1906: Consolidation and Stability

The Year in Brief

​"....... early Australians lived in city and suburban houses designed for Britain - narrow terraced affairs with high ceilings, dark corridors, steep pitched roofs and solid brick walls. But this was changing. A cavity wall as insulation against Australian heat had become a fairly standard building practice by the late 1890s, and soon after Federation Australian architects were complaining that many features of British house design had no place in Australia. 'Steep pitched roofs are used here and are a great mistake,' said Florence Parsons, the country's first woman architect. 'There is no snow or hail to throw off, so they are quite unnecessary. I usually design with the Australian climate in mind - bedrooms facing East to harness the morning's sunshine and sitting rooms facing north and south to capture the breeze.'  (Australia: a Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley, pages 51-2.)


 ​​The Australian game took place in 1906 against a backdrop of numerous momentous events, including:

* On 13th January the first radio designed for domestic use went on sale in the USA priced $7.50. Named the Telimco, it had an estimated transmission range of one mile.

* The San Francisco earthquake and fire occurred on 18th and 19th April, killing more than 4,000 people.

* The Wright brothers patented an aeroplane on 22nd May. They had made the first recorded heavier than air flight three years earlier.

* The famous Cunard ocean liner Lusitania, which was to be tragically sunk during world war one, was launched on 7th June.

* On 1st September British New Guinea was formally placed under Australian administration.

* Henry Ford became president of the Ford Motor Company on 22nd October.

* The world’s first cinema, Omnia Pathe, opened in Paris on 1st December.

Several noteworthy sporting achievements also occurred. In cricket, South Africa achieves both its first test victory and its first ever series win (4-1), both against England. In a Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Queensland New South Wales batsman C.W. Gregory contributes 383 to his team’s total of 763. In gridiron, the forward pass is legalised, thereby abandoning its rugby roots and acquiring its own unique character. Canadian boxer Tommy Burns wins the world heavyweight title after defeating Marvin Hart in a bout lasting twenty rounds.

Australian politics were at their most stable since federation. After the election of December 1906 Alfred Deakin remained Prime Minister despite the fact that his party, the Protectionists, held the fewest seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Deakin was a master of consensus politics, and the government he headed worked because he was able to concoct a viable and largely amicable liaison with Labour. Both the Protectionists and Labour shared one central ideal, albeit for different reasons. This was the cultivation of an Australian identity that was hard working, materially affluent and, most importantly of all, white. Manning Clark describes the political climate during Australia's first decade of nationhood as follows:

The governments that held office between 1901 and 1909 were determined to raise the white man to a high level of material civilisation. Protection was but one means to that end. The motives of the first tariff were as much to raise revenue as to protect native industry against European, American and Asiatic competition. But in the second tarrif the motives were to promote regular employment, to furnish security for the investment of capital, to render stable the conditions of labour, and to prevent the standard of living of workers in industry from being depressed to the level of foreign standards. [1]

The first tariff was based principally upon the Protectionist ideal, whereas the second highlighted the growing influence of Labour following the 1906 parliamentary elections.

Football in the first decade of the twentieth century was almost exclusively a white man's sport. One notable exception was Joe Johnson, an indigenous Australian who played in the VFA with Northcote before transferring to leading VFL club Fitzroy in 1904. Johnson's 55 games with the Maroons included the grand final victories of 1904, when he was adjudged one of the best players afield, and 1905. He left Fitzroy to captain-coach Brunswick in 1907, helping the side to their inaugural VFA premiership in 1909, and between 1912 and 1914 he was captain-coach of his original club Northcote.

Johnson has been widely touted as the first player of indigenous Australian descent to appear in the VFL, but whether or not he was will almost certainly never be proved. Having indigenous Australian blood was not something one trumpeted from the mastheads in the early 1900s.

Johnson's Fitzroy reached a fourth consecutive VFL premiership decider in 1906 but the 'Roys were overwhelmed by a rampant Carlton combination. The Blues won by 49 points, which at the time was a record margin for a VFL grand final.  Carlton's decision to appoint John Worrall as arguably the game's first true coach had finally been vindicated, and this particular Blues combination would go on to be regarded as possibly the greatest in the club's history, with further premierships coming their way in both 1907 and 1908.

In the WAFA it was more or less business as usual with East Fremantle collecting their fifth flag in seven seasons thanks to a convincing 12.3 (75) to 5.6 (36) grand final triumph over West Perth. Old Easts also defeated Mines Rovers to capture the state title, but only after a scare. Playing more precise and cohesive football than their coastal opponents Mines Rovers were felt to have been a trifle unlucky not to emerge victorious from a tensely fought match which ended all square. In the replay, East Fremantle found their form and won by 19 points. The 1906 season saw East Perth admitted to the WAFA.

The South Australian premiership in 1906 was won by Port Adelaide thanks to an 8.12 (60) to 5.9 (39) challenge final defeat of a North Adelaide team which had previously thrashed them in a semi final. Fortunately for Port, they had the right of challenge having finished the minor round atop the ladder. The decisive match of the year was watched by a crowd estimated at 20,000, which if correct would have constituted a state record up to that point.

In 1906, the Hobart-based Southern Tasmanian Football Association was renamed the Tasmanian Football League. Derwent, in its first season in the competition, won the premiership. The NTFA flag went to North Launceston for the third year in a row.

Football in Sydney and Brisbane was still very much a minority sport, but the hard work of a comparatively small number of devotees ensured that, even if it did not exactly thrive, it still maintained a presence. Newtown won the NSWAFL premiership while City went top in Queensland. 

Clubs frequently undertook interstate tours at this point in the game's history, and these appear to have been particularly prevalent in 1906. Some of the results, such as Norwood's comfortable wins over Essendon and Fitzroy in Melbourne, might raise a few eyebrows amongst many football supporters who's view of the game's history has been absorbed entirely from the propaganda promulgated by the Melbourne-centric AFL.

