– What Could Have Been and What Didn’t Happen

The Sydney Football League, NSW AFL, AFL Sydney or whatever title you want to give it, and its had a number of changes over the years, has really made few ground break decisions in its 124 year history.

In many cases the officials who ruled the game simply missed the boat.

The licensing laws only permitted a certain number of licensed clubs to operate in NSW up until the mid 1950s and this number did not vary.

Following WWII, Frank Dixon, who captained and coached the South Sydney club in a very successful period in the 1930s was appointed vice president of the league.  He talked the executive into him approaching the then, Australian National Football Council (ANFC) for a loan of $10,000 to establish a licensed club in Sydney.

Dixon, a staunch Labor man who ended up Deputy Lord Mayor or Sydney City Council, travelled to Melbourne by train in 1949 to attend a ANFC Meeting.  Incidentally, on the train happened to be the prime minister, Ben Chifley.  Dixon returned with the guarantee of the $10,000 from the ANFC but a nervous executive in Sydney went cold on the idea and it never went ahead.

In 1948 three new clubs were admitted to the league, Western Suburbs, Balmain and Sydney University.  Wests were the only club to go on taste success.  They played off in successive grand finals of 1952-53 but had to wait until 1963 until they won a flag.  Neither Balmain nor Sydney University clubs could boast success until much, much later.

In the meantime a team from Illawarra joined the competition in 1949-50 but the travel and their lack of success accounted for their departure.

This was a time when six clubs dominated the competition, Eastern Suburbs, Sydney Naval, Newtown, St George, North Shore and Western Suburbs.  Liverpool joined the competition in 1954 after a couple of successful seasons in the Metropolitan Australian National Football Assn (MANFA – or really a Second Division, which folded in 1953).  It was a time when the league should have bitten the bullet and formed two divisions.  It didn’t.  Sydney was a growing city and the league should have capitalised on the popularity of the game during the war and immediately after.

This was particularly the case again in the early 1960s after Uni had dropped out in 1958 but replaced by new club, Bankstown.  Again they should have travelled down the two division track but failed to act.

In 1960 however they did introduce a dramatic change to Sydney football when they reduced the number of players on the field to 16.  This was thought to produce better football on the smaller Sydney grounds and perhaps encourage the formation of new clubs and reduce the instances of backing up to a minimal.

The purists were enraged with this change and by mid-season clubs forced the hand of the league executive to return to the traditional eighteen aside.

The basically unsuccessful club of Liverpool joined forces with the other battler, Bankstown in 1962 then two years later encouraged another new club, Parramatta to combine with them to form a new club: Southern Districts.  Initially this venture  produced a competitive club but eventually failed.  What it did do in particular was rob a team playing Australian Game from the then far western suburbs.  Parramatta then played out of Mona Park, Auburn.

It was around the same time that efforts were being encouraged to form a licensed club for Australian football in Sydney.  They had enough members, sufficient commitment and had identified premises at 224 Riley Street Surry Hills, a former hotel which was then trading as a private hotel (boarding house).

The prime mover in this action unfortunately died and so without a leader the whole issue fell flat.

Eastern Suburbs had a licensed club at Bondi Junction but as successful as it was could not maintain the repayments to a very expensive loan which funded the addition to the premises and the club fell by the wayside.  North Shore went all out to gain a license in the premises of Polonia Northside soccer club in Walker Street North Sydney. They were successful in this enterprise but unfortunately too this eventually failed.

St George made it to the licensing court but were refused their bid for a license at Olds Park on some technicality.

Despite all this, there has been some success in Sydney football and this was quite recently.

Garry Burkinshaw, the man in charge of Sydney footy between 2007-2014 soon realised there were problems when he took over the reigns.

He listened to the gripes, he looked how they do it in soccer and studied Sydney football.

Burkinshaw maintained that Sydney footy was not as tribal as it is interstate.  Players come to play their game and go.  They don’t stick around for the next game and they certainly don’t stay all day.

He decided the answer was divisionalisation where teams from various clubs of apparent equal strength would be best suited playing against each other.  So, apart from the Premier League competition, a reserve grade team which might have battled in the senior division was dropped to third or fourth division in the new setup.

He took advice from clubs and said there was no real opposition to the model.  He got members from each club in a room and put his proposition.  It took over three months in the planning and together with colleague, Bob Robinson, they introduced a competition which has, for the most part, been extremely successful.

There are more teams winning games and all but St George, Camden and Illawarra clubs, from twenty four participating in the Sydney league,  have participated in finals.

This new and novel competition has promoted success in other clubs too.  Penrith who were down to one team now boast three, North-West are fielding more sides along with Camden and there a four new clubs now participating in the competition. (this article was initially published in 2012)

This new system leaves it open for established teams to field more teams and enthuse new or junior clubs to field senior teams.  The way is open for the establishment of more clubs but most particularly, nearly all competitions in Sydney senior football are competitive.

The downside to divisionalisation is that clubs MUST be particularly organised.  Three teams could be playing at three different locations so all players and officials have had to commit themselves to turn up,  in all probability in these circumstances, there would be not players to back up in the event there is not a full team to take the field.  Each team must be a self contained unit: umpire (if required), goal umpire, runner, water boys, manager, runner etc.

At least one Sydney initiative has succeeded but apparently with those purists at it again is now up for change

 

 

Movement in the Seventies

The development and expansion of NSW football took place mostly in the 1970s really makes you ask why?

The last major addition to Sydney football was in 1948 when Western Suburbs and Balmain re-emerged and Sydney University were formed.

But in the seventies not only did new clubs appear in Sydney, including Manly, St Ives, Sutherland, Blacktown, Mac Uni, Bankstown Sports, Campbelltown, Pennant Hills etc. but new leagues developed on the South Coast, the Illawarra and Central Coast  all spawning new teams.

One reason offered for the expansion of the game was that the baby boomers began moving out to the suburbs and regional areas.

City clubs like Sydney Naval, South Sydney and later Newtown felt that exit and went out of business.  These were inner city clubs that excelled during the first half of the last century but struggled when the youth was no longer there to take over.

The East Sydney Club, formerly Eastern Suburbs, emerged out of an amalgamation of Paddington and East Sydney Clubs in 1926.  They withstood the exodus for most of the century however they began to rely heavily on interstate players and players from out of their area.  They kept a junior division but it struggled to sustain the re-supply of players needed at senior club level.  Eventually they combined with the University of NSW in 2000 to form a new club, UNSW-ES.

This was the first time their officials saw the need to merge whilst Sydney (Naval) on the other hand had combined with the reserve grade Public Service Club in 1923 and not that much later with Balmain in 1926.  On both occasions they stuck with their given name.  They did however toy with the idea of changing the title to Glebe in about 1930, shortly after shifting their home ground to Wentworth Park, but, they maintained the title, Sydney, until 1944 when the naval influence in the club resolved to alter it to Sydney Naval.

Clubs have come and gone;  the present Blacktown club for example is the third to assume that name.

While Newtown faded off to oblivion there did appear to be a whisker of light with the emergence of a new Newtown junior club some years ago. The aging South Sydney faithful may hold out a glimmer of hope that one day the Randwick Saints might work their way to the purpose built Australian football ground at Kensington Oval.  But, like Trumper Park, the grandstand there has been demolished.

Ahhh – the struggle

StruggleThis story might bring a picture of wonderment to present day followers of the game.

Supporting, playing or being involved in football in years gone by was always a battle, ironically though, publicity in the major Sydney newspapers was never a stranger to Australian Football however on many occasions it was written with a negative slant. Maybe that helped sell more papers; you see it was always seen by some for many, many years as a them (Melbourne) and us (Sydney) jealousy thing and this attitude which at times permeates the game in NSW still remains.

Such is the case in the following article published in in 1962 in the Sydney Sun, an afternoon newspaper published in Sydney:

Peaceful and dull

One of the imponderables of Sydney sport is the tenuous hold of Australian Rules the winter pride and joy in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.

 

A Sunday afternoon visit to Picken Oval, one of the Australian Rules centres, brings home the code’s shoe-string existence.

 

Picken Oval, on the north bank of Cook’s River at Croydon Park, is the home-ground of Western Suburbs club.

 

Entrance is by a bridge across a stormwater channel. Beside the bridge opportunity is provided for Croydon Park Bowling Club members to have a grandstand view of the football. You don’t blame them if they don’t look up from their own more engrossing play.

 

There is no pavilion at Picken Oval. Perhaps 50 cars will be parked around one section of the playing area: a small group of spectators stand near the tin huts which serve as dressing sheds.

 

There is nobody else to cheer and little reason why anyone should.

