Annandale Rugby League Club

Club History
by Sean Fagan of

Annandale RLFC (year unknown)Annandale Rugby League club entered the NSWRL competition in 1910, which ensured the premiership remained at eight teams following the departure of Newcastle at the end of the previous season.

The first developments in the arrival of the Annandale club are similar to the events that saw the formation of Western Suburbs in 1908. In the same way that Ashfield's inability to break out of the RU's second division saw it turn to League (as Western Suburbs), the Annandale rugby club couldn't step out from the shadow of their district club - the powerful Glebe side.

On the under-card to the second Australia v NZ Maoris Test of 1909, Eastern Suburbs played a game against a mixed team that included five players from the Annandale rugby club. The players were promptly brought before a NSWRU tribunal and asked to explain themselves.

"We went over because Annandale will never have a decent show of forming a district club whilst we are in the Glebe district" said Annandale's Angus Lennon. In what had become a regular event over recent seasons, the players were immediately expelled from rugby union.

The Annandale RL club was formed by J.J. Giltinan in his first involvement with the game since the financial troubles of the "Pioneer Kangaroos" sent him bankrupt and off the NSWRL board. Returning with Annandale was a triumph in itself for Giltinan - there seemed to be little long-term benefit for the NSWRL to include "The Dales" in the competition.

The playing talent that Annandale would add to the competition was questionable, and their inclusion would do nothing to improve the resources and support for Newtown, Wests, Balmain and (in particular) Glebe. However, it did avoid the need for a bye.

With no home ground and wearing the colours of amber (maroon) and gold, Annandale took their place in the competition. They were boosted by the acquisition of 1908/09 Kangaroo fullback Charles Hedley (Glebe) and produced a reasonable start winning five games and drawing one from the fourteen game 1910 season.

However their stay in premiership football was largely unremarkable, lasting only until 1920. Their most successful season came in their second season (1911) when they finished in fifth place out of the eight clubs.

The following nine seasons saw The Dales win the wooden spoon on four occasions, including 1918 when they became the first club to complete a season without winning a game. In total, Annandale won only 23 games out of the 151 matches they played.

There were few individual highlights for their players as well.

Annandale's only "Test" player was Robert Stuart who toured with the 1911-12 Kangaroos, playing in two minor matches. Stuart, who was born in Annandale, defected to League in 1911 along with Herb Gilbert (to Souths) in the wake of the "Wallaby-raid" the previous season.

Stuart had played two Tests for the Australian rugby team against New Zealand in 1910. After returning to Australia in 1912 with the Kangaroos he saw out the season with Annandale before leaving the club.

1912 also saw Annandale's W. Haddock and Ray Norman tour with the NSW team to New Zealand. NSW won eight of the nine games they played, including a defeat of the home country by 18-10. Haddock was a mainstay of Annandale turning out for the club for as long as they were in the competition, except for a brief sojourn at Newtown in 1914. W. Palmer came to Annandale from Wests in 1912 and stayed six seasons (62 games). In 1915 Palmer was selected for NSW in two games.

The Norman brothers were also one of the few interesting features of the club. Ray Norman, an outstanding five-eighth / centre, played with Annandale from 1910 to 1913 before joining South Sydney in 1914 where he became a Test player for Australia. After retiring, Ray Norman coached Eastern Suburbs to the 1923 premiership title.

Rex Norman's stay at Annandale lasted from 1910 to 1914, before he followed brother Ray to the Rabbitohs. He also eventually gained Australian selection when chosen for the 1921-22 Kangaroo Tour. A third Norman brother, Roy, played for Annandale from 1910 to 1912 before joining Glebe for the next two seasons.

Prop forward Jim Pye played two seasons at Annandale (1914-15), before moving to North Sydney where he figured in their two premiership wins of 1921 and 1922. Pye also won state honours, making four appearances for NSW.

By the time the 1920 season ended few were prepared to shed tears at the club's demise, after they had won only one game in the last three seasons (41 games). The 1920 season saw them beaten by the inexperienced Sydney University side and yet again were handed the wooden spoon.

In October 1920 the NSWRL voted to exclude Annandale and allow entry of a St George district club into the competition. The League apparently based their decision not only as a result of the poor on-field performances, but also because of the use of many ineligible players (residential rule) and their rough-house, unattractive style of play.

The short-life of Annandale could hardly have been a surprise to the NSWRL. It was established in area which already had a concentration of clubs, even for that period of Sydney's development. Annandale's presence may also have been a factor in the soon to be realised demise of the Glebe club less than a decade later - without the existence of Annandale it is not unreasonable to suggest that Glebe would have been better off.

Of course the other unforeseeable factor upon Annandale's performance was the Great War. With already such a small residential area to draw players from, the priorities of the war effort would have put an appreciable burden on an ability to field a football team.

Whatever the reasons, they obviously didn't concern the delegates of Balmain, Newtown and Glebe as they set about with clinical precision in dividing up Annandale's area. Of the club's major players only Haddock and Peter Coll were seen in 1st Grade again, both at Glebe.

Annandale History © Sean Fagan / RL1908

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