The History of Sydney Grammar School (SGS) Football
By David P. Lewis 2007
I own up to being one of the 'founders' of that team in 1974 - this was the first year of official football at SGS. Peter Grunfeld, and Roger Engel 'decided' that enough was enough and we had to have a football team. I then implemented their vision.
They way the team started was highly controversial. Roger came to me and said he wanted to start an official team at SGS in 1974 but was sure that Don Hinks (Sports Master and guardian of all things Rugby) would not permit us.
I went off and did some research and found out that Cranbrook School was the 'registrar' for CHS Football (aka 'soccer') so I simply wrote to them and 'entered' a team from SGS! When they accepted I then went with Roger to the school and advised them that we had been 'invited' to join the CHS competition and argued that as there was no GPS competition AND that as Australia had just qualified for the 1974 World Cup, it was time we were represented.
They agreed, just, but only after Mr Mackerras, our then revered Head Master and sport agnostic, consented on the basis that boys were not tackled in the same way as rugby! Thus our Sydney Grammar team was born.
At this stage I note that I had never even kicked a football let alone played! It just felt right. I had endured many years of rugby at the school and after 2 bouts of concussion in my Y10, I simply could not withstand the size difference any more.
The 1974 team as per the picture
Mr Schumacher (Coach), Rob Wiles, Gary Elsass, David Bartolo, Steve Gonski, Michael Pollack, Vic Nurcombe (Y12), Keith Major
Bill Quinlan, Jody Glasser, Jack Gallagher (Y12), Roger Engel (c), Neil Edwards, David Lewis, Peter Grunfeld
Steve Brender also played a few matches. All of us were Year 11 with the exception of Jack and Vic who were Y12.
We weren't allowed to buy anything that first year and even had to use plastic footballs. No other football equipment at all was permitted so we bought our own. That's why we had to use the rugby top as our football strip. Note that I cut off the sleeves off my rugby jumper and I look like a right thug in the team photo - I got into so much trouble for that but I was making a 'silent protest' as we were treated like 2nd class citizens and that was my form of dissent. Of course this is now common place in both football and rugby.
Mr Schumacher, our coach and science master, knew nothing of football (we chose him as he had a German name but just didn't tell anyone) and Roger and Peter basically coached us!
We played our first game against Barker College at Barker and I believe lost 5-2 with Roger scoring 2 goals. That game was significant for two other reasons, Steven Brender's determination to play even with both hands bandaged from some ailment (no idea why he didn't last until the photo was taken?) and the fact that Mr Mackerras attended the game, something he hated doing for Rugby given the violence of the game. He liked (more accurately tolerated) it and we were allowed to continue.
I was responsible for reporting scores each week to CHS and recall sending off match reports and the like to Cranbrook. That's when we all started our friendships with those students too.
We completely ran the training, games and all things football (even though we called it soccer in those days) and I do not recall a teacher ever attending our matches as we just looked after it all. All games were 'away' games as we had no home ground and absolutely no chance of playing at Weigall in Rushcutters Bay. In fact Don Hinks never spoke to me again after my gross impertinence.
We finished a creditable second last and had a fantastic time too. We got good crowds with both family friends and all the girls too.
I ended up in goal after Jack Gallagher got injured and suddenly found that I simply loved diving in the mud - hence my 'keeper days were born.
The results, in order, were:
We beat Waverly twice and they came last with us 2nd last - of course we went on to win the comp in 1975!
This year was a little tougher as Roger, Peter and I decided that something a little grander was now warranted. We canvassed the then Y11 and that included Peter Lowy and Stevan Lambert in an attempt to draft in the other first generation Australians and increase both team numbers and quality.
This was hotly opposed by teachers Don Hinks and Bill Dick both of whom saw their Rugby empire crumbling before their eyes and at the hands of three 17-year-old boys! You might recall that this all took place at a time when SGS was rather poor at Rugby and getting progressively worse.
