An Interesting Find

Arthur BridgewaterThe Society has so much material to go through sometime just the look of what is there gets quite daunting.

Going through some of the paperwork we came across the 1957 Annual Report of the NSW Australian National Football Union.

This was seen as the over riding body for junior football in NSW, or so it saw itself as such although it was manned by Sydney people and only had Sydney junior football bodies affiliated.  The term ‘NSW’ was a misnomer.

It is quite an elaborate report and provides details of all the junior teams from 1953-57.

Written by the secretary Arthur Bridgewater (pictured), the report at times should be viewed with a certain degree of scepticism because Arthur, whilst a hard worker with “the code at heart” tended to embellish the facts in these reports.  However, having said that, this account of the year provides a pretty good overview of junior football in Sydney at the time.  Shaky but growing.

It praises the St George Junior Association as well as the Southern Districts Association.  It even gives Newcastle and Wollongong areas a tick.

Of course the St George Association has been the benchmark in junior Australian Football in Sydney for many, many years and it is to the credit of those people who have assumed roles in its various clubs, of which six remain, that they continue with such energy and commitment.

You can read the report by clicking 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.



While reported on the passing of Alf Penno this week yet another legend of Sydney football, not a player but an administrator, has died suddenly.

He former long term St George president and league official, Syd Felstead, passed away in June 2011, he was 92.

St George Football Club historian, Pat McCourt, penned a profile of this very well respected man who really had the game at heart:

Syd’s journey through life is an amazing story!  His contribution to Australian Rules at St George, throughout Sydney and NSW is invaluable.  I will be brief in my summary; however on Syd’s passing we have to pay a tribute, acknowledge who Syd Felstead was and what he did to establish junior competitions of Australian Rules throughout Sydney.

Syd Felstead born 26 August 1919, Bendigo Victoria, his father dying in early 1920s as result service at Gallipoli and gassing received in France in WW1.  After moves around Victoria, and Paddington in Sydney in 1928, Syd and his mother moved to Dora St Hurstville in 1930 at start of the depression. A time when Syd and his mother eked out a living; Syd on his bike, he named “Greenie” doing deliveries and collecting manure in his billy cart [made from a fruit box and wheels off a pram], selling a cart load to neighbours for sixpence [now five cents]!

In 1934 at age 15, having passed the Intermediate certificate, Syd left school eventually got an apprenticeship at ACI Glassworks as a crystal glass cutter, earning eleven shillings and sixpence per week [today’s currency; one dollar and fifteen cents]. He traded his bike “Greenie” on a new Malvern Star, paying it off at two shillings per week [present currency; twenty cents] and played junior Rules matches in local school and local park competitions! Syd commenced in 1938 with St George AFC, in Reserve Grade [St George Third grade was not formed until 1958].

Syd was associated with some greats of that St George era; likes of Phonse Kyne, Jack Browne, and Stan Powditch and was lucky to witness St George’s Premiership in 1938.  Syd also had a strong affiliation with the committee and between 1938 and 1957 (allowing for time spent overseas in WWII with RAAF, crewing in Wellington and Lancaster bombers), played a total of 128 senior games; was a member of 1951 Reserve Grade premiership.

After returning from war, Syd with partners started their own cut glass business, and continued playing with St George, mainly as fullback.  During his time as a player, Syd was an active committee member, with Andrew Glass as President. In 1955 Syd became President, holding the position for 20 years when he stepped aside in 1974.  Under his Presidency, St George played in three consecutive Grand finals between 1964 and 1966; winning 1964 Premiership!

Behind the scenes with colleagues from various Sydney Clubs, Syd was active developing the junior base of all Sydney Clubs. He chaired committees to establish St George junior clubs in 1950s; likes of Como, Peakhurst and Boys Town [all since faded into history]. Present junior Clubs [Ramsgate, Miranda, Cronulla and Penshurst] established with assistance from; Ruben Fraser, Alan Gibbons, Alex Melville.  Some of Syd’s achievements, included –

Life Memberships and Awards

 Life member of St George AFC – awarded 1953

Life member of AFL (NSW/ACT) – awarded 1967

In 2000, received from Prime Minister an Honour Award for 2000 Bi Centennial celebrations – for past contributions to Australian Rules

St George AFC ‘Hall of Fame’ –  inducted in 2005 one of five initial inductees


Some other contributions and achievements [there were many] –

[As recorded in Syd’s hand written notes, held by me]

Elected to Board of Management of NSW ANFL 1956

Appointed Team Manager for NSW Teams from 1958 to 1965

In 1966 appointed by Sutherland Council to Ground Allocation Committee

Awarded Australian Sports Medal by Commonwealth Government

Served as Chair Person in formation of both Junior Assoc, and St George body of NSW ANFL Junior Planning Committee

Chaired formation committee of St George All Age Comp/Open Age League [now defunct]; subsequently became NSW League Second division comp

Included in book published [2000] recording “History of Hurstville Oval”

Suggested, had passed initial concept of Club Championship Points at NSW League

Held positions in 1950s and 1960s as President and Delegate to NSW ANFL

Awarded ˜Merit Award” by Australian Football Council

Olds Park – Syd was instrumental in 1968/1969 in securing the initial 21 year lease on Olds Park when St George made the move from Hurstville Oval.  Syd was involved in 1970 in the unsuccessful application to obtain a liquor licence for St George at Olds Park which was backed at time by Bill Picken [Western Suburbs fame].

Due to his strong Australian wide connections in Aussie Rules circles, whilst President, Syd was instrumental in getting the likes of Dale Dalton, Don McKenna, Dennis & Ray Pegg, Ralph Todd, Graham Cornes and many other interstate recruits to play with St George.

Syd was always strongly supported by his wife, Betty [nee O’Reilly b.1924] whom he married during the war and had four children; Graham, Sandra, Robyn and David. Both boys played briefly at St George, where Betty was a pillar of strength, working in the canteen at Hurstville Oval, selling raffle tickets and organising social functions. They retired to live at Vincentia, where Betty passed away in May 2005.

It can be categorically stated; Syd fathered the St George AFC junior competition as it stands today – Patrick McCourt was a member of initial team that started Miranda junior club! Syd’s blue print to establish St George junior clubs, was adopted by other Sydney Clubs.

Syd Felstead made a valuable contribution to successes enjoyed by a vast base of Australian Rules players, supporters. He established basis for present day operations for many persons who continue to participate, enjoy Australian Rules throughout Sydney and NSW. St George benefited from Syd’s earlier work; winning eleven, Third Grade Premierships between 1958 and 1980; with two runner ups and only three times did it not make the final four in that era.

Australian Rules is poorer upon the passing of Syd Felstead. Syd was a pioneer; St George has lost an icon!

For contemporary players and followers of Sydney football, Syd was a regular attendee at the league’s annual Phelan Medal Night.  Syd Felstead “was really a nice guy.”