eleven including Footscray’s 1954 premiership player Roger Duffy, ten from North Shore, nine from Pennant Hills which included the former St Kilda champion Lenny Hayes.

The Riverina was also a fertile area for the list. The highest number of players came from the Wagga Tigers which provided 20 players including 1995 Brownlow medalist Paul Kelly (Swans), the sublimely skilled John Pitura (South Melbourne/Richmond), and the NSW Greatest Team full forward, Bill Mohr (St Kilda) who topped the VFL goal-kicking in 1936 with 101 goals.

Leeton (12), Ganmain (10) and Narranderra (9) also supplied high numbers of players for the list.

South Melbourne/Sydney Swans have been the main beneficiary of players from NSW. One hundred and seventeen players have turned out for the Swans since 1897.

Under zoning by the VFL of Victorian Country/Southern NSW from 1967-1986 the Riverina was allocated to South Melbourne. In this period Rick Quade (Ariah Park-Mirrool), Doug Priest (Holbrook), Ross Elwin (Leeton), Colin Hounsell (Collingullie), Brett Scott (The Rock-Yerong Creek), Paul Hawke (Wagga Tigers), Dennis Carroll (Lockhart) and Jim Prentice (Ariah Park-Mirrool) were recruited from the Swans’ zone.

When the club moved to Sydney in 1982, the number of players from the local competition increased. This included Terry Thripp (Pennant Hills), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (North Shore), Nick Davis (St George), Kieran Jack (Pennant Hills), Arthur Chilcott (Western Suburbs), and Neil Brunton (Holroyd-Parramatta) and many more.

The Greater Western Sydney Giants have also recruited players from NSW since their entry into the AFL in 2012. Their number of players from NSW currently stands at eighteen following the debut of Penrith local and national decathlon champion, Jake Stein in round 12 against North Melbourne.

Stein became the 454th player to play in the VFL/AFL. The list was boosted to over 500 highly skilled players to recognise those from the city and the bush that didn’t go to the big leagues and the players from Broken Hill that represented the SANFL.

History Society Plays a Big Part in Selection of NSW Aust Football Hall of Fame

  AFLNSWACT Chief
        Sam Graham

The Danihers, Quades, Carrolls, Sandralls, Priests, Deans, Walkers, Frees and Hedgers – grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins along with hundreds of others that are a part of the football family in NSW since 1880 that will come into consideration for the recently announced AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

The first ever New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame event will take place in 2020 to celebrate 140 years of Australian Football being played in the state, with it envisaged that 140 people will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the first inauguration.

This follows the recent announcement of the NSW Greatest Team at the Carbine Club in Sydney on 9 May.

The AFL’s purpose is to “progress the game, so everyone can share in its heritage and possibilities” according to AFL NSW/ACT CEO, Sam Graham. “Creating this first Hall of Fame opportunity will celebrate the enormous contribution of players, umpires, coaches and administrators from New South Wales to the game of Australian Football” Graham added.

NSW AFL History Society president, Ian Granland, OAM said, “The Hall of Fame will celebrate the rich heritage of Australian Football through NSW. We are delighted to be involved and to be able to contribute to the selection of this magnificent project”.

“Our hard-working committee members continue to build the database of players, umpires, officials and supporting documents that have played such a key role in the game over the last 140 years. It’s an invaluable resource that will provide the evidence for selection”.

Rod Gillett
Dr Rod Gillett

Granland will be joined on the AFL NSW Hall of Fame selection panel by History Society vice-president Dr Rodney Gillett. Both of whom were consultants for the recently announced NSW Greatest Team.

The selection committee has been formed to ensure that the whole spectrum of Australian Football is represented from people across the state of New South Wales.