FOOTNOTE

1. A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 219.


North Fremantle vs East Perth, 12th May 1906

Tricolours Shock Magpies

In 1906 East Perth was admitted to the Western Australian Football Association bringing the total number of clubs in the competition to eight. East Perth initially wore red, white and blue playing jumpers and were known as the Tricolours, although this nickname was soon changed to the Royals. The newcomers’ first assignment looked on paper to be extremely difficult as they were drawn to play North Fremantle away. The northerners boasted a powerful combination which had finished third in each of the three previous seasons, and they were particularly hard to beat on their home turf. Few people seriously expected East Perth to challenge them, but there was a surprise in store.

With the North Fremantle Oval “in splendid condition for classical football”[1] the match got underway, Mr J.Kennedy officiating. The home side had the better of the opening exchanges but proved unable to score until ten minutes in when they registered a behind. The visitors responded forcefully and a seemingly goal-bound kick from Jim Hesford was saved a couple of yards out. East Perth continued to attack, however, and after a couple of near misses Besford secured the opening goal of the match, and indeed the only one of the first term. At quarter time 5 points separated the sides with East Perth on 1.2 (8) leading North Fremantle 0.3 (3).

East Perth dominated the opening exchanges of the second quarter and soon added a behind to their tally when a shot from McKinnon struck a goal post. A goal by the same player quickly followed, much to the dismay of the home fans, whose suffering was intensified when the North Fremantle captain, Craig, injured his knee and was forced to retire.

East Perth’s McKinnon in a forward pocket was seeing plenty of the ball and he soon added another minor score to his team’s total. North - known as the Magpies - rallied, but they could only manage a couple of behinds and just before half time the visitors rubbed salt into their wounds when McKinnon found Sherwood and the latter booted his team’s third goal of the match. At half time the scoreboard showed East Perth with 3.3 (21) leading North Fremantle 0.5 (5).

East Perth opened the third term brightly and increased their score by 2 points in as many minutes. Play was fast and furious, and the teams exchanged behinds before Bovell nabbed the Magpies first six pointer. With their skipper Jack Woollard prominent the Tricolours dominated the remainder of the term but on the only two occasions that they managed to spur the goal umpire into action he raised just one flag. At three quarter time East Perth enjoyed a 12 point advantage, 3.8 (26) to 1.8 (14).

Play hurtled from end to end during the opening phase of the final term but defences were on top. North finally broke the deadlock with a brace of minor scores but thereafter it was the visitors who gained the initiative. A fluent move along the left wing involving Sherwood and Toll culminated in the latter player eliciting two flags for the Tricolours with a fine running shot. Thereafter East Perth continued to dominate, but neither they nor North managed any further additions to their respective scores. Defying all the odds the Tricolours had run out victors by a comfortable 16 point margin, 4.8 (32) to 1.10 (16).

Best player afield was Jack Woollard the Broken Hill born East Perth captain and first ruckman. Among other members of the visiting team to shine were follower Jim Hesford, centre half forward Toll, and wingman Oliver. North Fremantle were best served by centre half forward Bovell, skipper and follower Craig, and full back Munro.

East Perth’s win was the first of five they would manage for the season, good enough for seventh place on the eight team premiership ladder. North would fare slightly better, winning five games and drawing one to finish sixth. In the longer term, however, it was East Perth who would enjoy greater success. North Fremantle in fact withdrew from the competition in 1916 whereas the Royals are one of Western Australia’s proudest clubs with a total of seven senior grade flags to their credit, a record exceeded only by East Fremantle (twenty-eight, plus one under-age wartime premiership) and West Perth (eighteen plus one wartime flag).

FOOTNOTE

[1] “Sunday Times”, 13/5/06, page 2.


Carlton vs South Melbourne, 4th June 1906


Carlton wingman George Bruce

Harold Lampe (South Melbourne)

Carlton's Marin Gotz

South Melbourne's Bill Strang

Top Navy Blues forward Mick Grace


So Near and Yet So Far for South

Ever since John Worrall had been appointed coach of Carlton in 1902 the Blues had shown steady improvement. In 1903 they qualified for the VFL finals for the first time, ultimately finishing third, and the following year came second to Fitzroy. In 1905 they dropped back to third, albeit that their tally of 12 wins for the season was a record for the club since the inception of the VFL.

It should not be imagined that Worrall's time at the tiller was always storm-free. On at least two occasions in the months leading up to the start of the 1906 he had to withstand acrimonious criticism from factions within the club who felt he was going about things the wrong way:

While the records of the day are rather sketchy, the basis of the charge against Worrall appears to have been that he insisted on a Spartan discipline in the Carlton side. Research among the records of other League clubs show that discipline was a quality new to League football, and that the slaphappy methods of the 'nineties persisted among some of them.[1]

Apart from finishing runner-up in 1899 South Melbourne's VFL fortunes had not been noteworthy. The team tended to be blighted by inconsistency: capable of beating the ladder leader one week, and then losing to the bottom club in the league the next.

In 1906 Carlton set out its stall from the off, winning its first four matches of the season, against Melbourne, St Kilda, Geelong and Collingwood. South had also made a strong start to the season, with the side's only reversal coming in round four against Melbourne, when the margin was a mere 5 points. When Carlton met South in round five at Princes Park therefore a close game was expected, although many observers expected South to give a solid account of themselves.

