Our First 100 Years

Pictorial History of Adamstown Rosebud
Pictorial History of Adamstown Rosebud
Death and Life of Australian Soccer
Death and Life of Australian Soccer

Modern soccer was introduced in Australia in the late 19th century by mostly British immigrants. The first club formed in the country, Wanderers, was founded in 1880 in Sydney, whilst the oldest club in Australia currently in existence is Balgownie Rangers, which was formed in 1883 in Wollongong. Wanderers were also the first known recorded team to play under the ‘Laws of the Game’. However, an article published in ‘The Conversation’ in 2011 suggests that perhaps the first game of soccer (football) took place in Brisbane on Saturday 7 August 1875 – some five years before the Wanderers club was formed. Whatever the case, the formation of Adamstown Rosebud Football Club in 1889 ranks it amongst one of the oldest clubs in Australia still in existence. The following chapters have been sourced from ‘A Pictorial History of Adamstown Rosebud’ and many thanks to Allyn Hammonent and David Green who compiled this terrific resource for the club.

The formation of Adamstown Rosebud

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

The Reverend John Penman, a cleric with a passion for the round ball code, sowed the seed from which the mighty Rosebuds grew with a casual comment passed after he had watched a match on  what is now Mitchell Park (in Merewether) in 1888.

He congratulated a young player named Peter Finlayson on his match winning goal for Hamilton Athletic in their encounter with Burwood United, and followed it up with a suggestion that the mechanics of a successful club could be found at Adamstown. The bottom line was a broad hint that since a fair percentage of established players were resident in Adamstown, one of them Finlayson himself, a team representing the area could be successfully pitched in to  the 1889  Northern  competition.

The prospects were clearly encouraging. Yet had it not been for Rev Penman’s persistence, the Rosebud football dynasty as we know it today may never have started. It took several more verbal prods from Rev Penman to persuade Finlayson and other Adamstown-based cohorts to  put the wheels in motion by calling a meet­ing for 12th July 1889, at Adamstown Park. The subject for discussion, as was announced on handwritten cardboard posters, was the formation of a football club (British Association rules, of course) in Adamstown.

The club had a stormy birth, to say the least. The meeting went ahead despite a fierce cloudburst which lashed the southern parts of the city of Newcastle. But by the end of the evening Finlayson, inevitably elected to the post of founda­tion secretary, found himself in charge of a football club. “Things born in adversi­ty,” Finlayson said at the time, “often grow to great success.”

A name for the new club, however, was something that needed much more  seri­ous discussion. The topic was adjourned until August, when the newly-elected club officials met again to chew over the alter­natives. What might it have been? Sub­mitted to the committee were suggestions that included Athletic, Central, Wanderers, Rangers , Albion, The Pioneers, Rosebud, West End, Advance, Thistles and Pirates.

Two hours later, however, the club offi­cially became Adamstown Rosebud. Seventy percent of those present favoured the  Rosebud name. It appealled for a number of reasons.  It was original, it reflected on an area renowned at the time for the horticultural variety of Rosebud and, importantly to a population that had settled in the area from the coal mines of the motherland, it had a decidedly English ring.

Nor were the officials naive enough to underestimate the power of marketing, even in those days. At the time, the most popular brand of butter was the Rosebud brand packaged by Newcastle wholesale grocers  J. Ireland and Co. The only thing that certainly didn’t influence the decision was the club’s colours. Adamstown Rosebuds first played in blue and white and appeared in several variations of those colours before blossoming in later years in the now familiar red and green.

The naming issue settled, the business of recruiting and outfitting a football team began apace, helped by Adamstown local council’s gesture of granting use of Adamstown Park  for the team’s matches.

Let the games begin

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

Teething problems were ironed out during the remainder of the 1889 season,  in which the team drew its first trial match against Hamilton Seconds (2-2), leaving the club’s committee free to focus on the 1890 season proper. While it appears to have been done with a minimum of fuss once the initial steps had been taken, the magnitude of the task confronting the Rosebud pioneers shouldn’t be underestimated. The sporting environment at the time was hardly ideal.

Quite apart from a recession which hit hard in a region heavily reliant on the coal trade, the Hunter as it was then known had polarised into three main sporting pursuits. Rugby Union dominated the inner city area, and Australian Rules held sway in Maitland, Waratah and Wallsend. Soccer was played predominantly in West Wallsend, Minmi and Wallsend; in the inner city, the game’s devotees struggled to hold their footing.

