1904: A Political Merry-Go-Round

"Now, fresh from foreign travel, from a wider knowledge of the beauties of the old world, he felt doubly alien; and, with his eyes still full of greenery and lushness, he could seals beauty than ever in its dun and arid landscape.-It was left to a later generation to discover this: to those who, with their mother's milk, drank in a love of sunlight and space; of inimitable blue distances and gentian-blue skies. To them, the country's very shortcomings were, in time, to grow dear: the scanty, ragged foliage; the unearthly stillness of the bush; the long, red roads running inflexible as ruled lines towards a steadily receding horizon ..... and engendering in him who travelled them a lifelong impatience with hedge-bound twists and turns. To their eyes, too, quickened by emotion, it was left to descry the colours in the apparent colourlessness: the upturned earth that showed red, white, puce, gamboge; the blue in the grey of the new leafage; the geranium red of young scrub; the purple blue depths of the shadows. Too know, too, in exile, a rank nostalgia for the scent of the aromatic foliage; for the honey fragrance of the wattle; the perfume that rises hot and heavy as steam from vast paddocks of flowering lucerne - even for the sting and tang of countless miles of bush ablaze. (The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson, page 585.) [1]


The Year in Brief

The leaders of each of Australia’s main political parties enjoyed, or perhaps a more accurate word would be endured, a stint as the country’s Prime Minister in 1904. At the start of the year, Protectionist Alfred Deakin was the incumbent, but on 27th April he was replaced by Labour’s Chris Watson, who in turn gave way to George Reid of the Free Traders on 18th August. The main problem which all three men faced was that they presided over minority governments, and were reliant on a measure of cross-party support in order to enact any legislation. Such support proved virtually impossible to obtain. Reid managed to see out the year, but he in turn felt compelled to step down midway through 1905, when Deakin again became Prime Minister. The trend of Prime Ministers presiding over minority administrations would continue for the foreseeable future, however.  

Australia’s original capital city was Melbourne, but it was never intended that this would remain the case indefinitely. In 1904 the federal government formalised a recommendation made the previous year by a Royal Commission that the town of Dalgety in New South Wales be established as the nation’s capital. It proved a highly contentious choice, however, not least because it lay some distance from the main Sydney to Melbourne rail link. In 1908 plans to make Dalgety Australia’s capital were dispensed with and it was decided instead to construct an entirely new settlement for that purpose. Construction of the settlement in question, which was named Canberra, was meticulously planned, and commenced in 1913. The federal legislature was relocated to Canberra on 9 May 1927.  

Australia’s need for a new capital city derived from the intense rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, the two largest cities in the nation. Canberra may technically have been situated within the geographical borders of New South Wales, but it was officially deemed to lie within the boundaries of a completely new, neutral area. The Australian Capital Territory is a small, self-governing enclave located 280 kilometres south-west of Sydney and 660 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. Virtually all of its approximately 380,000 inhabitants reside in Canberra, which is the Territory’s only city.  

Beyond the shores of Australia several important events took place in 1904. Great Britain and France signed an agreement known as the “entente cordiale” which would prove to have enormous significance ten years later on the outbreak of the Great War. Construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the world’s longest, was completed, while another major construction project, the joining of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans via the Panama Canal, commenced. A major war between Japan and Russia broke out, marking Japan’s emergence as a major military power, a status that was emphasised within a year by its ultimate victory. The nature of the conflict presaged in many ways the style of warfare which many Australians would experience at first hand in Europe between 1914 and 1918.  

The Sydney-Melbourne rivalry alluded to above was, and is, manifested in many ways, with sport being one of the most prominent. In cricket, regular fixtures between New South Wales and Victoria commenced during the 1855-6 season, and rapidly became the most avidly contested first class matches in the country.[2] When it came to football, however, the two states could not even agree on which code was preferable. Most of New South Wales favoured the English game of rugby, whilst in Victoria devotion to the locally devised Australian code was obsessive and unwavering. The Victorian Football League attracted the highest attendances of any sporting competition in the land. The second tier Victorian Football Association was also extremely popular, while other hotbeds of the game such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Sale and Mildura were scattered all over the state.  

Compared to Australian football in its various strongholds, rugby in Sydney was a somewhat lukewarm affair, generating considerably less in the way of fervour, revenue and newsprint. Whereas Australian football attracted passionate interest from all sections of society, rugby tended to be rather elitist. Indeed, it was arguably this very fact which had contributed more than anything else to Australian football’s failure to gain more than a minor toehold in the eastern states. As the game of the establishment, rugby was aggressively and widely promoted, whereas Australian football was actively undermined. A key example of this is that local Australian football clubs in Sydney were prohibited from playing matches at enclosed venues, and thereby making spectators pay for admission. From 1903 onwards the VFL, and later other state controlling bodies, endeavoured to alleviate the dire financial state in which the code was forced to operate by regularly sending clubs to Sydney to engage in exhibition matches. Indeed, as noted above, in 1903 the VFL staged two official premiership matches in Sydney, and a third such fixture - Essendon versus Melbourne on 28th May - took place in 1904.  

Such efforts had little long-term effect in raising the profile of Australian football in Sydney, and it was much the same in most of the rest of New South Wales as well as in Queensland. When, in 1908, a new version of rugby, known as “northern union” or rugby league, arrived it quickly superseded the established code of rugby - henceforward known as rugby union - in popularity, and the status of Australian football correspondingly diminished still further.  

In Melbourne in 1904, however, Australian football was tantamount to a religion, with such places as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria Park, Brunswick Street and Princes Park its cathedrals. The standard of play was improving discernibly each year, and teams were developing increasingly sophisticated tactics. The game was becoming altogether more professional, and even though payments to players were officially prohibited there is little doubt that many clubs were surreptitiously circumventing this injunction.  

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, (3 January 1870 – 20 March 1946), known by her pen name Henry Handel Richardson, was an Australian author who wrote half a dozen novels between 1908 and 1930.  

[2] The first ever first class cricket match in Australia took place in Launceston in 1851, with home colony Tasmania defeating Victoria by 3 wickets.

The inaugural West Australian interstate team which visited Melbourne and Adelaide this year.

The inaugural West Australian interstate team which visited Melbourne and Adelaide this year.


St Kilda vs Collingwood, 11th June 1904


St Kilda champion Harry 'Vic' Cumberland

Collingwood stalwart Jack Monohan

Wyn Outen (St Kilda)


Magpie Hoodoo Ends

The match between St Kilda and Collingwood in round 7 1904 was the 19th meeting between the two clubs since the inception of the VFL. The Magpies had triumphed in all 18 of these matches to date, amassing 1,321 points in the process to the Saints’ 351, for an immense average winning margin for the era of just under 54 points. Only once, in round 5 1902 at the Junction Oval, had St Kilda given the Magpies what might be described as a serious challenge, getting within 7 points at the final bell.  

In both 1902 and 1903 Collingwood had won the premiership. Meanwhile St Kilda, which overall had been far and away the worst performed team in the VFL’s history, had finished last without a win in the former year, before finally achieving a semblance of respectability in 1903, with 7 wins and a draw from 17 matches, good enough for a best ever finish of 5th. (The Saints had actually finished last in each of their first six league seasons, winning just 2 games in total.) Collingwood had continued to have the Saints’ measure, however, and as the sides prepared for their clash on Saturday 11th June 1904 few people expected anything other than a nineteenth consecutive Magpie win, particularly given that the Saints were in their accustomed position of last, having won just 1 of their 6 matches up to that point. Collingwood meanwhile went into the clash with a 4-2 record, just 1 win adrift of ladder leaders Fitzroy.  

