Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

JJ Liston

The following documents were sent to me by Roy Hay. They reference a strange moment of ecumenical thinking in Australian football. They centre on the figure of JJ Liston, simultaneously president of the Victorian Football Association and Victorian Soccer Football Association, something unthinkable today. The first is his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry by David Dunstan. The remainder are from newspaper articles during the 1930s. The first is a breathtaking piece of brinkmanship in which Liston threatens to convert the VFA to another code. The others document his introduction to the soccer code.

Liston, John James (1872–1944)

John James Liston (1872-1944), civic leader and liquor trades spokesman, was born on 21 September 1872 at Granny, Roscommon, Ireland, son of John Haire Liston, constable, and his wife Mary Ann, née McNamany. The family migrated to Victoria about 1882 and settled at Williamstown where, after education at St Mary's Parish School, young Liston became a hairdresser. A member of the Catholic Young Men's Society, he was an outstanding debater and a keen sportsman; he played for Williamstown Football Club and in 1889 joined the Williamstown Racing Club. He was to head both organizations (the Football Club in 1923-33, the Racing Club in 1939-44) and become a prominent racehorse-owner. His barber's shop in Nelson Place was remembered as 'a sportsman's bureau'.

A big, ambitious man who studied to improve himself, Liston stood for Williamstown Council in 1897, revealing 'an astonishing grasp of municipal affairs' but losing the election by two votes. Next year he was returned unopposed. He was mayor in 1901-02 (the youngest in the State) and again in 1913-14. By 1906 he was licensee of the Customs House Hotel and that year was appointed secretary of the Liquor Trades' Defence Union, based in Melbourne. He sold his hairdressing business and, on 3 August 1910 at St Mary's Catholic Church, West Melbourne, married a milliner Eva Emily Roberts (d.1928).

Williamstown was a working-class suburb whose industries were in decline. As its representative on the Melbourne Harbor Trust in 1909-13, Liston sought public works for his area, expressed strong protectionist views and urged the trust to build its own ships at Williamstown. Even before his five successive mayoral terms in the 1920s it was said that Liston ran the town. Chairman of the finance and lighting committee, he persuaded the council to light the suburb with electricity in 1917 and take over supply. The financial success of the venture led to a new town hall and the purchase of a theatre and ferry steamer. Liston's plan to charge the cost of new streets to the benefiting property-owners was implemented after a long legal battle. In 1922-27 his supporters abandoned the rotation of the mayoralty so that he might carry out his programme of public works. But towards the end of the decade Liston and his 'progressive party' lost their grip. In August 1930 'grave irregularities' were alleged. A royal commission cleared Liston of wrongdoing but he resigned from the council and, after marrying May Ward on 15 December at St Patrick's Cathedral, moved to St Kilda. He claimed at this time to have lost all his Williamstown investments.

Liston had long ceased to be a purely local man. In 1918-30 he was Williamstown's representative on the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works; he was the northern and western suburbs representative on the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission in the 1920s; and in 1923-31 he was a Melbourne city councillor and for six years chairman of the traffic and building regulations committee. A supporter of a Greater Melbourne Council, in 1931 he was defeated by one vote for the position of lord mayor.

Liston worked with Montague Cohen to amalgamate Melbourne's breweries and strove to thwart the prohibitionists. He led 'the wets' to victory in the 1930 and 1938 'no licence' referenda; during the first campaign a Herald writer called him 'the busiest man in Melbourne'.

In his rise from humble origins and in the scope of his influence Liston may be compared with his co-religionist John Wren. He devoted an extraordinary amount of effort to public service, bestowing patronage on sporting and charitable associations and performing unpublicized acts of kindness during the Depression. A Williamstown high school, a regional hospital at Footscray and the Friendly Societies' Association were among his causes. He was a trustee of the Port Phillip Pilots' Association and of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and president of both the Victorian Soccer and Victorian Football associations.

Liston died of heart disease at Cliveden Mansions, East Melbourne, on 12 April 1944, survived by his wife and by two sons from his first marriage, one of whom was killed on active service next year. Archbishop Mannix attended his funeral and J. H. Scullin was a pallbearer. His estate was sworn for probate at £293,481. There is a bust in the Williamstown Town Hall and the Williamstown Historical Society holds a portrait. He is also remembered by the J. J. Liston medal for the best and fairest player in the Victorian Football Association and by the J. J. Liston Stakes at Sandown.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

100 Years Ago Today, 13 May 1921

Mercury (Hobart), Saturday 14 May 1921, page 5


Division I.-Corinthians v. South Hobart, at Show Ground.

Division II.-Hobart v. South Hobart, at South Hobart.

The result of the senior match at Elwick this afternoon will have an important bearing on the Cottrell-Dormer cup competition. In the event of South Hobart proving successful, all the teams will be bracketed together with an equal number of premiership points, but a win for Corinthians would give that team a very useful lead. In the second division, Hobart could only muster a weak team for their first match last Saturday, but they have got together a good side for to-day's game, and are confident of re-peating the success of the senior team.

Last season's State champions, South Hobart, sustained their first defeat in a league match since 1919. It was a thrilling contest, and undoubtedly one of the fastest exhibitions of the game seen in Tasmania. It is pleasing to learn that Cadbury's have started a team, end their first practice match will take place at Claremont this afternoon. A number of experienced players are at the works, and the new club should be further strengthened by further arrivals from the Old Country.

It is certainly time that the association properly organised the C grade competition. There are a great number of youngsters playing the game in Hobart, and representation has been made to the T.F.A. that the Honeysett cup should be again made available for competition. The association must bear in mind that the boy of today is the man of tomorrow.

Register (Adelaide), Friday 13 May 1921, page 4


Following are the soccer football fixtures for Saturday:
  • North Adelaide v. Prospect, Mackinnon parade; 
  • Sturt v. Glenelg, Wayville; 
  • South v. Ports, Hutt street; 
  • Cheltenham, a bye.