English and Scottish immigrants who landed in a city that was somewhat hostile to the round ball game were forced to travel uphill and  down dale to uncover the local version of the British Association game. It meant waiting for every second Satur­day since badge matches (as the  early games were known) were played only on “back” weekends because most of the players were rostered to work every second weekend.

And even then, the pocket of soccer en­thusiasts in places  such  as  Adamstown and Hamilton still had to work for their bi-weekly football “fix”. To get to Hamilton Athletic’s pitch, for instance, would­ be players and spectators faced a walk through tea-tree scrub, while Burwood United’s home games on a pitch where St Josephs convent now stands  meant a climb over Glebe hill.

But the game, and in particular the young Rosebuds, caught hold in what was deemed a barren climate. Indeed, they flourished, as was seen on July 12, 1890, when 220 people paid to see the fledgling club beaten 2-0 by Minmi Rangers in the club’s first official badge competition match, played exactly 12 months after the club  was formed. By the time the powers guiding Adam stown’s football fortunes gathered for the annual general meeting of 1891,  the Rosebuds had taken deep root.

It was reflected in the balance sheet, which showed a profit of more than seven pounds, and in the progressive thinking of the executive, which outlined a plan for development that was the forerunner to the formula that has kept Adamstown fly­ing higher than most of its rivals in a century of football that was to follow.

Our earliest results

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

Peter Finlayson, soon to depart for Western Australia in the search for steady work, stressed the need to guard against complacency, to develop “a winning team and a strong second  XI”,  and to provide a better  playing surface. The subsequent recruiting brought the club’s first ‘star’ signings in Arch Jackson (father of Test cricketer), his brother James, “Scotty” Millar (from Wallsend) and “Jocky” Stevenson (from  Hamilton Athletic).

Bolstered by the imports, Adamstown finished as beaten semi-finalists in the  El­lis Cup knockout after a highly successful badge competition in which the Rosebuds beat Hamilton Athletic 1-0 and drew 3-3 with Greta Bluebells. Consolidation of its place among the competition leaders continued over the next few seasons, despite the constraints placed upon a mining community by the 1892 recession in the coal industry and the bank crash of the same year.

Adamstown found enough in the bank account to lure the feted Dr J.F.M. Princeps to the north giving their supporters a feast of football memories in a period when meals and money weren’t that easy to obtain. The good doctor was an English international who had played for his homeland against Scotland at a time when representative “caps” were few and far between. He joined Adamstown in 1893 af­ter playing the previous season for Canterbury.

Regarded as the ‘prince of dribblers’, Princeps regularly attracted crowds of 1000 and more to the games in which he played. The attraction was almost magnetic. Quite apart from his bewildering ball control, the doctor was a goalscorer without peer: he picked up five against Carrington Black Watch, added a hat trick in the following round against Greta Bluebells, and in a dramatic derby with Wallsend Rovers scored all of Adamstown’s goals in 6-6 draw that reportedly finished early when a  Princeps drive hit the crossbar and burst the ball.

“Crowd trouble” in the game, to use the term loosely, followed closely on  the heels of Princeps’ arrival. The return match against Wallsend, which drew the first 1000-plus crowd to Adamstown, saw Princeps score the goal that brought Rosebuds back to level terms after trailing 2-0 at half time, before a bizzare incident brought another early end to the match.

With five minutes remaining, Princeps had the ball and the goal at his mercy after a dazzling run through six would-be tacklers, only to be brought down in a rugby tackle by a Wallsend supporter. All hell broke loose, as did the guilty party (who headed for the tea-tree, and safety), and the match was declared a draw. Princeps moved on to Brisbane the fol­lowing season, but his legacy to Adamstown was a list of suggestions offered to new secretary George Nicholls, who heed­ed much of the advice passed on by the English star. T his included the need to train regularly and to develop what was recognised even then a nursery  rich in­ potential young talent.

The club went from strength to strength, picking up its first major title when it finished level with Minmi at the head of the 1894 badge competition before beating the Rangers 2-0 in the final. Rosebuds also won the Ellis Cup knockout, surviving a draw in the first playoff with Minmi Thistle (1-1) and a disputed replay in which Thistle’s 2-1 win was over-ruled because they had fielded two Rangers players, before emerging a 3-1 winner in the third playoff.