The Western Suburbs Club was one in Sydney having a go.  They had secured (then, a relatively new) ground at Croydon Park.  A ground where they would eventually build a licensed club, the first representing the game in the state and a club that put their hand in their pocket and supported many of the poorer clubs in the competition and the league itself.  Little do the contemporaries of the game in Sydney realise and appreciate the contribution that club made to the game.

The bridge referred to in the article was the manner of entry from Brighton Avenue, long since closed off and the bowling club is that which overlooks the ground and now occupied by the Korean Social Club.

Time changes everything.  The ground and its surrounds have changed and so to the manner in which the club is operated.

A Testing Time

1956 Alf Snow 001In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.

We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.

1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.

The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”

Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.

So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.

Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.

Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.

Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.

The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.

1960
So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.

It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did 1969 Hart, Felstead, Ferguson & Hayes thumbnailnot show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.

The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of  the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.

Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”

However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.

Deficits
From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).

By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.

The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.

The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s.  From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.

 

Another Flag for Wests

For Western Suburbs, premierships of late have been few and far between.

For this once strong and well managed club where players flocked when they came to Sydney, this year’s flag in the Division II Under 19 grade is the first premiership in the club since 1996, when former Sydney Swans General Manager, Ron Thomas, took them to their only first grade flag for 19 years.

A Western Suburbs club first competed in the Sydney competition between 1926-29 playing out of Marrickville Oval but they petered out when the St George club emerged to take their place.  Or rather the idea that Wests amalgamated with the new St George club was promoted.

Then, along with Balmain and Sydney University, Wests became the third new club to be admitted to the Sydney competition in 1948 when the game was riding on a high following WWII.

The club was always well managed and accordingly attracted some talented and very capable players.  Concord Oval was their home ground for many years until in the late 1950s they settled on their current ground, Picken Oval, then owned by trotting magnate, Billy Picken.

Picken helped the club in many ways but it was through careful and a well organised administration that saw them granted a liquor licence in 1961.  This was in a period when social groups of all persuasion gained licences which gave them access to the almost unregulated poker machine scene of the time.

Bulging with money and people, they were able to appoint some highly talented coaches as well as players.  At the same time the club also sponsored the league in their endeavours to purchase their own premises in Chippendale, Sydney.

The 1960s and 70s was a golden period for Wests where they won flags in 1963,65,66,69,72,74,75 and 77.  In fact, it was no secret that their reserve grade could have easily defeated the lower end first grade teams of the period.  And then the drought set in, but that is a different story.

Quite often then they figured in the match of the day at Trumper Park of a Sunday where some very large crowds congregated to watch their clashes against Easts, Newtown and St George.

Of late though the club has had a lean run, despite good administration where they have almost achieved premierships in various grades, this flag by their gallant Under 19 side on Saturday will be savoured by those club members who followed the Sydney Magpies through thick and thin.

Wests premierships:

 

1st Grade

Reserves

Under 19

1951

1952

1966

1963

1964

1971

1965

1967

2014

1966

1971

1969

1972

1972

1973

1974

1974

1975

1977

1996

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.

OUT IN STRAIGHT SETS

Premiers smallerOver the years in Sydney football there have been a number of teams who finished minor premiers and yet lost their two finals games eliminating them from the challenge or grand final. (see tables below)

The worst of those have to be the years when the minor premier went through the season undefeated only to be unceremoniously and embarrassing dumped in the preliminary final.

The only two seasons we can find were the East Sydney experience in 1979 when the side won twenty out of twenty h & a games and were at unbackable odds to take the flag.  The other was the strong Western Suburbs combination of 1957 that won their eighteen competition games straight.  They took 58 minutes to kick their first goal in the preliminary final and went into the rooms for the long break 30 points down.  They failed to get their machine in motion losing the game to Sydney Naval 10-8 to 4-11.

In 1979 East enjoyed some mammoth wins during the season.  In round 2 they defeated St George 32-22 (214) to 8-6 (54) at Olds Park.  They again belted the Saints in round 16, 35-12 (222) to 7-8 (50).  Ironically St George did not earn the wooden spoon that season; the title went to Southern Districts.

Easts was coached by former Fitzroy gun, Alex Ruscuklic, a non playing coach who used some unusual tactics to gain victory.  One was to have his side run a victory lap following a win and get a player to call out “What’s in the bag?” with the remainder of the side answering “The flag.”  This was not a popular move amongst many in the side.

1979 was the start of a new, but eventually unsuccessful change in Sydney football.  There had been a coup at the previous year’s league annual meeting which introduced a new influence on the league and competition.