Our design was to recruit 2 teams per age group from Y7 through Y12. We didn't quite get there in the end but we did get a 1sts and 2nds, 2 x U15s and a few more below.
We lobbied the Y11s heavily, particularly Stevan Lambert as he was a gifted basketballer and soccer player and we needed him - we got him and it made a great difference.
Equipment was the next problem however this time we had the numbers to justify it. Don Hinks said he wouldn't help so once again we did it ourselves.
I found Umbro, the football shirt manufacturer in Canterbury. Roger Engel and I went out there and WE designed the first SGS football tops ourselves. We conservatively chose the material and the colours - vertical black and yellow striped tops and black shorts. This design has survived to the present day. We sourced balls, bibs, corner flags and other training gear. WE had to go out and buy it ourselves.
That year our Firsts won the competition and remained undefeated also beating a Trinity Grammar team that boasted several state representatives. This was an incredible achievement by a new team of boys who had little if any coaching and really no guidance at all. Quite remarkable.
I broke my hand early in the 1975 season but played on throughout. I played briefly in the 1sts and mostly in the 2nds that season.
We had many great games, probably none better than the critical Knox game towards the end of the season. Perry Rabinek (now called Rabin) was sent off in that game (1sts), another that we had to win, and we were down 2-1 at the time and came back to win 3-2 away from home. I Played in goal for the 2nd's that day and saved a penalty in a 1-0 win over Knox with Peter Bondy scoring our only goal.
We were to suffer what I consider a major slight at the end of the season though. Having won the prestigious CHS comp in only our 2nd year of competition we were denied any real recognition. Normally SGS honoured its successful teams with School Colours etc. We were denied that honour - and we deserved it!
Roger, our captain, was the only one given any recognition and only HALF Colours at that - in my view an absolute back-hander and an insult. We all discussed this at the time and seriously considered refusing to accept the half colours or accepting on behalf of the team. In the end Roger decided to accept the 'honour' in the hope that some recognition was better than none. The Rugby powers were not going to allow us to be properly recognised. I am still unhappy. (LOL) This was mean spirited and contrary to all the other lessons of fairness and equity that was central to the Mackerras years.
- Peter Grunfeld was one of our best players in 1975 but his parents would not allow him to play in his HSC year. Roger, I and others conspired to keep or collect Peter's boots and gear weekly so he could play and play he did (we even washed his kit for him) - the explanations got wilder each week!
- There was a player revolt during the 75 season just before the crunch game against Cranbrook - we had to win this game to stay in touch with Trinity. Rob Klein, our talented keeper for the firsts had sworn at our 'coach' and he was to be dropped in favour of me. I had a broken hand at the time and really could not play in goal - nor was I as good as Rob! I refused to play in goal forcing the selection of Rob as the only other 'keeper who went on to make several crucial saves from Tom Krulis! I played right back that day and I recall Peter Lowy scored one of our quality goals.
- Mr Mackerras also attended our 2nd game against Barker in 1975. As noted he detested sport but did concede that Football seemed far less violent than rugby. It was at that game that he created his erudite definition of rugby: "A game where one group attempt to exclusively possess a chattel by force and then, with great violence, use it to the detriment of another group.
The football at SGS delivered so much joy to all of us and was instrumental in building significant friendships for so many of us. It also shaped much of our independence and, of course, led to my later creation of Lough Park Rangers in the ESFA league in 1980.
From the 1974 team, Roger and I went on to play NSW State 1st Div, then a semi-professional league, and we played inter-varsity in 1978 representing UNSW in the Australian University Games. Peter Grunfeld also played at a high level both in Sydney and Perth. Peter Lowy and Rob Klein from the 1975 team played at a high level in the NSW Federation Leagues with Maccabi.
I founded one of the first women's team in the state in 1978 and the first UNSW women's teams and remain involved in women's football with Maccabi for my wife and daughters. The single team I started with has now grown to over 250 players!