The war in Europe between August 1914 and November 1918 wrought dramatic and enduring changes on Australia. It has also been argued that it did more to shape the nation's distinctive character and the attitudes and demeanour of its peoples than any events before or since. At the end of the war Australia’s ties with Britain had been discernibly and irrevocably weakened. During the course of the war two separate referendums were held over the question of compulsory conscription. Conscription for local defence was already in force, and had been for some years, but international conflict was another matter. In both referendums the Australian public, appalled at the number of their countrymen’s young lives that were being lost - arguably needlessly - on the other side of the globe resoundingly rejected making conscription for service in the killing fields of Europe compulsory. Australia was the only major combatant in world war one whose forces, land, sea and air, were all volunteers.   

Those in power were not necessarily in accord with the population as a whole on this, and other matters.   Most members of the government, and indeed politicians as a whole, tended to view the primary purpose of the nation’s efforts as having been to preserve national security and, in so doing, reinforce the central idea on which they believed the nation had been built, which is to say “racial purity”. One year after the conclusion of the war Australia’s Labor Prime Minister, William Hughes, used these carefully chosen words to describe the recent conflict:  

We went into this conflict for our own national safety, in order to ensure our national integrity, which was in dire peril, to safeguard our liberties, and those free institutions of government which, whatever may be our political opinions, are essential to our national life, and to maintain those ideals which we have nailed to the very topmost of our flagpoles - White Australia, and those other aspirations of this Young Democracy.[1]  

Examining the situation through twenty-first century spectacles it seems apparent that, rather than producing beneficial change and a desire for progress, the war actually hardened old attitudes and prejudices. “White Australia” became more of a clarion call than ever before. The country’s indigenous peoples became more marginalised and in many instances persecuted. Paradoxically, however, white Australians were much more egalitarian than perhaps any other English speaking peoples in the world. Tales told by returning soldiers of what they regarded as the puerile class system adhered to by the British only served to reinforce the general sense of estrangement from Britain. Field punishments were a case in point:  

There was a Tommy in the lines of the next camp tied to a wooden cross. Everyone crowded round and started asking questions. It transpired that the poor devil had abused a lance-corporal and had to do two hours morning and afternoon for his trouble. Someone suggested cutting him free. The suggestion was no sooner made than carried out. The poor beggar kept saying, “Don’t cut me free, chum, I’ll only get more.” The raiders assured him he would not get any more while they were around. Having destroyed the cross, pelted the officers’ huts with bricks and jam tins and named them for a lot of Prussian bastards, the raiders returned to our lines.[2]  

The absence of conscription meant that there remained sufficient able-bodied men in the country for football competitions such as the VFL and WAFL to continue. Indeed, the VFL can claim the distinction of having run continuously, albeit on occasion with a reduced number of teams, every year since the competition’s inception in 1897.   

After the war, football provided a much-needed antidote to its horrors, and attendances in all states soared. Moreover, just as in the years immediately preceding the conflict the standard across the southern states remained remarkably even, at least for a time. Western Australia, for example, emerged victorfious from the 1921 interstate carnival in Perth, while South Australia defeated the might of the “Big V” in 1920 in Melbourne, 1922, 1923 and 1925 in Adelaide, and 1926 in Melbourne. But more of such things at the appropriate time.  

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Quoted in A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 237.  

[2] From a letter quoted in The Broken Years by Bill Gammage, and quoted in Australia: a History by Mike Walker, page 135.


1911: "I name this ship"

NATIONALITY

by Mary Gilmore[1]  

I have grown past hate and bitterness, 

I see the world as one; 

Yet, though I can no longer hate, 

My son is still my son. 

      All men at God's round table sit, 

     And all men must be fed; 

     But this loaf in my hand, 

    This loaf is my son's bread.


THE YEAR IN BRIEF

​Perhaps surprisingly Labour, under Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, did not advocate or implement any sweeping social reforms, or do much to improve the lot of the ordinary working men. Fisher was more interested in bolstering the nation's defence, as evidenced in 1911 by the formation, as a distinct organisation rather than just an extension of the army, of the Royal Australian Navy, which began life with just two ships, the destroyers Parramatta and Yarra, both of which had been built in Britain. By the time of the outset of world war one three years later these had been supplemented by two cruisers, two submarines, and the nation's flagship, Australia, which was a battle cruiser. Unlike the land forces, the navy did not rely in any way on conscription as the majority of its personnel were volunteers.  

Under the Fisher administration a worldwide competition to plan the nation’s new capital city at Canberra was inaugurated. The site of the future capital was an area of outstanding natural beauty which the competition winner, Walter Burley Griffen, an American architect “with an eye for beauty of design and a rebel against the messiness and ugliness of late Victorian architecture”,[2] sought to enhance. “He conceived a garden city with grand avenues linking its governmental and civic centres, and concentric patterns of residential suburbs set in forest reserves and parks.”[3] However, the implementation of his design was impeded by bureaucrats and in 1920 responsibility for bringing things to fruition was transferred to a committee.  

​In 1911 the first national census was held, which showed that the country's population was 4,455,005, although in keeping with the spirit of the times this total did not include full-blood aborigines. It is not known exactly how many members of this population survived the forthcoming global conflict.  

​Sport continued to be a national obsession. Since turn of century, for example, tennis had slowly grown in popularity. Following Australasia’s victory over the USA in the 1907 Davis Cup final that popularity escalated. Further Davis Cup victories in each of the subsequent four years convinced Australians that they boasted the finest tennis players in the world, although such conviction ignored the fact that one of the Davis Cup-winning pair, Anthony Wilding, was a New Zealander.  

For the inhabitants of the southern states, however, football continued to be the king of sports. A second interstate carnival was held, this time in Adelaide, and won resoundingly by the home state. Despite this, South Australia was no match for a visiting VFA combination which overcame them on Saturday 15th July by 13 points, 6.12 (48) to 5.5 (35). It is true that the South Australian combination was somewhat weaker than that which competed in the championship series in August, but it nevertheless contained some fine players such as "Shrimp" Dowling, Bert Renfrey, Harold Oliver and Angelo Congear. It is also perhaps worth pointing out that when the two sides had met one another earlier in the season in Melbourne South Australia had enjoyed the ascendancy. What the two matches coupled with the results at the Adelaide carnival arguably showed was that, in 1911, top level football was being played in all four southern states, and indeed that the standard of the game in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania was very possibly more even than at any time before or since.  

​On the club scene, Essendon returned to the VFL winners' enclosure for the first time since 1901 thanks to a 5.11 (41) to 4.11 (35) grand final defeat of Collingwood. The Same Old were coached by former Carlton mentor John Worrall, who had left the Blues under something of a cloud but quickly proved that he still had the knack of masterminding premiership success. By strange coincidence, the VFA flag was also won by Essendon, or "Essendon Association" as they were popularly known. The Dreadnoughts ground out a low scoring 8 point grand final win over Brunswick. Another event of note in the VFA this year was the admission to the competition of a new club, Melbourne City.  

In South Australia, West Adelaide overcame Port Adelaide in the decisive match of the season by just 5 points. It was the red and blacks' third flag in four years, and they quickly supplemented it by overcoming Essendon on the Adelaide Oval by 3 points in a match designated as being for the championship of the land.  

​The WAFL was depleted by the withdrawal from the competition of Midland Junction, but other than that it was business as usual, with East Fremantle capturing a fourth successive flag courtesy of a 14.12 (96) to 7.3 (45) demolition of probably the second strongest local side of the era, West Perth (pictured above). The Western Australian state premiership was not contested in 1911, but football on the goldfields remained strong, and half the WA team for the Adelaide carnival played for a goldfields club.  

Tasmanian football was particularly buoyant in 1911. The state team defeated both Western Australia and New South Wales at the Australian championships in Adelaide, and its performance against Victoria was full of merit. Only against the home state did the Tasmanians capitulate by a hefty margin, and they were by no means alone in that. On the domestic scene, Cananore again procured the TFL premiership, their third in succession. The Canaries also massacred NTFA premier North Launceston by 104 points to win the state premiership. The 1911 season also saw the formation in the Apple Isle of the North West Football Union, which in time would hormone third of a Tasmanian football triumvirate. The inaugural premiers were Mersey.  

​Other state league premiers in 1911 were East Sydney (NSWAFL) and South Brisbane (QFL).  

Sport was an important anodyne in 1911. Some people may have suspected the imminence of war, but a much larger contingent preferred to distract themselves by avidly following the fortunes of their local football team.  

​​​ FOOTNOTES 

[1] Mary Gilmore led a varied life which saw her work, at various times, as a teacher and journalist, as well as spending some time in Paraguay as a member of a group aiming to found a colony known as "New Australia" and based on "advanced principles". In 1937 she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in recognition of her services to literature.  

[2] A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 223.  

[3] A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, page 149.


South Australia vs VFL, 12th August 1911


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1911 “I name this ship”


Essendon vs Collingwood


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CROWEATERS DO IT IN STYLE

After a dry week, the carnival committee took the decision to water the Adelaide Oval on the Friday evening prior to the final day's play in the championships, which opened with Tasmania scoring a noteworthy 5 point win over Western Australia, following which the home state and the VFL contested the match that would decide the destiny of the championship.  During the second half of the opening match rain swept in from the hills and was still falling steadily by the time the main game commenced, rendering the already greasy playing surface treacherous in the extreme.  Many of the 20,000 or so South Australians in the ground must have thought the gods were smiling on the Victorians, who played in conditions of this sort week in week out in Melbourne, and who could therefore be expected to feel right at home.  Indeed, the VFL players "were more sanguine than they would have been on a dry day, but they were opposed against a team which was individually and collectively superior to them, and when the final bell rang they admitted it like sportsmen".

Both teams had been comparatively untroubled in their three previous games in the carnival, although South Australia had looked by some measure the more impressive combination.  The Victorians had overcome New South Wales (by 24 points), Tasmania (31 points) and Western Australia (20 points), while the croweaters had downed the same three opponents by margins of 71, 67 and 73 points respectively.  Most pundits expected a closely fought game, but with the arrival of the rain it was hard to resist the impression that the odds had shifted conclusively in the Big V's favour.

Not that the Victorians had been without their problems, many of which had to do with injuries to players.  Of the initial touring party of twenty-three players, two had fallen by the wayside even before a ball was kicked: University's Dave Greenham sustained an injury during pre-carnival training in Melbourne, and Dave Smith of Essendon was incapacitated shortly after the players arrived in Adelaide, and was forced to return home. During the Victorians' first couple of games more players succumbed to injuries and for the match with Western Australia only seventeen fit men were available.  Fortunately, Collingwood Football Club was in Adelaide during the carnival,[1] and the Vics were able to bolster their ranks by prevailing upon experienced interstate footballer Jim Sharp, who had moved to the Magpies that year after ten seasons with Fitzroy, to join them.  Equally fortunately, by the time of the decisive clash with South Australia the VFL had a full team of eighteen players available, with both Bob Pierce (ankle) and Jack Cooper (groin) having recovered from injuries incurred against the Tasmanians a week earlier.

South Australia, captained by Bert Renfrey, who had represented New South Wales at the Melbourne carnival three years earlier, had no injury worries, and were at full strength.

The game got underway in light drizzle, with the Victorians, who were aided by a two to three goal breeze in the opening term, first into attack.  During the first few minutes of the match quite a few of the South Australians experienced difficulty in keeping their footing on the greasy turf, and their handling of the greasy ball was slipshod.  The VFL, by contrast, played a hard, bullocking style of football, forcing the ball forward by any means at their disposal, and initially at least this proved more effective than the home side's attempted adherence to the standard principles of open, flowing football.

As the first quarter wore on, however, South Australia began to play with greater assurance and fluency, teaming well together, and occasionally making their opponents look slow and cumbersome in comparison.  The Vics were persistent, however, and by a combination of relentless determination and raw physicality succeeded in stymieing most of the home side's attacking ventures, whilst occasionally mounting counter thrusts of their own that the croweaters were hard-pressed to repel. 

During the second quarter South Australia lifted the tempo, and began to implement the system they had adopted to such good effect in their previous games.  Central to this system was the use of Hosking as a loose man in the forward lines, where he acted as the fulcrum for many of his team's attacks.  The Victorians had done their homework, however, and, initially at any rate, limited the effectiveness of this ploy by smothering the life out of South Australia's centreline, thereby cutting off the Port Adelaidechampion's supply.  Thus, although the home state enjoyed the majority of the possession, there was little to choose between the sides on the scoreboard at the long break.

