– Second Grade or Second Division in Sydney?

Sydney football holds a wonderful hoard of historical and interesting data and when we drill down deeper into some of these records we are able to discover new information that provides a far wider view of a particular situation or event.

Such is the case with reserve grade football which later morphed  into another division part of which became ‘Sydney Districts Association’ then Second Division.

When the game was first introduced to Sydney in 1880, clubs only had one grade.  Because some became numerically stronger they formed a second twenty (teams played with twenty players in those days) which on many occasions was called a ‘junior’ grade.  When first researching the subject it took a lot of intense examination to separate an actual ‘junior’ or under age team from a ‘junior’ or second twenty side.

These second twenty teams at first played either between themselves, school teams or clubs that were seen as less talented and just starting.  If they played against a ‘senior’ team, on most occasions they were permitted to play with twenty two or three players on the field as an advantage over the opposition.

When the game was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, eleven clubs fielded senior teams in a competition conducted by the NSW Australian Football League.  The administration in what we would call the reserve grade was conducted by a separate and autonomous group called the NSW Football Association.  Players were not permitted to move between the two grades regardless if they played for the same club.

This group folded during WWI because of the lack of numbers only to be revived in 1919 with similar management and a separate draw.

By 1922 the following clubs participated in the reserve grade: Ashfield, Public Service, Railway, East Sydney, South Sydney, Paddington, Illawarra (St George) and Botany.  In that year there were also eight teams in the first grade.  The trouble was, not all first grade teams had reserve grade sides and this caused problems with the draw.

In the following season the League took over the operation of the seconds and called the competition the NSW Junior Football League.  The errant second grade teams were then officially placed with a singular first grade team and played as the curtain raiser to that particular senior fixture.

Around that time there was also an expansion in the third grade or under 18 in the ‘junior competition’which included:  Dockyards, Glenmore, South Sydney, Lane Cove, Newtown all playing under the governance of the junior football league, not the league.

In 1925 moves were being made to restructure the league and those one team reserve grade clubs were either being told or to put it simply, ‘encouraged’ to fit in with the first grade they were playing before.  Then in 1926 when the league was re-organised, all first grade teams had to field a second grade side with players then able to move freely between each.  Almost none of the reserve grades aligned themselves with the particular first grade club, having said that, some amalgamated.

Then in 1933 the name of the subservient competition was changed to the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association with an autonomous administration continuing to control their operation.  This group functioned completely separate to the league.

Despite an hiatus during WWII the association operated until about 1953 when the senior grade came under a new ‘Sydney Districts Association’ but this appeared to fold in 1954.

It took until 1970 when the Sydney Districts Association was revived which turned into the Second Division the following year and the rest is history.

Check out the history of the clubs in the MANFA.

– Fred Cahill

Fred Cahill with his 1958 ‘Medal’

Ever heard of Fred?

No, I bet you haven’t.  Neither had we until he made contact.

Fred played juniors for the North Shore club when you could count the number of  juniors in the area on one hand.  He went on to play in the Under 18 competition (third grade) for the club.

Fred may well have doubled up for a few games in the league’s initial third grade year of 1957, but 1958 was his season.

Learning the game at 14 from a friend, Keith Keen, at Crows Nest High School, who in fact seduced Fred over from Rugby League.  He resided at Lavender Bay and following his schooling began an apprentice as a ships’ plumber.  In football though, he was in the right spot for selection in the North Shore Under 18 side, a team coached by North Shore veteran, Horrie Cooper.

Fred was getting a few kicks from the centre and along with his mates John Busby, Warren Margrate. Bob Fitzgerald, Clinton Faull and Tony McGillick together a few others they were the ones given an occassional credit but the slack Football Record correspondent from North Shore FC apparently didn’t really rate the team.

Slowly though North Shore crept up the ladder and into second place.  Their only nemises was Eastern Suburbs who suffered one defeat for the season at the hands of St George-Sutherland in the middle of the year but eventually went on to win the minor premiership;  While North lost four games to finish in second place.

East defeated North Shore easily in the second semi and again in the grand final but all the while Fred was making his mark.

He won the best and fairest award in the competition, the Kealey Medal.  Medal?  No, the league were so mean to this eight team competition that they gave Fred a pewter mug as his reward for the achievement – as our picture shows.  Even first and second grade medal winners were given engraved cake trays and silver serving items until the mid 1950s.

In 1959 Fred represented NSW in an Under 18 team, under coach, Roy Hayes, which played against a Footscray under age team on Johnson Reserve in Melbourne.  Later that day his whole side were invited to witness the VFL Grand Final featuring Melbourne and Essendon.

Now in his seventies, Fred has decided to donate the mug and a number of other items to the Society for safe keeping and prosperity.  Fred told us he is also keen to initiate a trust for an Aboriginal club within NSW – details to follow.

This retired footballer, who made a comeback to footy in the early 1970s when he played in North’s “SDA” side, (very early second division) where, as captain he finished third in the Hart Medal in 1972.  It just makes yo wonder how many young men who have finished their serious footy maybe out there just ripe to come back to a social game or two?  We have to keep trying.