A Granville Club in 1889

An interesting piece from an 1889 copy of the Referee (Sporting) Newspaper

                          Daily Telegraph 15 April 1886 p.2


“Geo. Graham says that he has already got 30 members for his now club at Granville. The Granvilles, or I should say, the Australian Football Club, plays its first match against the Sydney.

There is nothing like facing the big guns if a new club wants to learn all the dodges of the game. Appended is an official list of the matches for May :—



May 4.—
Sydney v Australian F.C. , at Granville ; Balmain v University, at Balmain ;
East Sydney v 2nd Sydney 23.
May 11.—
Waratah v Balmain, at Balmain ;
West Sydney v University at Wentworth Park ;
Sydney v St. Ignatius College 23, at Riverview ; Australian F.C. v 2nd Sydney, at Granville ;
East Sydney, vacant.
May 18.—
Sydney v Balmain, at Balmain;
East Sydney v Australian F.C., at Granville ;
Waratah v West Sydney, at Wentworth Park;
2nd Sydney v St. Ignatius College, at Riverview ;
University, vacant.
May 21.—
Waratah v Wallsend, at Wallsend;
Sydney v Northumberland, at Maitland ;
East Sydney v West Sydney, at Moore Park ;
Hamilton v St. Ignatius College 23, at Riverview ;
Australian F.C., vacant.
May 25,—
Sydney v Maitland Juniors, at Maitland;
Balmain v Hamilton, at Balmain ;

West Sydney v Australian F.C., at Granville ;
University v 2nd Sydney 23, on Sydney Ground ;
East Sydney v St, Ignatius College 22, at Riverview.

On Saturday the Australian – Football Club, Granville, played their first scratch match, and judging from the form shown by some of tho players they should have a very prosperous season. They meet the Sydney Club on Saturday, and will no doubt give the Sydney all they can do to score a victory.
As there are several good players in tho Cumberland district we hope they will join this now club, and make it a real first class one. (Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 – 1939), Wednesday 1 May 1889, page 6)

A couple of things to note here:

  • Granville called themselves ‘The Australian Football Club’, mostly we suggest a soccer club of the same name operated in the village of Granville.
  • We are at a loss to establish where their ground was.
  • Reserve or junior teams were permitted 23 on the field against the normal 20 players of those days.
  • In 1889 teams from the Hunter also participated in the competition.

In May of that year, Granville hosted the East Sydney Club and here is part of a report of the game :  “Before the close of the play party feeling ran high, and blows were exchanged between two of the players. The spectators participated in the excitement, and the attitude of some of them became so menacing that the visitors beat a hasty retreat, and that their retrograde movement was successfully accomplished they attribute to the protection afforded them by the opposing captain, Mr. Graham.” (Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Tuesday 21 May 1889, page 8)  The Granville club did complain about the actions of the East Sydney players however because they were not an ‘associated club’, ie participating  in the top grade for the Flanagan Cup, their letter was dismissed.  The led to an application by Granville to affiliate which was subsequently accepted.

Like the University club, Granville failed to reform in 1890.

Newspaper Man Not Happy

Before the Sydney Swans became the focal point of football in Sydney, newspapers gave coverage of the game and the Sydney competition reasonably good exposure, so much so that it enables us to write stories like this.

Initially newspapers would send a representative to each senior game and quite often a photographer.  Later, part time reporters from AAP and other news agencies would cover the games which saved papers the cost of sending individual journalists out to various sporting events in Sydney.

Going through some 1948 newspapers we came across this article in the Sydney Truth by a reporter who was obviously very upset at the facilities available for those reporting on our game:

Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954), Sunday 23 May 1948, page 17


Australian Rules teams played good games on four Sydney ovals yesterday. The attendance at each ground was small.

League officials often express surprise that the game does not become more popular in N.S.W. Truth (Newspaper) can tell them why.

No encouragement whatever is given to those who would give the game publicity, and they are many. No facilities are made available to the Press, and often there is not even a form upon which they can write their copy. Phones, supposed to be reserved served for the Press are used by S.P. bookies, punters in search of results, and amorous youths trying to make appointments with girl friends. The result is that a lot of copy misses out. This year the committee is offering £1 to a supporter who happens to buy a programme which bears a certain number. These programmes cost six pence each, and often do not contain the names of more than four players who actually take the field. Under these circumstances, the programmes would be dear at one penny.

