Frank Farrington – A Newtown Man

Francis James Farrington (18 November 1926 – 9 December 2014) was an Australian rugby league footballer who played who played 39 first grade games for Newtown in the 1950s and later a long-serving administrator with the Newtown club in Sydney.

Mr Farrington was born and raised in the heartland of Bluebag territory, St Peters.

Frank Farrington enlisted in the Australian Army shortly after turning 18 in the last year of WWII. He saw service in occupied Japan and was demobilised in 1947.

Farrington was also a professional light-heavy weight boxer and fitness fanatic.

He began his administrative career with Newtown after retiring as a player, and by the 1970s he was Club Secretary. He retained that position for over twenty years before retiring. Frank Farrington was also the team manager on the 1982 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France.

Frank Farrington is remembered as one of Newtown’s most loyal servants during the club’s history. He was at the helm when the club, long beleaguered by financial problems and lacking a junior development base, was cut from the New South Wales Rugby League in 1983. Farrington preserved and remained the Chief Executive of the club when it was admitted to Sydney’s Metropolitan Cup competition in 1990.

Farrington died in December 2014 aged 88.

Frank Farrington interview in the late 80s

“Newtown forward also had an extensive career in Country NSW and Queensland before rising to the position of club secretary in the 1970s. Farrington, who was also a professional light-heavyweight boxer, served in occupied Japan with the Army before being graded by Newtown in 1951. After winning a Reserve Grade premiership with the club he spent the 1952 season as captain-coach of Cowra. He returned to Newtown in 1953 but sought out captain-coach positions with Narranderra (1954) and Mackay (1955). Farrington again returned to Newtown in 1956 until a shoulder injury ended his career in 1959. He later oversaw the club’s rebuilding program in the late 1970s, which culminated in the Jets’ 1981 grand final appearance against Parramatta. Beleaguered by financial problems and with the club’s junior base eroded by Sydney’s urban change, Farrington was at the helm when the foundation club was cut by the NSWRL in 1983. To his credit, he remained the chief executive of the club when it achieved a second life in Sydney’s Metropolitan Cup competition in the early 1990s.”
– ALAN WHITICKER

The NRL historian Terry Williams noted in his 1993 history of the Newtown RLFC, “Out of the Blue”:

“Farrington’s greatest work was at the club level where he gave his heart and soul to the Newtown cause, and he personified the never-say-die inner city battler”.

Renowned Rugby League author Ian Heads recalls that Frank was a huge devotee of jazz – he owned a large collection of jazz albums and he regularly attended concerts of visiting jazz artists.

Mr Heads described Frank as “a died-in-the-wool Rugby League man and about as heart and soul Newtown as anyone could ever be”.

Terry Williams and Ian Heads pretty much say it all – Frank Farrington was one of the outstanding identities in the Newtown club’s 107-year history. (newtownjets.com)

Frank Farrington gave more than 50 years service to Rugby League.

Born in St. Peters, he played junior league, before enlisting in the Australian Army (Service Number NX206339) soon after he turned 18. Frank served with the occupying Forces in Japan, after the Second World War ended in early September 1945. Not long after he returned home, he had the first of his 15 professional fights as a light heavyweight from 1946 to 1954, including two in New Zealand.

Frank Farrington is rated 75th Australian light heavyweight of all time from 870 boxers.

In the Boxing-Rec website, Frank is rated 75th Australian light heavyweight of all time from 870 boxers.  He also resumed in junior football in 1946 and moved into grade with Newtown in 1951. In 1952 Frank was the captain/coach at Cowra but returned to Newtown for the 1953 season when he made his first grade debut.

In 1954, Frank was captain/coach at Narrandra, and in 1955 did the same job at Mackay in Central Queensland. Back at Newtown in 1956, he played the next four seasons with the Bluebags, mainly as a front rower and retired after the 1959 season with 39 first grade games and one try. Frank’s lone first grade try came at Redfern Oval on 8 June 1958 in the 29-11 win over Souths.

Team-mates during Frank’s first grade career included Test men John Raper (39 Tests), Tony Brown (10 Tests), Gordon Clifford (8 Tests) and Dick Poole (13 Tests). On Sunday 24 September 1951, at the old Sydney Sports Ground, Frank was a member of the Newtown Premiership winning reserve grade side, who defeated minor premiers, St. George, 10-6, in a tryless Grand Final. Dick Poole, who captained Australia to the 1957 World Cup win, was a team-mate in this team at inside centre.

Soon after retiring, Frank became a committee member of the Newtown club and became club secretary in 1968. He worked as the club secretary from 1968 to 1970, 1972, 1974 and from 1977 to 1991, giving him 20 years in the position. Frank also worked with the NSWRL from 1975 to 1977 and in 1982 was joint manager of the Kangaroos to England and France, along with Queenslander, Tom Drysdale. Captained by Manly hooker, Max Krilich, the 1982 Kangaroos were known as the Invincibles because they did not lose one of their 22 matches, including five Tests and scored a total of 1,005 points to just 120 against them.

Wayne Petersen, Frank Farrington & Phil Sigsworth.

During his time as Newtown secretary, Frank along with coach Jack Gibson, who he signed in 1973, changed the club’s name from the Bluebags to the Jets. He also worked with Gibson and John Singleton to bring Gridiron player, Manfred Moore to Sydney in 1977. Moore, who had played in a winning Super Bowl team with the Oakland Raiders and a winning Rose Bowl team (1 January 1973)  for USC, created plenty of interest and media coverage for the Jets, but he only played five games with Newtown before returning to America and joining the Minnesota Vikings. Moore was a member of the Raiders team who defeated the Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI at Pasadena on 9 January 1977, only a month or so before he landed in Sydney. Frank was the club secretary when Newtown were omitted from the first grade competition in 1983.

He was a Life Member of the NSWRL and the Newtown RLFC and was awarded an Australian Sports Medal in 2000.  

“Frank Farrington was my boss at Newtown Leagues & also the Football Club, he was a great man I loved him.” – Ron Sigsworth (the last man to score a try in first grade for Newtown at Henson Park on the 7th of August 1983).

By Steve Mavin