If any spectators expected the Victorians' supposed superiority in fitness to tell during the third term they were in for a surprise, as it was the South Australians who seized the initiative shortly after the resumption.  The cessation of the rain certainly helped, but the visitors nevertheless had the benefit of an appreciable breeze, which might have been expected to aid their cause.  The croweaters, however, were completely dominant, with Tom Leahy winning the rucks, 'Shrimp' Dowling in effervescent form around the packs, 'Shine' Hosking cutting loose throughout the forward lines, and the likes of Jack Tredrea and Harry Cumberland imposing themselves physically all over the ground.  The Victorians were forced onto the defensive for virtually the entire quarter, only troubling the scorers once (a behind), while South Australia attacked almost incessantly.

The last quarter saw the visitors hopelessly outclassed as, using a fresh, dry ball, South Australia combined with immense fluency and purpose, rattling on 3.6 to 0.1 to win 'pulling away'.  In the entire history of football there have been very few instances of first choice, ultra-committed Victorian combinations being totally outplayed, but the carnival deciding match of 1911 was certainly one of them.  Final scores: South Australia 11.11 (77); VFL 5.4 (34).

Since the beginning of the twentieth century the Victorians and South Australia had clashed eight times, with the fact that both states had been successful four times surely affording conclusive proof that the VFL was not at this stage the pre-eminent force in the game it was eventually to become.

Goalkickers for South Australia were Frank Hansen 3; Angelo Congear, William 'Shrimp' Dowling, Ernie Johns 2; 'Vic' Cumberland, 'Shine' Hosking 1, while for the VFL 'Dick' Lee got 2, and Alan Belcher, Ern 'Ginger' Cameron and Bill Hendrie 1 apiece.

Best for the winners included Dowling, Hosking, Leahy, Tredrea, Johns, Oakley and Cumberland, while the VFL were best served by Belcher, Cameron, Bernie Herbert, George Heinz, Jock McHale, Cooper and Viv Valentine.

In a gesture which highlighted the fine spirit in which the entire series had been played, after the match the Victorians presented their conquerors with an urn, ostensibly containing 'the ashes of Victorian football'.  It would be the Vics who would most emphatically have the last laugh, however, as South Australia's next victory over them in a carnival would not occur for nearly three quarters of a century.

FOOTNOTE
​[1] Collingwood played North Adelaide in a challenge match, with the South Australian side winning by 2 points.  Both teams, needless to say, were without their carnival players. 



South Adelaide's Jack Tredrea, a member of the victorious SA team.

South Adelaide's Jack Tredrea, a member of the victorious SA team.


Essendon vs Collingwood, 23rd September 1911

Dons Back On Top

"The victory of Essendon emphasises very strongly the previously well recognised fact that any team enjoying the benefit of J. Worrall's instruction and coaching has an immense advantage over all its rivals."  ('The Argus', 25/09/11, page 15)


Following his departure from Carlton under something of a cloud the previous year, Jack Worrall had transformed an Essendon combination which in both 1909 and 1910 had endured humiliation in September into a new paragon of footballing excellence.  In 1911 the Same Old played the game with immense flair, cohesiveness and potency, amassing a then league record tally of 1,207 points in their 18 home and away matches, whilst conceding just 677 points, the lowest by any team since Carlton three years earlier.  Essendon's record of 15 wins, 2 losses and a draw placed them firmly at the head of the ladder, 8 points ahead of second placed South Melbourne, 10 clear of Carlton in third, and 14 in front of fourth placed Collingwood.  The fact that the Dons were a cut or two above most of the other teams in the competition was memorably evinced on numerous instances during the home and away rounds, most notably of all perhaps in the 85 point annihilation of Collingwood at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in round 4.  The margin of victory would remain as an Essendon record in matches against the Magpies until 1984, while their match score of 21.12 (138) would not be eclipsed in such fixtures until 1981.

The Dons tuned up for the final with a 9.15 (69) to 6.12 (48) semi final win over the only team they had failed to defeat during the minor round, Carlton.[1]  The match was evenly poised until early in the last term, with the Blues in fact looking marginally the better side.  However, during the energy sapping final twenty minutes of the game Essendon, thanks primarily to an inspirational display from vice captain and first ruckman Alan Belcher, rattled on 5 goals to 1 to win with beguiling ease.  Shortly before the end, though, Belcher injured a knee, casting doubt on his availability for the following week's final.

That final would see the Same Old pitted against a Collingwood side which, in the first of the two semi finals a fortnight earlier, had comprehensively dismantled a more fancied opponent in South Melbourne, with its eventual winning margin of 5 goals if anything rather flattering the southerners.  The Magpies, coached  by George Angus, had endured a somewhat uneven season, but appeared to be coming into their own at the right time.  This fact, coupled with the eleventh hour disclosure that Belcher would be unable to take his place in the Essendon line up, led to Collingwood's odds for victory in the match, if not perhaps the premiership itself, shortening considerably.  There had been no more imposing or influential a figure in the VFL all year than Alan Belcher, whose seemingly intuitive and consistently fruitful liaisons with rover Ernie Cameron and redoubtable support follower Fred Barrington had arguably been the biggest single contributory factor to the Dons' remarkable renaissance under Worrall.

The 1911 finals series was historic in that it was the first time that VFL teams had worn numbered jumpers, and the initial response of clubs and onlookers appears to have been mixed.  The main criticism seems to have been that the numbers were much too small to be clearly visible, but this was perhaps understandable given that the clubs had only had a very brief time to prepare, and were doubtless reluctant to waste money on what was perceived as a purely experimental venture. However, from round 1 of the following season numbered playing uniforms became an accepted part of the game, as well as much more visually distinctive.  In time, the number on a player's jumper would be seen by some as having almost mystical connotations.

1st Quarter

The Melbourne weather during the week prior to the match was extremely changeable, and as play commenced at 3pm sharp the players and spectators were subjected to a brief but heavy shower of rain.  This had the inevitable effect of making both the playing surface and the ball exceptionally slippery, but the Dons, who in the opening term were favoured by the wispiest of breezes, seemed not at all inconvenienced and, displaying all the slickness and dexterity that had become their forté under Worrall, pressed forward relentlessly.  The Collingwood players, by contrast, appeared allergic to the greasy ball, fumbling and failing to hold their marks repeatedly.  In this connection it was noticeable, and almost certainly significant, that whereas the Essendon players, to a man, were wearing long sleeved jumpers, many members of the Collingwood team had unaccountably opted to enter the fray bare armed.  Significantly, during the half time interval all of the Magpie sleeveless brigade, without exception, took the opportunity to rectify their mistake, and when play resumed at the beginning of the third term all thirty-six combatants were appropriately attired for the conditions.

​Early in the match, the Essendon selection committee's decision not to risk Belcher was brought into somewhat paradoxical relief when "all who were acquainted with the characteristic dash and brilliancy of Collingwood captain Lee could see by the way in which he shaped in going up for the ball that he was not himself".  This was because 'Dick' Lee, like Belcher, had suffered a knee injury late in the 1911 season, and in electing to play on in spite of the pain had ended up jeopardising his entire career.  However, after managing just 1 senior game in 1912 he would become the first Australian footballer to successfully undergo a cartilage operation, with the result that his playing life was extended by a decade.

As far as this particular match was concerned, however, Lee's indisposition was such as effectively to reduce Collingwood's on field presence to seventeen functional players - and worse was to follow, for the opening term had not long been underway when Dan Minogue emerged from a scrambled contest for the ball clutching his arm gingerly to his side, having seemingly seriously aggravated an old shoulder injury.  As a result, although he remained on the field, and continued to hurl himself into the fray with trademark determination and fortitude, his effectiveness was severely limited.[2]

Somewhat fortunately for the Magpies, their opponents' skill at maneuvering the ball in general play was not matched by an ability to steer it between the central uprights.  In part, this was a result of simple poor kicking, but it was also attributable in some measure to that frequent failing of the demonstrably dominant, over elaboration.  

Two minutes in, after a smart passage of play involving Dons rover Percy Ogden and ruckman William Walker, Lou Armstrong, who normally roved but on this occasion was stationed at the goalfront, snapped the first score of the encounter, a behind, and within less than a minute Jack Kirby had added a second.

As Essendon continued to attack, Pat Shea spilled an easy, uncontested mark right in front of the sticks, but umpire Elder blew for a free kick to McLeod, who had been held while not in possession.  From point blank range, the Dons follower calmly punted the opening goal of the match.

​Following the restart, the Magpies managed their first attacking foray so far, highlighted by a fine dodging run from McHale, but Cameron relieved for the Same Old before the ball was within scoring range.  Cameron's hefty kick found Baring on a half forward flank whose hurried snap elicited a single flag from the goal umpire.  Moments later Kirby achieved the same result, before Walker found Baring with a clever pass, and the Essendon ruckman brought up his side's second major.

The Dons were playing with exhilarating pace and purpose and Collingwood seemed all at sea.  At the mid-way mark of the quarter, as the rain resumed, it was Essendon 2.4 to the Magpies no score.  A long shot from Kirby looked likely to produce another Essendon goal but Rowell took a great mark in the teeth of the square.  From his relieving kick the Magpies mounted their first sustained attack for some time, but Monteith eventually cleared the danger. 

Collingwood pressed forward again, and Ryan had a good chance to mark near goal but he fumbled badly.  Recovering quickly, however, he was first to the spilled ball, and managed to rifle off a quick snapshot before being caught.  The kick registered a behind, Collingwood's first score of the match, twenty minutes in.

​Essendon continued to dominate for much of the remainder of the term, but just prior to the interval some careless defending allowed the half-fit Lee to find sufficient space to mark Rowan's high, hopeful kick forward, and the Magpie skipper goaled.  Despite being comprehensively outplayed in almost every facet of the game, Collingwood had managed a highly creditable damage limitation exercise.  The question now was whether they could improve sufficiently ahead of centre to extract discernible benefits from their 2nd quarter wind advantage.  Quarter Time: Essendon 2.4 (16); Collingwood 1.1 (7)

2nd Quarter

Collingwood opened the 2nd term energetically, but haphazardly.  Although the rain had stopped, the ball was still extremely greasy, and the Magpie players, despite frequently been first to the ball, just as frequently fumbled it.  As a result "their famous system was conspicuous by its absence".[3]

Belatedly sensing that this was a day for brute force rather than science, Collingwood began to forego their tried and trusted short passing game and kick the ball long and goalwards at every opportunity.  After one especially gargantuan punt kick by Wilson, Vernon was on hand to scramble the Magpies second behind of the game.

The Dons promptly rallied, with Smith achieving a minor score, and then Sewart and Shea doing likewise from free kicks close in.  Collingwood responded by becoming more desperate and, as a result, even more wayward, with the Same Old small brigade quick to take advantage.  As Essendon poured forward in numbers, the Magpie defence was at panic stations, and a flagrant push in the back on Kirby resulted in an inevitable free kick from which the diminutive Dons forward coolly goaled.

​The Same Old were on the attack again moments later and a rushed behind ensued.  Another promising attack quickly followed but Hughes was able to intercept and launch the Magpies' first fluent and purposeful forward thrust of the term.  His long kick found Baxter near the centre of the ground, who in turn managed to pick out Ryan some fifty metres from goal.  In the end, Essendon succeeded in relieving the danger, but only partly, as the diminutive Baxter, who had followed his own kick into Collingwood's attacking zone, managed to gain possession and pump the ball back towards goal.  It looked to be sailing through as well, but at the last moment a gust of wind forced it marginally off target.

By this stage of the match it was noticeable that the wind was steadily increasing in strength, although its gusty nature meant that it was not always the advantage to the Magpies, whose end it favoured, that might otherwise have been expected.  Nevertheless, the men in black and white were playing perceptibly better than at any time during the opening term, and only some heroic last gasp defending by Busbridge prevented them from claiming a 2nd goal.

Busbridge, in fact, having gathered the ball near the goal line, managed to dodge and weave for some distance before unleashing a hefty punt kick out towards the southern wing, but his Essendon team mates there were out-numbered, and the ball was soon heading back towards the Collingwood goal.  Moments later, McHale found himself presented with a golden opportunity to score, but either from over-eagerness or complacency managed to miss everything.  From the ensuing ruck contest the Dons were happy to rush the ball through for a behind.

Despite enjoying rather less possession than Collingwood, the Essendon players were still generally handling the ball better, and their kicking to position was also superior, making, on balance, for an enthralling, even contest.

With the ball deep in the midst of a heaving scrimmage of players in the left forward pocket for the Same Old, Shea showed commendable presence of mind to thump the ball into space along the ground allowing Cameron to tear in, pick up, and send a smart, angled kick only narrowly wide.  Moments later, Essendon again went close, but Sharp was able to relieve.  More through the intensity of their determination than pure footballing ability the Magpies succeeded in maneuvering the ball into their forward lines and Lee, with almost his first possession of the match, posted a minor score.

Soon afterwards, a rushed behind to the Dons restored their 10 point advantage, and brought the scoring for the half to an end.  Half Time: Essendon 3.9 (27); Collingwood 1.5 (11)

3rd Quarter

In a palpable attempt to unsettle the opposition, the Same Old players were almost ten minutes late re-entering the fray after half time.  As they trotted somewhat lethargically back out onto the ground the crowd, including quite a few of the Essendon contingent, gave vent to its displeasure.

