– 1904 Continued

The Maroons

There is more interesting data about football in Sydney in 1904.  Space did not allow us to publish it in its entirety in the last issue.


The Adverse Weather Committee decided at 11 o’clock that the game Melbourne v Essendon must be played. As the rain was then falling in torrents at the SCG, with every prospect of continuing, many  thought the game would be not worth looking at.  At 1 o’clock a change took place, and by 2 the sun was shining and the rain had cleared off.”

So reported the local media with the VFL playing this round 4 clash in Sydney in a further effort to re-establish the game in there.

In local football, North Shore, or the Maroons, as they were known then, were easily the best side in the competition winning the flag over Balmain 5-13 to 2-8 after a season without defeat.  The previous year the club finished runner-up.

In July North Shore played the strong Melbourne School side, Wesley College when they toured Sydney.  Wesley easily won all their games leading up to the Shore match including a game on 12 July  against a team of teachers 29-19  to 6-4 at the SCG.  [1]

Then, there was so much rain though on the scheduled date of the North Shore encounter it was put over until the following Wednesday and on this occasion one of the spectators was the NSW Govenor, Sir Harry Rawson.  North Shore won 9-10 to 6-17 before a good mid week crowd. [2]

A month later on 13 August North Shore took on the strong Albury Imperials side also at the SCG and won 8-6 to 7-10 before a poor crowd estimated at 500 people.   Albury was at that stage, also undefeated in their local competition and strongly fancied their chances. [3}

In first grade, the Alexandria club were absorbed into the nearby Redfern side.

1904 though was a satisfying season for the league.  We have mentioned in a previous article the schools that participated in the regular weekly schools competition.  One of the organisers was Albert Nash, president of the NSWFL.  He told a meeting that 57 Sydney public schools were involved. [4]

The Catholic Primary Schools’ Association also held a competition involving the following schools :— St Patrick’s (Church Hill), St. Mary’s (City), Sacred Heart (Darlinghurst), St. Francis’ (Paddington), St. Charles (Waverley), St. Francis (City), St. Benedict’s (George Street), St. Vincent’s (Redfern), St. James (Forest Lodge), St. Augustine’s (East Balmain), St. Joseph’s (Balmain) and St. Mary’s (North Shore). Bro. Bonaventure, of St. Francis, acted as hon. sec. of the Association. [5]

The Reserve grade was conducted as a separate competition and not by the League.  It was known as the NSW Football Association and involved Hawkesbury Ag College, South Sydney, Darlinghurst, St Leonards, Sydney A and Balmain A teams.

The final was played at Richmond on the Hawkesbury Ag College ground where they defeated the young South Sydney team 6-10 to 1-8 but not without incident:

1907 Premiership Ladder

“Sir, — I read in your issue of last night a letter from Mr. Millard on the final match for the above, between Hawkesbery College and South Sydney, and would like to make a few remarks concerning the game. There was never a match won more on its merits. The College were leading by 31 points when the South Sydney team complained that it was too dark to continue, and started to walk off the field. The umpire agreed in my presence to go on with the game, but the South Sydney sportsmen kept arguing with him till it became too dark. The College timekeeper, when play ceased, made one and a half min. short of full time, and the South Sydney timekeeper then said there were three minutes to go, but since I think he has stretched It a bit. As the Australian rules are trying to get a footing in New South Wales it is a pity some thorough sportsmen cannot, be induced to play the game in place of some of the players who would call themselves such. It Is also a pity that when a team is fairly and badly beaten they cannot take their defeat In the proper spirit. — Yours. &c.,

K. C. HARPER, Hawkesbury College, Rlchmond, Aug. 30, ’04.” [6]

A month earlier the Hawkesbury side had received a “drubbing”at the hands of the the visiting Wesley College when the latter visited their Richmond ground.  The final score Wesley 14-11 to 2-6. [7]

[1]   Australian Star 13 July 1904, page 2
[2]   Australian Star 14 July 1904, page 2
[3]   Sydney Morning Herald 15 August 1904, page 4
[4]  Sydney Sportsman, Wednesday 28 September 1904, page 7
[5]  ibit

[6]   Australian Star, Friday 2 September 1904, page 2
[7]   Australian Star, Friday 8 July 1904, page 2

NSW v Melbourne FC

Ever s1923-07-31 Sydney Sportsman p.1 A thumbnailince football was played in NSW, a highlight of the season has been the visitation of an interstate team.