St Kilda’s improvement in 1903 had been driven by the likes of Harry Cumberland, who was without doubt one of the finest footballers of the early VFL era, Charlie Baker, Wyan Outen, Vic Barwick, Howard Smith and Val Robertson.[1]  

Playing at a time when football, paradoxically, had a much more universalist flavour than has latterly become the case, the gradual emergence of a nominally “national” competition notwithstanding, Harry Vivian Cumberland epitomised the spirit of his era by eking out an auspicious three decade football career in three Australian states plus New Zealand.  When he finally retired from top level football in 1920 he was, at forty-three years of age, the oldest player ever to have appeared in the VFL.  He was also one of the best.  

That said, his greatest achievements came not in Victoria but in South Australia where, during a three season, 39 game career with Sturt as one of “Dempsey's immigrants”, he won the 1911 Magarey Medal and was a member that same year of his adopted state's victorious carnival team.  

Born in Toorak, Victoria, Cumberland's early senior football was played across the Bass Strait in Tasmania where he soon caught the eye with his skill, endurance and tremendous marking ability.  Between 1898 and 1901 he played 50 games for Melbourne before going on to the first of four separate stints with St Kilda, where all told he participated in a total of 126 premiership matches, including the losing 1913 challenge final against Fitzroy. On two occasions, in 1904 and 1913, he was adjudged the “Outstanding Footballer of the Year” by Melbourne's leading football writers. Interspersed between his stints at St Kilda were the periods in New Zealand and South Australia previously alluded to plus time spent abroad on service duty during world war one.  

Just seven years after retiring as a player Cumberland died tragically in a motor cycle accident.  

Charles Baker joined St Kilda from St Pat's Ballarat and promptly hit the headlines by kicking 4 goals in his debut match against Melbourne in the opening round of the 1902 season, equalling the then club record. He went on to give the Saints good service in 75 VFL games over five seasons, during which he kicked 120 goals. He also played interstate football for the VFL.  Baker was top goalkicker for his club in 1902-3-4-5.  He was a versatile sportsman who also played grade cricket for St Kilda.  

Win Outen began and ended his senior football career with Williamstown.  A purposeful, determined footballer, he excelled as a centreman, and frequently caught the eye when he played a total of 54 games with St Kilda in the VFL from 1903 to 1905 and in 1907.  He was highly regarded, and represented the VFL on three occasions.  His younger brother Matt also spent some time with the Saints.  

Originally from Queenstown in Tasmania, where he played for local club Linton, Victor Barwick was wooed to the mainland by St Kilda in 1903.  Supremely skilled and built like a miniature tank, he was extremely highly regarded in his day, with team mate Dave McNamara describing him “a true champion”.    

Barwick played for most of his career as a rover, and captained the Saints in 1905 and 1909.  He represented the VFL in 1904, and would surely have done so on many more occasions had there been more interstate games played at the time.    

After seven years with St Kilda, Barwick left to join VFA side Brighton, but the 1913 season saw him back with the Saints as the club mounted its most serious and sustained challenge yet on the premiership.  Unfortunately, it appears that Barwick was past his best as a player, and he failed to make the Saints team for the finals, which culminated in a narrow challenge final loss to Fitzroy.  

A footballer of considerable class and poise, Howard Smith was arguably among the greatest players to appear for St Kilda during that club's early years in the VFL.  Between 1898 and 1904 (an era when the club only once finished off the bottom) he played a total of 95 senior games and booted 6 goals.  Most of his games were played on the wing, in which position he also represented the VFL in an 8.10 (58) to 3.6 (24) win over South Australia in Melbourne in 1899.  Smith combined the exceptional pace expected of a VFL wingman with exemplary disposal skills, and was one of the few Saints players of the time who could regularly be expected to win his position.  

Valentine Robertson joined St Kilda in 1900 and went on to play 59 games for the club. Originally from South Yarra, he had commenced his VFL career in 1898 with South Melbourne, for whom he made 7 appearances in two years. An extremely pacy player renowned for his long weaving runs he not surprisingly played most of his football on a wing.  

St Kilda might have been blessed with a smattering of talent but Collingwood was replete with it. Players like Dick Condon, Charlie Pannam, Lardie Tulloch, Jack Monahan, Eddie Drohan, and John “Jack” Incoll were just a few of the profusion of household names in the Magpie line-up.  

Condon’s, Pannam’s and Tulloch’s careers have already been described. As for the others, Jack Monohan was a brilliant follower or defender who was renowned for his superb aerial ability.  One of the few players capable of matching it with Albert “The Great” Thurgood, Monohan was controversially omitted from Collingwood's 1901 grand final line-up against Essendon, whereupon Thurgood gleefully cut loose with a near best afield performance as the Same Old ran away with a comfortable win.  The Magpies never thereafter made the mistake of dropping Monohan, and he repaid them with consistently brilliant performances for the remainder of his 234 game career, which had begun when Collingwood was still in the VFA, and finished at the end of the 1907 season.  

If Monohan had a weakness it was that his kicking tended to be erratic, but even this improved towards the end of his career making him virtually the consummate footballer.  

A wingman who exuded class and poise, and boasted impeccable judgement, Edward Drohan was a driving force behind Fitzroy's 1899 premiership win.  After 77 games for the 'Roys between 1898 and 1902 he crossed to Collingwood, and had the immediate satisfaction of playing in a grand final winning side against his former comrades.  After initially struggling to come to terms with the change of surroundings he developed into a fine player for the 'Woods, for whom he played a further 96 VFL games over six seasons.  

After retiring as a player, Drohan became a field umpire for a couple of seasons before coaching St Kilda to 9th place on the ladder in 1911.    

After an aborted, 4 game stint at South Melbourne in 1899, John Incoll resurfaced at Collingwood three years later and went on to provide handy service in 61 VFL games over five seasons.  Mainly used either on the forward line or in the ruck, he could also do a job in a key defensive role when required.  A half forward in the Magpies' 1902 premiership team, Incoll replaced Fred Hailwood, who had gone to Western Australia, as the team's main ruckman the following year, and it was in that position that he made a significant contribution to the club's second consecutive flag.  

After leaving Collingwood, John Incoll moved to New South Wales, and in 1911 he represented his adopted state at the Adelaide carnival.  

Another regular member of Collingwood’s 1904 side was Jock McHale who would go on to become one of the club’s, and the games, greatest ever coaches. Detailed information about his career will be provided in due course.  

The afternoon of Saturday 11th June was dry but very windy, and St Kilda drew first blood by winning the toss and opting to kick with the aid of the breeze. For almost the entire first quarter the ball remained in St Kilda’s forward lines, but Collingwood defended stoutly. Given the extent of their dominance the Saints should really have established a match-winning lead by the first change, but when the bell sounded the margin separating the teams was just 18 points. St Kilda, courtesy of Baker (twice) and Outen registered the only goals of the opening term which ended with the home side on 3.3 (21) to the visitors’ 0.3 (3).  

As soon as play resumed, the Magpies surged into attack, and Lockwood soon had their first major on the board. In the past, this would have been the point at which the Saints capitulated, but to the surprise of most observers they fought back strongly, and the next goal of the match, off the boot of Baker, was theirs. The remainder of the term was evenly contested, and by the long break the Magpies had reduced their deficit only marginally, with the scoreboard showing St Kilda 15 points to the good, 5.3 (33) to 2.6 (18).  

