Footystats Diary, History of Australian Football in Sydney, 1877-2013
|THE STORY BEHIND THE COMMITTEE OF NSW
The paper chase for our history
The 1996 Annual Report of the NSWAFL
noted on December 5 1995 the Committee of NSW Football History was formed to build
upon the work carried out by Ian Granland and Ted Ray joining with the forces
provided by Paul Feain.
RUGBY LEAGUE PROPOSED UNIFICATION IN 1933
The game they never played
<> Number of players increased to 15
<> Abolition of the scrum and substitution of the method of bouncing the ball
<> Off-side to be permissible when attempting to take a mark
<> Player getting the mark to be the kicker
The Australian game to be altered
<> Behind posts to be abolished and a cross-bar added to the goal posts
<> Tries to be permitted
<> Bouncing the ball every ten yards to be abolished
<> An amended NSWRFL tackle to be permissible
<> Permissible to pass the ball or knock the ball backwards by the hand and then run with it by any player
<> Knocking-on except from a mark attempted in the air will be penalised except when the defending side receives an advantage.
A conference between the two rival bodies was held on Wednesday August 2nd 1933 involving the Australian National Football Council when the triennial Carnival was being played between all States in Sydney indeed a trial match (which proved unsuccessful) was played on August 11.
Nothing was achieved and both codes continued to go their own separate ways.
work in progress
|THE FATHER OF SYDNEY FOOTBALL
Jimmy Phelan lives on
James Edward Phelan was born at
Huntly near Bendigo in 1861 (the same year as Charles Brownlow) and following schooling in
Ballarat and his move to Melbourne he played both cricket and football with South
STORY OF THE TEAL CUP
Born in Sydney in 1952
The following is a record of a meeting for the formation of Australian Football in Sydney
Sydney Mail Saturday, 3 July 1880
FOOTBALL NOTES by Leatherstocking (William J Hammersley)
I suppose that the meeting which took place on Wednesday evening (June 30th) to
consider the propriety of adopting the
Victorian football rules has never been excelled in this colony in point of numbers and
enthusiasm. At 8 oclock there were
fully 50 persons present; before the chairman
took his seat the long room of the Freemasons Hotel (in York Street) was crowded, and in a very short
time only standing room could be obtained. To
put down the number of footballers present at 100 is certainly not giving more than a fair
estimate and even those who were sanguine that the movement would be warmly taken up were
not prepared for such marked success at the outset. This
being the satisfactory state of affairs, it is a pity that anything should have occurred
to mar the harmony of the evening to any extent whatever. The first resolution moved was, - That in
the opinion of this meeting a radical change in the game of football as at present played
in this colony is necessary; and this
was distinctly read out to the meeting so that everybody could gather is purport. The mover occupied some minutes in advocating the
object of the resolution and a discussion, lasting some considerable time, ensued. The resolution was then read by the chairman, put
to the meeting, and carried unanimously. Subsequently
a committee was appointed to bring up a report recommending the adoption of certain rules
and the usual vote of thanks to the chairman was also agreed to. So far the business had proceeded without a hitch,
the meeting having taken about an hour and a-half to consider what it was committing
itself to. But suddenly it struck one
gentleman who had either been slumbering peacefully throughout the discussion, or whose
perceptive faculties must be of the dullest kind, that the meeting had not adopted the
Victorian rules, and no assurance that the committee intended to do so was sufficient to
remove his suspicion that the meeting had been got at. Things then began to get somewhat mixed; but after a time the irregular discussion which
had been going on was stopped, and a fresh chairman having been appointed, the first two
resolutions carried amid great enthusiasm: That the gentlemen present, or those who
desire to do so, form themselves into an association to be called the New South Wales
Football Association, and that they adopt the Victorian Football Association rules. This I, of course, admit was very emphatic and
satisfactory, and no doubt set at rest the fears of these who seemed to doubt or suspect
the intentions of the mover of the first resolution;
but at the same time the course adopted was not only unnecessary, but brought down
some amount of ridicule upon the meeting. Mr
Monte Arnold, an arch-Conservative, who had previously delivered himself of a long oration
on the merits of the Rugby game as opposed to the merits of the Victorian, chuckled
immensely; and Mr Waldron, of the University Club, another strong Rugby adherent, also
derived much enjoyment from the topsy-turvy nature of the proceedings. The course adopted by the meeting, of discrediting
the object of the mover of the principal resolution, was in very bad taste, as most
footballers know how strong Mr Rogers favours the Victorian game to be necessary will
rejoice at the establishment of and the earnest efforts he made to ensure the success of
the present movement. However, all
footballers who believe a sweeping change in the present game to be necessary will rejoice
at the establishment of an association for the promotion of the Victorian game; and, for my own part, I trust it may have a
prolonged and active existence. The meeting
was adjourned for a week, when office bearers will be elected and the by-laws to regulate
the internal working of the association adopted. (Sydney Mail Saturday, 3 July 1880)
centenary of the re-formation of the game of Australian Football in Sydney was celebrated
A meeting convened in Sydney on December 17, 2002, resurrected work which had begun in the 1980's by Mr IAN GRANLAND and Mr TED RAY on the preservation of the history of football within the State of New South Wales.
The years of research has
produced a vast number of items.
Friday, March 1, 1996
Material gathered for this compilation has come from many sources. Momentum of piecing together the many layers of information has more recently built upon the work carried out by Ian Granland and Ted Ray, and joined with the resources provided by Paul Feain and the formation of the Committee of NSW Football History on December 5, 1995.
This draft is intended to form a base from which an eventual work may be finalised.