Before the establishment of the VFL in 1897 they came from the VFA and South Australia, then after the resurrection of the game in Sydney in 1903 visiting teams came thick and fast:  Geelong, South Melbourne, Williamstown, Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, North Adelaide, Norwood and the list goes on and on.

You can view what teams did visit and how they performed up to 1930 by clicking here and search under ‘Advanced Search’.

On most occasions the visitors left the gate with the NSW Football League to further enhance the game in Sydney.  But, the league battled.  There was never any real foresight, planning and strategies put in place to develop and grow the game in the early days.  They merely survived from year to year.

One club that did visit Sydney on four occasions was the Melbourne Football Club.

They played NSW or a Combined Sydney side on four separate occasions, winning one and losing three, but two of those were within a very close margin.

The game they crowed about was the win in 1911.  NSW won the game 14-12 (96) to 10-14 (74) and didn’t the local press pump up the win.  One headline read: Victors a Trifle Superior All Round, and Home Team Wins Brilliantly but the best read: NSW Whips Melbourne.  Were victories against these interstate teams all that rare – The Answer: Yes.

The Signing of Davies was Unethical

1926 Fred Davies smallYou have probably never heard of Freddie Davies  …  not many football followers these days have.

But Fred was one of those rare players from NSW (Sydney), who went on to captain a VFL Club, but that was in 1934.  Ironically Davies was not the first Sydneyite to captain his VFL Club, Fitzroy.  Chris Lethbridge from the now defunct, YMCA Club was captain in 1922 and later non-playing coach.

However Fred had an ignominious start to his VFL career.

Born in Sydney he attended Double Bay Public School where the headmaster, Tom Stafford, was a keen (Australian) football supporter and one of few teachers in Sydney who actively promoted the game in and out of school.

Following his schooling the snowy headed Fred was elevated to the ranks of  local senior club, Paddington and by 1925 was a permanent fixture in their first grade.  When the team combined with East Sydney in 1926 he went on to become one of the stars of the new Eastern Suburbs Club and the league.

He represented NSW against the VFL, Richmond and Footscray Clubs in 1925 and twice against the VFL in 1926 so he was no slouch.

Then in the All-States carnival held in Melbourne in 1927 where he again was representing the state, the manager of the NSW team, Leo Percy, made an astounding announcement at a public function.

He told those gathered at a dinner held during the carnival where officials from all of the VFL clubs were present “I want to refer to the despicable action of the officials of one of your League clubs in persuading Davies, one of our best men, to sign an agreement to play with their team next season. I can assure you that I will do my utmost to prevent it”

It was an unfortunate introduction to league football for Davies.  It was also reported that he knocked back a big offer £4/10/, a week ($340 in today’s money and well in excess of the weekly wage) to play football and a job in the bargain in 1928, however it wasn’t until 1930 that he made his entry to Melbourne football in a season where he played the whole 18 games.

Fred ended up playing 63 games for Fitzroy from 1930-34 during a period when they didn’t enjoy the best of success.  He gained the captaincy in his last year by default when the original captain (and coach), Jack Cashman was of the opinion that he did not have the committee’s complete confidence and went off to play with Carlton after only two games.  It was then that the captaincy of the side was thrown in Fred’s lap and he went on to lead the side for the rest of the season, winning his first (against Carlton) and a further five games for the year.

After that the 28 year old pulled up stumps and returned to Sydney where he was appointed captain of the new St George Club and later leading them to a premiership in 1937.

Jack Dean Passes 2

1958 Jack Dean smallSydney Hall of Fame member and just about a legend in Sydney, if not NSW football, Jack Dean, passed away this week he was 87.