Selection Committee

1. Sam Graham – Chair (CEO, AFL NSW/ ACT)

2. Sam Chadwick (State Manager, AFL NSW/ ACT)

3. Ian Granland (President, NSW Australian Football History Society and former Black Diamond AFL founder and president)

4. Rodney Gillett (Former President AFL NSW and NSW Country AFL and vice-president of NSW Australian Football History Society)

5. Christine Burrows (Head Umpires Coach – AFL Hunter Central Coast, Umpire representative and Northern New South Wales representative)

6. Yvette Andrews (established Sydney Women’s AFL, Inner West Magpies Vice President and Sydney representative)

7. Greg Verdon (Former chairman of the Murrumbidgee Valley Australia Football Association, former Chairman of the Southern Regional AFL Board, former President of Farrer FL and Southern New South Wales representative)

Best NSW Team Ever Announced

       Wayne Carey

The player regarded by many as the best player to ever play the game, Wayne Carey, has been named as captain of the Greatest NSW Team at the Carbine Club of NSW annual AFL Lunch today (9th May, 2019).

“The King” captained North Melbourne to two premierships in the 1990s and was selected in seven All Australian teams and was named captain four times. He won four best and fairest awards at North Melbourne and was leading goal-kicker five times. He captained the club from 1993-2001.

Carey played in the NSW team that beat Victoria at the SCG in 1990 and led a NSW/ACT team against Victoria at the MCG in 1993.

He began his football journey at North Wagga and strongly identifies with that club where his brother and nephews played. His boy-hood hero was the illustrious North Wagga captain-coach Laurie Pendrick.

The selection of the NSW Greatest Team was jointly sponsored by the NSW Australian Football History Society and the AFL NSW/ACT.

A panel of experts was assembled to undertake this extraordinarily challenging exercise. Senior selectors were Mike Sheahan and Gerard Healy supported by NSW Australian Football Society executive members Ian Granland and Rod Gillett and society member and author Miles Wilks. AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham and AFL Commissioner Gabrielle Trainor represented the AFL.

The panel was chaired by former Sydney Swans chairman and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL chairman, Richard Colless, who is the AFL convenor for the Carbine Club of NSW.

Nearly 500 NSW players have since 1897 played senior football in the VFL/AFL and a smaller number in the SANFL.

NSW players have won seven Brownlow Medals, five Magarey Medals, and three Sandover Medals.

There have been various attempts to select teams that represent part of NSW, e.g. Southern NSW/ACT, Riverina and Sydney teams. And there have also been a number of teams selected by historians and supporters that have been posted on the internet.

There has however, never been an official NSW team that embraces the game’s 140-year history and includes every part of the State in which the game indigenous has been played.

One of the issues is that there has never been a natural senior competition in NSW. Broken Hill, Sydney, and various Southern NSW and Riverina Leagues have at one stage or another been ascendant.

Nonetheless the game has a very rich history in NSW and the selection of the Greatest Team represents a major celebration for Australian Football in this state.

The team is:

 

 

 

 

Click here for criteria and bio of each player

 

Gillett joins the Board

Academic and long term supporter and football modernist, Doctor Rod Gillett joined the board of the Football History Society at their annual general meeting held today.

Rod Gillett

Gillett has had a long involvement with the game commencing as a lad at Kyabram, Victoria then later Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Sydney and Wagga.

In the 1980s a young Rodney Gillett was vice president of the NSW Football League and later one of the initial members when the Society was formed as a committee of the AFL NSW/ACT but moved on to progress his academic career with postings in Fiji, South Korea, Dubai and currently in Singapore.

He is retiring from work shortly and will settle in Sydney. Gillett is keen to focus on football jumping at the opportunity to re-ignite his interest in the history of the game.

In other moves, professional archivist Paul Macpherson was voted in as secretary while the incumbent, Heather White moved to the back bench: (the committee).

Paul Macpherson

Ian Granland was returned as president and John Addison, treasurer. With the addition of Heather White, Ian Wright, Jenny Hancock, Mandy Keevil and Tom Mahon, take up the remainder of the committee positions.