From the resumption, the Magpies quickly showed that the Dons' ruse had mis-fired by launching a fierce, determined attack.  Good combined play involving Gibb and Vernon culminated in the latter forwarding to Rowell, who had been shifted to the goal front in place of Lee.  Cleverly evading Griffith, Rowell pirouetted around in order to have a shot, but to his dismay, and the vast relief of the Essendon supporters, his kick stuck a goal post.

The wind, now favouring the Same Old, appeared to have strengthened still more, as well as being less capricious.  Through a series of eye-catching long kicks Essendon transferred the ball from the Collingwood goal to their own, but only a behind ensued.

Whether because of the change of jumpers, or perhaps in response to something that was said during the half time interval, the Magpies appeared to be moving with much greater confidence and purpose.  Their ball handling was better, too, as was their kicking, exemplified by a superb pass from Sharp to Rowell, who once again eluded Griffith to mark cleanly.

​A tense silence enveloped the ground as Rowell carefully carpeted the ball, but moments later there was a crescendo of noise heralding a vital second goal to the 'Woods, who were now just 10 points in arrears.

​Sensing, or at least believing, that the tide had turned, the Collingwood supporters began to make their voices heard, and their team responded by attacking furiously.  On three occasions in quick succession the Dons were reliant on their last line trio of Hazel, Griffith and Hanley to quell the black and white invasion, but the pressure was building to such an extent that another Collingwood goal seemed certain.  With ten minutes of the quarter remaining, that goal duly arrived, courtesy of the least fit player on the ground, Dan Minogue.  Seriously indisposed though the Magpie champion undoubtedly was, he still had the wherewithal to break clear of his man, snatch up the ball with his one usable hand, and propel an ungainly looking kick low across the turf and over the line for full points.

From the restart, Collingwood again poured forward, and Rowell, the most imposing player on view since half time, took a superb pack mark.  His kick was wayward, though, and the Dons were off the hook.

Any relief was short-lived, however, as the Magpies, clearly with the scent of blood in their nostrils, once more attacked in numbers.  A solid goal line mark by Baxter temporarily stemmed the flow, but the three quarter time bell could not come soon enough for a tired looking Same Old combination who by this stage were trying desperately to slow Collingwood down by forcing repeated stoppages.  The ploy worked to a degree, until Sadler managed to claim a clean possession and feed Baxter with a clever short pass.  Baxter then relayed the ball to Vernon who, close in to goal, and with time to steady himself, ought really to have had no trouble firing the Magpies into the lead, but to the groans of the Collingwood fans behind the goal he shot well wide.

​In the dying moments of the term the Dons almost made Collingwood pay as they launched a swift, incisive counter attack that should have ended with the ball nestling safely in the arms of full forward Dave Smith, just centimetres from goal.  Smith was over anxious, however, or perhaps his hands were cold, with the upshot that he failed to hold onto the ball, which tumbled across the line for a minor score.  Three Quarter Time: Essendon 3.11 (29); Collingwood 3.8 (26)

4th Quarter

The Same Old were straight into attack after the break, but first McIvor and then Sharp managed to relieve the danger.

Collingwood's first attack of the quarter saw Baxter, freed dead in front, squander yet another excellent goal scoring opportunity.  Instead of giving the Magpies the lead, he merely succeeded in reducing the deficit to a couple of points.  Moments later the margin was down to the barest one possible following another miss by Baxter, this time from a hurried snapshot from with a pack of players.

For the next five minutes Collingwood continued to attack persistently but Essendon, through a mixture of good fortune and desperation, held out.  The deadlock was eventually broken by Baxter, but yet again he ought to have done better.  His kick for goal was straight enough, but too low, allowing an Essendon player to dash across and intercept the ball just before it crossed the line.

With just a point separating the teams on the scoreboard, all science and system was abandoned as players hurled themselves at the ball, and each other, seemingly indiscriminately.  From a scrimmage on the southern wing, Essendon managed to force the ball resolutely, if haphazardly, forward, and Walker, in the middle of a dense pack of players, managed to hold onto a tough mark.  From a distance approaching fifty metres, on a slight angle, he kicked truly to register his side's first goal since early in the second term.  

​At this point, the heads of the Same Old players seemed visibly to lift.  From the centre bounce following Walker's goal they surged into attack once more, only for Sewart, from a free kick on an angle close in, to squander an excellent opportunity to punish Collingwood still further.  His rather tentative looking shot sailed across the face of goal and into the forward pocket, whereupon the Collingwood defenders hurriedly forced the ball across the boundary line for a throw-in.

The Magpies then managed to send the ball back towards the centre of the ground, but Armstrong intervened before they could mount a telling attack.  Showing great presence of mind, the versatile Essendon champion, who in a match against St Kilda earlier in the season had booted the remarkable tally for the times of 8 goals, sank his boot into an impeccably directed long kick that came to earth just ahead of Shea, who was racing in towards goal from the wing.  Without having to change either pace or direction, the fleet-footed Dons half forward gathered the ball on first bounce, steadied, and fired home as casually as if he were participating in a training drill.

​With barely five minutes of the game remaining, and the Magpies needing to score three times even to get back on level terms, an Essendon victory seemed assured.  However, the Collingwood players refused to lie down, and within moments of the resumption they had the first of the necessary three scores on the board - a goal, courtesy of a finely judged angled snapshot from Baxter.

Once again the Magpies forced the ball forward, Ryan finding Minogue in the forward pocket, but the Collingwood hero was understandably not moving with anything like his usual vim and fluency, and although he managed to get boot to ball, his kick was well off target, and only a minor score resulted.

There was now just a single straight in it, and still fully four minutes of the match to go.  For the Dons players, it must have seemed like an eternity, as they defended grimly and desperately in the face of steadily mounting Collingwood pressure.  With all thirty-six players on the field in the Magpies' attacking half time and space were at a premium, and it seemed that Collingwood's best chance of claiming the goal that they needed would be from a set shot.  The Essendon players were maintaining their discipline superbly, however.  Their tackling was resolute, but fair, and time and again they forced the ball to the bottom of the pack, bringing play to a standstill, and giving umpire Elder no alternative but to order a bounce down.

​It was well inside the last minute of the encounter that Essendon made their sole mistake, roughly man-handling Baxter in clear sight of the umpire when the Magpie rover was not in possession of the ball.  From the resultant free, a score looked inevitable, given that Baxter was lining up from less than forty metres out on no appreciable angle.  However, his legs, it seemed, had turned to jelly after two hours of frenzied activity, and his kick failed even to make the distance.  The ball was intercepted by Cameron, whose clearing kick was heading out towards centre wing when the bell sounded to end the match.  Final Score: Essendon 5.11 (41); Collingwood 4.11 (35)

BEST - Essendon: Busbridge, Walker, Baring, Armstrong, Shea, Cameron, Bowe  Collingwood: Rowell, Wilson, Sharp, Sadler, McHale, Baxter, Ryan

GOALS - Essendon: Baring, Kirby, McLeod, Shea, Walker  Collingwood: Baxter, Lee, Minogue, Rowell

ATTENDANCE: 43,905 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Postscript

The Dons' renaissance under Worrall continued in 1912 as they won their second consecutive flag thanks to a 5.17 (47) to 4.9 (33) challenge final defeat of South Melbourne.  The match was watched by 54,463 spectators, which was not only the biggest VFL crowd up to that point, but the largest attendance for any sporting event in Australia.  After putting in a somewhat less convincing home and away campaign than in 1911 Essendon entered the finals in 3rd place with a 12-6 record, two wins behind both Carlton and minor premier South.  A 12 point victory over South in a semi final then set up a final encounter with Carlton, which the Same Old edged by 4 points.  That proved to be their toughest hurdle, as in the challenge final re-match with South they were always in control, although some profligate kicking for goal may have caused their fans a few jitters.  Happiest man in the Dons camp after the win was probably Alan Belcher, who made amends for missing the 1911 play-off by producing a typically sterling captain's display in the ruck.

At Collingwood, the most significant occurrence in 1912 was the appointment of Jock McHale as coach, in succession to George Angus.  Under McHale the Magpies had an inauspicious start, with their 9-9 record only being good enough for 7th place.  However, by the time McHale stood down as coach at the end of the 1949 season Collingwood would boast a league record haul of 11 flags, the last 8 of which had been claimed during the legendary Magpie's tenure.

FOOTNOTES

[1] In round one, at Windy Hill, the teams had played out a draw, with Essendon kicking poorly to finish on 5.15 (45) to Carlton 6.9 (45).  The return match at Carlton midway through the year had been another low scoring affair from which the Blues had emerged 12 points to the good, 6.16 (52) to the Dons' 5.10 (40). 

[2] It later emerged that Minogue had actually broken his collar bone.

[3] "The Argus'', 25/09/11, page 15. 


1912: After the Titanic

AFTER THE TITANIC

by Derek Mahon

They said I got away in the boat
                        And humbled me at the inquiry. I tell you
                                    I sank as far that night as any
                        Hero. As I sat shivering on the dark water
                                    I turned to ice to hear my costly
                        Life go thundering down in a pandemonium of
                                    Prams, pianos, sideboards, winches,
                        Boilers bursting and shredded ragtime. Now I hide
                                    In a lonely house behind the sea
                        Where the tide leaves broken toys and hat boxes
                                    Silently at my door. The showers of
                        April, flowers of May mean nothing to me, nor the
                                    Late lights of June, when my gardener
                        Describes to strangers how the old man stays in bed
                                    On seaward mornings after nights of
                        Wind, takes his cocaine and will see no one. Then it is
                                    I drown again with all those dim
                        Lost faces I never understood. My poor soul
                                    Screams out in the starlight, heart
                        Breaks loose and rolls down like a stone.
                                    Include me in your lamentations.


THE YEAR IN BRIEF

The most newsworthy event of 1912, in the western world at any rate, was the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Boasting a gross register tonnage of 48,328 she was, at the time of her maiden voyage, the largest ship afloat. Popularly described as “unsinkable” she did not even survive that maiden voyage from Southampton to New York after colliding with an iceberg at 11.30pm ship’s time on 12th April 1912 whilst cruising some 355 miles south of Newfoundland. The collision caused the ship's hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea whereupon the ship gradually filled with water. Of the 2,224 passengers and crew aboard only approximately 705 survived, despite the fact that there was room in the lifeboats for 1178 people. The disaster led to a major overhaul of maritime safety regulations, many o which remain in force today.

Other major occurrences in 1912 included the replacement of the Chinese Empire with the Republic of China, the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson as the twenty-eighth present of the USA, the foundation of the African Congress, Arizona becoming the last continental state of the union, and the start of the first Balkan War. Australia remained the only country in the world to espouse compulsory military service, although such service could only be carried out on Australian soil. Service overseas remained voluntary. Domestic conscription was rigidly enforced, or at least strenuous endeavours to do so were made. If a man or boy evaded conscription he was laible to a minumum fine of £5 rising to a maximum of £100. At this time, the average worker earned roughly £2 10s a week. Protest over these measures were vigorous and sustained, coming mainly from two sources: radical socialists and Christian pacifists. The government responded to the outcry by relenting only to the extent of reducing the maximum fine for evasion to £5.

The first decade of the twentieth century had been a time of rapid technological advances in Australia. Motor vehicles had become more commonplace as well as more advanced, typewriters were no longer the novelty they had been a decade earlier, and telecommunications were appreciably improved. In 1912, the Commonwealth Post Office installed its first automatic telephone exchange at Geelong in Victoria. Wireless telegraphy also arrived in Australia around this time but it did not become widely utilised until after the Great War.

Although the vast majority of Australians continued to manifest outright racial prejudice towards the aborigines, some groups were beginning to make steps to engender more cordial relations. Many of these groups acted from what, in retrospect, seem pretty dubious motives: German born Father Francis Gsell, future bishop of Darwin and member of the Sacred Heart Order, established the mission at Bathurst Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory, in 1911. He had the wisdom to try to ‘learn gradually their habits and customs so as to penetrate into their minds without hurt or shock’. Disturbed by native polygamy, he claimed to have bought more than thirty wives to save them from the practice. He declared in the end that after thirty years he had not made a convert.[1]

Other missionaries, however, adopted more narrow-minded and indeed sometimes outright cruel practice. On the whole, these proved no more successful than their more liberal-minded counterparts.

Australia’s Labor government[2] began to make some tentative gestures towards a social welfare system at around this time:  

Australia came early to the payment of benefits for welfare purposes, but it stopped short of the general systems of social insurance developed in other countries where the operation of the labour market imperilled social capacity. Rather, Australia provided protection indirectly through manipulation of the labour market in what one commentator has described as a ‘wage earners’ welfare state’.[3]  

Or, to express things more succinctly:  

for a man to accept a handout was to forfeit his manliness.[4]  

Manliness was perhaps the single attribute above all others which attracted onlookers to the sport of Australian football, and which within a couple of years would be similarly lauded on foreign fields of play where the stakes were immeasurably higher.