An excellent match ensued, watched by a then record crowd for Princes Park of in the region of 35,000 spectators. The Melbourne tram system was incapable of dealing with the strain, and thousands of people ended up walking to the ground.  Shortly after the start of the match the gates had to be closed "because every square yard of that ample enclosure which would give people a view of the match was densely packed.[2]  According to "The Australasian", "the marking, kicking, and hand-play could with difficulty be surpassed" and "In the air South had the call, and their hand passing was brisker and more accurate than Carlton's. The latter, however, more than made up what they lost in these regards by being the quicker to the ball, and the abler generally in ground work".[3]

Carlton started the match the stronger, demonstrating superior teamwork and greater surety near goal. At the first change the Blues led by 7 points, 4.2 (26) to 3.1 (19). The deficit was reduced early in the second term when McGee goaled for South with a neat drop kick. Carlton rallied, however, and the two remaining goals for the quarter went their way, courtesy of Topping and Grace. As half time approached South began to dominate in general play but could not translate their superiority into goals. The long break arrived with Carlton enjoying a 2 goal buffer, 6.4 (40) to South's 4.4 (28).

The third term opened with South still in the ascendancy and shortly after the resumption Kerr notched their fifth goal. South were dominating possession with a combination of slick short passes and deft use of handball, and although the navy blues managed a couple of minor scores, goals to McGee and Mortimer gave the southerners a 4 point advantage. Carlton were so far behind the eight ball at this juncture that defeat appeared probable. However, in the clsoing minutes they rallied, adding 2.2 to go into the final change with a 10 point lead, 8.8 (56) to 7.4 (46).

The fourth quarter saw some scintillating football from both teams. Early on Strang, with a prodigious punt kick, reduced the margin to 4 points, but Carlton responded almost immediately with another goal from Mick Grace. Play surged from end to end and it was anybody's guess which side would be next to goal. Eventually it was South who broke the deadlock thanks to a superb goal from an angle by Kerr, who appeared to be struggling somewhat with a leg injury, and in view of this seemed anxious to pass to a team mate. However, on realising that South had no free men in their forward lines, he took the shot himself and was possibly the most surprised person in the ground when he goaled. Shortly afterwards the red and whites had an excellent chance to take the lead but McGee's shot from straight in front sailed wide of the mark. There then followed the goal of the match from Carlton's South Australian wingman George Bruce who made no mistake after a long, weaving run.

With barely a minute left, Ricketts goaled for South to reduce their deficit to just 4 points. From the ensuing centre bounce the red and whites surged into attack but their progress was stalled when umpire Norden awarded Carlton a free kick. Before the kick could be taken, the final bell rang out.

It had been an excellent match, with the Blues' steely determination in defence the face of relentless attacking from South probably the decisive factor. Writing in "The Argus", Observer highlighted the closeness of the contest by writing "On the scores Carlton won by four points, but on the play It was just a toss up which side was entitled to victory".[4] In a game of many fine performances Carlton defenders Norman Clark and Martin Gotz. Mick Grace, who with 4 goals was the game's top scorer, was also prominent for the Blues,[5] as were Bruce and McGregor across the centre. South's best player was probably rover Charlie Ricketts, while other good performances came from follower cum forward Bill Strang, centreman Billy McGee and burly defender Harold Lampe.

For Carlton, the 1906 season represented the onset of one of the club's greatest ever eras. At season's end the Blues annihilated reigning premier Fitzroy by 45 points in the premiership decider. This was followed by further flags in 1907 and 1908, making Carlton the first club to go top in the VFL three times in a row. Meanwhile, South Melbourne would get within 5 points of Carlton in the 1907 premiership play-off before breaking through for a first ever VFL flag two seasons later.

FOOTNOTES

[1]  The Carlton Story by Hugh Buggy and Harold Bell, page 98. I am personally very dubious indeed about claims that Worrall was quite as innovative as Buggy and Bell suggest. Geelong, for example, rose to the fore as early as the 1870s largely on the strength of highly disciplined, scientific, one might almost say "Spartan" training methods.

[2] "The Argus", Tuesday 5th June 1906, page 5.

[3] "The Australasian", Saturday 9th June 1906, page 22.

[4] "The Argus", op cit, page 5.

[5]  Mick Grace went on to become the top goalkicker in the league for 1906, with 45 goals in the home and away rounds plus another 5 during the finals. He thus became the first player to kick 50 goals in a season in the VFL.


1907: Cautious Optimism

The Year in Brief

"Australian flora and fauna were popular decorative motifs in the Federation period, with the wattle to the fore as an Australian equivalent of the Canadian maple. The golden wattle went with golden fleece, golden grain, golden ore and the gold in the hearts of the people. According to the Wattle Day League, it stood for home, country, kindred, sunshine and love'. But Empire Day had been introduced some years earlier as a conscious strengthening of imperial links. Nationalism and imperialism were no longer rivals. You could, like Alfred Deakin, be an 'independent Australian Briton'." (A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, page 147.)


Australia was outwardly stable in 1907, but one did not have to scratch hard to find unease and even, in some cases, the seeds of panic. Much of the concern was in the realm of foreign affairs. Japan’s conclusive military defeat of Russia the preceding year was still a source of both bemusement and anxiety, and this was reinforced late in 1906 by a dramatic deterioration in relations between Japan and the USA. For a time, indeed, war looked distinctly possible. The reason for the crisis was the decision of the San Francisco Board of Education to introduce segregation, whereby Japanese, Chinese and Korean children were educated separately from whites. Not surprisingly, Japan took this as a serious insult. Most Americans remained unmoved, but the potential repercussions of the situation were certainly not lost in Australia, with comments such as those of E.J. Brady typifying the general sentiment across the nation;

And once more, the lesson for Australia is, Johnny, get your gun! Also, build ammunition and ordnance factories. Get your people taught to shoot, and generally in a position to put the national back to the wall and fight the wildest wild-cat fight in history; for if he doesn’t fight the USA tomorrow, the chances are the Jap will be picking a quarrel with us the day after tomorrow. [1]

As feelings in Japan gradually cooled down US President Theodore Roosevelt risked reigniting them by sending the mighty American battle fleet on a cruise of the Pacific. It is doubtful if his claim that he was doing this “not so much (as) a threat to Japan as a demonstration for the benefit of Japan”[2] fooled anyone.