Treasurer, John Addison announced an operating profit for the year of $2,218.00 but cautioned in his report that it is not the objective of the Society to hold surplus funds and outlined a series of spending projects the committee has agreed to for the coming months.

FOOTY CONTINUES ITS GRASSROOTS SPREAD IN SYDNEY

By Dr Rod Gillett

The depth and spread of AFL football in Sydney continues. This season sixty-two senior teams compete in the Sydney AFL competition.

These teams are spread across six divisions. Additionally, there are two teams in the NEAFL, Sydney University and the Sydney Hills Eagles. Plus there are fifteen teams in the two Under 19 divisions. That’s a grand total of 79 footy teams.

The Sydney competition now includes clubs from Gosford in the north to Wollongong in the south and to Penrith in the west, down to Camden in the south west and out to Hawkesbury in the north west.

This is a far cry from twenty years ago when there were only twenty two teams in two divisions. And if we go back to 1904 there were just ten teams. Only three clubs survive from this period, North Shore, Balmain, and East Sydney albeit in a merged form with the University of New South Wales.

However, the structure of the current Sydney competition is not based on geography but rather on performance. The teams are placed in the respective division based on their final placing at the end of the previous season. Some clubs such as the Macarthur Giants and the Wollondilly Knights field only one team while Sydney Uni has teams in every division except division two.

The genesis of the spread was the uni clubs in Sydney instituting a ‘fourth grade’ to accommodate an excess of players, mainly on a social basis on a Saturday morning in the late 90s. It was informal competition to begin but the Sydney AFL administration eventually embraced it as a way for forward for new clubs.

Many new clubs had been formed in Sydney over the past century but had always struggled to get established while playing in the one senior competition. Over the years clubs such as Bankstown, Parramatta and Liverpool had entered and exited the main competition unable to match it with the established clubs.

The formation by the NSW AFL in 1971 of a second division provided a competition for new clubs to emerge. Three of the six clubs in the new division were from the universities: Sydney, UNSW (which had formerly competed disproportionately in the senior competition) and Macquarie, while a fourth, Salesians, were based on a boys home in the Sutherland Shire operated by the De La Salle order. South Sydney, a foundation club that had struggled since WWII, and new club, Warringah on the northern beaches made up the rest of the division.

Warringah, became Manly-Warringah in 1979, and became a powerhouse in the second division. The Wolves rise as a club in Sydney culminated in them winning the Premier division title last year.  Manly, as they are most commonly known, have a strong junior base and an upgraded home ground. This season they field teams in three divisions and the Under 19s.

Alas South Sydney folded at the end of the 1976 season and Salesians lasted only the one season. But the pathway was established for new clubs to find a suitable competition; in the 70s new clubs from Pennant Hills, St Ives, and Campbelltown came through. In the 1980s further new clubs such as Baulkham Hills, Parramatta, and Penrith got their start in the second division.

Baulkham Hills, now known as the Sydney Hills Eagles, finished last in the first season in 1983. Thirty years later, the club from the Hills is in the semi national NEAFL after a strong run of success in the 2000s in the Sydney Premier division.

Now clubs such as the Randwick City Saints, the Blacktown Magic, and the Moorebank Magpies have an appropriate level of competition in which to play and prosper. Aligned with the AFL NSW-ACT’s approach to secure grounds by working closely with local council on development it augurs well for the continued spread of the game in Sydney.

A LOOK BACK TO 1987

My beautiful pictureAlmost 30 years ago now, yet another new regime took hold of NSW football.

Only a few years prior to this, a new broom under president, Bernie Heafey, in a coup, swept aside the congenial governance of Bill Hart, which, for the most part, had followed the operational football pattern based on that set when the game was resuscitated in Sydney in 1903.

The VFL supported Heafey management lasted no more than half a dozen years following the bluff and bluster of their introduction.  In fact it sent a very divided Sydney and NSW football administration almost broke.  In late 1986 the NSWAFL auditors advised that the league would be declared bankrupt.

