The ‘active thirties’ is one way to describe the years of depression and recovery leading to the second Great War. Economic stagnation, which hit almost every section of the Australian community in the early thirties failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the members of The Briars Sporting Club.
In the 1930’s, the total membership increased from 112 in 1931 to 181 in 1939. A total of six premierships were won in these years, three by Cricket and three by Rugby. B shires won the competition twice, including the first year they were entered. They also won the 3rd Grade of the Western Suburbs Junior Cricket Association Competition. The footballers won each of the three Sub-District competitions during this time, namely the Burke Cup in 1934, the Whiddon in 1937 and the Kentwell in 1940.
However, apart from these two major sports, the club members actively participated in other outdoor sports. In March 1933, the Club conducted a swimming carnival, which attracted 37 entries from club members. Besides 50, 100 and 200 yards Championships and Diving Championships, other Clubs were invited to contest a relay race. This was a most successful venture. Another Swimming Carnival was attempted in 1935, however, “it received disappointing support from members and the number of competitors was small”. The following year the activity of swimming was revived by the introduction of a fortnightly meeting in the summer months at Enfield Pool with the use of a progressive points score competition. This proved popular and the Annual Carnival enjoyed “Keener interest”. However, this was short lived and in the following year, 1937, swimming was abandoned and has not been introduced since.
In 1932, due to “a considerable number of members having taken to golf and to fulfil their want a little, two tournaments were conducted”. In the following years three tournaments were conducted each year at various venues. By 1938, the success of golf days was assured to the extent that these tournaments were popularly organised at venues further a field such Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath. In this period Golf Days proved popular and were fortunate to enjoy fair weather.
Tennis was reintroduced 1934 when a tournament was held. By 1935, “more attention has been paid to the encouragement of tennis as a means of providing variety in our activities”. Consequently, three handicap events were held. This activity enjoyed an increasing popularity in the thirties and was seen as fulfilling a great purpose in the “development of the Club’s social spirit”.
As is the case today, the major indoor sports in the thirties were Billiards and Table Tennis. Tournaments in each of these were held 2 or 3 times a year and their popularity was ensured throughout the decade. A Table Tennis team was entered in the C Grade competition run by the N.S.W. Table Tennis Association in 1934 and ran third.
One may wonder as to what activities other than sport did the Club members participate in. Perhaps the most well known activity, which Briars provided for its members, was that of reading material. A library, which was established in 1920, continued to provide hours of enjoyable reading material for members. A librarian took charge of the book collection and loans were issued to members. Volumes of books were added to the collection each year ensuring a variety of reading material would be available to members.
Debating was introduced into the Club in 1932. After four debates between Club members, a number of challenges were made to outside organisations. The first debate against a Summer Hill team was entitled: “That the Federation of English Speaking Nations will effect more in the Interests of World Peace than the League of Nations”. The second, against a Reliance Club was entitled: “The Spirit of Patriotism should be discouraged”. The third against Concord: “Modern Advertising exceed the bounds of commonsense and utility”. However, debating was short lived and was discontinued in 1934.
Another activity, which was well attended, was that of lectures presented to club members on various topics. These were originally organised in 1933 to encourage member’s attendance at the Clubrooms. In 1933, two lectures were heard. Mr. Harold Fletcher talked on “The Mawson Expedition to the Antarctica”. Mr. W. Carry talked on “Cricket and Golf”. No lectures were given in 1934 but in 1935, Mr A F Kippax talked on “The Sidelights of the Tour of the Last Australian Eleven” and Mr. C N Neale upon “Tramway Systems in Sydney”. Like debating, these lectures had a limited period of popularity.
Another popular activity in the Clubrooms was that of cards. This activity was most popular in the early 1930’s, when there would be monthly Bridge Tournaments. It was not uncommon for there to be a half dozen or more bridge games running consecutively. However, by 1935 card games had lost their popularity.
The Briars had their share of representatives in this period. Mal Blair, Billy Mann, Bill McLaughlin and Dan Love all won caps for Australia. Numerous other players progressed from Briars to paly Grade Cricket and Football.
The members of the Club between 1931 and 1934 also staged revues and plays. These were all well attended, with numbers exceeding 200. With the support of certain lay associates, these activities to an important degree helped in raising monies for the Club’s finances.
Club socials in this period included Games evening (often run by the ladies committee), smokos (with community singing led by Stan McGregor) and dances (often three dances per year). These dances proved very popular, with at least one dance a year at the ever popular Hordern brothers.
Our first Patron was elected in 1936, the Honourable H. W. Whiddon, M.L.C.
Although not established in this period, Hockey was thought about. In the 1936/37 Annual Report it was recorded: “It has been suggested the Club might take up Hockey as an additional winter sport next year, and the committee is prepared to support the proposal providing a sufficient number of members evidence and interest in the idea”.
The administration of the Club was a little different then. Instead of a Board of Directors and Management Committee as exist today; a single General Committee under the direction of three Trustees administered the Club. This committee directed a number of sub-committees, such as Stewards, Cricket Social, and Rugby etc.
When we remember that the habit of smoking was so horrific to the original members that they signed a pledge denouncing such a practice, it is interesting to note the changing attitude by the 1930’s. The 1935/36 Annual report noted “while the sale of cigarettes and tobacco has been maintained, it is far below what might reasonably expected from a Club the size of ours, and it is evident that a large number of members have not yet learnt to appreciate the assistance the Club received from cigarette sales”.
In 1938, the Gordon Bevan Shield was donated by the Bevan Family. It is in the memory of a young member killed in a car accident. It is presented each year to the footballer, as the highest football honour, in proficiency, teamwork and Club spirit.
If many of the activities pursued in the 1930’s seem different from today, some things haven’t changed. The emphasis on sport was paramount. Social activities were regarded as important. The pleas and comments of the committee remain timeless: –
1931/32 Report, “There is one aspect, however, that is causing some concern…..and it is one of paramount importance. We refer to the marked decline in interest displayed by the members…in both of our sporting activities…. and at the Club rooms too”. 1936/37 Report: “Our sporting weaknesses, we feel are part of the Inevitable ebb and flow of athletic bodies, and can be looked upon as a passing phase”.
Some small alteration made to the Clubrooms in the 1930’s, including painting. We have it on good authority that murals depicting a Turkish Harem decorated some of the walls of the Clubrooms prior to painting.
1940 saw crisis begin for the Briars… “As an outcome of the War we are faced with the task of replacing the large number of members who have joined the fighting forces.” Due to this loss of members, the Briars fielded only two Cricket teams in 1939/40.