“You can see the finish line…”

Considering that my project centers on a rugby league club, I thought I’d start off with one of the great sporting clichés. It’s almost hard to believe that in under a month our final projects will be revealed. I spent the last blog post giving a little bit of a background on why I undertook work with Wests Archives, so this one will be dedicated to the project itself. A detailed account of my trials and tribulations….
Like many of the students of Beyond the Classroom, I’ve found that my projects had meandered and molded as time has passed. Having now set my sights on producing a short film for the club, preparation work has been under way. Having actually never made a video before, I must admit that I am somewhat anxious. With shooting next Saturday, It’s going to be a really stretched to ensure that everything is organized and that the day runs as smoothly as possible. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed it becoming closer to the people involved throughout the organization. Founder of the club, Scott Morris has been so helpful in helping me organize the material for the project. Late night phone calls and rather rushed Facebook posts have meant that we have been able to gather enough support to get this video off the ground. I’ve included a few of the screenshots from the Facebook page for you guys to see below.
On the 5th of November, Scott has organized a jersey handout to coincide with the interviewing for the video. This should be really helpful in gauging some meaningful responses from members of the Fanatics. I’ll be asking questions about:
– What the club means to them as members of the Western Sydney Community. (Hopefully invoke some responses relating to class and ethnicity here)
– Why exactly it’s important to preserve the culture of the Rugby League Club.
– Why creating public history for the organization is helpful for their growth and sustainability.
I really hope to capture this kind of sentiments on camera. As the script progresses, I feel that it’s important to remember that I am writing history for other people. This is not a video about what this team means to me. But rather, why it plays such a pivotal role in the lives of those who breathe Magpies culture day in and day out. With over 3000 members, I encourage all of you to have a look at the group’s facebook page. I’ve included a link below to if any of you want to have a peek at the kinds of events and activities they get up to.
I think thats about everything I have to update you guys with. So I’ll leave you all with another sporting cliché that maybe everyone can use as life gets a little more stressful as deadlines emerge.
“Keep your eye on the ball..”

Western Suburbs Rugby League Club: A History

“Sport is for those who are smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important.”
Rugby League has always played an important part of my life. Some of the earliest memories I have with my Dad were chucking the footy around in the backyard or going to games with him. For me, sport had always been an escape from the challenges that life threw at me. It was a way to make new mates when school wasn’t going so great. It was a healthy distraction from the pressures of Year 12. In many ways, I had always kept footy separate from my academic work. If I’m being perfectly honest, I never thought it would be possible to combine my love of Rugby League with that of history. Surely histories of sport and leisure would make classical empiricists like Von Ranke turn in their grave! Over the years I had read plenty of autobiographies and histories of the game, not once thinking that I could perhaps add to the body of work.
I mean what kind of Professor seriously wants to read about footy?
I was lucky enough for that to change last semester. Whilst taking a course that centered on the history of Sydney, I decided to write an essay on the ways in which Rugby League contributed to Western Sydney Identity. Enter the Western Sydney Fibros and Northern Beaches Silvertails. This rivalry produced what can only be described as the most violent period of Rugby League history. Spawned through a unique form of territorial class warfare. If you have a spare hour on your hands I seriously recommend watching the documentary below:
Wests Archives was an obvious choice of organization for my beyond the classroom project. Over the last few weeks I have been lucky enough to spend time with some of the stalwarts of the club. Club Director Rick Wayde has been especially helpful in gauging an idea for what I could do. Every ex player I seem to bump into at the League’s club reminds me that Rick is probably the expert on Wests history. Club archivist Neil Bennett has been an absolute champion. Over a coffee (or two….) he’s managed to show me the whole of their collection. I’m talking Jerseys, newspaper articles, stubbie holders, trophies….The list goes on.
During the mid 1990’s, media Mogul Rupert Murdoch took it upon himself to create a completely new Rugby League competition. Murdoch’s “Super League” began to rival the Australian Rugby League Competition that had been around since 1908. Players, teams and coaches swapped codes. Rivalries spawned. Court battles were won and lost. By 1997, both leagues signed a peace deal and the National Rugby League competition was born. Unfortunately for Wests, the financial constrains caused by the chaos of the years before meant that they could not enter the new competition alone. The first grade Wests side perished and merged with Balmain. Wests Magpies still compete as a sole entity at lower competition grades. Wests fans can be found at Ron Massey Cup and SC Ball Games. It is my understanding that the supporter group, aptly named “the Wests Fanatics” emerged through this tumultuous period. Rick and Neil would like me to write a history of the Wests Supporters Group after the mid 1990s.
In all honesty, I’m really excited to see where this project takes me. At the end of the day, I hope to be writing working class stories. From preliminary research and talks with Wests fans, it is apparent that the club holds a pretty special place in their hearts. We have read a lot about public history this semester. In saying that I have become even more aware of its limitations and restrictions. Oral histories that I find myself collecting will have to be reinforced with other primary evidence. I will need to understand that the project is going to take time. The club has made it clear what they want to do with my work, so I need to ensure it’s factually correct. Guest Lecturers like Louise and Michaela have showed that community groups have an uncanny ability to produce environments of inclusiveness and happiness. If I can capture that kind of sentiment, I will consider my project a success.
One my early Club Presentations
Me at the 2004 NRL Grand Final
The Boots and Jersey I wore in my Final Year at School