In 1912, however, the focus, between April and early October at any rate, was firmly on the oval balled game. The VFL premiership was won for a second consecutive season by Essendon which, despite inaccuracy in front of goal, overcame South Melbourne in the challenge final by 14 points, 5.17 (47) to 4.9 (33). The match attracted an attendance of 54,534 to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

For the second season in a row the Association premiership also went to Essendon, victors over Footscray by 21 points in the decisive match of the year. Essendon A's crack full forward booted 107 goals for the season, making him the first player in any of Australia's major club competitions to "top the ton".

​In the SAFL, West Adelaide enjoyed premiership success for the second time in a row, and the fourth occasion in five years. The red and blacks comfortably overcame minor premier Port Adelaide in the challenge final by 18 points, having earlier also downed the Magpies in the final. The club championship of Australia was not contested in 1912.

Winners of the 1912 WAFL premiership were Subiaco courtesy of a solid 5.8 (38) to 4.3 (27) defeat of East Fremantle. It was the club's first flag. However, proving that football on the goldfields was still in an extremely healthy state, GFA premiers Kalgoorlie Railways overcame the Maroons in the WA state premiership decider.

​Other premiers in 1912 were Leroy (TFL), North Launceston (NTFA), Mersey ((NWFU), Sydney (NSWAFL) and Valley (QFL). Lefroy defeated North Launceston to capture the Tasmanian state premiership for the first ever time.  

FOOTNOTES

[1] Australians: Eureka to the Diggers by Thomas Keneally, page 278.

[2] The name was changed from “Labour” in 1912.  

[3] A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, page 152.  

[4] Ibid, page 152.


South Adelaide v s West Adelaide, 29th June 1912

Westies Win Well

Despite the fact that a club bearing the name West Adelaide appeared in the SAFA as early as 1887 it was not until 1892 that the present club of that name was formed. Between 1892 and 1894 the side was administered on a very informal basis and only took part in scratch matches. However, by 1895 club spirit and organisation had developed to such an extent that entry into an official competition was sought and secured. During two seasons as members of the Adelaide and Suburban Association West acquired a firm reputation as the strongest club outside senior ranks in the city. Consequently its admission to the SAFA surprised no one.

Unfortunately for West, however, the gap in standard between junior and senior football was considerable. In 1897 and 1898 the club played a total of 31 matches for just a single win and a draw. Many of the defeats were sizeable.

In 1899 the SAFA implemented district or 'electorate' football whereby players were obliged to play for the clubs from the electoral districts in which they resided. Many expected this to have a salutary effect on a struggling club like West, but while the competition as a whole evened out, the black and reds remained very much the Cinderella side of South Australian football. Even Sturt, which did not enter the SAFA until 1901, proved more competitive than West, reaching the finals for the first time in only their sixth season. At the beginning of the 1908 season, after eleven years in the competition, West had managed just 20 wins and 2 draws from 127 matches, which represents a paltry success rate of less than 17%. Conditions off the field did not exactly help. The club's training ground in the west park lands was a rough and ready affair bisected by a cattle track, while the players were forced to change and wash in a wooden and iron shed possessing no hot water facility. Clubrooms were an unimaginable luxury, and home matches were shared between the Adelaide and Jubilee Ovals.

On the positive side of the ledger the club unearthed a succession of champion players during the early to middle years of the century's first decade. Prominent among these were Tom Leahy, the 'prince of ruckmen', who would go on to win a Magarey Medal with North Adelaide in 1913, his brother Bernie, a redoubtable backman, follower James 'Sorry' Tierney, and centreman Henry 'Dick' Head (pictured above) - the last two of whom were West's first ever Magarey Medallists, in 1908 and 1909 respectively.

In 1908 these champions and others combined to produce a season the like of which West supporters had never previously seen, and which indeed they would seldom if ever witness again. After qualifying for the finals for the first ever time the black and reds ousted North Adelaide from premiership contention in a semi final by 15 points and then surprised everyone by trouncing minor premiers Norwood 6.15 (51) to 3.6 (24) in the final. The Redlegs exercised their right of challenge the following week and 22,000 spectators saw a much harder fought affair with West scraping home by 3 points, 7.10 (52) to 6.13 (49).

The West Adelaide Football Club had, in effect, arrived, a state of affairs reinforced a year later with a second flag. Then, in 1911, Westies obtained a third premiership, making them without doubt the league’s pre-eminent force at the time.

South Adelaide’s fortunes had been in sharp contrast to those of West. In order to examine and explain them, we need to travel back to the 1870s, a time when football in Adelaide was still struggling to decide on an identity for itself.  In 1875, the Adelaide Football Club, the oldest in South Australia, had become so disorganised that a group of its members decided to secede and establish a new club, bearing the name South Adelaide.  The situation rapidly became confused when, in April the following year, another group of disaffected Adelaide Football Club members held a meeting at the Draper Memorial Schoolroom and decided to form a second breakaway club - also called South Adelaide.

Within a few days, common sense prevailed and, following a meeting of its members at the Havelock, the 1875 club voted unanimously to merge with its recently established namesake.  Proudly espousing the motto 'unity is strength', South Australia's second oldest surviving football club, after Port Adelaide, had been born, and over the course of the next twelve months or so it would play a highly significant, but surprisingly little feted, role in helping create an enduring identity for football both in Adelaide, and in the colony as a whole.

Arguably the key figure in shaping that identity was a certain Charles Cameron Kingston, a colourful personality who would go on to become one of the leading public figures in South Australia of the nineteenth century.  In 1876, however, he was the inaugural secretary, and some time player, of the newly formed South Adelaide Football Club, and his mission - if that is not too strong a term - was to see to it that South Australia adopted the Victorian version of football, in which throwing the ball was prohibited, a player running with the ball had to bounce it "every ten yards or so", and marking was allowed irrespective of whether or not the marking player's feet were rooted to the ground at the moment he caught the ball.  When the South Australian Football Association - the oldest organising body in Australian football - was established in 1877, Kingston's persuasiveness (and, one can not help but imagine, his eloquence) ultimately ensured that the rules of play adopted were more or less identical to those in operation at the time in Melbourne.  Had Kingston not been around it is just conceivable that generations of South Australians would have grown up culturally and athletically diminished, forced to endure scrums, mauls and line-outs rather than - as the divine will surely intended - boundary throw-ins, ball ups and the perpetually fluctuating enigma of the holding the ball/holding the man rule.

As far as South Adelaide was concerned, success was swift to arrive and slow to dissipate. Indeed, when the South Australian Football Association opened for busines in 1877 South had the honour of securing the very first premiership. By the turn of the century the club had added another seven; only Norwood had won more.

However, as alluded to above, in 1897 the SAFA voted to introduce an electorate system of player registration, whereby players would be required to play for the club in whose electoral district they resided.  The system was loosely implemented that very year, but only on a voluntary basis. However, from 1899 it became compulsory and, over the longer term, the big loser was the South Adelaide Football Club.

Initially, however, although the club lost a large number of highly talented and experienced players, including the likes of "Dinny" Reedman, Jack Kay, Ern Jones, and Edward MacKenzie, the overall impact was negligible, as there were also a number of significant gains.  Principal among these was the arrival from Norwood of the leading goalsneak in the colony, Anthony 'Bos' Daly, who promptly proceeded to help himself to 32 goals for the season as South procured the 1899 premiership courtesy of a 5.12 (42) to 2.2 (14) challenge final victory over Daly's former associates from the Parade.  Unfortunately, however, in 1900 he was on the move again, this time to West Torrens, and although the blue and whites were still sufficiently strong to play off for the premiership (losing by 13 points to North Adelaide) the “halcyon era” was very definitely over.

Over the course of the next decade, particularly after Sturt was admitted to the competition in 1901, the effects of the electorate system would truly begin to hit home.  South Adelaide was the only club to vote against Sturt's admission - hardly surprising when you consider that the newcomers were to be allocated a major slice of South's territory, which would see them able to claim as many as a dozen former Blue and White players in their debut season.

South Adelaide's zone was actually centered on east Adelaide, one of the few areas of the city where the population was not expanding; moreover, with limited finances at its disposal, the club did not have ready recourse to alternative methods of recruitment.  (Sturt, for example, had a major beneficiary in the shape of John Frederick Dempsey, whose money was used as bait to lure large numbers of top quality players to Unley from interstate; these players, known as 'Dempsey's Immigrants', would effectively sow the seeds of the Blues' first ever premiership in 1915.)  The situation rapidly became self-perpetuating, and would continue, with only fleeting interludes, for most of the remainder of the twentieth century.

West Adelaide’s recent premiership success coupled with South’s having finished last in each of the previous three seasons made their round nine clash at Adelaide Oval a classic David and Goliath affair. The blue and whites’ only wins so far in 1912 had both been at the expense of North Adelaide, by margins of 9 points in round five and 27 points in round eight. Meanwhile West had experienced something of a premiership hangover, losing 4 of their first 5 matches before recovering somewhat after their round six bye to overcome first North Adelaide and then West Torrens with relative ease.

A crowd in the region of 7,000 attended the match which was played in fine weather with the ground in excellent condition. With less than a minute played Westies had the first goal on the board, courtesy of Oliver. Thereafter the red and blacks continued to attack persistently but their efforts were hampered by solid defence on the part of South, for whom Jones, Tredrea and Coley were particularly prominent. West also tended to overuse handball when a more direct approach might well have yielded better dividends.

West Adelaide ruckman Moore received an accidental kick to the ankle which left him in the hands of the trainers for fully ten minutes. During that time West’s attacking pressure finally told as Alec Conlin booted their second goal.

When play resumed South showed some attacking initiative for the first time, and after McKee and Jones had registered minor scores the first named kicked their first six pointer. West attacked from the restart but Alec Conlin squandered an excellent goal scoring opportunity and only managed a behind. The remainder of the quarter saw South in the ascendancy, with Duane, Dugan and Waye especially conspicuous, but only a brace of minor scores resulted, leaving West in front by 3 points at the first interval. Scores were West Adelaide 2.1 (13); South Adelaide 1.4 (10).

At the start of the second term West’s full back Dailey and full forward Parker swapped positions. Within minutes Dailey found himself running into an open goal with the ball only to slip over. Players from both sides quickly arrived on the scene and South were happy to rush the ball over the line for a behind.

South rallied and had soon added first a minor score and then a goal to Barry to hit the front for the first time. A bad miss by Beck for the red and blacks made the margin a single point. Moments later West’s supporters thought their team was back on level terms after Dwyer’s set shot went through for a behind. However, a South player had overstepped the mark and so the umpire offered Dwyer the option of retaking the kick. Dwyer gratefully accepted - and missed everything. Neverheless, Westies now had the bit between their teeth and shortly afterwards Oliver, from a free, kicked truly from point blank range.

The remainder of the term saw West continuing to dominate but when the half time bell rang out they had only added a couple of behinds to their score giving them a 6 point advantage at the main break. Scores were West Adelaide 3.5 (23) leading South Adelaide 2.5 (17). It had been an even tussle so far and if some of the football had lacked finesse it had nevertheless, at times, been exciting.

Early in the third quarter to two teams exchanged behinds before Barry levelled the scores with a fine goal. West responded with a four behinds in quick succession and then it was South’s turn to take control. They quickly added a minor score and then George Wallace, showing a fine turn of pace, ran in and kicked an excellent left footed goal, putting his side 2 points up.

The topsy turvy nature of the game continued with West now taking up the gauntlet. A neat pass by Beck was marked by Alec Conlin some fifty-five metres from goal. “A raucous South supporter, whose voice rasped alarmingly like a rusty file, promised to eat his headgear if Conlin got the goal, but we noticed it was still intact when he left the oval.”[1] Conlin, needless to say, had kicked truly.

Before the final change West had procured a modicum of breathing space for themselves thanks to a goal from Slattery. The three quarter time scores were West Adelaide 5.10 (40); South Adelaide 4.8 (32).

West opened the final term brightly and had soon extended their lead to 20 points following goals to Dowling and Dailey. South refused to give up, however, and for the ensuing five minutes or so they attacked determinedly, finally reaping their reward when Wallace nabbed his second goal. It was a good one too, the culmination of a trademark long, dodging, weaving run. When, shortly afterwards, the same player again goaled, it looked as if a tense, exciting finish was in the offing.

Sadly for South, during the closing stages of the match the red and blacks proved to have just that little bit more steadiness and assurance, and a deft snap from their centreman Dick Head made the final result certain. A nice running goal from South’s Waye came too late to make any difference. Final scores were West Adelaide 8.14 (62) defeated South Adelaide 7.8 (50).

