Drummoyne Rugby History

Our Story

Drummoyne Rugby has a rich history, and the origins of the Drummoyne District Rugby Football Club (DDRFC) go back directly to the very beginnings of the game of rugby in Australia, when, in 1874, the Southern Rugby Union was formed to establish the game here. This is of immense historical interest because this Union pre-dates the Unions of New Zealand, Wales, Ireland and South Africa and because our predecessor club, The Balmain RUFC, founded in 1873, took part in the very first competition structure, winning their first premiership in 1875.

In 1889, a Rugby club was founded in neighbouring Glebe, soon to become famous as “The Dirty Reds”, from their scarlet jerseys and vigorous style of play. These pioneering clubs of Balmain and Glebe formed the very foundations of what we now know as modern day “Dirty Reds”, the DDRFC, an unbroken continuum of Rugby Union in the District. This is the foundation of Drummoyne Rugby history.

The very first Rugby Union team to leave Australian shores for an overseas tour, the historic 1882 NSW team to NZ, included 3 players, M.H.Howard, R.W.Thallon and C.Hawkins from the Balmain Club. A young winger, Bill McKell, later to become Australia’s Governor General, played in the 1909 and 1910 Balmain teams and in 1911 and 1912 the Club President was Dr.H.Moran, Captain of the first Wallabies of 1908.

The winning Balmain Rugby Captain of 1875 was W.L.Murdoch, later to become Australia’s test cricket captain and the first player to score a double century in test Cricket; not to be outdone, Glebe produced “Tibby” Cotter, a member of their first grade rugby premiership team of 1910 and a sensational test cricket fast bowler for Australia.

When District Rugby was introduced into Sydney in 1900, the initial first grade, second grade and third grade premierships were won by the Glebe RFC, who went on to win a total of seven first grade titles before the outbreak of WW1.

Ted Mullet , Captain of Balmain from 1902, later a long serving Drummoyne Patron and Life Member of the NSWRU, became the first Australian player to reach the total of 100 first grade games.

Competitive Rugby Union in Australia was suspended during WW1 (Rugby League continued), but during the Armistice Period of 1918 a great Australian Rugby Team was formed, The 1st A.I.F Rugby side. It won all its games in France, including a defeat of the strong NZ team. Our club was strengthened when the AIF Captain, Major Bill Watson DSO, MC & Bar joined us on his return to Australia together with several of his team mates. But the Great War had taken its toll on playing numbers; over 80% of the Balmain and Glebe players had joined up and many were killed at Gallipoli and on the Somme in France. This forced these famous two clubs to merge in 1919, to form the Glebe-Balmain RFC. As a merged club they had enormous success during the twenties, winning four premierships.

When the selectors sat down to choose the immortal 1927/8 Waratahs , they picked no less than seven from our district;

Eric and Jack Ford, Arnold and Jim Tancred, Wylie Breckenridge, Bryan Palmer, Johnny Wallace (Captain)

Charlie Fox and Syd Malcolm were also associated with Glebe Balmain.

The Waratah Captain, Johnny Wallace was a Rhodes Scholar in that year our club boasted 3 Rhodes Scholars in the first grade team, Wallace plus “Pup” Raymond and Vernon Treatt. John Wallace went on to captain Scotland while “Pup” Raymond played for England. In 1922, “Watty” Friend from our club was the Australian Captain.

In 1931, as a depression project, Drummoyne Oval as we now know it was constructed on the site of a small oval which Glebe and Balmain had used for junior matches since 1892. To ensure longevity of tenure, because there were just not enough sporting grounds in Sydney, but with some reluctance, the Glebe – Balmain Club decided to change its name to the Drummoyne District Rugby Football Club . It did so without giving up its long held traditions, the scarlet jumpers of Glebe and its world famous tag, “The Dirty Reds” and the black and gold of Balmain, colours still worn proudly by today’s players in their socks.

The Nineteen thirties were also a golden era for the Drummoyne Club, winning the first grade premiership in 1936 and producing a long list of outstanding Wallabies including Bill Cerutti, Russ Kelly, “Steak’ Malone, Mac Ramsay, Frank McPhillips and Ron Rankin. But then WW11 came upon us and once again the Club went to War, losing a number of fine young men.

Our Wallabies of the forties were Eric Freeman and Dr Doug Keller, in the fifties, Ray Colbert carried the flag, then we had another great era in the sixties when Wallaby jumpers were won by Reds John Freedman. Ian Moutray, John Williams, Alan Cardy, Arthur McGill, Jim Lisle and the incomparable Greg Davis, Australia’s Captain of that era.

In the Seventies we had “Nooky” Tindall in the Green and Gold, and in the eighties, another Australian Captain, Steve Williams.

Drummoyne Club has always contributed greatly to the administration of Rugby at the highest level ; John Freedman became President of the NSWRU in 1985, John Mulford the Senior Vice President of NSW and President of the Sydney Rugby Union. Drummoyne referees have always been prominent in this vital arm of the game, the names of Test Match Referees Bill Chapman, Harold Tolhurst and Arthur Tierney coming to mind.

As with all clubs, this club’s history has been one of highs and lows, particularly as population demographics change. But Drummoyne in the new millennium, is clearly in a strong position & is a leading club in the NSW Suburban competition whilst taking its traditional role in District Rugby.

1873 The Balmain Football Club Club was formed at a meeting in Balmain town Hall in November, and began playing in 1874.
1875 Balmain wins the 1st Grade Premiership (under the old Club System)
1900 Glebe Rugby Club formed and wins the 1st Grade Premiership, District Club System formed
1919 The merger between Balmain & Glebe was effected
1923 Shute Shield (NSWRU) & Kentwell Cup (NSWSRU) started
1932 Glebe-Balmain FC renamed to Drummoyne District Rugby Football Club after construction of Drummoyne Oval in 1931
1977 1977 & 1978, NSW First Division Grade Rugby split into “A” & “B” divisions with a relegation / promotion system – Drummoyne played in 2nd Division (District) Grade from 1979 to 1990
1991 Drummoyne re admitted to NSWRU First Division (District) Grade for the 1991 season (after 13 years in second division)
1993 NSWRU Second Division (District) Grade teams merged into Sydney Suburban Rugby Union “Subbies”
1994 Partnered with UTS (University of Technology Sydney), last season in First Division (District) Grade
1995 No Senior Men’s team competed (Drummoyne Women played). Proposed merger with Hunters Hill FC failed
1996 Drummoyne (back as stand alone) re-entered competition playing in 4th division NSW Suburban Rugby (Subbies) with 3 teams, and won Club Championships in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000, upon promotion to Div 1