Manly-Warringah rugby jersey

Contributed by: Warringah Council

Front Manly-Warringah jersey Back Manly-Warringah jersey Collar Manly-Warringah jersey SS decoration back of collar Manly-Warringah jersey Manly-Warringah District Junior Rugby League Team c.1932. Henderson (Vice Captain) front row, second from the left. Sleeve Manly-Warringah jersey Collar back Manly-Warringah jersey Sleeve and side of back Manly-Warringah jersey JD MONOGRAM QUALITY MADE BY DAVID JONES SYDNEY NSW Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club Rugby League Football Team Premiers, 1934. Henderson (Vice Captain) middle row fourth from left.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Warringah Council
  • Date range:

    1930 - 1939
  • Place of origin:

    Harbord (now known as Freshwater), New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This is a well-worn sporting garment from the peak of the Great Depression. The numerous holes and repairs on this jersey speak of a time of thrift and making do.

David Jones made this Manly-Warringah Rugby League jersey. It was owned and worn by Alf Henderson of Harbord in the early 1930s. It is significant as a well-provenanced example of a Rugby League jersey from the early days of the league in Australia, and on the Northern Beaches in particular.

It is unlikely this jersey was one of the jerseys purchased after a fundraising dance at Queenscliff and it is not clear if this Jersey was definitely worn for the 1933 President's Cup. However, these stories, recorded from Alf Henderson's recollections, provide a rich historical and social context for this jersey.

Author: Rose Cullen.


This is a maroon football jersey with a white collar made by David Jones, Sydney. The body of the jersey is made from a coarse knit fabric with some horizontal stretch and the collar from thick cotton. The sleeves are full length and have ribbing at the cuff. The neckline has a placket with three buttonholes, although the buttons are missing. The jersey has numerous holes. Several holes and areas of fraying have been mended with machine or hand stitching. The back of the collar has 'S S' marked in black ink, although the top of the letters has been folded under in the course of mending.

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Alf Henderson grew up in Harbord (now known as Freshwater) and was involved in the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) from a young age. He left school in the late 1920s and worked in a hardware store.

The Freshwater SLSC participated in the local Rugby Union competition prior to entering two teams in the Manly-Warringah Rugby League competition in 1933. The competition had been established in 1932 (Curby, p.87).

Alf Henderson was the lock forward in the Manly-Warringah Rugby League junior league when it entered the President's Cup competition in 1933. According to Pauline Curby, 'The first round match was against North Sydney, in a curtain-raiser before the Australia versus British Lions test which attracted a record 70 204 crowd to the Sydney Cricket Ground.' Henderson recalled his 'sheer terror when confronted by the wall of noise upon leaving the dressing room' (Curby, p.88).

Henderson recalled of the match, "We obviously had never seen such a crowd. The giant roar that greeted us was like something akin to the end of the world... it was terrifying...But such was the novelty of the new Manly team that the crowd seemed to take to our side and cheer us on as the match progressed" (Smith, p.13).

Alf also recalled that finding uniforms for the club was an issue: "With money hard to come by we organised a dance at Queenscliff in that first season to raise enough to buy a set of guernseys. Guernseys were 7/6 and we only needed 13 because our A and B grades at Harbour would share them on match days.

So to publicise the dance we put up a half-dozen framed calico signs in prominent places around Manly - yet the next morning the messages were all cut out with a knife - somebody obviously didn't like what we were doing.

So we tried again, this time we dubbed signs in lime on footpaths, but police intervened and told us to scrub them off and watch our step.

In the end the dance at the 'Blue Danube' was a success and the guernseys in Harbord's red and white stripes were acquired."

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

While Rugby Union had a long history on the Northern Beaches, Rugby League was a new addition to the sporting field in the early 1930s, a time when Australia was in the throes of the Great Depression. The Australian economy was hit hard following the 1929 Wall Street Stock Exchange collapse. Unemployment sky-rocketed, peaking in 1932 at almost 32%. Many Australians experienced hardship during this period.

In a talk to teenagers at Balgowlah Boys High School in 1993, Alf Henderson described how the Depression created high unemployment and left men with plenty of time to improve their physical fitness and therefore the swimming and surf life saving clubs improved a lot at this time (Henderson, 1993).

It was in this context that the Manly and Warringah Rugby League competition was established in 1932. The Junior League's secretary, Stan De Meur, explained in 1933 that, '"In introducing Rugby League Football to the Manly District, we have made Rugby League Football history and done something which was said to be 'impossible'. The task was a very hard one as we were faced with serious opposition, but despite obstacles the competition surpassed all expectations and proved most successful"' (Smith, p.11).

Despite the Depression, 1932 was also the year of the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Where did this information come from?

Sound recording:

Henderson, Alf [sound recording], (Dee Why, N.S.W.: Warringah Library, 1993).


Curby,Pauline, Freshie: Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club: the first 100 years, (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2007).

Forbes, Walter, No lives lost: the history of Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club 1908-1983, (Sydney: A. Windsor & Son). See page 64 for section titled 'All in the Family', about surf life saving families, written by Alf Henderson and Ian Hobson. See page 85 for section titled 'Canoes' written by Alf Henderson.

Gordon, Gwen, Harbord, Queenscliff and South Curl Curl 1788-1978, (Turrella, N.S.W: C. H. Begg, 1978).

Hamilton, Paula, Cracking Awaba: Stories of Mosman and Northern Beaches communities during the Depression, (Sydney: SHOROC Council Libraries, 2005).

Smith, Robert, The sea eagle has landed: the story of Manly-Warringah Rugby League Club, (Sydney: Lester-Townsend, 1991).


Australian Government, The Great Depression, online. Available: (accessed December 2012).

Parliament of New South Wales, 1930-1939 - Depression and crisis, online. Available: (accessed December 2012).

This garment has been exhibited

Local Studies display at Brookvale Show, Brookvale Park, 2011.

  1. Place of origin:

    Harbord (now known as Freshwater), New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    This Jersey was owned and worn by Alf Henderson.

  3. Worn by:

    Alf Henderson

  4. Occasion(s):

    Playing football.

  5. Place:

    Harbord (Harbord became Freshwater in 2008)

  6. Made by:

    David Jones, Sydney N.S.W.

Trimmings / Decoration

The back of the collar has 'S S' marked in black ink, although the top of the letters has been folded under in the course of mending the collar.

Fibre / Weave

Maroon fine knit for body

Maroon ribbing for cuffs

White/cream cotton collar

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye



JD Monogram Quality Made By David Jones Sydney NSW

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


There are three button holes at the neck, but all buttons are missing.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring


Neck 370 mm
Chest 920 mm
Waist 920 mm
Hip 950 mm
Cuff 220 mm
Front neck to hem 650 mm
Back neck to hem 700 mm
Sleeve length 550 mm
Neck to sleeve head 200 mm
Cross back 445 mm
Underarm to underarm 460 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Link to collection online


Evidence of repairs

This jersey has many holes and some of them have been repaired in the past. Some holes have been machine sewn and others hand darned. There is hand tacking around the top of the back of the collar where the fabric was probably frayed.


  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor


  1. Discolouration
  2. Frayed
  3. Holes
  4. Stained
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