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Balmain Rugby League Football Club blazer

Date: 1894 - 1987
Dimensions:
705 x 420 mm, 0.75 kg
Medium: Wool, plastic, cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Faye Magner
Object Name: Blazer
Object No: 00004783
Place Manufactured:Sydney
Related Place:Balmain,

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    Description
    A black, wool blazer for the Balmain Rugby League Football Club owned by "Wee" Georgie Robinson who built and skippered the champion skiff BRITANNIA.
    A notable sportsmen in Sydney at the time, ‘Wee’ Georgie Robinson was a half-back at Balmain’s rugby team and a champion on the 18-foot skiff racing field. He designed, built and skippered the champion skiff BRITANNIA. His skiff crew all wore the black and gold of the Balmain football team.
    SignificanceIn Sydney there is a historic link between sailing and rugby league as a result of the working class areas of Sydney from which both codes evolved. As sailing was the summer sport and rugby was played in the winter, many local yachties also played for their area’s equivalent rugby league team. Football jerseys were worn during sailing races and there are many familiar names running between the two sports
    HistoryGeorge Robinson, nicknamed ‘Wee Georgie Robinson’, was a foreman shipwright at Cockatoo Island. Like his father, Robinson became a boatbuilder and 18-foot skiff skipper. In 1919, he built the 18-foot skiff BRITANNIA. Over the next 26 years BRITANNIA, with a crew of 11 family members and footballers, sailed a total of 17,000 nautical miles in 691 races and won 41 cup races before it was converted to a starter boat.

    The museum holds a range of items related to Robinson’s career as a boatbuilder and skipper, including a selecting of Sydney Flying Squadron programmes, handwritten records of race results and race memorabilia. Half models rarely survive as the names of the ships they represented are usually lost or they are often mistaken for scraps of wood. This half model is an important part of sea racing history in that it is a rare example of early skiff building methods. Robinson and his fine craftsmanship hailed from a time that the Australian Historical Sailing Skiff Association described as the era of ‘real skiff sailing’. Bruce Stannard illustrated this sense of nostalgia and loss in his book, ‘The Blue-water Bushmen: The Colourful Story of Australia’s Best and Boldest Boatmen’:

    ‘In the mythology of Australian sport there are few legends more colourful or enduring than those that surround the great sail-carrying open boats. Throughout the 19th century, long before cricket and the turf became obsessions in the infant colony, vast crowds, often hundreds of thousands strong, jammed every vantage point about Sydney Harbour and packed aboard fleets of steamers to gamble and to gape at the incredible antics of the men who dared to race the big boats.…In many ways the open boatmen might be described as blue-water bushmen…the rough and ready Sydney Harbour sailors did embody many of the characteristics which were so readily ascribed to their country cousins….’

    Today, there are no surviving 24-footers, 22-footers, 10-footers, canvas dinghies, 8-footers or 6-footers. Only ‘Wee Georgie’ Robinson’s 18-footer BRITANNIA survives, a mere shadow of its former glory, but a testament to both early boatbuilding techniques and an ethos that dominated maritime culture in Sydney Harbour.

    'Wee George' Robinson, the brother of Australian Test centre 'Junker' Robinson, was one of the smallest halfbacks in the game. He played with the club in an era that yielded six premiership titles (1915-17, 1919-20 & 1924) and coached the Tigers in 1933-34. Robinson later spent an incredible 32 years as Balmain's President's Cup coach.



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