Despite being defeated, South probably had the best player on view in the shape of Duane. West’s ruck was a key factor in their success, with followers Slattery and Moore and rover “Shrimp” Dowling perhaps their most conspicuous performers. Others to shine included Dick Head and Alec Conlin for the victors, and Jones and Wallace for the blue and whites.

“The westerners were the stronger side, and, going away with points at the start, always appeared to have the issue in their keeping. Their rivals battled gamely and well, and while they ran to the front during the third term, their occupancy of that position was of extremely short duration, and when the other team regained the advantage they proceeded to make sure of the laurels.”[2]

“The quality of the football was not as high as had been expected, but their were many brilliant individual efforts, and at times passages of first-class combined work. Neither team passed so well as they are capable of, and South would have done much more effective work in this department if long kicks had been resorted to instead of so much handball and short passing. The southerners watched their individual men more closely than did the red and blacks.”[3]

The fortunes of the two sides diverged sharply after this encounter. West Adelaide lost just once more all season, and indeed ultimately procured a second successive flag. South Adelaide meanwhile slumped to fifth place on the ladder with just 4 wins from their 12 minor round fixtures.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “The Mail”, 29/6/12, page 4.

[2] “The Register”, 1/7/12, page 5.

[3] Ibid, page 5.


Southern Tasmania vs Melbourne, 6th July 1912

Redlegs Flounder in Hobart

In 1912 Melbourne Football Club made the latest in a long series of visits to Tasmania dating back to 1886. During that time the Redlegs played a total of 12 matches against teams from both the north and south of the island, winning 8, losing 3, and drawing 1. On their most recent journey to the Apple Isle in 1910 Melbourne had defeated Southern Tasmania by 17 points, 11.6 (72) to 8.7 (55). The 1911 visit would see the same two sides competing.

Few people gave the Southern Tasmanian combination much chance of overcoming a side which would ultimately finish the 1912 season in 6th place (out of 10) in the VFL. The locals seemingly had good reason for pessimism given that, just a fortnight earlier, the southerners had suffered a 13 point reversal against their northern counterparts in Launceston. However, using the results of previous contests as a gauge for how a particular team is likely to perform on a subsequent occasion is a notoriously fickle undertaking, and Saturday 6th July would turn out to be a red letter day in the history of football in Hobart, and indeed in Tasmania as a whole.

Many members of the crowd of approximately 5,000 who filled the stands and outer at the Upper Cricket Ground were probably there fully expecting to see their favourites crushed by a team vastly superior in all elements of the game. “However, all those who went with the idea of scoffing remained to praise for without exception the contest was one of the finest, if not the finest, that has ever been seen in these parts.”[1]

Match reports suggest that the football produced by the southern Tasmanian side was atypical of that seen in the local competition so far in 1912. Most of the games in the STFA had been dour, congested affairs with open football at a premium. However, the visitors were renowned for their fast, classy style of football, and where they led the home side followed, making all in all for a marvellous spectacle.  “‘I wouldn’t have missed this for a sovereign,’ said a well known supporter of the winter pastime as he made his way homewards at the conclusion of the match. His sentiments were but the sentiments of all who saw the game.”[2]
The players in the Melbourne team were bigger and stronger than the locals, but also slower, and it was southern Tasmania’s pace, coupled with some prodigious kicking to position, which enabled them to win the game.

Prior to the start of the match the Melbourne players treated the crowd, and their opponents, to what was described as a collective “war cry, a very wild and fearsome affair”.[3] Weather conditions were almost perfect for football, and the crowd was vociferous and, at least at the outset, vociferous in its support of the local combination.

The first half of the contest was extremely even, with the advantage fluctuating regularly. At the first change the home side led by a point; at the main interval it was the visitors by 9 points. During the third term southern Tasmania assumed complete control almost everywhere to add 6.5 to 2.2 and effectively win the match. Melbourne endeavoured to stem the flow by using rough-house tactics but the locals seemed to be made of india rubber and bounced back repeatedly. Moreover, the umpiring in Tasmania was probably somewhat sterner than in the VFL, and as a result the Redlegs conceded a succession of free kicks, some of which had a direct impact on the scoreboard. At three quarter time that scoreboard showed the home combination 3 goals to the good, 10.9 (69) to Melbourne’s 7.9 (51).

The Redlegs opened the final term brightly and had soon reduced their deficit by 6 points courtesy of a goal from Adams. The southerners responded strongly, but only a rushed behind ensued. For the next few minutes the play hurtled from end to end with no score to either side being registered. Finally, the home team broke the deadlock with a behind to Sharp, and from the kick-in Bailey marked and capitalised fully by kicking a crucial goal. A flurry of behinds followed for Southern Tasmania but the final ten minutes of the encounter were all Melbourne - everywhere except on the scoreboard. Only Tomkins, who converted an easy chance after marking near goal directly in front, managed to elicit two flags from the goal umpire, but it was not enough, and although the Redlegs were attacking aggressively when the final bell sounded the result of the match had already been decided. Final scores were southern Tasmania 11.14 (80) defetaed Melbourne 9.10 (64).

Best players for the victors included Tudor, who performed with great verve and dash across the half back line, plus his fellow defenders Roy Bailey, Bryan and Carroll. Keith Bailey produced a sterling effort in the ruck for southern Tasmania, and he waas well supported by his rovers. For Melbourne, rover and half forward Hedley Tomkins stood out, with other noteworthy displays coming from centreman Jim Fitzpatrick, full back Hugh Purse, and followers Bill Hendrie and Alf George.

Southern Tasmania confronted two other mainland club sides during the 1912 season, and although beaten they acquitted themselves well on both occasions, getting within 13 points of a powerful Port Adelaide combination and going down by 20 points to VFL club Richmond.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “Daily Post”, 8/7/12, page 3.

[2] Ibid, page 3.

[3] Ibid, page 3.


Subiaco vs East Fremantle, 5th and 12 October 1912

Dramatic Form Reversal

Records of junior football in Perth at the close of the nineteenth century are scant, but it does not appear that the fledgling Subiaco Football Club, which chose maroon and blue as its colours, enjoyed much success in its inaugural season - 1896 - in the First Rate Junior Association. Improvement would be quick, and success woulds soon arrive, however.

Originally based on a stretch of common ground off Mueller Road the club found a more suitable home in 1898 at a new recreation ground in West Subiaco, later known as Shenton Park. This relocation to enhanced playing premises coincided with, and perhaps partly helped initiate, enhanced on field performances, culminating in Subiaco's first ever premiership, clinched in mid-August, two games from the end of the season, with a 4 point victory over Fremantle Imperials.[1]  Two seasons later in 1900 Subiaco brought the nineteenth century to a highly satisfactory end by repeating the achievement after incurring just a single loss for the entire season.

Subiaco's emergence as a junior football power was timely given that the Western Australian Football Association, after a number of seasons during which the game's image had been severely tarnished by profligate roughness among its players, had begun to consolidate, and indeed was now looking to expand. Subiaco, along with fellow 1st Rate Junior Association powerhouse North Fremantle, appeared to have all the necessary credentials for admission to the higher tier (not least of which was the fact that both clubs had their own secure playing venues), and their elevation to the WAFA in 1901, bringing the number of clubs in that competition to six, was no surprise. Buoyed therefore by the all pervading optimism which embraced Australia as it embarked on the new adventure of nationhood, those associated with the Subiaco Football Club could probably see no reason to feel anything other than supreme, unbridled optimism as the Century of Change commenced.

To call Subiaco's first decade or so of involvement in the WAFA inauspicious would be a tremendous understatement. In the eleven seasons between 1901 and 1911 the side finished bottom of the ladder more often than not, and managed a wretched success rate of just 18.3%. The club's cause during this time was not helped by the fact that, for much of the period, it was effectively without a home ground, for Shenton Park had deteriorated to such an extent that, for several seasons, it was unusable. In 1908, however, a new ground, Subiaco Oval, constructed on the site of the club's original paddock at Mueller Road, was opened, and both Subiaco and, in years to come, Western Australian football itself, had a new home.

At around the same time as the move the club began to recruit more ambitiously, but on field improvement was slow to arrive. In 1911, the side gave some signs of having turned the corner, but overall seemed incapable of maintaining a high level of performance for the entire four quarters of a game; ultimately, it finished second from bottom, albeit with the comparatively respectable return of 4 wins from 13 matches.

With the recruitment of South Australian football nomad, and eventual legend of the game, Phil Matson, Subiaco would improve considerably in 1912. Strongly built, swift of foot, combative, and a spectacular aerialist, Matson also possessed a formidable football brain which he would later employ to great effect as coach of the outstanding East Perth sides which dominated Western Australian football immediately after the Great War. Matson's debut in a maroon guernsey was delayed by a clearance wrangle with his former club North Fremantle, but once this was resolved he quickly emerged as the lynch-pin of the team.

As the 1912 season wore on it soon became clear that the chief protagonists in the battle for the flag were going to be perennial finalists East Fremantle and persistent under-achievers Subiaco. These two sides met on three occasions during the minor round, with Subiaco taking the honours overall with two wins to one, an achievement which effectively netted the club its first ever minor premiership.

The first weekend of the 1912 finals pitted Subiaco against third placed South Fremantle, a match which the Maroons won easily to set up the expected premiership play-off against Old Easts. Controversially, given the relative status of the two teams, the WAFL authorities[2] nominated Fremantle Oval, East Fremantle's home ground, as the venue for this match. If Subiaco lost, it would be granted the opportunity to challenge, and the venue for the challenge final would be Perth Oval, but as minor premier it perhaps justifiably believed that it ought to have been granted the right to attempt to finish things off right away in front of a sympathetic audience. 

The Final

The audience at Fremantle Oval was far from sympathetic to Subiaco, and the fact that the Maroons went into the game minus two key players in the shape of the season's top goal kicker, Herb “Hubba" Limb (injured), and the formidable "Digger" Thomas (suspended) made their task even more daunting.

During the opening term East Fremantle, who were kicking into a very slight south westerly breeze, began brightly, with their very first attack culminating in Chas Doig missing an easy scoring opportunity. A couple of minutes later Robinson registered the game’s first goal with a fine punt kick on the run. The Maroons responded with a period of sustained attacking pressure. After a couple of near misses Billy Orr had an easy set shot for goal from close in but his kick hit the goal post. For the remainder of the quarter Old Easts, playing aggressively, and teaming well, dominated affairs, and goals to Corkhill and Rawlinson gave them a 19 point advantage at the first change - a lead which scarcely reflected the scale of their superiority.

East Fremantle continued to reign supreme in the second quarter. Their players were noticeably faster than Subiaco’s, and they passed the ball around with consummate accuracy. The Maroons, by contrast, appeared uncertain and demoralised. A writer in “The West Australian” likened their play to that of schoolboys.[3] With the exception of Joe Scaddan and Phil Matson Subiaco had no winners, and managed to add a mere behind to their total for the term. Old Easts again failed to assert their dominance to the full, however, and added only a single goal, courtesy of Hesketh. At the main break the scoreboard showed East Fremantle on 4.7 (31) leading Subiaco 0.3.

Theoretically at any rate the Maroons were still in the match, and during the early part of the third quarter they gave their supporters heart by at last playing with a modicum of dash and system. East Fremantle’s rover Percy Trotter registered a goal from a place kick soon after the resumption, but Subi fought back and minutes later Morgan procured their first goal. A second major to the Maroons at this stage would have made things interesting but despite threatening to break through they never quite managed it. Instead it was Old Easts who registered full points off the boot of Chas Doig who, having missed a number of comparatively easy chances earlier in the match, made absolutely certain of converting on this occasion by running virtually all the way up to the goal line before unleashing his kick. The Subiaco players’ heads visibly dropped after that, and to the delight of the largely pro-East Fremantle crowd it was the blue and whites who dominated proceedings completely for the remainder of the term. A goal to Dix was supplemented by a series of behinds, leaving Old Easts with a match-winning 45 point lead at the final change.

The football in the last term resembled a procession, with East Fremantle attacking incessantly, and the Subiaco backs, with the single exception of Sid Snow, seemingly at a loss as to how to respond. The Maroons did at least manage a second goal during the quarter, off the boot of Scaddan, but Old Easts added six, to win with ridiculous comfort by 81 points, 13.19 (97) to 2.4 (16).

The Challenge Final

Once a team is resigned to defeat it often capitulates completely, meaning that it is unfair to use its performance as a true measure of its ability. This fact needs to be borne in mind when attempting to understand what happened when Subiaco and East Fremantle confronted one another again just one week later in the challenge final. Admittedly, Subiaco was strengthened slightly by the return to the team of Limb, while the switch of venue from Fremantle Oval - East Fremantle’s home ground - to Perth Oval might also be seen as being to the Maroons’ advantage. But nothing could have prepared the large crowd for so dramatic a form reversal as they were to witness.