The spectators are left in the air; and have no method of ascertaining who is playing and who is not. Boys are employed to keep the score. More often than not the figures shown are wrong, and even if they are right the youthful scorekeepers stand in front of the board and so prevent it being read. The scores are often removed from the board before the final bell has stopped ringing.

If the League wants the game to progress it must, first of all, consider the public. Without support the game is not worth two bob, and, whether they believe it or not, at present the average follower of the game is annoyed and rapidly becoming disgusted. Scores in all games yesterday South Sydney 15-17 (107) beat St, George 13-14 (92); North Shore 16-17 (113) beat University 4-9 (33); Newtown 20-23 (143) beat Balmain 8-9 (57); Eastern Suburbs 12-18 (90) beat Western Suburbs 10-15 (75).”

Sydney University’s         first win

1948 saw the introduction of three new clubs into the Sydney competition: Balmain, Sydney University and Western Suburbs and they are all still there, with the same name.  The only change in these three is Balmain’s colours.

Sadly three from that era have gone and another has combined with another Sydney Club.  St George and North Shore are two that remain from that era.

We have located an interesting article published in the Sydney Sun on 16 May 1948 which relates Sydney University’s first win.  Although there was a team from the University formed in 1888, it only played about three games and was mostly put together to play a couple of games in Melbourne, particularly against the University of Melbourne.

– 1888 Sydney University Football Club


Professor W H Warren and Engineering students in the 1890s

The following was taken from an article written in the Sydney Mail in April, 1888.  It briefly describes the Sydney University Australian Football Club which unfortunately, only survived for two seasons.

The University only had a limited number of students at the time but increased significantly after John Henry Challis bequeathed a sum of £200,000 in 1889 and seven new professorships were created.

Be that as it may, the 1888 annual meeting of the University Football Club, playing under Australian rules, was held on Monday night, 16 April 1888 at Miithorp’s Hotel. (Milthorp’s Hotel was on the corner of York and King Streets, Sydney) Mr. F. Challands occupied the chair.

Quoting from the annual report which stated “that the club was only formed on July 7, 1887, late last year, when other clubs were closing the season.

The club could not claim to have done much more than make a start. Three matches were played, but, as the number of members was small, it had to depend in a degree on tho assistance given by the Sydney, East Sydney, Waratah and West Sydney clubs. Members should go into regular practice in order that they might be prepared to accept an invitation from tho Melbourne University this season.”

A further report on the meeting continued: “The balance sheet was of a satisfactory nature. The report and balance-sheet were adopted. Letters were received from his Excellency the Governor and Dr. Brownless according their patronage to the club. Tho following office-bearers were elected : Patron, his Excellency the Governor; president, the Chancellor (Sir William Manning) ; vice-presidents, Dr. Maclaurin and Dr. Brownless ; hon. secretary, Mr. M. M. Ryan; assistant hon. secretary, Mr. H. Davis; hon. treasurer, Mr. F. E. Wood: committee, Messrs. R. Kidston, W.J.W. Richardson, Cock, Waters, and T. Challands ; auditors, Messrs. J. P. Leahy and Fitzsimons; delegate to . the association, Mr. W. J. W. Richardson. ”

Ref. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), Saturday 21 April 1888, page 865


Threepence smallThis week we updated the 1960 Sydney Football Records Collection online and found them very interesting reading.

This now completes the full quota of Football Records published in that year.  To view, click here.

Unique to this season was the posting of more than one Record per round. Then, the league printed a certain number of Football Records for each particular match which included the team lists of only those competing teams. So in effect, each game received a different Record.

More interestingly is the posting of the full publication of all the Records from the Australian National Football Council Section 2 Championships played at Trumper Park in Sydney over a period of seven days.

With the passage of time and the constant change of administrators at the NSW Football League, this is one series that has been forgotten.

The combatants were: NSW, VFA, Queensland and Canberra, the latter played under that title until midway through the 1970s. Here are the results:


25 June NSW 14-24 (108) QLD 13-19 (107)
26 June VFA 17-31 (133) Canberra 3-11 (29)
29 June NSW 13-13 (92) Canberra 13-12 (90)
29 June VFA 22-20 (152) QLD 3-7 (25)
2 July Canberra 16-16 (112) QLD 13-10 (88)
3 July VFA 23-24 (162) NSW 8-9 (57)


As well, there were some extraordinary lead-up games, particularly the games played during the week.