International affairs in general were dominated by war and fear of war in 1907, so much so that, in a bid to defuse the unease, or at least render it manageable, a peace conference, attended by representatives of all major nations, was held in the Hague, Holland in June 1907. (It was actually the second such conference, the first having been held eight years earlier.) The Second Hague Peace Conference was felt at the time to be of considerable importance as it defined in detail the procedures and behaviour to be adopted in time of war. These officially came into force on 26th January 1910, but the Great War left them all in tatters. Nevertheless, the fact that so many great powers had seen fit to broker and subscribe to a wide ranging series of protocols, and to do so at a time of considerable international tension, was not surprisingly regarded as grounds for a cautious optimism.

Perhaps the most important domestic development in 1907 was the laying down in law by Mr Justice Higgins of the principle of a standard basic wage, which was initially set at 42 shillings.

Significant occurrences outside Australia in 1907 included the implementation in Finland both of universal suffrage and of the right of women to stand for election. Finland was the first country in Europe to introduce the former, while the latter constituted a world first. At the Finish Parliamentary elections of 15th and 16th March nineteen women won seats.

Japan’s growing strength was emphasised on 24th July when the Japan-Korea Treaty brought both the government and military of Korea more directly and fully under Japanese control.

In October a committee of the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language met in Paris and recommended that Esperanto be universally adopted.

The largest ocean liner ever built up to that point, the RMS Mauretania, made its maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York during November.

Meanwhile, in the southern states of Australia, football continued to hold a sizeable proportion of the population in thrall. In the VFL, Carlton was still the team to beat. After convincingly winning the minor premiership by two wins from South Melbourne the Dark Blues asserted their right to premiership favouritism by downing St Kilda 13.13 (91) to 4.11 (35). The 56 point margin was quite immense for the time. In the final, Carlton faced a stronger challenge from South Melbourne, but kept their noses in front all day before winning by 5 points, 6.14 (50) to 6.9 (45). The match was watched by a crowd of 45,477 at an MCG which had had its bone hard playing surface watered prior to the start.

The VFA’s resurgence continued with 24,000 spectators watching Williamstown’s 7.10 (52) to 3.16 (34) defeat of West Melbourne in the final. The Association became the first major controlling body to introduce compulsory numbering of players.

Far and away the strangest, indeed one might almost say absurd, ending to the 1907 season occurred in the WAFA, but this is dealt with in detail elsewhere.

Norwood, which was placed second on the SAFL[3] ladder at the conclusion of the minor round, won the premiership by virtue of finals victories in successive weeks over North Adelaide and minor premier Port Adelaide in both the final and challenge final. It was the Redlegs’ first flag since 1904.

Other state league premiers were Lefroy (TFL), Locomotives (QFL) and Sydney (NSWAFL).

In the interstate sphere, South Australia defeated the VFA in Melbourne but lost to them in Adelaide, while Queensland scored an impressive 9.22 (76) to 6.4 (40) victory over New South Wales in Brisbane.

FOOTNOTES

​[1] These comments appeared in the “Worker” of 17/1/07 and provide some evidence that advocacy of policies which might collectively be given the label “White Australia” transcended class boundaries.

[2] A Diplomatic History of the American People by Thomas A. Bailey, page 572.

[3] The South Australian Football Association became known as the South Australian Football League in 1907.  


St Kilda vs Geelong, 13th July 1907


Geelong's Alf Gough

Jack Wells (St Kilda)

Henry 'Tracker' Young (Geelong)

St Kilda's Jim Cowell


Geelong on Song

During the VFL’s first decade the two clubs which tended to struggle more than any others were Geelong and St Kilda. The team from Corio Oval did manage to finish second in the league’s inaugural season, 1897, but thereafter they tended to struggle, and their only two finals appearances, in 1901 and 1903, both ended at the first hurdle. St Kilda did not even enjoy the satisfaction of competing in the finals, and indeed in 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1904 they endured the indignity of finishing last.

All of this made the clubs’ clash in round eleven of the 1907 season somewhat unusual, if not unique. St Kilda, with 7 wins and 3 losses, was behind top side Carlton only on percentage, while Geelong, with a 5-5 win-loss record, was also well in the race for finals participation. The previous Saturday had seen both sides winning well, the Saints by 28 points against Essendon at East Melbourne, and Geelong by 49 points at home against Fitzroy.

The ground was in first rate condition, and there was scarcely any breeze. Indeed, conditions for football could scarcely have been bettered, either from the point of view of players or of spectators. The Geelong contingent, including the team, as was their wont, had hired a special train to transport them to the match, but as was often the case it ran late, forcing the players to change swiftly and hit the track without the benefit of a good rub-down. Even so, the start was delayed, and as a result the match ended in extremely poor light. (St Kilda used the unexpected free time to hold an impromptu, but nevertheless remarkably impressive, practice session.) It was scarcely surprising therefore that St Kilda had much the better of the opening term. The Saints surged straight into attack from the initial bounce and some neat interplay involving Vic Barwick, Jim Cowell and Jimmy Matthews culminated in the last-named registering a behind. Shortly afterwards Bill Stewart kicked the first goal of the match for St Kilda, and for much of the remainder of the term the ball remained in the home side’s attacking territory. The Saints’ second goal was kicked by Cowell with a brilliant running shot. Then, following a succession of missed opportunities, Bill Stewart again scored full points for the Saints by means of a superbly executed drop kick which rounded off a characteristically sprightly dash.

