Soccer in Spearwood: early days of the Spearwood Rovers, 1929-1941

The beginnings of Spearwood soccer: 1929 - 1941

After the short-lived soccer craze at Jandakot in the years leading up to the First World War, soccer lay dormant for over a decade in the Cockburn district. Though the official leagues picked back up again after the end of the war, and public interest grew throughout the 1920s, it was not until 1929 that soccer found a home in Cockburn again. The sport’s popularity had grown enough that the metro area supported two leagues and twelve different competitions when a group of sportsmen formed a new team in Spearwood in 1929.

Formation of the Spearwood Rovers

Formed under the tutelage of Ned Ducker, who had migrated from England in 1928 and settled at Spearwood with a job at Mayor and Brindle’s garden, the original team were all converts from Australian rules.  

Ducker, a lifelong soccer player, volunteered not only to manage the team but to teach all the new players the rules and skills needed, and he was very impressed with how they took to the unfamiliar sport. 

The descendents of many Spearwood families - Scottish, English, Italian, and Yugoslav - made up the players and supporters, with many transferring their loyalties from the Australian Rules game and the South Fremantle Football Club.

Friendly training and matches, 1929-1931

The first meeting and early training sessions were held at the old Spearwood RSL Hall, now Beale Park on Spearwood Avenue. Soon the club was renting the Spearwood Agricultural Hall from the Fruitgrowers and Market Gardener’s Association (FG&MG) for their club meetings, and training and playing on the oval at the corner of Russell Road and Rockingham Road in South Coogee

This had been for some years the site of the Coogee Agricultural Society’s showgrounds, and would have been one of the only cleared and grassed spaces in the district that was suitable for playing soccer.

For the first two years they played only friendly, non-league matches against other clubs, much as the Jandakot team had in their heyday. In 1930 they played a match against Fremantle at the Fremantle Oval, where the gate prices went to helping the unemployed in the difficult years of the Depression.
 

Joining the League: 1931

The club felt itself good enough to join the official state league in 1931, and along with new clubs formed that year in Welshpool and Osborne Park they were placed in the Second Division. Their first match was an away game against Guildford at Bassendean. Not only did the Rovers lose this game 1-0, but one of the players fractured his leg in the second half. 

After this inauspicious opening game, the club had a decent first season, finishing fifth out of seven teams, with much welcome experience under their belts.

Opening the new grounds

On Saturday 5 September 1931 the Rovers christened their first official playing grounds at the Fruitgrower’s Reserve with a match against Caledonians.  The new pitch was a playing field to one side of the
FG&MG showgrounds, which were still used for agricultural shows and hired out to other community groups like the Boy Scouts.

The teams walked onto the pitch to the music of the Caledonians’ bagpipes and Mr C.H. Briggs, chairman of the WA Soccer-Football Association, kicked off the first ball. Rovers lost 4-1, but they entertained their guests in style with a tea afterwards, and the new ground was declared a success. 

By the following year they had built dressing rooms on the grounds but there was trouble with the grass, and the team asked the FG&MG for assistance in ploughing and replanting the playing field. The grounds were no longer in use by 1934, so it may be assumed that the help was not forthcoming.

Hamilton Hill club and Spearwood’s temporary hiatus

1932 saw the Rovers rocket to victory, winning the second division and the Reid Shield, but they slid back and spent the next few years solidly in the middle of the table.

In 1934, a short-lived Hamilton Hill team joined the league and played for three years, two of which (1935 and 1936) coincided with Spearwood not entering the league at all, apart from with a junior team. 

Coming back in 1937, the Rovers spent two more plodding years before suddenly leaping once more to stardom when they won the Second Division with a playoff against South Perth. 

Promoted to the First Division, their blossoming career was cut short by the advent of WWII, which caused the WA leagues to shut down in 1942 and stay closed through 1945. With most soccer-playing men away at war, the teams were decimated and could not carry on.

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