Sydney Touring the Riverina

Prior to the first world war, the NSW Football League, as it was known then, undertook two Riverina tours with a Sydney representative team playing at different centres.

Several football associations in the Riverina had affiliated with the (almost) new NSWAFL, following its re-birth in 1903.  In response it was almost expected that the Sydney league would send teams into the area to play.  Besides representative teams, Sydney club sides also made the journey deep into the Riverina.

These representative tours took place in 1907 and 1908, and had a duration of seven days plus.  This was during a time when a separate and top line NSW team played elsewhere in an interstate fixture, so the Riverina touring side, for the most part, was Sydney’s second team“ comprised of those available.

The financial arrangements of these tours are not spelt out but we would assume that:

“Those who  ‘volunteered’ to play in these representative teams had the time to
do so. These were the days, certainly for manual workers, shop assistants,
carters and the like to be working 60 hours a week, some, even every day.  So
we are at a loss to say how they were able to  absent themselves from their
work unless they: were self-employed, the bosses son, took leave  (and not all
employees had the benefit of holidays) or were out of work.  Because of thee
restrictions it is reasonable to assume that those ˜selected’ (or who volunteered
to play), were not always the best players in the competition.
Also, in many cases in those early days of representative football, one of their
number, would second as the team manager, so a bare eighteen might travel “
there was no interchange or  reserves in those days.
The host league would pay the travel and accommodation costs.
All that the NSW Football League would do was to supply the jumpers, and
possibly the shorts and socks, all of which would have to be returned.
The number of representative games in the first decade or so of the last century was incredible and it is little wonder that the league almost persistently recorded an annual deficit.  Although it is fair to say that in the few years immediately following 1903, prominent interstate teams did not make a claim on the gate and in fact left any and all proceeds from their matches in Sydney with the local league.

 

YEAR

NSWAFL ANNUAL PROFIT
OR DEFICIT (-)

RBA 2013 INFLATION CALCULATION

KNOWN
REPRESENTATIVE GAMES

1907 £400.00 -$54,857.00

9

1908 £174.00 -$22,459.00

10

1909 £123.00 +$15,876.00

4

1910 £166.00 -$21,014.00

10

1911 £110.00 +13,662.00

6

1912 £39.00 -$5,476.00

3

1913 £165.00 -$18,409.00

5

Does this show a pattern?  The 1911 profit is almost certainly due to the subsidy of £225.00 (with inflation in today’s money: $27,946.00) received from the Australian National Football Council as NSW’s share of gate receipts from the all states carnival in Adelaide.

In 1907 and 1908, Sydney teams toured and played at Hay, Narrandera, Coolamon and Wagga.  The first of these tours was disastrous with some virtual unknowns making the trip in the Sydney team, probably due to their availability.  In their final game against the Wagga Association, the Sydney side had to call upon five players from Narrandera and Hay to make up their number.  Whether this was because of injury or withdrawal has not been established.

The next year they had a stronger team which included the NSW captain, Ralph Robertson, but nevertheless could not match it with some of their Riverina opponents.

 

YEAR

SYDNEY SCORE

OPPOSITION
SCORE

1907 2-10 (22) Hay F C 5-11 (47)
1907 2-1 (13) Narrandera F C 10-19 (79)
1907 5-6 (36) Coolamon F C 3-9 (27)
1907 5-5 (35) Wagga F A 10-27 (87)
1908 9-7 (61) Hay F C 7-22 (64)
1908 10-18 (78) Narrandera F C 8-14 (62)
1908 6-9 (45) Wagga F A 10-19 (79)

 

Unlike today, the trip to all centres was by train.  The first stop (passing through most of the others) was at Hay which is 755 rail kilometres from Sydney.  Incidentally and interesting piece came to light when researching this article, it was talking about Narrandera and Lockhart “Teams travel tremendous distances to take part in these matches – from ten to forty miles.  Greater difficulty will be experienced this season (1908) in bringing off these matches, owing to the scarcity of horses, brought about by the drought.  They must be very enthusiastic ……”

It was some years before more Sydney representative teams toured the area again, although a number of requests were received, even during the first world war.

NSW’s RECORD IN INTERSTATE FOOTY

1938 NSW State Team to Launceston 1 smallWe have often been asked about NSWs history of interstate games and how successful they had been over the years.

Well we can tell you that the NSW Football Association, the forerunner to the NSW Australian Football League, played their first representative game at the MCG on 1 July 1881.  The match was against the then VFA which was the first controlling body for football in Victoria.  The VFL was formed in 1897 from some clubs that then comprised the VFA.

Behinds were not counted in the score in those days, winners were judged by the number of goals they kicked and just as well in this first game because the VFA or Victoria, kicked 9-24 to 0-1.  The game in Sydney had only been going for 12 months while of course it was founded in Melbourne with the first game recognized as being played in 1858.

NSW played twenty six representative games between 1881 and until the Association’s demise in 1894 and only won against their regular nemeses, Queensland.  They drew several of their other matches, mostly because behinds were not counted, an anomaly in the game that was changed in 1897.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, VFL clubs were falling over themselves to visit and play against the locals.  Some of the games were listed as NSW versus … or Metropolitan or alternatively, Combined Sydney and many of the records of the matches were lost or no effort was kept to maintain them.  So it has taken many long years of research and investigation to locate details of the respective games.

NSW’s most significant victories have been two over the VFL which were both played in Sydney.  They won the first of these in 1923, 15-11 to 11-19 and the other two years later by a point 13-10 to 13-9.  It is fair to say though on the weekends these games were played, the VFL fielded at least two other representative sides playing other interstate games so maybe their top side was not that which was fielded against NSW.

In the first thirty years of the last century they defeated Queensland (on several occasions), Port Adelaide, Geelong (twice), Tasmania (twice), South Adelaide, West Torrens, Melbourne, ACT, Sth Aust Football Assn and most of these games were played in Sydney.  They lost the rest which we have calculated as seventy.

The state has competed in numerous national carnivals, which up until the first war were played every three years in different states however in latter decades were relegated to competition between Tasmania, ACT and Queensland while the other states played in the same carnival but against supposedly (and more correctly) stronger opposition between themselves.

NSW have also played in at least three amateur carnivals, the most recent in a country championships carnival in Wagga in 2012.  The other two were held in Adelaide in 1936 and Launceston in 1938 and we have included a photograph of the team taken as they travelled to the apple isle by boat.

As part of the 1988 Bi-Centenary celebrations, a pure State of Origin team was selected to compete in the carnival in Adelaide.  They lost their game against South Australia but recorded their first ever win over WA 10-8 to 9-12.

Some might remember the pseudo State of Origin team NSW fielded on a rainy night game against the VFL on May 22 at the SCG.  They won that match 13-8 to 10-16, much to the chargrin of Victorian selector, Ted Whitton.  We say pseudo because the team contained several Sydney Swans players who were not born, nor played their junior football in NSW.

To sum it up, NSW have lost far more than they have won in interstate contests and now the state combines their fortunes with players selected from the ACT, so here’s to the future.