Advertiser (Fremantle), Friday 13 May 1921, page 7


The Fremantle Caledonians played their first "away" match against Perth City and had to admit defeat by 5 goals to nil. The score was not a true reflexion the play, as up till the last twenty minutes, although City showed the best football, the game was fairly even. The Caleys have not yet been able to put their full strength in the field, owing to one reason and another, and as a number of players have to be tried yet. It will be a few weeks before the team is properly settled down. The game on Saturday opened in a downpour of rain and the conditions were all against good football. It was Evident from the start that training would tell, and so it turned out. Caleys were obviously leg weary at the finish, whereas City looked as if they were only beginning. The backs deserve a special pat on the back for the way they stood up to what must be considered one of the best forward lines in the League. The next game is against College on the East Fremantle Oval on Saturday. The students are a lively lot and have been doing well this season, and as Caleys expect to have out their best team so far, a game worth watching is expected.

Advertiser (Fremantle), Saturday 14 May 1921, page 4


Fremantle Caledonians, 7. Claremont College, 1.

Melbourne results 7 May 1921

League I

  • Albert Park 0; St. Kilda, 0;
  • Melbourne Thistle, 3 (Robertson 2, J. Russell), Preston, 0.
  • Footscray Thistle, 6 (Issard 3, Cumming, Fletcher. Pearce); Spotswood, 1 (H. Watson).
  • N & D 1 Windsor 1

League II
  • Brunswick, 2; St. Kilda A, 0.
  • Windsor A, 5;.Yarra Falls, 2.
  • Welsh United, 4 (Watkins, Cann, Manger, Campbell) ; St. Davids, 0

Melbourne results 14 May 1921

League I
  • Melbourne Thistle 2 St Kilda 1
  • Windsor 3 goals; Spotswood 0
  • Footscray 1 goal; N. and D. 0

League II
  • Brunswick 10 goal, Preston A 0
  • Thistle A 2 goals St. Kilda A 0
  • Windsor A 4 goals, St Davids 1 goal.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

100 Years Ago Today 6 May 1921

 Herald (Melbourne), Friday 6 May 1921, page 4


"Soccer" enthusiasts have been busy during the past three weeks in preparation for competition games. which begin tomorrow. There is every indication of a successful season, for although Burns and Osborne House teams have dropped out, their places have been taken by the newly-formed Brunswick and Yarra Falls clubs. The Council, at its last meeting, decided upon two Leagues, the first division to consist of Albert Park. St. Kilda, Footscray Thistle, Melbourne Thistle, Preston, Windsor, Northumberland and Durham United, and Spotswood: while Brunswick, Yarra Falls, St. David's, Welsh United, Windsor "A." Preston "A." St. Kilda "A." and Melbourne Thistle "A" will constitute the second division. In addition to the League fixtures, arrangements have been made for the annual England v. Scotland match, to be played on the Fitzroy Cricket Ground on August 6. This fixture will he followed by the Dockerty Cup final on the same ground.

Age, Friday 6 May 1921, page 10


British Association.— This body will also open its league programme, when the following matches will be played: — 

league 1.: 

  • Albert Park v. St. Kilda, Cumming: 
  • Melbourne Thistle v. Preston, Morrison {?}: 
  • N. and D. United v. Windsor. Butler: 
  • Spotswood v. Footscray Thistle. McDonald. 

League II.: 

  • St. Kilda. A v. Brunswick, Dempster: 
  • Preston A v. Melbourne Thistle A, Barker: 
  • Windsor A v. Yarra Falls. Armstrong; 
  • Welsh United v. St. David's. McKenzie. 

Kick-off 3 pm.

Northern Territory Times and Gazette, Tuesday 10 May 1921, page 3

The town is quite lively with sailors from the Geranium, which arrived in port on Sunday morning. They are a splendid lot of young fellows-good-humored and courteous to civilians-and evidently out to make the best of their short stay in port.

Having no matting to cover the concrete wicket, a cricket match with the sailors was impossible, but it is understood that a football match is being arranged. The cricket materials will arrive in the Mataram and, if the Geranium is still in port, a match will he played.

Monday, 3 May 2021

George Macaulay

Paul Mavroudis thinks that I research soccer in order to discover my roots in a mining village in Durham, and this explains my Weston obsession. Maybe he's right. This thought occurred to me as I retraced my origins in Melbourne on the Number 1 tram on Saturday morning as I visited Val Finlayson at Albert Park, just two streets away from my first residence in Melbourne.

Val is the daughter of George Macaulay who played for Footscray Thistle for more than a decade between 1927 and the Second World War. Val had noticed that I put some photographs on the Lost Footscray Facebook site and contacted me letting me know that one of the people in the photographs was her father. I subsequently chatted with Val on the phone and arranged to meet her at brother Ed's place in Albert Park to talk about her father and to look at some of the artefacts and photographs he left.

Initially I surmised that Val must have been quite old, perhaps even in her 90s. It turns out that she was the first baby from a late marriage. Her parents married in November 1941 and her father George enrolled in the army a month later, training in Puckapunyul and Bonegilla for a year before serving in New Guinea. Val didn't meet her father until after the war in September1945 when she was 3 years old! Meeting Val and her brother Ed was a real privilege; both of them sprightly and active with a keen interest in learning about what I was researching and a real commitment to helping me understand their father's story.

Val and Ed generously provided me with the opportunity to learn about their father's origins and showed me a number of artefacts and photographs that I could copy. Ed was particularly helpful charging up and down the stairs to the scanner to produce high-quality scans of certain items.

Hughes Academy, George top row 3rd left
George Macaulay was born on 27 July 1907 in Aghadowey Northern Ireland. The youngest of five siblings growing up in a flax farming family, George was the only child to be educated beyond primary school. He attended the Hughes Academy where he learned to play football. Today, the academy, in Belfast, is a training college for young soccer players. After the untimely death of George’s father in the mid-1920s the family migrated to Australia. They arrived in Melbourne in 1926 and settled at 17 Napier Street in the suburb of Footscray. Despite having trained for the Civil Service George obtained a job as a foundry worker at Metters - a job he retained until the company closed in the 1960s. He then worked at Angliss Meatworks until retirement. Val mentions that he would proudly recount working there with the actor, John Wood.