Before the VFA v Canberra match, Sydney University, who were not competing in the Sydney league that year, 13-11 (99) d Combined Newcastle 6-5 (41).

Frank Dixon - NSW AFL Vice President, State Coach & Captain. Capt Coach Sth Sydney FCIn the match Canberra v Qld, the curtain raiser was East Side v West Side while on the following day, which turned out to be the final in the game VFA v NSW, the Navy 9-16 (70) d Army 4-9 (33).

A very interesting aspect to the 1960 season which a few readers may remember, was the opening of the Frank Dixon (pictured) Stand at Trumper Park. It replaced a dilapidated timber grandstand which was built early in the first decade of last century and stood almost on the corner of Glenmore Road and Hampton Street.  At its best it held 150 people with the change rooms at the top of the stairs, which proved a real problem with players, dodging the females with whirling umbrellas while running to their cold showers after the game.

The new stand was opened on 25 June by Sydney Lord Mayor Harry Jensen and named after a legend of the game in Sydney.  Frank Dixon was a former deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney.

This new stand, since remodelled if not almost destroyed, will seat 1500 people and has first class amenities, including tiled bath and shower rooms and dance hall and refreshment room.


As this season fades into history, we have been looking round for something to write about.  The question is, where do we start.

Then we identified a year which heralded so much change to football in NSW: 1970.

It would take several sessions to outline what did take place in that year, so we have centred on just a few events.

It was Australia’s Bi-Centenary.  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh together with Princess Anne and Prince Charles visited Australia to join with the rest of the country in the celebrations.

And they didn’t miss watching a game of Australian football as shown in the photo – details below

And in Sydney, a show for the Royals was put on at the Trocodero in Sydney’s George Street.  This was a large dance and concert hall that operated between 1936 and 1971.  It was once regarded as the “most glamorous dance palace in Sydney and accommodated up to 2,000 people”. It was the favoured venue for university and school ‘formals’, and hosted many important local rock and pop concerts during the 1960s.  The block of cinemas has replaced the old Troc. between Liverpool and Bathurst Streets.

It was April when the Royal party “met young sportsmen (we don’t know if the word sportsmen refers to both genders) from all parts of the state” we were told.

Our Australian Rules representatives included David Sykes, captain coach of Newtown, Rodney Tubbs the captain coach of Sydney University Club, Bob Sterling and Emmanuel (Manny) Keriniaua from the St George Club.  Also Ian Allen, North Shore and NSW centre half back and Chris Huon, one of the young brigade of umpires making their mark on Sydney football.”

Both David Sykes, Ian Allen and Chris Huon are members of the Football History Society.

On the opening day of the season a team of Northern Territory Aboriginal Schoolboys played a Sydney Schoolboys team in an Under 16 match.  The boys from the north cleaned up the Sydney side, 17-12 (114) to 11-12 (78) at Picken Oval.

It is interesting to look at the names of some of the Sydney players and the junior clubs they came from. For example:



Alan Bouch (son of NSWAFL Board Member, Doug) Warringah
Graeme Foster  –  later Balmain, East Sydney and NSW player Ermington
Mark Andrews(son of Brian, a former state player and Balmain coach) who played with North Shore Warringah
David McVey –  who went on to win a Kealey Medal with St George
Mark McClurelater captain of Carlton FC Eastern Suburbs
Greg Harris –  later state player and captain coach of East Sydney FC St George
Bill Free  – former Newtown player was the coach
Other junior clubs that no longer exist or have had a name change: Warwick Farm, Holsworthy, Green Valley, Bankstown Sports, Manly/Seaforth


In 1970, the long term league secretary Ken Ferguson retired and was given a well attended sendoff at the Western Suburbs Club.

At last the league introduced a second division after years of half-hearted attempts to cater for burgeoning clubs in Sydney.  The clubs that comprised the league’s other open age competition since the demise of the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association in 1952 were: Warringah, St Ives, Salasians, Penshurst, UNSW, Sydney University and Western Suburbs.  Later, North Shore and South Sydney also entered teams.

