The date of 11 November is arguably the most significant date in Australian history. It is, of course, the date that WWI officially came to an end in 1918 following the signing of the Armistice between the German Army and the Allied Powers. It’s an event so significant in our national history we pause each year at 11am to remember.
But 11 November is also a day of great infamy for the nation. It was on this date, in 1880, that bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged, and 95 years later, it was the date on which the Governor General, Sir John Kerr dismissed the democratically-elected Whitlam Government.
But for the people of Glebe, 11 November is infamous for an entirely different reason. For it was on 11 November 11 1929 that the Boundaries Committee of the NSW Rugby League voted to eliminate the Glebe Rugby League Football Club from the Sydney Premiership by the barest of margins, 13-12. Despite a spirited campaign from locals to reverse the move, the decision was ratified by the League a fortnight later, and the game’s pioneering club was officially axed.
This was no ordinary football club; the Dirty Reds – as they were known – were not only the first club, they were one of the most successful clubs in the first 22 years of the game’s history. Although they failed to win a first grade premiership, the club finished runners-up four times, won five reserve grade titles and one third grade premiership. They also produced 11 internationals, including Australian Rugby League ‘team of the century’ members, Frank Burge and Chris McKivat who to this day is the only player in history to captain both the Kangaroos and the Wallabies.
So when the League took their team away from them, the people of Glebe were devastated – many turning their backs on the game for good.
Perhaps the greatest shame brought about by Glebe’s demise was that the contribution made by the Glebe pioneers has been largely forgotten by the game they helped create.
But in 2017 the Dirty Reds have been re-born. Nearly 88 years after they played their last premiership game, the Glebe Rugby League Football Club is back in the NSWRL family. Thanks to the sponsorship of 99onYork (previously The Bowlers Club and soon to be renamed Club York) Glebe was able to enter a team in the Ron Massey Cup competition (the third tier of open age rugby league in NSW) as part of a joint venture with the Concord-Burwood Wolves. The Wolves lacked financial backing but had a first-rate football program, while Glebe had money – but with the season fast approaching, the Reds were not in a position to field a standalone side this season. So the Concord-Burwood-Glebe Dirty Reds were born. Home matches will be split between North Sydney Oval and Leichhardt Oval in 2017, while the historic Glebe Dirty Red jerseys will be worn on numerous occasions throughout the year.
It is the first stage of a long-term plan to return Glebe to its rightful place in rugby league history. The primary aim of the 2017 incarnation of the Reds is to keep the memory of the original club alive. But it’s not all about remembering the past. The club is also focused on reviving junior football in the district. And in a first for rugby league, the club intends to cater to the City of Sydney’s sizeable Asian population, providing an inclusive leisure pursuit for boys and girls of all backgrounds.
To mark the club’s re-birth the Dirty Reds will be holding a special Re-launch Luncheon at 99onYork on Saturday, 6 May, kicking off at 12.30pm. Guests will enjoy drinks and a two-course luncheon while hearing about the history of the club from noted local historian and Glebe Society member, Max Solling. Max will also help us induct three past players into the newly-created Glebe Dirty Reds Hall of Fame. We will also hear from two-time premiership winning coach Phil Gould who will talk about the importance of tradition and community in rugby league. And we will hear the Denis Carnihan-penned team song for the first time ever. The 2017 Dirty Reds Ron Massey Cup side will be in attendance on the day.
Tickets for the Dirty Reds Re-launch are on sale for $80 and are available from the Sticky Tickets website: https://www.stickytickets.com.au/51363/glebe_dirty_reds_revival_lunch.aspx, or by calling Club Operations Manager. Darren Flynn.
The club will play its first home match against a fellow foundation club, the Wests Magpies at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday, 13 May. Kick-off is at 3pm. We’d love to see you there! This is your team. We’d really appreciate your support.