Miltary and administrative wars

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

But still the game found barriers to further expansion. War of an administrative nature in the North threw soccer into dis­array for some seasons. At one stage Adamstown fielded only two teams, in fourth grade and under-18’s while war of an international nature interrupted almost everything for four years from 1914. When peace returned, so too did interest in all sporting pursuits, particularly a Northern game now under the leadership of lively secretary Larry Tamlyn, whose enthusiasm was credited with attracting an influx of players and clubs. Adamstown took time in regaining its footing, making early departures from both the Gardiner and Ellis Cups.

But its attention to developing juniors was to pay a handsome dividend  in the 1920’s as a team of “locally grown” Rosebuds picked up a swag of trophies, including the club’s second State championship in 1925. Among the players who participated in the Gardiner Cup final win over  Cessnock were a youngster named Alec Cameron and another known as Gavin ‘Massa’ Russell, both destined to wear Australian shirts, as did the  captain, Peter Doyle.

But administrative bickering once more prevented the Rosebud club from fully capitalising on its success. After 1927, when the club was beaten in the premiership final by Cessnock, Adamstown was one of the clubs caught in the well-documented split between the Northern District British Football Association and the newly-formed State League. The State  League was formed in 1928 as a result of a push from the clubs in the South Maitland coalfields, whose discontent over the conditions of the Gardiner Cup competition was first raised in 1926. It concerned the division of gate receipts among participating clubs, and the stipulation that a match of the day be played each week at Hobart Park, New Lambton. Since the Coalfields clubs were so strong, it meant they played in these designated matches more often than others. And, they argued, they were not given any worthwhile revenue for their ap­pearances.

The open revolt against the NSW body succeeded, but it caught plenty of clubs in the crossfire. Adamstown was among them. Adamstown took the  conservative stand and remained loyal to the NSW Association, a move that cost the club in terms of both players and prestige.

Among those who departed for the new State League were ‘Massa’ Russell (who joined Gladesville-Ryde), while Rosebud’s consolation for keeping the faith was par­ticipation in series where gate receipts were very poor and administration almost non-existent.

Rosebud renaissance

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

The last straw was Adamstown’s loss to New Lambton in the local premiership final. Adamstown applied to join the State League the following year and, given sound support from the Coalfields clubs already involved, won inclusion ahead of other loyalists in the area such as New Lambton and West Wallsend . It sparked a rush to sign players from those Northern clubs omitted, and left Adamstown with Westy’s three C’s Frank and Bill Coolahan, and Clarrie Coutts as well as ‘Massa’ Russell, who returned home to Rosebud to thump in 39 goals for the 1929 season, a club record at the time. Not surprisingly, Adamstown carried all before it in 1930, when it picked up the premiership, the State Cup and the local Robinson Cup.

The team earned a reputation as the greatest club side ever produced, and it is difficult to argue with records that show nine of the Rosebud first XI having won either State or Australian caps in an era when the North regularly provided more than half of the national team. But there have never been periods in the club’s history that have caught the im­agination as strongly as the 1930 vintage. Four years later, Adamstown annexed the State League premiership for a second time and backed up in 1935 fielding a team to which Bill Coolahan and the Ledden brothers, Jack and Bill, had returned with another win in the State League final, a feat helped no end by a hat trick from Bill Ledden.

Ledden had graduated to the Adamstown senior side in 1931 after a promis­ing career in juniors, starting a family association with the club that would see four brothers (Ken, Ron, Jack and Bill) chalk up a total of 707 first grade games for the club. Bill also moved into administration in later years, serving six terms as president  from 1956 to 1961.

Adamstown turned into the 1940’s without adding to its 34/35 premiership double, but it had ample compensation from victories in the local competitions as well as the distinction of fielding a team that still contained several Australian representatives. Although he was an adopted son, Bill Coolahan was wearing Adamstown’s colours in 1937 when he was named captain of the Australian team for the first two Tests against the touring English Amateurs, a series in which goalkeeper Bill Morgan was also involved. The honour capped a remarkable rise for Morgan, who had switched from a promising schoolboy rugby league career to make his mark on  the soccer field.

They joined a distinguished list of players to have won international honours from the Rosebud ranks. At this time, it included Peter Doyle, the club’ s first Australian representative, Alex Cameron (lost to the 1937 series because of injury), ‘Massa’ Russell and Herb Robertson, an acquisition from Sydney who moved to the club in  1930.

Post World War II

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

Changes on and off the field, the lar­gest of them World War II, threw Adamstown’s march on the various premierships and Cups out of step until the late 1940’s, when the club received a much-needed lift by winning the Daniels Cup for the first time in 1946.

