P.O. Box 165, Hurtsville, New South Wales 2220
Olds Park, Forest Road, Peakhurst
NSWANFL 1929-73; NSWAFL 1974-80; SFL 1981-6; NSWAFL State League 1987-9; SFL 1990-98; SAFL 1999-present
Navy blue, red and gold
Colin Harris 347 from 1946 to 1965
St George has only been intermittently successful in terms of winning premierships but the club has been part of the top echelon of football in Sydney for almost eighty years.
St George took its bows in the New South Wales Australian National Football League (precursor of today’s Sydney AFL) in 1929, finishing last in a seven team competition. The withdrawal of Western Suburbs1 the following year left a six team competition but St George fared no better, and indeed it suffered the ignominy of last place in each of its first five seasons in the league. It finally came of age in 1934 when it reached the preliminary final, and then went one better the following year when it made its first grand final, going down by 52 points to South Sydney.
St George was now a fully established senior club, and it proved this in 1937 with its first premiership. Once again the grand final opposition was provided by South Sydney, but on this occasion St George proved too strong, winning with more ease than the margin of 37 points suggested. It repeated the success the following year, restricting opponents Newtown to 1.9 (15), the lowest grand final total in the NSWANFL since Balmain’s 1.8 (14) in 1916.
During World War Two, while football in most of the rest of Australia was played on a restricted basis,2 the NSWANFL was, paradoxically, at its strongest for many years. The reason for this was the arrival in town of large numbers of servicemen who also happened to be useful, and even in some cases elite, southern states footballers. St George benefited from the influx as much as anyone, and in 1943 it added a third flag, downing South Sydney 12.19 (91) to 9.10 (54) in a hard fought grand final.
St George reached another grand final in 1946, losing to Newtown, but there then followed a prolonged period of mediocrity, with just half a dozen finals appearances in the next nineteen seasons.
The Saints or Dragons as they were interchangeably known at the time rediscovered the winning habit in 1964 when a 10 goal grand final pounding of Western Suburbs suggested that a prolonged era of success was just around the corner. However, although the Saints/Dragons reached the next two grand finals it was to be almost another three decades before they again tasted premiership success. During the interim St George struggled for the most part, with its only grand final appearance coming in 1987, when it was annihilated by Campbelltown by 87 points.
St George’s 1993 combination, however, restored club pride with a vengeance. After finishing the home and away season in second place with a 12-4 record the Dragons overwhelmed minor premier Western Suburbs to the tune of 80 points in the second semi final. A demoralised Wests side succumbed by almost the same margin (79 points) against North Shore in the following week’s preliminary final, leaving most experts predicting a close premiership decider between the Bears and the Dragons. For three quarters of the match they were proved right as the lead continually changed hands, with St George having the upper hand by just 2 points at the final change. The last term, however, was a completely different story, as the Dragons, with the wind at their backs, ran away to win with ease by 35 points, 17.13 (115) to 9.26 (80).
There have been no further flags since 1993, although the side did play off in the grand finals of 1997 and 2004, losing to Balmain and North Shore respectively.
Having forged an affiliation with AFL club Adelaide, St George now plays under the Crows emblem. Such relationships, it seems, are now the norm among members of the Sydney AFL’s top tier competition, and while some might argue that to compromise your identity in this way is tantamount to football whoredom, the converse view maintains that almost anything that ensures a club’s survival (and, hopefully, its growth) is acceptable. St George Australian Football Club looks set to survive, under whatever guise, for some time yet.
After missing the finals in 2005, the Crows improved slightly in 2006, but their season was brought to an end at the first semi final stage by Pennant Hills. They improved still further in 2007 to reach the grand final, only to lose to North Shore by 21 points.
Over the years many noteworthy players have turned out for the club, among them no fewer than five 300 gamers in Colin Harris (347 games), Geoff Green (328), David Fletcher (308), Garry Watkins (307), and Peter Taylor (301). Mark Roberts was arguably the club’s most notable recent playing product.
1 This particular Western Suburbs club participated in the competition between 1926 and 1929. It should not be confused with the current Western Suburbs organisation which is mentioned later in the text; this club made its NSWANFL debut in 1948.2 The Western Australian Football League, for example, was conducted on an age-restricted basis between 1942 and 1944. In South Australia the eight league clubs paired off temporarily to form a four team competition, while in Tasmania top level football was suspended altogether. Even in the VFL wartime travel restrictions forced the withdrawal of Geelong from the competition in 1943, while St Kilda played a reduced programme of matches that same year.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications