– 1904 Continued

The Maroons

There is more interesting data about football in Sydney in 1904.  Space did not allow us to publish it in its entirety in the last issue.


The Adverse Weather Committee decided at 11 o’clock that the game Melbourne v Essendon must be played. As the rain was then falling in torrents at the SCG, with every prospect of continuing, many  thought the game would be not worth looking at.  At 1 o’clock a change took place, and by 2 the sun was shining and the rain had cleared off.”

So reported the local media with the VFL playing this round 4 clash in Sydney in a further effort to re-establish the game in there.

In local football, North Shore, or the Maroons, as they were known then, were easily the best side in the competition winning the flag over Balmain 5-13 to 2-8 after a season without defeat.  The previous year the club finished runner-up.

In July North Shore played the strong Melbourne School side, Wesley College when they toured Sydney.  Wesley easily won all their games leading up to the Shore match including a game on 12 July  against a team of teachers 29-19  to 6-4 at the SCG.  [1]

Then, there was so much rain though on the scheduled date of the North Shore encounter it was put over until the following Wednesday and on this occasion one of the spectators was the NSW Govenor, Sir Harry Rawson.  North Shore won 9-10 to 6-17 before a good mid week crowd. [2]

A month later on 13 August North Shore took on the strong Albury Imperials side also at the SCG and won 8-6 to 7-10 before a poor crowd estimated at 500 people.   Albury was at that stage, also undefeated in their local competition and strongly fancied their chances. [3}

In first grade, the Alexandria club were absorbed into the nearby Redfern side.

1904 though was a satisfying season for the league.  We have mentioned in a previous article the schools that participated in the regular weekly schools competition.  One of the organisers was Albert Nash, president of the NSWFL.  He told a meeting that 57 Sydney public schools were involved. [4]

The Catholic Primary Schools’ Association also held a competition involving the following schools :— St Patrick’s (Church Hill), St. Mary’s (City), Sacred Heart (Darlinghurst), St. Francis’ (Paddington), St. Charles (Waverley), St. Francis (City), St. Benedict’s (George Street), St. Vincent’s (Redfern), St. James (Forest Lodge), St. Augustine’s (East Balmain), St. Joseph’s (Balmain) and St. Mary’s (North Shore). Bro. Bonaventure, of St. Francis, acted as hon. sec. of the Association. [5]

The Reserve grade was conducted as a separate competition and not by the League.  It was known as the NSW Football Association and involved Hawkesbury Ag College, South Sydney, Darlinghurst, St Leonards, Sydney A and Balmain A teams.

The final was played at Richmond on the Hawkesbury Ag College ground where they defeated the young South Sydney team 6-10 to 1-8 but not without incident:

1907 Premiership Ladder

“Sir, — I read in your issue of last night a letter from Mr. Millard on the final match for the above, between Hawkesbery College and South Sydney, and would like to make a few remarks concerning the game. There was never a match won more on its merits. The College were leading by 31 points when the South Sydney team complained that it was too dark to continue, and started to walk off the field. The umpire agreed in my presence to go on with the game, but the South Sydney sportsmen kept arguing with him till it became too dark. The College timekeeper, when play ceased, made one and a half min. short of full time, and the South Sydney timekeeper then said there were three minutes to go, but since I think he has stretched It a bit. As the Australian rules are trying to get a footing in New South Wales it is a pity some thorough sportsmen cannot, be induced to play the game in place of some of the players who would call themselves such. It Is also a pity that when a team is fairly and badly beaten they cannot take their defeat In the proper spirit. — Yours. &c.,

K. C. HARPER, Hawkesbury College, Rlchmond, Aug. 30, ’04.” [6]

A month earlier the Hawkesbury side had received a “drubbing”at the hands of the the visiting Wesley College when the latter visited their Richmond ground.  The final score Wesley 14-11 to 2-6. [7]

[1]   Australian Star 13 July 1904, page 2
[2]   Australian Star 14 July 1904, page 2
[3]   Sydney Morning Herald 15 August 1904, page 4
[4]  Sydney Sportsman, Wednesday 28 September 1904, page 7
[5]  ibit

[6]   Australian Star, Friday 2 September 1904, page 2
[7]   Australian Star, Friday 8 July 1904, page 2

– Junior Football In Sydney – part I

1889 St Ignatius (Australian) Football Team

Junior football and for that matter much of junior sport in Sydney and probably the rest of NSW was very centred on school activities in the early 1900s.

The Southern (NSW) Rugby Football Union had established a junior competition by 1887 playing for John McGregor’s Cup [1] while the first recorded junior game of Australian football in Sydney was in early June 1888 in a match comprising junior players played between boys from West Sydney and Moore Park at the East Sydney club’s ground on Moore Park.  The event was treated almost as if some type of novelty but the players were encouraged to continue with their efforts.  There was no mention of their age. [2]

The first recorded schools game was in 1888 and recorded as “Two juvenile teams under these rules played a very exciting match on Moore Park on Saturday (4 August), the teams being the boys from St Augustines School (Balmain) and what are known as Junior Sydneys.  An amusing part of the proceedings was the discovery  that the youthful ‘Sydneys’ had increased their numbers to considerably over thirty, and when the umpire, under protest from St Augustine’s, arranged both teams for a count the Sydney youths numbered nearly forty.  It is a pity for the school teams that the juvenile matches are nor played in enclosures.  It is expected that the return match will be played in an enclosure, and a strict count made in future to stop the growth of juvenile twenties.” [3]

Then, and at last an item on junior football appeared in the Referee Newspaper when a team representing the Sydney Juniors played the Imperials on Moore Park on 1 June 1889.  The players were all aged under 16 and the smaller Sydney boys won the match 3 goals to 1. [4] (In those days goals only recorded the score although at times behinds were shown in the tally). 

The 1890 annual report of the NSW Football Association stated that “in past seasons junior football has been almost neglected, the result being that junior clubs and second twenties have been a failure.  For the coming season (1890), however, twenty silver medals have been offered for competition among the juniors, and these medals ought to give an impetus to junior football.” [5] [6]

On many occasions in their reporting, newspapers and club officials would often use the term ‘juniors’ when referring to under age players or a second eighteen and determining one or the other  took a judicious view of the records.

At the Association’s 1891 annual meeting held on 21 April at Cambridge Club Hotel which was on the corner of Market and Castlereagh Streets, the secretary’s report eulogised the Association’s activities and praised Mr Henry Alexander for his kindness in donating 20 medals “for the hitherto neglected juniors for competition amongst them.”   Prior to 1890 the juniors were almost ignored by the Association and in previous seasons secretaries seemed to almost despair of ever being able to run junior teams, yet during the 1890 season “no difficulty was experienced in keeping together the second twenties and the members of the other junior clubs.  This highly desirable state of things was brought about by the medal contests.  We should like, by the way, to point out that one of the greatest difficulties against which a secretary of a new club has to contend is that twenty men are required to form a team under our rules.  Under the British Association Rules (soccer) only eleven men are required and under Rugby Rules, fifteen.”   [7]

By the end of July 1891 the following made up the ‘junior’competition:


St Josephs College 4 4 16 16
South Sydney 6 5 1 20 24
Young Australians 6 2 2 2 12 24
West Sydney II 7 3 3 1 14 28
Carlton 6 1 4 1   6 24

In 1892 junior clubs started to emerge publicly and were holding their own annual meetings many of which were in March, notably earlier than their senior cousins.  Their numbers were healthy, with 35 registering with the Carlton Junior club who were moving into their fourth season, while 21 new members signed up with the Young Australian side [8] and a another 14 with the successful South Sydney junior club.

Early in May advice was received that St Ignatius College would not play football under Australian rules in 1892 instead changing their allegiance to rugby. [9] Sydney Mail ominously said that “The New South Wales Football Association has gone off into a long sleep from which it will never waken.” [10]  How right this would prove to be.

to be continued ….