At the first change St Kilda led by 20 points, 3.5 (23) to Geelong’s 0.3 (3). The home side had enjoyed dominance in the ruck through Dave McNamara and George Morrissey, with Barwick roving. Generally speaking, the Saints were quicker to the ball than their opponents and they also used it better. Moreover, their slick use of handball frequently bamboozled the opposition.

Within minutes of the resumption Tom Sherry procured Geelong’s first six pointer, but the next quarter of an hour or so saw the Saints back in the driving seat. Fortunately for Geelong, however, St Kilda’s deft and incisive approach play was not coupled with accuracy in front of goal, and all they managed was a succesion of behinds. Finally, at the midway point of the quarter McNamara elicited two flags from the goal umpire thanks to an excellent place kick following an equally impressive high mark. A bare minute later Sherry kicked his and his team’s second major and when Henry Young added a third goal shortly afterwards it looked as though the Saints were going to be significantly short-changed for their quarter and a half of dominance. This impression was magnified just before the long break when, following a fine mark, Tom Hardiman goaled from point blank range to reduce the deficit to just 8 points. Hopes were therefore high of a closely fought second half.

Early in the third term the Saints did their best to reassert their dominance. A goal to Cumberland from a long kick was followed by a behind to Barwick from a free. This made the margin 15 points, but this was reduced by one when Young registered a behind for the visitors. The remainder of the term was evenly contested in terms of general play, but Geelong had greater reason to be satisfied because their kicking for goal was superior. At the final change a barce of goals from place kicks to Bill Eason and Hardiman had reduced St Kilda’s advantage to just 4 points. Scores were St Kilda 5.14 (44) to Geelong 6.4 (40).

Following the resumption of hostilities in the final quarter the Saints’ lead was quickly overhauled when Alf Gough, in heavy traffic, snapped truly. To the ire of the home fans Geelong continued to attack, and within a few minutes they had stretched their lead to 14 points following goals to Sherry, from a place kick, and Eason via a snap.

The remainder of the match was played in rapidly gathering darkness rendering much of the play invisible to the onlookers. However, from the superior vantage point of the press box it was apparent that the Saints enjoyed almost continuous superiority but only once, through the agency of McNamara, did they manage a goal. This, coupled with a smattering of minor scores, brought the home side to within 5 points at the finish. Final scores were Geelong 9.5 (59) defeated St Kilda 6.18 (54).

Despite the fact that they had won the match it was difficult to identify Geelong’s most noteworthy performers. Rover Jack Hassett had been solid for much of the match, but was less eye-catching than his direct opponent, Vic Barwick. Alf Gough had held his own in the ruck, and Henry “Tracker” Young, although probably not quite at his best, procured a fair number of telling possessions. Given their effectiveness in front of goal Geelong’s forwards, notably Sherry, Eason, Joe Slater and Hardiman, would also warrant a mention in dispatches.

Best for the Saints and probably the most impressive player on view was West Australian centreman Jack Wells, a player who had the happy knack of repeatedly being able to anticipate the arrival of the ball, aand to use it effectively once he had procured it. Others to shine included Dave McNamara, who was invincible in the air, both in the ruck and in general play, Bert Renfrey, Chris and Horrie Bant, and Jack Julian.

Both teams endured horror runs following this fixture, losing all 3 of their respective remaining games for the season. Nevertheless, St Kilda still managed to sneak into the finals - for the first time in the club’s history - in fourth place with 7 wins and 7 losses, and a substantially superior percentage to fifth placed Melbourne (who also had a 7-7 record). Geelong came sixth, and would not again contest the finals until 1912. (In fact, they would finish a distant last in 1908.)


The principal sources for the above account were “The Australasian” 20/7/07 page 23, “The Argus” 15/7/07 page 6, and the “Geelong Advertiser” 15/7/07 page 4.


West Torrens vs Norwood, 24th August 1907


Related Content

1907 Cautious Optimism


St Kilda vs Geelong


Perth vs East Fremantle


Top of Page


TORRENS WIN AGAINST THE ODDS


The first recorded reference to a West Torrens Football Club dates back to 1879 when a team bearing that name participated in a number of scratch matches. The team wore red and white playing uniforms and, appropriately enough, tended to be referred to as the Butchers, owing to the large number of team members who worked at the local West Park slaughterhouse. Indeed, the team had its home ground adjacent to the slaughterhouse, and just behind the Adelaide Gaol.

The origins of the team which went on to carry the name of West Torrens into the SAFA and SANFL date back to 1894, however, when a group of Port Adelaide players, unable to get a regular game, elected to form a breakaway side known as Port Natives. This team, which wore red and white playing uniforms, was affiliated with the Adelaide and Suburban Association in 1894 and the following year was admitted to the SAFA, when it changed its colours to black and gold. After two seasons under the Port Natives moniker during which it finished last and second to last the club members unanimously agreed a name change to West Torrens in 1897 to coincide with the inception of district football.  By this time, the club had also adopted the blue and gold colours with which it would become identified.

Until 1922 the side played most of its home matches at the well appointed but misleadingly named Hindmarsh Oval - mistaken because it was anything other than oval in shape - before moving to a new and permanent home base, Thebarton Oval, which it was to retain until its final ever league season in 1990, when it relocated to Football Park.

During the club’s first decade success proved elusive. Torrens’ highest finishing position during that time was third, which it managed in 1900. It also came fourth twice. A trifle more impressively, it completely avoided the indignity of the wooden spoon. Indeed, West Torrens would not finish last until 1930, and all told would accumulate just five wooden spoons.

