SA’s Eagles play in NSW on 1922 tour by Richard Jones

After South Adelaide’s 1884 trip north Adelaide’s West Torrens Football Club was another interstate footy club to journey across the borders to NSW to play a series of matches. But this wasn’t until July 1922 when the SANFL Eagles started their tour in Wagga Wagga with a match against the combined Riverina side.

For a country venue an excellent crowd of 2,000 was at the Wagga Oval to watch on as West Torrens cruised to a comfortable victory: 15.23 to 8.7. By then behinds were listed in match reports and had been actually since early in the new century.

Next up was a clash against NSW at the Erskineville Oval on 15 July. First, just a look back at West Torrens’ history. The Eagles had joined the South Australian National Footy League in 1897 and were great performers throughout the 20th century. At the end of the 1990 season West Torrens amalgamated with Woodville (Malcolm Blight’s first club) to become the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles and played their first season under the new moniker in 1991. Woodville’s old nicknames the Woodpeckers (1963-82) and Warriors (1983-90) were discarded.

For the Erskineville Oval’s 1922 clash, NSW selectors had made changes to the side which had gone down to the combined Victorian side a week earlier. West Torrens had retained all of its stars including 203 cm (6 ft. 8 ins.) centre half-forward Len ‘Booby’ Mills.

The 15 July scheduled match day was a rainy day – not heavy falls but a misty, continual drizzle.

The playing conditions were unpleasant, but the South Australians swarmed all over the home side in the first quarter with NSW unable to score even a solitary behind. West Torrens led 8.4 (52) to 0.0 (0) at the first change. It seems likely that many of the partisan 6,000 crowd were ready to ‘walk’ then before the home NSW side scored first in the second quarter. That very first NSW major was greeted by the crowd “in a derisive fashion” according to the next day’s Sydney press.

West Torrens’ pressure seemed to slacken and by half-time NSW had “pegged back the visitors” to record a reasonable score of 5.7 to 9.6. It was during the third quarter that NSW really began “to go to town” booting a further five goals to the Croweaters’ single. By the last change scores were dead level at 10.9 (69) apiece.

And the Sydney home crowd was right behind NSW “…and from the bounce they supported every move and every score the home team made,” the next day’s reports read. For a period in that final quarter the lead see-sawed, but gradually with ace full-forward Stan Milton their target in attack NSW won by seven points: 13.12 (90) to West Torrens 12.11 (83).

The following day the delirious home town press described “one of the most remarkable comebacks a NSW team has ever made.” And although Paddington’s Watson booted three goals for NSW, including the final one of the day, Stan Milton was awarded Man of the Match. Other NSW players to impress were rover Jack Foskett (Newtown), half-forward flanker Hurley along with Cain in a forward pocket, while defenders Ackers, Dunn and captain Bryan Rush were also named in the best.

This is the last in my history look-back series about interstate clubs visiting NSW in the early days of Aussie Rules footy.

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