1908: Carnival and Corruption

The Year in Brief

By the end of 1908 the fundamental ideas of the Liberals and Labor (sic.) had been written into the statute book. Australia, as they saw it, was to be a liberal, bourgeois society in which the materially weak, the aged, the lame and the blind were to be protected against the laws of supply and demand by a benevolent though austere and frugal state.” (A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 221.)  


Alfred Deakin’s administration came to an end in November 1908 when Labour withdrew their support from a proposed Bill which would have made conscription (among males) universally compulsory. Andrew Fisher was installed as Deakin’s successor, but like every Australian Prime Minister he presided over a minority government – of which more in due course.  

Most white Australians were relatively comfortably off in 1908, with more time, and funds than had ever previously been the case. Insecurities over possible Japanese expansionist ambitions were greatly allayed by the visits to Sydney and Melbourne of the American Battle Fleet, alluded to in 1907: Consolidation and Stability. “Newspapers reported that greater and more enthusiastic crowds thronged the streets than on any previous occasion in the nation’s history, except for that of the Commonwealth’s inaugural celebrations.”[1] Australians re-christened the Battle Fleet “The Great White Fleet”, and articles in newspapers reflected the widespread public view that its might was a tangible expression of the superiority of “the Anglo Saxon Race”, which needless to say included Americans (indigenous peoples, blacks, hispanics, Asians and so forth conveniently and unquestioningly excluded). 

It seemed that almost everyone was in an exultant frame of mind - except for some of the visiting American sailors, 221 of whom deserted. Many later rose to prominence in Australian society. 

Many lovers of sport could perhaps be forgiven for regarding the most noteworthy event of 1908 as the birth at Cootamundra New South Wales on 27th August of possibly the greatest batsman in cricket history, Donald George Bradman.

The generally buoyant mood in the nation produced a noticeably greater appetite leisure, particularly sport. Interest and participation in football, cricket, cycling, rugby, tennis and boxing were at an all time high. Given the large amounts of money to be gleaned from  - both legally and illegally – from this burgeoning passion for sport it should come as no surprise that men of an entrepreneurial bent began to roll up their sleeves and prepare to make a killing. Perhaps the two most prominent of these were Melbourne “larrikin” John Wren, and Hugh McIntosh, who had grown up in Broken Hill, and was later based in Sydney. 

Wren’s first success as a speculator had come in 1890 when he earned considerable winnings after backing Carbine to win the Melbourne Cup. After that, he built up an illegal gambling business in a Collingwood backstreet which slowly went from strength to strength. Wren’s strategy involved bribery and corruption rather than physical violence (or threats thereof), and in time he was able to number in his pay members of both state and federal parliaments, and even some policemen. He lived until 1953, by which time he had achieved great influence with both the Labor Party and Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop, Dr Daniel Mannix. He had also reinvested many of his profits in the promotion of various sports. 

McIntosh was regarded as an even tougher figure than Wren. He made his first fortune selling meat pies, which he bought from various local bakeries and then sold on, at a profit, to Sydney’s sportsgrounds, beaches, race courses, and so forth. In 1908 he was behind a number of vaudeville shows and sporting contests, to which end he had erected a huge, roofless, timber boxing stadium at Rushcutter’s Bay. Capable of accommodating 17,000 spectators it was, at the time, the biggest stadium of its kind in the world, and on 24th August 1908 it enjoyed the most prestigious “christening” imaginable, when it played host to a world heavyweight championship bout between Canadian Tommy Burns and Australian Bill Squires. A full house witnessed reigning champion Burns retain his title by flooring Squires in the thirteenth round. 

Burns, as has been noted, was nominally world champion, but  in 1908 the world championship was only contested by white boxers. Their black counterparts had their own unofficial championship, but blacks were strictly forbidden from fighting whites. The black world champion in 1908 was Jack Johnson from the USA, and it was arguably the biggest coup of McIntosh’s career to bring both Burns and Johnson together in the ring to contest what could justifiably be regarded as the first undisputed heavyweight world championship. 

Apparently, other promoters had previously tried, without success, to pair the two. McIntosh succeeded where his predecessors had failed by the simple expedient of offering more money than either man could refuse: a guaranteed purse of £6,000 to Burns, and £1,000 to Jackson. (McIntosh was no anti-racist; this was a purely business venture.) 

It was the most widely publicised prize fight in history and, to the horror of most of those watching, Johnson battered Burns so ruthlessly that in the fourteenth round  the police intervened and stopped the bout, fearing for the white man’s life. Johnson was perhaps not as wealthy as Burns, but he was the undisputed champion of the world. The next day, in Bendigo, Methodist preacher Rev. Henry Worrall condemned the fight as a “carnival of savagery”[2]. He went further, suggesting that the result might be seen as posing a real threat to Australia’s future: 

God grant that the defeat on Saturday may not be a sullen and solemn prophecy that Australia is to be outclassed and finally vanquished by these dark-skinned people.[3] 

Another carnival took place in 1908, although the savagery, if indeed there was any, was more muted. In Melbourne in August all six Australian states plus New Zealand contested the inaugural Australasian Football Championships. Technically, it was also the only time that such a competition could be said to have taken place, as no subsequent championships involved New Zealand. The competition was referred to as a “carnival” because it was meant to be a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the game, but the Melbourne public, then as now, was not really interested in the game as played in other states (and countries), and attendances were meagre. Victoria’s consummate triumph in the championships doubtless only served to reinforce most Melbournians’ sense of superiority. 

Most football supporters in Melbourne, once again then as now, were only truly interested in the fortunes of the club they had chosen or been destined to support, and in 1908, as in both of the two preceding seasons, it was followers of Carlton who had most to savour. The Blues' only reversal during the 18 match home and away series came in round 12 away at Essendon. They then proceeded to trounce St Kilda in a semi final for the second year running, and then outlasted The Same Old in the final in front of an immense crowd of 50,261. It was a truly dour match, with the two sides managing only 8 goals between them, and Carlton registering just a single behind in the second half. Final scores were Carlton 5.5 (35) defeated Essendon 3.8 (26).

There were two new sets of supporters to be seen at league grounds in 1908 as both Richmond (ex-VFA) and University (formerly of the Metropolitan Football Association). The latter's involvement in the "big time' would be brief, but Richmond would go on to be a major force for many years.

​Following Richmond's departure the VFA added two new clubs in the shape of Brighton and Northcote. The premiership went to Footscray, who accounted for Brunswick by 4 straight kicks in the decisive match. The Association reduced the number of players in a team from 18 to 17 this season.

The 1908 SAFL season saw West Adelaide reign supreme for the first ever time. The red and blacks did so at the expense of the previous year's premier, Norwood, which had finished the minor round at the head of the ladder. West therefore had to defeat the Redlegs twice, which they did by 27 points in the final, and 3 points a week later in the challenge final. They went on to overcome Carlton on the Adelaide Oval in a match designated as being for the championship of Australia - at least if you happened to reside on the South Australian side of the border. Most Victorians regarded the superiority of their own premiership team over all others as a 'given' , and saw the West-Carlton match as a meaningless sideshow.

​What the football supporters of Western Australia thought about the West-Carlton match is unknown, but one suspects that they felt - with some justification - a little aggrieved at the non-participation of their own premiership team, East Fremantle. After all, at that year's Melbourne carnival the Western Australian representative team had finished second behind Victoria, defeating South Australia twice in the process. Moreover, the East Fremantle team of 1908 was perhaps the most dominant in the club's history up to that point, losing only 3 home and away matches and keeping opponents Perth goalless in the final.

​There was a dramatic end to the TFL[4] season when North Hobart and Leroy drew the premiership decider. North Hobart won the replay by 4 points in front of a crowd estimated at approximately 8,000, which had it been officially confirmed would have been a record attendance at a Tasmanian football match. The Sydney premiership went to YMCA and the Brisbane flag was won for the second successive year by Locomotives.

FOOTNOTES 

[1} The History of Australia in the Twentieth Century by Russel Ward, page 63. 

[2] Ibid., page 66. 

[3] Ibid, page 67. 

[4] The Southern Tasmanian Football Association was renamed the Tasmanian Football League this year.


Richmond vs Melbourne, 2nd May 1908


Ted Ohlson (Richmond)

Melbourne's Fred Harris

Will Burns (Richmond)

Richmond's Tom Heaney


Related Content

1908 Carnival and Corruption


1908 Jubilee Carnival


New Zealand vs New South Wales


West Adelaide vs Norwood


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FIRST UP WIN FOR RICHMOND


In 1908 the VFL competition saw the inclusion of two new teams in the shape of Richmond from the VFA, and University from the Metropolitan Football Association. Neither side was expected to have much of an impact in their debut season, but Richmond provided a shock in their very first match. Admittedly, the opposition, which was provided by Melbourne, might have been stronger. The Reds as they were commonly known had endured a dismal time in recent seasons and had not contested the finals since 1902. They ended up with the wooden spoon in both 1905 and 1906 and although they showed marginal improvement in 1907 they were still not regarded as one of the VFL’s major forces. Therefore when they travelled to Punt Road to play Richmond on Saturday 2nd May there were many who felt that an upset was on the cards. Such suspicions were augmented when it was discovered that Melbourne would be playing the match without five first choice players.
Richmond had been a dominant force in the VFA since that competition was depleted by the departure of the eight foundation members of the VFL. In 1902 and 1905 the Wasps, as they were known, had claimed premierships, and although they had missed out in 1907 there was little doubt that, all things considered, they boasted the credentials of a viable league club. They were coached in their first VFL season by former top Collingwood player Dick Condon, under whose tutelage they played an aggressive, long kicking game with the emphasis on playing straight down the middle of the ground. Condon would also be playing for the Tigers and, if he struck form, could be expected to enhance their prospects considerably.

The opening term of the match saw Melbourne in firm control, and but for some slipshod kicking for goal the match could have been as good as over by quarter time. As it was, the Reds enjoyed a 14 point advantage which, given that they had been kicking into a strong breeze, was creditable enough. For most of the second quarter Melbourne continued to dominate, and with eight minutes remaining until half time they had 6 goals on the board to the Wasps’ 1. It was then that something or somebody lit the Tigers’ touch paper and they rattled on 3 quick goals to go into the main break full of confidence, and just 9 points in arrears.
Richmond made full use of the breeze in the third term, adhering closely to coach Dick Condon’s philosophy of kicking long and, whenever possible, heading straight for goal. By three quarter time they had seized both the initiative and the lead, with the scoreboard showing Richmond 7.11 (53); Melbourne 6.7 (43). Would a lead of just 10 points be sufficient to hold off the wind-assisted Reds in the final term?

The answer, most emphatically, if perhaps a touch surprisingly, was yes. Playing aggressively and determinedly, Richmond stifled the life out of Melbourne, and in fact actually outscored them by a point to finish the match 11 points to the good, 8.14 (62) to 7.9 (51). 

Richmond would go on to win a total of 6 of their 18 home and away matches for the 1908 season, finishing in ninth place, ahead only of Geelong. Melbourne finished one place higher, with 7 wins. The other new admission to the league, University, surprised everyone - except perhaps themselves - by winning 8 matches for the year to end up in a highly creditable sixth place on the premiership ladder. Over the ensuing decades, however, it would be the Tigers who would make the greater and more lasting contribution to Australian football.

Among Richmond's best players were Heaney, a half forward cum follower, Ted Olsen on the forward line, and half back flanker Burns. ​

His VFL career may have been somewhat spasmodic, but Thomas Heaney was one of the finest and most spectacular players of his era.  Nicknamed 'The Aeroplane' because of his remarkable aerial prowess, Heaney made his league debut with Richmond during the club's inaugural season at that level, 1908, but after some excellent performances ended up missing much of the year through illness.  He played again in 1909, but ended up being sacked by the club for missing a match without notifying club officials that he would be unavailable.  All was forgiven by the start of the next season, however, and he remained at Punt Road for another three years before crossing to Fitzroy.

While with the Roys he had the satisfaction of participating in three grand finals, for wins in 1913 and 1916.  Less overtly spectacular than during his heyday at Richmond, he was nevertheless extremely effective, and was widely acknowledged as one of the finest key position forwards in the game.  Knee problems restricted his appearances towards the end of his career, and he missed the entire 1918 season.  However, he resumed in 1919 and continued to make intermittent appearances until his retirement, after 154 VFL games (56 for Richmond and 98 at Fitzroy) in 1921.  Heaney was Fitzroy's leading goalkicker in the club's premiership year of 1916, booting 27 goals. 

