Western Suburbs District Rugby League Club – 1909

This photo of the 1909 Western Suburbs RL team is from the book, “Clouds of Dust, Buckets of Blood.” It notes that Ted Mead is standing 3rd from left, Bill Elliott is the captain and Claude McFayden is sitting at far left. It appears the only player correctly identified is Claude McFayden.

Bill Elliott was never the captain in 1909. Tom Phelan captained the team in nine of the ten rounds and Ted Mead was captain on the other occasion. Therefore, Tom Phelan is the player sitting with the ball, Ted Mead is on his immediate left and Claude McFayden is at the end and correctly identified. The player standing 3rd from left is Bill Elliott and the player immediately to his left with the moustache is Bill’s brother Charlie Elliott. Charlie Elliott was one of the few players of that period to have a moustache.

Albert Halling can also be identified due to his height and being the young man with the high forehead as reported in the media of the time. He is standing, fifth from the left.

The adjusted positioning of players is as follows:

Standing (L to R): Unknown, Charlie Elliott, Bill Elliott, Unknown, Albert Halling, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown
Middle (L to R): Claude McFayden, Ted Mead, Tom Phelan (C), Unknown, Unknown, Unknown.
Front (L to R): Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown.

This photo was apparently taken at St Lukes Oval although no premiership matches were played there in 1909 and the ground was not officially allocated to the Club until 1910. Twenty-seven new players were listed in First Grade in 1909, however only nineteen were Wests players as seven and most probably eight players were “borrowed” from other Clubs. The players that pulled on a Wests First Grade jersey in 1909 but were not Wests players included, H. Kemp, W. Moore, William Thrussell and Walter Wright from Newtown, Harry Thomson and Arthur McCallum of Souths and William Scott and possibly C. Clifford of Newcastle. In addition, Henry Fletcher joined Wests from the South Sydney Club mid-season but unlike the other “borrowed” players, he remained with Wests until the second last round of the competition before returning to Souths.

Only eleven of the twenty-seven First Grade players from 1908 played First Grade in 1909. Therefore, there are a possible thirty First Grade players from 1909 that could be in this photo. There are sixteen players in the photo of which at least six players are identifiable. Therefore, there are twenty-four players that could fill the ten unidentified positions. But which ones?

To narrow the possible options, it is noted that Charlie Elliott who is in this photograph played only in Round 2 of the 1909 season. All of the six identified players were on the field that day. The team was;

Fullback: Tom Phelan (C), Three-quarters: Claude McFadyen, Albert Halling, Harry Boyle, Ray Gormley, Halves: Claude Wallis, Percy Franks, Forwards: Ted Mead, James Speirs, Richard Casey, Charles Elliott, William Elliott, Robert Ellis.

1909 was a tough year for Western Suburbs. The First-Grade team were last in the competition and at times struggled for players. The infusion of players from the defunct Cumberland Club offered great promise at the start of the season but by the end of the season, Wests had to “borrow” players in three matches to field a side. In the 1910 Annual Report it was noted that the Second Grade Team in 1909, played six matches but had to forfeit four others as players were drafted into the First-Grade team to replace players that had been injured. The positive note for Wests in 1909 was that Tedda Courtney joined the club, and he gave Wests great service for years to come.

Program from 1909 Wests v Newcastle game at RAS Showground
Note: W Scott (Newcastle No. 14) played with Wests in Round 7 at Newcastle

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