Recognition may eventually be formalised, however it is essential it is recognised, the research and distribution of information dating back to the 1880s by Paul Feain from the pages of the "Sydney Morning Herald" and "The Daily Telegraph" was invaluable and only made possible by his purchase of these items.
In many cases assumptions rather than conclusions are drawn as we seek to find reasons without available valid reference.
For almost one hundred and twenty years the code of Australian Football has sought to be a major participant in the sporting life of the city of Sydney.
In Melbourne, cradle of the national game, crowds of 10,000 were already attending major contests before enthusiasts in Sydney gathered together to present the competitive aspects of the code in 1880.
Note: research is required to verify major members of this movement a 1926 article appeared in the "Sydney Mail" according to a Jim Phelan article in "Australia Football News" in 1927
EARLY DAYS OF THE GAME (by P.E.J.) No. 4.
"A.N. Gregory was another keen follower and lover of the game in those days. Father of that talented, but unlucky cricketer, the late Charlie Gregory, he is still in the land of the living and only late as last year wrote an article for the "Sydney Mail" about the first meeting which was convened to establish the game in Sydney in 1880."
Derivatives of winter football games were being organised around the world as sport became a regular part of modern industrial society. At the time, Rugby was the only code of football played in Sydney following the formation of the University club in 1864. Rugby, a product of the English public schools earlier in the 19th century had its first 59 rules formulated in London in 1871 and three years later the control of the game was placed under the establishment of the Southern Rugby Football Union.
However, all was not well with Rugby with many complaining and there were those looking toward the popularity of the Victorian Rules and its more open style of play without tight scrimmages.
It has been well-documented where Thomas Wentworth Wills and his friends created a game of Australian football which came to life in 1858. He was born on August 19 1835 at Molonglo Plains near where Canberra now stands. From the age of four he lived in the Port Phillip District (now Victoria). He was the eldest son of Horatio Spencer Wills, a prominent grazier in the Ararat district of Victoria, and his wife Elizabeth, nee McGuire.
He was an outstanding sportsman and was known as the W G Grace of Australian cricket (1) When he was about 14, Wills made the long voyage via the Cape of Good Hope and was enrolled at the Rugby school in the English midlands where he was dux of his class, was captain of the school eleven, and excelled at football. He played cricket with Kent, Marylebone, Cambridge University, and United Ireland. Returning to Victoria at Christmas 1856, (2) he was then 21 and an automatic choice for the intercolonial team of 1857, and was captain in the following seasons. On July 10 1858 his now famous letter was published in Bells Life in Victoria suggesting that cricketers keep fit by playing a game like football in winter, and by May 17 1859 the first rules of Australian football had been devised, by Wills, William Hammersley, James Thompson (all high-profile Victorian cricketers) and Thomas Smith (a teacher at Scotch College) – they came together to draw up a set of rules at Bryant's Hotel on Richmond Road (Wellington Parade). The hand-written pages of 10 rules are preserved and in possession of the Melbourne Cricket Club. However it was far from the game we now know.
Football in many forms was played in Melbourne from the early days of its settlement and became an activity of boys in the developing grammar schools and colleges with the influence on manly games visible in many English boarding schools. The early games were played on the vast expanse of parklands which surrounded the growing city. These games were not all alike apart from the use of a ball. The masters of the schools had all come from different backgrounds, as had they all fallen within the Rugby influence, that code may well have been Victorias inheritance.
The earliest known game of football played between Victorian schools or clubs is recorded as the meeting between St Kilda Grammar and Melbourne Grammar as noted in the journal of Dr John E Bromby the headmaster of Melbourne Grammar on June 5 1858 when he wrote his school had won. Two months later, Melbourne Grammar accepted a challenge from the Scotch College and as two of Melbournes best-known secondary schools, on Saturday August 7 1858 the Melbourne Morning Herald reported
A grand football match will be played this day between the Scotch College and the Church of England Grammar School, near the Melbourne Cricket Club ground.
Lunch at the pavilion. Forty a side. The match will commence at twelve oclock.
This match has become a legend and its status is recognised with a plaque erected on the outer wall of the MCG on the centenary of the game in 1958.
The Melbourne Football Club was formed on May 14 1859 soon followed by Geelong on July 18th and others soon blossomed throughout the State of Victoria. The original ten rules for an Australian code of football were formed on May 17 1859 and are housed in the Australian Gallery of Sport at the MCG. These rules were progressively altered then codified in 1866.
A round ball was used however, the oval ball was first noted in 1860 at a time when scratch matches prevailed but by 1863 more regular meetings between clubs were on the calendar. By 1866 new rules were adopted when Carlton, Melbourne, Royal Park and South Yarra clubs who together with University and Geelong competed for the Challenge Cup, this led to the South Yarra Challenge Cup of 1870, regarded as the first premiership year.
In 1877, the Victorian Football Association (VFA) was founded to control the game.
By the 1880s, Australian football had become the dominant winter sport in Victoria, Tasmania, the Riverina and Broken Hill districts of New South Wales, as well as South Australia and Western Australia. These were regions where Melbourne merchants and their commercial travellers did business, where Melbourne-based banks opened up, and where Melbourne promoters, emigrants and investors were more likely found. According to Blainey, " that Sydney and its hinterland did not take to Australian-rules football was partly a reflection of Sydneys suspicion of any game devised in Melbourne" (3). From the formation of the first club in Wagga in 1881, clubs grew and regular competition began in 1885.
In the early weeks of its inaugural season, the VFA sought to introduce intercolonial matches. Australian football was to reach Sydney when a local club Waratah invited Carlton to play two matches, one each under Rugby and the Australian rules. Apparently rugby had become rather slow and unattractive and the Waratah club hoped to make the point in a direct comparison with Australian football. On Saturday June 23 1877 nearly 3000 spectators paid one shilling each to see Waratah beat Carlton under 15-a-side Rugby rules at the Albert Cricket Ground (where flats now stand opposite Redfern Oval). The following Monday, Waratah and Carlton played a 20-men a-side Victorian rules contest which the visitors won easily, reversing the Saturday result.
Encouraged by the success of the response in Sydney, the VFA suggested to the SRFU that regular intercolonial matches be inaugurated, starting in 1879. The SRFU declined, pleading there was no ground in Sydney suitable for matches of so great interest however, this was simply not the case. The New South Wales Cricket Association offered the use of its own ground (later called the Sydney Cricket Ground), but this was not convenient for the SRFU and the VFAs proposal was abandoned. Thomas Arnold, senior vice-president of the SRFU (who was educated at Rugby School), at the 1880 annual meeting gave the real reason he thought it almost frivolous to play intercolonial matches as the rules were so different and to alternate the rules would simply mean that each colony would win under its own rules. A second series of matches between Carlton and Waratah did take place and were closely contested, showing the problem of different rules were not insurmountable. However, the SRFU would not compromise rather than play intercolonial matches against Victoria, it wanted to play rugby intercolonials against New Zealand.
The SRFUs refusal to yield propelled supporters of the Australian game into action and according to the Sydney Mail whose football writer Leather-Stocking recorded
"It is pretty well understood that there are scores of footballers who play the Rugby game under protest as it were, and who would gladly welcome a radical change in the present method of playing football".
On June 30th 1880 at a meeting held at the Freemasons' Hotel, York Street in the city some 50 people formed the New South Wales Football Association (NSWFA) to play under VFA rules. In the week following the establishment of the Australian code in Sydney, the first president of the body was Phillip Sheridan who as president of the NSW Cricket Association, again offered the use of his association ground for intercolonial contests. The following month, another group of footballers formed to play under English Association rules and although soccer would threaten neither rugby or the Australian game, it reflects the antipathy of rugby supporters toward the Australian game. Senior rugby officials welcomed the introduction of soccer which they believed would improve the skills of rugby players. Indeed, there was only one dissenter at the meeting, F Lyons Weiss, a committeeman of the NSWFA whose speech nearly drove the Rugbyites to the refreshment bar declaring that
" as the colonies in many matters, political and social, had struck out a path for themselves, he did not see why the same line of conduct should not be adopted in the game of football "
At the start of the 1881 season there were only two Australian football clubs in Sydney, the East Sydney and the Sydney clubs, though a third team, from Maitland, about 100 miles north of Sydney, competed against them regularly. Late in 1881 a club was formed at Petersham and in May 1882, Waratah formally switched its allegiance from rugby to the Australian code. (By comparison, there were 30 rugby clubs affiliated with the SRFU, and 15 in NSW country areas. Sydneys population of the day was 225,000 compared with Melbournes 282,000.)
Also in 1881 the Trustees of the Association Cricket Ground announced their ground would be available and the NSWFA arranged two matches with the VFA. Perhaps through the patronage of Phillip Sheridan, the NSWFA played club matches at the Association ground.
The first intercolonial match against the VFA was played in Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday July 1st 1881, and possibly because of Victorias greater skills, but also due to the ban by the SRFU on Sydney players taking part, the home side won easily 9.24 to 0.1 (when behinds were recorded but only goals counted). Six weeks later on August 6th, 5000 Sydneysiders paid to see NSW soundly defeated in the return match, 9.16 to 1.8. During the season the Melbourne FC also sent a team to play three matches against Sydney clubs but these were played on the adjacent open space of Moore Park and by comparison with rugby matches were poorly attended. Part of the reason was the unwillingness of Sydney followers to pay regularly to see football matches though press reports record these matches were poorly managed and advertised.
Clubs of the day consisted of the First 20, and Second 20. Where some rivals were of a higher standard their opponents often were allowed to field either 23, even 25 players. Club contests of 1881 were chiefly played at Moore Park though regular visits were made to the two newly established colleges of St Ignatius of Riverview at Lane Cove and St Josephs at Hunters Hill. Years later James Edward Phelan widely referred to as the father of Sydney football recalled
"Preparatory to the opening competition games of the season, clubs vied with each other to secure a practice game at Riverview where Fr Gartlan, the then principal, dispensed hospitality in royal fashion. The writer retains vivid and pleasant memories of his first trip to the college with the Waratah club".
The Australian game was being played in Queensland, the SRFU though keenly wanting to claim the colony brought a team to Sydney at its expense in 1882 to inaugurate intercolonial matches, as well as sending a team to New Zealand to establish relations. The SRFU used the Association Ground but the crowds were smaller than that enjoyed by the NSWFA against the VFA in 1881.
NSWFA clubs of the day were playing for the Alexander trophies as West Sydney, City and Redfern joined the throng. The code enjoyed wide interest in the Newcastle district where by 1884 Newcastle City, Newcastle, Merewether, Northumberland, Hamilton and Wallsend together with the afore-mentioned Maitland were in existence. It brought a call by the Northern Football Association, that the VFA
" should make some effort for the advancement of the game in New South Wales there were some 16 clubs in the Northern Association and in addition to playing matches in Sydney, might play at Newcastle, Maitland and Wallsend, where it was expected their matches would have very liberal patronage "
Clubs from Newcastle regularly played the Sydney teams, with the SMH on August 22 reporting in almost 1,000 words "Despite the fact that Northumberland had a very strong team on Saturday last in the return match against Sydney, on Moore Park, the latter obtained a very easy victory. There were about 4000 people present, although the weather was cold, and at times showery". The Sydney reds won 10.11 to 3.2 with the report concluding "In the evening the visitors were entertained at the Freemasons Hotel, York Street. Mr Crisp occupied the chair. The health of the two teams was drunk very cordially, and the visitors left the same night by the Newcastle boat".
SMH June 24 1887
SMH July 25 1887
From a distance in time it must be assumed there were many adherents to the Australian code who wished to play, but at best they played under very loose arrangements. There was a structure of organisation however most games were regarded as social occasions played on available parkland.
Indeed, regular meetings between Sydney clubs and Newcastle-based teams were often once or twice each year where a match was played and good fellowship enjoyed. Games between Sydney clubs for a trophy for a premiership often numbered no more than eight or nine, when one major contest was played each weekend. The necessity of proving their worth in the community of football required participation at the higher level of intercolonial matches, but the difference of standard was clearly apparent.
Within this climate of such loose arrangements the recall by Jim Phelan in 1938 focus on these elements
Club bickerings, in which the Sydney and West Sydney clubs were the chief wranglers, brought about the downfall of the game at the close of 1894. Had there existed in 1894, or the year immediately prior thereto, a body similar to the (present) Australian Football Council, it is certain the game would have gone to pre-eminence in New South Wales, as at that period the game vied with Rugby Union in public patronage (rugby league then unknown). The years between then and the revival of the game, by the formation of the (present) League in 1903, found many of the leading players transferring to Rugby Union in which code they left imperishable records.
"Pity, tis, tis true," but with the decease of the game in Sydney the magnificent edifice which had been built up in the Newcastle district where the game was almost supreme, also crumbled.
The lesson from the foregoing is that firm administration, to the utter exclusion of anything approaching rabid clubism, in the only road to progress.
Fate and faulty administration during crucial periods, has played a big part in connection with the Australian game in Sydney. To old-time followers who can recall the period between 1881 and 1893 it seems almost incredible that no master-mind came to light to save the game from the destroying forces of club rancour and bitterness exhibited in the latter years by the then Sydney and West Sydney clubs, and which unfortunately brought the game to an untimely end players and public being heartily sick of the win, tie or wrangle methods. How effective the methods of the clubs named can be instanced by the fact that Dan Hutchinson (Carlton player and captain) came to Sydney early in 1894 and made an attempt to revive the game by advertising that a scratch match would be played at Moore Park. The effort failed lamentably.
A summation in a 1987 research paper provided by Martin Sharp for Sporting Traditions, the Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History provides a perspective for this time under review and is not without its parallel in the 1990s Without a strong junior competition the NSWFA could not develop a lasting senior competition and, without regular matches against more skilled opponents, the senior sides were unable to improve their play. Irregular visits by strong intercolonial teams simply saw the humiliation of successive NSW teams. By comparison, rugby had a flourishing junior competition all the major state schools and protestant private schools played rugby and by 1890 there were two junior competitions as well as the senior competition. Regular visits by New Zealand and Queensland teams provided strong opposition and although NSW was often too weak to challenge powerful New Zealand 15s, it maintained an ascendancy over Queensland. More important, the tour in 1888 of an English team provided what sporting journalist J C Davis later termed encounters matchless in athletic sport matches between England and Australia. In the late 19th century Sydney looked to England to provide its ultimate football contests.
The 1888 English team played both codes and despite the SRFUs earlier intransigence one is struck by their apparent interchangeability. In 1881 a proposal to send an Australian team comprising nine players from NSW, eight from Victoria and three from New Zealand was only abandoned when the Victorians withdrew. A proposal that an English team visit Australia in 1886 was also abandoned. It is not clear whether, with eight Victorians, the 1881 Australian team was to have played rugby, Australian rules or a composite of both codes. Certainly in 1886 Censor expected that the English team would play both codes, suggesting that
The meeting of an English and an Australian team at the Australian game in Melbourne would draw one of the largest crowds ever seen in the sports-loving metropolis.
Though the 1886 tour did not eventuate, the 1888 English team fulfilled Censors prediction. After winning its two opening games against NSW under rugby rules, the second before a crowd of 7000 at the Association ground, the English footballers travelled to Melbourne. 25,000 saw Carlton beat the tourists under Australian rules at the MCG and a week later 10,000 saw South Melbourne also defeat them. Of the 28 games the English footballers played, 16 were under Australian rules against Victorian and South Australian teams. Although soundly beaten by the Melbourne clubs, the Englishmen won five matches under Australian rules against Port Melbourne, Horsham, Ballarat, Sandhurst and Kyneton.
Shortly after their arrival in Sydney the English team agreed to play NSW under Australian rules but, upon its return from Melbourne and Adelaide the match had been cancelled. Presumably the team management bowed to pressure from the SRFU which, after the success of the southern part of the Englishmens tour, was not keen to encourage the rival code in Sydney.
In 1889, Andy Flanagan, an avid Carlton supporter moved to Sydney where he became a vice-president of the NSWFA. He donated a cup to be competed for by the senior Australian clubs in Sydney. Like other challenge cups before in cricket and rugby, the Flanagan Cup generated considerable public interest.
On July 4 1891 a match between Sydney and West Sydney attracted 5000 spectators and a month later on August 22, 6000 saw the final match between West Sydney and Waratah. Unfortunately the matches were played on Moore Park so the NSWFA could not charge the spectators, though possibly this was at least part of the reason for the large crowds in the first place (4). By the early 1890s most important club rugby matches were played on the Association Cricket Ground or the new Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Ground, next door. Phillip Sheridan had stood down as president of the NSWFA in 1890 (for Mr G N Griffiths) and the SRFU had a virtual monopoly on the Association Ground during the winter. On the rare occasions Flanagan Cup matches were played on the Showgrounds, attendances were disappointing.
In an effort to increase interest in the Australian code the NSWFA brought Carlton, South Melbourne and a Tasmanian team to Sydney in 1890. Unfortunately two of the matches were abandoned because of heavy rain. The loss of these potential gate receipts, together with the loss of the Association Ground, ended a real chance of raising enough money to organise competitive football.
Without a strong junior competition and without a wide presence across the school system the NSWFA was beginning to show the signs which would lead to its collapse. Junior teams from St Ignatius and St Josephs were playing at their college grounds against grown men. Whilst St Ignatius exclusively played the Australian code it suffered serious damage when the Sydney club without apology failed to meet an engagement at Riverview in 1890. The college played one more season but turned to the rugby code playing Newington on May 29 1892, and though they played out the year, they were lost to Australian Rules.
The 1891 competition was devised with West Sydney, Waratah, Sydney East Sydney (who retired) and St Ignatius playing for the Flanagan Cup, with the clubs of St Josephs College, South Sydney, the Young Australians, West Sydney 2nd 20, and Carlton club playing for the Junior Cup.
The Flanagan Cup was popular with non-paying spectators but it was also a source of ill-feeling between clubs. The Cup was the first formal competition for Sydney Australian football clubs and some responded poorly to the competitive spirit. In the 1891 final West Sydney aided by some players from the East Sydney club, beat Waratah who were understandably upset by the ploy but were happy enough the following year when a similar tactic cost West Sydney the final.
In a match against Sydney, West Sydney played an ineligible man and was disqualified. Rather than win the Cup by default, Sydney chose to play a final but the West Sydney team did not appear, still believing they had won the earlier match fairly, and so Sydney was awarded the 1892 premiership to retain the Cup.
In 1893 the NSWFAs annual report declared 1892 to have been the most disastrous year in its history; the petty jealousies of 1891 had been replaced by "a keener and more bitter form of antagonism". The report concluded "Although the year 1891 was painfully disastrous to the progress of the Game, yet it remained for the close of 1892 to almost crush it out of existence".
Apathy, bitterness and poor management combined to bring about a decline in membership in 1893 there were not enough clubs to continue the competition in a satisfactory manner and owing to the disorganised state of the Association and the disbanding of a number of clubs circumstances did not warrant the arranging of intercolonial matches.
The collapse is emphasised by the failure of any reports on the Australian code in Sydney to appear in the Sydney Morning Herald during the winter of 1893.
A brief revival was experienced in 1894 however from this distance of a century later it much be realised during this period (5) Australia was moving toward federation and experienced considerable political, social and financial unrest as the Eastern colonies suffered a severe depression between 1890 and 1894. As Manning Clark observed "in November (1890) Barings failed in London, and this in turn led to the rapid withdrawal of deposits from Australian financial institutions. Public works stopped, as did most private building. Government servants, contractors, the men in the building trades, bank clerks, and financial companies were affected. In March 1892 one bank failed, another closed its doors in the following January, and in April and May thirteen banks in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland closed".
A competition was revived for 1894 when Sydney, East Sydney, Redfern, West Sydney and the mid-season formation of Darlington played regular scratch and premiership matches on Moore Park, sometimes at the newly-named Sydney Cricket Ground, as well as the Showgrounds and Wentworth Park. Three representative fixtures were played when the Metropolis met Northern Districts (Newcastle) at the Showgrounds on July 21 when the Sydney clubs won 9.5 to 5.8. The reverse fixture was at Newcastle on August 11 when Sydney defeated Districts 2 goals to one. Under the name of Metropolitan, the Sydney clubs on July 14 at the SCG played Western Districts which comprised members of Bathurst, Bathurst Old Boys and Orange; however no result is recorded. Wallsend maintained their connection when they played West Sydney at Wentworth Park on July 7th when "there were several thousand people present" (6) which ended in a draw, West Sydney 1.9, Wallsend 1.6.
The conclusion to the 1894 season was recorded by the SMH on Monday August 20th "Football under Australian rules reached its lowest ebb last year, the lack of interest evinced in it being the result not so much of the scarcity of players as the want of strong management for the affairs of the association. This year, however, a lot of fresh blood has been infused into the association committee, and, owing to better arrangements generally, much lost ground has been recovered. Two new clubs were started during the year the Redfern and the Darlington and the Redferns, who made a start early in the season, now hold the premier position.
The Darlingtons did not get going till the beginning of July; and although their representatives have not scored a win so far, the improvement which is evident in their play in each match warrants the assertion that next year the other clubs will act wisely in not despising them".
"It will be seen, as already stated, that Redfern come out with the lead, having scored 28 points out of a possible 32 points. Much of their success is due to the energy and good management of their secretary, Mr John Robertson. The team too, was always well handled by its Captain Mr Hutchinson, whose play in every match this season was much admired. In club matches the Redferns were defeated only once. The match was the best contested this season, the West Sydney team winning 6 goals to 5. The Redferns were vanquished on one other occasion, which was when they visited Maitland and tried conclusions with the Northumberlands, who scored two goals to the Redferns nil. They kicked 44 goals in club matches, and only 17 were kicked against them. The Sydneys come second on the list with a record of six wins put of nine matches, their vanquishers on each occasion being the Redferns. In the Sydney team are a lot of young players, and it is very creditable to their coaches that the club occupies such a good position.
Next come West Sydney, with a record of three wins and one draw for seven club matches played. This was the only Sydney Club that succeeded in beating the Redferns, and it is astonishing considering the splendid game which the team played on that occasion that they do not hold a higher position on the list. They have a really good team, and, if well managed, should make a bold bid for next years premiership".
"The East Sydney Club have not had a successful season, having scored one win and one draw out of eight matches. The Darlingtons have already been alluded to.
The Association is about to consider the advisability of allowing the teams to play with only 16 men a side next season. It is pointed out that by doing so better contests would be witnessed, and that there would not be such a long tail to most of the teams. Besides, an extra senior club could be formed with the four men who would be thrown out of each of the present senior teams. The greatest objection to the proposal is that it would be contrary to the rules as passed by the Australian Football Council. This objection, however, is not looked upon as insuperable by the majority of the association. If this concession is granted it is said that there will be at least four new clubs next season."
It was not to be.
In 1895 there was no competition and the
Australian game was not organised again until 1903. The last recorded match of the century
under the Australian rules was at Moore Park played between Sydney and Darlington on
Saturday August 25, 1894.
SMH Thursday January 29 1903
THE AUSTRALIAN GAME
An advertisement in this issue refers to the Australian game of football being re-introduced here. A large number of the residents of Sydney are desirous of the game with which they are familiar being established here. It is intended to form an association. The acting secretary, who has just returned from a trip to the Southern states, has the assurance of the bodies controlling football in South Australia and Victoria, that anything in their power to assist the game here will be rendered gratuitously.
FOOTBALL A Public MEETING will be held in the I.O.F. Rooms, No. 283 George-street (opposite Hunter-street, on the 30th INST., at 8 oclock p.m., to consider the formation of an Association under the Australian Rules. Everyone interested therein is invited to attend.
W. J. WILLIAMS, Secretary (pro tem.).
SMH Saturday February 7 1903
SMH Friday February 13 1903
The chairman stated that it was not the intention to form suburban clubs on an electoral basis. It would be inadvisable to do so until the game had made substantial progress. A Sydney club had already been formed with a membership of 40. A club would be formed next week at Paddington, in which Mr. Victor Trumper had promised to take an active part. Arrangements would be made for inviting two Melbourne clubs over to give an exposition of the game for the benefit of the public. Together with Mr. J.J. Virgo he had waited on the secretary of the cricket ground and had been promised the use of the ground free of charge in May. He moved "That the New South Wales Football League be now formed."
This was seconded by Mr D. A. Madden, and carried unanimously.
The rules for the constitution of the league were then considered.
The afore-mentioned Martin Sharp when writing his 1987 paper found the involvement of the YMCA as intriguing "Like the priests and brothers of St Ignatius and St Josephs in the 1880s, members of the YMCA were taken all round Australia on their religious duties and, having seen Australian football played in Melbourne and Adelaide, they may well have been keen to see it re-established in Sydney.
Six weeks before the inaugural meeting of the NSWFL John Virgo took up the position of General Secretary of the YMCA in Sydney, having transferred from the equivalent post in Adelaide. Elected a vice-president of the NSWFL, Virgo was one of a number of former Melburnians or Adelaidians who wanted to see the game played in their new home. Other vice-presidents of the NSWFL were Alfred Meeks, a Melbourne-educated merchant who lived in Adelaide before moving to Sydney in 1888 and Alfred Nash who had been president of the earlier NSWFA.
The federal spirit also played a part in the revival of Australian Football and, as in the 1880s, its presence was linked with the debate between Australian nationalists and imperial patriots."
SMH Wednesday February 18 1903
A meeting was held at Sinnotts Town Hall Hotel, Oxford-street, Paddington, last night for the purpose of considering the adviseability of forming a club for the borough of Paddington to play under the Australia rules. Mr H. Hedger, J.P., presided over a good attendance. At the conclusion of a lengthy discussion it was unanimously resolved, on the motion of Mr. Edgar, to form a club, to be named the Paddington Football Club. The names of 45 intending members were handed in, and Mr. Victor Trumper was appointed secretary pro tem. The meeting was adjourned for a week, when the officers for the year will be elected.
SMH Tuesday February 24 1903
A good deal of interest has been taken in the revival of the Australian game in and around Sydney, and it bids fair to become well established in this State during the coming season. Already a league has been formed in Sydney to govern the game in New South Wales, and under it there have now been three clubsviz, Sydney, Paddington and North Sydneyand others are now under consideration. Some old Rugby and British Association players intend taking up the Australian game.
SMH Thursday February 26 1903
"Australian" writes: Ás one interested in the Australian game of football I am pleased to observe its introduction into this State. It is a very scientific and open game, and I feel sure it is only a matter of time when its votaries in New South Wales will be counted in thousands. At the present time New South Wales and Victoria and South Australia are able to play interstate cricket matches, but are unable to play interstate football matches on account of the two States playing a different game. If only to bring about the possibility of inter-state football matches the Australian game should in my opinion, be welcomed. Why should we not have our inter-state football matches as well as inter-state cricket matches? In Victoria the attendances at first-class football matches runs to 30,000, and even more, during the Saturdays throughout the season and I feel sure this could be attained here if the Australian game were played. I am glad to note the formation of several clubs in different parts of the city and suburbs."
The first meeting of the newly formed Paddington Football Club was held at Sinnotts Town Hall Hotel, Oxford-street, Paddington, on Tuesday night. The following were elected as officers for the ensuing season: Patron, Sir William MMillan; president, the Mayor of Paddington (Alderman W.H. Howard); vice-presidents, Alderman C.W. Oaks M.L.A., Alderman W.F. Latimer, M.L.A., Mr. David Storey, M.L.A., Senator J.C. Neild, Captain Lynch, Alderman A.J. Kenny, Mr. Robert Usher, Mr. J.S. Brunton, Mr. Thomas J. West, Mr. Thomas Jessep, M.L.A., Mr J.H. Guy and Mr. A. Pointing; joint secretaries Messrs. V. Trumper and B.K. Edgar; treasurer, Mr Burton; committee, Messrs. H. Thompson, W.F. Wills, Rev. F.B. Cowling, W. Day. Ashbury, A.S. Matthews, A. Colgan, F.R. Webb, T.G. Coleman, F. Lord, with the secretaries and treasurer ex officio. The annual subscriptions was fixed at 5s. The colours were selectedblue and white jacket, blue knickers, and blue and white stockings.
