– Umpires’ Association

Probably a little known fact in Sydney football was the folding of the NSW Australian National Football Umpires’ Association.

The Association was formed in 1911 but appeared not to continue as a combined group.  They were reformed in 1920 under the guidance of Leo Harry, a former umpire in a minor Melbourne League who went on to be the Associations secretary for nine years.  However the association was refused representation at league league level while umpires themselves were refused a seasons ticket for entry to games and boundary umpires were not allowed to report players unless they were officially appointed by the league.  

In that year Field Umpires were paid seven and six pence (75c) per club match and twenty five shillings ($2.50) for interstate games with the boundaries umpires receiving five shillings or 50c a match.

In the same year in an ambitious move, the NSW Football League resolved to provide umpires for the South West Football Association (Riverina) providing that they pay the umpires’ fees of £2 ($4) per game and travel expenses. Following an inquiry from the Culcairn Assn in July, as to the cost of obtaining umpires it was resolved that the fee would be three guineas ($6.60) with return rail fare and 6/- (60c) living expenses.

Towards the end of 1933, during the deep world wide depression, umpires refused to officiate during the finals unless they received a pay increase.  The league utilised other competent personnel to officiate and “the competition was brought to a successful conclusion.”  The umpires were further refused a pay rise at the commencement of the 1934 season with a result that the Umpires’ Association folded. 1

Umpires went without an association until the end of 1935 when a visit to the northern States by Bill Blackburn, a leading Victorian Football League umpire who officiated at the St George v North Shore match in early August following his exhibition in the Collingwood South Melbourne fixture at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the previous Saturday.  L.C. Keating from the Victorian Amateur Football Association  also came to Sydney in an effort to help.  He officiated in the 1935 Sydney grand final. 2

Since that demise of the association a lack of uniformity on the part of field umpires in interpreting rules particularly in relation to the then recent amendments had become apparent and members of the league’s executive committee were favourably disposed towards the proposal to reform the association so that umpires coaching classes can be commenced early in 1936.

With this end in view the members of the umpires appointment board attended one of the weekly referees coaching classes of the New South Wales Rugby League where the methods adopted by that body were closely studied.

Tom King one of the leading Australian Rules umpires at the time called a meeting of umpires at the Sydney Sports Club in Hunter Street in an effort to resuscitate the association.

The result of this meeting is unknown but in all probably it resumed its activities but still unrepresented on the League.SMH – 5 September 1935 p.161.  NSWANFL Annual Report

  1. 1935 NSWANFL Annual Report
    2.  SMH 5 September 1935 p.13

Smart or Dumb?

1949 - Mal Dean ES (No. 13) v North Shore at Henson. George Brack (NS) on right smallerRound 10 in 1937 Sydney football was played on Saturday 19 June and it poured during and prior to the match.  So much so that a number of sports were cancelled.

There were three grounds used by the league then and it was said on the day that (the old) Erskineville Oval, “apart from one or two small patches of water, was in playable order to the half time interval where South Sydney defeated St George.  At Trumper Park, where conditions were pretty bad, North Shore scooted home over Eastern Suburbs while in the remaining match at Kensington Oval (Kingsford), the Sydney and Newtown clubs adopted a very unusual method of determining the winner.

Prior to the commencement of the senior game, representatives from both clubs, via the ground manager, had the phone wires fusing with demands to league officials that the game be abandoned because of  the state of the playing area which was waterlogged.  The ground was flooded with up to 30-40ml of water across the Randwick half of the arena.  Undoubtedly it was, but apparently not to the same extent as Erskineville and Trumper Park, both of which, due to their physical configuration, were much more adversely affected by such weather.

League officials were firm in their ruling that the game must be played and in accordance with the rules. Faced with this decision the clubs concerned put their heads together and evolved a scheme they considered could circumvent the constitution of the league plus profit and minus risk to themselves.

So when the first grade field umpire, Tom King, took the ground, one player from each of the reserve grade sides accompanied him (the reserve grade match was played  with Newtown 6-2 (38) defeating Sydney 3-2 (20).  After each player had kicked two goals and one behind apiece, they solemnly walked off and declared it a day, and the game a draw after five minutes play. Now how each managed to kick the ball into play and who took possession of it following the behind is anybodys’ guess.

This act was in total defiance and disregard of the rule which definitely set out that a game shall consist of four quarters, each of twenty-five minutes duration. If they had been granted the privilege of a draw, it would mean that each defaulting club, and defaulters they undoubtedly were, would gain two points on the premiership table by the adoption of tactics more deserving of censure than commendation. While the clubs that went down In the other games, both by the narrowest of margins, after fulfilling their obligations to the League and the public under conditions that were of the worst, automatically forfeit four points. Could anything, apart from the flouting of the rules, be more farcical?  As regards the games that were played, well, to misquote Kipling, if mud be the price of admiralty, the six dozen soused, sodden and spattered stalwarts who prayed for five o’clock and hot showers may rightfully count themselves admirals all.

