In August 1935, a period deep in the world wide depression, the South Broken Hill Football Club took a trip east playing games against a Federal Capital Team in Canberra and in Sydney against the Newtown football team at Erskineville Oval. It was reported that the tour, which comprised about 30 players and supporters, cost four hundred pounds, estimated, using the RBA’s inflation calculator, at $25,000 in today’s money.
The game in Canberra was played at Manuka Oval played on Saturday 17 August before a reasonable crowd saw the locals hold a four point lead at quarter time only to let the visitors break away in the second term, finally winning the match, 14-19 (97) to 9-17 (71).
The Broken Hill group then travelled onto Sydney where they stayed at the Crystal Palace Hotel in George Street and were entertained not far away at the Civic Theatre in the Haymarket on the Monday Night.
The game against Newtown was scheduled for Sunday 25th but then the penny dropped. The colours of both teams were red and white so Newtown officials had to rush around searching out a set of different coloured jumpers and of course you couldn’t just snap your fingers in 1935 and have immediate access to another set.
An approach was made to several local metropolitan clubs, all still playing the home and away games the day before, with only the Sydney side coming forth loaning Newtown their red and blue guernseys in the Melbourne FC design. Sydney got over the top of Eastern Suburbs the previous day in their clash at Wentworth Park, then the jumpers rushed off to be washed and dried, all done by hand. On the same day, Newtown suffered a defeat at the hands of St George at Erskineville Oval.
The South Broken Hill boys were in the crowd watching the Newtown v St George match so were fully aware of their opponents ability and the players, who they were up against the following day.
The match was schedule for 3pm with a local Rugby League game to be played as the 2pm curtain raiser.
Strangely there was not a particularly large crowd for this almost unique Sunday game in attendance, entry by ‘donation’ of a silver coin. But those who did to watch SBH run out easy winners, 18-15 (123) to 13-12 (90). The Broken Hill team left for home by train the following day.
I think this game would be one of a time, well certainly the result was.
In 1924 there were seven first grade teams in the Sydney Football competition. This followed the loss of the Police team which had competed for the previous two seasons in the top grade. However not all of the teams had reserve or second grade sides.
The senior teams were Newtown (2), Railway, North Sydney, Paddington (2), East Sydney, Sydney (2) and Balmain. Those without (2) were the clubs without a seconds so other district clubs played before those particular senior games as curtain raisers.
In late July the South Broken Hill Club journeyed to Sydney to play a game against a combined metropolitan team, then called Metropolis. The Sydney side contained thirteen of the twenty or so who were selected in the NSW State Team which went on to compete in the Australian Football Carnival in Tasmania in weeks following this encounter. South Broken Hill won the match 9-8 (62) to 8-10 (58) before a crowd estimated at 6,000; The Broken Hill team were described as “brilliant”.
The lead-up game on the day was a Combined Junior (second grade) team versus a combined team selected from the Sydney First Grade. The second grade was often referred to as ‘junior’ although it was open age football. The Sydney First Grade team was the one selected to play Victoria in Sydney in seven days time.
No-one gave the seconds a chance but they easily got over their opponents 6-11 to 3-6. The scores of the early games in those days were nearly always modest due to the population’s working conditions of five and a half days a week which included Saturday Mornings; curtain raisers began at 1:30pm and were mostly played in four x 15 minute quarters.
It is worth reading a passage on the game from the leading sporting paper of the day, The Referee:
“BRAVO, THE JUNIORS !
The early game was between the team picked to play against Victoria, and Combined Reserve Grade. Nine of the representative teams failed to turn up and other players not picked, who were at the ground, filled the gaps. But the team which took the field was little inferior to the original selection; The dash of youth proved too good for the has-beens. In every phase of the game, in every position, even in the ruck, where they were expected to be weak, the juniors were markedly superior, and gave the seniors such a lesson in getting to the ball and doing something with it that the selectors must take note and strengthen the team to play against Victoria by the inclusion of some of the boys. The best football is in a youth when he is round about 19 and 20; if he does not show it then he never will. The selectors plea that the boys are too young and cannot stand the buffeting was shown to be mere moonshine. The juniors were never headed, and cleverly won an epoch making game, in which the scores were: First quarter. 2-5 to 1-3; half time, 5-7 to 2-4: third quarter, 5-10 to 8-4; final scores, 6-11 (47) to 3-6 (24). Goalkickers; Second Grade, Flynn (4), Holder (2) ; and Finch Rudolph and Powers for the Firsts. For the winners, every player was at his top, and Woolnough handled Ills side in masterly fashion. For the losers Finch, Eagle, McFarlane, Reynolds,”
Incidentally, on the same weekend, the North Broken Hill side defeated a combined Northern Tasmanian team at York Park, Launceston before 6,500 people, 8-6 (42) to 5-10 (40).
Referee Newspaper, 30 July 1924 page 13;
Sydney Sun, 27 July 1924, page 8
SMH, 28 July 1924, page 6;
Women playing football is really nothing new. But now it is much more serious and intense.
The fact that the AFL are sponsoring a women’s national competition from next year supports that statement.
One place we found where females played was, of all places, Broken Hill but the matches they were involved in then were more of a novelty than real football.
During WWI a group of ladies got together to play a match to assist with fund raising for the Red Cross.
Two teams were scheduled in one match only. One represented the local hospital and the other, Pellew & Moores, a large department store in the city’s main roadway, Argent Street.
They met on the Western Oval without any prior practice or training. All wore pinafore dresses with knee length bloomers and stockings. Most wore caps to keep their hair out of their eyes.
The game was willing with no beg your pardons and it had its share of spite with the players heatedly complaining about the pushes and knocks they received during the game. When time was called they were a very tired bunch of girls.