In the third quarter, just as in the first, the Saints totally dominated proceedings, but their superiority was not reflected on the scoreboard. The Magpies had one of the meanest defences in the competition, and despite being stretched to the limit managed to restrict their opponents to just a single goal. At three quarter time St Kilda led by 21 points, 6.4 (40) to 2.7 (19), and the consensus within the ground was that it was still anybody’s game.  

Early in the final term St Kilda went on the defensive, crowding the play and repeatedly forcing the ball out of bounds. This proved to be a mistake, as the Magpies were too skilful to be much impeded by the former ploy, and received a flurry of free kicks from umpire Crapp who took a dim view of the latter. Before it was too late, however, the home side readjusted their tactics, with players sticking to their positions, and teaming together quite cleverly. The Magpies outscored the Saints in this quarter, but only just, and long before the final bell it was obvious that a major upset was in the offing.  

The key to St Kilda’s triumph was its consummate ruck dominance, with follower Cumberland and rover Barwick particularly impressive. Baker’s 4 goals were also crucial, and it was noticeable how many of Collingwood’s big names received drubbings from their much less illustrious opponents. A classic example was Robertson’s trouncing of Pannam on a wing, causing “The Argus” match reporter to remark “I have rarely seen the Collingwood wing-man so completely over-matched”.[2] 

Best for the Magpies, and close to best afield, was Monohan, who repeatedly soared high to take exceptional marks as well as short-circuiting numerous St Kilda attacks.  

The Saints’ success did not exactly inspire them to any measurable improvement, and they managed just 1 more win for the year to finish in their customary position at the foot of the ladder. Admittedly, that single additional win was highly meritorious as it was achieved, by a resounding 47 point margin, at the expense of eventual 1904 premiers Fitzroy.  

By the standards of recent seasons the Magpies performed modestly in 1904. Although they managed to qualify for the finals they only did so on percentage, and they were promptly ousted from contention by Fitzroy. They would not again taste defeat at the hands of St Kilda until 1907, however, which also proved to be the first time that the Saints (a) qualified for the VFL finals, and (b) finished above the Magpies on the premiership ladder.  

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Sometimes wrongly referred to as “Robinson” in contemporary press reports.  

[2] “The Argus”, 13/6/04, page 7.


South Australia vs Western Australia, 20th August 1904


West Australian rover Charles 'Dick' Sweetman

Charles Tyson senior (WA)

Ernie Johns of South Australia


Sandgropers Go West With Spoils

The first ever interstate match between South Australia and Western Australia took place at the Jubilee Oval in Adelaide on 20 August 1904.  The Western Australians had played the VFL in Melbourne the previous week in their first ever interstate outing, and "the committee of the SAFA, having been unable to arrange a match with a representative Victorian 18 this season, eagerly accepted the offer of the WAFA to play a match in Adelaide on their return".[1]  

The match was not well attended, partly because few South Australians expected the Western Australian side, which had lost quite heavily in Melbourne, to provide much in the way of opposition, partly because the match coincided with the running of the Grand National horse race, and partly owing to public disgruntlement over the use of Jubilee Oval, which was almost universally regarded as having inadequate spectator facilities and as being too small for football.[2]  The fact that it was being used was a result of a dispute between the South Australian Football Association and the South Australian Cricket Association over the financial terms governing the former's use of the Adelaide Oval.  When negotiations over these terms reached an impasse prior to the start of the 1904 football season, all fixtures scheduled for the Adelaide Oval were cancelled, and the SAFA made the hugely controversial decision to adopt the Jubilee Oval as its temporary replacement headquarters.  Given that three years earlier the Association, recognising the inadequacy of the venue for top level football, had fruitlessly asked the South Australian government to extend the playing arena by some 22 metres, such a decision seems strange as well as controversial.  Nevertheless, in 1904 the Jubilee Oval played host to both the only interstate match of the year, and to two out of the four finals.  Things finally came to a head during the grand final between Norwood and Port Adelaide, attended by 11,000 people, when play had to be stopped during the final term after hordes of spectators encroached on the arena (this match is reviewed later).  The Jubilee Oval's days as the SAFA's headquarters were over, although the ground did continue to be intermittently used for football - in an unmodified state to boot - until 1921.[3]  Ten years later the Barr Smith Library and Refectory, which still stand to this day, were built on the site.  

The West Australians 

Over confidence among the South Australian football loving public was ill-founded.  With eleven senior clubs of league standard (six on the coast, five on the goldfields) the Western Australians had a larger pool of top quality players to draw on than South Australia[4] and, as was immediately evident when they trotted out on to Jubilee Oval prior to the start of the match, they were, almost to a man, bigger, heavier and presumably stronger than their croweater opponents.  The fact that they had succumbed by 34 points to the VFL the previous week was hardly a disgrace, especially given the unfamiliarity of the conditions; furthermore, by all accounts they had improved the longer the match wore on, playing their best football of the day during the final term, when they had actually outscored the Vics.  

For the match with South Australia the Western Australians made three changes to the line-up which had taken the field in Melbourne, with East Fremantle's 'Duff' Kelly, Nick Gilbert of Mines Rovers, and Sam Jeffery of Perth making way for Tom Ellis, 'Tiny' Fitzpatrick and James Lock.  The full team (with special acknowledgements to Les Everett, whose superb book Gravel Rash was the source for much of the information about goldfields players) was:  

Dick Bliss (Boulder City):  A tall ruckman, originally from Port Melbourne, who was strong in the air but a poor kick.  

Joe Cooper (North Fremantle):  A wingman or half forward flanker who, in 1904, was a key member of the powerful North Fremantle combination which vied for supremacy all year with Perth, and ultimate premiers Old Easts.  

Jim 'Scotty' Doig (East Fremantle): A prodigiously talented centre half back, 'Scotty' was one of the earliest members of arguably the most famous clan in Australian football. He was a member of East Fremantle's grand final winning teams of 1904, 1906, 1907, 1909,1910 and 1911, having earlier also been a regular in the side during its 1900, 1902 and 1903 premiership years, when no grand final was played.  

Tommy Ellis (Mines Rovers):  A fleet-footed wingman once beguilingly described in 'The Sun' as "the shapely limbed one".  

'Tiny' Fitzpatrick (North Fremantle):  A powerful ruck shepherd whose nickname was an ironic reference to his considerable bulk.  

Albert Franks (North Fremantle):  Travelled west from country Victoria in 1901, and commenced his league football career with Kalgoorlie Railways.  An extraordinarily powerful player, he moved to North Fremantle in 1903, before returning home to Victoria in 1906 where he joined South Melbourne.  Occasionally accused of underhanded tactics, he was nevertheless a key member of South's 1909 VFL premiership team.  

Billy Goddard (North Fremantle):  A slimly built, dashing defender who played in the back pocket in both of Western Australia's games in 1904.  

Dolph Heinrichs (North Fremantle):  A brilliant follower or centre half forward who later produced a seminal chronological account of the East Fremantle Football Club's first fifty seasons. 

Jack 'Snowy' Jarvis (Kalgoorlie Railways):  Originally from Adelaide, 'Snowy' Jarvis was one of the best and most popular players in the goldfields competition at the time.  He was best afield in the goldfields' 8.9 (57) to 4.8 (32) win over the City at the WACA ground in Perth in 1901.  

Mick Kenny (Kalgoorlie Railways):  A highly regarded follower who later played briefly for South Fremantle.  

Jimmy Lock (Trafalgar):  Captain of Trafalgar, who also, confusingly, sometimes went by the names of McLoughlin, McLachlan and Locke.   Father of West Torrens 1933 premiership player Ted McLoughlin.  