The second division thing just wasn’t right, it was unbalanced.  Because they didn’t have enough clubs to go round in a stand alone competition, Sydney Uni, UNSW, South Sydney and Macquarie University fielded their senior teams in the normal open age reserve grade, which, like today, created problems at away games.  This was corrected the following season.

1970-04-01 - Chris Huon Invitation to Royal Reception small1970 was Sydney Naval’s last hurrah.  It was their final year in the competition after such a splendid involvement in the game dating back to 1881.  There was an attempt to combine the club with the struggling South Sydney side but that too failed. South in fact, were on their knees after being relegated following a number of poor seasons.  But with a band of willing workers they managed a further half a dozen years.

There were early moves to play a Victoria v South Australia game at the SCG mid season.  The expenses were estimated at in excess of $30,000 (assessed using the Reserve Bank of Australia’s calculator today at $317,647.06), seems a bit rich, but thats the reason the game did not go ahead and Sydney had to wait until 1974 to see the Vics play the Crows at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Big news during the season was that Wests were to lose their home ground of Picken Oval to a supermarket complex.  Canterbury Council failed to give the idea the green light so it was shelved but it didn’t take too many years before a further and very damaging issue effected the relationship between Wests and their ground.

The Newtown club opened clubrooms on the normally unknown mid level in the grandstand at Erskineville Oval.  It wasn’t long though before they moved their social activities to the old Stage Club at 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern which became the Newtown Rules Club.

And finally for the first time in Sydney, the ABC telecast highlights of two VFL games each Saturday Night at the very late time of 10:50pm, well before the introduction of domestic VCR – recorders.  It didn’t take long before the then very conservative ABC decided to ditch the show producing howls of complaint from footy followers.  So much so that the league printed a form on which supporters could register their PROTEST to the Director of Programmes, ABC 2, Sydney. It worked and these highlights were retained for the rest of the season.

Our photograph of course is not Sydney football, but the Queen being introduced to the Fitzroy team in the same year.  Some questions for you about this event:

*  What ground was the game played at?
*  Which team played Fitzroy on that day?
*  What was the most unusual and in fact unique circumstance of this game?

And seeing Australia lost probably its most iconic prime minister this week, it is worth a mention that either in the late fifties or early sixties, Gough took one of his sons along to Rosedale Oval to learn the game of Australian football.  We don’t think there were many follow up visits.

You can send your answers to this address: Click here.

Early Sydney Uni FC days?

UniversityIn 1908 someone wrote a letter to a Tasmanian newspaper extolling the efforts of the then, Australian (National) Football Council, later the National Football League (a national organisation considered the peak body for the game in Australia.  All states were equally represented on it).

In particular it went on to explain the effort the Council was doing in spreading the game of Australian football across the nation as well as in New Zealand and how this was done.

It said “the great obstacle to be overcome, of course, is the predominant and apparently lasting popularity of Rugby football (Rugby League had only just been established) in New South Wales and New Zealand.”

The letter went on to mention the success the game was having in the schools in this state and then turned its attention to the University.  Sydney University was then the only such institution in the NSW.

The letter maintained that one reason the VFL accepted Melbourne University into their ranks, as a club, was “in anticipation that inter-university games in Australian football between the Melbourne and Sydney universities would be hastened.”  (That’s drawing a long bow – ed.)

More interestingly it said that “in the 1908 season, there were 14 students of Sydney University playing with senior clubs in Sydney so that the university should soon be able to send a good team to Melbourne.”

The article went on “the Australian Football Council over the summer of 1907-08 distributed five hundred pounds ($63,300 in today’s money) between the state football bodies in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and New Zealand.  This money was the balance from a levy made by the Council of 5% of the takings of all Associations (presumably the state football leagues, ie VFL – ed.).  The Victorian quota was the largest at three hundred and twenty pounds ($40,500) with NSW receiving two hundred pounds ($25,300), the bulk share of the total funding.”

A team called Training College competed in first grade in the Sydney competition between 1909-12.  Unfortunately they came last each season and apparently with lack of enthusiasm AND success they folded.

There is not a lot documented about the Training College side, but through some careful research we have found that the club was representative of the Sydney Teachers College, then located at Blackfriars, which is situated just off Broadway in Chippendale, Sydney.  It also had an annex which operated out of Hereford House at Glebe.

