Thirroul's Place in History
Thirroul is the only South Coast team to have won the prestigious Gardiner Cup and were the last winners of NSW football's equivalent of the FA Cup, which began in 1888 and continued until 1928.
The Gardiner Challenge Cup was the "oldest trophy in the Commonwealth" and The South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus gave an indication of the esteem it was held in by reporting after the competition's demise that "every club executive officer and player had one ambition - and that was to win the Gardiner Cup".
Thirroul Bluebells beat Pyrmont 3-0 in the final on September 22 at Bode's Grounds, which is now the PCYC at North Wollongong, to lay claim to being the best team in NSW for that season.
An own goal by Pyrmont gave the Bluebells a 1-0 halftime lead and A Rhodes and J Seath scored in the second half to prompt wild celebrations at the ground and back at Thirroul after the match (see full match report below).
Among the matches Thirroul won to qualify for the final were:
West Wallsend 3-2
According to a report on October 4, 1929, the Gardiner Cup was discontinued at the semi-final stage of that season after a match between Thirroul and Pyrmont at Thirroul on August 24 was abandoned by the referee in extra time after both team's had a player sent off and the Bluebells refused to replay the game at a Sydney venue chosen by Pyrmont.
The previous encounter between the two teams at Leichhardt Oval on July 6, 1929 had also ended in controversy after the Thirroul captain, Gowans, was sent off for questioning the referee's decision to award a dubious goal to Pyrmont and the Bluebells were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Pyrmont were already facing disciplinary action after their players walked off the field in protest at the refereeing while trailing 4-1 to Balgownie at Bode's Ground on August 10 and the Metropolitan Soccer Football Association responded to the two events by disqualifying Pyrmont from all competitions for the remainder of the season.
However, Pyrmont successfully appealed the decision and Thirroul were ordered to play them again in Sydney.
Thirroul boycotted the match in protest and when the MSFA refused to consider Thirroul's appeal against the decision to impose a forfeit and deny the Bluebells the chance to retain the Gardiner Cup, they were supported by Balgownie, who refused to play Pyrmont on September 28 at Gladesviille Oval for the right to meet Auburn in the final.
After a vote of clubs rejected an appeal by Balgownie at an extraordinary MSFA meeting on September 30, Auburn successfully moved that the Gardiner Cup be abandoned for the 1929 season as Pyrmont had qualified on forfeits and without finishing their previous two matches in the competition.
The dispute coincided with a breakaway from the NSW Soccer Football Association, which led to the establishment of a State League in 1930.
Unfortunately, it is not known what happened to the Gardiner Cup after that and the whereabouts of the trophy remain a mystery to this day.
Below is a match report from the Bluebell's 3-0 win over Pyrmont in the final, which has been reproduced from The South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus on September 28, 1928.
THIRROUL LAND THE GARDINER CUP
North Wollongong grounds, better known to the general public as Bodes, was the scene of great excitement last Saturday and will love long in the memory of those who witnessed the great contest, fought out in a clean, manly spirit. Tho exhibition was typical cup-tie football.
The gate receipts were the highest taken this year, £78 being registered, which is a record for this year. Thirroul painted the town red on their return and every citizen welcomed the heroes on their glorious victory, and accomplishing what no other team on the Coast had previously done.
THRILLS AT WOLLONGONG
Every kind of vehicle was engaged to convey the Coast barrackers to North Wollongong. and the field, when time arrived for the duel in the historic «up, was a real spectacle. Mr H. Stack, president of New South Wales Association, sat with the cup in the middle of the field, but had to seek police protection, as eager enthusiasts rushed the table on which the valuable trophy stood.
Pyrmont filed out first and were given a wonderful reception. Thirroul followed amid a scene of wild excitement. One mighty roar greeted- the local eleven, which must have had effect on the Metropolitan boys, and could be heard miles away.
THIRROUL SCORES WITHIN 20 MINUTES
Pyrmont won the toss and naturally kicked with the strong breeze in their favour. Thirroul wore Balgownie jerseys, as Pyrmont also play in royal blue. Pyrmont advanced towards Thirroul's goal area, but were driven back by Taylor and Mitchell.
Gowans set Rhodes moving on the left. The latter swung the ball right across for Seath to shoot high over the bar. Pyrmont could not make any impression on the local defence, who were playing with determination and also judgment at the same time, particularly Gowans and Taylor. Doig broke away for Pyrmont but his accurate centre was nullified by Callagham, who hesitated, for Mitchell to nip and clear right under the bar.
Away went the locals in a clever passing bout. Seath tricked two of the opposition while Griffiths worried the defence to such an extent that O'Toole kicked through his own goal to give Thirroul the lead.
Verity stood spellbound as hats and missiles went flying into the air, spectators rushing the field to congratulate their respective choice, but thanks again to the police, who just as quickly cleared the playing area.
Pyrmont now took a hand in attacking, and combination of the highest order was witnessed, Thirroul's defence broke up the movements with cleverness, much to the delight of the Coast following, but. Chilby had to stop a shot from Doig which had barrackers on their tip toes, as Chilby threw the ball for a fruitless corner, while Callagham rushed the Thirroul goalie into the net.