In 1907 the club was among the SAFL’s pace setters, but most observers felt that the race for the premiership realistically involved just two clubs: Norwood and Port Adelaide. West Torrens played Port Adelaide in round four at Alberton, losing by 6 goals, and round nine at Hindmarsh when the deficit was 2 points greater. The first meeting of the season with Norwood took place at the Parade in round seven, with the home side securing victory by 55 points. The teams’ second clash was scheduled for Hindmarsh Oval in round thirteen, with the result of greater importance to Norwood rather than Torrens. This was because the Redlegs needed a win in order to retain any hope of finishing the minor round at the head of the ladder, this being of course the time when winning the minor premiership brought with it the right of challenge in the finals. As far as West Torrens were concerned the result of the match might be said to be of no significance as win, lose or draw the side would qualify for the finals in third place.

The crowd which assembled at Hindmarsh on Saturday 24th August 1907 was described as the largest of the season up to that point, and they would be treated to a fine game. Seizing the initiative from the outset Norwood, through the agency of John “Alby” Bahr and Stan Hill, brought the ball to within scoring range only for Nolan of the blue and golds to make a timely interception. Play went from end to end for a while before “Libby” Waye, from a free kick, registered the game’s, and Torrens’, opening goal. Norwood’s first score was a behind and then Alf Godson, for the blue and golds, had the misfortune to see his shot strike a goal post. Another behind to Torrens followed before Chamberlain registered the Redlegs’ first six pointer. At the end of the term the scoreboard read West Torrens 1.2 (8); Norwood 1.1 (7).

Torrens began the second term brightly but initially at least could only translate their superiority into a succession of behinds. Finally, centreman Lionel Wells found James Beales who kicked truly to give the blue and golds a little breathing space. "Norwood looked like turning the tables but the blue-and-golds' defenders were equal to the occasion, and once again the Norwood citadel was besieged."[1] Ultimately, however, the Redlegs' persistence paid of as Stan Hill registered full points from a free. This had the effect of heightening Norwood's endeavour and shortly afterwards a goal to Chamberlain, following a splendid mark, gave them the lead. Another fine mark by Charles Gwynne shortly afterwards led to the Redlegs' fourth goal and now it was they who enjoyed a modicum of breathing space in terms of the score.

"Godson, Angwin, and MacGavish headed a Torrens rally, and the lastnamed passed to Beales just as the half-time bell rang. Silence prevailed while he placed the ball at an angle, and was broken by a deafening yell as the ball soared high and true between the uprights."[2]  This made the scores at the long interval Norwood 4.4 (28) to West Torrens 3.3 (21).

After Torrens had opened the scoring in the third term with a behind to Albert Filsell the Redlegs assumed control and it seemed apparent that they were making a concerted bid for victory. Two goals in quick succession to Stan Hill pushed their advantage out to three straight kicks and for the time being the blue and golds seemed all at sea. Gradually, however, with the likes of Ralph Aldersey, Charles McGavisk and Waye to the fore began to mount their share of attacks. Waye it was who gave the first hint that a comeback was in the offing. Gathering the ball in the centre of the ground he dashed forward and sent a perfectly executed punt kick straight through the centre. This had the discernible effect of lifting the spirits of the Torrens players, as was tangibly proven a few minutes later by another goal from Waye. This was followed by a third six pointer in rapid succession, this time courtesy of a lovely torpedo punt from Filsell. This put Torrens a point to the good, but Norwood, thanks to a goal from Stan Robinson, quickly restored the Redlegs' lead. The blue and golds had the final say, however, and by the end of the term they had added both a goal and a behind to their tally, which meant that the scoreboard at "lemons" showed them with an advantage of 2 points.

"For a space the struggle was keen and full of interesting incidents.. Both teams played with the utmost confidence, and stubbornly contested every inch of ground. Repeatedly the backs repelled attacks, and the system and cohesion of each eighteen was delightful to watch."[3] Torrens, however, had an edge in pace, and gradually this began to tell. A soccered goal by Godson extended their lead to 8 points, and this was soon followed by first a behind (a poster) and then a major score, both off the boot of Beales, who had been a thorn in the Redlegs' side all day.

At this point Stan Hill, who had been a prominent performer for Norwood, was forced to leave the field of play after injuring his knee.

Despite their reduction in numbers the Redlegs enjoyed a period of concerted dominance, but unfortunately for them this only resulted in a brace of minor scores. Torrens swiftly made them pay when Godson found Waye who goaled, and in so doing virtually sealed his side's success. A few minutes later the same player added another goal to completely erase any lingering doubts the blue and gold supporters might have entertained. To the surprise of many, but the delight of their fans, West Torrens had completely overrun (and outrun) the Redlegs in the final term to procure a highly meritorious 26 point victory. Final scores were West Torrens 11.10 (76) defeated Norwood 7.8 (50). Best for the victors were Aldersey, McGavisk, Waye (5 goals), William Angwin, Wells and Nolan, while the vanquished visitors were best served by Harold Stoddart - arguably the best man on the ground - Phil Newland, Robinson, Stan Hill and Gwynne.

Unfortunately for the blue and golds, their excellent form in this match was not maintained in their first semi final encounter with Port Adelaide a fortnight later.[4] For some inexplicable reason the West Torrens players chose to take the field wearing sand shoes rather than football boots. If this was in an attempt to bolster their already formidable pace - the blue and golds were universally acknowledged as one of the league's quickest teams - it was almost ridiculously misguided as Port proceeded to outrun, outthink and outplay their opponents, winning by the quite exorbitant margin for the times of 69 points, 12.10 (82) to 2.1 (13).

West Torrens would have to wait until 1924 to claim a breakthrough premiership.[5] Norwood only needed to wait a matter of five weeks as they overcame minor premiers Port Adelaide in the challenge final by 28 points.