In 1910 a Combined Colleges team played Fitzroy FC at Erskineville Oval as a curtain raiser to NSW v Geelong FC.  Both VFL teams were on a visit to Sydney at that time.  The ‘Combined Colleges’ included some from the Sydney University and was comprised of the following: Ashton, Barker, Alfred Kiesling, Weiss, Woodward, Edwards, Dennis, Thompson, J Shannon (captain), Michael Mahoney, Williams, Cunningham, Bennett, Chapman, Osborne, Dyer, H Tubman, William Rice.

In the early 1920s, the Training College fielded a team in the reserve grade competition but it was not until 1948, with an influx of students studying veterinary science at the University, that they again fielded a team in the Sydney competition.

The Changing Face of Football in Sydney

Australian football has always owned the tag as the poor relation in Sydney.

The game was first introduced to the city in 1880 upon the formation of the NSW Football Association.  It took until the following year before any clubs were formed: Sydney and East Sydney were the first and the East Sydney of those days should not be confused with the East Sydney of the 1980s & 90s.

Immediately the game attracted the wrath of rugby officials led by top protagonist, Monty Arnold who said at the Association’s formation “if the Melbourne and Carlton clubs were playing a match in Melbourne, and the Kelly gang were firing within a quarter of a mile of them, he did not believe there would be a soul looking at the football”

Arnold and his co-horts were absolutely opposed and vitriolic to the new game and its introduction was made all the worse when some tried to change the rules of rugby because of its many dangerous aspects.  Paradoxically, they welcomed the formation of the soccer association.

A few Sydney journalists were sympathetic to the Victorian game but when it sank into anarchy, in-fighting and bitterness they dropped off and the game failed to move into the 1895 season.

Harry Hedger 1908It was left the since unrecognized enthusiast and former player, Harry Hedger, pictured, to lead the resurgence of the game in Sydney in 1903.

Its development went well and the game became stronger reaching out to schools and junior grades.  Poor management in the purchase of the original Rosebery Racecourse site on the corner of Botany and Gardeners Road, Mascot and the onset of WWI put the game back to almost a zero base.  But with steady work and commitment from officials of the league it clung on, despite being comprised of only five clubs in 1917.  There was no second grade during the war and for the most part the junior competition also disappeared.

There was a spark of hope during the 1920s when NSW defeated the VFL in 1923 and again in 1925 but it again slumped into its familiar rung on the ladder as the least favoured game in the city.

The depression years of the thirties brought no solace and for the most part the league was locked with six clubs and only two grounds where they could truly derive a gate – the strength of their income.

Then WWII brought new hope.  Australian football was the first sport to move to Sunday football, for no other reason than they desperately needed that additional Sydney Football Attendances Graph smallvenue where a gate could be charged.  It was during this period that servicemen from interstate were in or moving through Sydney and they played with local clubs.

Names like Collingwood’s captain, Phonse Kyne was the captain and coach of St George, Alby Morrison who was chosen in Footscray’s team of the century was with the RAAF team, future Brownlow Medalist, Bill Morris played with South Sydney while 17 year old Western Australian, Jack Sheedy, another AFL Hall of Famer, turned out for the Sydney Club.

These are just a very few of the football talent in Sydney during the war.

Following hostilities the game was riding high in public opinion, particularly so when three new clubs, Western Suburbs, Balmain and Sydney University were added to the competition in 1948.

During the fifties the image of the game lapsed especially when newspapers highlighted the negative parts of the game: fights and problems in matches.

More clubs were formed and joined the competition leading to twelve in 1962 “a perfect time to turn the competition into two divisions.”  It didn’t happen and the change from 18 aside to 16 aside in  1960 was also overturned mid-season.

By this time though, Western Suburbs gained their liquor licence and became very much a supporter and promoter of the game playing out of the same Picken Oval as now, but then it was surrounded by a training trotting track and privately owned.  The club though pumped thousands of dollars into the game and supported the league’s purchase of offices in Regent Street, Chippendale.

Football didn’t really move, they had lost many chances though by the seventies two new divisions had been formed.

Bill Hart, President NSWAFL 1966-78
Bill Hart, President NSWAFL 1966-78

In 1978 a coup threw out the popular league president Bill Hart and eventually his cronies went with him.  The VFL backed move with promised support didn’t last long before the administration in Sydney really struggled.