He had an active involvement in Sydney football between 1944-1982.

Born in Sydney and due to his father’s influence (Joe Dean who also played for Easts) he joined Eastern Suburbs Football Club aged 16.

He didn’t play many junior games but almost straight into the seconds then after a short apprenticeship he was elevated to the seniors where he stayed for many years.

He was chosen to play for NSW as a 17 year old and went on to become a driving force as a ruckman for Eastern Suburbs, representing NSW on 25 occasions.

He played in the Eastern Suburbs Club’s record breaking premierships 1953-58 and then moved to Ardlethan in the Riverina where he coached for the 1959 & 1960 season.  He returned to coach Eastern Suburbs in 1961.

The following year Jack crossed to the Sydney Naval Club, which also used Trumper Park as its home ground and played there until he retired in 1966.

He won four Best & Fairest awards with the Bulldogs as well was runner up four times at Easts.

In 1958 he won the Best & Fairest trophy for Division II representing NSW in the Centenary Carnival in Melbourne.

Jack was president of Easts from 1970-82, when the club won six premierships.

He received the ANFC Merit Award for Service to Australian Football in 1977.

He was a junior state coach and selector and also selector in the senior division, including the period of Alan Jean’s involvement.

In a playing career spanning 22 years, Jack played 420 senior games.

Later in life Jack joined the NSW Football History Committee which eventually morphed into what it has become today, the Football History Society.1961 - Jack Dean marking over John McKenzie (Newt.) thumbnail

Travel to new rooms at the Western Suburbs Club precluded him for continuous involvement however he maintained his membership and was a strong supporter of the organisation encouraging many of his football friends and his family to join.

He looked forward to receiving our publications and getting along to the annual Christmas gathering, where possible.  This year Jack attended the launch of the Society’s book on the impact WWI had on Sydney football.

The football world is a poorer place because of his demise but his contribution has and will continue to be immortalised in Sydney football.

Umpire Didn’t Hear The Siren

Timekeepers Clock
Timekeepers Clock

I bet you have heard stories of the umpiring failing to hear the sire/bell or alarm to end a quarter or in fact a game.

One of the most recent incidents was in 1987 when leading Sydney umpire Frank Kalayzich, who incidentally retired this year following an illustrious career with the whistle, failed to hear the final siren at Trumper Park and in those vital few seconds of the match St George goaled to snatched a narrow three point win over Pennant Hills in the first semi final.

One of main reasons is that timekeepers fail to continuously sound the alarm at the end of the quarter, which is still the case in some games. Timekeepers are required to keep sounding the siren or ring the bell – if they still use those things, until the umpire in charge of the play signifies that he has heard it and ends the quarter.  THIS is what happened in 1987.

In April 1946 it was again failure of the timekeepers to ring the bell ‘sufficiently’ which caused the field Victorian field umpire Tom Jamieson not to end a game between Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney . Easts won by 90 points.

At the end of the first quarter Jamieson complained that neither he nor the players near him had heard the bell rung. He instructed the timekeepers to keep ringing the bell until he had signified that he had heard it.

A couple of years later it was all on again: In August 1951 the match between Sydney (Naval) and Newtown ended in confusion when central umpire Wal Craig, a future umpires’ coach, failed to hear the full-time bell.

Sydney won a thrilling game – the best of the season – by one point, the scores being Sydney 12-18 (90), Newtown 12-17 (89).

After the game, rumours that the game had ended in a draw caused a fight between rival women spectators in the stand. One of the women involved in the fight was crying as she was escorted from the ground by a friend.

When the bell was rung the had been kicked over the fence.  Craig, who had not heard the bell, told the boundary umpire to throw it in. It was then that Newtown ruckman Jack Armstrong sensed that Craig had not heard the bell, picked up the ball and kicked it to another Newtown player, who kicked for goal. By this time other players realised what was happening and raced towards play. Sydney full forward Bert Dickson won the race and kicked it over the boundary line, just outside the Sydney point post. Had the ball gone through the posts, Newtown would have drawn with Sydney.

