Sydney University Hockey Club started in 1906, and just possibly in 1905. It is proud to be:
- the oldest hockey club in NSW
- the third oldest hockey club in Australia
- the oldest university hockey club in Australia, and
- the only club (surviving or otherwise) that was involved in creating both the first men’s and the first women’s hockey competitions in Sydney.
Our early history is therefore the history of hockey in Sydney, in NSW and in Australia.
This page has a summary of our history since 1905 and 1906. For the more detailed version click here. Our recent history can be tracked through our Annual reports - click here to access them on our Club Overview page.
We have also prepared a shorter version of the history of hockey in Sydney (although it starts in 200BC). It focuses on the bodies running the men's and women's competitions. Click here for this version.
The Emergence of a Sydney University Hockey Club
A hockey team representing Sydney University played for the first time sometime between 1905, when Sydney's first known men's club (Corinthian) was formed, and 26 May 1906. Newspaper at the time reported that on Saturday 26 May 1906 a team called the “University XI” beat the team from HMS Powerful at the SCG (No 2). This British Navy team was the strongest team in Sydney, so the University team cannot have been beginners. The same team had played earlier that year under several different names, including “Mr Purves’ team” on 19 May 1906, and is likely to have played in 1905. Newspaper reports from that year described only one team playing in June 1906 as “new”, and it was not the University team.
It is possible the team had played in 1905 under the name of “Sydney Grammar School students (past and present)”, rather than using the University name. That team was mainly SU students (including many former Sydney Grammar School students) and some current SGS students, and it had no official links to SGS. This hypothesis that the 1905 team was a band of SU students and some friends is not certain, though. A team called Sydney Grammar School also played occasionally in 1906, and once even on the same day as a Sydney University team, even though it continued to have no formal connection to SGS.
One reason for the team not using the SU name in 1905, and for the tentative emergence of the name in 1906, is that at the time the University Sports Association rules for SU team recognition were complex. Those rules effectively precluded formal SU teams from having any members who had not matriculated, and the earliest hockey team had some schoolboys who clearly had not matriculated. This concern about player eligibility may seem esoteric today, but eligibility for sporting teams was a major concern at the time. Just a year or two later, for example, the sport of rugby was to split forever over the issue of allowing paid players to be included in a team. A second reason is that all Sydney hockey clubs at the time appeared to follow the English principles of amateur athletics. What mattered was playing, rather than who won or lost, and players were largely free to fill in with any team for any games. These principles extended as far as not even having medals or trophies for the competition winners.
Mr AG Purves (1874-1955), who was listed as the organiser for the May 1906 team, was a major figure in many Sydney University sports and in sports administration. He was a hockey player of note, and represented NSW in 1907. This was just one of his sporting accomplishments. He was stroke of Sydney University’s VIII in 1896 and 1898, a member of the NSW VIII in 1900, captain of the Sydney University Rowing Club in 1901-02, coach of the Sydney University VIII in 1902 and 1903 and an office bearer of the Sydney University Boat Club for many years. Over the years he was also an office bearer and selector for the Sydney University Cricket Club, a golfer and tennis player of note, a member of the University Sports Association and a director of the Sydney University Club.
The First Organised Men’s Hockey Competition in Sydney
Sydney University's team was formed and playing in 1906, when the first recorded organised hockey games took place in Sydney. They were mostly for men’s teams, but they also included matches with Wandah Ladies Hockey Club, which was formed in 1905. Wandah is regarded as Sydney's first hockey club.
The 1906 games were on Saturdays and were usually advertised in the Amusements column of the SMH on the Friday before, or even on, the game day. Those columns had match details for hockey as well as rugby, Australian Football, British Association Football, hurling, cycling, lacrosse, coursing and other sports. On 23 June 1906, for example, the SMH advertised:
SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND,
UNIVERSITY v CORINTHIAN 2nd.
MARRICKVILLE v NORTH SYDNEY,
Sydney University won that game 4-0.
Many games may not have been advertised, although the match reports in the various Sydney papers of 1906 correspond well with the advertised games.
The Sydney Mail of 20 June 1906 had a report on a Corinthian v University hockey match, as well as photo of the victors (Corinthians by 2-1) and a photo of the live action. This is likely to be the first photo of Sydney University Hockey Club - or any Sydney men’s hockey team – in action.