In that year, Tasmanian, Rob Claridge, playing with Easts, won the Phelan Medal and the club’s goalkicking sensation, recently deceased, Peter Ruscuklic, won the league’s leading goalkicking award, booting 121 at full forward. The club won the reserves grand final and conducted a successful licensed club at Bondi Junction.  All that alluded them wasPeter Ruscuklic small the premiership flag.

With twenty wins and no losses, no sane person could be guilty of betting against them but it all started in the second semi where East had to fight back from a 12 goal deficit in the third quarter.  Not even a bag of a dozen goals from Peter Ruscuklic could help his side to victory and they went down 26-12 (168) to 21-13 (139).

The following week their failure came in the dying seconds of the preliminary final when eventual premiers, North Shore, won by just five points, 16-13 (109) to 15-14 (104).

In the history of the league from 1903,  Western Suburbs in 1957 and East Sydney in 1979 are the only clubs to have endured the pain of no home and away losses and no final wins.  In 1916 Balmain, 1952 Western Suburbs and again in 1973 along with East Coast Eagles in 2006 all finished minor premiers without defeat but failed to win the flag.  These sides though, all made it through to the grand final.

Image shows the mercurial Peter Ruscuklic, Easts goalkicking machine.  Unfortunately Peter passed away last week from an asbestos related disease.
His goalkicking feats in Sydney will long beremembered.

 

Out in Straight Sets Table - 2

ATE

Minor Premiers Not Premiers

Statistics do not include Sydney football between 1880-94 when the Sydney Football Association was the controlling body for the game.

UNIQUE TROPHIES REPAIRED

Jimmy Stiff's Trophies original smallFirstly sorry to our readers about the stagnant situation of our website over the past few days.  It appears our hosting company has had some problems.

In the meantime, the Society has had some unique trophies from the 1930s repaired and returned to the organisation for display. (click images to enlarge)

Almost two years ago a person contacted the Society saying he had found two ‘Australian Rules’ trophies at a metal re-cycle place (image above) on the Central Coast of NSW and asked if we were interested in them.

These trophies, which were in a very poor condition, had been awarded to a former top line player in Sydney during the 1930s, of whom we have written many lines.

His name was Jimmy Stiff and he played with the South Sydney Club and in interviews before their death, three separate leading Sydney football identities said Jimmy Stiff was the best player they had seen in Sydney football, and these judges were no slouches.1931 Jimmy Stiff small

Jim lived at Mascot and attended the Gardeners Road School.  While there and under the tutelage of teacher-mentor, Rupert Browne, he, like many members of his family, began to play Australian Football.

At an early age he was selected in the NSW schoolboys team where he excelled.  Then, at 17, while playing with the South Sydney Club, he was chosen to represent NSW.  In and out of the reserves, in 1930 he came equal third in the Phelan Medal and  also runner up in the Sanders Medal (reserves B & F).  He had won the Sanders Medal in 1928.  Then in 1931, at age 20, he was named as the best player in the state’s match against Victoria on the SCG.

In 1933, again playing for NSW, Jim won the best player at the All-States Carnival held in Sydney over 10 days – against all the stars from other states, including the likes of triple Brownlow Medalist, Hayden Bunton.  At 1.6m and 64.5kg he was a dynamo but possessed an erratic attitude towards football.

He was tragically killed in a motor cycle accident in 1937.

Jimmy Stiffs Trophies smallWe found one of the trophies to be of a very significant nature. It is the 1933 best & fairest award at the All-States Carnival in Sydney – the Major Condor Trophy – now 80 years old!

When we got it, it was in bits and not in good condition.

We gave it to an antique restorer who worked tirelessly to bring this and another that Stiff had won playing for South Sydney in 1935, back to life.

They now take pride of place amongst the many former football trophies the Society has on show at the rooms in the Western Suburbs Football Club at Croydon Park, Sydney.

1961

The 1961 season in Sydney was one full of action, the employment of a full time employee, the tragic death of an up and coming footballer, accusations of missing money, stuff ups in the final series but best of all, great football.

This is a long read, so grab a cup of coffee and sit down a learn a bit of Sydney footy history.

Sydney University were readmitted to the competition but not in the first grade.Uni Blues, Uni Bolds,   Instead they  fielded two teams in the reserve grade: Uni Blues and Uni Golds.  Neither won the premiership but cleaned up in the League Best & Fairest, the Sanders Medal, with the top three places going to Uni players.

