The Early Years
1969 – 1979
The Balmain DFC as we know it today looked very different when it first came into being. We can trace its official origins to the Balmain Police Citizens Boy’s Club (BPCBC) – a movement established in 1937 by Police Commissioner William John MacKay in partnership with the community, which aimed to provide interesting and safe activities for young people.
Prior to 1970, these activities included boxing, gymnastics, table tennis, rugby (for which Balmain’s Wayne Pierce was a junior player), trampolining and weightlifting, and would expand to include a brass band, wrestling… and football. (Or soccer, as it was then known.)
For BPCBC did, in fact, have an U14 football team in 1969. They played just one match, and were soundly defeated 30-0 by a Balmain RSL team. As recorded in the club’s 20th Anniversary Club Report:
The team’s biggest thril [sic] was when they scored a lone goal over the season.
Inauspicious origins, you would think. However – despite a widespread community perception that football was a ‘new sport’ – records show that Balmain Soccer Club won the Gardiners Cup in 1895-7 (their colours were black and green) and from 1910 until the start of WWII, most churches fielded All Age Teams in the Protestant Church Association.
But it wasn’t until 1969 that ‘true soccer’ began in Balmain. For this, we have to thank three men: Frank Hawkins, Wal Gourlie and Sergeant George B. Stone. These men would become the Foundation Members of our beloved club.
It was Frank and Wal who cobbled together plans for the birth of a new club. Sergeant Stone ran the BPCBC at the time, and the pair approached him with the idea of getting the club going under the organisation’s banner. The three of them began scouting for talent in 1968. “The only players we were sure of the time were my own two boys,” admitted Frank, some 20 years on.
In 1969, a formal proposal was put forward to set up a soccer section of the club. Management gave it immediate approval. It wasn’t called the Balmain DFC, and it wouldn’t be for another 40 years. But, launched by terrific leadership, maintained through tireless support and lifted up by a love of the beautiful game, it was our club all the same. And at the heart of the first ever logo, you’ll see the club’s Tiger, growling a big future to come…
BPCBC was a vast organisation, running multiple sports codes simultaneously. While the Boy’s Club committee was all in for the “soccer section” (as it was called) in spirit, there wasn’t any cash support. “At the last minute, we donated the princely sum of $2.50 each so as to launch a Club with assets,” recalls Frank Hawkins, with Wal Gourlie making the $5.
This meant that the section was 100% subsidised by players, their families and the fundraising activities (from fun runs, to Christmas fetes, to disco nights) of groups like the Ladies Auxillary.
As Wal Gourlie wrote in the 20th Anniversary Club Report:
We had virtually no funds, equipment or players and having now been committed, great pressure was applied to achieve the necessary in order to field teams in the pre-season matches. We feel certain that had we not received such grand support by the families of all the boys and the privileged of using a ground at Callan Park Hospital, our efforts would have been dashed forever. Therefore, it was very pleasing to see us commence the season with three fully equipped teams, a home ground complete with our own goalposts and nets and fully knowing the full backing of the Balmain Police-Citizens Boys’ Club was there if needed.
Just three teams launched the “Football section” or the “Tigers”: U6s, U7s and U8s. Forty-five boys were the foundation team players. One of them was Craig Hawkins – you can see him on the left, giving the ball a good thump.
In our first year as a club, the players took on teams across Sydney, and participated in up to 8 major competitions. The very first was the Captain Cook Bi-centenary Cup, with the Under 7 team getting a good win for their first game, but knocked out in the second round. Despite this, the club was pleased with the result, given the lads “had no match experience and had learned a lot”.
Later that year, the teams would also compete in the Liverpool Bi-Centenary, the Queens Birthday Gala Knock-Out, the John Woodfield Trophy, the Blacktown Hospital Cub and the Western Suburbs Pre-season Knock-Out.
The Mt. Pritchard Cup was made memorable in that it was disrupted by a “sudden outbreak of sickness” amongst the U6 and U7 boys, forcing the club to withdraw.
Health and spirits returned for the 1970 Competition Proper, in which the “Tigers” put on a sterling performance, with two undefeated runners-up and the other placing third. The results “speak for the happiness and contentedness of Coaches and Managers and just sheer bad luck in that one of the teams didn’t win a competition.”
The lads that made up the respective teams and the coaches and managers who steered them over the rough spots are to be highly commended for always turning their best efforts and for upholding the good name of “Tigers”, no matter where they were, bit Kogarah, or Blacktown or St. Mary’s. – 1970 Report
Founder Frank Hawkins was the first Club President, and Wal Gourlie the first club secretary. By 1974, the club had grown to 12 teams and 162 players, ranging from five years to fifteen. As the club expanded, so too did its successes. 1973 in particular was the year of the “Tigers”, with 20 players chosen for representative football, and the club breaking a record by winning the John Woodfield Trophy three years in a row.
The triumphs were not wholly consistent this decade however: the 1975 report begins: “This was not a good year”.
“Playing in three different Associations took its toll…Clubs fielding two teams in an age group had little chance with their second team, outclassed and outplayed”.
The following years, the club attempted to remedy the “disasters” 1975, and by ’78 had secured no less than four Premierships.