In 1907 Sydney’s eight men’s hockey clubs joined to create the New South Wales Hockey Association. This appeared to result from the need to co-ordinate their games as the eight clubs had 12 teams playing, with more joining over time. The first meeting was on 30 May 1907, and was attended by Mr Purves for Sydney University. He was elected a vice president of the Association at the 1909 AGM.
The clubs playing during 1907 were Balmain (did not play after 1907), Bandits (did not play after 1922), Barbarians (did not play after 1912), Corinthians (merged into Bohemians in 1922, who then folded before the 1923 season), Navy/Fleet (the British Navy left Sydney after the 1912 season, as the Australian Navy started in 1913), Hunters Hill (did not play after 1907), Sydneians (disbanded 1910: a different group took the name in 1912 but disbanded in 1922), Pilgrims (last played in 1922, but had a 2nd grade cup named for them in 1929) and University (that’s us, still going strong).
From 1908 to 1910 a range of grounds were used including Rushcutters Bay Oval, Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2, Gladesville, Crescent Oval (Cook’s River, Marrickville), Luke’s Park (Burwood) , Imperial Oval (also in Marrickville, we think), Hawkesbury Agricultural College Oval, Chatswood, Waverley Oval and Victoria Barracks.
Issues mentioned in the match reports for the men’s hockey games through 1907 and 1908 included grounds, games starting late, too little stick skills, a lack of umpires, potential need to pay umpires, lack of teamwork and the need for a dedicated hockey ground. In 1909 they also noted that a Veterans team would be formed because:
“(the game) is now played too strenuously for those men who are not as young as they were, and who through pressure of business and other reasons are unable to train regularly. It is expected that this club will afford such men an afternoon's amusement without about four days' stiffness and discomfort"
A century on, and so little has changed…
Sydney University’s First Women Players
Already in 1907 Sydney University students were playing a mixed match every week, but the university women (and no doubt others) still had some serious obstacles to deal with off the field. These games could not be held on the University grounds because it did not approve of girls who “played boys’ games in skirts that were shortened to six inches above the ground”.
The University students were called “the Newtown tarts” for this. They lived in or near slummy Newtown, and had such short dresses.
Women’s hockey at Sydney University was then catapulted forward by Jessie Lillingston (1889-1970). She had been at school in England in 1904-06, then started an Arts degree at Sydney University in 1908. She was a born leader, and a driving force for many issues, including the eventual dedication of “The Square” as a grass hockey field at the University. Lillingston was the captain and coach of the first Sydney University Women’s team in 1908, and played until graduating in 1911.
Lillingston is often better recognised by her married name, Jessie Street. The harshness of the "Newtown tarts” tag is clear when one considers that Jessie Street was to become a world-recognised peace activist and the wife, mother and even grandmother of a dynasty of Chief Justices of New South Wales.
The Sydney University men and women players were known to train and play together. This photo shows most of the Sydney University Men and Women from 1908 (courtsesy NLA).
Jessie Lillingston (coach of the Women) is in the second row, on the left. Does anyone have other names?
The First Organised Women’s Hockey Competition in Sydney
Six women’s teams met in Sydney on 26 March 1908 to form a separate NSW Ladies Hockey Association. Jesse Lillingston attended this foundation meeting on behalf of Sydney University, and was elected honorary treasurer in 1909. Sydney University was one of four women’s teams or clubs that did not play in the informal six-team competition in 1907, but joined it when it formally began the 1908 season.
The six teams from 1907 that formed the NSW Ladies Hockey Association were Cambridge School, Cooeyanna, Kumalong, Manly, Valkyrie and Wandah. The clubs that joined them in forming the Association, but without playing in 1907, were Bedford College, Fortians (presumably Fort Street Girls High School students, past and present), Strathfield and Sydney University.
Despite the strong start, interest seemed to wane after the first year. In 1909 only Wandah, Cambridge School, Sydney University, Valkyrie and Cooeyanna attended the Association’s AGM. The Association began rebuilding momentum, but then the war and then the flu epidemic of 1919 decreased the focus on sports, and participation dropped again for a number of years.
The founding clubs did not last long. Bedford College played only in 1908 and 1909. Cambridge School only played in 1908 and possibly 1909, Cooeyanna and Fortians played only until 1915, Kumalong and Strathfield played only in 1908, Manly last played in 1910 and Valkyrie last played in 1921. The original club, Wandah, was short of members in 1919 and did not field a team again.
