……when Great Britain declared war on Germany at midnight on 4 August, crowds sang the national anthem in the streets, bands played ‘Rule Britannia’ in the cafes, and crowds cheered and sang in the theatres. A mob got out of hand in Melbourne and raided the Chinese quarter of Little Bourke Street, and at the University of Melbourne on the following day the students sang ‘God Save the King’ at the end of lectures. (A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, pages 225-6)
THE YEAR IN BRIEF
For decades, every German child had grown up convinced that the British Empire was on the wane, and that a glorious era of German global supremacy was set to succeed it. This belief would sow the seeds of two world wars.
Prior to their unification as a single nation in 1871 the various German states had not harboured any large scale colonial ambitions because their navies were either small or non-existent. After unification, however, it was a different story, with many Germans in the late nineteenth century viewing colonial acquisitions as a true indication of having achieved nationhood. From 1884 onwards Germany procured a number of overseas colonies, mainly in Africa and the Pacific, and its race to do so produced tension with Britain, which had the largest empire in the world at the time. Britain, with France and Russia, formed a Triple Alliance, all members of which had different reasons to distrust Germany and her allies. The tension between the two sides was like an elastic band being gradually stretched until it reached snapping point. That snapping point finally came on 28th June 1914 when the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assasinated by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, at Sarajevo. Austria regarded the assasination as giving it the right to invade Serbia which they duly did on 28th July. Russia then mobilised its forces in defence of Serbia.
Events over the next few days had a kind of domino effect with all-out war ultimately seeming like the only option.
Germany objected to Russia’s mobilisation of forces, and when Russia refused its demands to demobilise Germany declared war on 1st August. Fearing the worst, France ordered the general mobilisation of its troops the same day. On 2nd August Germany demanded that Belgium permit German troops safe passage via its territory into France. Belgium refused, so on 3rd August Germany invaded Belgium. This aroused consternation in Britain, which gave Germany an ultimatum to withdraw its forces. Predictably, this was ignored, and so on 4th August Britain declared war on Germany.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Australia’s participation in the horrors to come was taken as read, with the Governor-General, as the King’s representative, simply informing the Prime Minister that the war had started. The Liberal Prime Minister Joseph Cook affirmed that “all our resources are in the Empire and for the Empire” while his Labor counterpart, Andrew Fisher pledged “our last man and our last shilling”. The fact that this enthusiastic support for Britain was not universally endorsed by the Australian population at large was not at first apparent, but dissent did exist, and as the war went on it would become more and more vocal.
Australia’s first military engagements took place shortly after the declaration of war at the behest of the British government. The wireless stations in the German Pacific colonial outposts of Rabaul in German New Guinea, Yap in the Caroline Islands and Nauru were targeted. The Australian forces met minimal opposition in Rabaul and Naura, both of which were occupied, but the Japanese - Allies of Britain at the time - got to Yap, as well as other German colonies north of the equator, first.
The ease with which Rabaul and Nauru had fallen produced a surge of optimism which one imagines must have impacted on the 50,000 volunteers who, by the end of the year, had signed up to fight abroad. After training at Liverpool near Sydney and Broadmeadows near Melbourne the first 20,000 of these volunteers took ship from King George’s Sound at Albany in Western Australia bound - or so they imagined - for the frontlines of Flanders and France. However, there was to be a change of plan. Turkey had entered the war as an ally of Germany, and Lord Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, asked that the “colonial” force be diverted to Egypt. Once there, they were to undergo further training, and protect Britain’s interests around the Suez from the Turks. Longer term, however, there were other plans.
When war was declared, the third Australasian football carnival was underway in Sydney, involving all six Australian states. Enthusiasm for the war notwithstanding, people continued to go to the footy, and when Victoria and South Australia clashed on the final day of the carnival the match attracted a substantial crowd (for Sydney) of 15,000 spectators. Victoria's 11.11 (77) to 5.10 (40) win saw them recapture the championship which they had won in 1908, and South Australia had claimed three years later.
By the time of the VFL finals the public mood had changed, however. News of some of the horrendous and worrying events in Europe had reached Australian shores and many questioned whether, given these circumstances, it was appropriate for such "trivial" pastimes as football and other sports to continue to be played. The attendances at the 1914 VFL finals reflected this new attitude, with the grand final itself attracting fewer spectators than any of the preceding season's finals. It was won by a straighter kicking Carlton from South Melbourne, 6.9 (45) to 4.15 (39). The crowd of 30,495 was barely half that of the previous year's grand final.
In the SAFL Port Adelaide dominated as few teams in any competition, before or since, have done. The story of their dominance is told here.
