Sydney Naval with All Guns Blazing Sail to Victory in 1960

     1960 Sydney Naval FC Premiers – mascot Ken Wilson

By Dr Rod Gillett

Danny Wilson, one of the leading goalkickers in Sydney football in the 1950s, led Sydney Naval to a grand final win over Newtown for the Sydney AFL 1960 premiership this time from the back pocket!

Playing in his 250th game, Wilson was named best player for Naval. According to the Sydney Morning Herald (9 September 1960) report of the game Wilson was “…Newtown’s biggest stumbling block. He repeatedly saved in the backline and made many clearing dashes which turned back the Newtown attacks”.

It was a stunning victory by Sydney Naval who trailed by 8 points at ¾ time but forged to the front at the start of the last term and despite a late comeback by the Blood-stained Angels to draw level with a goal with ten minutes to go; but Naval kicked the last two goals of the match to win by seven points.

It was Sydney Naval’s first premiership since 1944 when it beat RAAF in the grand final. At that time both teams were laden with active servicemen with VFL backgrounds who were stationed in Sydney during the war.

It was prior to the start of the 1944 season that the ‘Sydney’ Football Club received permission to add the title ‘Naval’ to its title. The club was the first one formed in Sydney in 1880. Playing in Melbourne colours, Naval was runner-up to North Shore in 1961, and then won the flag again in 1962, by again beating Newtown at Trumper Park.

Sadly, the club folded in 1971 after forfeiting both grades due to a player shortage in July; Naval had languished at the foot of the table from the late 1960s. The club had no juniors and were heavily reliant on navy personnel.

  Jack Harding

The captain-coach Sydney Naval in 1960 was, believe it or not, local product Jack Harding, who had returned from Fitzroy in 1956 to coach the club. Harding played 27 games for Fitzroy from 1952-54. He had started playing footy quite by chance. He went to a junior game at Moore Park in 1949 to watch a friend play but was coerced to play.

He went on to play seniors for Sydney Naval the next year and represented the league against Newcastle. Harding was captain-coach of the NSW team at the 1960 ANFC second division carnival in Sydney.

Jack who worked for the Sydney City Council, married Dorothy, the sister of team-mate Danny Wilson’s wife, Iris, better known as “Bubby”.

Danny had come to Sydney in 1946 and while serving in the navy and started playing for Sydney Naval in 1947 alongside legendary cricketer Keith Miller (later the first Chief Commissioner for the NSW AFL)

He served on the HMAS Shropshire until 1949 when he was discharged. Originally from Melbourne where he had played with South Melbourne Districts, he meet Bubby on shore-leave, married and settled in Sydney.

After leaving the navy Danny Wilson worked for Ron Bennett’s menswear, and in the sixties ran the store in King Street Newtown. Naval’s best player each week used to receive a shirt as a trophy from the store when Danny was club president from 1964-1970.

Wilson had a distinguished football career in Sydney. He played 340 games for Naval and kicked over 600 goals in a career spanning 1947-62 including two premierships. He captained Naval in 1953-54. He booted 87 goals in 1956 to win the league goal-kicking and won four club best and fairest awards.

He represented NSW on ten occasions including against Victoria at the SCG in 1949 and at the 1950 ANFC Carnival in Brisbane. He was named in the best players against Victoria on both occasions.

Danny Wilson was inducted into the Sydney Hall of Fame in 2006.

  Brad Wilson
          playing Rugby League

His son Brad (pictured left), who played junior football for Peakhurst and then rugby league for St George 1981-82 recalls very happy days with the whole family going to Trumper Park when his father was involved with Sydney Naval,

“My brother Ken (who had an illustrious rugby league career at Newtown including playing in the Bluebags grand final team in 1981) and I used to play kick-to-kick on the ground. We loved the atmosphere, it was so alive”.

“Then after the game the partition in the change rooms under the grandstand would be moved, and the players and their families would join together for food and drinks and a sing-a-long. Dad’s signature tune was That Old Black Magic. Mum and dad made so many friends through Aussie Rules. Jacky Dean and dad were great mates”.

Danny, Brad and Ken all kicked with their left-foot. Danny’s sons were famed in rugby league for their kicking and ball-handling skills. Ken once kicked the only point for a game in NSWRL history when he slotted a field goal for Newtown to win 1-0 against St George in 1973. Danny taught them how to kick drop kicks in the backyard of the family home in Bexley.

The left-foot Wilson kicking tradition continues with Brad’s son Matthew now on Sydney University’s NEAFL list. However, as a Norths junior product, he will ply his trade with North Shore in the Premier League this season. 

Much of the information for this article was gained the Sydney competition match day programs going back to 1927. These are accessible from the Society’s website: click here

– 1904 , interesting times

1904 for football in Sydney proved quite interesting.

Following the re-introduction of the code the year before , a period full of euphoria, the code began to settle down.

The league had money.  The gate from the The balance-sheet showed a credit of £115 13s 9d. The total receipts for the season were £842 0s 9d, of which £612 18s Id came from the Fitzroy v Collingwood match and £135 14s 8d from the game between Carlton and Geelong.  In each case, the clubs made no claim on the admission charges and paid their own way.  Taking out expenses, the league finished with with a balance of £115 13s 9d (- $17,443.29 in 2016) [1]

But what did they do with the money?

Here is a great article from an edition of the Sunday Sun in 1903:
“When Australian football was previously Introduced into New South Wales, the first burst of enthusiasm gradually dwindled away, until the game collapsed. That result was due primarily to two causes, First of all, there was lacking a thoroughness of organisation and secondly no effort was made to establish a nursery for the production of players to fill the places of those who dropped out. Both those elements of weakness are now eradicated and the prospects of the game are entirely improved. The schools committee, by indefatigable labours, have agreed to an elaborate programme, which offers Inducements to schoolboys transcending everything before done in any game. The support of the Public Schools Athletic Association has been secured, and success must necessarily follow the enterprise shown. Tho schools have been divided into five districts, each of which is to have its own controlling council, and these will be under the supervision of another elective body, on which the League only seeks one representative. Two valuable shields have been donated One will become the absolute property of the premier school, and the second will be held by the runners-up for a year, then to become the property of the following season’s premiers and so on. The Premier (Sir John See) has given medals for the, members of the winning school team, and other medals are also provided. Further, the premier school team are be be taken to Melbourne to meet the winning schools of Victoria and an endeavour is being made to have the match played on the same day and ground us the final for the Victorian premiership. Three medals are also offered for, the three best essays essays written by schoolboys on Australian football at the end of the season, and the successful ones will be published In either the “Sun” or the “Star” Newspapers. Surely nothing more could be expected of the body which has charge of the game, but the League has gone even further. A lecturer and coaches have been provided for the boys, who will receive complimentary tickets for the big matches on the Cricket Ground.. Grounds are also supplied, and the League donates goal posts, footballs, &c.

Such a complete programme reflects credit on the zeal. enterprise, and energy of Mr. Nash (league president) and the other gentlemen associated with him. The whole scheme Is expected to cost about £200, outside the trophies for the year, but of this £120 has already been donated. An excellently written and published pamphlet detailing the above particulars and also the rules and features of the game, has been issued to schoolboys, and throughout there has been a thoroughness and completeness of organisation which compels admiration.” [2]

The whole problem was, and it is very common with most initiatives and new concepts, if there are no strategies or planning for tomorrow and no support for such plan, it will fail.  Succession planing is paramount!

Without publishing the details, Rugby Union (Rugby League then had not been conceived), were not left in their tracks.  They too began a concerted effort with juniors and proposed a number of initiatives which they considered would propel their sport.

With all this money, assistance and players, why then did Australian Football in Sydney not live up to expectations?  The nation’s biggest city?

[1]  Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909), Saturday 9 April 1904, page 2
[2]  Sunday Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1903 – 1910), Sunday 27 March 1904, page 3

1963 Sydney Grand Final

1963 Wests Coach, Neil Wright smallThe story of the Sydney 1963 grand final is worth telling.

This was the time of only one division in Sydney with three grades, first, reserves and under 19.