Balmain failed to turn up for a pre-season game against North Shore at Trumper Park.  This brought their tenure in the competition under some scrutiny.  The following week they came out and cleaned up the strong Eastern Suburbs club by four goals in round 1.

The competition started with a dramatic change to 16-aside, a decision which was continually ridiculed as being anti-football and almost unAustralian until the league was almost forced to revert to the normal 18 per team, mid season.

Long term Sydney tough player and coach, Jack Armstrong, turned his hand to umpiring and was ultimately appointed to the competition’s 1st semi final..

South Melbourne FC defeated a combined Sydney team 17.29 (131) to 6.6. (42) at Trumper Park before a good crowd on 28 May.

Eventual premiers, North Shore, kicked 2.13 (25) to defeat the lowly Bankstown side 2.11 (23).  This was one of the lowest post WWII scores in Sydney football.

Bankstown were known by the very bizarre name as the Boomerangs.  Western Suburbs were the Pirates, Balmain the Magpies, St George the Tigers and North Shore the Bears.

There was an Umpires strike in round 15 but football went ahead with the league using stand-in personnel.  The forty year old South Sydney captain-coach, Jack Atkins, umpired a second grade game then backed up as boundary for the firsts only to eventually replace central umpire, the University and NSW coach, Frank Bird, who broke down.

The competition was shocked when 20 year old soldier, Roger Challis, was killed whilst hitch hiking from Puckapunyal in Victoria to play with the South Sydney club.  This talented full forward had played in the Sydney team against South Melbourne the previous month.  He was buried at the Waverley Cemetery with full Military Honours.  Read Football Records article here.

In a bit of embarrassing news, the league full time secretary, Jack Holman, was reported to be admitted to hospital in July. The Football Record had to print a retraction when Jack, who never did get there, had several people visit the hospital and others send get-well wishes and flowers with many wondering where he was.  We guess they could have accepted this had it happened on April 1.

The Australian Football Club Limited (a licensed club venture) held weekly get togethers at Aarons Hotel in Pitt Street.  Membership was an expensive thirty shillings per year ($3).  Sylvania accountant and league board member, Arthur Davey was the prime mover in this project which never did get off the ground.

The league relocated their offices from the NSW Sports Club in Hunter Street, Sydney to Trumper Park, Paddington.

Western Suburbs club were granted a liquor licence, the first for an Australian football club in NSW.  Future league long term president, Bill Hart was in his eighth season as football club secretary at Wests.

A Parramatta Club was formed in July with Ron Cameron elected its president, Kevin Little secretary and Peter Clark, the treasurer.  They adopted pale blue and white as their colours with a jumper design in alternate panel colours.  The meeting was held at the Parramatta Town Hall.  This new club had a four goal win against Newcastle at Trumper Park on 2 September.

In the popular annual Army v Navy game at Trumper Park, the Navy side recorded an easy 14.18 to 11.12 win with all proceeds raised on the day going to the Royal NSW Institute for the Deaf and Blind Children.

The game received good media coverage after reportedly securing the services of a promotion company, Recreation International, to market the game in Sydney.

The last round saw St George, South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs all on equal points in fourth place.  Saints had to play the stronger third placed Sydney Naval in their final game, Souths were opposed the seventh place, Western Suburbs while East were up against the hapless Liverpool team.

St George lost, Souths had a 10 goal win over Wests but Easts belted Liverpool by 165 points to grab fourth place with a percentage 122.2 just in front of South Sydney’s 120.0.  Souths therefore missed their opportunity to play in the finals for the first time since 1949 when, ironically, they were beaten by Easts by one point in the first semi.

Voting for the Phelan, Sanders and Kealey Medals, league B & F Medals, was counted on the second semi final day at Trumper Park with the winners announced over the PA system.  How times have changed.

And now for the fun….

Newtown FC protested the result of their six point preliminary final loss to Sydney Naval at Trumper Park when it was revealed that the siren sounded 12 MINUTES early to end the first quarter.

This came about when the president of marching girls team (who were to perform at half time), plugged her music into the power board and when she tested it, pressed the wrong switch which sounded the siren.  Nothing could be done because the players stopped and changed ends (there was no quarter time huddles then).

This certainly caused an conundrum with officials quickly deciding to spread those 12 minutes over the next three quarters, but they failed to tell anyone.  Was that a wise move, AND, was it within the rules or maybe a situation like this had not been considered possible?