Tom 'Bunty' McNamara (West Perth):  Equally adept on the half forward line or at full forward, Tom McNamara was the top goal kicker in the WAFA in 1903 with 32 goals.  He also represented Western Australia during the 1908 Melbourne Carnival when he booted 6 goals in the game against New South Wales.  

Ernie Nelson (Mines Rovers):  A talented centreman who had been one of the sandgropers' best in the previous week's game in Melbourne.  

Bill Plunkett (West Perth - captain):  A formidable defender, originally from Norwood, who went on to captain the Cardinals in their controversial premiership win of 1905, having earlier been a member of the club's 1901 flag-winning combination.  

Ted Rowell (Kalgoorlie Railways):  One of the greatest ever goldfields-born footballers, Rowell played 189 VFL games for Collingwood including 3 premierships.  He  topped the VFL's goal kicking list in 1902 with 33 goals.  He spent the 1904 season with Kalgoorlie Railways before resuming his VFL career at Victoria Park.  

Harry Sharpe (East Fremantle):  A talented wingman or half forward who made his Old Easts debut in 1903, and was a key member of no fewer than eight premiership teams prior to his retirement in 1917.  Regarded by Dolph Heinrichs, writing in 1947, as "positively the finest wingman who has ever worn the blue and white jacket",[5] he represented Western Australia at the 1908 Melbourne Carnival.  

'Dick' Sweetman (East Fremantle):  An elegant, long kicking rover who was a member of East Fremantle's inaugural League side in 1899, and who continued to represent the club with distinction for over a decade.  Sweetman tragically died after sustaining a spinal injury in a pre-carnival trial match in 1911.   

Charlie Tyson senior (Kalgoorlie Railways):  Captain of his club and one of the finest players on the goldfields.  Played the 1902 season with East Fremantle, and would go on to win a GFA champion player award in 1906, and represent Western Australia at the inaugural Australian championships in Melbourne in 1908.  Tyson's grandson, also named Charlie, was a prominent player with South Fremantle, and later coach of Subiaco.  

The South Australians 

In terms of playing standards, after undergoing a prolonged and perplexing decline during the 1890s, football in South Australia during the early years of the twentieth century underwent a marked improvement.  One possible reason for this was the inception of district football in 1899, whereby players were compelled to represent the electoral district in which they resided.  This produced a more even competition, which in turn was conducive to more players achieving their full potential rather than sinking out of sight because of an inability to compete.  South Australia's interstate match results against the VFL highlighted the improvement: in 1899, 1900 and 1901 the VFL won, but the margin of victory was reduced on each occasion; then, in the teams' second meeting of the 1901 season, and both of the 1902 clashes, South Australia emerged victorious, each time with considerable conviction, confirming its status as almost certainly the strongest state team in the country at the time.    

By the time of Western Australia's visit in 1904, however, the improvement had slowed, and indeed the standard may well have declined somewhat.  In 1903, South Australia had lost both of its encounters with the VFL by sizeable margins, a fact of which the optimists might well have been advised to take note prior to the clash with the “unknowns” from west of the Nullarbor.  

The eighteen South Australian players who took the field for this historic encounter were:  

Ralph Aldersley (West Torrens):  A regular interstate representative for South Australia during the first decade of the twentieth century, Aldersley became an umpire after he retired from playing.  

Anthony 'Bos' Daly (North Adelaide):  The first great goalsneak in the South Australian game, Daly began at Norwood and went on to play for West Torrens, West Adelaide, South Adelaide and North Adelaide.  He was the SAFA's top goal kicker on a total of six occasions with four different clubs.  

James 'Welshy' Davies (Port Adelaide):  A superb ruckman who spent fourteen seasons at Port, and of whom the great Tom Leahy said "I class him as one of the great ruckmen of all time.  He always made the ball his objective, and his long, skimming drop kicks on the run were features of his play".[6]  

Albert Gosling (Port Adelaide):  A club stalwart, and a regular interstate representative between 1901 and 1905.  

Marsh Herbert (South Adelaide):  A powerful centre half back who later played 51 VFL games with Collingwood.  

Lionel Hill (Norwood):  An outstanding follower who represented Norwood with distinction for a decade.  He was later made a life member of the club.  

Ern Johns (North Adelaide):  A dynamic forward line player who played in North Adelaide's 1902 and 1905 premiership sides, and represented South Australia at both the 1908 and 1911 interstate football championships.  

Tom MacKenzie (West Torrens):  The first triple Magarey Medallist in the history of the game, Tom MacKenzie won Medals with West Torrens in 1902, and North Adelaide in 1905 and 1906.  An energetic and tenacious rover, he was also a solid defender when resting on a half back flank.  

Edward 'Dookie' MacKenzie (West Torrens):  Older brother of Tom, and for a time enjoyed an even greater reputation.  Went to North Adelaide, along with his brother, in 1905.  

Jimmy Matthews (North Adelaide):  A highly versatile, long kicking player who performed with equal success at both ends of the ground, as well as in the centre, during his long and highly successful career with the red and whites.  He was a member of the club's 1900, 1902 and 1905 premiership teams.  

Charlie McGavisk (West Torrens):  A "Houdini-like" rover, originally from South Adelaide, who was "adept at tapping the ball over......opponents' heads and catching it again".[7]    

Bill 'Darky' Miller (Norwood):  One of the best forwards in South Australia at the time, Miller, who took on Bos Daly's mantle when that player was compelled, because of the newly introduced electorate rule, to move to South Adelaide, topped Norwood's goal kicking list on 7 consecutive occasions from his debut in 1899 to 1905.  He retired after the 1910 season, having also topped the league's list of goal scorers in 1901 and 1904.  

Fred O'Brien (South Adelaide):  A Broken Hill recruit who in 1908 became the South Adelaide Football Club's first paid coach, earning 10 shillings a week.  

Jack Quinn (Port Adelaide):  Port Adelaide's captain in 1904 and 1905, and founder of the 'Quinn Dynasty', with sons Jack, Tom, dual Magarey Medallist Bob, and George all representing the club in later years.  Jack Quinn was a talented forward who topped the SAFA's goal kicking list with 32 goals in 1907.  

Jack Rees (North Adelaide):  Regarded as one of the fastest wingman of his era, he represented South Australia on numerous occasions.  He later achieved prominence in local government.  

Ted Strawns (Port Adelaide):  A 10 year player with the Magpies who later went on to serve the club as a committeeman and selector.  

James 'Sorry' Tierney (West Adelaide):  Despite looking old enough to have fathered many of his fellow players (indeed, towards the end of his career, he was forced to suffer the nickname 'Dad'), James Tierney possessed formidable talent.  He won a Magarey Medal in 1908, and formed a highly effective partnership for a time with Tom Leahy during West Adelaide's rapid emergence as a power in 1908 and 1909.   He later played briefly with Leahy at North Adelaide.  

Hendrick 'Taffy' Waye (Sturt):  Renowned almost as much for his weekly 60 mile round trip by buggy to play for the Double Blues as for his formidable rucking talent, Waye won the 1903 Magarey Medal.  Many of his best performances came while representing South Australia in the interstate arena.  

The Game 

The home side was bedecked in chocolate and turquoise, while the Western Australians wore green and gold jerseys adorned with a black swan on the front.  As had been agreed beforehand, the game witnessed the experimental use of boundary umpires - "one on each side" of the ground - of which it was later remarked: "they were not much faster than the field umpire would have been.  Two on each side might have made a difference".[8]  

The opening fifteen minutes of the game gave no indication of what was to follow as South Australia, without seeming to be even trying, eased into a 3 goal lead.  The visitors, by contrast, were hesitant, and were unable to mount any serious attacks owing to their propensity to fumble.  Once they nabbed their first goal, however, they visibly grew in confidence, using their superior physical power to good effect, and beginning to find each other almost unerringly with long, intelligent kicks to position.  At the quarter time break there was only a goal in it, with South Australia on 5.1 (31) to Western Australia's 4.1 (25).  