It ended a frustrating period for the Rosebuds, whose losses hit the club on two fronts. On the field they showed up in dis­sapointing season records third, fourth, second, 10th, third, fourth and second in State League premierships from 1940-47. Off the pitch, a number of quality players departed, the most deeply felt the transfer of Bill Coolahan (to Lake Macquarie) in 1943 and the subsequent retirement of Billy Morgan.

But the resurgence of the late 1940’s was, led by another crop of “locally grown” youngsters such as Dave Coote, Allan Johns and Dave Williams (future president of the Northern NSW Soccer Federation), and a centre forward named Jock Walker. Walker’s prolific scoring was the talk of the ‘Town’. He grabbed 41 in his first sea­son (1947, when Adamstown finished second in the Northern section of the State League), 24 in 1948 as Adamstown swept to League victory, and a record 61 (45 in the 22 league games) in 1949 when Rosebuds finished runner-up in a competition that once more switched to a Statewide series.

Walker was one of a number of rising stars in the Adamstown team,  however. The era also ushered in Allan Johns, who was chosen for five Tests against Yugoslavia in 1949 after regular NSW appearances, and Dave Coote, who won two ‘caps’ in Tests against  South Africa in 1946. Johns, Coote, Doug Wendt, Dave Williams, Ernie Screen and Walker were all Adamstown players who represented the State and the North  dur­ing the late l940’s.

So it continued with regular representative call-ups but irregular successes in State League and the various Cup competitons until the early 1960’s when the sleeping giant at Bryant St gave notice of its impending  return to the top.

Our links with Manchester United

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

Having won the 1962 Northern NSW premiership under the guidance of former Charlton Athletic player Tommy Dawson, Adamstown continued to keep pace with the premiership leaders in 1963, finally dipping out of the semi-final race (on goal difference) after finishing fourth. It was also a beaten finalist in both the Daniels Cup and the recently-instituted Craven A Cup, and suffered similar frustration in 1964 when ex-Leeds United player Bobby Cameron brought his “no substitute for hard work” philosophy to the club. Rosebud was again tipped out of the top four on goal difference after finishing in joint fourth place with Wallsend. But as was the case in earlier crises at Adamstown, the club’ s carefully nurtured junior talent, coupled with Cameron’s coaching nous, lifted Adamstown back to the No 1 spot in dramatic style.

In 1965, Adamstown announced the then revolutionary move of sending its most promising juniors to England, where they would spend time with the famous Manchester United club. Given financial assistance from the Rosebud licensed club, Adamstown was able to offer six-month scholarships to a 20-year-old named  Doug  Johns and 18-year-olds Ray Baartz and Col ‘Bunny’ Curran.

Such was the depth of talent available to Cameron, that Adamstown was able to regain the Daniels Cup (by beating Awaba 5-2) as well as finish second to Wallsend on the premiership ladder without Baartz, who had been offered an extended stay at Old Trafford.

In the grand final between the two arch­ rivals, more than 6000 saw Wallsend avenge a semi-final loss to the Rosebuds by claiming the  playoff 3-1. Rosebuds bounced back to claim the premiership-grand final double in 1966, Baartz repaying the club for its investment by  providing the two  goals  in Adamstown’s grand final win over Newcastle Austral.

The bubble burst slightly the following year, Adamstown suffered its biggest loss of the 1960’s before the premiership proper had kicked off when it failed to match an offer made to Baartz, back after a total of 18 months with Manchester United, by the free spending Hakoah club in Sydney.

While the club was anxious to keep its blossoming young talent at any cost, Adamstown was unable to top Hakoah’s $5600 transfer fee, a Northern NSW record at the time. Baartz departed on 1st March 1967 to start a career in Sydney that would ultimately lead him to more than 5O Australian appearances.

Bobby Cameron did his best to plug the gaps, bringing another talented youngster named Johnny Doyle into the lineup and relying on the ability of such players as Peter Fairleigh, Chris Elkovitch and Ray Howells, and a kid called ‘Bunny’ Curran, who had also tasted  life at Manchester’s Old Trafford.

In the wake of Baartz’s departure, sixth place in the premiership and early exits from both the Daniels and Craven A Cups might have been expected. But it proved to be the calm before the storm. Things clicked in 1968 when the Rosebud first XI marched through the premiership in a manner that left many of the club’s long-term supporters whispering comparisons with the 1930 champions.