Only one of these founding clubs (Sydney University) survived beyond the 1920s. We have been going now for over 100 years. We even won the top Sydney Women’s competition in 2012 and 2013.
Our 2013 Women's 1sts. Premiers (again). The team included three former SUHC juniors: Emma Scriven (former HNSW Open indoor rep), Fiona Tout (our MVP) and Mathilda Carmichael, who in 2014 was selected to play for Australia.
Hockey in Sydney University's Early Sporting Records
The Sports section of the Sydney University Sports Union (SUSU) magazine “Hermes” from July 1, 1908 says:
"The inception of this game into the circles of University sport has been marked with unparallelled enthusiasm. Last year there were barely enough members to run one eleven; while this season the membership roll shows that four or five teams could be put into the field. The difficulty which faces the N.S.W. Hockey Association is that of obtaining the necessary grounds for the matches on Saturday, and so the number of teams each club can put into the field has to be restricted....."
In the May, 1909 Hermes noted:
"An invitation was received from the Melbourne University to send a team over some time during the season, which was accepted after due consideration by the committee. It is probable that the visit will take place during the June vacation and a match en route against Wagga or Wangaratta may be arranged."
A report in June, 1909 covers the Melbourne trip in detail. Half-Blues were awarded to Melbourne Uni players even though the Hockey Club was not yet affiliated with SUSU, and the SU players were awarded Honorary Membership of the MUSU. This is perhaps unique. The Hockey Club became part of SUSU in May, 1909. In the return inter-'Varsity match of 1910, SUHC defeated MUHC 5 - 3.
The first Hockey Blue at The University of Sydney was bestowed on G.C. Willcocks, who was awarded multiple Blues in the years 1909 to 1913. Willcocks was a member of the SUCC First XI and was a member of the University's first Championship team in 1909. It is not until 1922 that the next Hockey Blue is recorded and yet we know that the intervarsity competition was under way and that University men are receiving representative honours with the NSWHA. In May 1909, the Club refers to the unavailability of A.L.Butler "who gained inter-state distinction last year". A.S. Lloyd and L.C.Terrey represented New South Wales against Victoria. Terrey is a strange exclusion from the Blues list as he was also a member of the inaugural intervarsity team, bowled in the S.U.C.C. First XI of 1909 and represented NSW in Hockey!
Our earliest information on the administrative structure of the Club is from Hermes, May 1909. The committee consisted of:
Patron: Professor Pollock, D.Sc.
President: F. A. Eastaugh.
Vice-Presidents: Professor Wilson, A. B. S. White, C. M.Macnaghten, N. de H. Rowland. B.A., LL.B, T. C. Armstrong, B. A., G. Howatson, B.E.
Hon. Treasurer: N. K. Robertson. Hon. Secretary: L. C. Terrey.
Delegates to S. U. Sports Union: N. K. Robertson, L. C. Terry. Delegates to NSWHA: A. S. Lloyd, L. C. Terrey.
Captain: J. T. Paton. Vice-Captain: A. S. Lloyd.
Committee: J. T. Paton, N. K. Robertson, L. C. Terrey, A. S. Lloyd. Selection Committee: J. T. Paton, A. S. Lloyd, L. C. Terrey.
There were 50 members enrolled. The structure is not dissimilar to that of today's Club with the Captain and Vice-captain holding responsibility for match-day issues: selections and association delegates. These officers were also the leading or senior players of First XI. Interestingly, Macnaghten and ABS White often played for Corinthians or other clubs in the earliest years of hockey.
Macnaghten is an interesting person. His father was at Scotland Yard and was a lead investigator into Jack the Ripper. Macnaghten was born in India, went to Eton and Cambridge, and migrated around 1903. He was at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, shot several times, invalided out, given a role at Duntroon, deserted Duntroon, enlisted as a private soldier under a false name and went back to war. He was one of the first Vice Presidents of Sydney University Hockey Club but continued to play for Corinthian- as noted, sport was about sportsmanship, not winning or losing.
Smokey, the Intervarsity and Australian University Games Mascot
Smokey the Gnome travels to all Intervarsity or Australian University Games with our teams. We do not know when he first started accompanying them, but he is in the men's IV team photos as early as 1928, so he has been there for almost our entire history. There is a report on him here.