Like all competitions you had the winners and the losers, the well run clubs and those, for whatever reason, that struggled.

The league had just come through a rather tumultuous period.  Just previous to this the fulltime secretary had been suspended, the treasurer had resigned, the books were in an absolute mess and then the stand-in permanent secretary got his marching orders resulting in court action.  The league began the season £500 in the red ($13,500 in today’s money).

Ern McFarlane, that “hail fellow, well met” long term Newtown official and player, who didn’t mind a drink, had taken the reigns in 1961 and was in the chair during all of this upheaval.

Besides this the league underwent some change, but not enough;  The had tried a 16 aside competition which was continually denounced until they returned to the status quo.

And then there was the obvious disparity in the standard of the competition and while two divisions were discussed, it never happened with the next year resulting in the amalgamation of some clubs.  That too eventually failed.

It was a time when the University club was coming out of its recession and UNSW was just about to emerge as their own entity so if the league had bitten the bullet, maybe Sydney football could have been different rather than waiting until the early 1970s and the introduction of a second division.

A former Western Suburbs then Bankstown ruckman, Rhys Giddey, who was a member of the league’s administration, took over the fulltime secretary’s position working out of what could only be described as a very disorganised brick building at Trumper Park – since demolished.

1963 Balmain v Parramatta thumbnailHe soon moved the offices to a ‘suite’ (room) at 307 Sussex Street in the city.

Action image shows Balmain’s captain-coach, Ray Rocher marking in front of a Parramatta opponent in a match during the season.  Click to enlarge.

The final four was a reasonably close finish.  Wests, well recognized as the money club following its successful venture to a licensed club, finished on top with 56 points, then came North Shore on 48, Sydney Naval on 46 and Newtown on 44.

Wests scored an easy win over North Shore in the second semi to move into the grand final while Newtown on the other hand battled their way from fourth with a first semi win, then a preliminary final victory over Norths to reach the decider.

The scene was set and a fine day brought out a big crowd at Trumper Park, allegedly eclipsing any that had previously attended an Australian football game at the ground, and were in for a treat.

Never one to let an opportunity pass, league secretary, Giddey told the press that the crowd totalled 11,377 who paid £2,235 though the gate.  It was later revealed that Rhys could be a bit loose with the truth freely admitting to his over zealous statement in the years that followed.

Unfortunately for Wests they had their strapping 1.94cm ruckman coach, former VFA representative player, Neil Wright in hospital with hepatitus A.  Wright had played a big part in the Magpies success and was one of their best in the second semi.  He had coached country club Finley the year before.

Newtown had as their captain and coach, the big policeman in Ellis Noack, a current member of the History Society.

As was the norm for Sydney grand finals it started with a fight, but it never really ended there, the conflict continued throughout the game.  The main target of Newtown’s attack was Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, a wonderful player from the RAAF who had won the Phelan Medal in the same year.  In one incident, Sharrock had cleared the ball downfield when a Newtown ruckman ran 20 metres to strike him from behind, knocking Sharrock to the ground, unconscious.

On two occasions, spectators twice fired beer cans onto the field which stopped play for some time.  Not long after that a Wests player heavily dumped the opposition player who had attacked Sharrock and so it was on again.1963 Ray Sharrock small

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock and John Griffiths from Wests were reported during the game for fighting.

At the first break Newtown led 4-5 to 2-2 increasing their lead to 7-9 to 4-4 by half time.  An upset was on the cards.

But Newtown could not sustain their opponents third term onslaught;  at one stage Wests hit the front but Newtown countered to hold a nine point lead at the final change.

Early in the last quarter Western Suburbs piled on five quick goals and it was only for the sheer talent and determination of Sharrock at fullback that kept Newtown regaining the lead.  His finger tip marking was a sight to see.

By this time secretary Giddey had called the police who came en-mass lining the ground as well as the players race.  Giddey himself came inside the fence line waiting for the bell to ring thinking his presence could contain any further violence.  Giddey was a big man.

Wests won the game by 10 points 14-14 (98) to 12-16 (88).  As soon as the match finished so too did the violence.  The win gave Wests their second flag since their re-entry into the competition in 1948.