While official Newtown timekeeper Bill Townsend continued to ring the bell, Sydney timekeeper Albert Bates ran on to the field to tell Craig the game was over.

Craig was greeted with cheers and boos as he left the ground. He was also heckled by a crowd waiting outside the gates.

In June 1954 in a game between North Shore and South Sydney, umpire Bill Wagener did not hear the bell and bounced the ball up, two yards from South’s goals. A North player gained possession but failed to get a clear kick at goal, and scored a point.

South won 12-8 (80) to 10-17 (77), after leading by l8 points at three quarter time.

There was no bell at the Moore Park match between Railway and Sydney on 15 May 1920, and the time keeper had to yell out ‘time’. The umpire failed to hear, though some of the players did and knocked off. While they were leaving the ground Shannon, of Sydney kicked a goal, and it went down on the card.

These are familiar stories with umpires failing to hear the bell. But it is not normally their fault.

The club supplying the equipment sometimes provide sub-standard equipment and quite often timekeepers are unaware of their responsibilities with regards to time-keeping, maintaining the score and what to do in the event of a drawn final.  But most particularly and in many cases, they fail to continuously sound the alarm device.

And don’t let us revisit the 1961 finals debacle when TWO finals games were subject to time-keeping problems.

We have been plagued by these events in the past and are bound to be in the future.

VFL Moves to Sydney

How long is it since South Melbourne relocated to Sydney and went on to become the Sydney Swans?

If you said thirty-three years you would be right.

They have now established themselves as part of the Sydney sporting scene, trend setters in a number of ways and accepted by many whom 30 years ago could not spell Australian football.  Of course now its the turn of GWS to make their mark in Sydney.

But those who orchestrated the move, who pushed the VFL into playing outside of Melbourne, a move which eventually led to the creation of a national competition?  Who were they? Well, they now have all but gone.

You might ask, who was it that came up with the Sydney idea and why?

The VFL president at the time, Allen Aylett, (pictured) certainly was in the box seat for the change and history will probably recognize him as the man responsible for change.

Allen is now 82 and there is no doubting his footballing talent.  He played 220 games with the North Melbourne club, captain and later president leading North to change its image from also-rans into that of a football powerhouse.

But the VFL had to tread on egg-shells in their effort, not so much to make a presence in Sydney, but to convince their clubs of the move, to overcome the straitlaced Victorian Government’s ‘no football on Sunday policy’ (apart from the VFA) and at the same time appease the struggling grass roots football fraternity in Sydney.

In 1980 the fractured NSW Football League administration met with Aylett and VFL General Manager, Jack Hamilton with regards to the possible establishment of a VFL club in Sydney.

The then erstwhile secretary of the NSWAFL, Kevin Taylor, a fastidious administrator who left no stone unturned in documenting a record of the meeting, gave a very factual account of the gathering in the league’s 1980 annual report which can be read here.

More specifically, Kevin’s record of the meeting and what was said is set out here.

Let us not forget that certainly in the first year of South Melbourne’s move to Sydney, the VFL:  rostered a Sydney Football League match as curtain raiser to the main game, paid the Sydney Football League $1,000 as compensation (for what is unsure) each time a VFL game was played at the SCG and most importantly negotiated with the VFL television carrier to telecast the match Australia wide.

And how will history judge Allen Aylett, the dentist who gave so much of his time and energy to change only to have his wings clipped by the VFL in 1983.  We hope people see Allen as a true champion and leader of our great game.

Alas these memories are soon cast aside as life moves on through time and some other issue grabs the attention of the footballing public.  But never so much as the time of the VFL’s move to Sydney.

Is Sydney Footy Growing?

Growth smallMany times the statement has been said Sydney football is not what it used to be.

Well I guess there could be agreement and disagreement to this statement. Anyone playing or involved in a particular era may well say that football in their time was the strongest.

How do you judge? Well you can’t.