The WAFL premiership went to East Fremantle thanks to a 5.13 (43) to 3.6 (24) victory over local rivals South Fremantle. North Melbourne triumphed in the VFA, North Hobart in the TFL, South Sydney (NSWAFL) and South Brisbane (QFL).
Despite ever escalating criticism football would be back in 1915, but the game would be seriously denuded by the loss of key players to the armed forces, and the defection of many of its erstwhile supporters.
 This procedure, or one very similar to it, was followed by virtually every nation and colony in the Empire. The single exception was Canada, whose intended participation in the war was not announced until ratified by Parliament.
 Quoted in A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, page 157.
 Ibid, page 157.
 The Australian government had only pledged 20,000.
Port Adelaide's 1914 combination remains unique in SA(N)FL history for its feat of going through the entire season without losing. For that achievement alone, it deserves to be ranked alongside the greatest teams ever to play the game, such as the Essendon sides of the 1890s, Phil Matson's East Perth of the years following world war one, Collingwood (1927-30), South Fremantle (1947-54), Melbourne (1954-60) and Richmond (1967-74). However, in Port Adelaide's case, highlighting the 1914 team's accomplishment in going through the season unbeaten only really scratches the surface of its greatness; it fails, for example, to depict the magnitude of the team's superiority over every other team in the SAFL, for not only did Port Adelaide emerge victorious from a total of 14 minor round and finals matches, it did so by an average margin of 49 points which, given the low scoring which prevailed at the time, was probably the equivalent of about 100 points in today's 'currency'. Its 13.15 (93) to 1.8 (14) annihilation of North Adelaide in the season's premiership deciding match was arguably comparable to a modern day win by somewhere in the region of 160 points, which would put it in the same ball park as, for instance, Hawthorn's 32.24 (216) to 8.8 (56) defeat of Essendon in 1992, which is one of the heftiest dozen or so AFL wins of all time.
Port also dominated in terms of individual player achievements, courtesy of three 'Jacks': Jack Ashley won the Magarey Medal, Jack Dunn booted 33 goals to top the league list, and Jack Robertson, one of seven Magpie players chosen to represent South Australia at the Sydney carnival, earned a prestigious Referee Medal as the best South Australian player at the championships.
Once the season proper was over, Port Adelaide provided further evidence of their pre-eminence, first by coasting to a 34 point win over Carlton in the championship of Australia play-off, and then by comprehensively defeating a combined team comprising top players from the other six SAFL clubs, 14.14 (98) to 5.10 (40).
In addition to the three players mentioned above, star names in the 1914 Magpie line-up - which was changed on only four occasions all year - included 1910 Magarey Medallist Sampson 'Shine' Hosking, champion rover Angelo 'Ongie' Congear, brilliant all rounder Harold Oliver, and much travelled veteran Jack Londrigan, who skippered the side. So strong was the Port Adelaide line-up in 1914 that champion full forward Frank Hansen, a former South Adelaide player, who had topped the SAFL goal kicking in each of the preceding four seasons, could manage just one game for the year.
Had the war not intervened and deprived the club of many of its key players, it seems reasonable to suppose that Port Adelaide would have carried on dominating South Australian football for many more years.
Since the inception of electorate football, whereby players were compelled to play for the club which represented the electoral district in which they resided, South Adelaide's fortunes had plummeted. Premiers seven times in the twenty-two seasons prior to the compulsory implementation of the electorate system, the blue and whites had added just one flag to their tally in the fifteen seasons since, and had not even contested the finals since 1905. Nevertheless, the club boasted some fine players, notably Jack Tredrea, regarded even by some Victorians as the finest utility in the game, thoroughbred rover Frank 'Dinky' Barry, who would win the following season's Magarey Medal, pacy and tenacious wingman/forward Alexander Job, who had been a member of South Australia's victorious 1911 carnival team, full forward Steve McKee, who would captain the club after the war, as well as topping the goal kicking on three occasions, and veteran rover George Wallace, who would be granted his life membership of the club at the end of the season after giving ten years of sterling service since transferring from West Adelaide.
South Adelaide's main problem, it would seem, was not so much lack of talent, as a lack of sufficient talent. Moreover, as the account which follows appears to intimate, the players may have fallen some way short of their rivals in terms of overall physical condition. In spite of these deficiencies, however, the blue and whites in 1914 gave the all conquering Magpies two of their toughest games: in the opening round, at Adelaide, they got within 23 points - the nearest thing to a thriller that Port was involved in all year; while in the match under review here, they restricted the Magpies to their lowest tally for the season after actually taking the lead against them on one occasion, the first side to manage this feat all year.
South went into this round eight game in sixth position on the ladder with a 2-4 record; however, the team could be said to have recently found form, in that its wins had come in its last two outings.
