Ryan Cropp


Remembering the Canterbury Cup

The Canterbury Cup was a metropolitan-wide knockout football (soccer) tournament that was played at Blick Oval in Hurlstone Park between the years 1949-1963. 


The majority of my work for Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club (HPWFC) has involved an exhaustive search for sources relating to this period in the club’s history, and the presentation of this newly unearthed information in an easily-digestible online format. This included adjustments to the history section of the HPWFC website and the creation of a short documentary video.


The implicit argument of the project is that this tournament, and football more generally, was a significant site of cross-cultural relations in the postwar period.  The wave of non-Anglo-British migration to Australia in the decades following the Second World War resulted in substantial social and demographic change in many Sydney suburbs.[1] The football field was a microcosm of the cultural exchange, conflict and anxiety in Australian society in the 1950s.  It was at the vanguard of the evolving ethnic and cultural makeup of local communities.  This clash of cultures was also evident in a clash of footballing styles and attitudes to sport.  The hurly-burly physicality of the Anglo-British teams was in stark contrast to the technicality, finesse and pragmatism of the migrant players.


A secondary observation is that the memory of this event is to some extent shaped by the priorities of modern Australia.  The predominantly white Anglo-British Hurlstone Park players of this period have remembered themselves as significant actors in the shift to a multicultural society.  These players, and the modern incarnation of the club, wish to place themselves at the centre of the local area’s demographic transformation since the mid-twentieth century.  Thus the project dealt with two main themes: cultural conflict and exchange; and memory, both individual and collective. Observing the interplay between these key themes was one of the most interesting aspects of the project.

My principle source was the testimony of two former Hurlstone Park players.  One I interviewed directly, which allowed me to shape the direction of the conversation. The other source was an extensive series of letters, which I have transcribed for the club’s archives. The letters contain reminisces and memories from the period in question.  Future research should involve the collation of more testimony, with a particular focus on the perspective of the migrant teams.


The project also made use of photographic sources. Most of these were found in annual reports and private collections.  In the short video, we overlaid the photos with the testimony of a former player as a way of making the memories more tangible. The same technique was used for newspaper reports, trophies and other memorabilia.  While newspaper evidence was scarce, one particular article from a Jewish newspaper (found at a very late stage in the project) helped jog the memory of a former player of one of the migrant clubs, who has agreed to be interviewed about this in the future.[2]  The potential for future research here is encouraging.  The work of historian Philip Mosely was very important for contextualising the sources. Mosely has written extensively on local football in this period, particularly with regard to ethnic football violence and the role of football in ethnic communities.[3] 


At the outset of the project, we identified the need for the club and the broader community to improve its historical consciousness. As such the key audience for the video was the club’s 1400 members, which vary in age, gender and ethnicity. We were confident that this was a story that needed to be told, and that doing so would help to improve the perception of the club’s value to the community.  As local histories have traditionally overlooked football’s role in the evolution of the Canterbury area, we think that addressing this will strengthen the club’s case for better facilities and support from the local council.  We also hope that the project itself acts as a catalyst for further research and will encourage anyone with useful information or private archives to approach the club.


The absence of football from local histories contributes greatly to the significance of the project. The Canterbury area experienced substantial demographic and social upheaval throughout the second half of the twentieth century, yet little attention has been paid to the role of football in reflecting and accommodating these changes.[4]  One explanation is the lack of readily available sources, but this itself might be a corollary of the marginalisation of football from the 1960s to the 1990s and the perception of it as an ‘ethnic’ game. Only in recent years have mainstream supporters of the game begun to view its multicultural history with pride rather than shame.  The Canterbury Cup illustrates the role of sport as a vehicle for social cohesion.  My interview subject described it as a “great evener”.[5]  This speaks to contemporary debates over migration and cultural conflict.


The principle means by which we will make our research accessible will be the short documentary [see above]. From the outset, we identified this medium as the best way to communicate with the club’s members and the broader football community. We intend to share it through social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and it will occupy a permanent place in the expanding history section of the club website.  In order to make the video entertaining and engaging, we tried to emphasise moments of humour and nostalgia. A former player provides the video’s ‘voice’, giving the impression of unmediated testimony.  In reality, we edited nearly 25 minutes of testimony to include the elements that best illustrated the key themes.  We were conscious of the trade-off between academic rigour and accessibility, and where possible tried to maintain both.  The level of information provided should relate to the interest shown. A typical viewer will see the video first, then head to the website if they desire more detailed information.  They will also be able to access the new archival material upon request.


The project has plenty of potential for further research.  The picture of the tournament could be complicated by including the perspective of the migrant teams.   There is a possibility of doing this in conjunction with the Canterbury Football Association, which is itself actively working to improve its archival records. An Ashfield man’s recent discovery of detailed annual reports from this era (which he has not yet given us access to) will help draw a more detailed picture. It would also be interesting to explore the immediate effects of the Second World War on the club and the community.   Ultimately, any research done in this somewhat arcane but perennially neglected field would be welcomed with great enthusiasm.




[1] Philip Mosely, Ethnic Involvement in Australian Soccer: A History 1950-1990 (Australian Sports Commission, 1995), p. 19; Australian Historian Migration Statistics, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Online; Jack Collins, Migrant Hands in a Distant Land: Australia’s post-war immigration (Marrickville: Southwood Press, 1991).

[2] ‘Jewish Team Beaten in Canterbury Cup’, The Hebrew Standard of Australasia, 31 July 1953.

[3] See Chapter 3, “Soccer and the Community” in Mosely, Ethnic Involvement in Australian Soccer; Mosely, ‘European Immigrants and Soccer Violence in New South Wales 1949-59’, Journal of Australian Studies 40 (1994), pp. 14-25; Mosely, Soccer in New South Wales, 1880-1980 (Bannockburn: Victoria Sports and Editorial Services, 2014).

[4] Richard Cashman and Chrys Meader, Marrickville: Rural outpost to inner city (Marrickville: Hale and Iremonger, 1990); Larcombe, F.A., Change & Challenge: A History of the Municipality of Canterbury, NSW (Canterbury: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1979).

[5] Tom Cornforth, Interview.


Ryan Cropp, "Local Sports History: The Scramble to Salvage the Past," History Matters, (16 October 2015)

Hurlstone Park Wanderers History
Club history for their website, rewritten by Ryan Cropp as part of his major project.
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Transcript of Letters - Dave Stephenson to Tom Conforth
A series of letters between Dave Stephenson and Tom Conforth, transcribed by Ryan Cropp as part of his volunteer hours with his community organisation.
stephenson letters-1.pdf
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Thank you

Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club

for being a Community Partner on this project.