Identifying Old SANFL Photos


At the SANFL History Centre, we have thousands of photographs to identify from various sources.

It can be quite puzzling to findthe history of a photo when often there are no details such asthe date it was taken, names of the people in the photo, or a description of where it was taken.

This can be quite a challenge, but there are a few things that may help.

Firstly, there are a host of people who have expertise in our rich football heritage. Some are specialists in certain areas, such asthe history of specific clubs or football eras.

If I get an unidentified photo in my possession, I’ll reach out to some of these people and I will also check the photo for any recognisable clues.

* Sometimes the photographer’s name may be written on the front or back of the photo. This will often give it a time.

* The background of the photo may be a clue to where the photo was taken.

* The players in the photo may be easily recognised which again will help narrow the time period the photo may have been taken.

* The uniforms the players are wearing –fortunately we have a fairly accurate timeline of club football guernsey changes the SANFL clubs have made and these can narrow the possible dates.

* We can also enlist the support of the SANFL club historians.

* The online library search engine of Australian newspapers, called “Trove,” is an invaluable asset in particularly solving photos earlier than the mid 1950’s as long as they have been published in a newspaper of the day.

* There are some great sporting photographers who worked for a long time with our major newspapers such as Barry O’Brien and Ray Titus,who have great expertise in this field.

* Failing this the photo can be posted on Facebook or with the SANFL groups where there are numerous SANFL followers with knowledge that may help solve it.

Below is an example of a photo that we had to solve.

Obviously at Adelaide Oval, it was taken on the eve of the 1963 SANFL Grand Final.

Left to Right: Don Lindner (North Adelaide), Ken Cunningham (umpire), Geof Motley (Port Adelaide) with Arthur Lance (Curator).

The two photos below took me a long time to solve.

They were in a batch of photos in the Ron Blum Collection and I didn’t realise that they were from the same game.

The “West Torrens,” team was marked as from 1945, because they were wearing the guernsey that Torrens wore that year.

The tall man second from left I recognised as a young ‘Bubba’ Smith, a long-time player and official at West Torrens.

One problem was that I knew Bubba Smith did not play for West Torrens in 1945!

Also, looking at the photo, the players seem rather light-hearted in attitude running onto the Adelaide Oval before the game.

In addition, one of the players was not even wearing the correct coloured shorts!

I had given up on solving the dilemma when one day, months later and looking for something entirely different, I came across the very photo when searching Trove.

The SA Artillery team runs on to Adelaide Oval in 1945, wearing borrowed Sturt guernseys.

The SA Infantry team runs onto Adelaide Oval in 1945, wearing borrowed West Torrens guernseys.

The photos were actually from the Anzac Day game held on Adelaide Oval in 1946.
The teams were SA Infantry, (wearing the borrowed West Torrens guernsey from 1945) and SA Artillery (wearing borrowed Sturt uniform and led by Tom Warhurst -the Norwood great who I hadn’t recognised in the Sturt uniform).
So the end result of identifying a photo is more often a joint effort of many people and many hours of work, but with sometimes a little luck thrown in.
It is a very satisfying when a treasure from the past can be solved.
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