​​Ted Ohlson was a stalwart of Richmond's early VFL sides, playing 105 games and kicking 36 goals between 1908 and 1915.  Renowned for his hard-hitting style, he captained the club in 1912.  In one game during the 1912 season he was persistently booed by Richmond supporters who felt he was playing dead.  However, it later emerged that he had broken his shoulder earlier in the game, but in typically brave fashion had elected to (pun intended) shoulder on regardless.

Originally from South Bendigo, William Burns had a first stab at VFL football in 1904 with Geelong, but he managed just a couple of games before returning home.  Four years later he resumed his league career when he appeared on a half back flank for Richmond in that club's first ever VFL fixture at home to Melbourne.   In 1909 his career appeared to be over when he was suspended for life for kicking an opponent, but this does not appear to have prevented him from playing 3 games for West Perthin 1910.  In 1912, following an appeal, the VFL officially rescinded the ban and he resumed with the Wasps.  Hardy, tenacious and quick, he spent the 1914 season with East Fremantle, and was on a half forward flank in the winning grand final against local rivals South Fremantle.  He also represented Western Australia at the 1914 Sydney carnival where he played in all 5 matches and booted 4 goals.  Burns returned to Richmond in 1916, taking his final tally of VFL games with the club to 52.  From 1917 to 1923 he was a key member of a powerful East Fremantle combination that won the 1918 premiership and then played off in four of the next five grand finals, only to lose them all.  Popularly known as 'Poet', Burns was a wingman for most of this time, and ended up playing a total of 107 WAFL games (all but 3 for Old Easts).

​Melbourne's best player on the day, and arguably best afield, was half back flanker Fred Harris, who was a solid defender during the pre-world war one period with three clubs of league standard.  He played 25 games with St Kilda from 1903 to 1905 before taking a one year break from top level football.  The 1907 season saw him back in action, this time with Melbourne, and he added a further 61 games to his tally over the ensuing six years with the under-achieving Fuchsias.  In 1913 he crossed to Essendon Association, but unfortunately for Harris his arrival coincided with a decline in the club's fortunes and he ended his career without a senior grade premiership to his name.


The 1908 Australasian Football Jubilee Carnival in Melbourne

The birth of the Australian nation state in 1901 heralded a temporary diminution in state (formerly colonial) parochialism, and a commensurate increase in national consciousness.  In football, the single most significant  outcome of this development was the creation, in November 1906, of the Australasian (later Australian) Football Council (AFC), which until the VFL unilaterally decided to  take matters into its own hands some eighty years later was to remain the ultimate controlling body for the sport.  

In 1908, partly as a celebration of the new-found 'spirit of nationhood', and partly to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Australian football's hypothetical birth, the AFC organised a 'carnival of football' involving all six Australian states, plus New Zealand.  The venue for the carnival was Melbourne, birthplace of the code, and while the football which was produced was predominantly one-sided the spirit of amity and brotherhood which prevailed made the whole venture an unqualified success.  Plans for a second carnival, to be held in Adelaide in three years time, were swiftly finalised.

The involvement of New Zealand clearly indicates that there was an opportunity at this time for Australian football to establish itself on the international front.  Although it is probably fair to say that the game in New Zealand was already in decline by 1908 it was still sufficiently popular to have benefited from involvement in a proactive and expansionist-minded AFC.  Unfortunately, the power of the AFC to stimulate, steer and develop the game was stymied by a widespread resurgence - most notably of all in Victoria - of blinkered loyalty to state before country - or, more accurately, of obsessive devotion to "the club" in preference to "the game at large".

Half-hearted attempts to promote Australian football outside its southern states stronghold were to continue, intermittently, for much of the remainder of the century, but 'love of the game' was never a sufficiently strong factor in itself to effect change.  The fact that Australian football today enjoys a somewhat higher profile than ever before in Sydney and Brisbane has absolutely nothing to do with 'love of the game'; it is purely the outcome of economic constraints and stimuli.

A century ago such factors were non-existent.  The 1908 Melbourne carnival was, essentially, a celebration of sport, manhood and national identity, something which it would be completely impossible to replicate a century on.

1908 Melbourne Carnival: Competing Teams

New South Wales Light royal blue jersey with red waratah on breast; white knickers; royal blue hose
New Zealand All black jersey with gold fern leaf; black knickers; black hose
Queensland Dark maroon jersey with white 'Q' monogram on breast; white knickers; maroon hose with white tops
South Australia Brown jersey with turquoise blue arm bands and cuffs; white knickers; turquoise blue hose
Tasmania Myrtle green jersey, rose and primrose braces, map of Tasmania on breast with football in centre; white knickers; green hose
Victorian Football League Oxford blue jersey with white letter 'V' on breast; white hose; oxford blue hose
Western Australia Dark green jersey with gold swan on breast; white knickers; dark green hose with white tops

OVERVIEW

The seven carnival teams were divided into two sections: Section A comprised the three strongest sides (the VFL, Western Australia and South Australia), with Section B being made up of  the 'minnows'.  Each of the teams in Section A also played one of the Section B teams as a proselytising gesture.   Not surprisingly, the powerful Victorians, playing on their home turf, proved invincible, while Tasmania exceeded its own controlling body's expectations to win Section B.

​​The carnival got underway at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday 19 August.  A crowd estimated at somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 was treated to a march past of the seven competing teams, who were then presented to the Governor of Victoria, Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael, and the Premier, Sir Thomas Bent.  Henry Harrison, the man regarded as "father of the game", was guest of honour.

The opening match of the carnival featured New Zealand and New South Wales.  The football was described as "crude" but "plucky and sportsmanlike", with the relatively inexperienced New Zealanders, spurred on with great enthusiasm by the majority of the crowd, overcoming a half time deficit of 29 points to win by the narrowest of margins.

Immediately after the New Zealand-New South Wales match, Tasmania took on Queensland in what proved to be a grossly lop-sided contest.  The Apple Islanders, with “weight, strength and ability” “were never really tested”  against the energetic but naive Queenslanders, and won at a canter, 22.22 (154) to 2.2 (14).  Lee, who booted 8 goals for the victors, was said to be one of two Tasmanian players “who could walk into any Victorian League team tomorrow, if permit regulations allowed”.  The other was the follower, Mahoney.  One of Queensland's best players, Watts , hailed from Thursday Island.

Two days later, on Friday 21 August, New Zealand found themselves in action again, this time against their redoubtable hosts.  Having to front up against the mighty Victorians on their own midden was going to be a tall order for New Zealand whatever the circumstances, but being required to do so just two days after a strenuous, energy-sapping encounter seems, in hindsight, almost like calculated brutality.

The VFL won with consummate ease, 25.21 (171) to 5.10 (40), but the scoreline was immaterial inasmuch as the Victorians were scarcely required to move into anything approaching top gear.  The New Zealanders were plucky and determined, and seemed to improve, particularly in terms of team skills, as the game progressed.  Everyone in the Victorian team did what was expected of him, and if McNamara with 7 goals, and Lee with 6, stood out to a certain extent, their achievements were attributable as much to good all round team play as to any feats of individual brilliance.

Despite not playing with the cohesion and pace shown in their opening game against Queensland, Tasmania proved comfortably too strong for New South Wales in the fourth game of the series, played on Saturday 22 August, as the first part of a double-header.  Aided by the breeze in the opening term, the Tasmanians kicked waywardly to lead 1.8 to 0.1 at the first change.  At half time it was 3.10 to 2.3, with New South Wales failing to make the most of their opportunities. Tasmania then more or less sealed the game with a 4.3 to 1.3 burst in the third term, but New South Wales refused to give in, and, with much vocal support from the large crowd, actually outscored the Apple Islanders by 4 points in the last quarter.  Final scores: Tasmania 8.14 (62); New South Wales 4.11 (35).

​The second match of the double-header saw two of the main football states, Western Australia and South Australia, do battle.  According to ‘The Argus’, this game, “as a spectacle, despite the wet and slippery ground, could not have been improved upon”.

The match was characterised, above all else, by some superb kicking, by both sides.  Western Australia kicked the first goal of the match through a McNamara place kick, but then South Australia, whose play was characterised by crisp, short passing, took charge and rattled on three quick goals without reply.  A goal by Matson – ironically, a South Australian by birth – kept the sandgropers well in touch at the first break:South Australia 3.1 (19); Western Australia 2.2 (14)

South Australia extended their lead courtesy of a snapped goal from Chamberlain shortly after the resumption, but the move of ‘Diver’ Dunn into the ruck by Western Australia changed the course of the game as he became a dominating influence Western Australia added 3 goals without reply over the remainder of the term to head into the long break 8 points to the good, 5.4 (34) to 4.2 (26).

Western Australia were marginally the better side during the third term, but they were let down to some extent by poor kicking for goal.  When South Australia hit back hard towards the end of the quarter the WA defence refused to buckle, and at three quarter time it was the West Australians who still had a spring in their step, albeit that their lead had been cut to just 5 points: Western Australia 6.8 (44); SA 6.3 (39)

South Australia hit the front early in the last term courtesy of a goal from Tredrea, but Western Australia responded with great tenacity and verve to control the ensuing fifteen minutes or so and establish an 11 point advantage.  South Australia then hit back, but when a left foot snap from Townsend hit the post high up they visibly wilted.  They managed a late goal to bring the margin to within a straight kick, but Western Australia held out and deservedly won, 8.11 (59) to South Australia's 8.5 (53).

Western Australia were marginally the better side during the third term, but they were let down to some extent by poor kicking for goal.  When South Australia hit back hard towards the end of the quarter the WA defence refused to buckle, and at three quarter time it was the West Australians who still had a spring in their step, albeit that their lead had been cut to just 5 points: Western Australia 6.8 (44); SA 6.3 (39)

South Australia hit the front early in the last term courtesy of a goal from Tredrea, but Western Australia responded with great tenacity and verve to control the ensuing fifteen minutes or so and establish an 11 point advantage.  South Australia then hit back, but when a left foot snap from Townsend hit the post high up they visibly wilted.  They managed a late goal to bring the margin to within a straight kick, but Western Australia held out and deservedly won, 8.11 (59) to South Australia's 8.5 (53).

​​New Zealand met Queensland in the carnival's sixth match, played on Monday 24 August.  “As a game judged by Victorian standards there was a great deal left to be desired, but both sides were in earnest, and both showed they are on the up-grade.”  Queensland in particular, whose players had been receiving tuition at Carlton, showed considerable improvement on their previous performances, and, after trailing 0.1 to 4.4 at the first change, outscored their opponents by 8 points over the remainder of the game.  New Zealand eventually won by 13 points, 6.12 (48) to Queensland's 4.11 (35).

Perhaps displaying a hangover from their epic performance against South Australia three days previously, Western Australia struggled to shake off a determined New South Wales side in the next match of the carnival, played the following afternoon.  At half time the sandgropers led by a mere 4 points, but a blistering third quarter saw them rattle on 9.2 to 1.0 to effectively seal the game.  New South Wales finished the match strongly, and added 6 goals to 3 in the final term, but it was nowhere near enough to bridge the gap, the Western Australians winning by 39 points,17.12 (114) to 12.3 (75).

The much anticipated clash between the VFL and South Australia on Wednesday 26 August proved to be a major anti-climax as the Victorians were quicker to the ball, kicked better, and were generally too strong all round.  South Australia tended to rely too much on handball, and seemed a yard slower than in their previous match against Western Australia.  However, in Jack Tredrea they had, according to "The Argus", the most impressive player on view, and one of the real stars of the carnival.  The VFL's final winning margin was 49 points, 10.15 (75) to 2.14 (26).

​​Queensland continued to show improvement when they took on New South Wales in the next match of the carnival on Thursday 27 August.  New South Wales won comfortably enough, 13.15 (93) to 8.11 (59), but the losers produced some fine sequences of football, and never stopped trying.

South Australia proved that the gap between the top three football states and the rest was fairly substantial when they trounced Tasmania by 67 points, 16.20 (116) to 7.7 (49), in the first match of a double header on Saturday 29 August.  The 'wheatfielders' did more or less as they pleased, and might well have won by more had they really needed or wanted to.

The VFL and Western Australia clashed in the second match of the double header, in what was dubbed as 'the carnival decider'.  Just as they had done against South Australia, however, the Victorians proved much too accomplished and physically strong for the comparatively lightweight Western Australians, and won with ease, 13.22 (100) to 6.8 (44).

