History of the Balmain Junior League
When Champion Wallaby forward Bob Graves and a band of Balmain rugby rebels crossed over to the new professional code in 1908, they helped establish one of the finest sporting organisations in the metropolitan area.
Graves, a dual international forward, is remembered as one of the founding fathers of the Balmain Rugby League Football Club.
He was captain-coach of the original Balmain Watersiders and the club’s first Kangaroo representative in 1908 and played a key role in acquiring Birchgrove Oval as a major ground for the NSW Rugby League.
But most importantly, Graves was a rugby league visionary. Having assembled a competitive unit for the inaugural Sydney competition, the tough forward saw the need for feeder clubs to help propagate the code.
Calling on his great friend Pat F McQuade, a former Balmain rugby union stalwart and long serving secretary, the forward-thinking Graves set about forming new teams for a local Junior League Association.
McQuade, a feisty character, had switched to the new professional code with Graves and was renowned for his negotiating skills.
Despite their commitments to the newly-formed Balmain Rugby League Club, the hard-working McQuade and Graves still found time to set up a new League for junior players with six clubs coming on board.
Graves, who joined the Balmain “professional” club after making his Test debut for the Wallabies in 1907 against New Zealand, played a pivotal role in the formation of the Balmain Junior League.
He served on the inaugural committee and agreed to act as teams’ coach for the six foundation clubs – Balmain Iona, Leichhardt Royals, Birchgrove Juniors, Drummoyne, Rosebuds and Norwood.
The rugged prop was an inspirational leader with Balmain Rugby Club before switching codes and was a member of the rebel NSW team that challenged Baskerville’s “All Golds” during the 1907 season.
Graves became the Balmain club’s first league international when selected to play against New Zealand in 1908 and later toured with the original Kangaroos. He played second row in the Third Test at Birmingham and figured in 20 other matches on tour.
Graves played six league Tests and achieved the honour of captaining his country in 1909 when he led Australia to a series-clinching 25-5 victory over the Kiwis in the Third Test in Sydney.
The tough forward played 57 matches for Balmain during 1908-1913.
Records show that Balmain formed the first Junior Rugby League Association in Australia on April 6, 1908 after a meeting at Balmain Town Hall.
The meetng was presided by ex-Balmain rugby union secretary Pat McQuade. Bylaws, competition rules and standing orders were adopted and the following officials were appointed: Delegates to the District Club: Messrs William H Mackenzie and Stan Reddy; check weight committee: Messrs Pat McQuade, Ted McFadden and Robert Graves.
Nominations from clubs for affiliation with the Association were fixed to close on April 25, 1908 with an A Grade competition commencing on May 2.
Six clubs – Balmain Iona, Leichhardt Royals, Birchgrove Juniors, Drummoyne, Rosebuds and Norwood – registered with the Association. The competition was controlled by weight on an average of 8 stone 11lbs with a maximum of 10 stone.
A training room was also secured opposite Birchgrove Oval for the use of players. The Balmain Junior League kicked-off during the autumn of 1908 with teams made up of union converts from the Sydney rugby competitions and rookie youngsters that were keen to participate in the new rugby league code.
As the competition unfolded a management committee was formed and included a young Harold Matthews, foundation president Arthur Ballerum, secretary Dave Butchart and Harold Chalk.
And so began a rugby league institution that has fostered junior talent in the Balmain District for more than a century. Bob Graves had set the ball rolling an excitig times were ahead.
[excerpt “From Fraser to Farah, History of Balmain Junior League 1908-2008” written by Chris Karas]
Balmain is still going strong catering for age groups in mini league U6s to U8s, mod league U9s – U12s and international league from U13s.
There are currently twelve clubs, going strong, in the Balmain District Junior Rugby League