Adamstown had signed a goalscoring centre forward named Ken Whitmore from arch-rival Wallsend, goalkeeper ]om Dor­man returned to the club after a stint in Sydney while further young talent such as Trevor Smythe and Col Peattie stepped into the senior squad. In the end, it all proved too much for Rosebud’s opposition. Adamstown collect­ed the premiership-grand final-Daniels Cup treble, and also picked up the club championship trophy.  

Buds continue to bloom

The following is an extract from “100 Years of Football History 1889 to 1989 – a pictorial history of Adamstown Rosebud” – edited by Allyn Hamonent. Click here to see our detailed results from 1889 to 1989.

In a true test of a champion team’s abil­ity, Rosebud won the chance to play in the grand final only after surviving replays in both its semi-final and the preliminary fi­nal. Its 4-2 win over Lake Macquarie in the season’s grand final attracted a record 12,216. The season’s work opened a number of doors to the Adamstown side, one  of them entree as the region’s representative in the international fixture against Fiji. Rosebud duly won 5-1.

Bob Cameron’s departure for Newcastle Austral in 1969 left new player-coach Ron Giles a mammoth task. The son of Wilf ‘Woofta’ Giles, who rose to prominence from the Rosebud patch in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Ron inherited much of his father’s ability. A measure of his worth as a player was his graduation to Northern, NSW and Australian teams, and a gauge of his value as a leader of men was Adamstown’s third place on the ’69 premiership ladder as well as retaining the Daniels Cup .

Giles, who returned from South Sydney Croatia to take up the coaching reins at Adamstown Oval, was shrewd enough to realise that halcyon days of 1968 came around all too rarely, as did a combination with as much potential as the all conquering Rosebuds. He mentioned at the time that he con­sidered the 1968 Adamstown outfit superi­or to all but the mighty Hakoah and Apia clubs  in Sydney.

Giles led the club’s premiership challenge in exemplary fashion, taking the side to third place on the ladder and a semi-final encounter with Weston, which Weston won 3-2 in a replay before going on to find Cameron’s new outfit at Newcastle Aus­tral too strong in the grand final. Adamstown finished the year, however, by successfully defending the Daniels Cup.

The 1969 season was notable for other reasons. It was the year in which the battle lines for a two-club ‘war’ between Adamstown and Weston were drawn up. Encounters between the two Northern gi­ants would  grab many of the headlines over the following decade. The Coalfields’ resurgence as a force in Northern soccer coincided with Weston’s decision to forage in Scotland for recruits capable of taking the Bears to the top, and the first steps in its return as a force in Northern soccer came in 1969.

Adamstown-Weston grand finals assumed tremendous importance as  the 1970’s ticked by. Weston held all the aces from 1971-74, winning each of them, be fore Bill Paddock brought out the best in Adamstown to collect a double in 1975-76. Like the 1968 champions, the Adamstown team was a mixture of youth and experience which boasted a quality midfield of Trevor Smythe, Dennis Wright, an 18-year-old named Joe Senkalski whose silken skills would eventually give him senior Australian recognition, and a devastating front-running combination of Kevin Lagerstrom and Graham Bull.

Adamstown won the 1 975 premiership before toppling the Bears in the play-off to col­lect yet another double, and defended both of those crowns in 1976. The grand final was an epic tussle at Crystal Palace, a stage which Senkalski used to produce one of his best games for the Rosebuds.

It was a last hurrah for Senkalski who, like Baartz, Doyle and Curran before him, would soon move to Sydney in search of a brighter   footballing  future. He departed the following year to try his luck in the newly-formed National Soccer League with Sydney Olympic be fore public demand forced his return in 1979 to the fledgling NSL club Newcastle KB United .

By a bizarre twist of fate, Senkalski returned to Adamstown Oval in 1984 as captain of a struggling Newcastle Rosebud United side, which had taken over early in the season when Newcastle KB United folded. The team rose from KB United’s ashes through the generous support of the Adamstown Rosebud licensed club, and provided an instant return  on the con­siderable investment.

Senkalski, installed as captain by coach-elect Willie Gallagher, led his gallant ban of players into the final of the National Cup knockout and on  to the winner’s dais at Melbourne’s Olympic Park after beating massive odds, and Melbourne Croatia (1-0). Weeks later, the club’s Youth team complemented the victory by beating Marconi on Adamstown Oval to collect the National Youth Cup final.