Jul 31, 2006
A man who became arguably one of Eastern Suburbs’ greatest ever administrators and club men, Johnny Quinlan, was responsible for the adoption of the now famed red, white and blue colours of the Sydney Roosters.
The origins of the Roosters’ colours go back a decade before the club’s formation in 1908. In the 1890s one of Sydney’s prominent clubs was the Paddington RFC. Unique amongst Sydney’s first grade rugby clubs, Paddington founded itself upon local players and support – most other clubs were organised on a social or invitation basis.
Playing their matches at the adjacent Moore Park (now home to the Sydney Football Stadium), the red, white and blue jerseys of the Paddington men provided quite a colourful picture.
In 1900 the old club system was replaced by a district scheme, that would eventually become the fabric of the NSWRL Sydney club competition – district teams were formed at Eastern Suburbs, South Sydney, Balmain, Newtown, North Sydney, Western Suburbs and Glebe.
At the meeting to form the Eastern Suburbs RU club, Johnny Quinlan successfully argued that the club should honour the district tradition established by Paddington and wear their red, white and blue colours. The stylish hoop design of the first Easts jersey was copied from the British team that visited Australia in 1899.
The 'Eastern Suburbs' name itself was used by athletic and cricket clubs in the 1880s, but had dropped out of all use by the end of the century, even as a description for that part of Sydney. The name was revived in 1900 when the rugby union club was formed, and was taken up in 1908 by the rugby league club.
Easts rugby league club were referred to in the press as 'the Easterners', 'the stripes' or the 'tricolours'. The latter is interesting as many thought 'le tricolore' originated in the 1950s after Easts adopted a French rugby league inspired jersey design. It is also generally accepted that the association between Easts and the rooster ('le coq') symbol also began with this jersey design.
Over the decades though, many older Easts fans resolutely maintained that the rooster was part of the club's identity decades earlier – and they may have been right.
One explanation offered has been that the sun rises on the eastern side of the city, hence this is where the rooster crows first.
Another possible source is the Rugby League News of the 1930s. A forerunner to Big League, this rugby league news magazine was in the habit of regularly showing a weather-vane (with rooster a-top) pointing in the direction of Sydney’s strongest club – it swung eastward more often than not during the 1930s as Easts proved to be the most successful club of the era.
Even earlier though, in 1909, The Sydney Sportsman newspaper referred to Australian Test players as 'Kangaroosters'. At the time, it was very common for the 'ster' suffix to be added to the end of words (eg. roadster, huckster, teamster). It was also common to refer to the Kangaroos as simply 'Roos'. In 1913 the Easts team was almost entirely comprised of Australian (Kangaroos) Test players – in effect, a team of ‘Kangaroosters’.
While the club is now proudly synonymous with its traditional rooster logo and identity, the moniker’s origins may lie in the uniquely Australian kangaroo and ‘Roosters.
Article by Sean Fagan of RL1908.com
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