Mind you, the first half of the match held few clues as to what was to transpire, and indeed corresponded very closely to that of the previous Saturday, with Old Easts doing the majority of the attacking and carving out a good, but by no means match-winning lead. In the opening term East Fremantle kicked 3 goals to 1 before adding the only major of the second quarter to lead by 19 points. Old Easts’ dominance was achieved by accurate kicking to position, often over long distances, and, just as a week earlier, by their players repeatedly being first to the ball.  Subiaco, by contrast, endeavoured to combine running with the ball with short passing, neither of which proved effective. Almost immediately on resumption after half time, however, the whole match was turned on its head by Subiaco’s adoption of similar tactics to their opponents. At full forward, “Hubba” Limb, the idol of the Subi supporters, repeatedly outmarked his man, and registered all 3 of his side’s goals for the quarter. Elsewhere, Phil Matson was head and shoulders above every other player on the field, playing with great verve and tenacity, while Joe Scaddan, William “Horrie" Bant, William “Joe” Bushell and Jack Diprose were among quite a few others to put the dire memories of the previous week’s clash conclusively behind them.

At the final change Subiaco enjoyed a 3 point advantage, but given that Old Eastswould be playing with the assistance of the breeze in the fourth term many spectators probably imagined that they were likely winners. However, for the first fifteen minutes or so the Maroons’ dominance continued and they added a fifth goal to extend their lead to 9 points. The remainder of the quarter saw East Fremantle attacking determinedly, but the Subiaco backline refused to give an inch, with the result that the score remained unchanged until the final bell. That score was Subiaco 5.8 (38) defeated East Fremantle 4.5 (29).

Phil Rickman Hesketh was Old Easts' best, with Sharpe, Spencer, Robinson and Riley also doing good work.

​Subiaco's triumph was a prelude to a brief halcyon period which yielded further flags in 1913 and 1915. East Fremantle meanwhile would remain a force in West Australian football for decades to come.

FOOTNOTES

[1] A new scoring system, whereby goals counted for 6 points, and behinds were worth 1, had been introduced in South Australia and Victoria in 1897, and the same innovation was implemented in Western Australian football this year.

[2] The Western Australian Football Association became the Western Australian Football League in 1908. 

[3] "The West Australian", 6/10/12, page 10.


1913: Rumblings in the Balkans

Edge

by Robert D. Fitzgerald[1]


Knife's edge, moon's edge, water's edge,

graze the throat of the formed shape

that sense fills where shape vanishes:

air at the ground limit of steel,

the thin disk in the moon's curve,

land gliding out of no land.

The new image, the freed thought,

are carved from that inert bulk

where the known ends and the unknown

is cut down before it - at the mind's edge,

the knife-edge at the throat of darkness.


THE YEAR IN BRIEF

In 1913 there were a number of noteworthy scientific and technological advances. Danish physicist Neils Bohr formulated the first cohesive model of the atomic nucleus, paving the way in the process for the new discipline of quantum mechanics. His English counterpart Henry Moseley was then responsible for building on Bohr’s work by justifying from physical laws the previous empirical and chemical concept of the atomic number. The model he developed remains in use today. Meanwhile in the USA, the Ford Motor Company introduced the first moving assembly line, thereby greatly increasing the speed of vehicle production.

Also in the United States, a limit on Japanese immigration was introduced. Moreover, Japanese people were excluded from acquiring citizenship. California then passed a law restricting Japanese immigrants from owning land. California's governor, Hiram Johnson said "We have prevented the Japanese from driving the root of their civilization deep into Californian soil.” Japan, not surprisingly, registered its indignation, regarding the American’s measures as tantamount to a racial slur. US Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske felt compelled to warn that a war with Japan was now "not only possible, but even probable”. His fatalistic prophecy did not come to pass, however.

South Africa introduces similar legislation with regard to blacks, who are prohibited from owning land or buying it from whites. The measure is one of several building blocks of apartheid.

In England Emily Davison, a British suffragette,[2] ran in front of the King's horse, Anmer, at the Epsom Derby. She was trampled on and died four days later in hospital, never having regained consciousness.

On 29th June the second Balkan war commenced when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies Serbia and Greece. Bulgaria had previously forged a defence treaty with Austria. Montenegro entered the war on the side of Serbia. Romania then warned Bulgaria that it would not remain neutral, and indeed on 10th July it declared war with Bulgaria. The second Balkan war ended just a month later with the comprehensive defeat of Bulgaria which has been overwhelmed by the combined forces of Serbia, Greece and Romania. Considerable tensions remained in the region, however, and it would be in the Balkans that the touch paper igniting the conflagration of world war one would be lit.

The main political event in Australia during 1913 might be felt to have been the election which resulted in the Liberal Party, with a majority of one in the House of Representatives but was a minority in the Senate, forming a government led by Joseph Cook. It would last until June 1914 when the Labor majority in the Senate prevented the passage of a Bill. By the time elections took place in September Australia was at war.

In 1913, however, many still hoped that war might be avoided, and many minds were focused on what, in actuality, was the main political event of the year: a national referendum, orchestrated by Fisher’s Labor administration, and coinciding with the election. Voters were asked if they approved of power being given to the Commonwealth to control all (not just interstate) trade, industry and commerce. They were also asked to decide whether the Commonwealth ought to have the right to nationalise monopolies. The overall response was “no” to both questions, but in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia a majority of voters replied “yes”. 

To many, Australian football was the national game, but in actual fact the code lacked any real national coordination. The Australasian Football Council ostensibly oversaw such things as the transfer of players from one club to another and the formulation and refinement of the game’s laws, but few people were under any illusion that it was really the VFL which pulled all the important strings. And the VFL was essentially a parochial, insular body, with little concern for the development of football in other parts of the country. Wealthier by far than any other league or association in the land it could have enabled the code to make significant strides in New South Wales and Queensland, perhaps even New Zealand, had it been willing to fund the promotion and development of the game in those areas. Instead, it spent its money on making its own competition stronger, a strategy which would serve it - but not the sport of Australian football as a whole - well for decades to come.

The conclusions of the VFL and VFA seasons, both of which were noteworthy in their own ways, are covered elsewhere in this section. Perhaps the most important, although at the time comparatively unheralded, occurrence in Victorian football in 1913 was the admission to the VFA of Hawthorn. The newcomers replaced Melbourne City, which had lost all 36 of its matches in two seasons in the competition. Hawthorn’s emergence as a football power would be very gradual, but nowadays it is arguably the greatest club in the game.

In the SAFL minor premier Port Adelaide won the flag without needing to invoke the right of challenge after overcoming Sturt by 19 points in a semi final and North Adelaide in the final by 14 points.

Subiaco won a second consecutive WAFL premiership when it outlasted Perth in a low scoring challenge final. Scores were Subiaco 6.7 (43) defeated Perth 4.7 (31).

Other premiers in 1913 were Cananore (TFL), Sydney (NSWAFL) and Valley (QFL).

In the interstate sphere New South Wales beat Queensland by 17 points in Brisbane while the VFL achieved comfortable victories over South Australia in both Adelaide and Melbourne.

A championship of Australia match was played in Adelaide between SAFL premier Port Adelaide and VFL premier Fitzroy. The match was won by Port by 63 points.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Robert David Fitzgerald was a Sydney born poet who worked as a surveyor. Both of his parents were also published poets.

[1] The suffragettes were an organisation which, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, sought to acquire the vote for women in Great Britain.


Footscray vs North Melbourne, 11th September 1913

Tricolours Triumph

In terms of effective proselytism, Australian football has often been its own worst enemy, not least in Melbourne, the so-called "home" of the game.  For much of the twentieth century, two rival bodies dominated football in the city, but the philosophical differences between them were so yawning that they were unable even to agree on such basic matters as the rules of play.  While sports like soccer, cricket, basketball, and baseball rapidly acquired coherent frameworks which were recognised and adhered to right across the globe, football in Melbourne could be sampled in two ostensibly similar, but in some ways mutually contradictory, flavours.   Small wonder the code - or should that be codes? - had little success in spreading beyond its hinterland.  Today's AFL may be guilty of interpreting the history of football in ways which aim at bolstering its own importance as an organisation, rather than providing objective, balanced analyses of what actually went on in the past, but this enormous, and to some extent unforgivable offence is, at least to some extent, counterbalanced by the fact that it provides the sport, for the first time in its history, with a single, unifying authority.

​In 1913, uniformity in football was an elusive pipedream.  That season saw the VFA unilaterally reduce the number of players in a team from seventeen to sixteen,[1] in a move that had little or nothing to do with the good of the game, and everything to do with the perceived good of the Association.  Relations between the VFL and VFA were just about as strained and distant as they had ever been, although the 1913 season did at least see the introduction of a permit agreement whereby the bodies recognised one another's player clearance systems; this lasted just six years, however.  The VFL was undoubtedly the stronger of the two bodies, both economically and in terms of the best standard of play its teams could muster, but its dominance was nowhere near as comprehensive as it was to become.  For one thing, it certainly did not boast a monopoly, or even a near monopoly, on the best available playing talent. When the VFA authorised payment to players in 1911 (the same year as the league) it made itself potentially every bit as attractive as the VFL to some of the top players in Victoria .  True, the average VFA match payment, at just 15 shillings, was somewhat lower than in the VFL, but many Association clubs were quite happy to 'break the bank' on occasion if it meant being able to entice a player of the very highest quality to join them.

​​Dave McNamara and Mick Madden (Essendon Association), John 'Dookie' McKenzie (Brunswick), 'Phonso' Woods (Prahran), Art 'Lofty' Gregory, 'Diver' Clarke, Johnny Craddock and 'Ching' Harris (Footscray), and Syd Barker, Charlie Hardy and George Rawle (North Melbourne) were just some of the many VFA footballers of 1913 who would have been capable of walking into virtually any VFL side.  Moreover, during the period between 1905 and 1911, the Association proved that its best players were at least as good, if not slightly better, than those of the South Australian league.  During that time the two competitions opposed one another in a total of 13 representative fixtures, 7 in Adelaide, and 6 in Melbourne, with the VFA successful 6 times.  This was no mean achievement, as South Australian football at this time was very strong; in 1911, for example, the croweaters were convincing winners of the Australian championships, trouncing all four of their opponents by an average margin of 63.5 points, yet when the Association travelled to Adelaide to play the South Australians that same year they emerged victorious by 13 points, 6.12 (48) to 5.5 (35).

Within its financial and demographical limitations therefore, the VFA was functioning very nicely thank-you at this time, and there would have seemed very little reason at all for it to consider entering into any closer or more formal relationship with the league which, as the larger and more influential body, would almost certainly have only been interested in imposing assimilation and and/or control.  As the oldest football controlling body in Victoria, and the second oldest in Australia, the VFA was, understandably, reluctant to do anything that might compromise its integrity or independence, and so Melbourne football supporters continued to be short-changed by being presented with two contrasting and diluted manifestations of the same template, rather than a single, vigorously coherent whole.  This preposterous, self-defeating state of affairs would persist for another three quarters of a century.

Not that the football provided by the Association in 1913, viewed in isolation, lacked either drama or spectacle.  The leading clubs such as Footscray, North Melbourne, Essendon 'A' and Brunswick were evenly matched, and encounters between them tended to be both entertaining and hard fought.  Among the main stories of the 1913 season was the comparative fall from grace of reigning premiers Essendon whose season was ended at the semi final stage by minor premiers Footscray.  The fact that the Tricolours' final margin of victory was just 2 points emphasises how closely fought the competition was at this time.  The Dreadnoughts would never again achieve a position of prominence in the VFA, and in 1922 their autonomous existence would come to an end when they underwent a merger of sorts (broadly akin to the Brisbane Bears-Fitzroyamalgamation of 1996 - in other words, a takeover in all but name) with North Melbourne.

Overshadowing even the story of Essendon's demise, however, were the incessant rumours of corruption, particularly in the form of 'squaring' by individual players or clubs, with far and away the most noteworthy case involving eventual finalist North Melbourne.  Prior to an important clash with Brunswick a somewhat acrimonious meeting of North's selection committee took place during which club skipper and leading ruckman, Syd Barker, refused to countenance the inclusion in the side of defender Ted Gardiner, "on the ground that he was only a back player, and the North defence was strong enough".[2]  The match duly went ahead, without Gardiner in the team, but "almost from the start North Melbourne supporters seemed to have made up their minds that their captain, S.Barker, was not doing his best".[3]  Brunswick ended up winning the match quite comfortably and, whether or not influenced by the attitude of their club's supporters, the North committee hurriedly convened a meeting at which it was agreed that Barker's approach to the game had been unsatisfactory, and that he therefore had a case to answer.  The eventual upshot was that Syd Barker was presumably found guilty, for he did not line up for North again until the following season, meaning that, by its own volition, the club entered the 1913 finals series without arguably its most important and influential player.