FOOTNOTES

[1] "The Register", 26/8/07, page 7.

[2] Ibid, page 7.

[3] Ibid, page 7.

[4] Torrens had the bye in round fourteen.

[5] In the thirteen seasons when league football was played between 1908 and 1923 West Torrens finished third three times, fourth four times, fifth once, and sixth on five occasions. Their 1924 challenge final defeat of Sturt was the first ever time that the club had played off for the premiership.


Perth vs East Fremantle, 28th September 1907


Perth's Alex 'Squeaker' Clarke (with an 'e')

Ivo Crapp, the 'Prince of umpires'

Perth skipper Jack Leckie

Jim 'Scotty' Doig, one of Old Easts' famous Doig clan


A Premiership on Protest

The 1907 premiership decider between East Fremantle and Perth at the Claremont Showgrounds attracted a record crowd for the competition, together with a record gate of £200.  The game to which that crowd were witness “was undoubtedly the best that has been witnessed on the coast this season”.  Although it was not immediately realised, it was also to prove one of the most controversial matches in the top level history of the sport.

Just prior to the commencement of the match both sides made one change to the teams that had been published a couple of days earlier, Brown replacing Norman Doig for East Fremantle, and Louis Cherry coming in in place of Henry Shepherd for Perth. The two teams therefore lined up as follows:

PERTH

BACKS Harry Crase Reg Cherry Ron Southee
HALF-BACKS Mick Kennedy Len Edwards Richard Kennedy
CENTRES Lou Cherry Doug Moffat Andy Ferguson
HALF-FORWARDS Austin Gilligan Roy Wilson Harry Nankervis
FORWARDS Jack Leckie (captain) Harry Edmonson Ossie Winston
FOLLOWERS Alex Clarke Eddie Thompson Billy Orr

EAST FREMANTLE

BACKS E.Kjellgren Jim Beswick John Doig
HALF-BACKS L.Bidstrip Jim Doig Tom Wilson (captain)
CENTRES Charles Honeybone Sydney Parsons Arch Strang
HALF-FORWARDS George Brown Harry Sharpe Chas Doig
FORWARDS William McIntyre Jim Hesketh Dave Christy
FOLLOWERS Albert Heinrichs Dick Scott Charles Sweetman

East Fremantle headed the ladder going into the finals with a 14-3 record, ahead of Perth only on percentage.  West Perth (12-5) and South Fremantle (10-7) made up the top four.

In the first finals match, played at Fremantle Oval, Perth, after seeming in control from midway through the second quarter against South, had to endure a nervous final few minutes before hanging on to win by 4 points, 4.5 (29) to 3.7 (25).  

The second week of the finals saw East Fremantle take on West Perth at Claremont Showgrounds.  A dominant opening quarter burst of 5.1 to 2.0 by the Fremantle side set up an eventual 10 point win, but overall it was a somewhat less than convincing performance.

The grand finalists had confronted one another twice during the course of the 1907 minor round, on both occasions at the Showgrounds.  In round 6 Old Easts had won by 9 points, 6.9 (25) to 5.6 (36), while in round 13 Perth had raced away to a resounding and, in the view of most observers at the time, sensational 28 point victory, 6.4 (40) to 0.12 (12).  If the general consensus was that this was something of a freak result, it nevertheless emphasised the fact that East Fremantle could by no means expect to have things all their own way on grand final day.  This, indeed, was how it proved, although nobody could possibly have predicted the bizarre sequence of events that combined to make the 1907 grand final such an incredible, indeed unique, occasion.

1st Quarter

East Fremantle had the aid of the breeze in the opening term, and the game got underway in fast, furious fashion, with neither side dominant, and play proceeding repeatedly from end to end.  The first goal of the game was kicked by McIntyre for Old Easts, but their advantage was maintained for only a couple of minutes as Perth surged straight into attack from the ensuing centre bounce, and after some frenetic play in front of goal Winston was awarded a free from which he levelled the scores.

Much of the remainder of the term saw East Fremantle attacking strongly, but the Perth defence was equal to their task, and only minor scores were registered.  Quarter Time: East Fremantle 1.4 (10); Perth 1.2 (8)

2nd Quarter

Perth dominated the majority of the second quarter, but found goals hard to come by.  They managed just two, off the boots of Edmonson and Orr, but they should really have capitalised more on their superiority.  During the last ten minutes or so of the quarter East Fremantle came back into the game strongly, but as the half time bell approached they had added just a solitary major to their score.  Chas Doig was then awarded a free kick directly in front, from which he converted, but the Perth players argued that the bell had already commenced sounding when umpire Crapp (pictured left) blew his whistle to award the free.  Crapp waved away the protests, however, and the goal stood, so that at half time the scoreboard showed the two sides deadlocked on 22 points apiece.  Half Time: Perth 3.4 (22); East Fremantle 3.4 (22)  

3rd Quarter

The third term produced arguably the best football seen in the competition all season.  On the whole, the teams appeared evenly matched, but superior teamwork and more efficient finishing enabled Old Easts gradually to grind out an advantage.  Some of the high marking shown by players of both teams was exceptional, as was the ferocious, but usually fair, tackling.

East Fremantle added 3.4 in this quarter, with the goals coming from Heinrichs, Brown and Christy.  Perth had a fair number of scoring chances themselves, but managed just 2 minor scores for the term.  Three Quarter Time: East Fremantle 5.8 (38); Perth 3.6 (24)

4th Quarter

Perth rallied strongly in the final quarter, but only after Sharpe had extended Old Easts’ lead early on with an excellent goal from a snapshot.  Perth responded with the nearest thing to a rush of goals seen in the game as Edmonson, Wilson and Nankervis reduced the deficit from 20 to 4 points, East Fremantle managing just a couple of behinds during this period. 