Tasmania rounded off the championships with an easy 11.18 (84) to 1.12 (18) defeat of New Zealand, emphasising their status as a true football state, and the strongest football power outside the 'big three'.


New Zealand vs New South Wales, 19th August 1908

A False Dawn

As reported by 'Old Boy' in The Argus on Thursday 20th August 1908


The jubilee carnival of the Australasian game of football was inaugurated yesterday on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in the presence of between 7,000 and 8,000 people, who contributed £250 at the gate.  The workers, who for months past have been planning and organising for this carnival; the enthusiasts, who tackled the rugby lion in his lair, and started the Australian game in New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand – must have felt that their reward had come when they heard the ringing cheers and noted the enthusiasm of the crowd.  Mr. C.M. Hickey (the president of the Australasian Football Council), with Mr. E.R. Wilson (the secretary), have made perfect arrangements, and everything worked like clockwork yesterday.

His Excellency the Governor (Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael) visited the ground at 3 o’clock, and the seven teams marched out in their uniforms.  His Excellency was accompanied by Mr. Victor Nelson Hood and the Premier (Sir Thomas Bent), and Messrs. Swinburne and McBride, M.L.A.’s, were also of the party.  They were received by Messrs. Hickey and Wilson, and Mr. H.C.A. Harrison, “the father of the game”, and the captain of each team was introduced to the Governor.  His Excellency went right along the line, and inspected the teams, who then entertained everyone with their war cries.  If the Queenslanders did not later on show much proficiency in football, they at any rate carried off the palm in the “war cries”, their effort being dramatic, descriptive and interesting.

His Excellency was then escorted to the pavilion, where his health was proposed by Mr. Hickey.  His Excellency replied wishing the carnival every success, and expressed the wish that he might become better acquainted with the game.  Mr. H.C.A. Harrison proposed the health of “The Visitors,” who included all the delegates to the Australasian Football Council, and Sir Thomas Bent responded.  His Excellency proposed the health of Mr. H.C.A. Harrison, and the formal proceedings terminated.

From a football point of view the sport provided was most interesting.  Much of it was crude; but all of it was plucky and sportsmanlike.  The first match, that between New South Wales and New Zealand, roused the crowd to enthusiasm, and it was remarkable how the players caught the contagion and warmed to their work.  The teams were as published in ‘The Argus’ yesterday, except that Renfrey, who had been injured, was replaced by Haines in the New South Wales team, and Elvidge took Bond’s place in the New Zealand 18.   Both sides showed slackness at the outset.  The players seemed strange to one another, and many of their methods were old-fashioned.  There is abundant evidence of individual ability, and promise of fine football.  So far it is latent, but it speaks well for the game when two Rugby strongholds as these can turn out such promising teams.  It would be idle to criticise on up-to-date standards, for one saw the game in all its earlier stages, and with little of the finish displayed by Victorian League players.  One saw men, to whom offside had been a fetish, and bouncing the ball a thing to be abhorred, altering all their ideas and playing a game to which until very recently they had been strangers.  Therefore, it was highly creditable that as the match proceeded, it should have improved, and that towards the end there should have been such enthusiasm that one might have thought that each team had brought its own barrackers with it.  The display given by these two teams was an object-lesson to many in its fairness.  The spectators on the far side of the ground seemed to appoint themselves honorary coaches.  Advice was freely given over the fence, which the players knew was kindly meant, and so they did not hesitate to avail themselves of it, and the play was certainly improved in consequence of these hints.

In the earlier part of the game New South Wales were decidedly the better side.  They were quicker to the ball, while New Zealand often seemed lost.  They were also slow to take advantage of opportunities, and when they recognised their chances the ball had passed on.  It was a long while before a free kick was awarded, and the play was strictly fair, and showed that the rules had been studied closely.  In fact, the play suggested that the game had been learned from the book.  It lacked spontaneity, and one could not help thinking that the men were more concerned about the next move than ready to act promptly and concertedly.  But they played for all they were worth, and it became more and more interesting as one saw traces of the Rugby stock on which the Australian game had been grafted by teachers who themselves have not been in touch with the rapid strides the game has made in Victoria during the last few years.

In the first quarter New Zealand had the wind, and they got the first point of the carnival, but a snapshot by Hunter from an angle gave New South Wales the first goal.  In answer to that West and Wilkins were prominent; the last named scored with a running shot, and , just before the first bell rang, he repeated the performance.  The second quarter saw New South Wales much stronger in the ruck, and they had things nearly all their own way.  Delaney’s good work gave Maxfield a goal, and after Colley, who is a high-class defender, had stopped New Zealand, Robertson got another, and Gluyas, with a long punt, scored again.  Conlon and Delaney also scored, and at half time the Sydney men led by 6 goals 6 behinds to 2 goals 1 behinds, and they looked sure winners.  The second half saw a great improvement in the game, and the injunction of the crowd, “Get into it”, being obeyed by New Zealand, they gradually made up their leeway.  West – the only bare-armed man afield – who was playing a fine game, scored at once for them, and they quite turned the tables on their opponents.  After Conlon had hit the post for New South Wales Gluyas did better with an easy goal, and then New Zealand prevailed, and Darby and George, with good dashes, and Fletcher, with a snap, scored goals, so that they were only a goal behind at the final change.  The final quarter was stirring, first one side leading, then the other; two goals by Wright from free kicks got New Zealand ahead by five points, but Conlin, scoring, gave his side a lead, which subsequent behinds raised to five points.  It looked as though New South Wales must win, but gradually New Zealand took it down, and Paul and Darby got the ball within range, when Darby snapped a goal, and New Zealand won by a point.  

Scores:-New  Zealand 9 goals 9 behinds (63 points), New South Wales 8 goals 14 behinds (62 points)

To pick out players is difficult, for you did not know their styles, but West played a very clever game, and Darby, on the wing, was a splendid player, who has pace, and kicks with either foot.  Elvidge, Wilkins, Wright, George, Fisher, Lordin, Breese, Dempster, and Abfalter, also came under notice on the winning side.  The most promising player in the game was Colley, the New South Wales defender.  He is very sure and plucky.  Scott, too, did well, and so did Shipton, and they nearly saved the game.  Delaney, McConechy, Maxfield, Hunter, Rahilly, and Gluyas were busy ruck-men, and Haines (centre), Carrick and Robertson were often seen.


West Adelaide vs Norwood, 26th September 1908

"Oxygen versus Beer"

SA Football's Cinderella Team

After being admitted to the South Australian Football Association in 1897, West Adelaide endured eleven seasons of misery and under-achievement, managing just 23 wins and 1 draw from 145 games for a paltry overall success rate of 13.9%.  The improvement managed in 1908 would be dramatic.  For the first time in its history, the club had a nucleus of strong players, including the Leahy brothers, Bernie, Tom and Vin, veteran Jack 'Sorry' Tierney, eventual 1909 Magarey Medallist 'Dick' Head, known for much of his career as "the king of centremen", wingman Johnny McCarthy, and rover 'Shrimp' Dowling (pictured above.  These players had enabled West to perform creditably in 1907 to secure 4 solid wins whilst avoiding the heavy defeats that had littered previous seasons.

In 1908, the arrival as coach of former South Adelaide and North Adelaide ruck champion Jack "Dinny" Reedman proved to be the catalyst needed for the team to transform its undoubted potential into full-blown success.  Reedman was the first coach to be employed by the club in a non-playing capacity, and he oversaw some important developments, notably the recruitment of half a dozen highly promising players from country clubs.  These players were D.Horgan (Mintaro), Alby Klose (Blumberg), J.F.McCarthy (Tarlee), B.Moy (Saddleworth), W.Price (Gawler South) and V.Stephens (Jamestown).  All six were constantly to the fore as West overcame a tentative start to claim second position on the ladder and a first ever finals berth at the conclusion of the home and away rounds. 

Redlegs Favoured to Win

​West's main opposition for the 1908 premiership would come from reigning premiers and champions of Australia, Norwood.  The Redlegs boasted a highly accomplished all round team which a month before the start of the finals had inflicted a hefty, for the era, 44 point defeat on the red and blacks, largely as a result of which it had finished half a game clear at the head of the premiership ladder going into the finals.

Both semi finals went to form, with Norwood comfortably overcoming third placed Port Adelaide, 11.12 (78) to 6.4 (40), and West scratching out a hard fought if scarcely convincing 15 point win over North Adelaide, which had finished the minor round in fourth position on the ladder.  In view of these results most people expected Norwood to secure the flag with some ease without recourse to the right of challenge, but Westies put in easily their best performance since entering the competition to win with something to spare, 6.15 (51) to 3.6 (24).  The scene was thus set for what would be a classic challenge final, with the result in doubt right down to the wire.

"Oxygen versus Beer"

​A crowd of approximately 22,000 attended the decisive match at the Adelaide Oval, many of them lured there by the prospect of seeing the competition's Cinderella side break its duck.  At quarter time, however, this looked distinctly unlikely as the Redlegs, having admittedly enjoyed the advantage of a firm breeze, had accumulated 3.7 (25) - more than they had managed in the entire previous week's game - whilst keeping West completely scoreless.  Reedman managed to motivate his charges during the brief interval, however, and West fought back strongly in the 2nd term to be only 9 points in arrears at the long break.

The third quarter, by common consent, brought some of the finest football seen in South Australia for many years, with no quarter given nor asked, and Norwood adding 1.2 to 1.0 by West to head into the final change 11 points to the good.  West, however, would be finishing the match with the aid of the breeze.

​The final term was similarly hard fought, as West fought desperately to get back on terms and then, as time-on commenced, to hit the front for the first time.

To thousands probably, (the) closing minutes were as a lifetime.  With less than two to go West Adelaide were leading by four points and were attacking strongly.  The game looked a dead certainty for them.  Then the red-and-blues broke away on the left wing and forwarded.  Like a flash the ball sped to the other end.  The crowd went wild.  In their anxiety men jostled each other roughly, and women screamed.  Some were too excited to speak.  Others turned their backs upon the scene; they could not bear to see the result of that kick.

At last a tremendous cheer burst forth, a cheer which crashed thunder-like upon the air, and reverberated away into the distance - a cheer, however, which only partially eclipsed the accompanying groin, for only a behind had been recorded.  As the ball was gain carried forward by the red-and-blacks, there arose a murmuring sound, such as that made by the washing of the waves upon the seashore, which swelled and swelled until the tinkling of the bell released the floodgates and the noise became pandemonium.[1]

West had remained just that bit steadier when it counted, and had made history.  Norwood was left ruing its slight slight inaccuracy, as well as bemoaning the fact that its forward L.Chamberlain was denied a 'blatant' late free kick that could have enabled it to secure a victory most observers felt it did not deserve.  

After the match was over there were reports that Norwood had administered oxygen to its players both before and during the match in a bid to raise their levels of aerobic fitness; gleeful West Adelaide fans quickly seized on this intelligence and could be seen, on the night of the match, touring the city in a handsome cab bearing a poster which read "Oxygen vs. Beer" - somewhat misleading, in point of fact, as the strongest thing the West Adelaide players had got their hands on during the course of the match was lime juice.  (For months after the game, Norwood's grand final team of 1908 was popularly referred to as "the Oxygents".)

Match Summary

West Adelaide  0.0  3.4  4.4  7.10  (52)
Norwood           3.7  4.7  5.9  6.13  (49)

BEST - West Adelaide: P.Bruce, T.Leahy, Tierney, Horgan, Stephens, J.Bruce, B.Leahy   Norwood: Robin, H.Miller, Gwynne, Hill, Bahr, J.Chamberlain, W.Miller

GOALS - West Adelaide: Moy 4; P.Bruce 2; Price    Norwood: J.Chamberlain 3; L.Chamberlain, Gibbons, Plunkett

ATTENDANCE: 22,000 approx. at the Adelaide Oval

​​Postscript

West Adelaide went on to emulate Norwood's 1907 achievement by defeating Carlton to secure the championship of Australia so that:

If ever a club had reason to be proud of its record it is West Adelaide.  Bottom of the list of the SA Football League for years the red and blacks have been able in a single season to win not only the premiership of the state but the championship of the Commonwealth.

It is a marvellous achievement and one which is unparalleled in the history of the game in Australia.  Every match they carried off during the season was a result of good combined play, remarkable handball, a wonderful ruck and a capital defence and, above all, there was an espirit de corps amongst the players that made the team a brotherhood.

