Honour Certificates

Bryan Joseph Rush Honour Certificate 1In 1935 the NSW Football League decided to give Honour Certificates to those people who had done much for the game in Sydney.

Our research indicates that this was possibly the only year that these certificates were presented.

The gesture probably went against the grain of the traditionalists who may have felt that life membership of the league was sufficient recognition of a persons’ s contribution to the game in NSW.

The criteria for the awarding the certificates were included: that the applicant shall have given not less than 10 years’ active service to affiliated first-grade clubs or have played in 10 or more representative games for the State.

At that time players with the Eastern Suburbs club occupied rather an unusual position as Jack Williamson, winner of the Provan (later the Phelan) Medal for 1935 had Bryan Rush smallplayed for the club for only four seasons and yet had represented on ten occasions.  Stan Milton, after who the Sydney FL Leading Goalkicking award is named, had, at that stage, played 276 games for Easts over a 17 year period and had otherwise been actively engaged in the sport.  He had represented on 29 occasions and during 1935, had kicked a total of 46 goals in nine matches, including eight in the final series.

We have however been given one such certificate which was present to Bryan Rush (pictured).  A former Collingwood player who came to Sydney on business and became involved in football.  He captained and coached the North Shore club in the early 1920s, represented NSW on a dozen occasions, captaining them several times.

He also coached NSW on a number of occasions in the early 1930s.

There is no record of these awards being presented in the league’s annual reports nor any further mention of their presentation after 1935.

Players Strike!

1930 East v Sydney at Trumper Park smallIn late July 1929, a number of the Eastern Suburbs Football Club players refused to take their place in the team at Erskineville Oval in a match against South Sydney.

The game was originally scheduled for Trumper Park but the South Sydney club thought they could secure a bigger gate if the game was moved to Erskineville.

At that stage, South Sydney was sitting in second place with five wins and three losses, while Eastern Suburbs was in fifth spot with four wins and four losses. East had won their first round encounter against the Rabbits and naturally enough, were reluctant to give their opponents any perceived advantage in the match.

South Sydney put the proposal to change the venue to a meeting of the League on July 22 which voted 9-2 in favour.

On the day, only seven from East’s eighteen took the field, the remainder of the team was made up of reserve grade players, all of whom had backed-up.

Two of East’s stars, Stan Milton (pictured), after whom the Sydney Football Goalkicking Award is named and Fred Davies, who later went on to 1930 - Stan Milton smallcaptain Fitzroy, were among those who stood out.

With a scheduled 3.00pm start, it was not until 15 minutes before that it was certain that East would field a team. Sam Organ, Kean, Sanders, Hyland, Stoppelbein, Nicholas and Lindsay Kelton were the only senior players who made up the first grade team that day.

It turns out that the decision not to play was not without warning.  It had been made in the week prior to the match and this decision was conveyed to the League Secretary by the president and secretary of the club. It stated that their team would not take the field against South Sydney unless the game was played at the originally scheduled venue of Trumper Park.

In anticipation of no game the League had made arrangements for patrons to be reimbursed their entry fee.

The decision by the players was not a popular one with the public and League officials besieged with complaints and seeking information as to what action could be taken against the recalcitrant players.

At a subsequent meeting of the League, Eastern Suburbs FC officials said they had arranged a meeting with all their players over the matter. It was pointed out however, that the club had fulfilled its obligation and did field a team in the match.

The League however refused to select any of the subject Eastern Suburbs players to play for NSW against the visiting Perth FC team the following week.

At their club meeting an amicable agreement had been arrived at and a guarantee given that no further trouble would be found from these players.

This result was placed before a League meeting where the offending players were pardoned after they had expressed regret for their action and had promised not to offend in a like manner again.

Whether as a result of this decision or not, Arch Kerr, a former League Secretary, submitted his resignation at that meeting from all positions on the League, accusing those in charge of the league of “apathy and mismanagement”.

It was later ascertained that Kerr’s resignation was due to the parlous financial position the League had found itself in.  At the meeting it was revealed that the League was one hundred and sixty pounds ($11,860 in today’s money) in debt with the incumbent secretary informing the league that he had been unable to convene a quorum of the management committee for over a month.


