Melbourne football historian Ian Syson is on the hunt for an important reminder of Newcastle sport's World War I sacrifice.
Syson, who published a football history, The Game That Never Happened, last year, is in Newcastle this week looking for a large honour roll that lists the Merewether Advance players who went to war.
He told Topics that Newcastle's soccer clubs were particularly committed to the war effort.
"Every little town in Australia with a soccer team basically stopped playing during the war to send players off, and Newcastle seemed to do that in a higher proportion than just about anywhere else," he said.
"There were 650 players in Newcastle before the war. Five hundred enlisted, and between 70 and 80 died. That's quite stark.
"It was across the clubs. Merewether, for example, lost around 10. They sent about 80. Adamstown sent over 50 and lost between 10 and 12. East Greta the same."
"There were probably around 15 clubs before the war. Nine of them are still embodied in clubs today. There's a lot of continuity in Newcastle soccer."
Syson said the men had enlisted of their own accord but undoubtedly had been influenced heavily by their clubs, which were "very proud" to supply soldiers to the "Maitland's Own" and "Newcastle's Own" battalions.
"The clubs believed that they were contributing as clubs, despite the fact the players made the choices individually.
"In fact, the Merewether club thought so much of what their players did they raised the money for that roll of honour, which cost quite a lot of money."
Syson agreed that many of the clubs must have sent almost their entire playing roster to fight in Europe.
"It's an interesting stat that I haven't really got my head around yet.
"The competition kept going, but in a weaker form. You had so many of the good players going, as well. It wasn't just the lesser players. First-team players who played for NSW went. People like 'Bull' Jennings.
"These people were actually stars. They were community stars. They were well known. They were important people in the community.
"I think they were very much gung-ho about the war. Many of the soccer players were Protestants from English and Scottish backgrounds, even if they were second generation, so they had a certain kind of loyalty to Empire."
Syson said the honour roll was in the Merewether School of Arts on Glebe Road.
He hoped it hadn't been consigned to the scrapheap when the building was demolished.
"I just ask, on a human level, if you were doing it or I were doing it, you saw this place being demolished, when we found this thing. It's six foot by six foot.
"You'd have to be pretty callous, I think, to want to destroy it."
Anyone with information about the honour roll can call Syson on 0413 351 681.
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