The strength of clubs come and go. Who in their wildest dreams would have imagined that the strongest and most successful club in the competition for decades, Newtown, would fold?

They produced quite a number of VFL (now AFL) players, one of whom went on to captain and coach St Kilda.

The quality of football in Sydney, the nation’s largest city, remains pretty much as it has always been, good, fair and reasonable. But it would never compare with the VFL, SANFL or WAFL.

Generally the strength of the game moved to areas where juniors were encouraged in growing and developing pockets in the city. But it is true that clubs like East Sydney (formerly Eastern Suburbs) thrived on the talent of young footballers who moved to Sydney and took up residence in the Eastern Suburbs.

But all that has changed. Yes, there is still a migration of players but living in the eastern suburbs is quite expensive, in fact anywhere in Sydney is costly.

And let us not forgot those servicemen who played their part in Sydney football.

The army had several bases in and around Sydney as did the navy which had a number of land bases besides the ships whose home port was Garden Island.  And later the influence of the RAAF from Richmond and bases near Bankstown.  At any one time most Sydney clubs boasted service personnel in their number.  Many of these bases though have either been abandoned or moved interstate.

And, on the former subject, from what we can glean there are not the numbers of players relocating to Sydney even temporarily. Certainly not the glut of blue collar workers there used to be. Most of those who now make the move are office workers, IT specialists, professionals and the like. It’s now left to Sydney’s outer suburbs to supply the tradies and labourers in football.  Now remember, this is a general statement, not specific.

In most clubs there is that thin veneer of dedicated officials who keep the club afloat. One enthusiast encourages another and another. Success breeds success but it never lasts, just look at the Campbelltown Club.  But so long as these officials can hang in success will eventually come.  It’s a big ask.

Has Sydney footy grown? Well that’s questionable. No definite figures have been kept on the growth of the game since WWII, and if a real push to increase the participation rate exists, they need to be.  They need to be so some comparison can be made.  The advice to contemporary officials: don’t reinvent the wheel and certainly do not repeat the mistakes of the past.  Probably a well worn statement but unless these mistakes and for that fact successes, are documented then they will occur again.

Are the annual team/player figures accessible at both junior and senior level? Most probably but it would take some digging.

We look to junior clubs to produce our senior footballers. Are there the same number of junior clubs say, 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years ago and are they churning out the same numbers today?

You would be surprised at the depth of Sydney junior football in the seventies and eighties and officials of today probably look back at those years saying “we are doing it better.” Maybe you can now get chilli sauce on your hotdog at the canteen, but so far as doing it better, I doubt it.  It’s all about the passion.

Is it subjective, well do the maths. Look at the number of juniors going through to senior football today and those who have made the AFL ranks as compared to yesteryear.

The drop-off at 15-17 years of age in all sport will probably never really be curtailed but it could be challenged. Now with all these divisions in Sydney footy, if there is not one in existence for ‘turn up and play’ participants, a strategy could be developed to encourage these young men, some of whom may have struggled at the game, to reconnect and play in this or another of those divisions. Maybe, as we said it’s where you just turn up and play. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

The game needs as many participants as possible, not just stars. More bums on seats. Many young guys may not be standouts in the game but if they stay involved they become supporters and/or officials and eventually parents, the game will need their sons and daughters and as time goes on, their children participating as well.

Its a big job with a lot of smart thinking required.


Crowd - early small
Bigger Crowds at the New Game?

The two opposing football bodies, the Australian Football Council, representing all states for the Australian game and the NSW Rugby League, again got together to discuss the formation of a game that would see an amalgamation of the two codes.  Well that was the thinking.

This time it was in 1933 and once more at a time when a national 10 day carnival was held in Sydney.

A preliminary meeting with representatives of both groups was appointed to establish some starting rules of the game and a secret match under those rules was played on the morning of Friday, 11 August at the RAS Showground, Moore Park (now FOX Studios).