1919The 1919 season for football  in NSW was a particularly difficult one.

The war was over in the previous November but the return of servicemen from England and Europe was slow.  Many of these were country based so, unlike when they were posted to Sydney, they did not stay.

Of those footballers who signed up, some did not return, some returned with permanent injuries, some were just not fit to play for one reason or another and the number who did again take up the game were limited.

All this was coupled with the world wide outbreak of Spanish Influenza which killed between 50-100 million people world wide, 10,000 of whom were in Australia.  Because of the country’s relative isolation, the flu didn’t really hit here until 1919 and with no anti-biotics, authorities were virtually powerless to prevent its evolution.

In Sydney there were only five senior clubs in 1919: Paddington, Newtown, Balmain, East Sydney and Sydney with the South Sydney club failing to reappear from the previous year.

A forerunner to the Western Suburbs club of the 1920s, Ashfield Old Boys, who played on Ashfield Park, competed in the reserve grade competition.

At the last minute negotiations to play on the league’s former venue, the Australian Football Ground at Mascot, failed and while they were able to secure some dates for SCG No. 2, a number of games had to be played on the fenceless Moore Park, opposite the Bat & Ball Hotel, which was and still is a venue for the game over the years.  There, when officials remembered, the boundary was marked with small flags.  Rushcutters Bay and Alexandria Oval were also used as venues while Erskineville Oval was the only permanent ground where a gate could be charged.

During the first war period, the VFL had lent the NSW Football League one hundred and fifty pounds, perhaps in an effort to overcome their dire financial position resulting from major problems in 1914.  Early in 1919, the NSWFL repaid seventy five pounds of their debt.

On a brighter side there was a third grade or junior division for players 17 years and under.  This was composed of teams from Paddington, Newtown, Western Suburbs, Ashfield Old Boys and Gardeners Road School.  These teams were charged ten shillings and six pence ($1.05) affiliation fee and required to pay two shilling and six pence (25c) umpire fee per game.

Late in the season there was a complaint by the Gardeners Road team which identified three Newtown juniors as being over age in a finals game.

Mid season the Gardeners Road School had made arrangements to play a game at the new Duntroon College but the match had to be cancelled because of an influenza outbreak at the school.

A number of country associations affiliated with the NSWFL including Bolagamy & Dist, Culcairn & Dist., South Wests Dist Football Assn., Kamarah, Wagga United, Southern Riverina, as well as the Beckom and Barellan football Association.

1919 was the first year Stan Milton made an appearance in Sydney football playing for Paddington.  He went on to kick over 1200 goals in the Stan Miltoncompetition and 150 in representative football.  The Sydney competition’s senior goalkicking award is named after him.

East Sydney travelled to Lithgow, where a team which included some former VFL players, to play a game.  The umpire who travelled with the team complained that his expenses were not paid.  The South West Dist Football Association also asked for Sydney umpires for their finals.  For this they had to pay two pounds each.

An interesting comment came from the league minutes in August 1919 after a club goal umpire had made a decision in an East Sydney v Balmain match which altered the make up of the final four.  An official said following a complaint ” …. the league has done everything possible, short of securing paid appointees, which is an impossibility”

The league put two proposals forward at the Australian National Football Council’s December meeting.  One, that throwing of the ball be permitted and secondly that a cross bar be place between the two goal posts.  Both were rejected.

Another to allow injured players to be replaced up until the end of the second quarter was also not entertained.  Prior to this no player could be replaced on the field and if one was injured and had to leave the field, the team just played short.

Shortly we will be posting NSW Football League minutes for 1919 & 20 on the website, accessible through the Collections Box on the bottom right or the main page.


Its been a long time since a player in Sydney football was identified as a cult hero?

Times when people actually went to see a particular Sydney club player and drag in the crowd with his talent and ability are quickly diminishing.  Today’s crowds are somewhat disappointing although the unique players might still be there amidst the couple of hundred running around each weekend during the winter.

Of course a contrary view is evidenced by Brendan Favola’s effort this year when he turned out for Corowra-Rutherglen in the O & M League.  Crowds in their thousands were a regular occurrence to watch the extraverted former AFL player.