The department store side won the match defeating their opponents who wore the colours of brown with blue trimmings.
The game was a great success with the proceeds forwarded on to help those supporting the welfare of the men at war.
No further game between the girls was played until October 1941 when a game between teams called the Spitfires and Bombers was played on Jubilee Oval – the city’s main football venue. This time the teams used more up to date uniforms with each borrowing a set of jumpers from the North and South Broken Hill Clubs. Spitfires wore the red & white of the South club and the Bombers, blue and white of North. The match was played on a Sunday.
A good crowd turned up to watch although most were women, the men were restricted to the stand. The gate for the day was recorded at £32.14.0 ($2500.00 today) which is nothing to be sneezed at.
The Silver City Ladies Band played as the two teams entered the ground.
The game had some amusing features with the players often marking the ball from their own kicks. Another incident was the carrying of lollies in a pram.
That said, the women were determined to “give the men nothing on them.” Most of the spectators were undoubtedly surprised at the exhibition by the women, who, while they gave the crowd plenty of amusement at the way they fell over the ball at times when attempting to kick it, stuck to it like experienced footballers. At half-time they drank from a water bag taken onto the field.
In the third term, the Spitfires went into a lightning attack and Victoria (Kathy) McLennan goaling. In the excitement some of the women kicked the ball the-wrong way, but the rest of the team soon corrected this.
Leading South BH footballer, Danzil Pryor umpired the match which was won by the Spitfires 8-8 (56) to 4-5 (29). This prompted the Bombers team to call for a further game a week later. Again the honours went to the Spitfires 8-3 (53) to 7-6 (48) but the crowd was not as many with the gate realising only £5.10.0 ($423.00 today).
The Spitfire Fund
It was early in World War II when Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Wartime Production, originated the idea of the “presentation aircraft”. The idea was a morale boosting exercise for a population that was facing, almost alone, the onslaught of the German war machine in 1940 and towns and communities were encouraged to raise funds. It almost became a competition to see who could raise the most.
A “price list” was set out with £5,000 for a single-engine aircraft, £20,000 for a twin-engine aircraft and £40,000 for a four-engine aircraft. These did not represent the actual cost of the type of aircraft, but was considered a fair value to have one’s assigned name in four inch high yellow characters on the fuselage forward of the cockpit, as in the Spitfire‘s case.
In Australia, one example where permission was requested for the establishment of such a Spitfire Fund, the “Western Australian Spitfire Fund” during 1941 to purchase a Spitfire for UK operations.
In Broken Hill too a movement in March 1941 known as the Barrier District Spitfire Fund was established to raise funds for the purchase of one or more Spitfires. This was generated through a meeting of members of the local Police Force held at the Courthouse on 10 March. Donations from local police officers at that early stage raised £85.
In June of that year the Strathfield-Burwood Womens Spitfire fund sent £3750.00 to England as a contribution and it was reported that the Illawarra District had close to £10,000 in hand for a fund with organisers there keen to have the plane named the Spirit of Illawarra.
Whether all these efforts came to anything is unknown.
So the girls now playing the game in Broken Hill have a wonderful history of women’s football before them.
In 1924 the Australian National Football Council hosted an all-states carnival in Tasmania.
These interstate round robin carnivals were popular, but now with the AFL virtually playing interstate games each round, the interest and significance of such events have lost favour. The last of these was in 1988 as part of the bi-centennial celebrations when the then VFL clubs released their players to play a state of origin carnival series in Adelaide.
However in July 1924, in an unusual turn of events, NSW selected a team to participate in two matches against the very strong Victorian team at the same time as the carnival was being played. Consequently, the team they selected was regarded as a ‘second rate’ side, given that the main NSW team would be in Tasmania.
As a leadup, officials organised a game between this second tier NSW team and a combined team from ‘the juniors’.
Now it took some research to work out exactly who these ‘juniors’ represented. In some reports they were recorded as a combined reserve grade and in others, ‘juniors’.
In 1924 not all first grade teams supported a reserve grade so the following first grade clubs in the Sydney competition had other, or ‘junior’ clubs play in the place of their second eighteen and before the main or first grade game of the day. It should be noted that these teams were made up of open age players:
First Grade Club
Reserve Grade Club
It would appear that St George was a late nomination for the competition.
The game between NSW and a combined second grade was played at Erskineville Oval and itself was a curtain raiser to a match between the main metropolitan contingent for the carnival team and a team from the South Broken Hill Club. Two players from the latter side were eventually added to the NSW carnival team.
The game between combined junior team and the second NSW side commenced at 1.40pm, given that in those days there was a 48 hour week with most people working of a Saturday morning.
There were 3,000 in attendance to watch this leadup match and the ‘juniors’ left no stone unturned to establish themselves as the dominant of the two.
The quarter time scores were: 2-5 to 1-3, 5-7 to 2-4, 5-10 to 3-4 with the final score a win the for junior side, 6-11 (47) to 3-6 (24)
Despite their rating, the juniors had some stars in their side. It contained the Rosebery captain, Jacky Hayes who would go on to play for Footscray and later captain-coach St George and later, the Sydney Club. Rob Smith a Newtown player, who in 1928, turned out for North Melbourne and Percy Flynn who later topped the Sydney first grade goalkicking list playing for South Sydney.
Officials cried foul citing the omission of eight of the NSW players from the team, the reason for their absence being unanswered.
Nevertheless the score was on the board. Here was a NSW team defeated by a “virile, youthful and skilful” bunch of aspirants. They did well.
On 9 August incidentally, the NSW, team, as expected, were defeated in their first encounter with Victoria in front of 6,000 at Erskineville Oval, 15-14 (104) to 13-13 (91) and in their second at the MCG, 15-12 (102) to (again) 13-13 (91) before a crowd of 16,370.