In June 1928 a team of footballers representing NSW travelled to Melbourne to play a VFL side. They were belted 26-13 (169) to 14-11 (95).
Now there was an obvious disparity between football in the two states but a newspaper article we have unearthed may well explain the score:
“FOOTBALLERS’ ORGY OF DRUNKENNESS
The drunken carousal with which Sydney footballers were entertained by several club officials in Melbourne last week calls for drastic protest from the New South Wales National Football League (Australian Rules). Several Sydney players were approached by officials to join Melbourne clubs, and a goodly quantity of whiskey was employed as a seductive supplement to the honeyed words of those endeavoring – to strike attractive bargains. A representative team visits another State to play football, not to get soaked in booze.
One young player was handed his ticket to return home to Sydney, and another was so blind drunk that he moved more like a rickety wheelbarrow than a highly-trained footballer on the field.WHEN footballers representing one State visit another, they are supposed to be the guests of that other State. This implies a gesture of the usual and ordinary courtesies extended to accredited representatives of any sporting organisation. Unhappily, this custom was honored in the breach when the team of Australian Rules footballers, representing New South Wales played last week-end in Melbourne.
No sooner had they arrived at Spencer-street than several Victorian officials buttonholed some of our players, and hurried them off to the nearest hotel to swill their thirsty tongues, while they filled their ears with pleasing tales of the money they could earn if they were to join one of the Melbourne clubs.
This filching of our players by the Victorian clubs has been severely commented upon at other times, but this is the first occasion we have heard of whiskey being used in such a huge quantity as was the case on this trip, to act as a further inducement. The Melbourne whiskey dispensers were so active, and produced such a pitiable effect on one of our youngest players that he was actually given his rail ticket to return immediately to Sydney.
Another player, whom club-mates say would full over at the smell of his second glass, but whose services were keenly in demand by a Melbourne club, was so blithered on the first afternoon of his arrival that he was unfit to play in the match. Not content with dogging the footsteps of these players from the train, they were taken frequently to the rooms of the Victorian Football League, where the hospitality was so warm that the key of the cupboard was practically handed over to them.
At all hours of the day and night, the whiskey tap was running at high speed, and with such effect that quite a number of our players were more than ready to concede that the ‘lil’ ole town — hic — of Melbourne — hic — do me a — double hic. In one instance, this hospitality developed into an orgy of crude drunkenness, and one player’s eyes were so swollen with the devil’s own cocktail on Saturday afternoon, that he couldn’t see the ball, much less kick it!
This is positively disgraceful. Whilst every broad-minded sportsman may be willing to wink his eye at a little conviviality and bonhomie that are necessarily associated with Interstate visits, yet he would be a ‘beer-corned sportsman’ who would deliberately take a young member of a visiting team, and whittle him with whiskey for the purpose of inducing him to join another club.
This potvaliant attitude of hospitality on the part of the Victorian League officials is very difficult to understand when one probes a little deeper into the matter. On their return from Melbourne, players freely stated that the impression’ they formed was that they were not wanted as a. team, though individually several of them were in great demand. That is more than an impression, it is a fact.1 For many years now, Victoria has invited a team across on fairly attractive terms to the controlling body in Sydney, and has also sent their own team to Sydney mainly for tho purpose of helping in the development of the game here.
But at the commencement of this sea son, the Victorian League Informed the Sydney body that they would not send a team across, and that they would alter the financial terms of the game to be played in Melbourne. This communication caused much consternation in Sydney, for it was felt that the Victorian League was deserting the State it had fostered for so many years. Money, of course, was at the bottom of the whole business. ‘We have spent too much money already in Sydney,’ they said. But that argument was not sincere.
If the money that was used in purchasing booze that certain Melbourne club officials poured down the necks of our players during their recent visit were applied in the direction of developing the game, instead of the stomach, it would go a long way towards helping the New South Wales League to balance its books at the end of the season.
We have depended on Victoria for financial assistance. That has been part of the policy laid down by the Australasian Football Council, and pursued with success for many years. It was our birthright when the Victorian Dengue planted its game in Sydney. But apparently, on the assumption that the baby is now a grown man, he prefers to have his appetite cloyed with whiskey that will lull him into a happy siesta throughout his otherwise dull journey back to Sydney. If the Victorian League doesn’t wish to give us money for the purpose of developing their game, then we don’t want their whiskey for the purpose of seducing our players to join their clubs.”
And so you have it!