By this time a new regime which followed and was linked to the private ownership of the Sydney Swans, and had, as part of their licence, to guarantee $417,000 per year for development of the game in NSW, had taken root.  But in all the manoeuvrings, conivings and plottings which in the end produced poor management as opposed the good and benefit of football, had made its mark.

Players and officials from clubs and country leagues knew little of of the problems and issues of the inner sanctum of NSW/Sydney Football.  Their main concern was their little patch and so long as the game went ahead on the weekend, these issues were of little concern.

By mid 1986 the turmoil faltered to an administrative staff of two: the aging former St George official, Bob McConnell whose role was to deal with player clearances together with the office typist, who both conducted the day to day activities of the league.

Queanbeyan FC guru, Ron Fowlie had resigned his job as CEO of the NSW Football League to return to his club while the machinations of the Sydney competition itself started to show signs of self destruction.

NSWAFL was under the direction of the affable and relatively young, Rod Gillett (pictured), who had made a name for himself working at a number of university student unions throughout the state.  The vital asset Gillett had over his four man committee of Pritchard, Smith and Thomas was his commitment and passion for the game and in particular NSW football.  Fortunately, and in probability with some bias, they made the very important appointment of Ian Granland to the role of CEO of the league.

Important because Granland was a local, he had been a club secretary in Sydney and had an extensive involvement at club and league level.  He understood Sydney football and his heart beat for football.  He knew and understood the problems, the issues and the politics.

Bob Pritchard, who gained his notoriety with Powerplay in the Edelsten years at the Sydney Swans, called a meeting of Sydney Club presidents at the Western Suburbs Licensed Club premises in late 1986.  He laid the options on the table, which included a commission to run the league.  Either relinquish ‘power’ to his group and continue as a viable league or go under.  He also sold the blueprint of a state wide league to operate in NSW which would incorporate some but not all Sydney clubs.  Incidentally this never came to fruition although a similar competition was later tried.

At the same time, Pritchard had arranged for cricket legend, Keith Miller, a former St Kilda, Victoria and NSW player to take on the position of Chief Commissioner ( president) of the NSWAFL.  Miller was reluctant but had Gillett as his accomplished offsider.

The clubs acquiesced.  Authority was once again vested in the NSW Australian Football League.  Change was swift.  The NSW Junior Football Union, which had acquired some dominance over junior football in the state, most particularly because of their influence in the selection and promotion of junior state teams, was abolished.

Next to go was the NSW Country Australian Football Leauge, of which Granland had been a leading advocate. Ironically, it was he who wielded the axe.

The roles of both these organisations was then vested in the NSW Football League, of which, Sydney became one and not a dominant partner. Many of the positions undertaken by volunteers were assumed by paid administrators and the coaching of young state representative teams was in time, assigned to professional football people.

Then there were changes to Sydney football.  Make no mistake, the league was broke.  They had creditors of $50,000 and debtors of $30,000. The competition was split into three divisions, affiliation fees were substantially increased, an individual player registration fee was introduced and those clubs that were in debt to the league were told to pay up or go and play somewhere else.  All but one paid.  The plan was to make the three divisions pay their way, instead of relying on the major clubs to contribute the lions’ share.

There were other subtle changes  The accounts were split, the major one concerning the $417,000 was isolated and the Sydney development officers, all of whom were Sydney Swans players, had their job descriptions better defined to be capably overseen under manager, Greg Harris and later Craig Davis.

Despite some heartache and fractured egos, the foundations were well and truly laid for a revised and viable NSW Australian Football League until the October 1987 world stock market crash bit into the private ownership of the Sydney Swans, effecting the cash flow of the annual $417,000 development money.

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Keith Miller Bob Pritchard Ian Granland Ron Thomas Greg Harris Bob McConnell
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1987 Sydney Swans Development Officers
Brett Scott Craig Davis Dennis Carroll Mark Browning Paul Hawke Stevie Wright