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.

My beautiful picture Bob Pritchard 2 My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture
Keith Miller Bob Pritchard Ian Granland Ron Thomas Greg Harris Bob McConnell
My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture
1987 Sydney Swans Development Officers
Brett Scott Craig Davis Dennis Carroll Mark Browning Paul Hawke Stevie Wright

Gillett Takes On New Post

1988 Rod Gillett @ Bankstown Sports Flag Presentation 2 smallFormer NSW Australian Football League president, Doctor Rodney Gillett, who now leads and manages the English Language Programs at RMIT University, Vietnam, has accepted the honorary post of editor for the Society’s journal.

Gillett has had a passionate involvement in NSW football since he moved from the leafy Victorian town of Kyabram in the mid 1970s..

He initially studied at the University of New England and later took a post at Wagga’s Charles Sturt University where his involvement led him to write an in depth paper on the early history on Australian Football in the Riverina.

More recently he has found himself  working in the education field in Korea, Fiji, and the United Arab Emirates in both the higher education and secondary education sectors.  Dr Gillett holds a Doctorate in Education from Edith Cowan University, a Masters of Applied Linguistics from the University of Southern Queensland, a Masters in Letters, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Diploma of Education from the University of New England, as well as specialist ESL teaching qualifications.

Society officials are pleased that Dr Gillett has accepted the post full well knowing his love of the game and interest in football history.

He was president of the NSW Football League in a rocky period including 1986 and the following year offsided to cricket legend, Keith Miller who took over the chair.

Dr Gillett is no stranger to the History Society.  For many years he was a member of the then Australian Football History Committee which was formed in the 1990s and served as a precursor to the current incorporated History Society.  He continues his football literary skills having several articles published in the popular online football magazine, The Footy Almanac.

His responsibilities with the journal,  include the selection of stories, editing and formatting.

The publication was first produced last year and circulated to members only of the Society.  It proved quite popular and provoked a number of positive responses to its release.

Image shows Dr Gillett presenting the 1987 Under 20s premiership flag to Bankstown Sports Club officials.