George's 1930 Dockerty Cup medal
No name inscribed on the back.

In 1927 George, a Presbyterian, was playing with Footscray Thistle, one of Melbourne's champion Scottish-based teams. In sporting terms George must have felt that he had landed on his feet. Over the next five years he would obtain four championship medals (three Dockerty cups and one northern section championship). He also played a number of times for Victoria. Val laughed when she told me about the letter he received inviting him to play for Victoria. “It told him where he needed to be at a particular time on a particular day and to bring his own socks.”

It's clear that Macaulay was an excellent player. He is prominent in match reports throughout the decade. Though it should be said that Footscray Thistle was on something of a decline throughout the decade being relegated to the second tier in 1937.

George Macaulay enlisted in the Australian army in 1941 at the age of 34. He served in New Guinea, shattering his kneecap, contracting malaria, and returning to Australia in September 1945. It appears that George never played an organised game again. Val certainly remembers him kicking a ball in the backyard, showing her some tricks, but she has no memory that includes games of soccer. Perhaps it was the malaria; or the shattered kneecap; or his age, but his soccer career was over. But maybe also it was because he lost his team. A familiar story in Australian soccer is the death of clubs and the despondency and sometimes defection of those who follow them. Footscray Thistle seems to have been one of the war’s many casualties. Of all the teams that were deleted by the war, perhaps Footscray Thistle was the best of them. In any case, George seems to have lost interest in local soccer, preferring to follow the broadcast of English games on his scratchy radio in the back shed or local games of VFL.

Sadly, George’s wife, Valerie died when Val was 10 in 1953. The family moved to 79 Hyde Street Footscray until George's retirement when they moved to 16 Station Street in Blackburn. George Macaulay died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 90.

When it came to George's soccer records, photographs, and medals, Val didn't have a vast number of items. However, the quality of what she has is immense. These included a number of photographs of the Footscray Thistle team and the Victorian State team, some of which I had not seen before. One in particular took my attention because of the width of the
undated picture of the Footscray Thistle team
photograph. In the background we see detail normally excluded from team photos, that might well give us information about the locality of the game. The 1937 program for the English game against Australia excited me because I've never seen anything like it. My excitement was attenuated by realising a copy of it was already on Mark Boric’s Melbourne soccer site. I had seen photos of George’s Dockerty cup and Northern Section medals but to hold them in my hot little hand and be able to photograph the inscriptions on the reverse side was was a thrill. But the big ticket items were . . . little tickets: two tiny blue booklets from 1935 and 1936, called Footscray Thistle member 
1935 and 1936 Member's Tickets
tickets. These little booklets hold so much information as can be seen below: the committee, the season fixtures, the ground that they play on, even the little advertisements for local products contain information available nowhere else. I half-jokingly offered Val $200 for them on the spot. She seriously declined. One item I missed was the letter informing him that he was in the Victorian team, Val having misplaced it.

A wonderful amount of information about Footscray Thistle
 and Victorian soccer in such small bundles
Leaving Val and Ed, a familiar feeling came to me. Having visited many people for such interviews, I was aware of taking a little piece of their personal history. This produces a sense of responsibility and desire to treat the material with care — not in a physical sense in this case, because all I had was photographs and scans of originals and the notes — in an emotional sense. I need to respect the implied trust the siblings have placed in me. I will be pleased if this little piece fits that bill.

More is to be discovered about George Macaulay's personal history and Footscray Thistle’s rise and fall. This piece is my first contribution to the that project.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Soccer in Victorian Schools in the 1950s

Last Saturday I received a call from Barbara at the Footscray Historical Society, alerting me to some photos she had found in Blue and Gold, the annual publication of the Footscray Technical School. She had noticed some soccer photos and thought I might be interested. 

Their holding runs from 1941 to1965, so I started at 65 and worked backwards. I found a healthy soccer culture that ran back to the formation of the senior team in 1956 [Horsham moment]. Prior to that soccer existed more marginally in the junior school but nonethless with a sense of commitment.

After looking through the Footscray tech mags:

  • Soccer first played there in 1949 (though subsequently I have found references to a pre-war Footscray U14 school team)
  • First played by senior college in 1956
  • Rugby, baseball and lacrosse have a stronger presence
    • Indeed Rugby team seems to play in APS comp.
  • Continental European names gradually become dominant

Much of this seems to accord with what I thought I'd find -- though the pace of change seemed rapid:

  • 1956 Olympics?

Had to be more than that. And I think the main reason is the instutiona; push from the VASFA

Argus, Monday 30 June 1952, page 2

SOCCER men are after your boy!


IN a few days, maybe, a soccer football organiser, known as the Director of Schools' Football, will "grab" your son.

Overnight he may "convert" him from Australian Rules - which you, your father, and your grandfather played - to a "foreign" code.

The organiser is Mr. V. J. M. "Dick" Dixon, who last week was given this propaganda mission by the Victorian Soccer Association.

Under the very eyes of the Victorian Football League, he will distribute soccer balls and rule books, show the lads a trick or two, and encourage our many migrant teachers to spread the game.

Already soccer's strength has increased by about 400% in the last five years!

A professional man who last week heard of Mr. Dixon's "nefarious" plan lost his temper.

"Quit the sentiment," he snapped, "and let's kill soccer."

"If my kid took up a foreign, sissy game, I'd feel like kicking him out. I'd certainly pull him out of a soccer school."

NEED our friend really have worried?

Let us look at Victoria's football statistics. The following table lists the estimates of the various codes controlling bodies. Rugby Union and Rugby league are grouped together.

The table gives the total number of clubs, players and supporters, respectively.

Aust'n Rules           Soccer       Rugby

1,594                         170              46 

49,500                      2,200           950 

528,000                    8,000           6,000

The national code - Australian Rules - appears to be in an unassailable position.

