– Jim Knocks Himself Out

Society member, Jim McSweeney had a bit of bad luck when umpiring a game at Trumper Park between Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney in 1960.

During the third quarter, Jim knocked himself out after a ball-up in play.  He bounced the ball then ran into it as the ruckmen attempted to punch the ball.

He fell to the ground and lay there unconscious while play continued after which the game was held up for about five minutes while St Johns Ambulancemen attended to him.  He was not especially hurt and continued on with the game.

It certainly was a firey encounter.

  • Players and spectators threw punches as the match ended;
  • One of the punches struck the boundary umpire;
  • Club officials were forced to call in police while a number of people demonstrated outside the umpires’  room after the match.
  • The League president, Wilf Holmes, warned one spectator to leave the ground and told him his admittance would be refused at future games.

McSweeney reported three players for fighting during the match he also reported a reserve grade player for abusing him after the game.

When the match finished a number of spectators rushed at the umpire attempting to strike him, one punch hitting boundary umpire, Ray McMullen.

There was a a fair bit of both on and off-field violence following WWII right up to the seventies.  Thankfully, such is not the case today.

Image shows Jim McSweeney in 1969.  He is the shortest one in the centre of the photograph.

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.

 

NO TYPEWRITER IN 1962

Typewriter1962 was a real problem year for football in Sydney.

Ernie McFarlane, the former long term Newtown FC Secretary and player was in his second year as president of the league after accepting the position, that apparently not many wanted.  He was a member of the board of control for several years before this.  McFarlane took over from Wilf Holmes, a shipping executive, who, in his one year as president, was clearly out of his depth in what could only be described as a volatile Sydney football environment.

McFarlane had been a dynamo at Newtown but struggled as president of the league.  Early in the year two board members, Joe Armstrong and Ern Holmes, and later, University coach and league vice president, Frank Bird, resigned their positions.  Then secretary of the junior organisation, the NSW Football Union, Arthur Bridgewater, was suspended from the board following a disagreement.

Ernie McFarlane I
Ern McFarlane

Wilf Holmes - NSW AFL Life Member
Wilf Holmes

Arthur Bridgewater
Arthur Bridgewater

 

Fortunately, principal of a leading accounting firm, Arthur Davey of Sylvania, had taken over as treasurer midway during the previous year but in doing so walked into a financial minefield.  His predecessor had resigned and the fulltime secretary of the league had been suspended.  There had been some allegations of impropriety, while Davey would probably have used the term, ‘incompetence’, particularly when it took almost a month before he could get hold of the books for examination.

Things were so bad that the Australian National Football Council, the then national body for control of the game, withheld payment of their second installment of seven hundred and fifty pounds ($1400) towards the salary of the league’s fulltime secretary until such time that the accounts were audited and all clubs had paid their liabilities.

In that period, unlike today, there was no mechanism in place to compel clubs to pay their accounts to the league.  Then, and in particular, the main areas of liability to the league by clubs included affiliation fees, season tickets for entry to the ground and a levy for the employment of a fulltime secretary.

Davey eventually audited the accounts himself and in doing so found an outstanding contingent liability of five hundred and twenty one pounds ten shillings ($1043.00) owing to the clubs since 1957  This had involved a complicated method of financial reward to clubs based on the Club Championship for that year.  For a number of years around that period, the league concluded their seasons in debt, at times the amounts involved were quite sizable.

So early in 1962 the mood was very gloomy in Sydney football, certainly at a league level.

Some on the board wanted to re-appoint a fulltime secretary while others did not and this in itself caused continual bickering resulting in the resignations and suspension, mentioned above.

Further it was said “The New South Wales League has no funds”.

“We don’t even have a typewriter or an office desk” one board member said.  “The league was formed 59 years ago, but I doubt if we have ever been in worse financial position.”

Despite all this, the league re-introduced Sydney University to the first grade competition along with new club, Parramatta, bringing the number of clubs to twelve.  This was a perfect opportunity to establish a second division, but football would have to wait almost 10 years before this took place.  In the meantime four of the 1962 clubs had either folded or amalgamated.

At the end of the year Davey again showed that he was no shrinking violet and let his feeling be known in a lengthy report to the league where he urged a restructure of the organisation, particularly after it again finished the year in debt.  This time though the amount had been substantially reduced from those of previous seasons.

Rhys Giddey replaced Joe Boulus as honorary secretary between the end of the season and the subsequent annual general meeting which was held in February 1963.  Giddey went on to fill the fulltime league secretary’s role for the next two years.  He described his first 12 months in the job as one that had “been under pressures which, in 60 years, had not previously been experienced.”

This was particularly the case after Boulus had issued three writs against members of the Board of Management following the severance of his association with the league.

Just as the story gets interesting we have to end it here because we we are limited for space.