​At first, however, as often seems to happen in such circumstances, the team rose to the occasion splendidly.  After thrashing Port Melbourne in the last home and away match of the year, it effortlessly scuppered Brunswick's premiership challenge in a semi final with a resounding 8.16 (64) to 4.2 (26) win.  Prior to the final clash with Footscray, however, North suffered another blow when its other main follower, George Rawle, sustained an injury, and was unable to front up.  Given that, by common consent, North's chief strength in 1913 was its first ruck combination of Barker, Rawle and Hardy, all the omens appeared to be pointing to an easy Tricolours victory, but football, thankfully, is seldom that predictable.

Footscray had enjoyed a consistent season leading up to the clash with North, with its tally of 14 wins from 18 home and away matches being good enough to claim pole position heading into the finals in which, as mentioned above, it just 'fell in' against the Dreadnoughts.  Unlike North Melbourne, however, the Tricolours would be at full strength as they sought their first senior grade premiership since 1908.

The Teams

VFA teams in 1913 omitted a player each from the forward and back lines (at least in theory).  

FOOTSCRAY

BACKS: Harris Sampson  
HALF-BACKS: Neilson McClusky Grimshaw
CENTRES: Lever Clarke Craddock (captain)
HALF-FORWARDS: Baxter Lawson Holmes
FORWARDS: Grierson Banbury  
FOLLOWERS: Spence Gregory Cotton

NORTH MELBOURNE

BACKS: Miles Gardiner  
HALF-BACKS: Sheehan Pemberton Walsh
CENTRES: Heron Jones Laver
HALF-FORWARDS: J.Johnson Hawkins Freeman
FORWARDS: Carpenter K.Johnson  
FOLLOWERS: Treloar (captain) McKay Hardy

The Match

"The Footscray and North Melbourne match, on the East Melbourne ground, reached a standard of play seldom attained in these final matches.  The result was in doubt right to the bell, when the minor premiers squeezed home by a bare point.  Twenty thousand people attended, the receipts amounting to £384, and the crowd was rewarded by the finest game put up by Association clubs this season, at any rate.  Spectacular high marking and clean accurate drop kicking lent sufficient attraction to the contest, without the added zest of the issue being in the balance during the whole of the play.  The game see-sawed this way and that way, and at no time were the odds guineas to pounds on either.  The Northerners got a break in the third quarter, and at one period had a useful lead, but Footscray came with a rattle at the finish and silenced all the croaking ones, who boasted they knew for a certainty that the match was 'fixed' for North, in order that a grand final could be played, with the consequent enhanced dividend.

"Every man of the winning combination was chaired to the dressing rooms by the exultant barrackers at the conclusion of the match, and the losers, after their fine showing, deserved little less honour."  ("The Leader", 13/9/13)

1st Quarter

North Melbourne, who had the aid of "a zephyr like breeze" in the opening term, were first into attack, but Vic Neilson at half back left for Footscray intercepted and returned the ball towards the centre of the ground.  The Tricolours then mounted an attack of their own, and after Vern Banbury found Charlie Grierson with a clever pass the solidly built forward, nicknamed "Piggy", kicked truly to put the first goal of the match on the board after just two minutes.

North responded with great determination and energy, but Footscray centre half back Tom McClusky marshalled his troops superbly and, for several minutes, the northerners were unable to get within scoring range.  Finally, however, a neat sequence of inter-passing involving Sheehan, McKay, Carpenter and Hawkins ended in the last-named breaking clear to snap an excellent goal and level the scores.

The Tricolours enjoyed a period of attacking pressure, but the North defence combined every bit as well as its Footscray counterparts had earlier, and no scores resulted for several minutes.  In the end, however, Lawson, having been freed almost on the boundary line on a tight angle, somehow managed to steer the ball through the narrowest of openings to restore the minor premiers' lead.  Moments later, Lawson was again in the thick of the action as he passed to Banbury, who took a strong mark.  The former St Kilda player then picked out Jim Baxter close to goal and the ex-Collingwood half forward made no mistake.  Two behinds to the Tricolours quickly followed and, with more than half the quarter remaining, they led by 14 points, and were looking confident and assured, but gradually North began to fight their way back into the game.

​Dynamic rover Charlie Hardy, who would later form a key component in Essendon's famed 'mosquito fleet' of the 1920s, was in everything at this stage of the match, and was arguably the biggest single reason for North's resurgence as the term progressed.  Had Footscray veteran William 'Ching' Harris not been in such resplendent form on the last line of defence the northerners might easily have run away with the match at this stage, such was their dominance.  However, they were restricted to a couple of goals, one apiece to Sheehan and Keith Johnson, together with a succession of near misses.  As the bell approached, North found themselves 2 points to the good, but the Tricolours' first concerted attack for some time culminated in Banbury converting from close range to give his side a 4 point advantage at the first change.  Footscray 4.2 (26); North Melbourne 3.4 (22)

2nd Quarter

Appearing to derive greater benefit from the wind than North had during the opening term, Footscray did most of the attacking early in the second quarter, and Grierson, from a free, soon had their fifth goal on the board.  Both sides had changed their rucks at the outset of the term, but Charlie Hardy was still proving a major thorn in the Tricolours' side on a half forward flank.

For a time, both side's defences were on top, with Harris continuing in fine form for Footscray, and Miles showing up to good effect for North, but then a clever sequence of handpasses initiated by Art Gregory was capped  by Vern Banbury's accurate snap, and the best goal of the match so far.

With the Tricolours now leading by more than three straight kicks, North badly needed to respond, and, with Hardy again a key mover, they did just that, courtesy of an easy goal from skipper Arthur Treloar.  Footscray then attacked relentlessly for several minutes, with centreman Archie Clarke especially conspicuous, but their kicking for goal was wayward, and only behinds were registered.  Finally, however, rover Roy Cotton, who was limping badly as a result of a heavy knock received earlier in the game, marked strongly in the forward pocket and scored a nice goal to increase the Tricolours' lead to 24 points.

The remainder of the term saw North upping the tempo and doing most of the attacking, and their dominance was rewarded with late goals to Carpenter and Freeman to reduce the leeway at the half to just 12 points.  Half Time: Footscray 7.10 (52); North Melbourne 6.4 (40)

3rd Quarter

Treloar moved John Pemberton from centre half back to perform what nowadays would be called a tagging role on Footscray centreman Archie Clarke.  Meanwhile Jones, who had been best afield in the semi final win over Brunswick, moved in the opposite direction, much to the obvious disgruntlement of many North fans.

​Play early in the term was frenetic and quite ferocious, with umpire Hurley having seemingly decided only to intervene if the violence became potentially life-threatening.  This policy seemed to favour North, whose approach was much more overtly physical than that of their opponents, and, after a sequence of behinds - one to Footscray, and two to the northerners - it was they who converted first, courtesy of a long raking punt from Hawkins, the player whom most spectators would have regarded as the poorest kick on either side.  The response of the crowd to his goal was a mixture of uproarious, disbelieving laughter, and immense excitement, as the scoreboard now showed that less than a straight kick separated the teams.

Perhaps inspired by Hawkins' unlikely goal, North attacked again, and, with the Tricolours' defence appearing atypically flat-footed, Hardy found time and space to gather the ball, turn infield to improve his angle, and triumphantly fire his team into the lead by the narrowest of margins.  The goal elicited the loudest roar of the afternoon so far from the crowd, and the noise was still simmering when the cheeky North rover, having been freed close to goal in the forward pocket, added another six pointer to give the blue and whites some breathing space.

​Play became even more physical, and on a couple of occasions things threatened to get out of hand.  On one occasion, Art Gregory and Jack Johnson squared up to one another as though wishing to resolve their differences by pugilistic means, but umpire Hurley intervened and the players, albeit with some reluctance, backed off.

The football being displayed by both sides was hardly scientific, but it was fast, frantic and unrelenting, and the crowd were loving it.  For a time, Footscray appeared to have the ascendancy, but all they could manage were a couple of behinds.  Then North attacked en masse and when a clever handball out of a pack by Sheehan found McKay in a surprising amount of space near goal the lanky follower had no trouble in rifling the ball through for his team's tenth major of the match.

The final five minutes of the term saw Footscray in the ascendancy, with Art Gregory in particularly commanding form in the ruck.  He it was who initiated the move that produced the final goal of the term, deftly palming the ball to Banbury, whose quick handball floated into the path of a fast running Billy Holmes, and the former Northcote, Collingwood and Fitzroy half forward fired home with calculated precision.  Three Quarter Time: North Melbourne 10.6 (66); Footscray 8.13 (61)

4th Quarter
Play continued fast, frenzied and largely uncoordinated during the opening phase of the final quarter, with North Melbourne seeming to have an edge in pace, fitness and, most noticeably of all, in aerial strength, with Treloar, Sheehan and Hawkins in particular repeatedly marking well.

​The first score of the term was a behind to Fred Carpenter, which put North a single straight kick to the good.  Five minutes into the quarter the margin was stretched to two straight kicks when Carpenter booted an easy goal after outmarking 'Ching' Harris.  At this stage, the blue and whites seemed to be on top virtually all over the ground, but very gradually the tide began to turn, and Footscray players like Craddock, Spence, Cotton, Baxter and Gregory began to see more and more of the ball.  North's defence was resolute, however, and it was not until there were just eight minutes of the term remaining that Banbury, having received from Spence, finally managed to raise two flags from close in. The scoreboard now showed North Melbourne 11.7 (73) leading Footscray 9.13 (67), and the scene was set for the sort of nerve-tingling finale that the occasion, and the match, deserved.

With five minutes left, Footscray moved to within 5 points when Banbury's long shot sailed narrowly wide of the central uprights, but moments later Gregory made amends when he snatched the ball out of the air at a ruck contest and fired home from close range.

​With the crowd screaming almost manically, North surged forward, and when Walsh took an easy mark well within scoring range it seemed that at least a draw was inevitable.  Inexplicably, however, Walsh opted to attempt a short pass to Carpenter, who was nearer to goal, but closely attended by Baxter, and it was the Footscray man who claimed the ball and relieved the situation.  Although there were still some three minutes of the match remaining, this proved to be North's final scoring opportunity, and the Tricolours held on to record a gut-wrenching but wholly meritorious win by the narrowest of margins "amid a scene of the wildest excitement".  Final Score: Footscray 10.14 (74); North Melbourne 11.7 (73)

BEST - Footscray: McClusky, Harris, Clarke, Baxter, Banbury, Gregory, Craddock   North Melbourne: Hardy, Jones, Sheehan, Carpenter, Treloar, McKay, Heron

GOALS - Footscray: Banbury 3; Grierson 2; Baxter, Cotton, Gregory, Holmes, Lawson  North Melbourne: Carpenter, Hawkins, Hardy 2; Freeman, K.Johnson, McKay, Sheehan, Treloar

ATTENDANCE:  20,000 approximately at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Postscript

Over the remaining nine seasons of their involvement in the VFA, Footscray and North Melbourne were the most successful clubs in the competition, winning seven of the available premierships between them.  Moreover, in 1924, Footscray went one better, convincingly defeating VFL premier Essendon to claim the title of champions of Victoria.  Given that this was the only occasion in the game's history that the honour was contested, it was a unique, presumably never to be repeated achievement.

In 1925, both clubs, along with Hawthorn, gained admission to the VFL, but the simmering war between the two principal football organisations in the state of Victoria would continue unabated for decades, to the immense detriment of the game.  At the same time, it can not be denied that the individual clubs which comprised the VFA were locally important, and gave considerable enjoyment to many.  In the end, however, no amount of inspired and thrifty administration could save the Association from the fate that had arguably been inevitable from the very time at the end of the 1896 season that eight renegade clubs elected to go their separate ways.  Whether the fact that all football throughout Australia now operates under the auspices of a single organisation will ultimately be to its benefit is still to be seen, but if it does not, at least there can no longer be any doubt as to where the finger of blame will need to point.

FOOTNOTES

​[1] Five years earlier, the VFA had reduced the number of players per team from eighteen to seventeen.

[2] "The Herald", 13/8/13. 

[3] Ibid. 


Fitzroy vs St Kilda, 27th September 1913

Fifth VFL Flag for Fitzroy

The 1913 VFL season saw Essendon's two season premiership reign come to a peremptory end.  The Dons managed just 6 wins from 18 home and away matches to finish eighth, thereby proving "the law of nature that, to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".  Two other finalists from 1912, Geelong and Carlton, also fell from grace.  The Pivotonians (10 wins, 8 losses, 5th) were "practically invincible" at home, but when playing in Melbourne "lacked dash and finishing power", while the Blues' cause was badly undermined by a combination of injuries and suspensions to key players; they finished 6th, with a 9-8-1 record.  Richmond (6-12, 7th) and Melbourne (4-14, 9th) both had young sides, which had begun to show signs of promise later in the season, while perhaps the only good thing that could be said of winless University was that, in diminutive goalsneak Roy Park (53 goals for the year), they possessed one of the VFL's most eye-catching and prolific forwards.