Essendon district, alone, has 32 clubs and 1,300 players-almost as many as the State's entire rugby following!

Where, then, lies the danger?

Unquestionably it lies in the support of almost 600,000 migrants and in the brilliant and sustained organising zeal of the soccer controllers.

RUGBY, although not a spent force, is not as powerful as it was before the war. It is not a serious challenger in Victoria.

But soccer's backing has increased fourfold in five years - and it is said to be still rising rapidly!

And now, with "sinister" intent, the soccer men plan to attack our State schools. The future power of our own game may well depend on the ensuing football battle in the schools.

There's nothing slipshod about the Soccer Association's methods. Not satisfied with Mr. Dixon's activities, they also plan to appoint an English or Scottish professional as "coach of coaches."

He will be paid £1,000 a year - big pay by. English standards - and begin his campaigning on January 1, 1953.

The "pro." will devote much of his time to polishing the school coaches.

And what has Mr. A. H. Ramsay, the Director of Education, to say about this soccer infiltration into his schools?


MR. RAMSAY mastered both our game and rugby and has an open Mind.

"I'll leave it to the head masters," he says. "If they want soccer they can have it."

"My only concern is that every fit boy should be given the chance to play a winter game in which he can acquire skill and enjoy himself.

"It's a good thing for a lad to get some skin off his nose now and then. It makes a man of him."

You might be surprised what Mr Like McBrien, secretary of the all-powerful V.F.L., says about schools and soccer.

"The V.F.L. has no desire to "dictate what game boys play," he comments charitably.

"Any sport that requires teamwork is a marvellous game.

"We're not at war with soccer. But we are proud of our game, and, naturally, we'll do our utmost to foster it.

"One thing is certain: Soccer won't succeed by revolution; maybe it'll get somewhere by evolution."

Some school authorities would not be as kind as Mr. McBrien.

The Christian Brothers, for instance, are most unlikely to let soccer get a hold In their schools In Victoria.

One Brothers' sportsmaster said: "Australian Rules is the game in our schools. And it will stay that way."

But Mr. C. M. Gilray, head master of Scotch College, adopts the tolerant attitude.

His boys get a choice"Rules," rugby, hockey, basketball. . . . "It's better that way," he says.

Mr. George Langley, principal of Melbourne High School, Victoria's biggest school, agrees with Mr. Gilray. His boys play lacrosse and baseball also, and they used to play rugby, but It lapsed for want of support.

CONTRARY to popular opinion, there is no quarrel, overt or hidden, between the V.F.L. and the Soccer Association.

Certainly, there have been hot words over the V.F.L.'s alleged "selfishness" with its enclosed grounds. "But that's all forgotten now," the football men say.

Mr. E. B. Coles (of G. J. Coles'), who is president of the Soccer Association, emphasised the "harmony" between the two codes.

"You couldn't even say we are challenging Australian Rules," he says.

"All we're doing is to try and provide facilities for all those who want to play the international game."

Mr. Ray Locke, secretary of the Victorian Rugby Union, is emphatic that there is room in Victoria for all football codes.

He believes that many small men, incapable of succeeding in Australian Rules, can be champions at rugby. And Mr. Locke, too, has his eye on the schools.

Ten years should tell the story.

The "goalie" saves . . . a familiar scene to Victoria's

growing number of soccer players and supporters. Soccer men are now infiltrating school territory with this international game.

So indeed there was a driving force behind the shift. And there were a number of responses also.

The problem was the difficulty of finding a coach which took three years. Len Young came and instituted a lot of improvements in Victorian soccer culture

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 29 March 1955, page 20

Soccer in schools this year


The Victorian Soccer Council will allocate un limited funds this season for the propagation of soccer in Victorian schools.

Mr. Len Young, imported soccer coach from England, last night asked the council for £500 to start a school competition in Victoria.

He said that in the 10 months he had lived in Melbourne he had been in touch with a number of schools and had been surprised at the response he had received.

Made friends

Some masters had told him that soccer, because of its liberal distribution of footballs, training books, and referees' charts, had made many friends among Victorian schools.

Mr. W. R. Thomas, V.A.S.F.A. chairman, told the council that Mr. Young's request for £500 needed no discussion. He suggested to council that the £500 should be only a first payment.

"We have more than £3,000 in a trust fund, and this should be made available to Mr. Young to propagate the game here," he said,

The association decided to organise a school competition in soccer this year and to buy equipment and lease grounds.

I spoke with Socceroo Ted Smith about the process, figuring that his development occurred during this time.

He told me that in 1950 there were 4 high school teams

  • northcote
  • uni high
  • melb high
  • hampton

went to Preston tech old boys

vic colts coached by Len Young

at 18 he went to moreland.

In Ted's case the soccer in schools program certainly produced a result and he points to a number of players who made it to a pretty high level. He also bemoans the colts program being squashed after on two years. This 1953 article from the Australian Jewish Herald also points to the value of this program



Negotiations are under way for the Swinburne Technical School senior soccer team to join the ranks of Hakoah.

Hakoah easily outmatched their slower opponents, Preston, in a charity game at St. Kevin’s Oval last Sunday.

Final scores were Hakoah 8, Preston 5. (Friday 4 September 1953, page 17)

Then there is the response of Australian Rules, not directly to soccer in schools but rather the whole growth of the game.

Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), Tuesday 28 July 1953, page 15

Collingwood's Offer on Northcote Ground

Collingwood Football Club made an offer to Northcote city council at its meeting last night to pay the rental of the Northcote football ground in the event of Northcote Football Club disbanding.

Three representatives of Collingwood club waited on the council — the president (Mr. Sid Coventry); secretary and manager (Mr. G S. Carlyon), and treasurer (Mr. Neil Kearns). Mr. Carlyon explained that his club had received a letter from Northcote club saying it might have to disband. 

"Collingwood, as a friendly body in this area, felt it should make a move to ensure that Northcote ground was retained for Australian football, even if only by a junior club on a Saturday," he said. "We do know that foreign codes of football desire to obtain, the ground. . . "

Lest we think that Collingwood was a loose cannon on this instance, a year later this analysis of the problems facing Australian rules in Melbourne was published in the Argus given the threatened collapse of the VFA.

If this went out of existence - and that is a real possibility - the way would be opened for other codes to take over the grounds in the growing outer districts.

The threat from these other codes means little at the moment. Any expansion, they may have made in recent years is due solely to the number of New Australians now in our midst. Nothing can draw them from their national games, so what they do has no effect upon Australian Rules.

What does matter, however, is what their children do.

In this lies the danger to Australian Rules if these other codes get control of the outer ring of grounds now occupied by the Association. This would give them a tremendous impetus in the rapidly growing areas of Melbourne.

Not only would it make the way easy for the New Australians to have their children play the other codes, it would also give them a splendid opportunity to woo young Australians, for the major ground in any district is the focal point for all young sports lovers.

Consequently the League must decide whether to bolster the Association sides or, somehow or another, hold their grounds. (17 April 1954, page 4)

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

100 Years Ago Today 29 April, 2021

Portland Guardian, Monday 2 May 1921, page 2


On Wednesday next on the Lighthouse ground the A and B teams of the Cupid will give an exhibition of the popular English game of Soccer football. Both are capable exponents of this outdoor pastime, and the public are assured of an interesting afternoon's sport, and will gain a knowledge of the various points connected with this skilful game, so much the rage in the Old Country. The proceeds will be devoted to the Portland Hospital, the President of which (Mr F. Marshall) desires to heartily thank the captain of the ship and others instrumental in organising the match in aid of the institution's funds. The kick-off is timed for 3 o'clock sharp. 

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 30 April 1921, page 17




During the course of a recent hurried visit to Eastern parts, I tried to note any signs of athletic vitality. The climate of the Celebes, Java, Straits Settlements, and Malay States, is not of a type to encourage any unnecessary exercise. The temperature rarely exceeds 95 degrees, but is still more rarely under 80 degrees, and its accompanying moisture makes it enervating. A day at Macassar, where, as in Java, the Dutch are in charge, showed that Association football (soccer) was played, for the goalposts were up on the padang, or playing space, in the centre of The town. Still better evidence was the sight, towards evening, of some 10 or 12 Malay youngsters, aged eight to 12 or so, getting keenly excited over a game amongst themselves—barefoot, and with a round bladder merely, for ball. In Java, the Dutch schoolgirls were found playing basket-ball and tennis. I was told that here, too, soccer throve, but that running and athletics, as we know them, were but rarely practised. At Singapore and in the Malay, where Britain rules, the evidences of sport were more frequent. Every sizeable town has its playground, where cricket, tennis, and football (both soccer and Rugby) are held, and generally an annual athletic meeting. The Chinese (who form about half the population) are quite keen athletes, and hold their own meetings, and produce, I was told, some quite respectable performers, especially in Singapore. I saw lots of Chinese practising soccer, and that is quite the most popular game among the non-European population. At Seramban (F.M.S.). the Malay boys as they came out of their high school, went straight to the soccer field, picked sides, and played keenly and well. These lads learn English, and use all English terms, such as "off-side," "goal," "left wing." They are acquainted with overhead kicking, heading, and the other tricks of the expert soccer player. 

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Saturday 30 April 1921, page 10


The season will open to-day with a record numbler of teams, 61 having entered. The entries (which include lodges and schools) exceed the number of teams play ing under any other winter sport in New-castle, and the prospects for a successful season never looked brighter. At the Tramway Ground the new elevens of Lysaght's United and Newcastle City will meet. Lysaght's consist of players who are practically new to this country. Morgan, the ex-Weston back, Williams, who for a few seasons played with Canterbury (Sydncy) being practically the only exceptions. They include three Oughtons, one in goal and the other two In, the half-backs. Thomas, the centre for ward, played for Lysaght's (England) in the same position, and is stated to be in a fine player. Newcastle City include such well-known ex-Merewether and Hamilton players as Robson, Frew, Gill, Sneddon, Watson, Coppock, Manderson, Williams. The teams met in a practice match a few weeks ago, City winning one to nil. The early Tramway Ground game will be be tween Hamilton and Wallsend Rovers. West Wallsend seniors will be at home to Wallsend, and these two teams, whose following is a good one, generally provide a hard game. Wallsend Rovers will visit Adamstown, Rovers receiving their initiation into the top ranks of Soccer. All Junior grades will be set in full swing.

Mail (Adelaide), Saturday 23 April 1921, page 3


The fourth interstate railway football carnival 

...... The visitors were prominent for their smart work, but were apt to overrun the ball and frequently displayed British Association methods.

Advertiser (Adelaide), Saturday 30 April 1921, page 2



All Players and intending Players roll up To-day at McKinnon parade, North Adelaide, for Practice Match.

Journal (Adelaide), Friday 29 April 1921, page 1


By Left Wing.

An All-Australian Game. 

The one regrettable part about football in Australia that appeals to me is that our purely Australian code does not reign supreme among the footballers so that we could have interstate matches for the premiership of this great continent (writes "Kickers" in The Melbourne Herald). I am not unmindful of the fact that we have matches between teams representing all the States at the carnivals—one is to be held in Perth this season—but it cannot be declared seriously that the game in either Sydney or Brisbane is of that standard which would make a Melbourne combination extend itself. This is due to the fact that the great majority of footballers in those cities play either the Rugby League or Rugby Union game. It is what they have been educated in. That football as played by the "rugger'' man or the "soccerite" is a fine game nobody can deny. All health-promoting games are good. The "rugger" man swears by his code: the "soccer" player sings the praises of his, but, having seen all kinds. I shout for the Australian code. Eventually our game may become deeply rooted in Brisbane, where leading grounds have been secured for this season. A prominent man active in the interests of the Australian game there was in Melbourne recently and spoke most hopefully of its progress. In New South Wales, too, there is a forward movement in favour of it. The Rlvcrina District has adopted it, and last season operations in Sydney were more encouraging than ever they have been. This has been attributed to a great extent to the fondness for something essentially Australian of the Australian soldiers, thousands of whom, when in France, either played or took the keenest interest in the game. Since their return they have stuck by it. As everybody knows in all the States, with the exception of New South Wales and Queensland, our code is followed as that of the king of football games. 