Saturday after Saturday they mowed down teams who, prior to this season, used to try their juniors against them, so obscure they thought, and finally they wrested the premiership from the redoubtable Norwoods, the champions of the Commonwealth last year, in a game that will live long in the memories of those who saw it.[2]

Moreover, following the 12.9 (81) to 7.10 (52) championship of Australia win, and highlighting the enormous importance to the club of its having secured the services of an experienced, non-playing coach:

The success of West Adelaide can be summed up in one word - system.  The men kept their places, the shepherding was excellent, the ruck first class, and the kicking was good. In only one department of the game did Carlton excel, and that was in high marking.......... West Adelaide worked like a piece of well-oiled machinery, and they achieved a victory of which not only the club and their thousands of loyal supporters but the whole state feel justly proud.  Carlton themselves freely admit that they were beaten by a better team, and they heartily congratulated the red-and-blacks on becoming the champions of the Commonwealth.[3]

To the immense satisfaction of the club's supporters, West Adelaide's hard-won pre-eminence was not something that was about to disappear overnight.  Indeed, the period between 1908 and 1912 remains the halcyon era in the history of the West Adelaide Football Club, with further premierships following in 1909 and 1911-12, as well as a second championship of Australia title, courtesy of a hard fought win over Essendon, in 1911. 

Norwood, by contrast, was about to embark on a prolonged period of the "outs", and would not again contest the season's premiership deciding match for another twelve years, nor return to the winners' enclosure until 1922.

FOOTNOTES

[1] From a report in 'The Adelaide Observer', cited in "The SA Football Budget", 1/10/83, page 55. 

​[2]  An unnamed contemporary source quoted in Blood, Sweat And Tears by Merv Agars, page 6.

[3]  Ibid., pages 6-7. 


The Year in Brief

"The man was a young man. Life had not yet operated on his face. He was good to look at; also, it would seem, good. Because he had nothing to hide , he did perhaps appear to have forfeited a little of his strength. But that is the irony of honesty."  (The Tree of Man by Patrick White, pages 9-10.) [1]


The Australian political landscape underwent a seismic change in 1909 when Alfred Deakin’s Protectionist Party and the Free Traders merged to form the Commonwealth Liberal Party, frequently referred to as “the fusion”. Instead of three teams on the field of play there were now just two, and the era of repeated minority and coalition governments would soon be at an end. On 2nd June Alfred Deakin, appointed leader of the new liberal alliance in May, was sworn in as Prime Minister for the final time. The fusion’s main objectives included:

to secure in parliament liberal legislation for the development of Australia on a democratic basis …… to uphold the federal union, to maintain the policy of effective protection, to establish a White Australia, to develop the Australian naval and military forces by means of universal training, to achieve the assumption by the Commonwealth of the public debts of the states, to promote economy in the public expenditure and efficiency in the public services, and to assert the principle that all representatives of the people should be directly and solely responsible to the people for their votes and actions.[2]

Both parties in the fusion had to make concessions, meaning that the new party could not be regarded as the direct antecedent of either. In short “Liberalism had abandoned its role as a pioneer in social reform and committed itself to the defence of the status quo”.[3]

Major initiatives pioneered by the fusion administration included replacing Dalgety with Canberra as the site of the nation’s future capital, using Australian-mined silver and bronze in the making of the country’s coins (British coins had previously been used), and forging an agreement with Britain for the construction of an Australian battle fleet comprising one heavy battlecruiser, three light cruisers, six destroyers and three submarines. The only provisos of this last initiative were that the ships were to be built in British shipyards and, in the event of war, would come under the control of the British Admiralty.

With Germany rapidly adding to its already formidable armoury many in both Britain and Australia were understandably nervous. In Australia, the Defence Act of 1909 made conscription for home defence compulsory, but overseas service remained voluntary, a fact which would give rise to considerable debate and even two national referendums during the Great War.

Just as newsworthy, if of rather less significance, London born Colin Defries made the first powered flight over Australia on 9th December. Progress thereafter was swift, and by 1914 a regular airmail service between Sydney and Melbourne had been introduced.

In ‘the Mother Country” many headlines were made by the growing suffragette movement. Most notable was the case of Marion Wallace Dunlop who, after being jailed for disturbing parliament, went on a hunger strike that lasted ninety-one hours and attracted sufficient publicity for the government to agree to meet with suffrage movement leaders, something they had hitherto declined to do.  The intervention of King Edward VII on behalf of the suffragettes was perhaps crucial. However, the meetings produced nothing meaningful in terms of government policy; it would take a global conflict to bring about a shift in attitude.

In the VFL, 1909 brought about a breakthrough from a team widely regarded as a slumbering giant, South Melbourne. Throughout the first twelve seasons of the breakaway competition South had been consistently mediocre, but season thirteen proved to be anything but unlucky. You can read about the southerners’ premiership triumph elsewhere on the site.

Brunswick won the VFA premiership with a 10.11 (71) to 8.7 (55) defeat of Prahran. Elsewhere there were premiership triumphs for West Adelaide (SAFL), East Fremantle (WAFL), Cananore (TFL), North Shore (NSWAFL) and Wynnum (QFL). South Melbourne played West Adelaide in Melbourne in a match which many regarded as being for the club championship of Australia. The home side won by 18 points, 11.8 (74) to 7.14 (56). In Tasmania, an official state premiership play-off was contested for the first time, with TFL premiers Cananore overcoming their NTFA rivals Launceston by 26 points in Hobart.

FOOTNOTES
[1] Patrick Victor Martindale White (28 May 1912 – 30 September 1990) was an Australian writer who is widely regarded as one of the most important English-language novelists of the 20th century. From 1935 until his death, he published 12 novels, three short-story collections and eight plays. In 1973 he became the first Australian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

[2]  A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 222

[3]  ibid, page 222

The South Melbourne team which won the 1909 VFL premiership.

The South Melbourne team which won the 1909 VFL premiership.


Old Easts On Tour

Broken Hill

During the first decade of the twentieth century East Fremantle was by far the most successful club in Western Australia. Besides claiming a total of seven premierships the club lost out in 1905 and 1907 only under highly controversial circumstances. Old Easts also played off for the state title six times and won on every occasion but one.

East Fremantle’s 1909 combination was arguably one of its finest, with only two losses sustained all year. In their semi final Old Easts thrashed East Perth by 60 points setting up a clash with Perth in the final. The match was played at Perth’s home ground, but this mattered little as East Fremantle cantered to a 28 point victory. Less than an hour later the players were aboard the Known which set sail for Adelaide at 6pm. The club had booked an eastern states tour involving matches in both Broken Hill and Melbourne. Had they lost the final against Perth they would have enjoyed the right of challenge but because of the eastern states tour would have reluctantly foregone this, handing Perth the premiership.

Thankfully, the decisive victory over Perth meant that Old Easts headed east as premiers. After a brief stay in Adelaide, they travelled to Broken Hill where three matches had been arranged. Football in Broken Hill was very strong at this time and the local league provided a fair number of talented players to clubs in the SAFL. Having said that, East Fremantle was almost uniformly expected to boast too great a depth of talent for the Barrier men.

The opening match of the tour, played on Saturday 25th September, saw East Fremantle opposed by a combined Broken Hill side, in the first of two scheduled meetings between the teams. Old Easts had trouble adjusting to the gravel playing surface and, perhaps partly in lieu of this, played a game based on long kicking and high marking, in both of which skills they excelled. However, “they were deficient in ground play and combination”,[1] meaning that the Broken Hill team enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession, and as a result got the jump on their opponents and raced to a surprisingly comfortable winner. Both during and after the match Old Easts complained that the Broken Hill players were repeatedly guilty of throwing the ball. They also felt that the local umpire was protective of the Broken Hill team to an unwarranted extent. East Fremantle played the game vigorously, but seldom outside the scope of its laws - or at least so their players argued.

Broken Hill enjoyed the advantage of the wind in the first term, but it was the visitors who began more brightly, with Sharpe and Chas Doig nabbing the first two goals of the game. Thereafter, however, the home side rallied, attacking incessantly to set up a three goal advantage at the first break, 4.6 to Old Easts’ 2.0.

The second term was fairly evenly contested, with East Fremantle impressing the crowd with some excellent high marking, but the locals proving superior at ground. One of the keys to the Barrier team’s supremacy at ground level was their deft and slick use of handball, which Old Easts’ skipper Tom Wilson repeatedly complained - to no avail - was tantamount to throwing. At half time the scores were Broken Hill 6.7 (43) to East Fremantle 4.3 (27).

Confident that they were not going to be penalised, the Broken Hill players centred their whole game plan around their purportedly dubious style of handball in the third quarter, and did so to such good effect that they went a long way towards winning the match. At the final change the home side enjoyed a 30 point advantage, 8.10 (58) to 4.6 (30).

The last quarter was the best of the match, with Old Easts attacking determinedly, and the Broken Hill side applying plenty of defensive pressure to make it hard for them. Indeed, judged on the amount of possession they enjoyed the visitors ought really to have scored more than the 3.1 they managed, and although they were still attacking determinedly when the final bell rang they had long since given up any hope of claiming the match. Final scores were Broken Hill 10.13 (73); East Fremantle 7.7 (49).

On the following Monday East Fremantle played Brokens, the local club side which had finished the 1909 season in second place. It proved to be a thoroughly one-sided match which the visitors won with consummate ease by 64 points, 10.13 (73) to 1.3 (9).

On Wednesday 29th September Old Easts had an opportunity to gain revenge against a Broken Hill combination which was felt, on paper, to be even stronger than that to which they had succumbed a week earlier. East Fremantle meanwhile were missing skipper Tom Wilson (pictured above) who had sustained an injury against Brokens on Monday. Perhaps of greater significance, however, was the fact that the match was umpired by someone whose interpretation of the rules conformed much more closely to that to which the visiting players were accustomed.

The first quarter of the match was extremely evenly contested and ended with scores level at 2.2 (14) apiece. In the second term, however, the Old Easts players showed what fine footballers they were, and most observers would have assumed that they had in effect sealed the game. Dominating in every facet of the match they added 5 goals to 1 to establish a hefty, for the times, 26 point advantage at the long break.

Early in the third quarter Lee goaled for the visitors to stretch the margin to 32 points, and when Chas Doig added a 9th major the match seemed as good as over. Broken Hill, however, had other ideas, and proceeded to produce their best football of the match. “The game was now fast and willing. Barriers attacked determinedly, and, outplaying their opponents, piled on the points. The visitors seemed to tire under the persistent attack and the fastness of the game.”[2]  As a result, at three quarter time East Fremantle’s lead had been trimmed to just 14 points, 10.6 (66) to 8.4 (52).

With the crowd making more noise than at any previous stage in the match the home side continued to attack relentlessly and within ten minutes of the resumption of they had added 2.1 without reply to reduce their deficit to a solitary behind. “Then followed the most exciting struggle ever seen at the Barrier. For fully 15 minutes neither side scored, the play being rough and exciting, but even. Free kicks were numerous on both sides, and dazzling play was shown by both teams. “Charley” Doig, who played the best forward game ever seen at Broken Hill, at last found an opening, and placed the Westerners seven points in the lead.”[3] Thereafter, Old Easts defended stoutly, and at the close the margin between the teams remained unchanged. Final scores were East Fremantle 11.7 (73) defeated Broken Hill 10.6 (66).

Next, the WA premiers were scheduled to play local premiers North Broken Hill, but the latter team declined to go ahead with the match as several of their best players were unavailable. East Fremantle therefore journeyed to Melbourne for the climax - and undoubted highlight - of their tour.

Melbourne

On Saturday 2nd October the Melbourne Cricket Ground played host to what was described as a match for the championship of Australia. The contestants were South Melbourne, premiers of the VFL, and their South Australian counterparts, and reigning Commonwealth champions, West Adelaide. If East Fremantle felt slighted by their exclusion from the party they had at least been offered what by any standards was a fine consolation prize - a match against a team representative of every club in the VFL apart from South Melbourne. While the VFL side was by no means the strongest that could have been fielded it nevertheless contained some highly noteworthy names, such as Lee, McGregor, Shea and Lee. Despite the tantalising prospect of seeing some of the very best footballers in the land locking horns on a warm, sunny afternoon a miserly attendance of just 8,000 patrons turned up. Victorians then, as now, preferred their football “home-grown”.

