IT WAS 110 years ago that a Western Austrailan senior State squad ventured into the unknown – and stunned their opponents on the east coast of Australia. Organised football in WA had entered its 14th season of operation and apart from metropolitan selects playing developing townships like Collie, Bunbury, Albany and the Goldfields; the only interaction for a bona fide (since 1896) WA team were three friendly matches against visiting English Test cricket sides.
Since there was no enthusiasm from the other states to venture west, it was up to the WA British Football Association (WABFA), in particular their visionary chairman WC Thomas, to take the bold step of sending a representative side to the eastern seaboard.
The touring squad was made up of 15 players, consisting of English and Scottish migrants, a sprinkling of Australian and New Zealand-born, together with four supporters.
Travelling Party/Team Manager: William Charles Thomas Players: Vic Allen Charles Frederick Bodenham Alfred Clement ‘Clem’ Bogle Arthur William Bonnette John Frederick ‘Jack’ Booth George Henry Burt Royston Macaulay ‘Mac’ Evans Thomas McCreery John McLaughlin Jack O’Neill Evander Shand Robertson William HS Roskams Henry Scott AM ‘Micky’ Taylor James Woods
Supporters: CH Bogle Frank McCreery P Refeld S Woods
On 27 April 1909, they set sail on the steamship RMS Victoria for what became a remarkably successful 49-day tour that took them to the rural regions of New South Wales, the Australian Rules stronghold of Victoria and finally the developing State of South Australia.
Ten games were played, of which WA won three, drew five and lost two. There was a total of 23 goals scored and 20 conceded. An astonishing accomplishment given the lack of experience for a WA senior representative side.
Sea legs was perhaps a contributor to WA losing their first game 4-0 to Northern Districts, but they quickly bounced back to win the second game 2-0 versus South Maitland, with ES R’Robbie’ Robertson and ‘Mac’ Evans the goalscorers. Match three was against the might of New South Wales on the Sydney Cricket Ground and there they secured a highly creditable 2-2 draw (George Burt and Robertson the WA scorers) against a strong eleven. Game four was a 1-1 draw with Granville District at Parramatta Oval before WA faced NSW in the second Test on the SCG.(The photograph was taken just prior to the game).
This time, however, the home side proved too strong and won 3-1. Robertson was again on the scoresheet. WA won the next game against a Metropolitan XI 4-0 before finishing their NSW leg with a 2-2 draw in Wollongong against a South Coast XI. Burt and Evans were the scorers with Robertson given a rest.
Next, the bags were packed and off on a 600-mile train ride to face Victoria on a rain sodden East Melbourne Cricket Ground, with the pitch described as ‘thick black soup’ by the tour manager WC Thomas. WA easily accounted for the Victorians 3-0 with Robertson, Evans and Burt finding the net for the ‘Swans’. This was followed by another train ride to Adelaide to meet South Australia in two extraordinary games that finished 4-4. The SA goalkeeper was ‘Ted’ Rowley who had earlier played in WA, as well as assisting in the formation of the Kalgoorlie Football Club. Rowley Park is also named after him. The scorers in the first encounter were Robertson (2), Burt and Evans, while in the 10th and final game of what was an exhausting tour, the goals came from Clem Bogle, Burt, Evans and Henry Scott.
“If ever the history of “soccer” football is written up in Australia, the name of the Western Australian Association will figure largely,” said Thomas. “New South Wales, with its greater population, will, no doubt, remain the strongest centre numerically and on the basis of population, perhaps naturally so. But, as pioneers of Interstate contest, which of all else has given the game added interest, pride of place most certainly be granted to WA. Their tour of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia has shown the possibilities that lay before the game in Australia.”
*Royston ‘Mac’ Evans was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame ‘Hall of Champions’ category in 2002, while Thomas became a life member of the WABFA in 1910. Interestingly, Thomas had a brother, David ‘Ticer’ Thomas, who featured with amateur club West Auckland (England) that won an international tournament in Italy in 1909. It was made into a mini-series titled ‘The World Cup: A Captains Tale’ that starred Denis Waterman.
*I spoke to former QPR player Dave Thomas in England when writing my second book about the 1909 tour, as he is a grandson of ‘Ticer’ Thomas. He didn’t know much about Ticer’s brother, so I mailed him a copy of ‘The Soccerites’.
Sadly, however, Dave is now blind from glaucoma.
*SA-born ‘Mac’ Evans also represented WA in cricket and formed Narrogin’s first football club in 1910. He was also President of soccer’s governing body (WASFA) in 1953-56.
*George Burt also played cricket and once held the record “for the biggest hit on the WACA”. He is also responsible for forming the Gascoyne Transport Company.
PIC ONE: WA and NSW squads. PIC TWO: WA pictured before going east. PIC THREE: The WA side before facing South Australia.