Then came the Sydney Swans and new VFL money and finance through the Swans licence scheme.  This eventually fell over and the club was subsequently taken over by the league.  Sydney football though had solidified and were well led with a move to more permanent offices in the Wentworth Park Grandstand, Glebe, where a number of other sports were domiciled.

Of course things always change and in 1998 there was a further takeover by the AFL which has funded the league and NSW football ever since.  It resulted in more staff, more people on the ground but are there more playing the game?

The elected officials have gone and the game is run by bureaucrats in their central Moore Park Offices.

Makes you wonder with all the changes the game has endured over the past 134 years, what the future holds for Sydney football?

In some sense it doesn’t have much but in others it has a lot.  It certainly has a rich past.


1888-08-25 The AustralasianIntervarsity sport but more particularly intervarsity (Australian) football has been a feature of university life for many years now.

It’s when students from most universities throughout Australia converge on a particular venue and play each other in various sports.  And as university students do, “they have a good time.

We have located what we believe is the first match between Melbourne and Sydney Universities played in Melbourne.  Articles in both the Argus and Australasian Newspapers of the day state that the contests” were the first intervarsity football matches played.”

In 1888 a club playing under the name ˜University” was formed in Sydney on 7 July.  Although they played three matches, the number of members was small and to a degree very much dependent on the assistance given by the Sydney, East Sydney, Waratah and West Sydney Clubs (for players).  The suggestion of playing Melbourne University was first mentioned in mid-1888.  That year the club finished the year with a satisfactory balance sheet and had as their patron the NSW Governor, and the club president, the University’s Chancellor, Sir William Manning whilst the vice-chancellor was elected vice president.  Mr M M Ryan was elected secretary and J. Davis the treasurer.  The captain was T. Challands and vice-captain G P Evans.  The club’s committee was comprised of Messrs J Leahy, T. Kidston, Edwards, Norris and J. Gordon.  W J W Richardson was the club’s delegate to the Association.

It should be noted that the position of president in clubs of those days was simply titular and more than likely all the university sporting clubs of the period would have had the chancellor and vice chancellor recorded in some official role.

This University football club nearly always struggled for numbers and in their match v West Sydney on Moore Park on 1 July only 13 turned up to play.   One Sydney newspaper said the team was wasting their time.

Final arrangements had been made by the University Football Club under Australian rules to play a number of matches in Melbourne in the latter half of August, 1888.  Obviously in an effort to supplement their numbers, St Ignatius College were asked to permit some of their students to accompany the side but “this kind offer” was declined.

A selection committee had to choose from thirty the three players who nominated to travel to Melbourne.  Not all were students, many were players from other Sydney clubs however the following were chosen:

Arnott, Button, Cohen, Davis, Evans, Fattorini, Fitzgerald, Fitzsimons, Flynn, Greaves, Harris, Howell, Hughes, Jamieson, Kennedy, Kidston, Leahy, Maher, McKellar, O’Sullivan, Richardson, Scott and Wren with Mr M M Ryan as Manager.  Those who trained received first selection preference. The team left Sydney on the 5.15pm Express train on 31st August.

The matches the team participated in included:



Sydney Uni Score



 30 August



Melbourne Uni Medical Students 2.8
  1 Sept



Melbourne Uni 4.8
  3 Sept Public Schools – no result found.

Note: Behinds were not counted in the total score in those days.

The first match was against Melbourne University Medical students on Thur. 30th August Melbourne University past and present on 1st September, one against the and another against a 23 selected from public schools on 4 September. There were also plans to play a game against the Wagga club en route to their destination but this did not eventuate.


Several requests have been received about what club has been participating in the Sydney competition the longest.

In the Premier Division, North Shore are the only contenders.  They joined the NSW Australian Football League when the game was revised in Sydney in 1903 however the club went into recession in 1915 because of WWI only to return to the competition in 1921 to incredibly win the premiership in that year!!!  Now thats a story well worth researching.

They again went into recession in 1942 because of the drain on manpower during WWII, returning in 1946.

St George is next in line but they first played in the league in 1929 after a season in the reserve grade.

Wests have been in and out.  A Western Suburbs club competed in the league between 1926-29 playing out of Marrickville Oval.  We are not sure why they faded out but this was the time of the big depression and many would have suffered.

Then, along with Balmain and Sydney Uni, they returned to the competition in 1948.

