– 1904 , interesting times

1904 for football in Sydney proved quite interesting.

Following the re-introduction of the code the year before , a period full of euphoria, the code began to settle down.

The league had money.  The gate from the The balance-sheet showed a credit of £115 13s 9d. The total receipts for the season were £842 0s 9d, of which £612 18s Id came from the Fitzroy v Collingwood match and £135 14s 8d from the game between Carlton and Geelong.  In each case, the clubs made no claim on the admission charges and paid their own way.  Taking out expenses, the league finished with with a balance of £115 13s 9d (- $17,443.29 in 2016) [1]

But what did they do with the money?

Here is a great article from an edition of the Sunday Sun in 1903:
“When Australian football was previously Introduced into New South Wales, the first burst of enthusiasm gradually dwindled away, until the game collapsed. That result was due primarily to two causes, First of all, there was lacking a thoroughness of organisation and secondly no effort was made to establish a nursery for the production of players to fill the places of those who dropped out. Both those elements of weakness are now eradicated and the prospects of the game are entirely improved. The schools committee, by indefatigable labours, have agreed to an elaborate programme, which offers Inducements to schoolboys transcending everything before done in any game. The support of the Public Schools Athletic Association has been secured, and success must necessarily follow the enterprise shown. Tho schools have been divided into five districts, each of which is to have its own controlling council, and these will be under the supervision of another elective body, on which the League only seeks one representative. Two valuable shields have been donated One will become the absolute property of the premier school, and the second will be held by the runners-up for a year, then to become the property of the following season’s premiers and so on. The Premier (Sir John See) has given medals for the, members of the winning school team, and other medals are also provided. Further, the premier school team are be be taken to Melbourne to meet the winning schools of Victoria and an endeavour is being made to have the match played on the same day and ground us the final for the Victorian premiership. Three medals are also offered for, the three best essays essays written by schoolboys on Australian football at the end of the season, and the successful ones will be published In either the “Sun” or the “Star” Newspapers. Surely nothing more could be expected of the body which has charge of the game, but the League has gone even further. A lecturer and coaches have been provided for the boys, who will receive complimentary tickets for the big matches on the Cricket Ground.. Grounds are also supplied, and the League donates goal posts, footballs, &c.

Such a complete programme reflects credit on the zeal. enterprise, and energy of Mr. Nash (league president) and the other gentlemen associated with him. The whole scheme Is expected to cost about £200, outside the trophies for the year, but of this £120 has already been donated. An excellently written and published pamphlet detailing the above particulars and also the rules and features of the game, has been issued to schoolboys, and throughout there has been a thoroughness and completeness of organisation which compels admiration.” [2]

The whole problem was, and it is very common with most initiatives and new concepts, if there are no strategies or planning for tomorrow and no support for such plan, it will fail.  Succession planing is paramount!

Without publishing the details, Rugby Union (Rugby League then had not been conceived), were not left in their tracks.  They too began a concerted effort with juniors and proposed a number of initiatives which they considered would propel their sport.

With all this money, assistance and players, why then did Australian Football in Sydney not live up to expectations?  The nation’s biggest city?

[1]  Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909), Saturday 9 April 1904, page 2
[2]  Sunday Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1903 – 1910), Sunday 27 March 1904, page 3

Times of the Past

Not so long ago, formal dinners and similar occasions, normally attended by only men, took the lead for the function protocol from their English counterparts.  They toasted the Queen and used other similar formalities in a by-gone era that we shall probably never see again.

While it is over 100 years ago, here is a 1910 report of a function in honour of the president of the NSWFL:

” FOOTBALLERS’ DINNER.
MR A. E. NASH ENTERTAINED

A dinner was tendered to Mr. Albert E.Nash, president of the New South Wales (Australian Rules) Football League, at the A.B.C. Cafe, Pitt-street, Sydney, on Saturday night. Mr. J. J. Virgo presided, and the various clubs were well represented, as well as the ? Young Australian Association.

Mr. Virgo [secretary of the Sydney YMCA] proposed the health of the guest, and expressed the feelings of the players and officers at the safe return of Mr. Nash from his tour of New Zealand – the chairman said that when the league was formed, seven years ago, Mr. Nash was one of the selected officers. Matches were played throughout 1903, and Mr. Nash became president of the league in 1904 and had held the position ever since, and that fact alone had meant a great deal to the game. Mr. H. Chesney Harte, in supporting the toast, said that both officers and players had missed Mr. Nash while in New Zealand, and had re-elected him to the office of president during his absence. Messrs. Jagelmann and Quinn also supported the toast.

Mr. Nash was presented with a case of silver-mounted pipes, and ‘No. 1′ of the New South Wales League ground tickets, as well as two ladies’ tickets.

Mr. Nash thanked those present for the presentations, and stated that without the cooperation of enthusiasts the game could not have been kept alive. If it ever did, its downfall would come from within. Though it was hard to get unanimity, the game was now on a solid footing in New South Wales. As president, he thanked the following gentlemen who had loyally supported his efforts:— Messrs. H. Chesney Harte. L. A. and Otto Ballhausen, W. Millard, E. Butler, W. Prince, W. Phelan, Bennett, Langley, Selle, J. O’Sleara, Quinn, and W. Little.

One of the most important situations the NSW League had to face was the obtaining of a suitable ground. They had the offer of nine acres at £200 an acre, or £1800 in all. This should be accepted, and it would be a distinct help. The game, as played, was improving the physique of the rising generations, and those at the head of the schools should not blindly trust to the future, but should take steps to make the lads physically capable of defending Australia.