Both clubs maintained that the match was a draw and that each were entitled to competition points.  But the league’s administration failed to see it that way.  The rules today though would not allow such a situation to take place.

The Monday Night following the game the league maintained that each club broke all of the laws of the game which said, “games shall be played in wet or fine weather.”

Both were denied any competition points and each were fined two pounds ($175.00 in today’s money).  Also, club officials were severely censured by the league and this was even after the their delegates had argued that the ground was totally unfit for play and the game should be replayed.  It was not.

At the end of the season, two or four points to each club mattered not.  Newtown was in third position on 42 points, eighteen behind St George in second place and Sydney finished in fourth position, on 36 points.

Match in Parkes

1930 Newtown jumper smallSome time ago we wrote about a match in 1910 when the strong Paddington Club visited Forbes to play a game.1931 South Sydney jumper small

Again, in 1929 two Sydney teams, premiers Newtown and third placed South Sydney travelled to both Forbes and Parkes to play exhibition matches in both centres to drum up support for the game in the districts.

The Central West Australian Rules Football Association had been formed in April 1929 with teams from Parkes, Forbes, Gunningbland (a local district west of Parkes) and Tullamore making up the competition.  The Gunningbland team was formed in 1928.

Charlie Cardiff, the 42 year old bank manager with the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd in Parkes was elected president. G C Taylor the secretary and Bob Taylor, treasurer.  Both were from Forbes.  Parkes was selected to be the centre of the competition and advertisements were placed for umpires with a pay rate starting at one guinea (one pound one shilling or $77 today).

The same year it was decided to invite two Sydney teams to the area to play an exhibition match and they were pleased to receive a positive reply from the Sydney league saying that it would not only be an exhibition game but one would be a competition match, and arrangements were immediately commenced.

It was difficult to introduce a new game to the area and with Rugby League then part of the sporting culture and it proved more difficult as time went on.  They were not in favour of a new code being introduced to the area, particularly one with Victorian antecedents.

Cardiff had provisionally arranged use of the only sporting ground in Parkes, the Peoples’ Park, as the venue for the Sydney match however when they made a more formal approach to the local Council they were told that the Rugby League club had the rights to the ground and they would have to deal with them.  Of course the club refused their application stating that they had arranged another fixture on that day.  It was later revealed that no such fixture was scheduled.

This led to a conference between the Council, Australian Football delegates and officials of the Rugby League club.

The Sydney teams were to play two fixtures on that June Long Weekend.  One on Saturday and the other on the Monday.  Initially there was some conjecture as to whether Parkes should be the Saturday or Monday venue but because of the train timetables it was decided that Monday would better suit arrangements.

The meeting could not at first resolve the situation but when Charlie Cardiff said his group was willing to pay some compensation to the Rugby League Club for upsetting their fixtures, an agreement was reached immdiately.  They would be paid 10% of the gate.

So the date was set for Monday 3 June.  Admission was two shillings ($7.40 in today’s money) for men, one shilling for ladies and sixpence for children.

A contingent of 48 was ferried from Forbes to Parkes on Sunday afternoon in cars provided by the members of the Gunningbland club, they were then dispersed into several different hotels for their accommodation .  A Civic Reception for the teams was held on the morning of the game.

The big match was preceded by a game between local clubs Parkes and Tullamore at 12.30pm

The match, which included no less than ten state players, attracted about 1,000 spectators paying forty four pounds ($3,262) in admission charges and umpired by leading Sydney whistle blower, Tom King.

South Sydney won the game 9-11 (61) to 4-21 (45) in very blustery conditions.  The players then caught the evening train to Sydney.

In 1930 Tallmore withdrew from the competition, citing distance as the main reason.  Fortunately they were replaced by Yarranvale and also Wongalea, both representing local districts or most probably sheep stations. However in 1931 both Parkes and Forbes abandoned the competition both attributing distance as cause for their departure. For example, the Forbes Club had to pay two pounds five shillings ($167.00)to the local P & A Association each time they used the showground for games.  This was aside from the public risks costs the club also paid.

Click here for map of the area and towns.

Tullamore reformed in 1933 but could not last and Trundle briefly supported a team in 1934.  However the following year Gunningbland and Wongalea were all that was left as surviving members of the Association.  The new Condobolin association was making overtures for new clubs as the page closed on the Central West competition.