But who was the last hero of Sydney footy?

Was it Peter Ruscuklic who booted over 100 goals in successive seasons for East Sydney between 1979-81, kicking a record 213 in the last of those years?

Or was it Stan Milton, after whom Sydney’s leading goalkicking award is named?  He kicked over 1200 goals for East Sydney and later Eastern Suburbs in his 15 or seasons from 1919?  In his 26 appearances for NSW during that time he also booted 151 goals.

Or maybe it was another Eastern Suburbs player, Jack Williamson, who won four Phelan Medals in 1933, 35, 37 & 38.

Sydney lost their heroes when football went national in 1982 and television overtook what used to be seen at  Trumper Park, the heart of Sydney footy, each Sunday afternoon when crowds of 2000 plus were not uncommon watching the titans of the competition compete against each other.

All these players named above are members of AFL Sydney’s Hall of Fame, but they were imports.  None were natives of our city, so it takes you back further to uncover a local born player who was a draw card, and there were a number.

Sydney had its share its share of them but none more outstanding than the diminutive South Sydney rover of the 1930s, Jimmy Stiff (pictured).  He was an outstanding sportsman and fortunately enough, Australian football had the use of his services for a period of his short adult life.

His family were market gardeners along O’Riordan Street at Mascot and young Jim worked his way through an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.  He had attended Gardeners Road Public School and thats where he learned his football.

At 17, Jimmy won the Sanders Medal, B & F in the competition’s reserve grade.  From then on he was consistently selected to represent NSW as the No. 1 rover.  At 1.6m and 64kg he was one tough nut and took no prisoners.  Stiff declined a number of offers to play in Melbourne.

In 1933 and representing NSW, Stiff won the best player trophy from all players in the All-States Carnival held in Sydney.  Wanting more, he later went on to play first grade for South Sydney rugby League Side.  Unfortunately this dare devil standout was killed in a motor cycle accident in 1938.

Reg Garvin was another local who could drag people to the football.  He played for Newtown and was outstanding in the ruck.  He was eventually recruited by St Kilda and went on to captain and later coach the side.  He was fourth in the 1941 Brownlow Medal, the same year as he won the Saints B & F,  a feat he repeated in 1944.

Wests had two great coaches who could also attract the crowds.  One was former Melbourne FC full forward, and a prodigious drop-kick, Athol Webb, who coached the Magpies in 1964-65 and John ‘Swoop’ Northey, who joined Wests in 1971 from Richmond FC where he had played in their 1967 & 69 premiership teams.

Yes, there probably were others who helped kicked the gate receipts along during their time in Sydney and if you think you know some, send us some names we will attempt to bring up their profile and time in Sydney.

Nevertheless with the advent of our national AFL competition and the leaning towards televised games it is not only Sydney who have lost their icons.  Many other local competitions throughout Australia have suffered the same fate.  It is a shame that the amount of young boys wearing the number of their favourite local club player is almost finished.


In researching the club games against interstate teams we came across a remarkable contest.

In July 1922, the West Torrens Football Club travelled to Melbourne then onto Wagga where they defeated a representative Riverina side 15.23 to 8.7 before a crowd of around 2,000 then onto Sydney where they were scheduled to play NSW on 15 July at Erskineville Oval.

West Torrens joined the South Australian National Football League in 1897 and were one of the solid performers early in the last century.  In 1991 they combined with the Woodville Football Club where they now participate in the SANFL under a combined title.

NSW made some changes to their side with McInerney, Wardley, Sheehan, Card and Newton out of the team that lost to Victoria the previous week.

West Torrens on the other hand had a number of star players including their 203cm CHF, Len ‘Booby’ Mills.

It rained all day on July 15.  Not heavy but a continual and misty downfall making playing conditions unpleasant.

The NSW side were far from their best with the South Australian’s all over them in the first quarter.  In fact the locals failed to kick a point with West Torrens in the lead 8.4 (52) to nil at the change!

No doubt many of the 6,000 strong crowd were ready to walk.  Nothing could be more embarrassing than seeing your own state representative team without a score on the board.