During the second term the Western Australians, with superior teamwork and better all round skills, achieved ascendancy virtually all over the ground.  One of South Australia's few winners was 'Taffy' Waye, who repeatedly won the ruck contests, only for players in green and gold jumpers to spirit it away almost every time.  Tom MacKenzie was also playing well on a half back flank, but his abilities might have been better utilised on the ball, where Jarvis, Sweetman, Tyson and Kenny were in irrepressible form for the westerners.  When the ball got close to the Western Australian goal - as it frequently did in this quarter - Heinrichs and Rowell showed too much dash and intelligence for their opponents, and a succession of major scores followed.  The visitors added 5.4 in this term to South Australia's 1.3 and at the long break they had established a healthy lead of 19 points, 9.5 (59) to 6.4 (40).  

If the second term had admirably revealed the Western Australians' attacking prowess, the 3rd quarter demonstrated that, when the occasion called for it, they were equally adept at defending.  Most observers expected South Australia to fight back strongly in this term, and so it proved - up to a point.  That point was the near impassable Western Australian half back line of Bliss, Plunkett and Doig who never once in the entire quarter allowed the increasingly desperate South Australians to maneuver the ball into scoring range.  Meanwhile, to rub salt into the home side's wounds, Western Australia managed to break away on a couple of occasions to register a goal and a behind, the only scores recorded by either side in the whole of the third quarter.  At 'lemons' the scoreboard read: Western Australia 10.6 (66); South Australia 6.4 (40).  

With players like Hill, Tierney, Johns and O'Brien finally lifting their game, South Australia fought back determinedly but with little system during the closing stanza.  Indeed, despite being under almost constant pressure, it was the visitors who often elicited the appreciation of the home crowd with their calmness, poise, excellent distribution and superb high marking.  Admittedly, the South Australians did at least make some inroads into the deficit, but a Western Australian win never looked seriously in doubt, and indeed anything other than a Western Australian win would have been an injustice.  South Australia added 2.6 in this term to a solitary behind from Western Australia, but the home state's inaccuracy was further testimony to the defensive prowess of their opponents, who were almost invariably able to ensure that any kick for goal by a South Australian was either executed from a prodigious distance, or under the most intense of pressure, making a behind almost the best possible result.  The final scores were Western Australia 10.7 (67) to Western Australia 8.10 (58).  Any South Australians who regarded the result as an anomaly would be firmly disabused of the notion four years later at the inaugural interstate championship series in Melbourne when Western Australia scored two hard fought but meritorious wins over the croweaters to re-assert a dominance that would not be called into question until the Adelaide Carnival three years later.  

In the wake of this particular match, the South Australian press was effulgent in its praise of the Western Australians, who had exhibited "a combination system as effective as any Victorian team had shown in Adelaide", who "passed to one another with wonderful judgement", and who produced "such consistent and brilliant high catching (as) had not been seen in Adelaide for years".[9]  

As for the home side: "If the play of the men is to be taken as the standard of this state, then by some cause or another it has been lowered considerably", and "South Australian teams have generally played a remarkably good combined game but this time it was a case of every man for himself and no one to help his comrades.........they played like a pack of unskilled schoolboys".[10]  

Best for Western Australia, and indeed the most conspicuous player afield, was “Snowy” Jarvis who, somewhat ironically, was Adelaide-born. Dolph Heinrichs, who booted half of the visitors’ goals, was also prominent, as were Franks, Sweetman, Goddard, Tyson, Plunkett and Rowell. South Australia’s best was ruckman “Taffy” Waye, with Tierney, Tom MacKenzie, Hill, Strawns and O'Brien also showing at least glimpses of their best form.  

FOOTNOTES 

[1] “The Advertiser”, 22 August 1904.  

[2] Ibid., in which it was stated "The attendance was disappointing being no more than 4,000 present; and this may be taken as an indication of the feeling of the public toward an inter-state game taking place on an oval which under present circumstances is totally inadequate as regards space to show to advantage a game of the importance of the one that was played on Saturday".  

[3] See The South Australian Football Story by Bernard Whimpress, pages 80-81, for a more detailed discussion of the Jubilee Oval controversy.  

[4] The term “league standard” is taken to refer to the highest level of football in a given state or territory, although it has to be conceded that it bore considerably less relevance 100 years ago than it does today.  As an example, on the same day that the VFL overcame Western Australia at the MCG in 1904, a VFL “second string” combination was comfortably vanquished by a Ballarat Football League representative team in Ballarat, the sort of occurrence that was by no means uncommon during this period.  

[5] East Fremantle Football Club: Celebrating 100 Years Of Tradition by Jack Lee, page 89.  

[6] Quoted in 100 Years With The Magpies: The Story Of The Port Adelaide Football Club by A.R. McLean, page 15.  Davies' surname was sometimes rendered 'Davis', but the “Welshy” tag makes “Davies” seem more probable.  

[7] Whimpress, op cit., page 152.  Some sources spell the surname with the letter “h” instead of a “k”.   

[8] 'The Advertiser', 22/8/1904.   

[9] Ibid.  

[10] Ibid.


Norwood vs Port Adelaide, 17th September 1904


Norwood

Port Adelaide


Norwood's Amazing Comeback

Original Match Report from “The Adelaide Observer” by "Goalpost" [1]


The deciding match of the year took place on the Jubilee Oval, when the largest attendance of the year assembled.

There were about 11,000 people present, and the gate returned £285.  It was a test which bore out the decision on show day that the place without some improvements cannot accommodate such crowds.  Hundreds around the fence could not have been able to see the game - that was borne out by the fact that in the last quarter, when excitement was intense, the crowd encroached right into the playing arena, and stopped the game.

The police protection was miserably inadequate.  There were perhaps 3 policemen and a trooper in the ring, and an annoying incident took place just a couple of minutes before time, when the spectators swarmed onto the oval, and the game was stopped while players and umpire persuaded them to retire; a policeman assisted.  There was no semblance of any rough disturbance, but simply in their uncontrollable excitement, and in their desire to see the game finish the people encroached further and further until they broke bounds.  The umpire stopped the play, and then of course the crowd swarmed the place.  However, the appeals of players on both sides sent them back to the asphalt.  The arrangements for coping with a big crowd were totally insufficient.  Every gate was jammed, and hundreds of people walked from North Terrace to the lower level to find that, so dense was the throng at the small entrance, they had to retrace their steps to North Terrace, and then go down Frome Road to the side gateway.  It is a pity these things happened, because the game itself was an historic one.

Port Adelaide and Norwood have played off many times for the premiership honours.  There is no more popular game in all South Australia than a meeting of these clubs when they are on an equality, and on Saturday they were.  Each had won 10 matches, lost 2, and drawn 1 - the tie between themselves.  Port had been spelling since the holiday, but Norwood had defeated in turn North Adelaide and South Adelaide.  On paper, the seasiders looked the more likely to win, and the odds were slightly on them, but it was not forgotten that, although Norwood had not beaten Port for 2 years, 14 years had elapsed since the black-and-whites had defeated the red-and-blues in a final go, and that the play-off matches which the eastern men had lost in 27 years would not take more than 1 count of the fingers of 1 hand.  "It is asking a lot," said Newland, the Norwood skipper, "to beat the 3 clubs with some cripples in the team, but - we'll have a try."  The Norwood supporters became hysterical after the game in telling their men what a magnificent effort theirs had been.