Other toasts proposed were ‘Success to the League and Young Australian Association.’ ‘The Chairman.’ and the ‘Press.’ “

It was normal to make presentations of gifts to guests and prominent officials but to make one in such an elaborate manner to a president returning from an overseas trip seems to us to be quite extra-ordinary.  It just goes to show the prominence in which he was held.

Nash was an Englishman and found a relationship with Australian football in the mid 1890s when he came to Australia as the manager of Walker & Hall of Sheffield, makers of gold, silver and silver plate used in trophies and similar articles.  They had their offices at 420 George Street, Sydney.

He maintained his presidency of the league through the purchase of the former Rosebery Racecourse in Botany Road in 1911 to the league’s decline in 1915 when the ground was lost and he and the other directors resigned their positions on the league because of it. Albert E Nash was also president of the NSW Rowing Assn and was declared bankrupt in 1918.  In the court hearings of his case he implicated Mr Frank Tudor, a former Federal Government Minister and then leader of the Federal Labor Party alleging that he had given ‘presents’  to Mr Tudor at a private dinner in Sydney at which football matters were discussed.  Mr Tudor denied these allegations.

He was elected president of the Australian National Football Council in 1911, a post he held throughout WWI.

Nash was probably what you would call a good street smart operator but probably got carried away with his importance.  Having said that, from our research we agreed that he was good for football during that period.  He was a hands on president unlike his predecessor, John See the premier of NSW who was merely a titular head of the organisation, as were many presidents of the day, similar in many was to the role of present day patrons.  Following his resignation he never sought any further involvement in Australian football and his association with rowing also ceased after the court case.

He died in Chatswood in 1948 aged 83 and although a life member of the NSWAFL, he received next to no recognition of his achievements in the early days of the game in Sydney and Australia.

The 1903 Resurrection

Resurrection smallIn 1903 the game in Sydney was resurrected after a hiatus of nine years.

We found this article in the Sydney Mail from 1903 which gives a broad description of the establishment of the game in 1880, then its revival early last century.  We are not certain who the author is.

” The first annual meeting of the New South Wales League  “Australian rules” was held at the Y.M.C.A. Hall on Friday. It is 23 years since the first big meeting of the kind was held in Sydney, and it was the outcome of a small movement in Woollahra started by Mr. G. A. Crisp, who was subsequently captain of the Sydney club, and the writer. The idea was to form a club in Woollahra for the purpose of keeping a lot of young cricketers in good condition.

The meeting was advertised in the ‘Herald’, and the usual attention was drawn to the advertisement. Rain came down very heavily, and there were not more than a dozen present, three of them being Mr. Horace Rogers (who was ‘Leatherstocking’ of the ‘Mail ‘  [a very vocal supporter of the game when it first began in 1881]), Mr. Crisp (the convenor), and myself. That meeting was adjourned to Mr. Hook’s Freemasons’ Hotel, in York Street, and amongst, those present was a big representation of Rugby followers. After a very noisy meeting an association was formed, and clubs quickly joined it. The game was played for 16 [sic] years, and then it died out of existence.

The present movement in favour of the Australian game is being carried on better lines than that of 23 years ago, and it is hoped it will meet with better success. There is room for Rugby, British Association (soccer), and Australian games. Men who play Rugby will not play Australian football, nor will the adherents of the British Association game play either of the other two.

Those who are responsible for the revival of what was formerly known as the ‘Victorian’ game have a much harder row to hoe than they appear to realise, and it is just as well that they should be told this. The meeting on Friday evening was presided over by Mr. E. W. O’Sullivan, M.L.A., and amongst those on the platform were Messrs. D. A. Madden, D. Levy, M.L.A., H. Hedger, J. J. Virgo, G. Moriarty (of the Fitzroy Club, Melbourne), McGuire, R. McLeod, the secretary (Mr. Kewin), and others, and there were about a hundred in the body of the hall. Mr Madden, who has now taken up his residence in Sydney, was a very prominent figure in cricket in Melbourne, where I had the pleasure of meeting him and of hearing him sing.

Mr. H. Hedger was one of the moving spirits in the very early 80’s. He played for the Sydney Club, and so did the two Ballhausens, who were also present on Friday evening. Mr. J. J. Virgo, the secretary to the Y.M.C.A., is taking a big interest in the movement. The report submitted by the hon. secretary, Mr. Kewin, traced the movement from the start to the present time.

There were now the following clubs in existence -Sydney, Paddington, West Sydney, East Sydney, North Sydney, Redfern, Balmain, Ashfield, Y.M.C.A.,1903 - A E Kewin - NSWAFL Sec small and others, while some were in course of formation. The report referred to the excellent work done by the provisional committee, and also the fact that the Collingwood and Fitzroy clubs were coming to Sydney and would play a match on May 23, the cost of the undertaking being estimated at £1000 [$138,000 at today’s inflation rate], while all the proceeds would go to the New South Wales League.

The Hon. E. W O ‘Sullivan in congratulating the league on having introduced the Australian game in New South Wales, said he was a member of the old Waratah Club that played the Australian game. The new game, or at least a revival of that which was played 20 years ago, promoted physical and intellectual exercise. The officers elected were Patron, His Excellency Sir Harry Rawson; President, Sir John See; vice-presidents, Hon, E. W. O’Sullivan, M.L.A., Hon. A. W. Meeks, M.L.C., Messrs. J. M. Templeman, A. E. Nash, J. S. Brunton, E. A. Scott, Major Roth, D.S.O., D. A. Madden, H. Hedges, H. Rapiport, R. Shute, J. J. Virgo, Dr. A. Maitland Gledden, Dr. G. Armstrong, Mr. D. Levy, M.L.A. ; treasurer, Mr. H. Hedger; hon, secretary, Mr. A. E. Kewin.”