Most of the players who took part in the encounter were members of the Queensland Australian Football team who were in Sydney for the carnival. Needing enough for two fourteen man teams, their number was supplemented by some local Rugby League players.  The trouble was that all players were not familiar with these new rules and the Queensland players, in particular, had played a tough match the day before against ˜Canberra.”

At a more formal meeting at Rugby League Headquarters held on the night of the game, 165 Phillip Street, Sydney,  Horrie Miller, Secretary of the NSW Rugby League gave a detailed report on the drafting of the rules, a brief description and a few of those rules, appears below:

It was suggested that the field of play would be divided up in a manner somewhat similar to the Rugby field with the exception that the goal posts be put on the (rugby) dead ball line and the touch-in-goal area in front of the goal posts instead of behind them.  In place of having a 25 yard line from the posts, it was set at 35 yards at each end.  In the central area it was proposed the Australian game should be played with the pass back and the tackle, there being no off-side in that area.  However, inside the 35 yard areas, the off-side rule would apply, as recognized by Rugby League.

The rules provided for fourteen aside, but only twelve aside were available, the Australian Rules men being mainly Queenslanders. The Rugby field was used and a 35 yards area at each end set aside in which offside, applied and not elsewhere. It was said there was a touch of soccer in the game. Tries and goals were the means of scoring.

There were many other rules to this new game but the one concerning the off-side rule, appeared to be a point of contention.

It would appear that Mr Miller was a leading proponent for the introduction of a new game and went to great lengths to get the two groups talking as well as making arrangements for the trial game.

Various speakers expressed the view that any amalgamation would have to be gradual and that if each code introduced features of the other, the game could be brought together in a few years.

Mr Miller made a very interesting point when he said “I may say that the idea in drawing up this code of rules was to make the play as open as possible.  We are giving what you Australian rule (sic) people are asking for and what the Australian public require, that is action.”

“In fact” he added, “it is action all the time.  At no stage of the game would the ball be dead.”

The meeting was chaired by Mr E H Tassie who was the South Australian Representative on the Council.

After listening to the speakers from the NSW Rugby League, he made the comment that  ‘his group’s sincerity over the matter (the amalgamated game) might have been questioned, but, as delegates on a trip to Sydney, our actions have been such as should stay any criticism in that respect.”

The delegates from both sides kept their comments to what we would describe these days, as “niceties”.rugby - early small invert

Eventually, the following motion was carried unanimously by the combined seventeen man delegates:

That the suggested rules drawn up by the sub-committee for that purpose, form the basis of a report back to the various clubs, and, if in their opinion, these bodies consider a further conference desirable, such conference be held.

It was fine for the Rugby League delegates to give such a commitment but the Australian Football Council was comprised of delegates who represented each state and while most took notice of the resolutions of this body, it is reasonable to say that these were not all binding and this was particularly the case of the VFL.  In many eyes, particularly towards the end of its life, The Australian Football Council or later, the National Football Council, were considered by many as a toothless tiger.

One significant matter on both sides was the strong personalities “who would not have a brass tack of the other game. They think they have a good thing, and that if the other party wants to come into the fold he must do so and not expect any amalgamation. ‘Let the Rugby League take on our game,’ said an Australian Rules hard citizen. ‘Let the Victorians take on the Rugby League game. They would play it well,’ said a Sydney man.

The whole issue had its fate decided when the NSW Rugby League met on 14 August where the matter was discussed in detail.

Mr.S.G Ball proposed and Mr. J. Craig seconded that the report be received and no further action taken. He added that their own game at present needed all their care and attention.  This was carried, after debate, by 15 to 10.

It was doubted that the respective state leagues would have supported such an extraordinary change to the rules of their (Australian) game so the early decision of the Rugby League, in a way, put a dampener on any possibility of a future mission into changing rules or the combining of games and the issue having any caustic repercussions to the AFC delegates.

Locally, a later proposition was put whether a new game would have supplanted the Australian code on the one hand and Rugby League on the other, is quite another matter. It was thought old sympathies, ties, friendships, and traditions would probably, have held the present games intact.

We shall never know.