Match Report No. 1
From 'The SA Football Budget', Monday 29 June 1914
The succession of perfect football Saturdays was unbroken when these teams met.
The occasion marked the opening of the second round.
The Souths were without Windsor and Hansen; but, realising that it is an ill wind that blows no good, their supporters had high hopes that perhaps the two juniors who filled their places would rise to the occasion and worthily fill the breach.
With the Ports it was a case of "Let 'em all come," and they were confident of success.
The opening saw the Souths putting plenty of dash into their play, and quite unexpectedly they led the attack. After a lot of forward play by the Souths there was one rush and one goal to Port. The Souths had all the best of it, but they were too eager, and there were too many frees being given to Port. When once the Ports got going their forwards, led by Ashley and Co., had a good time. Still, there was a lot of tumbling and bustling, and it was some time before a goal to Port brought the ball back to the centre line.
It was a rattling good first quarter, and the football was of a very high order. Prominent among the Souths was Hurley, who played quite the best game for his side, while Mueller, on a wing, ran him a very close second.
The Souths deserve every credit for their rattling second quarter, and, but for the messing of Job up forward, who was not playing his usual safe and reliable game, they would have done even better.
Dunn and Ashley forward and Pope back are a proposition that so far this season no team has been able to bump up against, and they stand head and shoulders above any other men in the league in their respective positions.
The third quarter saw Souths still going strong, and they actually led by one point soon after half time, a distinction which no other team has gained against the Ports this season. They were playing a great combined game, and where they could not take marks were content to spoil their opponents in the air.
Umpires, please keep an eye to Congear. His clever and tricky play sometimes wins frees when they are undeserved.
Up to three quarter time the game was all Souths'. It cannot be said that the Ports were taking things easily. They were fully extended, and had to play all they knew to keep pace with their opponents.
The fourth quarter needs little description. The Souths' condition found them out. They had done more than any other team this season, but they had done too much; and when it came to a final effort, they could not come on. Consequently the Ports had things all their own way, and at the final bell they had a comfortable lead.
Port Adelaide 2.7 3.10 6.10 9.15 (69)
South Adelaide 0.1 4.4 5.5 5.7 (37)
BEST - Port: Ashley, Dunn, Congear, Pope, Oliver, Londrigan South: Hurley, Mueller, Job, Tredrea, Wallace, Clark
GOALS - Port: Watson 3; Chaplin, Congear 2; Magor, Anderson South: Barry 2; Job, Tredrea, Waye
Match Report No. 2
From 'The SA Football Budget', Monday 29 June 1914
PORTS AND SOUTHS
A Song of Joy
Of football now I'll sing a song,
At least I'll try it on,
Of how we played the southern club,
And passed the ball along.
Some would play with lots of luck,
And run along and mark;
But when the lads get in the ruck,
The umpire gets the nark.
When they play the game my boys,
Some on the ground will roll;
While others pass the ball along,
And have a shot for goal.
The bell rings out half-time,
The boys are in a sweat;
They all go in the pavilion,
Their throttles there to wet.
Our captain's going to shout;
Our supporters do the talk;
They're loudly calling "Two to one,
The Magpies in a walk".
When they play the game my boys,
Some on the ground will roll;
While others pass the ball along,
And have a shot for goal.
They all file out to play again,
Some feeling fit and right,
Some of the boys crammed full of fun,
And others full of fight;
But how they pass the ball along,
They cannot tell, for fear;
The bell tolls out, they drop the ball,
And run like - well, for - lemonade.
The ball is passed from end to end,
And then comes sailing back;
When Congear, roving, gets a mark
Right on young Dugan's back.
The game is done at last,
A daisy of a game;
Some of the boys are very sore,
And others gone quite lame.
The boys are all good friends,
And very much alive;
The Magpies got nine goals,
And the Souths had only five.
When they play the game my boys,
Some on the ground will roll;
While others pass the ball along,
And have a shot for goal.
by DUMMY ELSDON
Some Extra-Curricular Entertainment
From 'The SA Football Budget', Monday 29 June 1914
I half suspected that the great crowd that assembled on the Alberton Oval on Saturday last had an eye to business.
There was certainly a big football match in progress, but there was also another attraction in the shape of an aerial ascent away yonder over Cheltenham.
The idea of getting a double entertainment for the same money on the same day and in the same place, I am sure, appealed to many.
Hats off, footballers, to Aviator Monsieur Gillaux! He is a sport! It could not have been mere accident that so regulated his three flights that the first took place at the quarter time, the big flight with looping the loop and finishing with a fly over the Adelaide Oval (see footnote 1) at half time, and the final flight at three quarter time. It may have been the accident of circumstances; but, sports, it did certainly look like considerate design.