"We'll win," said Quinn of Port Adelaide, and at three-quarter time, no one doubted his prophecy.  Then his side went down before the most wonderful rally seen in South Australia, and by an almost superhuman effort Norwood, who had been under the whip all day, cast off their antagonists like a giant would a child, and when nothing but goals could help them, kicked 6 from 7 shots, and then added 2 minors just to make the result certain.

It was a marvellous recovery, such as has never been seen in Adelaide, and the crowd went almost frantic with excitement.  Far away in Norwood, people heard the shouts like the roar of a train in a tunnel or an approaching storm, and knew that the club with its great record had added fresh glory to its laurels.

At the last change, Port led by 8 goals 10 behinds against 3 goals 5 behinds.  "All's over!"  Even the Norwood supporters said so.  The reds had won many matches by a grand finish, but they had been thoroughly beaten all the afternoon by a superior team playing a better game.  It was thought that even if they made a rally, it was impossible to so change the position that they could score a goal every 4 minutes.  "Look at our men," they said, "their arms are hanging down from sheer exhaustion."  So they were.  If ever a game looked over at three quarter time, this one did.

Norwood on their play could not have been expected to gain 1 point on their opponents.  The crowd began to move.  It was all over.  "Stay a minute," said some.  "Let's see what Norwood will do."  They were off again.  Bounced!  What was that?  A long, running kick from Dawson went straight through.  A goal first kick!  The crowd stopped.  Oh, only a fluke!  See Port have it at their end!  No!  Bahr has picked it up, dashes on with it, collides with Selby, and the Port man lies still.  On Bahr goes, crosses the centre line, and passes to H. Miller.  His brother is waiting, the ball goes straight to him.  He has dropped it, but with a flash he is on to it, through the ruck and has snapped a goal.  Two in 4 minutes!  What is going to happen?  The spectators decide to see the game right out.  Selby is carried off the field badly hurt, and Robinson is free.[2]  The Norwood crowd are becoming excited.  It is still a long way, but they have gone a third of the journey.

Their men are now playing like a fresh team, with the blood of thoroughbreds.  Every one of them responds to Newland's cry for another rally.  They follow his desperate play with equal determination and greater skill than any of them have shown before.  Cheering rings right around the oval as the reds go forward again, and W.R. Miller from another good shot supplies No. 6.  Half the journey!  Surely Norwood will never do it.  The Port men are flurried and anxious.  Then when the reds rush again, Quinn begins to change his places.  He had made a mistake in taking Davis and Strawns out of the ruck, and before he gets them back, the damage is done.  A couple of minutes later, Robinson gathers the ball in, and from a difficult shot wipes off another 6 points.  Only 11 more are wanted, and for the first time victory looks possible.  How the crowd does yell.  The mound at the northern end is a moving picture of hats, handkerchiefs, and umbrellas as the people stand up and shout out their joy.  Strong men with tears streaming down their cheeks and with voices choked with emotion jerk out "We'll win, we'll win!"

But even then it is surely asking Norwood to do too much.  No team can keep the dash up.  Davis is brought back into the ruck again, but it is too late.  Nothing can stop Norwood now.  They are playing a superb game, and their passing, although the pace is terrific, is deadly accurate.  Davis seizes at the bounce, and from him the ball goes to Tomkins.  he could have saved his side with a goal, but Morrison prevents it.  L. Hill is off with the ball, and away it goes into goal.  "One more, Norwoods."  The cry comes from all around.  Except the staunch Port supporters, everyone is cheering the reds.  Gryst misses a close shot.  Then Robinson puts the ball into Dempster's hands on the line.  It is out to the centre in a flash, but Bahr brings it back, and inch by inch, Norwood fight their way to goal.  Port defenders are trying to hold out, but the rush has staggered them, and they are broken and dispersed.  Right to the goal line Norwood get the ball foot by foot, Webb touches it last, and when the 2 flags go up, the excitement is painful.

Strong men turn away, and calm people shake and go pale.  It is impossible to remain silent.  Thousands of people are shouting at the players.  The northern mound is a struggling mass of excited humanity.  Five minutes to go, and Norwood want 4 points.  Port are taking advantage of every point.  They are beaten, but are fighting for time, and the clock is still in their favour.

"Can we do it?" one players says to another, and their supporters scream at them to try.  Back into goal again go the reds, and then out again, but Dawson, who with Newland and Miller is heading the attack, gathers the ball in.  He did it at Alberton, and drew the match!  A man is a football genius who can do it every time.  It is a difficult angle, and Davis stops the progress of the leather.  Time is flying, and the people are out of hand.  They are swarming on to the asphalt, on to the grass, anywhere to see the finish.  Out from Davis to the boundary line, but Gibbons marks the ball.  It is a more difficult angle than Dawson's, but fortune favours the brave, and with a couple of feet to put the ball through he sends it home.  There is no need to wait for the flags, the crowd behind the posts announces that Norwood leads by 2 points, and then the crowd bursts forth into one wild, delirious cry.  A couple of minutes to go, but the reds come again, and Webb gets the second minor for the quarter.  The people can stand it no longer.  The excitement has been too much for them, and they swarm over the grass and stop the play.  They are pushed back for 1 more minute's play, which gives Robinson a minor, and then it is over.  In a second, the arena is black with people cheering the victors.

It was a fearfully exciting finish, and men and women were hysterical as they applauded the players.  Port were naturally disappointed, but they cordially congratulated their opponents.  The victors were almost carried to their room, but a passage had to be forced for them, because thousands of people trod on one another, pushed, scrambled and fought to get near to cheer the men as they passed through.

The scene was indescribably exciting.  In the dressing room the chief supporters were beyond control with pleasure.  The team had done something that eclipsed anything that even the Norwood Club had done before.  Mr. Cariss, the umpire, was applauded as he came off, for the strain on him must have been great, and he had done well.  Umpire and players were exhausted at the end.

Match Summary

Norwood   1.2   2.4    3.5   9.8 (62)   Port Adelaide 4.2   5.6   8.10   8.10 (58)

The Teams:  Norwood - Bahr, Cowan, Dawson, Gibbons, Gosse, Gryst, Gwynne, L.Hill, R.Hill, Miller (2), Morrison, Newland, Robinson, Smith, Townsend and Webb

Port Adelaide - Ashby, Corston, Davis, Dempster (2), Earle, Fletcher, Gosling, Healey, James, Mack, Moore, Philps, Quinn, Strawns, Selby, Tomkins and Whicker

ATTENDANCE:  11,000 approximately

FOOTNOTES

[1] I am indebted to to Bernard Whimpress for informing me of the author of this piece. "Goalpost" was the name used by Clarence Percival Moody for his football writing. During the summer Moody wrote about cricket under the pseudonym  "Point".

[2] The laws of the game did not allow for the replacement of injured players until 1929. 


1905: A Call to Arms

Sons of the South, aroused at last!

Sons of the South are few!

But your ranks grow longer and deeper fast

And ye shall swell to an army vast

And free from the wrongs of the North and past

The land that belongs to you.

​                                                                          - Henry Lawson [1]


One might be forgiven for imagining that Russia’s crushing military defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 would have been well received in Australia. For decades, Russia had been Britain’s - and hence, by extension, Australia’s - traditional foe, while Japan was an important British ally. Few Australians gleaned any solace from this, however. For one thing, the Japanese people were perceived as being “the wrong colour”, and hence “inferior”. For another, Japan was much closer than Russia to Australia, and ally of Britain or not its future aspirations could not readily be predicted. Moreover, if push came to shove, in the event of Australia’s and Japan’s interests coming into conflict, how might Britain be expected to react? There were some Australians who believed that the importance to Britain of Japanese military support in the Pacific region would override any feelings of fraternity it might harbour with what, when all was said and done, was really only a minor colonial outpost, almost entirely bereft of political, economic or military significance.