The Australian and Rugby League Game Combine – Round 1?

1914 Hybrid Game Field smallCan you imagine a football game which came from an amalgamation of Australian Football and Rugby League?

Well it was on the cards.  Not once, but twice such a proposal was considered last century.

The first was in 1914 when a conference was held by high level officials of both codes in Sydney during the national all-states carnival in August.

Despite calls that such a move would simply be stupid and a waste of time, many took the proposal very seriously. So serious that a series of conferences were held.

From what we can discern, it was the brainchild of Charles Brownlow, the long term Geelong Football Club secretary and delegate to the VFL at the time.  He was also their delegate to the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) which first promoted this idea of amalgamation.

Apparently his reasoning was the perceived failure of the 1914 Carnival in Sydney, noting that thousands had attended games by the Australian Rugby League team against the English touring side only weeks before at the SCG.  These matches had drawn 38,000 & 41,000 spectators respectively and a further 40,000 at the Sydney Showground during the same period.

He argued that if Rugby League could draw crowds of that nature and games of Australian Football could do the same in Melbourne and to some extent, Adelaide, why not introduce a combined game which could appease everyone?  Some commentators even went as far as identifying the thousands of pounds in gate money the Football Council could derive.

Then followed an additional conference of delegates held in Melbourne in November of the same year.  The attendees decided not to release any details of the meeting until a further date.  Mr. H. (Horrie) R. Miller, secretary of the N.S.W. Rugby League, said that “the day decided on for giving out the news was Thursday, Nov. 19,” the day following the next meeting of his League. But added “I can say this, the result of the conference is far beyond our most sanguine expectations. This will be agreeable news to many, surprising news to many, who look upon the movement as Utopian. However, it is a wonderful world, and we shall see.”

Later that month, after considering the proposals for a new code of rules, by the amalgamation of the Rugby League and Australian game, the New South Wales Rugby League said it was favourable to a change.  So, if the Australian Football bodies in the various States were also in favour, the new game would be adopted, and it was thought that matches could be played in 1915 as ‘curtain raisers’ to the competition engagements.

Discussion over the summer months leading into 1915 as to whether Australian Football, should agree to change their rules in order to come up with a hybrid game.  By early February it was announced that the NSW Rugby League and the South Australian National Football League agreed to an amalgamation of codes.

Alex McCracken, president of the VFL told the media that conference delegates had tentatively agreed to certain proposals which were being submitted to the various state leagues for a decision.  At the same time, the NSW (Australian) Football League unanimously agreed to the following alterations:

1. A crossbar between the goal posts, 10ft (183cm) from the ground. The ball to be kicked over the bar to constitute a goal; a ball going under the bar to count as a behind; the behind posts to be retained, and behinds scored as at present.

2. Throwing or knocking the ball backwards, that is, the player in possession of the ball who knocks or throws the ball, must always be between such ball and the goal towards which he is kicking.

3. When a player in possession of the ball is collared, he may be thrown or pushed aside, even though he drops the ball immediately he is caught. The tackle in such instances will permit a player to catch an opponent between the hips and the shoulders. Unless a deliberate foul occurs, no penalty shall be allowed for such tackle.

It appeared though, as far Victoria was concerned there was no likelihood of any drastic alterations to the rules of their game.  However, it was considered one or two amendments could be made. Speaking at the Carlton FC annual meeting in late January, Mr. McCracken said ˜they would be very careful about making any change in the game which they all liked,” with several in the audience interjecting, ‘Carlton won’t have it.’ Mr. Gardiner, a Carlton delegate at the VFL meeting, said “it was waste of time discussing it.”

The VFL said at a special meeting that it had decided to defer consideration of the matter until additional information was in hand.

At its mid-April meeting, the VFL decided to report the decision of the League to the Australasian Football Council. During the discussion the whole of the arguments were directed towards showing that the alterations proposed would improve the Australian game. Each dealt with a point discussed long before the proposed amalgamation of the codes was ever mentioned.

In reading the reports, I don’t think the VFL clubs were ever serious about any change.