(But wait, theres more…)  To add insult to injury, at the end of the game the (only) central umpire failed to hear the final siren with both teams level on 88 points.  Sydney Naval player, Jack Harding had  marked 40m out but his kick failed to reach the goal just as the siren sounded.  Oblivious to this, umpire Colbert called “play on” which allowed Naval player, Alan Waack to gather the ball and boot a goal.  Sydney Naval by six points!

The umpire even returned to the centre of the ground for the bounce before he acknowledged ‘time’.

The Newtown protest was upheld and the game replayed.  By the way, the marching girls raised a goodly twenty pounds ($40) in their blanket collection for the day.

Another calamity happened in the replay
When starting to pack up towards the end of the replayed preliminary final, league acting secretary, Joe Boulus in dismantling the public address system, accidentally sounded the siren 8 MINUTES before the end of the last quarter – don’t you just hate that?  League Vice President, George Henry, jumped the fence and ran to tell the umpire but it was too late.  Sydney Naval won 10.14 (74) to 7.10 (52).

No protest was lodged after this game.

This impediment put the grand final back a week and because Trumper Park was unavailable and the only ground of some consequence which the league could use was the RAS Showground at Moore Park.  So, on the same day, the Rugby Union held their grand final on the Sydney Sports Ground, the NSW Rugby League grand final on the SCG and the AFL decider next door.  All grounds adjoin each other so besides general bedlam, parking and public transport would have been at a premium.

On top of all this was the resignation of the treasurer in June when it was revealed that the accounts were in a mess.  This was quickly followed by the suspension of the full time secretary when questions were asked about missing money and work that simply had not been done.  But all this will be told in a later story.  Your eyes must be getting sore?

Oh by the way, we have activated our Twitter account.  You can follow us there.

FASCINATING STATISTICS

Some of us are into statistics, some are not.

Obviously the honorary secretary of the NSWAFL from 1936-60 and then fulltime secretary between 1966-69, Ken Ferguson, was. (A young Ken Ferguson is pictured)

In a meticulous effort, Ferguson, a clerk with NSW Railways, maintained a chart of the gate takings from the attendances at all grounds in Sydney between 1930-50.

Right up until the early 1980s, the league took the gate takings at all games.  They paid gate keepers and also for the hire of the grounds and kept club affiliation fees to a minimum.

Ferguson kept a record of gate takings in each year; The competition matches, finals, the particular ground at which the income was received as well the takings at interstate matches that were held in Sydney.  His details were all recorded in Australia’s former currency of pounds, however, in our main graph (left)  we have converted the figures to dollars.  The problem is we don’t, at this stage, have sufficient information to provide the changes in gate charges and their respective increases over the years.  Also, there was an additional charge for those who wanted seating in grandstands at the grounds.  This was only available in that period at Trumper Park and Erskineville Oval.  The difference between the actual gate charges and the additional payment for grandstand seating was was never separated.

Another statistic we have not shown is say, the average male wage of the day, to the admission charge, which would give you some idea of the depth of the fee.

Previously, we have shown a graph of the total gate takings over the years and in fact up to 1960.  We have replicated this graph for our story.  The income is shown in pounds.

Our primary graph showing the yearly takings at the respective grounds may be a little difficult to understand, particularly when reading from 1948-50 because more grounds came online when three additional clubs, Western Suburbs, Balmain and University, joined the competition.  Additionally the programme does not allow us to feature more colours and/or line designs to differentiate the many number of grounds displayed.

You will see in green, the enormous jump in gate takings when Sunday football at Trumper Park was introduced during the war.

Sunday football was not primarily introduced in an attempt to raise more revenue for the league.  Sport played on Sundays was not only frowned upon but virtually illegal and the league almost found themselves in court over the issue.

They were however, the first sport (in particular, of all football codes) to play on Sundays.  This came about because of the lack of grounds at which they could charge a gate and gate money was by far the largest income stream for the league.

Fortuitously, and as we have mentioned, this occurred during WWII, and because there were so many servicemen in Sydney, many of whom were star players from other states, patrons (and in particular, other servicemen) thronged to Trumper Park to watch them play.

In retrospect it was an element of their time that officials in Sydney not only failed to recognize but more importantly, failed to capitalise upon this boost in popularity in the sport.  This increased income from the gate, as you can see, grew into the thousands, but where did the money go?  Another opportunity lost for Sydney football.