Victoria dominated the opening exchanges. They seemed quicker than the visitors, and were also marking strongly and well. Goals to Melbourne’s Harry Brereton and Pat Shea of Essendon gave the home side a comfortable cushion, but at that point Old Easts began to play, and during the final ten minutes they were much the better of the two teams. Goals to Smith and Sweetman emphasised this superiority, and at the quarter time break the VFL combination led by just a solitary point, 2.3 (15) to 2.2 (14).

East Fremantle began the second term brightly, and a behind to Sweetman levelled the scores. The visitors continued to attack and both Shea and Doig squandered easy scoring opportunities. Then the Victorians seemed to find another gear, and in quick succession they piled on no fewer than 5 goals. Old Easts’ only six pointer for the term came just before half time, courtesy of Christy, leaving the VFL team with a comfortable 20 point advantage as they led 7.3 (45) to 3.7 (25).

Soon after the resumption Lee goaled with an excellent drop kick, reducing East Fremantle’s deficit to 14 points. However, through the agency of Essendon’s Jim “Bull” Martin the Vics responded with a fine goal of their own. The next goal went the way of the visitors, and what an idiosyncratic goal it was! VFL skipper Jim Sharp was running with the ball across the face of goal, pursued by Dick Sweetman. Sharp then decided to take a bounce, whereupon Sweetman poked his toe at the ball as it was rising and watched with delight as it tumbled across the goal line for full points.

Victoria responded with their best football of the match, capped by goals to Brereton and Lou Armstrong of Essendon. Towards the end of the quarter Old Easts carved out two excellent scoring opportunities, both of which fell to “Chas” Doig, who missed the first, but made no mistake with the second. The three quarter time scoreboard therefore read VFL 10.4 (64); East Fremantle 7.11 (53).

East Fremantle were kept on the defensive for much of the final term but even so only ended up being outscored by 2 points. The Vics failed to assert their dominance thanks to a mixture of waywardness in front of goal and stout defence from the visitors. Given that they were playing such redoubtable opposition Old Easts gave an excellent account of themselves and proved that the standard of football in Western Australia was only marginally inferior to that in Victoria. The final scores were VFL 12.8 (80) defeated East Fremantle 8.13 (61).

FOOTNOTES

[1]  “Kalgoorlie Miner”, 27/9/09, page 8.

[2]  “Kalgoorlie Miner”, 30/9/09, page 8.

[3]  op cit., page 8.


West Adelaide vs Port Adelaide, 18th September 1909

West Go Back to Back

Port Adelaide won the SAFL minor premiership in 1909, and with it the right of challenge in the finals. The Magpies won 9 of their 12 home and away matches, but crucially 2 of their 3 losses were sustained at the hands of their main rivals for the premiership, West Adelaide, who finished in second place with 8 wins and 4 defeats. In third place came Norwood (7-5 and 53.7%) followed by West Torrens (7-5, 52.7%).

The first semi final panned out more or less as expected with West Adelaide ousting West Torrens from the flag race with a comfortable 27 point win. In the following Saturday’s second semi final, however, there was a shock, with Norwood not only defeating Port Adelaide, but doing so with consummate ease by 50 points, 11.12 (78) to 3.10 (28).

The final was thus between reigning premiers West Adelaide and the team which had claimed that honour in 1907, Norwood. Port Adelaide, as minor premiers, waited to challenge the winner a week later. That winner proved to be West Adelaide, which triumphed comfortably enough by 28 points despite some wayward kicking for goal, something which would return to haunt them in the challenge final. Scores were West Adelaide 8.18 (66) defeated Norwood 5.8 (38).

Reports of the 1909 SAFL challenge final paint a delightful if somewhat quaint picture. The spectators basked in warm sunshine, and were entertained both prior to the match and during the intervals by renditions of popular tunes courtesy of a military band. Thoughts of the military engaging in activities more strenuous and deadly than the playing of music were presumably far from the minds of onlookers and players alike.

The two teams’ recent results against Norwood meant that West entered the match as warm favourites to win, but the Magpies could never be underestimated, and the margin of victory was expected to be comparatively small. So it proved.

A crowd of roughly 25,000 attended the match. In the opening term the Magpies kicked to the southern end of the ground which was favoured by a moderate breeze. They began brightly, combining well and posting two major scores in the first few minutes. Both goals came from free kicks with “Welshy” Davies and Horrie Pope the scorers. “Their play was remarkably keen, their passing by hand effective, and their kicking and marking splendid. So fast was the game that the followers had a hard task to keep up with the ball, consequently the placed men had more opportunities than usual of sistinguishing themselves. The seasiders were far surer in picking the ball from the ground, and they eluded their opponents more cleverly than the westerners. A feature of the game was the numerous single-handed encounters between the placed men, who were in the majority of cases so well matched that their contests were full of interest and excitement.”[1]

Ten minutes in and West finally troubled the goal umpire, but he only had to raise a single flag. Nevertheless, the general balance of play was starting to become more even, thanks in part to West’s tactic of deploying an extra rover in the shape of Alby Klose, who began to feature more prominently in the game. For a time Klose was forced to play without a guernsey, it having been ripped from him in a tackle. Eventually, however, a replacement was found, and no sooner had Klose become fully dressed once more than West raised the two flags for the first time, sixteen minutes of playing time having elapsed. “Shrimp” Dowling was the goal kicker.

Port rallied, and a fluent move involving several players culminated in Angelo Congear marking close to goal and straight in front. He duly converted, leaving the seasiders with a 10 point advantage at the first change, 3.1 (19) to West’s 1.3 (9).

With the breeze at their backs West Adelaide began the second term energetically and with purpose, although the Magpies continued to dominate in the air. The first score of the quarter was a punted goal to Alcorn for Westies, and shortly afterwards first J.F. McCarthy and then Klose had excellent scoring opportunities but kicked erratically and only registered behinds. Another behind soon followed, and then from a mark near goal Alcorn failed to duplicate his earlier effort meaning West had now scored 2.7, putting them level with the Magpies. Alcorn soon made amends, however, when he again marked near goal and this time made no mistake. Westies were therefore in front by a goal.

Just as it seemed the westerners were beginning to stamp their authority on the game Port Adelaide attacked and, after taking a fine mark, “Shine” Hosking levelled the scores with a beautifully drop kicked goal. West scored a behind just prior to the half time bell to recapture the lead by that margin. Scores West Adelaide 3.8 (26); Port Adelaide 4.1 (25).

Port dominated the early stages of the third quarter, and goals by Mal Donaghy and Congear gave them a handy 11 point advantage. West, however, hit back strongly, and though some fine last gasp defending by Dempster kept them at bay for a while, they gradually managed to reduce the deficit courtesy of a flurry of behinds followed by a goal to Dowling. This last score reduced Port’s lead to a single point. Another behind to West levelled things and, for the remainder of the quarter, the black and reds attacked relentlessly. J.F. McCarthy was a dominating influence in West’s forward lines and after taking one of several fine overhead marks he goaled to recapture the lead for his side. There followed a couple of behinds plus another goal to Dowling, making the half time scores West Adelaide 6.15 (51) to Port Adelaide 6.1 (37).

The first few minutes of the final term were tightly contested, but eventually West began to get on top once more. A behind increased their lead to 15 points, and shortly afterwards Dowling once more kicked truly. “Port Adelaide had now shot their bolt, and the cleverness which they had shown in handling the ball belonged to their opponents.”[2] Hosking managed a behind at the culmination of a rare attacking foray by the seasiders, but the game was lost, and West comfortably played out time to win more convincingly than their 21 point advantage suggested. Final scores were West Adelaide 7.17 (59) defeated Port Adelaide 6.2 (38).

The best player afield was probably West centreman “Dick” Head who was frequently in the thick of the action and proved highly influential. Tom Leahy excelled in the ruck, and during the second half in particular was a dominating force around the ground, taking numerous fine marks. Dowling was a livewire when on the ball and a had decisive impact when resting in the forward lines, kicking 4 goals. Alec Conlin, Alby Klose, and the whole red and black half back line of Vic Stephens, Bernie Leahy (pictured above) and Horgan were others to do well.

The pick of the Port Adelaide players was rover Angelo Congear. Dickson, McFarlane, Mack, Hosking and Dempster also performed creditably.

Unusually, the 1909 Championship of Australia play off took place in Melbourne, an indication perhaps of the greater respect which Victorians were developing for South Australian football, a respect based partly on West Adelaide's memorable victory over Carlton the previous year. This time, however, there was to be no repetition, West going down to South Melbourne by 24 points, 6.14 (50) to 11.8 (74). West had at least as much of the general play as their opponents, but just as in the SANFL finals poor kicking for goal let them down.

After losing eight players from their premiership side of the previous year West slipped down the list to 5th in 1910. This proved to be just a temporary hiccup, however, for in 1911 the side was back to its best, winning the first 10 games of the season, and ultimately qualifying for the finals comfortably in 2nd position.  A 21 point semi final win over Sturt followed, with minor premiers Port Adelaide being bundled aside by 3 goals a fortnight later in the final. The challenge final saw Port providing more resolute opposition, but West ultimately got home by 5 points thanks to a late goal from skipper, Jos Dailey.

VFL premiers Essendon were West's next opponents in the Championship opf Australia play off. Held at Adelaide Oval, the match attracted a disappointing crowd of just 6,000 spectators, but those who stayed away missed an enthralling contest. For most of the day there was little between the sides, and the result could easily have gone either way. Ultimately though it was West who had their noses in front at the final bell by just 3 points. Final scores were West Adelaide 8.9 (57) to Essendon 7.12 (54).  Dowling, Alec Conlin, Hele, Jos Dailey and Head were among the best for the home side.

An interesting consequence of West's twin triumphs in 1911 was a decision by the South Australian Brewing Company Ltd. to adopt red and black as the colours on the labels and bottle tops of its West End beer, a practice which continues to this day. (In the immediate wake of this innovation West began somewhat quaintly to be referred to as the bottle tops, a practice which, not surprisingly, did not endure for quite so long.)

It was a case of history repeating itself in 1912 as West thrashed Sturt in a semi final and then twice accounted for minor premiers Port Adelaide to take out the flag. The challenge final, which West won 6.10 (46) to 5.2 (32), was watched by a South Australian record crowd of 28,500. “Dick” Head, the “king of centremen”, was best afield, just as he had been in 1909.

West were disappointed when negotiations with VFL premiers Essendon to hold a Championship of Australia game fell through; in the opinion of most associated with the club, West's 1912 side was superior in many respects to that of the previous year, and victory in such a game could confidently have been anticipated. 

The period 1908 to 1912 remains far and away the most auspicious in West Adelaide's history, and the fall from grace was to be unaccountably swift. Between 1913 and 1921 (and excluding the years 1916-18 when the competition went into mothballs because of the war) the black and reds won only 30 and drew 3 of 80 matches, reaching the finals just twice. It was almost as though the club's five years of glory had never happened.

If the period from 1908 to 1912 represented West’s most noteworthy era there are some who might suggest that Port Adelaide’s immediate pre-world war one teams, which netted premierships in 1910, 1013 and 1914, were the Magpies greatest ever. In 1914 the side won every single match it played, including a challenge match against a team representing the rest of the SAFL, and the championship of Australia decider against Carlton.

Port and West would go on to engage in a fierce rivalry during the 1950s when the two sides, which manifested diametrically different approaches to the game, confronted one another in four grand finals. Sadly for Westies, the Magpies won the lot, but it says much for the epic nature of the rivalry that their margins of victory were 3, 16, 2 and 10 points. In the 1963 grand final the two rivals met yet again, with Port Adelaide doing just enough to edge home by 3 points.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “The Express and Telegraph”, 20/9/09, page 3. Port were interchangeably known at this time as the Magpies and the seasiders.

[2] Ibid, page 3.