There were still some ten minutes remaining in the match and Perth, who were making all the running, appeared almost certain winners.  However, East Fremantle displayed all their experience during the closing minutes to slow down and bottle up play repeatedly, thereby preventing their opponents from finding the space to mount a serious goal bound threat.  Indeed, it was Old Easts who added the only remaining score of the match – a behind – leaving the final scoreboard showing East Fremantle 6.11 (47); Perth 6.6 (42)

Perth Mount An Appeal

However, soon after the match it emerged that Perth’s officials were not content to let the matter of East Fremantle’s goal late in the second term lie, claiming that it ought not to have been allowed as, in their view, it had occurred after the sounding of the bell for half time.  Accordingly, they asked that the matter be considered by the League’s Appeal Board.  Moreover, they also contended that East Fremantle’s fourth goal, kicked in the third term, had in actual fact been a behind, and were considering protesting about that as well (although press reports of the meeting of the Appeals Board which was convened to examine Perth’s concerns contain no mention of this second controversy).

The Western Australian Football League Appeals Board met at the United Service Hotel on Tuesday  to consider Perth’s protests.

"The West Australian" reported that “The central umpire, Ivo Crapp, stated that when the incident occurred, out of which the dispute had arisen, the boundary umpire had thrown the ball in, and as C.Doig was picking it up another player caught him by the neck.  He (witness) blew the whistle, and just at that time the bell sounded.  He thought the whistle had beaten the bell, and for that reason he decided that Doig was entitled to a free kick.  The barrackers were causing a great noise at this time and he did not, perhaps, hear the first sound of the bell.”  Mr. F. Kennedy (Perth timekeeper) “said the whistle was blown two seconds after he had finished ringing the bell, and the bell was ringing about five seconds”.

Mr. R. Salter (East Fremantle timekeeper) “was certain that the whistle was blown five seconds before the bell rang".  When cross-examined, he admitted to having taken a bet on the outcome of the match, but insisted that this had in no way influenced him or undermined his impartiality.

Numerous other witnesses were called and then the Board spent time carefully considering the evidence.  The Board Chairman, R.A. Sholl, eventually declared that the Board “had unanimously decided that the weight of evidence bore out the contention of the protesting club – that the timekeeper had rung the bell before the central umpire’s whistle was sounded.  Therefore the ball was dead when the free kick was given, from which the goal in dispute was scored.  The appeal would therefore be upheld.”

Perth’s representative Mr. McLeod thanked the Board for its decision, but said that his club would not want to claim the premiership on protest, and would be willing to engage in a re-match on the forthcoming Saturday.

East Fremantle ’s representative Mr. Gray replied that he was not in a position to respond to Mr. McLeod’s invitation, but would place the matter before his club’s executive.

At a full meeting of the League the following night the matter of a re-match between Perth and East Fremantle to determine the destiny of the 1907 premiership was raised.

Mr. Cookson of North Fremantle proposed the motion that the Appeal Board’s decision was invalid as a matter of this significance and gravity ought to have been referred to the League first, and only passed to the Appeals Board with the League’s sanction.  There was no seconder to this motion, however, so it lapsed.

As regards the matter of a ‘re-match’ to decide the premiership, the Chairman of the League ruled that the 1907 premiers had already been determined as a result of the decision of the Appeal Board.  Any match arranged privately by the two teams could in no way alter the decision of the Board.

Perth secretary Mr. Kennedy then offered to play East Fremantle in a "friendly" in order to find out “which was the better team”, but East Fremantle’s Mr. Fanning replied “I do not think we will again have the pleasure of meeting Perth this season.”  

Tom Wilson (Old Easts' captain) confessed to having been “very surprised” by the Appeal Board’s decision, and added, “There is one thing that strikes me as extraordinary....... and that is the allowing of outside witnesses to give evidence.  The evidence of the officials is, in my opinion, all that should have been taken..... The central umpire’s version was sufficient for the Board to come to a decision on, and I feel confident that, had the Board abided by his evidence alone the decision would have been in our favour.”

Jack Leckie (Perth captain) said “I was hoping that there would be another match because I consider it would be far better to win the premiership without a protest.  It was a real good ‘go’ last Saturday.  There was very little if any difference in the teams, and East Fremantle were very unfortunate to lose on a protest.”  Leckie added that he had not been responsible in any way for the protest.The whole matter continued to simmer for several more days, occasionally threatening to boil over.  For a while it looked likely that East Fremantle would appeal to the Australasian Football Council, but this never eventuated.  Tom Wilson, Old Easts captain, even suggested referring the matter to the VFL for a 'neutral' adjudication.  The incident went on to be a source of real bitterness between the two clubs for many years; in 1908, when the sides again contested the grand final, the memory of the recent controversy was a major motivating factor for Old Easts as they 'evened the score' with a 5.7 (37) to 0.8 (8) win.  After that, the sides would not again meet on grand final day for almost half a century, but when they did there were many who saw fit to hark back to the events of 1907 as a means of exacerbating the already intense natural rivalry which existed between the teams.

Match Summary

With Chas Doig's controversial second term goal erased from the score, the quarter by quarter summary for the 1907 grand final reads thus:

Perth 1.1 3.4 3.6 6.6 (42)
East Fremantle 1.4 2.4 5.8 5.11 (41)

BEST - Perth: Ferguson, Edwards, Southee, Crase, B.Kennedy, Nankervis    East Fremantle:  Wilson, Strang, Sharpe, McIntyre, C.Doig, Christy  
GOALS - Perth:  Edmonson 2; Nankervis, Orr, Wilson, Winton   East Fremantle:  Brown, Christy, Heinrichs, McIntyre, Sharpe
ATTENDANCE:  10,000 approximately at the Claremont Showgrounds