It was probably for this reason above any other that Australia began, for the first time, to examine its own military strength, and conclude that it needed bolstering. On 5th September 1905, in Sydney, the Australian National Defence League was formed. Comprising a broad cross-section of Australian society and covering the entire political spectrum it rather surprisingly arrived at a consensus when announcing its principal aim:

Universal compulsory training (military or naval) of the boyhood and manhood of Australia for purposes of National Defence, the military training is to be on the lines of the Swiss system, and the naval training of the British Royal Naval Reserve, modified to suit the local circumstances.[2]

The National Defence League published a monthly propaganda periodical known as “The Call” which was distributed free of charge to all federal politicians. It had a discernible effect, as over the ensuing years Australia’s military capacity, particularly its naval strength, increased quite considerably. In addition, conscription of sorts was introduced in 1907. This involved all able-bodied men aged between eighteen and twenty undertaking two to three weeks of compulsory annual training in various military arts. Had Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, appointed after the elections of July 1905, been more supportive of the idea, conscription might both have been brought in earlier, and involved longer periods of compulsory activity.

To the average Australian, however, particularly in the southern states, the rights and wrongs of conscription were of only peripheral interest, with the activities that garnered most attention taking place every Saturday afternoon between April and early October on the football field. The game by now was really flourishing. In the VFL, for instance, home and away matches attracted a record average attendance of 88,000, almost 15,000 more than in 1904. Football was also undergoing noteworthy growth in Tasmania, with the Hobart-based Southern Tasmanian Football Association now comprising a record seven clubs: North Hobart, Argyle, Standfast, Glenorchy, Sandy Bay, South Hobart and Newtown. North Hobart won the flag, but was beaten by northern premier North Launceston for the state title, emphasising that standards were improving all over the state.

In Melbourne, Collingwood was the dominant team during the home and away rounds, topping the ladder with 15 wins and just a couple of losses, to Fitzroy by 3 points and Essendon by 13 points. However, in the finals the Magpies performed poorly, losing their semi final to Carlton and the challenge final to Fitzroy. The Maroons thus won their fourth VFL premiership making them the most successful club in the league up to that point.

After the body blow it suffered in 1897 when eight leading clubs broke away to form the VFL, the VFA had gradually recovered, and by 1905 was a vibrant, healthy competition with its own distinctive identity. It boasted ten clubs - two more than the VFL - and attendances were respectable, much higher than in the SAFA and WAFA for instance. The 1905 challenge final between Richmond and North Melbourne attracted 20,000 patrons, just 10,000 fewer than attended the VFL challenge final.

In the WAFA the premiership went to West Perth in somewhat controversial circumstances as is discussed in greater detail elsewhere. The Cardinals also captured the state flag with an 8.10 (58) to 4.13 (37) defeat of Goldfields premier Kalgoorlie Railways. The WAFA competition was increased to seven clubs with the admission of Midland Junction.

North Adelaide was the dominant team in South Australia, claiming the premiership with resounding wins in the finals over first Norwood, and then Port Adelaide.

In the so-called “minor states” growth was negligible, but at least the game now had a toehold. Sydney won the New South Wales premiership, defeating YMCA by the narrowest of margins, while the Queensland flag went to City who trounced Valley by 51 points.

Vying with football for the sports headlines during the 1905 football season was news of the Australian cricket tour of England. Captained by Joe Darling, the Aussies lost only three times in thirty-five matches, but two of the defeats came in tests, and they lost the series 2-0. Disappointment in Australia was considerable, particularly as England had captured the Ashes against the odds on their previous tour of Australia in 1903-4.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson (17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922) was an Australian writer and poet. Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson, Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period and is often called Australia's "greatest short story writer". He was the son of the poet, publisher and feminist Louisa Lawson.

[2] William Morris Hughes vol. 1, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1964, page 221,


Midland Junction versus Subiaco, Saturday 3rd June 1905

Newcomers Break the Ice

After cutting their teeth in the First Rates Association (apart from the 1903 season which was spent in the Darling Range Association) in 1904 the Midland Junction Football Club sounded out the WAFA about the possibility of joining that competition. The response they received was encouraging as the Association implied that if the club made efforts to improve its ground an application to participate in the WAFA the following season would be accepted. With the aid of the Midland Council the club duly carried out a range of improvements which included the erection of fencing all around the oval, a bathroom, changing rooms and bore water reticulation. At a WAFA meeting in Fremantle on Wednesday 12th April 1905 Midland Junction were formally accepted into the competition for the forthcoming season, which commenced just over a month later.

Midland Junction’s initial colours were blue jumper with yellow sash and black socks. Their team included six players with previous top grade experience, as well as several who had played in the strong Goldfields Football Association. The club’s first match was at home against the leading West Australian club of the era, East Fremantle, and not surprisingly the side struggled, losing by the hefty margin of the times of 51 points and not even managing to kick a goal until the third quarter.

Midland Junction’s admission to the WAFA brought the total number of clubs in the competition to seven, thereby necessitating a bye each round. Midland Junction had their first bye in round two but the week’s rest does not appear to have done them any good as in round three they succumbed to another crushing defeat, this time by 44 points, 7.18 (60) to 1.10 (16) at the hands of reigning premiers West Perth.

Round four pitted the newcomers against Subiaco, which had suffered hefty defeats in all three matches played up to that point. It must have been hard for everyone associated with Midland Junction not to feel that this might be a golden opportunity to create some history - and so it proved. The Railways, as they were nicknamed, bolted out of the blocks and effectively had the match won by quarter time when they led 4.6 (30) to no score. Thereafter they were outscored by Subiaco, but retained their lead until the end. Final scores were Midland Junction 6.13 (49) defeated Subiaco 5.9 (39).

The triumph did not herald any improvement in fortunes for the newcomers as it was followed by five successive losses, two of them by in excess of 100 points. Only away against Perth in round seven did Midland Junction make a decent fist of things, going into the long break a goal to the good, and still being in with a chance of victory midway through the last term. However, Perth ultimately pulled away to record a 15 point victory, 5.13 (43) to 3.10 (28).

Midland Junction’s only other win in their debut season came in round eleven, and was once again achieved at the expense of Subiaco. Amazingly, neither side managed to trouble the scorers even once during the first three quarters of the match, but Midland Junction managed to find some form in the final stanza and won with some comfort, 3.5 (23) to 1.8 (14).

The Railways showed some improvement during the remainder of the season but still failed to win any more matches. They finished the season in sixth place, ahead only of winless Subiaco.

Midland Junction went on to enjoy, or perhaps that should be endure, a total of ten seasons in two separate stints in Western Australian football's elite competition.  Never a finalist, the side's overall success rate was a meagre 24.8%, and only once - in 1915 - did it manage to win more games than it lost during a season.

Highlights, such as the feat of keeping West Perth goalless in a 12.16 (88) to 0.10 (10) win in 1916, were few and far between.  From midway through the 1916 season the club was decimated by the loss of key players to the Australian expeditionary forces, and in 1917, although it stuttered on, it failed to win a single game, losing for the most part by substantial margins.  At the conclusion of the 1917 season the club went into mothballs, never to resume.