By 12 May not all states had replied to the Australian National Football Council’s request for a decision on amalgamation of codes.

With further pressure of the Great War impinging on society throughout the country, the whole subject seemed to just peter out.

The attached image shows a suggested field placements for an amalgamated game.

In our next article we will explore the 1933 attempt at amalgamating the codes.  This time there were proper rules and other details drawn up for implementation.


1909In August 1909 three VFL teams, Collingwood, Geelong and South Melbourne visited Sydney to play a series of matches which included games against NSW.

They each brought their best teams with each of the games played at (the old) Erskineville Oval over a period of about two weeks.

That year, South Melbourne would go on to win the premiership, and remarkably enough, their game against NSW was very competitive.

Jack Incoll
Jack Incoll

Unlike the other two games (against Geelong & Collingwood), the South Melbourne encounter was played on a Saturday.  This very much impacted on the crowd and with one shilling entry (10c) plus an extra six pence (5c) to the stand, the game raised a gate of one hundred and twenty pounds ($240), certainly was not a bad take for the day.

NSW fielded about the best team available.  All players chosen were from Sydney.  One was Jack Incoll, a 30 year old Newtown player who had turned out for both  South Melbourne and Collingwood during the seasons prior to coming to Sydney.  Another, was team mate Con McCormack, a former Collingwood player who, at 31 had not lost his touch.

Con McCormack
Con McCormack

Balmain player Jack Ashley was selected in the forward pocket for NSW.  He was a big man who would go on to win the Magarey Medal playing for Port Adelaide a few years later.  So the NSW team was peppered with quite a number of talented players.

Of course Ralph Robertson, the mercurial East Sydney then North Shore player was almost a permanent fixture in the state team from 1903-14.  He had played for St Kilda as a youngster and was another who was in constant form.  Already there is a contemporary push to have him included in the AFL’s Hall of Fame.

NSW were two points down at quarter time, one point at the long break but let their opponents draw five goals ahead at three quarter time.  The Blues however rallied and were a chance to take the game but the bounce of the ball favoured South during the final term who went on to win 10-19 to 7-10.

The following Wednesday, NSW with six changes from their team of the previous weekend, put up a great performance.  Geelong had taken out the wooden spoon in 1908 and in 1909 finished second last.

The Blues led the Pivitonians at all of the breaks except the one that counted and were eventually defeated 15-12 (102) to 12-17 (89) before a mid week crowd which was described as ‘fair’.

The game against Collingwood was played on the following Wednesday, 18 September.  On this occasion NSW really had to squeeze to get their numbers. Eight of their regular representatives were not in the eighteen. In those days, people worked six days a week and even then, more hours than eight a day and yet it was this game that drew the biggest crowd.  The exact number is not enumerated but reports tell us that the attendance “was larger than that against South Melbourne, but the gate was about the same”.

All of the VFL teams made no claim on the gate which left the NSW League in the black at the end of the season.  They started the year with a debt of well over one hundred pounds ($200) which provided the opportunity for the League to further investigate, with now some justification, the purchase of a ground which would be their own.  But that is another, and a very, very interesting story.

The weakened NSW team had no chance against Collingwood where they could only manage three goals.  They were beaten 12-12 (84) to 3-10 (28).

It is interesting to read what the South Melbourne team got up to during their 1909 stay in Sydney:NSS Sobraon small

The South Melbourne team are having a splendid time, having enjoyed a *drag drive to Coogee on Wednesday, a launch trip to Middle Head on Thursday, launch trip to Parramatta, lunch a Correy’s Gardens on the return trip and an afternoon on board the **N.S.S. Sobraon yesterday, with a theatre party each evening since their arrival here.  At 10 o’clock this morning they leave the Hotel Grand Central for a drive round the Domain and Centennial Park.  There will be a theatre party after the match.”

*A drag was vehicular carriage normally pulled by four or six horses.  It had seats along the centre of its length facing outwards on each side.
**Sobraon was a ‘training ship’ for wayward boys.