Also 100 years ago spurs beat wolves in the FA Cup final. 73K and the Australian cricketers were guests of the FA

Monday, 26 April 2021

Merewether Advance Roll of Honour

I've brought this up to date given that the replica board is well under construction.

Northern Times 23 October 1917 reported that "a pleasing feature as far as Newcastle was concerned, that since the war began, and recruits had been called for, the numbers that had gone from the Newcastle district were far in excess in average, of any other district in Australia." The piece argued that the "Merewcther Football Club had done that part well by sending 71 of their members who had made a name for themselves on the battlefield, as well as the football field." These were words spoken at the occasion of the unveiling of the Roll of Honour for the MAFC enlisted players.

The board was described as being "constructed of Queensland maple, measures 6ft wide by 5ft. 6in. high, with canopy top, supported by fluted pillars and scrolls, and bearing the Union Jack and Australian flags and a football. The colours of the club are hung on each side ot the board, which is inscribed: Merewether Advance Football Club, Roll or Honour; for King and Country."

Unfortunately, the board seems to have been lost, perhaps demolished along with the arts building that housed it. Hopefully it was rescued and is sitting somewhere ready to be discovered when I venture to Newcastle this Saturday for a bit of a research and discovery trip.

Below I have transcribed the names as best I could. I'm still haing difficulties with a few (see the asterisks). Also, the board lists only 67 names and not the 71 claimed so there are more names to find. A subsequent article suggests that the number was as high as 76

Merewether Advance Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918

E. Back
A. Lewis
F. Poole [D]
E. Poole [D]
W. Victor
R. Betholli
H. Wallace
C. Pickersgill
J. Pickersgill
A. Shepherd
W. Westhead
E. Clark (E. Clarke was killed)
J. Bartley
J. Doyle
A. Jennings
J. Thorpe
T. Wardaugh
F. Albert [D]
E. Richardson [D]
H. Grey*
F. Newburn
P. Coppock
D. Lloyd
J. Pearce
W. Powell
J. Jones
G. Adamthwaite
H. Finch
E. Peacock
A. Jones [D]
T. Allanson [D]
J. Allanson
E. Firth
J. Ferguson [D]
F. Banks [D]
C. Stewart
J. Powell
G. Ruddy [D]
J. Stewart
C. Hobson (wounded)
T. Hope
J. Gill
R. Twist
W. Twist
J. Ruddy
A. Wright
T. Bell
R. Trimingham
R. Mallen
A. Searle
G.* G**** (Alfred Gibb?)
F. Thopmpson
G. Houghton
G. Barnes
A. McLean
J. McKenzie
F. Harvey
D. Williams
G. Searle
W. O’Neil
J. Elliott
E. Sparkes
A. Williams
J. Blackburn
J. Banks
J. Mitchell
J. Winters
M. Gidley
J. Hobson

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Soccer and Anzac

This piece was written in 2012. Yet I think it retains a freshness and perhaps a timelessness that is important. It is by far the most popular article on this site and I'm sure people keep coming back to read it. 
It formed the basis of 9000 word piece "Fronting Up: Australian Soccer and the First World War" published in June 2014 in the International Journal for the History of Sports
Each year on Anzac Day members of the Australian soccer community wonder, sometimes aloud: does this day have anything to do with our game? Where do we fit in the Anzac picture? 'No,' and 'Nowhere,' are the usual answers.

Considered by many a 'foreign game', soccer can seem so out of place and time in any story about Australian national development, growth and maturity. So surely the game played by Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters (and Poms and children, two categories missed by Johnny Warren) has no place in the tales of our warriors and heroes at Gallipoli and elsewhere? It just doesn't quite sit with the received legend. Perhaps these attitudes are breaking down today but there is long history of excluding soccer from the 'legend'.   

In 1931 a most extreme example of this exclusion was published in Hobart where soccer authorities sought access to the North Hobart football ground, normally reserved for Australian rules. They requested its use for representative games on the two days of the season when it was not needed by the STFA for first grade matches. Typically there were expressions of resistance to this desire, one of which was a letter to the Mercury penned by ‘Derwentside’. He argued that 
“Soccer” players and followers in Hobart are in a minority only a self-centred, and, which is worse, a selfish, player or supporter, would deny. Whatever merits “Soccer” has as a winter game, it has not here the following, status, or genuine sportsman-like appeal to the average Australian as the game which some fifty odd years has evolved under the name of Australian football. The proper development of a nation’s national pastimes, particularly the winter ones, does more to build up a virile nation than attempts to foster - or is it foist? - an exotic pastime upon them. Among the many thousands of Australians who manned so doggedly the trenches and trudged the fields of France and Flanders - to say nothing of the Gallipoli campaign - not a small percentage got the qualities which made the A.I.F. world renowned from the fields in at least four States devoted in winter to football played under Australian rules. 
This is one more letter published in relation to one more moment in the interminable squabble for playing space in Australian sport. And it articulated many of the sentiments that had come to take hold in the Australian sporting imaginary: soccer is low, unpopular, unestablished, minor, foreign (“exotic” in fact) and is being imposed/foisted on Australians by selfish and self-centred agents of foreign influence. More significantly here, it excludes soccer and its culture from the realm of Australian miltary history, particularly Gallipoli.

Yet soccer does have its place in the story. Indeed, soccer was at Gallipoli, and not merely in spirit. It was played there. The stunning image below of a soccer match being played at Gallipoli is the kind of picture that leaves nothing to be said. An organised game of soccer was played between Allied troops and they were being cheered on by hundreds of others. At Gallipoli.

The image is located at 5.49-5.52 in this public domain video. The game was
conducted as part of the illusion that the Allies were carrying on as normal when
in fact plans were being made to evacuate the Gallipoli Peninsula

While more evidence is needed to connect this image directly with Australian troops, they certainly played soccer on Lemnos in December 1915. Lemnos was loaned by Greece as a base "for operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula" and the following image shows members of the 6th Battalion playing there against a team from HMS Hunter. The men were likely en route to Egypt after participating in the Gallipoli campaign.

The team from the destroyer HMS Hunter playing a game of soccer against a 6th
Battalion team at a camp on the Aegean island of Lemnos. Australian War Memorial.

More symbolic and potent evidence of the Australian game's intimate connection with Gallipoli lies in the remarkable story of the Soccer "Ashes". They were conceived in 1923 during New Zealand's tour to Australia.

Mr. Mayer (manager of the New Zealand soccer team) took back to the dominion the ashes in a box with a history attached to it. Mr. W. A. Fisher (secretary of the Queensland association) possessed a silver safety razor case presented to him when he left for the war, and it was with him when he landed with the Anzacs. He presented it to Mr. Mayer, and it contains some of the soil of Queensland and New South Wales, whose representatives played in the test matches. Mr. Mayer intends to have it mounted in New Zealand woods so that it may be a prized memento in connection with international matches between Australia and New Zealand. (The (Adelaide) Register, 10 August, p7)

The "Ashes" tag appeared to be a typical symbolic nod to the cricketing Ashes until it was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald 13-years later that the case literally contained ashes.
The "Ashes," incidentally, are a genuine trophy. They are a relic of the New Zealand team's visit to Australia 13 years ago, when the ashes of cigars smoked by the captains of the New Zealand and Australian team were placed In a plated safety-razor case, which, in turn, was enclosed in a casket of New Zealand and Australian timbers, honeysuckle and maple, suitably ornamented and inscribed. This trophy bears a record of the test games between the two countries since 1922, and was won three years ago by Australia, which beat the visiting New Zealand team in every test. (3 July 1936)

The Sydney Sun-Herald (5 Sep., p 41) reiterates the story of the
Australia-NZ soccer "Ashes" during the 1954 New Zealand tour of Australia.
The 'Ashes', courtesy Ozfootball
Frequent test series over more than 30 years between the two Anzac nations, playing for a trophy that 'saw' action at Gallipoli and is inscribed with powerful cultural icons seems to be clear evidence of a deep and abiding relationship between soccer and the Anzac story.

But it is not so simple. Soccer is a game whose high points and poignancies are explained as statistical spikes or historical curios whereas its low points are seen to be the norm; its joys are accidental and its miseries systemic. The burden of proof for the soccer historian is eternal in its recurrence. So the soccer historian needs to work harder than most to have their stories even registered.

Four examples

There are many other examples of soccer being present in Australian military contexts in the First World war. The four presented below are not particularly special or significant. Indeed, they are presented precisely because of how low-key and mundane they seem.

1. A wartime awards ceremony in which a team receives winners' medals in an inter-company soccer competition.

Feuquieres, France. 3 January 1919. Presentation of medals C Company "soccer" team,
winners of inter-company football competition, on steps of the Town Hall in the village
square. Australian War Memorial

2. Another decorated wartime soccer team, runners-up in a divisional competition.

3. Soccer balls ordered for the troops.

The Euroa Advertiser reports in July 1916 seeing
. . . a cable from Cairo to headquarters, 'Send immediately six tents, 10 small pianos, 5,000,000 printed letter paper and envelopes, 50 sets of cricket material, 50 soccer footballs [my emphasis], 50 association footballs [presumably Sherrins]'.

4. HMAS Sydney's soccer team, October 1918

Group portrait of the soccer team representing the crew of HMAS Sydney.
HMAS Sydney was at the southern naval base of the Royal Navy's Grand
Fleet, near the Forth of Firth, Scotland, during a break from patrols of the North
Sea with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron. Australian War Memorial

These four moments, along with scores of others that could be identified and presented here, speak for themselves. And for most historians such a collection of evidence could begin to suggest a pattern. Yet the soccer historian struggles against the idea that that is all they are: a collection of instances; random, special cases that defy and deny the truth of the overarching myth that soccer, even if it was there, was never really there.

Yet it was there.

Soccer into the war

Prior to the First World War soccer had undergone something of a renaissance in Australia. After fitful beginnings in the 1880s, organised soccer spluttered into life in the first decade of the new century. Recovering from the depression and energised by waves of migrants, the game bloomed around Australia. Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart had thriving competitions. The 1912 Townsville competion, for example had 8 clubs in a population of just over 10,000. In large country towns like Rockhampton and Toowoomba, the game emerged and re-emerged like migrant-fuelled spot fires. In Victoria, the Dockerty Cup commenced in 1909 and became a central plank in the game’s re-growth. Club fixtures were regular and 1913 saw the reinstatement of the NSW-Victoria clash after a 25-year break.

War brought much of this expansion to a grinding halt. The Hobart Mercury recollected prior to the resumption of the interstate rivalry between Tasmania and Victoria in 1921:
The last occasion on which a Victorian team visited Tasmania was in August, 1914, and it was at Hobart when war was declared. Seven of the team volunteered for active service immediately on return to Melbourne. They beat the Tasmanian team on that occasion by two goals to nil, and earlier in the season at Melbourne had won by six goals to nil. Victoria have an exceptionally strong team, and Tasmania is also well represented, three members of the team, J. H. Honeysett, Stonor, and Beattie being in the team which was defeated by Victoria in 1914.
Like their Melburnian brethren, soccer players across the country were enlisting in droves. Each state felt the slashing of player numbers to the point where competitions were starting to look unviable. The Mercury claimed that "Soccer football stood out as a fine example to all sporting organisations in Tasmania. The Elphin Club had sent every one of its playing members to the war." (31 March, 1915) In South Australia player losses were also mounting. In April 1915 the Sturt Club reported losing "the services of eight of last year's players, who have enlisted in the Expeditionary Forces, and are now in Egypt, but several new men having been secured the prospects are bright." (The Register, 1 April)

While these departures were causing the game to wane, the clubs 'happily' sent their members off to war with a sense of duty and pride, as well as a semblance of ownership. The Adelaide Tramways team placed its enlisted members in a prominent position in its 1914 team photo (below).