South Melbourne vs Carlton, 2nd October 1909

South Breaks Nineteen Year Drought

"On several occasions recently I have pointed out that the football played by South Melbourne was not as good and skilful as the team was capable of showing, the reason being that a majority of them persisted in 'playing the man instead of the ball'.  After South Melbourne beat Collingwood in their semi final I warned them that, although successful on that occasion against a team who fell into the same error, they would have no chance of success if they played a similar game against Carlton.  Instead of taking the advice in the spirit in which it was given, the South Melbourne players and their so-called 'supporters' chose to resent it as unfriendly criticism, and paid the penalty as they played a similar (though somewhat improved) game against Carlton last Saturday week, and suffered defeat.  During the week, however, they apparently realised that after leading in the first round they had been handicapping themselves in the semi finals by their bad judgement and impetuosity, as I had pointed out.  On Saturday they changed their tactics completely; instead of knocking opponents about they devoted their attention to the ball, and in consequence they gave the vast multitude assembled a splendid and exhilarating entertainment, and won the premiership after having striven unsuccessfully to do so for nineteen years."  ('Follower', writing in 'The Age', 4/10/09, page 8)

​When Sydney scraped home against West Coast in the 2005 AFL grand final it brought to an end a premiership drought stretching back seventy-two years, easily the longest in the club's history.  Prior to that, its longest such drought had been a mere nineteen years, but such was the vaunted status of the club at the time that its repeated failure generated a considerable amount of incredulity, even dismay.  South Melbourne (as the club was known until relocating to Sydney in 1982) was universally acknowledged as one of the game's pre-eminent forces.  In the ten years from 1881 to 1890 it was the VFA's most successful club, winning no fewer than five premierships, finishing second twice, third twice, and fourth once.  Since 1890, however, although it had gone close on several occasions, it had failed to add to its tally of flags.  In 1903, in fact, it had even succumbed to the unprecedented indignity of the wooden spoon, winning just 2 of 17 matches for the year, which generated the miserly percentage of 54.9%.

​Since then there had been gradual improvement.  In 1904, 1905 and 1906 the red and whites had finished 5th, and by 1907 the they had all the credentials of a potential premiership combination - pace, height, strength, and excellent team skills.  However, after trouncing Collingwood 12.10 (82) to 6.12 (48) in a semi final, minor premier Carlton proved just too strong in the final, edging home by 5 points.

It was back to 5th place in 1908, and indications were that the club's bubble had burst.  However, in 1909, with veterans like Jim 'Joker' Cameron and Bill 'Sonna' Thomas being well supported by relatively recent acquisitions such as Len 'Mother' Mortimer, Albert Franks, Alf Gough, Charlie Ricketts and Alex 'Bubbs' Kerr, South developed into a genuinely potent force.  Playing a fast, cohesive, intermittently spectacular brand of football, they both started and finished the season in brilliant fashion, with their 4 losses in 18 home and away matches all occurring between rounds 6 and 14.  None of the losses were by substantial margins, with the biggest a 24 points reversal at the hands of Carlton in round 11.

​Carlton, indeed, was the team expected by most to be South's biggest rival for the 1909 pennant.  Less successful during its VFA years than the southerners (two flags compared to five), its inclusion in the renegade VFL in 1897 had reportedly been an eleventh hour affair, hinging on assurances that its ground would be brought up to scratch in time for the fledgling competition's inaugural season.[1]  After struggling to make its mark during its first five VFL seasons, the Blues gradually began to flex their muscles.  They contested their first finals series in 1903, and reached their first premiership decider the following year, losing to Fitzroy by 4 goals.  Between 1906 and 1908, under the astute, inspirational and revolutionary coaching of Jack Worrall, Carlton emerged as arguably the most complete team seen in Victorian football up to that point, as well as arguably the finest in the club's history, winning 50 out of 58 matches in all, including all 6 finals games contested.  The Blues commenced the 1909 season confident of procuring their fourth consecutive league flag, but internal discontent, much of it focused at the coach, was brewing, and towards the end of the home and away rounds Worrall, presumably sick of all the criticism and back-biting, resigned.[2]  He was replaced as coach by Fred 'Pompey' Elliott, who was in his second season as club skipper, but the mood at the club as the finals loomed could perhaps best be described as volatile.[3]​​

Both the semi finals were closely fought until half time, before turning into one sided affairs that emphasised the superior pedigree of the leading two teams in the competition.  Carlton ended up downing Essendon by 36 points, 14.8 (92) to 9.2 (56), while South, largely on the strength of a 6 goals to 1 third quarter, overcame the stern physical challenge afforded by Collingwood by 21 points, 10.8 (68) to 6.11 (47).  

The final, largely at South's instigation, proved to be an extremely vigorous, at times openly acrimonious encounter, which Carlton won with some ease by 20 points.  Many observers suggested that, in deliberately circumscribing their naturally open, skilful game in order to attempt to confront the stern physical challenge afforded by the Blues head on, the southerners had made a drastic, fundamental error.  Perhaps the fact that this approach had worked against Collingwood had given rise to a disproportionate degree of optimism over its potential effectiveness, but the Blues presented a much more formidable challenge than the Magpies.  Thankfully for South, as minor premier there would be a second chance, and in the intervening week between the matches the club's 'brain's trust' had plenty of opportunity to analyse exactly where they had gone wrong.  In the event, they did their job superbly, thereby contributing in no small measure to what was widely considered, at the time, to be the best premiership-deciding match played in Melbourne up to that point.

The Teams

The Carlton team-sheet showed just one change from the previous week, with reliable defender Norm Clark, who had been dropped by the club for disciplinary reasons, resuming in place of Les Beck.

South were without the injured pair of full back Bill Dolphin, one of the longest kicks in the game, and Dick Casey, who had a reputation as one of the roughest players in the league.  They were replaced respectively by former Melbourne defender 'Ted' Wade, and powerful key forward Bob Deas.  Meanwhile, Horrie Drane was brought in to replace Jim Caldwell, who had been suspended for striking George Bruce in the final. The match was watched by a crowd of 37,759.

1st Quarter
The match got underway in fine, mild weather, with the turf still a little springy after the previous day's heavy rain.  The eastern end of the ground was favoured by a stiff breeze, and Elliott, after winning the toss for Carlton, elected to kick in that direction.

​​The first three or four minutes saw the two teams testing one another out, almost tentatively, before Carlton mounted the first concerted attack of the game.  However, even at this early stage of the encounter, the South defence was "splendidly systematic and effective", with 'Sonna' Thomas and 'Ted' Wade particularly conspicuous.  The Blues attacked persistently for two or three minutes, without registering a score, and then it was the southerners' turn.  Five times within the space of as many minutes Len 'Mother' Mortimer out-bodied Doug Gillespie to mark strongly within easy goal kicking range, but fortunately for Carlton he appeared unsettled by the strong breeze and only four minor scores (and one clean miss) resulted.

A ferocious scramble for the ball near the southern wing boundary left South half back flanker Tom Grimshaw lying prostrate on the ground.  As play moved away, the former Footscray Juniors man staggered to his feet, only to collapse again after managing just a couple of steps.  He remained in the hands of the trainers until quarter time.

The last fifteen minutes or so of the term saw the Blues very much in control, but they, like Mortimer, found it difficult to cope with the gusty breeze when kicking for goal, and succeeded only in registering a flurry of behinds, including one poster.  At the first break neither side had managed to kick truly, and scores were deadlocked.  Quarter Time: Carlton 0.5 (5); South Melbourne 0.5 (5)

2nd Quarter

Expectations of a South surge with the aid of the breeze proved unfounded as the Blues continued to give as good as they got.  

As the term got underway, Tom Grimshaw, having recovered sufficiently to stand unaided, limped forward into the goal square, where he would station himself for the remainder of the match.

​​Carlton commenced the quarter brightly, and spectacular aerial work by Jim Marchbank and Jack Baquie elicited appreciative applause from the crowd.  Clever play by George Topping and Harvey Kelly brought the ball well within scoring range, but Wade, Scobie and Pentland tidied up for South.  It was only a temporary reprieve, however, as Topping had a free run in on goal a minute or so later which produced the first full pointer of the afternoon.

The Blues continued to do most of the attacking, but only managed to register behinds, and then at the ten minute mark of the term South suddenly woke up and decided to start playing.  During their first concerted forward thrust Baquie, of Carlton, badly wrenched his ankle, and had to be assisted from the field.  Play was desperate and tightly congested, but Albert Franks, in the midst of a heaving scrimmage of players just in front of goal, managed to snap the southerners' first major score, and for a few minutes thereafter it was all one way traffic as South poured forward en masse.  A clever kick by Bob Deas then found Ricketts in the clear, and the abundantly talented rover had no trouble in notching the red and whites' second.

​Towards the end of the term Carlton began to rally giving rise to what, in hindsight, has to be regarded as the turning point in the match.  With play compressed around the centre of the ground a hopeful punt forward by a Blues player found Frank Caine alone, and in space, a mere forty yards from goal.  As South players dashed frantically back in an unlikely bid to catch him, Caine raced ahead into the goal square from where, completely unencumbered, he unleashed a hefty punt kick deep into the crowd.  Unfortunately for Carlton, he put so much effort into the kick that he omitted to pay due attention to the small matter of accuracy, as a result of which the ball skewed so pronouncedly off his boot that it only just managed to register a behind.

Ostensibly undaunted, the Blues continued to press forward, and seconds before the bell Topping added their second major after accepting a neat pass from Fred Jinks.  With both sides having added 2.4 for the quarter, scores remained deadlocked at the long break.  Half Time: Carlton 2.9 (21); South Melbourne 2.9 (21)

3rd Quarter

Baquie re-entered the fray at the start of the third term, but only to limp forlornly into a forward pocket, meaning that both sides were now effectively minus a player.

​Play was fast, furious, and often unkempt, with time and space both at a premium.  The first piece of truly coordinated football of the quarter came from South, as Vic Belcher found Cameron, who passed to Franks, who in turn relayed it to Gough.  The former Leopold rover then picked out a fast leading Len Mortimer and hit him on the chest with a perfect half-distance pass.  Mortimer, who up to this point had 5 behinds and several complete misses to his name, duly converted, in the process registering his 50th goal of the season.[4]

Moments later, Carlton levelled the scores when Baquie was freed close to goal, and had just enough strength to make the distance.

South responded frenetically, but their supporters were dismayed when snapshots from first Mortimer, and then Grimshaw, hit the post.  Nevertheless, these two posters would represent the difference between the sides at the death.

​​Next it was the Blues' turn to suffer misfortune as their feisty rover Martin Gotz was heavily felled, and had to be carried from the ground, seemingly unconscious.  Despite this loss, it was Carlton who were doing most of the attacking, but South's defence, with Wade especially prominent, stood firm.  Then, just before the three quarter time bell, the red and whites produced arguably the best piece of football of the match as Belcher, Ricketts, Cameron and Mortimer maneuvered the ball the length of the ground without a single opposition player touching it.  Mortimer was within range of goal when he collected the ball, but spotting Gough in a better position, he passed to that player, who coolly registered South's fourth.  Moments later the bell rang.  Three Quarter Time: South Melbourne 4.12 (36); Carlton 3.11 (29)

4th Quarter

The fourth term "was worth going a day's journey to see" as players of both sides strained every muscle to the limit in a bid to gain the upper hand.

Both teams had eighteen players - or, at any rate, eighteen bodies - once more as Gotz took up a position deep in the forward lines.

For fifteen minutes the match resembled an arm wrestle, albeit an exhilarating one, with 2 behinds to South and 1 to Carlton the only additions to the score.  This put the southerners eight points to the good.

The crowd roared as South's Bill Moxham and the Blues' Edwin Kennedy momentarily forgot the football and grappled furiously with one another on centre wing.  There were a number of other fractious incidents too as the tension of the occasion began to get through to players.

With just five minutes of the game left, 'Mallee' Johnson and Charlie Hammond teamed well together to get the ball to Kelly, whose accurate snap reduced the Blues' deficit to just 2 points.  

South surged into attack from the ensuing centre bounce and Mortimer, despite the intense and probably illicit attentions of Elliott, marked strongly.  However, he was too far out from goal to score.

​Carlton then retaliated with a swift attacking foray only for 'Sonna' Thomas to repel the danger after taking a last gasp, saving mark.  Play thereafter was scrappy, fevered and frenetic, but neither team was able to mount a decisive attack, and the bell went with no addition to the scores.  Final Score: South Melbourne 4.14 (38); Carlton 4.12 (36)

FOOTNOTES

[1]  In the event, Carlton's ground at Princes Park was not ready for use until round 7 1897. 

[2]  For the time being, Worrall retained his role as club secretary, however.

[3]  During the interval between seasons no fewer than eight senior players quit Carlton, essentially in protest at the club's treatment of Worrall, who finally severed all links with the Blues by resigning as secretary. 

[4]  He finished the season as the VFL's second highest goal kicker, 8 goals adrift of Collingwood's "Dick" Lee. 