SMH Friday February 27 1903
The third general meeting of the New South Wales Football League was held at the Y.M.C.A. Hall last night. Mr. F. Poole occupied the chair, and there were 145 members present. The rules were read and adopted. A letter was read from the Victorian League according their hearty support to the league, and promising that a team would visit this State during May next. It was reported that the movement had been taken up very enthusiastically, and five clubs had been already formed with an average membership of 60. A report was read from the players committee which showed that out of 202 members in the league 119 were players.
NORTH SHORE FOOTBALL CLUB
The chairman gave a brief history of the doings to date of the New South Wales Football League, and informed those present that the club would not be antagonist to the interests of other clubs in the district, but was merely to uphold the sport generally, and if possible to further it.
The club was eventually formed, and will be known as the North Shore Football Club. A provisional committee was appointed, and was composed of the following gentlemen: Messrs. L.S. Spiller, D.A. Madden, G.V. Padula, F.J. Hart, A.W. Ballhausen (sic), T. Spiller, A. Middleton, W.J. Williams, E.A. Wright, F.A. Beetson, C. Millard, E. Butcher, E. Truman, E. Robertson, and E. Attwater. Mr G.V. Padula was appointed hon. secretary pro tem.
SYDNEY FOOTBALL CLUB
SMH Monday March 2 1903
At a meeting of the Football Association(sic) on Friday (27th ult.) Mr. H. Hedger, of Sydney, was invited to speak on the subject of the introduction of the Australian game of football into New South Wales. He suggested that two Victorian teams be sent to Sydney in May to play exhibition games, and that the teams should ask for as small a share as possible of the gate money, as there would be difficulty in financing matters. It was decided that two teams be sent, and that in order to stimulate public interest that the game to be played in Sydney should rank as one of the fixtures for the Victorian premiership. The Fitzroy and Collingwood clubs volunteered to send their best teams to Sydney and to pay all expenses, leaving the whole of the gate receipts intact for the New South Wales promoters. This generous offer was warmly acknowledged by Mr. Hedger.
SMH Saturday March 7 1903
A well-attended meeting was held at Womerah Hall, William-street on Thursday evening, Mr. D. Levy, M.L.A., presiding. A motion that a club be formed in East Sydney was proposed by Mr. E.W. Butler, seconded by H. Hedger, supported by Messrs. H. Knight, D. Sullivan, H. Rappiport, Kewin, MLeod and Gleeson, and carried unanimously. A large number of those present signified their intention of playing the Australian game during the coming season (including several Rugby players). A provisional committee was appointed to draw up the rules for the club. The meeting closed with a vote of thanks to the chairman who gave a substantial donation to the funds of the club.
The attention of those interested in the Paddington Club is drawn by advertisement to the meeting to be held at Sinnotts Hotel on Tuesday next, also to the fact that players and others are invited to meet at Centennial Park on Saturday, at 3 p.m., on the polo ground, to have some kicking practice.
SMH Monday March 9 1903
SMH Monday March 16 1903
A largely-attended public meeting of members of the above club was held in Mr. Coffills Hall, Harris-street on the 6th instant, Mr. Frank Pascoe presiding. The meeting was intended to explain the Australian game to those unqualified with it, to enrol members, and elect officers. Several footballers from Victoria joined. The club officers were elected, and it was decided to commence practice at once to enable the team to get well together before the season commenced.
SMH Saturday March 21 1903
SMH Tuesday March 24 1903
The tenth club to play football under the Australian rules was formed at St Georges Hall, Newtown on Friday night last (20th), and a strong team was got together, some 30 names being handed in as players. The club will commence practice at once in preparation for the ensuing season.
The outlook for the league and Australian football in this State is most promising, and it is apparent that the game under Australian rules is going to fill a big place in the winter sports of the community, being everywhere taken on with great enthusiasm. The formation of further clubs is engaging the active attention of the league.
The first general meeting of the East Sydney Football Club (Australian rules) was held at Womerah Hall, William-street, on Thursday evening (19th), Mr. D.Levy, M.L.A., presiding. The rules of the club, as drawn up by the provisional committee appointed for that purpose, were discussed, and adopted. The election of office-bearers for the ensuing season resulted as follows: President, Mr. D. Levy, M.L.A.; vice-presidents, Messrs. P.E. Quinn, M.L.A., (next part of text wrongly-set, name probably Mr H. Hedger) Aldermen J. Lane Mullins, J.P., A. MElhone, J.P., T.J. West, J.P., Milner Stephen and A.H. Conroy, M.P.,; hon treasurer, Mr H. Knight, J.P.,; hon secretary, Mr. E.W. Butler, J.P., assistant secretary, Mr. P.G. Kenny; delegates to the New South Wales Football League, Messrs. H.C. Harte and H. Knight; committee, Messrs. D. Collins, P. Kenny, A.W. Thorpe, W. Berkley, Lubraski, M. Donovan, and R. Levy.
SMH Saturday March 28 1903
First record of 1903 matches
SMH Monday April 20 1903
The 1903 competition comprised 11 clubs
Check required No cutting of meeting to form the Balmain club, yet I know I have read it before. Past info points to Balmain being formed on April 3 1903 at their local Town Hall, the meeting chaired by the Mayor.