Even though plans to form a national association were scuttled by the outbreak of war, the game carried on as best it could. The Argus of 9 August 1915 reports:
The annual international match between teams representing England and Scotland, under the auspices of the Victorian Amateur British Football Association took place on Saturday on the Fitzroy Cricket ground the authorities of which on this occasion granted the free use of the ground as net proceeds from the match were to be handed over to Lady Stanley's fund for Wounded Australian Soldiers.
Yet it was clear that the inescapable war was taking its toll. The Argus goes on:
Four of the players who took part in last year’s match are on active service, namely Lowe, Golding, Guthrie and Hyde, the latter of whom is at present in hospital at Plymouth, England, wounded. Of those who took part in Saturday's encounter 13 of them represented their various countries last year - seven for England and six for Scotland. Three of England’s representatives and two of Scotland's have enlisted and were relieved by their respective commandants to enable them to take part in Saturday's match.
The massive commitment made by soccer players to the war effort meant that the game was being played on borrowed time. And by 1916 the Melbourne competition was suspended, not to be resumed until after the war. According to the Argus, when soccer did resume, in 1919:
At the first annual meeting of the British Association, on June 16, the report covering a period of four years commencing 1915 disclosed the interesting fact that 90 per cent. of the players had enlisted for service abroad or at home. No competitive football had been played during the war.
In Toowoomba (then a town of 13,000 people) the commitment was remarkable. On the resumption of soccer in Toowoomba in 1919:
At the annual meeting of the British Football Association it was reported that 140 members of the association had gone to the Front . . . During the evening the Chairman extended a hearty welcome home to the returned men present, and Mr. S. Morgan responded on behalf of the returned men. The secretary stated that the British Football Association ("Soccer") was the only football association that had an honour roll in Toowoomba. The names of Syd. Cousens, Lit. Groom, (both pictured below) A. Dundasch, Colin Groom, W. Bury, and J. McManus were recorded in the minutes as having paid the supreme sacrifice in the late Great War. (Brisbane Courier, 4 April, p11)
Private. Littleton Campbell Groom. 42nd Bn. Australian Inf. Killed in action
10th June, 1917. Age 28. Son of Frederick William and Fanny Matilda Groom,
of Lorriane, Herries St., Toowoomba, Queensland. Australian War Memorial
Private Sydney Leake Cousens, 26th Battalion, of Toowoomba, Qld; formerly of
Yorkshire, England. Killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux, France, on 8 August 1918. He was
33 years of age. His brother 816 Sergeant Stanley Clifford Cousens, 15th Battalion,
was killed in action at Pozieres, France, on 9 August 1916. Australian War Memorial

Irymple and the Caledonians

Pre-war soccer had not only grown in the metropolitan and larger regional centres. It had taken root in the country as well. Small towns like Broken Hill, Charters Towers and Renmark had bustling soccer cultures.

Mildura's developing two-team competition in this period rescuscitated a game that had flowered there briefly in the mid-1890s (curiously, at a time when the game virtually vanished in Melbourne). Weekly matches were played between clubs based in Mildura and the neighbouring town of Irymple. This microcosmic competition provides its own story and gestures towards the general tragedy of war. Of the 11 players pictured in the Irymple team of 1913 (below), at least seven enlisted. Of this number, five lost their lives.

Yet the scale of this tragedy is sadly exceeded by the example of the Caledonian team in Perth. Eight members of the club lost their lives in active service. The following image depicts, in uniform, the club's first XI and marks its six members who died. John Williamson's Soccer Anzacs (from which the image is extracted) documents the Caledonian story from origins to the club's final demise.

Commemorating Anzac Soccer?

The Toowoomba, Irymple and Caledonian tragedies (among so many others) underline a question that many in the soccer community have asked: "Why don’t we honour the Anzac legend with a commemoration similar to those arranged by other codes?"

Perhaps the failure is for good reasons - like not wanting to get caught up in a perceived jingoism or not wanting to rain on someone else's parade. But perhaps it's because soccer doesn't actually know its own history.

And it's not as if the game has never seen a role for itself in the remembering of Anzac.
Charity Match at Moonee Valley. Under the auspices of the Metropolitan and District “Soccer” Association a match for the benefit of the Anzac appeal will be played on the Moonee Valley racecourse. Moonee Ponds United will play Metropolitan and District Association. (Argus, 9 April 1927, p25)
It's just that soccer no longer seems not to know how to approach Anzac. In 2009, Football Federation Victoria tried to institute an Anzac match between Hume City (Turkish) and South Melbourne (Greek). It produced neither the desired symbolism nor the expected fireworks. After three years, the idea appears to have been shelved.

Personally, I'm not sure I would want to see a blockbuster Anzac soccer match develop - though in the unlikely event that it could be arranged, a game between Australia and Turkey might be appropriate. I think there is already too much hoop-la around what should be a solemn and sacred occasion. But the soccer community needs to work harder to make the broader community conscious of the game's role in Anzac and military history in general, whether that be seen in a positive or negative light. We need to understand why and how it came to be that a game so 'foreign' in the popular imagination participated so thoroughly in a campaign that for many is a founding moment in a vital Australian legend, or myth. We owe it to the memories of the men who formed the Returned Soldiers team in Brisbane to remind people they were there and then returned. After all, their team's very foundation was an assertion of memory.

Finally, we owe something to the men of Irymple and the Caledonians, the ones who didn't return. War is a waste of youth and life and it is driven by people who don't get their hands dirty or bloody, but we cannot afford to forget the stories and the details of those who paid that terrible price.

We must remember but we must remember well. Lest we forget, indeed.

Ian Syson