​The top four comprised Fitzroy (16-2), South Melbourne (14-3-1), Collingwood (13-5) and St Kilda (11-7).  The Magpies had been the most impressive team early in the season, winning their first seven games, and producing some exceptional football in the process, but by the time the finals arrived they appeared to be merely ticking over.  The general consensus regarding South Melbourne was that the side had "sacrificed quickness for height and weight", and that the raised tempo of finals football would be their undoing.  St Kilda, having just squeezed into the finals for the first time since 1908, and only the third time ever, (see 1913 Snippets for details) were not seriously expected to pose much of a threat to anyone, least of all to Percy Parratt's "Magnificent Maroons", who had gone from strength to strength during the home and away season, and seemed capable of consistently producing a standard of football which no other team in the league could hope to emulate.  Fitzroy's only two reversals during the home and away rounds had come in week 2 at St Kilda, when poor kicking for goal was the principle reason for a 33 point loss, and by 17 points at Geelong's virtually impregnable fortress of Corio Oval in round 12.

​The opening week of the finals produced a shock as St Kilda not only beat South Melbourne, but did so with ease, 12.12 (84) to 6.15 (51), after leading at every change by 16, 14 and 26 points.  It was the Tricolours' first ever VFL finals win. The Roys emphasised their pedigree the following week with a crushing 11.14 (80) to 6.7 (43) defeat of Collingwood, but then, to a chorus of allegations of 'squaring', St Kilda pulled away from Fitzroy during the second half of the final to procure arguably the greatest win in the history of the club up to that point, 10.10 (70) to 6.9 (45).  Every time a strong favourite lost to an underdog in the final there were accusations of corruption, not least because the necessity for a challenge final guaranteed both clubs an additional, highly lucrative pay-out.  However, in 1913 the truth of the matter was almost certainly that St Kilda simply managed to perform better than Fitzroy on the day.

The challenge final thus became an exceedingly mouth-watering prospect, a quintessential case of 'David versus Goliath'.  If the Maroons won, they would achieve their fifth flag since the formation of the VFL, making them the competition's most successful club.  The Tricolours, by contrast, had, up to this point, been by some measure the league's worst performed combination, with no fewer than nine wooden spoons in sixteen seasons, and a dismal overall success rate, prior to the 1913 season, of 19.2%.  This made them, as far as virtually all football lovers other than Fitzroy barrackers were concerned, eminently worthy of support and encouragement, and it was estimated that perhaps ninety per cent of the immense and record-breaking crowd of 59,556 who crammed into the MCG for the decisive encounter had attached their colours firmly to the mast of the underdogs.

1st Quarter

The match got underway in perfect conditions, with St Kilda kicking with the aid of a modest breeze.   Fitzroy rover "Yorky" Shaw, with the first kick of the game, sent his side deep into attack, only for Wells Eicke to gather the ball for the Tricolours and send it back towards the centre of the ground.  The Maroons were soon back on the offensive, however, courtesy of Wally Johnson, who found George Holden in space at left centre wing, and the former West Melbourne player quickly relayed it to Percy Parratt, who had time to look up and hit centre half forward Thomas Heaney on the chest with a beautifully executed stab pass.  From a mere thirty yards out, straight in front, Heaney had no difficulty in registering the first goal of the afternoon.

Fitzroy moved into attack once again from the ensuing centre bounce, but Eicke again relieved the pressure.  Holden was in exhilarating form for the Roys early, and, after outpacing his direct opponent Eddie Collins, he scooped up the ball, and passed neatly to Jimmy Freake who, from more or less the same position as Heaney minutes earlier, coolly added a second six pointer for the Maroons.

Although a mere four minutes had elapsed, it was already noticeable that the Fitzroy players were steadfastly adhering to the laws of the game, unlike in the previous week's final when they had all too often fallen into the trap of playing the man instead of the ball.  Their modified approach continued to work to a tee as they again won the ball out of the centre, only for Reg Ellis to intercept for the Saints and clear.  Relief was only temporary, though, as "Bull" Martin returned the ball with interest, and it was marked well within scoring range by Freake.  Surprisingly, however, the VFL's top goal kicker for 1913 conspired to miss everything, and the Tricolours were once more able to clear the danger.

Fitzroy's next forward thrust culminated in Holden failing to hold a comparatively easy chest mark close to goal, and the Tricolours must have felt that God was smiling on them.  The Roys persisted, however, and as play grew willing Shaw, having been freed at half forward right found Parratt deep in the right forward pocket, less than twenty yards from goal.  Instead of trying to score, however, the Roys' coach punted the ball across the face of goal where it was gathered by former Collingwood follower Charlie Norris, who snapped truly to give his side their third straight goal of the encounter at the twelve minute mark of the term.

​​Following a superb dash down his wing, Holden found Heaney whose overhead snapshot went within a whisker of adding another major for the Roys, who at this stage of the game were repeatedly leaving their opponents looking flat-footed.  Centre half forward Heaney was roaming far and wide in search of kicks, presumably as per instructions, "and Lever's Cerberus-like defence was considerably discounted" as a result.

Another Fitzroy rush culminated in "Lal" McLennan's clever handpass floating into the path of swift-moving wingman Holden, but his kick for goal missed narrowly.  

St Kilda continued to face intense pressure as Roys rover Percy Heron rounded off a spectacular dash through the centre of the ground with a long, probing kick deep into the forward lines, but on this occasion Tricolours veteran 'Vic' Cumberland managed to turn the tide after marking strongly.  Fitzroy were back on the attack moments later, but Martin's seemingly goal-bound shot was saved almost on the line by "Harry" Hattam.

A soaring leap by Roys centre half forward Tom Heaney at centre half forward saw him fumble and then drop the ball, but the umpire controversially paid the mark.  Justice was arguably done when he failed to make the distance with his shot, and St Kilda managed to get the ball out of danger.

Heaney marked again soon afterwards, but from easy range his kick raised only one flag.

St Kilda's first concerted attack of the quarter came unstuck near goal when George Morrissey's fumble allowed Cooper to snatch up the ball and clear.  The Tricolours were back on the offensive moments later, however, and some neat interplay involving Ellis, Cumberland and Sellars released Sellars but the diminutive full forward's shot was narrowly off target.  The bell rang shortly afterwards, with St Kilda having only advanced the ball ahead of centre twice during the entire term.  Fitzroy, by contrast, had been pacy, polished and cohesive, and in livewire wingman George Holden they boasted easily the most effective player on view.  Quarter Time: Fitzroy 3.6 (24); St Kilda 0.1 (1)

2nd Quarter

The wind, which now favoured Fitzroy, had freshened considerably by the time the second term commenced, but it was the Tricolours who were first into attack, as Cumberland, Lynch and Morrissey combined well to eke out another scoring opportunity for Sellars.  Once again, however, Sellars' shot was off-line, and when he missed gain shortly afterwards there were groans of dismay from the hugely pro-St Kilda crowd.

​A fierce body clash between opposing rovers Millhouse (St Kilda) and Shaw (Fitzroy) left the latter spread-eagled, and requiring attention, but his team mates swept up the ball and launched a swift counter-offensive.  However, only a point resulted as Heaney's shot from close in struck a post.  Moments later, Baird did the same for the Tricolours, who for the first time appeared to be warming to their task, an impression reinforced when they attacked again, only for Morrissey to miss badly.

Making a nonsense of the scores, St Kilda were displaying some of the best football of the game so far, but Fitzroy's defence, with Johnson and Cooper particularly prominent, stood firm.  Midway through the term the Roys attacked with purpose for the first time in several minutes, and Shaw, having seemingly recovered from his earlier knock, ran onto Heaney's cross-field kick near the boundary at half forward right and kicked a fine goal.  St Kilda's dominance notwithstanding, the Maroons had extended their lead to 26 points.

​The remainder of the quarter was fiercely contested, with the Fitzroy players in particular sometimes transcending the boundaries of fairness in their desperation to maintain a grip on the game.  One cowardly assault by Walker on Woodcock in particular raised the crowd's ire, but in the context of the eventual result of the game the Roys' approach has to be regarded as effective, for they kept St Kilda scoreless for the remainder of the quarter, whilst adding a behind themselves to leave the half time scoreboard showing Fitzroy 4.8 (32); St Kilda 0.5 (5)

3rd Quarter

The Tricolours moved straight into attack from the opening bounce of the third term, and a frantic goalmouth scrimmage resulted in the ball being scrambled through for a behind.  Within a minute, Schmidt had added another minor score, and when Hugh Lenne's ensuing kick-in was grubbed St Kilda had an excellent chance to register their first goal of the afternoon.  However, Lenne made amends for his indiscretion by saving on the line, and his long clearing kick initiated a concerted spell of Fitzroy pressure.

​​Parratt, playing brilliantly at half forward right, found Jim Toohey with a neat pass, but the former East Fremantle forward's place kick struck a goal post, as did Morrissey's shot for St Kilda on the Tricolours' next forward thrust some five minutes later.  Another rushed behind to the Saints was followed, at long last, by their first goal of the game, off the boot of Algy Millhouse, who had been the Tricolours' most prominent player this quarter.  A minor score to Eicke, who had followed the ball into the forward lines from his half back flank, saw St Kilda maintain the ascendancy, and the crowd duly roared its appreciation.

Just as they had done in the second term, however, the Maroons hit their opponents with a sucker punch.  A long clearing kick by Heron was marked by Martin who, despite being a good seventy yards from goal, placed the ball on the turf in order to have a shot.  Not surprisingly, his kick fell short, but Parratt had anticipated perfectly, and, after gathering the ball, dodged and weaved to procure some space before kicking truly.  Not long afterwards, Shaw added a behind, and at the thirteen minute mark of the term the scoreboard showed the Maroons four goals to the good, despite the fact that, territorially, they had been distinctly second best since quarter time.

Play for the remainder of the quarter was scrappy and uncoordinated, as players from both sides seemed to tire.  When the lemon time bell rang there had only been one addition to the score, a behind to the Roys.  Three Quarter Time: Fitzroy 5.11 (41); St Kilda 1.10 (16)

4th Quarter
Two quick behinds to Fitzroy in the opening minutes of the final term only seemed to confirm the inevitable, and indeed for a time both sides appeared to be merely going through the motions.  However, after a magnificent St Kilda burst was crowned by a goal to Sellars, the pace and intensity of the game rose noticeably.

​The next score was Fitzroy's, but it was only a behind, and from the kick-in the Tricolours mounted another decisive attack, which ended with Baird marking directly in front of goal on the edge of the goal square.  When he kicked truly, the noise from the crowd reached new levels, and as St Kilda surged forward yet again from the ensuing centre bounce sheer pandemonium reigned.  Many of the Fitzroy players appeared visibly shaken and they began to play wildly.  The normally assured Wally Johnson proved to be the worst culprit, conceding a free kick close to goal when he pulled George Morrissey, who was not in possession of the ball, over, and the former Ballarat player promptly converted.

This made the difference between the teams just 10 points, and all the momentum appeared to be with St Kilda.  A combination of desperation and good fortune enabled the Roys to repel the next forward rush from the Tricolours, but the ball came straight back, and as players scrambled desperately for possession in the goal square a Fitzroy defender gratefully rushed the ball through for a behind.  With ten minutes or so left to play, Baird added another minor score for St Kilda, and then Morrissey reduced the deficit to just 2 points after marking in a pack, and belying all the tension by nonchalantly goaling.

​​The play continued to move in one direction, but it was another five minutes before the Tricolours managed to fashion another scoring opportunity.  Once again the chance fell to Morrissey, but this time, despite being even nearer to goal than he had been on the previous occasion, he missed badly.

The scoreboard showed Fitzroy 5.14 (44) leading St Kilda 5.13 (43) and, judging by the looks on many of the faces of people in the crowd, the excitement was almost unbearable.

Fitzroy's first attack in a long while culminated in an ineffectual shot from Toohey, but then it was business as usual as the Tricolours advanced en masse on the Roys' citadel, only for Cooper to turn back the tide with a brilliant saving mark.

Somewhat perversely, with just two minutes left on the clock, Fitzroy somehow contrived to produce their first truly purposeful, cohesive football of the term, skillfully maneuvering the ball the length of the ground until it nestled safely in the arms of 'Bull' Martin, thirty yards from goal.  Taking his time, Martin carefully carpeted the ball and sent a somewhat ungainly but accurate place kick right through the centre.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the goal knocked the stuffing out of St Kilda, and moments before the bell Shaw added another 'big point' for the Tricolours, giving the final score a deceptively comfortable look.  However, it had been a tremendously close run thing, and "the defeated team were almost entitled to as much credit as the victors".  Final Score: Fitzroy 7.14 (56); St Kilda 5.13 (43)