Balmain affiliated with the league between 1903-09.  Then re-emerged briefly for the 1913 season before they combined with another side to play as the Central Western Football Club during 1914-15 however were back as Balmain in 1916-17.  This was the time of the first world war so times were grim and they disappeared in 1918 but returned to participate in the league for the 1919-25 seasons then folded.

Pennant Hills and Campbelltown both formed in the 1970s and spent a period in what was known as Second Division before their elevation to the top league.  Both have been very successful in the competition.

East Coast Eagles, formerly known as Baulkham Hills, first played in the Second and Third Divisions starting in 1986 following the formation of a very strong junior club.

Sydney University made a brief appearance in the competition in around 1887 for a season and a half. From reading the results and manpower problems, their participation was not a really serious effort and they disappeared until their return with the two other clubs in 1948.

Uni played, rather unsuccessfully during the fifties when many of the team was made up of students studying Vet. Science – the only university in Australia offering the course so these young blokes came to Sydney from all over Australia to play for the club.

They dropped out of the competition in 1958 only to return in 1961 when they entered two teams in the reserve grade competition, Uni Blues and Uni Golds.  From then they were in and out of the premier division reverting to almost static participation in the Second Division from the early 1970s.

The Wollongong team first appeared in the Second Division in 1989 after participating in the Illawarra Football League for a number of years.  Between the 1949 & 1950 seasons however an Illawarra club, playing out of the Wollongong Showground, competed in the league.

UTS (University of Technology) first began playing in Division III in 2000.

UNSW-ES Club was formed in 2000 following an amalgamation of the University of NSW and East Sydney Clubs.

Prior to this UNSW participated in the reserves and Second Division from the mid 1960s while East Sydney, who changed their name from Eastern Suburbs in 1972, were formed at the end of the 1925 season following an amalgamation between the Paddington and East Sydney Clubs.  The assertion that ‘East Sydney ‘ can claim a heritage back to 1881 when an East Sydney Club was first formed is drawing a long bow.

Manly Warringah was formed in 1970 under the direction of president, Harry Marston.  They are a very successful club and spent most of their time in the Sydney Second Division winning ten premierships until they were elevated to the premier division in 2013 where they won the flag in their first year of participation.

So there is no premier league club in Sydney which have played continuously in the league since day 1.

Of those current clubs, a number have changed their name, while more still have altered their colours and motifs.

To answer the question, if any club wants to claim some type of link to the past it has to be Sydney University but, it is too drawing a very long bow.

North Shore, who went from being known as The Bridgewalkers, The Robins, The Bears and now the Bombers are the only club that can almost claim some type of continuum.

Other divisions will be listed soon.

The Beard is Cleared


These words echoed around the small Australian Football community in Sydney late in the 1964 season.

A bearded John Corbett had signed up with the Sydney University club and the students desperately wanted him on the field but first needed John to be cleared from his former Adelaide University Football Club.

These were the days when players, as is still the case, completed registration forms to play in Sydney however if a player was from another club, he also had to fill out separate transfer papers.  These were then sent to the NSW League then onto the state body of the club where he last played, then to that player’s association and subsequently onto the player’s last club – all by snail mail.  Depending on the attitude of the officials involved, this could take weeks and the player was not permitted to play and had to sit out and wait.  Having said all that, there was a time limit for this procedure.

Of course in Sydney, and quite possibly other leagues around the country, these players would appear on the team sheet and play illegally under an assumed name.

For the clubs with a low profile this did not present a real problem but if the player began to accumulate best and fairest votes under that name, then when cleared, also under his real name, well …. questions could be asked.

In this case Sydney Uni could not get a response from John’s former club which led one of their officials, Paul Muller, to send off a reply paid telegram to Adelaide inquiring about the fate of the clearance. This was an accepted practice which short circuited the system.

In true University style a telegram came back to the league which was tabled at the then regular Friday Night Match & Permit Committee meeting.  It read: “BEARD CLEARED”.

Apparently John’s nickname was The Beard and the response drew quite a bit of amusement from the normally sedate and conservative meeting attendees of the day, so much so, that the attached photograph and story about the incident was published in the Daily Telegraph.

Incidentally, John played with Uni of NSW and turned out to be a very effective captain of the side which was competing in Sydney’s reserve grade.  He continued on with the club until he gained his PHD and went to work in California.