[1] Referee – 28 April 1887
[2] Sydney Mail – 26 May 1888
[3] Referee – 9 August 1888
[4] Referee – 5 June 1889
[5] Referee – 16 April 1890
[6] Daily Telegraph – 16 June 1890
[7] Referee – 22 April 1891
[8] Referee – 23 March.1892
[9] SMH – 4 June 1892
[10] Referee – 4 May 1892

Petersham School

Petersham team 1905 thumbnailAustralian Football was resuscitated in Sydney in 1903 after it had undergone an eight year hiatus mainly because of poor management.

In its new year, senior teams numbered eleven and eight teams were playing in a separate reserve grade.

The following year there were schools competitions encompassing almost the whole of Sydney.  The issue with this though appeared to be its management.  Australian football was a virtual new sport to the city but they were expected to supply umpires, help with coaching and to an extent manage the competition.

By 1904 there were schools from inner city, eastern suburbs, north shore, western suburbs and the St George areas.

As an inducement to schools to play, an offer was made for the premier school to travel to Melbourne and play prior to the VFL grand final.  The action was considered quite successful with 58 public schools playing the game in Sydney during 1904 all vying for the champion title.

The expenses for the trip were paid for by the VFL who sent one hundred and fifty pounds to Sydney earlier in the season.  Using the RBA calculator and taking inflation into consideration, this amounts to $21,465 in today’s money.

Petersham Superior School won the Sydney schools A grade division, a grade restricted to junior schools.

Superior Public Schools were identical in structure to present day Central Schools, that is, they combined primary and secondary pupils in the same school. This type of school had been developing under the Council of Education when some of the larger Public schools were able to introduce the ‘higher branches of learning’ to pupils who had completed the normal elementary school course. The first Superior Public Schools were gazetted in 1881 and by 1890 their number had increased to 64; they reached a maximum of 145 in the first decade of the twentieth century.

But there was a problem with the game.  The educational system of both states was different resulting in an outstanding disparity in the ages and size of the players in the two teams.

The education system in Victoria was free, secular, and compulsory from the ages of 6 to 14 years.

The average age of the NSW boys was 15 and their weight was around 56.5kg while the Melbourne boys averaged out at 12 years or so and weighed in at 42.5kg.

“Not only were the boys from Petersham physically bigger but they looked bigger and meaner because of their dress.  They wore white shorts, red socks, blue jumpers and cap, just like rugby players.  They were definitely more workman like and smart than that of the Victorian footballers who by comparison with a rugby team always looked a slipshod, slovenly lot.”  Within the article, the author poked fun at the knickerbockers (long shorts) worn by the VFL footballers of the day, these were much similar to those worn by current American Gridiron players.

The players from Sydney were further described as professional with a scrupulous desire to keep to the rules.  The portrayal of the Albert Park boys was the opposite.  They were labelled as:  “a team of weaklings playing their own game with remarkable skill and pluck, because they knew no other game but with no chance of success.  Had their weights been equal, it would have been just as hopeless a game for the Sydney boys.”

“The Petersham boys had been trained to play unselfishly and in good spirit and never used their weight but pushed the little chaps aside as tenderly as though they were brothers.”

Petersham led all throughout the game to win easily 7.6 (48) to 1.0 (6).






7.6 (42)

Albert Park




0.6  (6)


local football officials were not satisfied with the match and scheduled a further, impromptu game, this time against a combined Melbourne Metropolitan Junior combination who were of an older age.  Petersham lost this match by 7 goals 13 behinds to 4 goals 3 behinds.

The following year, Petersham again won the Sydney schools championship by defeating St Augustines at Balmain East and travelled to Melbourne where this time they played and defeated the Clifton Hill State School, the champions of Victoria 3-8 to 2-3.

We have been very fortunate to obtain a photograph of the team where again there was mention of their size in the Melbourne reports, the majority of the boys were 15.

It was sent to us by the great granddaughter of one of the players from 1905, William Edward Goodwin.  He was born in 1889 and grew up in Dulwich Hill.  You will see him in the photograph.

In 1906 the headmaster at Petersham School, made it known early that he did not want his students again going to Melbourne and passed on the opportunity to travel south for the game should they have won the right.  As it turned out they didn’t and the Fort Street School made the trip, only to be defeated in both the schools championship game and the match against the metropolitan combined schools.