1910: Labour in Power

THE YEAR IN BRIEF


“ A nation which put leisure above overtime was was able to prove that they were the right stuff on the sports field, though there were more spectators than participants. That typical delight in the other man’s failure was beginning to show, as Manning Clark says ‘because the one thing Australians do know is failure: they know the failure of being unable to impose their will on their vast continent. They know they’re going to be beaten by drought, by flood, by fire, by the rise and fall in world prices over which they have no control’.” (Australia: A History by Mike Walker, page 108.)


China's move towards modernisation continued in 1910 with the abolition of slavery, a practice which had been legal for some 3,000 years. Rather in contrast, on 1st September the Vatican introduced a compulsory oath against modernism, to be taken by all priests upon ordination. This requirement remained mandatory until 1967.

​In England, King Edward VII died on 6th May, six days after catching a cold. His successor to the throne was his son, George, who would be crowned George V in 1911. On hearing of his father's death George wrote in his diary, "I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers ... I never had a [cross] word with him in my life. I am heart-broken and overwhelmed with grief but God will help me in my responsibilities and darling May will be my comfort as she has always been. May God give me strength and guidance in the heavy task which has fallen on me". King Edward VI's death was mourned in Australia every bit as much as in Britain.

​In the USA immediately following a 4th July heavyweight boxing fight between African-American Jack Johnson and white American James J. Jeffries, won by the former, race riots broke out all over the country.

In Australia, at the federal election of 13th April 1910 Labour won 41 seats in the house of representatives and 22 in the senate; the Fusionists’ totals were 31 and 14 respectively. Since the inception of the Commonwealth no single party had ever previously won a majority in either house, let alone both. Moreover, Labour’s victory represented the first time in history that a social-democratic party had achieved power anywhere in the world.

The Fusionists’ loss was at least in part attributable to dissension within the party’s ranks. Deakin, for example, wanted the party to be named the Liberals, but many party members objected to this as they believed it harked back to Deakin’s Protectionists. Most newspapers continued to refer to the party as the Fusionists. Another factor was the widespread perception that the merger between the Free Traders and Protectionists was merely a marriage of convenience fuelled by the presumption that Labour, if elected, would implement a series of radical policies. However, "fears of Labour extremism were not fulfilled by Labour’s use of its power, for the new government behaved with the restraint and respect of a reformist rather than a radical party.” [1]

Perhaps the most significant decision taken by Labour during its tenure was its choice of Canberra, rather than Dalgety, as the nation’s future capital. The fact that an aboriginal name was selected might seem strange, especially in light of the prevailing belief in white supremacy, but in fact it was an extremely popular decision. (The main alternative suggestion for the capital’s name was Shakespeare!)

In the country which a large number of Australians referred to a “home” the main events of 1910 were the death on 6th May of King Edward VII and the ascent to the throne of his son, who became known as George V, and who would remain on the throne until 1936. Other major world events included revolutions in Mexico and Portugal, the return of Halley’s comet, and the creation of the Union of South Africa with the unification of four previously separate British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal Colony, Transvaal Colony and Orange River Colony.

The 1910 VFL season saw Carlton, no longer coached by John Worrall, dominate the home and away rounds to top the ladder with just 3 losses in 18 matches. However, the Blues fell apart during the finals, losing their semi final clash with South Melbourne by 12 points and succumbing by 14 points to Collingwood in the challenge final. The Magpies thus won their first flag since 1903, and their fourth in total (three in the VFL and one in the VFA).

North Melbourne scored a comfortable 9.14 (68) to 5.9 (39) triumph over Brunswick in the VFA to capture their third flag. Teams in the VFA comprised 16 players this season. Elsewhere, premierships were claimed by Port Adelaide (SAFL), East Fremantle (WAFL), Cananore (TFL), YMCA (NWSAFL) and South Brisbane (QFL). The WAFL premiership play-off was noteworthy in that East Perth, which had only entered the competition in 1906, reached it for the first ever time. Within a decade the Royals would establish themselves as one of the leading teams not only in Western Australia but nationally as well.

FOOTNOTES

[1]  A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark page 223.)


University vs Fitzroy, 11th June 1910

Students Surge Home

Formed in 1859, University Football Club is one of Australia's oldest.  Indeed, it seems likely that only Melbourne and Geelong pre-date it.  In 1885 University was admitted to what was then Victoria's premier competition, the Victorian Football Association, but in four seasons of involvement the club's record was poor.  All told, it managed just 5 wins and 5 draws from a total of 70 matches played, with 4 of the wins coming in the same year (1887).  In 1888 the writing was on the wall for the club when, on several occasions, it proved incapable of raising sufficient players to field a team, and was forced to forfeit matches.

University endured a similarly hard time during its brief initial stint in the Metropolitan Junior Football Association (precursor of the Victorian Amateur Football Association) in 1893, but when it resumed in the competition after a twelve year break in 1905 the club was much better organised, and boasted quite a large number of talented footballers.  As a result, it was competitive from the start, and it was not long before it had developed into the competition's pre-eminent force.  In 1906 the side lost only one game for the year en route to the premiership, and the following year, watched by 5,000 spectators at the University Oval, it scored a 9.12 (66) to 8.4 (52) victory over Brighton in the decisive match of the year.

Winning MJFA premierships was all very well, but University had loftier ambitions and made a succession of applications to join the VFL.  Finally, in 1908 its persistence paid off and University, along with VFA club Richmond, gained admission to Australian football's pre-eminent competition.

With its seconds side still participating in the MJFA, University's senior combination commenced life in the “big league” against the previous season's wooden spooners, Essendon. If there had been any lofty expectations among the Students they were soon obliterated; Essendon won by 11 goals, 14.11 (95) to 3.11 (29).  The following Saturday, though, University broke through for its first ever VFL win, although given that the opposition was provided by fellow newcomers Richmond the achievement was widely downplayed.  However, when the Students overcame St Kilda - which had competed in the finals in 1907 - a fortnight later people sat up and took notice.  Further wins followed in round 6 (Melbourne) and round 8 (Geelong) and suddenly the debutants were looking a good outside bet for the finals.  They eventually finished 6th (out of 10), with an 8-10 record and, statistically, the 3rd best forward line in the competition.  It had been a commendable and highly promising start.

University continued to perform well, winning 7 and drawing 2 of their fixtures in 1909. By the following year the Students had well and truly cast off the “cinderella” tag, and indeed they were felt by many to be genuine premiership contenders. Their start to the season was solid rather than stellar. When, in round 7, they confronted Fitzroy at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground they were placed 6th on the ladder having won 3 matches, one more than the ‘Roys who were 7th. A close match was therefore expected, and for three quarters that was what the teams served up. The final term, however, was another matter.

Both sides went into the match without their captains - Kneen in the case of University, and Sharp for Fitzroy. The Maroons were further weakened by the absence of their vice captain Walker plus two other key players.

Play in the opening term was hotly contested but scrappy. Bert Hartkopf, whose excellent high marking was a noteworthy feature of the match, drew first blood for the Students with a minor score. Shortly afterwards Ken MacLeod registered the game’s, and University’s, first goal. Fitzroy’s response was energetic and purposeful, and a brace of goals to George Holden, one from a free and the other by means of a running shot, gave them a lead which they would hold onto until the first change. Indeed, when Clive Morrison added a third goal for the ‘Roys it looked as if they might run away with the game, an impression reinforced as they continued to attack. However a minor score was all they could muster before the home side broke away and registered their second goal of the match off the boot of Rupe Matthews. A succession of behinds to both teams followed before Morrison, from a free kick, gave the ‘Roys an 11 point advantage which they retained until the dying moments of the term when Frank Kerr snapped truly for the Students. At quarter time the scoreboard showed Fitzroy on 4.2 (26) leading University 3.3 (21).

After an early goal to University the second term developed into something of an arm wrestle with the two teams largely cancelling one another out. Not that the play could be described as dour as there were plenty of examples of fine, dashing defensive work, notably from Fitzroy’s Wally Johnson and Kerr for the Students. Over the course of the remainder of the quarter University added 3 behinds to the Maroons’ 2 meaning that the home side had procured a 2 point advantage 

The first ten minutes of the third term saw University holding sway and goals to Martin Ratz and MacLeod gave them a handy lead. Fitzroy refused to lie down, however, and a couple of goals in quick succession to Jim Brophy and Billy Dick reduced their deficit to just 2 points. Thereafter play was evenly contested with the sides exchanging goals so that at the final change bthe scores were University 7.8 (50) leading Fitzroy 7.7 (49).

The nature of the match thus far was such that onlookers could have been forgiven for expecting a tense, closely fought finish, and for most of the final quarter such expectations looked likely to be fulfilled. Early on, Ratz goaled for University, and this was a prelude to a sustained period of relentless attacking. However, the ‘Roys defended desperately and capably, and with time running out University’s lead was a mere 9 points. Then, out of the blue, Brophy goaled for Fitzroy and it was once more “game on”.

The closing moments of the match were both inexplicable and, from a neutral’s point of view, anti-climactic. Fitzroy’s defence, which hitherto had withstood wave upon wave of attacking pressure from the Students, wilted completely, In the space of less than ten minutes Ratz, Matthews, Harkopf, MacLeod and Athol Tymms all goaled so that when the final bell rang out University had procured victory by an astonishing 36 point margin, 13.14 (92) to 8.8 (56).

University went on to win a total of 10 (out of 18) matches in 1910 to finish sixth. In rounds 12, 13 and 14 the side was in the top four. Fitzroy had a poor season by the club’s lofty standards and managed just 5 wins which was only good enough for eighth place.

After the 1910 season University’s fortunes declined markedly and rapidly. in 1911 the club received a kick in the teeth from which it never recovered as the VFL decided, on a 16-4 majority, to rescind its rule prohibiting payments to players.  Melbourne and University were the only clubs to vote against the measure (all clubs had two delegates each).

The writing was on the wall for the Students.  In 1911 they won just 1 game, finishing last.  It was an identical story in 1912, and then in the club's final two seasons, 1913 and '14, they failed to record a single win.  All told the side lost every one of its last 51 games to finish with an overall VFL success rate of 22.2% (compared to 48.1% over its first three seasons).

There can be little doubt that University's involvement in Victoria's elite football competition was severely impeded and, ultimately, destroyed by the move towards professionalism, although it is probably also fair to suggest that the onset of war accelerated the club's demise.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that for seven seasons University made a contribution toward football at the highest level.  It may not have won any premierships or, indeed, even qualified for the finals, but the club managed wins against all of the other teams in the league bar Collingwood (with which it drew), and produced several accomplished players, including eight VFL interstate representatives.

After the war many of the club's better players joined Melbourne, which shared the Students' amateur propensities.  University's senior team participated in the VFL's junior competition in 1919 and 1920, finishing runners up to Collingwood both years, but in 1921 it re-joined the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association, where its own reserves team was already participating.  Known initially as 'University A', the team later took the name of ‘University Blues', with the reserve side becoming known as ‘University Blacks'.  Both teams remain proud members to this day of the Victorian Amateur Football Association, as the MAFA became known in 1932, with the Blacks having actually performed better, in terms of premierships won, than the Blues.


​Port in Perth, 3rd-6th August 1910

"I have no hesitation in naming this Port Adelaide team as the best club 18 that has visited W.A., and I am not forgetting Collingwood's two visits, nor those of Essendon, Fitzroy and St Kilda.  They were the team they looked."  (Dolph Heinrichs, East Fremantle club historian, writing just after world war two.)


League footballers during the early years of the twentieth century were not well paid, if indeed they were paid at all, but that does not mean that involvement in football at its highest level was devoid of perks.  Of these, perhaps the most prized was the opportunity to travel interstate, and to see at first hand parts of Australia that might have otherwise forever remained inaccessible.  In 1910, for example, at least ten league clubs from the three main football states embarked on interstate or country tours involving a combination of sight-seeing and challenge or exhibition matches.[1]

Port Adelaide, which by the end of the 1910 season would be able to proclaim itself both premiers of the state, and champions of Australia, commenced its tour of Western Australia with a visit to the Kalgoorlie/Boulder region, a bona fide hotbed of football which provided fifty per cent of the players for the state's 1908 and 1911 carnival teams.  There can be little doubt that Port were well aware of the high quality of goldfields football, but for some reason they elected to field a team that was some way below full strength for their match with a GFL combination.  Nevertheless, the two sides produced a wonderful exhibition of football, widely regarded as the finest seen on the goldfields up to that point, with the GFL side scoring a superb and wholly meritorious 17 point victory, 12.12 (84) to 9.13 (67).