Mitchell was penalised just outside the penalty box for elbowing Quill. Sid Robertson, the visiting captain, shot hard over the bar. Casson worked the ball forward to give Griffiths a great opening, but the latter ran over the ball in his eagerness to score and lost the opportunity.
Love hit the side riggings with a real daisy cutter which had Verity well beaten. Referee B. Lane, from Newcastle, was handling the game with discretion, and nobody out of the large crowd envied him his task, as the players were worked up now to such a pitch that it needed someone strong in the middle with the whistle.
Pymont were in fine fettle and kept the locals defending for their lives, shot after shot being peppered into Chilby but the latter has never been seen to better advantage and gave a masterly exhibition between the sticks. Half-time sounded with Thirroul hanging on desperately to their one goal lead.
THIRROUL'S SECOND HALF
With the wind now in the local's favour, Pyrmont were given a dose of their own medicine as the Thirroul vanguard swept down on the visiting defence in such a convincing manner that enthusiasts realised the home team was on the road to success.
Rhodes finalised a great effort by heading past Verity into the net, but credit is also due to Griffiths, Love and Seath who combined in magnificent fettle to give Rhodes the opening which he quickly seized amid scenes of wild excitement. Again men lost their heads and ran on the field of play.
Thirroul now dominated the situation and banged shots in that took some getting rid of. Verity was very calm between the sticks and saved what looked certain goals on many occasions.
Gowans was all over at the right time, spoiling movements initiated by Pyrmont and also feeding his forwards with discretion. Doig was now in the picture with a fine individual effort but Taylor robbed him just in time. Quill, the fastest forward playing the round ball game, went away at tin hare speed to shoot eratically over the cross-bar.
C. Orr was playing the game of his life and fearlessly tackled the opposition. Hamiiton came into the limelight with a solo run of trickiness that highly amused the large assemblage.
Seath received and lobbed a perfect shot past Verity into the net to place the issue beyond any shadow of doubt, and gave Thirroul a three clear goals lead. Pyrmont made a desperate onslaught on the local defence, but it could not penetrate past Chilby.
The visitors were playing well but their shooting was absolutely woeful. Thirroul, on the other hand, took full advantage of anything lose and had a shot for goal at any distance, which won the game for them. Referee B. Lane blew full time amidst scenes of wild delight.
PRESENTATION OF THE CUP
Players were carried over to the official stand when Mr. S. H. Stack, after eulogising the splendid victory of Thirroul, presented Mr. K. Gowans with the historic cup — the 'Gardiner Cup'— and also filled it with wine that was eagerly seized by Thirroul followers. Twenty minutes elapsed before the players could get into the dressing room, such was the enthusiasm of the round-ball followers.
Sporting fans of all codes met at Thirroul and celebrated the victory in no half-hearted fashion. Mr. G. Laughlin got the honour of displaying the cup in his shop window. The night that Thirroul are presented with the medals every club will be requested to send along representatives.
Gardiner Cup Honour Roll
1888: Caledonians 2 Parkgrove 1
1889: Pyrmont 1 Joadja 0
1890: Pyrmont 3 Granvllle 1
1891: Parkgrove 4 Pyrmont 1
1892: Minml 3 Pyrmont 0
1893: Pyrmont 1 Minml 0
1894: Pyrmont 7 Parkgrove 2
1895: Balmaln 4 Pyrmont 1
1896: Balmaln 3 Pyrmont 1
1897: Balmain 2 Pyrmont 1
1898: Pyrmont 3 West Newcastle 2
1899: Pyrmont 5 Balgownie 2
1900: West Wallsend 4 Pyrmont 1
1901: West Wallsend 2 Balgownle 1
1902: Pyrmont 3 West Wallsend 1
1903: Pyrmont 4 Glebe 2
1904: Granvllle 2 Glebe 1
1905: Balmain 2 Rozeile 1
1906: Glebe 3 Pyrmont 2.
1907: Broadmeadow 3Pyrmont 2
1908: Pyrmont 4 Glebe 0
1909: Adamstown 3 Pyrmont 1
1910: HMS Powerful 3 Helensburgh 1
1911: Balmain 1 HMS Powerful 0
1912: Balmain 1 Sydney 0
1913: Annandale 3 Newtown 0
1914: Granvllle 3 Merewether 1
1915: Balmain 2 West Wallsend 0
1916: No competition (WW1)
.1917: No competition (WW1)
1918: Weston 1 Balmain Kla-ora 0
1919: Balmain-Fernleigh 3 West Wallsend 0
1920: Balmain-Fernleigh 2 Granvllle 0
1921: West Wallsend 3 Granville 1
1922: Granvillle 1 West Wallsend 0
.1923: West Wallsend 1 Sydney 0
1924: West Wallsend 3 Woonona 0
1925: Adamstown 2 Cessnock 0
1926: West Wallsend 2 Adamstown 1
1927: Gladesville-Ryde 2 Granville 0
1928: Thirroul 3 Pyrmont 0
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