Ten years after it had been created, the club had achieved the “pipe dream” of its founders. “Well, we made it,” wrote Wal Gourlie in his final report as Club Secretary in 1979. “Hard work, skimping and saving paid off, we can honestly boast we are the biggest junior club in the Protestant Churches Soccer Football Association and also the biggest in the Municipality.” On the strength of players, they went “soccer mad” Gourlie jokes, reaching 19 teams and 250 players in 1979, all under 15 years, with 34 Managers and Coaches.
INAUGURAL PRESENTATION NIGHT
At the end of each season, each child received a trophy, and every team that won their competition got club jackets. The club’s first presentation night was held on 7 November 1970 at the Balmain Police Boys’ Club, at 372 Darling Street, Balmain. Photos of this auspicious event appeared later in the local newspaper – most likely Balmain News. The night was:
“…a combination of a year of solid work, worry and soccer and giving us a feeling of wonderful satisfaction on seeing the delighted looks on the faces of three small squads of “tigers”. It was a thrilling occasion and a fitting end of a wonderful season.” – 1970 Report
The presence of the BPCBC Club Brass Band and Drum Corp – in full uniform no less – added extra pomp and good cheer to the proceedings. Following the presentations, all were seated before a magnificent party spread prepared by some tireless club supporters. “It was most gratifying to see not much left afterwards,” wrote Wal Gourlie, “a child’s approval of a ‘good night’.”
In later years, Presentation nights were held at the Callan Park auditorium, and when they outgrew this venue, they were forced to move to the nearby park.
BREAKING INTO THE BOYS CLUB
It might have been a “boy’s club” by name, but that didn’t stop a few girls from breaking in and getting their fair share of play. In 1977, Sarah Kew was the only girl the club had for the entire season. She played for the Under 8s team under coach and club Secretary Wal Gourlie.
Sarah is “more than just a novelty,” wrote Gourlie. “Enthusiastic, argumentative and affectionate, she finally realised that when the opposition sees someone as big as her running up to tackle them, they hesitate long enough for her to gain the advantage. Having taken charge of the ball however, she still must learn to pass it to one of her own players.”
THE FIRST HOME GROUND
The field at Callan Park Hospital – known as “Callan 2” – was the first home ground for the club. The management at the time were very accommodating to the fledgling football section, particularly in a certain Mr Delaney, and their early support was critical to the club’s successful launch. Mr H Smaith, the senior gardener of the time, also received the club’s sincere gratitude “for the care and preparation of what has often been referred to as the ‘Best Ground for junior soccer anywhere in the Western and Northern Suburbs District’.”
In later years, football games were also moved down to King George Park in Rozelle. By the mid to late 1970s under the dogged efforts of President Frank Hawkins, the club also gained used of Callan Park 3 and 4, and occasionally, Timbrell Park in Five Dock. Callan 3 opened just in time for the start of the season, with volunteers pitching in to help with planting grass and top soiling.
In the early days, the club was entirely self-supporting, with no club fees. On occasion, temporary fiscal support was sought from the BPCBC, but the advanced funds were always returned. A Boys’ Club Fete helped the club raise funds from supporters.
The children (or rather their parents) did have to buy their own socks and shin-pads. They were also required to be members of the BCPBC, which cost about $2 annually. If they were members of the club, they were covered by insurance.
Beginning in 1971, material in the club’s orange colours was bought and home-made shirts were made for the boys to wear. As the 1971 Report observed: “They fitted the role, particularly with a parent hand-painting a Tiger’s head on them as our emblem.”
By 1978, Frank Hawkins had retired from the club with his wife, and the new President Ted Westrup admitted that it was “becoming very hard” to maintain their proud policy of free football. That year, the club also got its first Honorary Registrar in Mrs Betty Powter. “I must admit it took me a long time to wake up why you was alongside the caravan at Callan 3, until I noticed you pouncing on the managers and coaches for the information you required,” joked Westrup in his Club Report.
These being the days when not everyone owned a computer or understood email, Club News was relayed through the “Tiger Rag”, a print publication. At first managed by the club secretary, it was delegated to a Publicity Committee after getting a bit too much for the increasingly overworked member to handle.
Several club members became referees, including Craig Westrup and John Martin in 1979. “A job that nobody wants to do, but every one wants to tell you how to do it,” quipped Gourlie. “Congratulations to you both for trying to keep so many happy and sad.” Finding willing referees would become an ongoing struggle for the club.
THE LADIES AUXILIARY
Founded by Joyce Hawkins, wife to Foundation Member Frank Hawkins, the Soccer Section’s Ladies Auxiliary formed the background heroes of the young club. A volunteer group, these women helped the club in innumerable essential ways. The big one was fundraising, but it also included canteen management (from an unconditioned caravan, too!), assisting with club gear, preparing for the winter Soccer Carnival, and “all the general running around” that happens around a growing club.
Their tireless work was continually acknowledged in the Club Reports over the years.
Wrote Wal Gourlie (Secretary) in the 1974 Report:
“This Committee gave so much time and done so much fundraising, which by the way involves so much work, our Club finances have never been better. Finance is just about a 100% from the ladies which meant the manning of the canteen at Callan 2, catering for the big day at Timbrell and now the 250 Club well under way. Words could not speak highly enough for this small band of workers.”
…and again, five years later:
“If ever time arises, help these people wherever possible and think to yourself how much time they spend in helping to give your son or daughter free football.”