Juniors, Masters and Amalgamation
The Junior division of the Club was formed in 2001 when SUHC absorbed the North Sydney District Junior Hockey Club. At that time it had barely one team, but after a decade this was up to seven outdoor teams and a number of indoor teams. The Masters division started when a number of Over 40s played as Sydney University in 2001. By 2011 we had three Masters teams. These gentlemanly types were the first 2001 team:
On April 1, 2003 the men's and women's hockey clubs at SU were formally amalgamated. Together with the Masters and Juniors, SUHC is now one of the largest sporting clubs at the University of Sydney.
Centenary Celebrations in 2007 (we did not know about the 1906 start until 2013)
Our Centenary Dinner was held in August 2007 at the Great Hall. The guests spanned all 100 years of our history. Sir Laurence Street, son of Jessie Street (the first Women's team captain from 1909), spoke at the Dinner. Other special guests or speakers included some of our stars over those 100 years, such as Emeritus Professor Ruthven Blackburn, who played first grade for the Club 75 years ago, Bruce Pryor, who played 50 years ago, Steph Newby, who played some 25 years ago, and Harriet Moore and the Lobsey legends of modern times. More details can be found in the Archives.
Our Under 13s played in a Gala Day with Ryde and GNS in May. This was one of the last years before they changed their uniforms to be the same as the seniors.
In 2009 the 1st grade men's teams from SU and MU played the centenary IV hockey game at Olympic Park in Sydney. SU won, but that was hardly the point. The women's teams met at AUG in 2011 in a rematch of their first competition in 1911.
The Centenary Cup is a roughly-annual contest between SUHC and Melbourne University Hockey Club ('MUHC') that commemorates the centenary of our first meeting. It comprises a men's match and a women's match - the winner being the club with the highest aggregate score. Both clubs were both formed in 1907 to provide male and female students at their respective universities with the opportunity to play hockey, making them amongst the oldest hockey clubs in Australia. The University of Melbourne and The University of Sydney first met in a men's hockey match on Tuesday 1st June 1909, at the Melbourne University Oval. This was also the very first men’s InterVarsity hockey match played in Australia. Melbourne won by 6 goals to 2. The first women’s match between the two universities was also played at the Melbourne University Oval, on Friday 1st September 1911. Women’s InterVarsity hockey had begun in 1908 between the Universities of Adelaide and Melbourne, but this was the first time that Sydney had also participated. As both teams had already defeated Adelaide, this match would decide the overall winner for 1911. The Argus reports:
At half time the scores were level – 3 goals each – but in the second half Sydney, with the wind, prevailed, and, despite the excellent goal-keeping of Miss Bury, won by 5 goals to 3.
These annual InterVarsity hockey contests gradually expanded to include more universities from around Australia, and in 1993 became part of the Australian University Games. As both clubs were celebrating their centenaries in 2007, it was decided to relaunch the old rivalry with a special game in 2009 for the 'Centenary Cup'
Year Venue Men's Result Women's Result Overall
2008 Melbourne University 5-4 Sydney 5-2 Melbourne Contest won by Melbourne (9-7)
2009 Sydney Olympic Park 4-1 Sydney 3-0 Sydney Cup won by Sydney (7-1)
2011 Melbourne University 6-5 Melbourne 3-2 Sydney Cup retained by Sydney (8-8)
2012 Adelaide AUG 6-0 Melbourne 2-1 Sydney Cup won by Melbourne (7-2)
2013 Gold Coast AUG 1-0 Melbourne
Today we have some 25 teams playing across a range of competitions at all age land skill levels. Until 2014 the Men were affiliated with the Sydney Hockey Association (SHA) (where we are the 2nd largest club) whilst the Women were affiliated with the Sydney Women's Hockey League (SWHL) (again, the secon largest club), Eastern Districts Women's Hockey Association (EDWHA) and Sydney North Women's Hockey Association (SNWHA) (the largest club). The Juniors played in the North Area competition of Sydney Junior Hockey Association (SJHA) as well as in the metropolitan wide A grade "Metro" competitions. Our older players played in the Sydney Masters Hockey Association for Over 37's.
From 2015 SUHC has been part of the new North West Sydney Hockey Association, which emerged as a result of HNSW's reform of the innumerable associations that bedevillled administration of the sport.