As this season fades into history, we have been looking round for something to write about.  The question is, where do we start.

Then we identified a year which heralded so much change to football in NSW: 1970.

It would take several sessions to outline what did take place in that year, so we have centred on just a few events.

It was Australia’s Bi-Centenary.  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh together with Princess Anne and Prince Charles visited Australia to join with the rest of the country in the celebrations.

And they didn’t miss watching a game of Australian football as shown in the photo – details below

And in Sydney, a show for the Royals was put on at the Trocodero in Sydney’s George Street.  This was a large dance and concert hall that operated between 1936 and 1971.  It was once regarded as the “most glamorous dance palace in Sydney and accommodated up to 2,000 people”. It was the favoured venue for university and school ‘formals’, and hosted many important local rock and pop concerts during the 1960s.  The block of cinemas has replaced the old Troc. between Liverpool and Bathurst Streets.

It was April when the Royal party “met young sportsmen (we don’t know if the word sportsmen refers to both genders) from all parts of the state” we were told.

Our Australian Rules representatives included David Sykes, captain coach of Newtown, Rodney Tubbs the captain coach of Sydney University Club, Bob Sterling and Emmanuel (Manny) Keriniaua from the St George Club.  Also Ian Allen, North Shore and NSW centre half back and Chris Huon, one of the young brigade of umpires making their mark on Sydney football.”

Both David Sykes, Ian Allen and Chris Huon are members of the Football History Society.

On the opening day of the season a team of Northern Territory Aboriginal Schoolboys played a Sydney Schoolboys team in an Under 16 match.  The boys from the north cleaned up the Sydney side, 17-12 (114) to 11-12 (78) at Picken Oval.

It is interesting to look at the names of some of the Sydney players and the junior clubs they came from. For example:



Alan Bouch (son of NSWAFL Board Member, Doug) Warringah
Graeme Foster  –  later Balmain, East Sydney and NSW player Ermington
Mark Andrews(son of Brian, a former state player and Balmain coach) who played with North Shore Warringah
David McVey –  who went on to win a Kealey Medal with St George
Mark McClurelater captain of Carlton FC Eastern Suburbs
Greg Harris –  later state player and captain coach of East Sydney FC St George
Bill Free  – former Newtown player was the coach
Other junior clubs that no longer exist or have had a name change: Warwick Farm, Holsworthy, Green Valley, Bankstown Sports, Manly/Seaforth


In 1970, the long term league secretary Ken Ferguson retired and was given a well attended sendoff at the Western Suburbs Club.

At last the league introduced a second division after years of half-hearted attempts to cater for burgeoning clubs in Sydney.  The clubs that comprised the league’s other open age competition since the demise of the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association in 1952 were: Warringah, St Ives, Salasians, Penshurst, UNSW, Sydney University and Western Suburbs.  Later, North Shore and South Sydney also entered teams.

The second division thing just wasn’t right, it was unbalanced.  Because they didn’t have enough clubs to go round in a stand alone competition, Sydney Uni, UNSW, South Sydney and Macquarie University fielded their senior teams in the normal open age reserve grade, which, like today, created problems at away games.  This was corrected the following season.

1970-04-01 - Chris Huon Invitation to Royal Reception small1970 was Sydney Naval’s last hurrah.  It was their final year in the competition after such a splendid involvement in the game dating back to 1881.  There was an attempt to combine the club with the struggling South Sydney side but that too failed. South in fact, were on their knees after being relegated following a number of poor seasons.  But with a band of willing workers they managed a further half a dozen years.

There were early moves to play a Victoria v South Australia game at the SCG mid season.  The expenses were estimated at in excess of $30,000 (assessed using the Reserve Bank of Australia’s calculator today at $317,647.06), seems a bit rich, but thats the reason the game did not go ahead and Sydney had to wait until 1974 to see the Vics play the Crows at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Big news during the season was that Wests were to lose their home ground of Picken Oval to a supermarket complex.  Canterbury Council failed to give the idea the green light so it was shelved but it didn’t take too many years before a further and very damaging issue effected the relationship between Wests and their ground.

The Newtown club opened clubrooms on the normally unknown mid level in the grandstand at Erskineville Oval.  It wasn’t long though before they moved their social activities to the old Stage Club at 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern which became the Newtown Rules Club.

And finally for the first time in Sydney, the ABC telecast highlights of two VFL games each Saturday Night at the very late time of 10:50pm, well before the introduction of domestic VCR – recorders.  It didn’t take long before the then very conservative ABC decided to ditch the show producing howls of complaint from footy followers.  So much so that the league printed a form on which supporters could register their PROTEST to the Director of Programmes, ABC 2, Sydney. It worked and these highlights were retained for the rest of the season.

Our photograph of course is not Sydney football, but the Queen being introduced to the Fitzroy team in the same year.  Some questions for you about this event:

*  What ground was the game played at?
*  Which team played Fitzroy on that day?
*  What was the most unusual and in fact unique circumstance of this game?

And seeing Australia lost probably its most iconic prime minister this week, it is worth a mention that either in the late fifties or early sixties, Gough took one of his sons along to Rosedale Oval to learn the game of Australian football.  We don’t think there were many follow up visits.

You can send your answers to this address: Click here.


There are many people in the community who contribute so much but go unrecognized.

The same can be said for football and earlier this year one such man, John Leber, passed away without so much as a whimper from the football community in NSW.  Why?  Simply because no-one was aware of the part he played in football and those who did have themselves left this earth or have long parted ways with the game.

John was raised in Alexandria, Sydney.  As a schoolboy he represented the state then joined the Newtown club where he played senior football.  In 1943 he joined the army aged 21 and before a posting to the islands with the 2/23 Battalion,  had a couple of games with Fitzroy seconds whilst in Melbourne under temporary assignment.

Following the war John rejoined Newtown but then turned his focus to umpiring. where he was recognized as a leading light.  He officiated in approximately 400 fixtures, 147 with the NSW Aust Football League where he was appointed to two senior grand finals in 1951 and again in 1955.  Most of his games though were school and junior fixtures.  He was very focused on youth football.

John also umpired the interstate fixture between NSW and Tasmania at Trumper Park in 1955 where his performance was rated as outstanding and received a letter of appreciation from the Tasmanian Football League.

In 1953 however, he was severely attacked by a spectator whilst umpiring a match on Trumper Park.  This resulted in him having to leave the field, but it did not steer him away from the game.

Later John involved himself in junior football at both a club and representative level and in fact coached the NSW Under 15 team in the early 1960s.

John and his wife Josephine moved to Engadine in Sydney in the mid 1950s and it was there he also involved himself in the burgeoning youth reform centre at Boys’ Town, also at Engadine.

While the establishment was conducted by the Catholic church, John saw an opportunity to further develop the character of some of the young boys by introducing them to Australian football.  So a club at Boys’ Town was formed which competed in the St George Junior Football Association.  This club went on to produce many outstanding players and for one year in 1971, spawned an open age team, called Salasians, which competed in the then new Sydney Districts Assn.

In 1961 He coached the NSW State Under 14 Team.

John gave away his active involvement in football in 1972 after 33 years of continuous association with the game. For his efforts with junior football John was awarded life membership of the NSW Junior Football Union and for his contribution to umpiring he was made a life member of the NSW Umpires Association.

John worked for many years with the national airline, TAA at Mascot and was always called upon to provide more than better rates for travelling NSW interstate teams when the league changed from train to air travel in the early 1960s.  Clubs, like Western Suburbs also used his services on their annual post season trips.

He retired to Coffs Harbour many years ago and eventually was housed in an assisted living facility where continued to live until his death.

So here is another who gave a lifetime to football but now is remembered by few.