Does anyone have documentation to prove or otherwise discount the prior legend which had it that a group in 1902 set out to re-establish the code "which included BILL STRICKLAND who had been the first captain of Collingwood when the Magpies were born in 1892 and who then was a Sydney hotelier, with LEO ALEXANDER and brother OSCAR BALHAUSEN and a HARRY HEDGER " Strickland indeed played eight seasons with Carlton VFA (1885-92) then transferred to Collingwood where in 84 games, captained the Magpies to their 1896 VFA grand final victory over South Melbourne. He also played 17 VFL matches with Collingwood before retiring at the end of the 1897 season. A Collingwood book A Century of the Best records "Previously a licensed victualler (in more modern parlance he ran a pub) in Johnston Street, Strickland took up employment with the Federal Government and moved to Sydney. There he continued his involvement with football, coaching a police team with considerable success, and also spent more time pursuing his other great interest fishing. He was also a composer of music, once having written a piece called Quadrille, Magpies which the local band played at the unveiling of a new clock on the Clubs grandstand in 1894. Strickland lived in Sydney for the rest of his days and survived until the grand old age of 95". meaning he passed away here in 1958 or 1959 being born August 17 1864.
(1) Oxford Companion to Australian Sport,
For later inclusion Australasian Football Council was formed in 1905 under the banner of One Flag, One Destiny, One Football Game: The Australian.
For later inclusion
Several productive periods for the game were enjoyed when Nationalistic pride rose following Federation in 1901 which briefly lasted until the arrival of the First World War of 1914-1918. Indeed, after the reformation of 1903 until war was declared late in 1914, the code enjoyed success in the development of juniors and the creation of an exclusive venue which was decades in advance of Waverley Park in Melbourne and Football Park in Adelaide which were not realised until the 1970s.
The Victorian Football League (VFL) was
created in 1897 by a breakaway of eight clubs from the 20-year old VFA.
Expand this section
Enclosed grounds proved to be the achilles heel. The Rugby opposition held control and access to major arenas in the early part of the century and it was not until 1911 the Australian code in Sydney gained its first enclosed ground. But already, a newer opposition by the break-away of Rugby League in 1908. The national code now had two major competitors, for supporters, but most of all, for the heart-and-minds of the development and playing of the game at school level.
Recovery after the 1914-1918 world-wide conflict saw the code begin to blossom again from the mid-1920s. Though the New York stock crash did not occur until October 29 1929, effects on the Australian economy had begun as early as 1927. Ten per-cent unemployed in 1928, rising to 13% in 1929, 23% in 1930, 28% in 1931, and a monstrous 33% by 1932. Modest improvement started in 1933 but even in 1938, nine per-cent of the work-force were still out of work. Then the world was again plunged into another World War of six-years duration between 1939 and 1945, and its aftermath.
One of the most telling failures of the code in Sydney has been its inability to obtain suitable playing fields on where the higher-points of Australian Football can be displayed. Together with the lack of junior development across the years, the code has always been one of a social nature where ex-patriates from the dedicated footballing southern states can gather, to play out their days and dreams.
THE AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL GROUND
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday March 22 1911
Since last season the New South Wales controlling body has secured another site for a playing area. This is the old Rosebery racecourse, 10 acres in all. It was intended to put it in order at once, but nothing will be done now until the Victoria tangle is straightened out, and in the event of professionalism being adopted over there, it may be that the idea of making the area into a playing ground will be abandoned.
Daily Telegraph, Saturday June 17 1911
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday July 5 1911
The Australian Football Ground was officially opened Saturday April 20 1912. A friendly was played between Sydney 7.8-50 and East Sydney 2.8-20.
Daily Telegraph, Monday April 22 1912
Mr A.E Nash (president of the League) said they were that day celebrating the official opening of the new grounds, on which in the future the national game of footballthe Australianwould be played. As they respected the Australian flag and believed in Australian unity, so they believed in the Australian game of football.
Mr O.M Williams, representing the Victorian Football League, complimented the New South Wales League on securing such splendid grounds. In Victoria there was none better.
The life span of the Australian Football Ground was brief. Though the venue boasted excellent facilities it was judged the 1914 Carnival of football states in August would be held at the central location of the Sydney Cricket Ground. The calamity of the First World War clouded the carnival from which the NSW League suffered considerable losses. During the four years of war, the Australian Football Ground passed into the hands of newspaper proprietor Sir Hugh Denison who in 1912 as a patron of the League had donated One Hundred Pounds for the erection of a grandstand at Rosebery. The land was sold in 1928 and became the site of many factories. A small strip of parkland is all that remains.
A new spirit and brighter prospects for the Australian game in NSW emerged in the mid-1990s when the Sydney Swans football team created great interest by making the League Grand Final in 1996. In the history of the club, in their former incarnation as South Melbourne they had not featured in a Grand Final since 1945. The Swans reached the pinnacle in 2005 by winning its first premiership since 1933.
Extraordinary crowds have supported the
club in their matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The record crowd for an AFL match in
Sydney was reached for the Saturday night contest on August 30 1997 when 46,168 paid to
watch the fixture. A surprising figure in light of the fact the capacity of the SCG is
42,000. The level in membership support of the Sydney club broke records with 31,175
achieved in 1999, and seems limited only to the capacity and requirements of SCG Trust
members at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
A dedication by the Australian Football
League to substantially finance and implement a long-range plan to secure the status of
the Australian code in the states of NSW and Queensland resulted in the formation of the
AFL (NSW-ACT) Commission at the end of 1998.
Oxford Companion to Australian Sport,
SMH, July 10, 1894
Last accessed Friday, January 31 2003
All content is subject to
edit, addition andor deletion.
to the top
Back to the Diary
to the top
Back to the Diary
to the top
Back to the Diary