As far as Port were concerned, however, it was the games on the coast that really mattered.  In 1909, East Fremantle had visited Adelaide as part of an eastern states tour, and, on the Jubilee Oval, consigned the Magpies to an embarrassing 21 point defeat, a result which everyone connected with Port was anxious to avenge.  They would get the chance to do so in the first of two matches to be played during the coastal phase of their trip.

​​Not that this would be easy, for Old Easts were themselves a formidable combination who, in 1910, would secure their eighth premiership in eleven seasons.  Smaller and lighter in the main than Port, they were arguably pacier, and their undoubted all-round football talent was amplified by finely honed aggression and excellent teamwork.

The second coastal match would provide Port with an opportunity to serve as ambassadors for the entire state of South Australia, for it would see the Magpies facing a combination comprised of players from all eight WAFL clubs - in other words, a virtual state team.  This was clearly the pinnacle of the trip, and the only match in which Port elected to field a full strength side.  It was a match which lived up to expectations in every sense, but the fact that it was not played in Victoria and did not involve VFL clubs has meant that it has been almost completely forgotten.

Game One: East Fremantle vs. Port Adelaide, Wednesday 3rd August 1910

“......it is safe to say that such high marking and so much of it have not been seen here for many a day.  When Harvey Kelly, Dolph Heinrichs and Goddard were playing on the coast football enthusiasts were treated to something of the same kind of thing, but we never had six or eight of those champions in the one team as the Ports have now.”  ('The West Australian', Saturday 6th August 1910)

The match took place at the WACA ground, in splendid, dry weather, with experienced umpire Ivo Crapp in charge.  The attendance was undoubtedly adversely affected by a tram strike, but was nevertheless quite satisfactory for a Wednesday afternoon game, and raised receipts of £80.  Heavy overnight rain had left the cricket wicket area somewhat slippery, but the rest of the playing surface was dry and firm.

The Teams

Old Easts were minus only Dave Christy from what might be adjudged their first choice eighteen, while Port were without just two key players in 'Shine' Hosking and Horrie Pope.

EAST FREMANTLE:  Beswick, Bailey, S.Doig, Jas Doig (captain), Chas Doig, Clive Doig, Craig, Sharpe, Parsons, Spence, N.Wrightson, C.Wrightson, Corkhill, Curran, Riley, Robinson, Sweetman, Strang 

PORT ADELAIDE:  Callinan, Curnow, Cavanagh, Congear, Dewar, Dempster, Mason, Manson, Magor, McEwen, McFarlane, Mack, Oliver, Middleton, Rose, Woollard (captain), Hansen, Stidston

1st Quarter

​"The visitors were a fine, strapping set of athletes with height, weight and reach to back up a thorough knowledge of football."  They played a hard, physical game involving prolific use of handball, and aerially they were much superior to the locals.  When the ball was on the ground, however, Old Easts displayed superior pace and considerable cleverness, factors which more or less compensated for Port's supremacy in other areas.

The opening term provided a see-saw struggle, with the ball moving rapidly from one end of the ground to the other.  On balance, the home side probably enjoyed slightly more of the play, both territorially and in terms of possession, but when the quarter time bell rang there was nothing separating the teams on the scoreboard.  Quarter Time: East Fremantle 2.1 (13); Port Adelaide 2.1 (13)

2nd Quarter

The second quarter was a vastly different affair, with the visitors dominating all over the ground - "as one spectator observed, it wasn't a match at all, it was a procession, in which the local men took the part of onlookers".  With Port's players, on average, almost a stone heavier than their opponents, some members of the Old Easts team were made to look like schoolboys.  Only twice during the term did the blue and whites manage to convey the ball into their attacking zone, and both times "it was returned with a rapidity that was electrifying".

Whereas Port handled the ball smoothly and with great assurance, the Old Easts players often seemed overwhelmed by the sheer physicality of the opposition, and were prone to much fumbling and hesitancy.  Nevertheless, they defended with a certain degree of conviction and no small amount of skill, and the Magpies' tally of 2.5 for the quarter was scant reward for their superiority.  As the home side's skipper Jas Doig would no doubt have emphasised to his players in the changing rooms during the half time interval, the game was far from over.  Half Time: Port Adelaide 4.6 (30); East Fremantle 2.1 (13)

3rd Quarter

If Port's dominance during the second term had perhaps led many onlookers to assume that the match was over bar the shouting, the ferocity and passion with which Old Easts hurled themselves into the fray during the third quarter made it clear that this was very far from being the case.  Although the visitors continued to exhibit football of the highest order, they did so only intermittently; in between, they had their hands full trying to contain an exuberant and extremely pacy local combination who were as buoyant and cocksure in this term as they had been tentative and cowed in the previous.  By kicking 2.3 to 1.2 in this quarter Old Easts left the game beautifully poised at the final change.  Three Quarter Time: Port Adelaide 5.8 (38); East Fremantle 4.4 (28)

4th Quarter

The final term provided spectators with some of the finest football seen in Perth for many years, with both sides contributing to the spectacle.  Old Easts were out of the blocks faster, and for the first fifteen minutes of the quarter were much the better team.  Port, however, showed just as much skill defending as they had demonstrated earlier in attack, and with ten minutes remaining all the blue and whites had managed to add to their score was a single goal, leaving them still 5 points adrift.  Old Easts continued to press forward, however, and when Riley marked well within range of goal it elicited the noisiest response of the afternoon from the sparse but enthusiastic crowd.  After prudently selecting a dry patch of turf, Riley placed the ball, carefully measured his run up, and focused his eyes on the two central uprights.  The crowd held its collective breath as he trotted up to the ball - then groaned with disbelief as he failed to connect properly and sent the ball straight into the waiting arms of a Port Adelaide defender.  The Magpies gratefully spirited the ball away, and minutes later posted their sixth, and match-sealing, goal.  The final few minutes were dominated by the visitors, and when the bell rang the scoreboard showed Port Adelaide 6.10 (46); East Fremantle 5.4 (34).

BEST - Port Adelaide: Oliver, Curnow, Congear, Dewar, Hansen, Magor, Dempster    East Fremantle:  Sharpe, Chas Doig, Parsons, Sweetman, Clive Doig, Craig, C.Wrightson

GOALS - Port Adelaide:  Hansen, Woollard 2; Callinan, Cavanagh   East Fremantle:  Chas Doig 2; Bailey, Robinson, Sweetman

Game Two: WAFL vs. Port Adelaide, Saturday 6th August 1910

“The local combination is by no means, on paper at any rate, as strong as it could be made, but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the opposing side represents only one South Australian club, and it is a big thing to pit it against an eighteen picked from eight strong clubs in Western Australia.  Nevertheless, the Ports are a stalwart lot of footballers, and in their match against the old Easts on the WACA ground last Wednesday, they gave an exhibition of that strong, vigorous, telling play that marks them as champions.  There are some wonderful aerial explorers amongst them, and the beauty of it is that they can all hold the ball and kick with some purpose.  They did not shine out in ground play on Wednesday, but the greasiness of the arena may not have suited them so well as it did the light Easts.  Today they will be on a turf on which they can be absolutely sure of their footing, no matter what the weather is like, and they should be able to improve considerably upon the fine exhibition they gave three days ago.” ('The West Australian', Saturday 6th August 1910)

The match, played at Fremantle Oval, took place in sunny, dry, mild weather, with the playing surface in superb condition.  The attendance of approximately 6,000 was a record for a match on the coast, as were the receipts of £273 13s 6d.[2]  The contest which ensued was worthy of both the fine weather and the superb crowd, “for it was full of incident, and it fairly sparkled from end to end with flashes of brilliant play” – “one of the best games ever seen on the coast”. 

As intimated above, according to the writer in ‘The West Australian’, the League combination was not the strongest available, with at least five players arguably being included on the basis of past reputations rather than current form.  However, “such men as strip for Port Adelaide at present might........ with confidence tackle the best team this state could put in the field”.

The Port Adelaide combination was stronger than that which had defeated East Fremantle in that their champion centreman, Sampson ‘Shine’ Hosking, was fit to take his place in the side; Stidston was the player to make way. 

​Port Adelaide certainly looked the part; their players, virtually to a man, were magnificent physical specimens, athletic, muscular and imposing.  Moreover, they played game as it should be played – few frills, hard but fair, and almost always straight down the middle from goal to goal.  Outstanding features of their play included exceptional high marking, prodigious kicking, judicious and varied use of handball, terrific pace, and unwaveringly direct methods.

The WAFL combination lined up in all blue, while the visitors were in their usual black and white striped jumpers, with black shorts, and black and white hooped hose.

Play in the opening term was “decidedly even” although “two capital shots” from the Perth pair of Billy Orr and Dave Rogers helped the West secure a narrow quarter time advantage, 2.3 (15) to 1.4 (10).  Port Adelaide appeared to be stronger in the air, and their kicking was superior, but the West Australians were proving generally more effective at ground level.  Moreover, despite the fact that they had never played together before, they were also combining well, and some of their team play was excellent. 

The second quarter saw the home side assume control, and produce some stunning football, to open up a healthy 17 point advantage, 4.8 (32) to 1.9 (15).  For the only time in the match, Port’s players seemed slower than their opponents, who were roared on with rapturous enthusiasm by the parochial, but by no means unsporting, crowd. 

​In the third quarter, just as they had during the second term against Old Easts, Port produced a concerted display of tremendous football to completely turn the tables on their opponents.  Only in kicking for goal was there any noticeable deficiency.  Time after time Oliver, at centre half forward, soared above the packs to take telling, one grab marks, and as the quarter went on his dominance began rubbing off on players like McEwen, Hansen and Congear, who hitherto had scarcely been sighted.  Around the packs, Mack became just as hyperactive and effective as Orr had been for the west earlier.  Seventeen points adrift as the quarter commenced, Port took just fourteen minutes to capture the lead, and had their kicking been straighter they might well have put the game out of the coastal combination’s reach.  As it was, they added 4.7 for the term, while the westerners managed just two serious forward forays, which yielded a solitary point, so that at the final change the scoreboard showed the visitors on 5.16 (46) leading the home side 4.9 (33).

The WAFL combination started the last quarter determinedly, and managed the first score, a behind.  Port, however, hit back in sterling fashion, and soon had their sixth major on the board. 

The remainder of the term saw the West Australians dominate territorially, with Port defending desperately, albeit with considerable skill. Nevertheless, the Western Australian team gradually clawed their way back into the game, and with five minutes left the scoreboard read Port Adelaide 6.17 (53); WAFL 6.10 (46).  A scrambled behind to the west soon followed which left them needing just one straight kick to tie the match.

With three minutes to go, they were presented with a golden opportunity to do so, but Harry Cordner, having marked well within range, and almost straight in front, somehow conspired to kick the ball out on the full a good thirty yards wide of the posts.  The crowd groaned in disgust.  How Cordner responded, or felt, is unrecorded.

Moments later, the west added another scrambled behind, but the final two minutes saw Port cleverly maintaining possession to run out 5 points winners, 6.17 (53) to 6.12 (48). 

The best player afield was Hosking, who “was opposed by Waugh, who has time and again proved his worth in that portion of the field, and as evidence of the wonderful dash and skill of the Port Adelaide man it may be mentioned that the plucky and diminutive Perthite was completely outclassed on the day’s play.  Round about the centre it was Hosking first, last and all the time.” 

BEST - Port Adelaide: Hosking, Oliver, Hansen, Magor, Rose, Dempster, Mason    WAFL:  Parsons, Hesford, Spence, Oakley, Beswick, Willoughby, Orr (1st ½)

GOALS - Port Adelaide:  Hansen, Oliver 2; Callinan, Mack   WAFL:  Morgans 2; McKenzie, Orr, Rogers, Waugh

ATTENDANCE:  6,000 approximately at Fremantle Oval

FOOTNOTES

[1]  Melbourne and Norwood visited Tasmania; Geelong, North Adelaide and Fitzroy went to Sydney; Sturt travelled to Ballarat; Collingwood visited Adelaide; and South Fremantle and East Fremantle both journeyed to Kalgoorlie and Boulder.  Far and away the most extensive travel, however, was undertaken by Port Adelaide, which ventured to Broken Hill, the West Australian goldfields, and Perth.

[2] Record Western Australian receipts – about £36 more than for the combined coast game - had been gleaned at the previous week’s match between a Goldfields combination and Port Adelaide in Boulder.