Mersey versus Devonport, 9th and 30th September 1905

A Farcical Finale

Reigning premiers Mersey were warm favourites to retain the 1905 North Western Football Association premiership when they lined up against Devonport ob Saturday 9th September 1905. Since the inception of the competition in 1894 the club had been easily the most successful witth premiership triumphs in 1898 and 1899, 1901 and 1902 and 1904. Devonport had enjoyed premiership success twice, initially in the NWFA's inaugural year and again three seasons later.

The match took place at  East Devonport Oval in front of a sizeable crowd. Because of the game's importance an umpire from Launceston, Mr Thompson, was hired to officiate. His performance was described as less than perfect, however, and his interpretation of the game's laws seemed very strict by local standards.

Mersey were bedecked in red and white, with Devonport in blue and white. The ground was reasoably firm , the weather was dry, and the wind was negligible - perfect conditions for football. During the first term the Mersey players were consistently first to the ball, and played with much greater precision than their opponents. By the first change they had established what, by the generally low scoring standards of the time, looked likely to be a decisive 5 goal advantage, 5.1 (31) to 0.1 (1).

The second quarter saw both sides cancelling one another out, and play was rugged and congested. By the long break each team had added just a couple of behinds to their respective tallies.

The blue and whites played somewhat better in the third term but failed to make any inroads into the deficit, and indeed the only goal of the quarter went Mersey's way..

Nothing could have prepared either the teams or onlookers for the drama and sheer farce of the final term. With Devonport at last performing with passion and purpose an exciting climax looked possible, but with twelve minutes and fifty-five seconds left an altercation broke out between a couple of rival players and a large number of spectators expressed their anger by pouring onto the oval. Despite the best efforts of club officials and the please most of the spectators refused to be dispersed and further play proved impossible. At the appointed time, with the ground still littered with noisy spectators, the final bell rang out with the scoreboard reading Mersey 7.5 (47); Devonport 2.5 (17). Roughly half an hour later the Association announced that it would be holding a meeting on the following Tuesday in order to decide what action to take.

Most people expected the Association to announce that, given the score at the time, Mersey would be awarded the premiership. However, instead it was decided that the final twelve minutes of the match would be played at the earliest opportunity.  Eventually, it was decided that the conclusion of the game would take place on Saturday 30th September,[1] but rumblings from the Devonport camp suggested they would be unlikely to make an appearnce. Perhaps because of this, only about fifty spectators turned up for the match. Anxious to emphasise their right to the premiership the Mersey players duly arrived at the ground but only nine actually donned football togs. These nine, together with several of their team mates wearing street clothes, then went through the desultory motions of playing out the final twelve minutes of the match, kicking 8 goals in the process. According to "The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times" Devonport protested that Mersey should not be awarded the premiership "on the ground that the Mersey team on Saturday was not identical with that of three weeks ago". Their objection was not upheld, however.

FOOTNOTES

[1] The reason for the long delay was that Mersey had a fixture arranged for the following Saturday against Oatlands, while on 23rd September the NWFA were scheduled to play Beaconsfield.


West Perth versus East Fremantle, 7th October 1905


Pacey O'Callaghan (Perth)

East Fremantle's Charlie Doig


Cardinals' Popular Triumph

The ending of the 1905 season in the Western Australian Football Association was one of the most controversial and confusing ever. Two clubs, West Perth and North Fremantle, were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. West Perth topped the ladder with 13 wins and 2 defeats, while North finished 1 win adrift. In the semi finals, however, East Fremantle surprisingly accounted for North Fremantle, thereby qualifying to meet the Cardinals, conquerors of South Fremantle in their semi final, in the final. It was then that the confusion started. The match was closely contested all day, with West Perth leading by 2 points at the first change, and Old Easts by 4 points at half time and two straight kicks at “lemons”. The Cardinals dominated the final term, and when the bell rang the scoreboard showed that they had fallen short by a solitary point. Old Easts celebrated as though they had clinched the premiership, but the Cardinals were convinced that, as minor premiers, they were entitled to challenge their conquerors to a re-match. Unbelievably, those pulling the strings in the WAFA seemed as confused as anyone. Shortly after the conclusion of the match, however, in what it is difficult not to view as a contrived solution to the dilemma, it was announced that the score as displayed on the scoreboard was incorrect; the game had, in fact, been tied, with scores of East Fremantle 6.5 (41) to West Perth 5.11 (41). Much to Old Easts’ disgust therefore, a replay was necessitated.

The match took place at North Fremantle Oval, which had recently undergone some improvements in order the better to cope with large crowds. The pavilion was reserved for ladies, two extra entrance gates were added, and a mound was erected between the pavilion and the press box with a view to improving visibility for spectators.

West Perth was regarded as a strong all round team, which combined well, and was prone to using rather more handball than was the norm for the time. East Fremantle boasted strong half back and half forward lines, and the strongest ruck division in the competition. Opinion was almost equally divided as to which side would prevail, with the previous Saturday’s draw having emphasised their evenness.

The Cardinals won the toss, and opted to kick to the northern end of the ground which was favoured by a slight breeze. However, it was Old Easts who started more brightly, with their players appearing both stronger and packer than their opponents. West held firm, however, assisted by the fact that East Fremantle squandered several relatively easy scoring chances. First blood ended up being drawn by the Cardinals, after McNamara marked closed to goal and made no mistake.

In terms of possession and territorial advantage, play remained quite even for the rest of the term, but whereas Old Easts failed signally to trouble the scorers, West Perth added another goal and a succession of behinds to lead at the first change by 15 points, 2.3 (15) to nil.

East Fremantle opened the second quarter at a frenetic pace and attacked relentlessly. However, the Cardinals half back line of Renfrey, Bant and Everett was in superlative form, and repeatedly repelled their opponents’ advances. Finally, midway through the quarter, Charles Doig registered the blue and whites’ first major score, but despite peppering the goals for much of the rest of the quarter only minor scores resulted. At the long break, West Perth enjoyed a 2 point advantage, 2.4 (16) to 1.6 (12).

Making good use of the breeze, West dominated the early stages of the third quarter, but Old Easts’ defence proved as hard to penetrate as the Cardinals had in the previous term. Finally, however, Lemon registered a fluky goal to give the Cardinals a little breathing space. Old Easts rallied, and when Hunter marked Dolph Heinrichs’ precise pass he promptly placed the ball on the turf and the ensuing kick elicited two flags from the goal umpire.

The closing stages of the third term were dominated by West Perth and a clever snap from Lemon secured his second and his team’s fourth full pointer. East Fremantle attacked from the resumption, but a running shot from Sharpe veered off course and only a behind resulted. Shortly afterwards the bell rang with the scoreboard showing the Cardinals 9 points to the good, 4.4 (28) to 2.7 (19).

East Fremantle made strenuous efforts to bridge the gap between the teams but West Perth’s defence, as it had all day, reigned supreme. Nevertheless, the final margin was less than a single straight kick, and the closing moments of the game had the crowd at fever pitch as Old Easts attacked relentlessly and gallantly, but ultimately without success.

West Perth’s triumph was popular with most of the football-loving public as East Fremantle had been a dominant force since the turn of the century. However, it would be another twenty-seven years before the Cardinals again enjoyed premiership success. By common consent, the best player afield was West Perth defender Horrie Bant, who was in his first season with the Cardinals. He later played in the VFL with St Kilda and Essendon, had three separate stints with Subiaco, and spent the 1913 season with VFA club Prahran.

The challenge final drew a crowd of 6,000.

In the contest for the state flag West Perth overcame Goldfields premier Kalgoorlie Railways by 21 points, 8.10 (58) to 4.13 (37).