One pundit described West Torrens display as “A more systemic display of systematic football has never been seen.” They left NSW bewildered with their cleverly executed hand and foot passing.

The home side scored first in the second term which was greeted by the crowd in a “derisive mood.”  A number of locals had begun to hit their straps pegging back the visitors to record a reasonable score of 5.7 to 9.6 at the long break.

It was during the third quarter that NSW really went to town booting a further five goals to the visitor’s one.  The sky blues were outstanding in their commitment to their game.  All were working together so much so that at the last change they had drawn level with both sides on 10.9 apiece.

By this time the crowd were right behind NSW and from the bounce they supported every move and every score the team made.

For a while the lead see-sawed but gradually and again through the agency of ace full forward, Stan Milton, NSW won the game by seven points, 13.12 (90) to 12.11 (83) in one of the most remarkable comebacks a NSW team has ever made.

Although Paddington player, Watson, booted three goals including the last for the game, Milton was awarded man of the match.  Others to stand out were rover, Jack Foskett from the Newtown club, forward flank Hurley, Cain in the forward pocket along with Ackers, Dunn and the captain, Bryan Rush all of whom played in the backline.


From time to time, mostly before the 1930s depression, interstate clubs toured NSW and more particularly, Sydney.

Many of these clubs played matches against a state representative team and a few against the leading city club of the day.

We are going to run a series of articles about such games.

In August 1927, before an attendance of 21,229, Carlton played Geelong in an exhibition game at the SCG .  Both teams were able to travel away from Melbourne because of the national carnival between all states, being played on the MCG.

Carlton led all throughout the game to win 11.10 (76) to 9.6 (60).

On the following Wednesday Geelong accepted a challenge to play the leading Sydney club,  Eastern Suburbs, who at that stage, were undefeated with fourteen wins.

The venue was Trumper Park at despite being mid week, the 2,000 who attended were certainly not disappointed.

At 3:00pm, the Mayor of Paddington, Ald Maurie O’Sullivan, also the publican at the Lord Dudley Hotel, bounced the ball to start the game.

Geelong, who had some players in the Victorian team, fielded their strongest combination possible.  It included Jocka Todd who went on the win their 1927 B&F, the captain, Cliff Rankin, the immortal Cargi Greeves and Reg Hickey, all of whom were subsequently selected in the club’s team of the century.

Eastern Suburbs, on the other hand, had their share of players in the NSW side in Melbourne so as odds would have it, they were both represented by their best eighteens at the time.  All of the Eastern Suburbs side were able to get off work for the game.

Geelong seemed to have trouble with the small ground and took a while to adjust while Easts star full forward, Stan Milton, the league’s leading goalkicker in almost every year during the 1920s was at his best.  The play was close and tight however Geelong led 5.3 to 3.3 at quarter time.

Each side scored 5 goals in the second term and the play was again very evenly matched.  Despite their reputation, Geelong did not pull away from their opponents as predicted and in facts Easts commendably kept pace at every turn.  The score at half time was Geelong 10.8 to Eastern Suburbs 8.6.

The Cats were worried.  This wasn’t what the script said and they had trouble getting the machine that got them to third place in the VFL ladder that year in motion.

Both teams remained unchanged for the third quarter and finding they could keep pace with their far talented opposition, the Eastern Suburbs players seemed to gain in confidence.  Milton delighted onlookers with his clever play but this couldn’t shake Geelong’s lead with the score at the final change: 15.10 to 14.11

Although Geelong scored soon after the resumption of play, Milton and Hagger put full points on the board for the Sydney side getting them one point in front and holding their own against such a star studded team.

The lead then changed hands several times and it was only a goal from clever play by their captain, Rankin, who incidentially played rugby union in Europe during WWI, which gave Geelong the game by three points 18.17 (125) to 18.14 (122).  The goal brought his tally for the game to nine.

It was Milton who was  Eastern Suburb’s star.  The small forward booted eleven goals and nearly got his side over the line.

Best for Geelong were Rankin, Greeves, Todd, Hickey and Keppell while Easts were best served by Milton Crout, Saunders, Green and Dunn.

Top photographs shows George ‘Jocka’ Todd.  The one on the right is Cliff Rankin.