Aeroplaning is a very simple process. The process consists of a collection of stays, guys, wires, a pair of wings, a propeller, and a petrol-driven engine, the rest is easy. A ground is secured, a band engaged, the aviator goes up "in the air", performs a series of evolutions, and then gracefully glides back to terra firma which, in plain English, means Mother Earth (sic.). So simple!
It was quite interesting to get among the crowd and listen to the various observations.
A dear old lady said she could see the "Airy-plain".
A gentleman with a single eye glass called it a "Mono-plane".
A well-known amateur actor styled it a "By-playin", while an excited old buffer from the land of the thistle said it was like a "Bur-r-d".
When the authorities get a move on the aeroplane will come to stay. Some day we shall be witnessing a great race from Adelaide to Hindmarsh. But the sport will never appeal to footballers. They will not be able to yell at the umpire.
REST BEAT THE BEST
As reigning Australian champions, South Australia’s selectors took their responsibilities seriously ahead of the 1914 Australasian Football Carnival in Sydney. Before picking the team a full scale practice match was conducted between thirty-six hopefuls in front of 8,000 spectators at Adelaide Oval, with team no. 1 defeating team no. 2 by in excess of 10 goals. After pondering the various match-ups in this encounter - this, it should be noted, was an era when players strictly adhered to their positions on the field - the selectors announced a squad of twenty-two players who would represent the state in Sydney. Prior to their departure a warm-up match between the carnival team and a “next best” combination was arranged for Adelaide Oval on Saturday 1st August.
Perhaps because most people expected an exceedingly one-sided match a modest crowd of just 3,000 or so turned up. From the opening bounce the carnival side raced straight into attack and had a goal on the board, courtesy of a deft snap from North’s Ernie Johns, within a minute. The rest responded vigorously to this but John Robertson of Port Adelaide proved to be a tower of strength in the carnival team’s back line and repelled a succession of attacks. After the Sydney carnival Robertson, who boasted exceptional pace and was an extremely accurate foot passer, was awarded a Referee Medal as South Australia’s best player.
Finally, the Rest managed to find away through the opposition’s defence and Steve McKee of South, later a popular sports journalist, registered the underdogs’ first goal. The carnival side responded determinedly but good defending by Baker and Eaton for the rest kept them out for a time. Eventually, however, West Torrens ruckman Stan Patten found a way through, giving the carnival side a narrow lead.
The rest reacted swiftly and decisively, and Steve McKee capped off some clever interplay by nabbing his and his team’s second goal. The remainder of the quarter saw the carnival players in the ascendancy, and goals to Frank “Dinky” Barry of South, Patten and Barry again gave them a comfortable quarter time lead. Scores were: Carnival Team 5.2 (32); The Rest 2.3 (15).
The second term began in almost identical fashion to the first, although this time it was Sturt’s Frank Golding rather than McKee who registered full points. Shortly afterwards Angelo Congear of Port grabbed another six pointer "and the game was resolving itself into a goalkicking exhibition by the first team, who, though they appeared to be putting little ginger into their work, held their opponents easily. A second major to Frank Golding of Sturt moments later gave the carnival side a 6 goal cushion and events were panning out exactly as most spectators would have expected.
McKee reduced the deficit with his third goal but Congear responded quickly for the first team, and the scoreboard showed a remarkably straight-kicking carnival side on 9.2 (56) comfortably leading the rest on 3.4 (22).
The underdogs had certainly not thrown in the towel, however, and a goal to Jack Dunn of Port gave them hope. The rest then enjoyed a prolonged spell of dominance but could only manage a succession of behinds. Goals to Port’s Frank Hansen for the rest and Johns for the carnival team followed before half time leaving the former four straight kicks to the good.
The third quarter saw the next best team turning the match on its head. Shortly after the resumption Robinson kicked truly and minutes later Baker did likewise. With the crowd cheering them on the underdogs continued to attack and a glorious drop kick by McKee looked to have registered full points but it turned out it had been touched before going through the goals. Not long afterwards Robinson made no mistake and suddenly the deficit was a mere 5 points.
The rest continued to attack and further goals to Baulderstone and McKee followed, giving them a 6 point lead. The key to the number two side’s dominance was a winning ruck combination in the shape of Maynard, Baulderstone and Drummond, and an upsurge in the form of West’s Dick Head in the centre.
The carnival team made a semblance of a rally culminating in a goal from Congear which levelled the scores. There followed a behind to Hansen which gave the rest a 1 point advantage, and then Baker, with a lovely snap, made the margin 7 points, to the obvious delight of most of the crowd.
Leading their men to the ball, and using it more astutely than their opponents, the rest continued to attack for the remainder of the term, and shortly before the bell Hansen added another goal to their tally making the three quarter time scores 13.12 (90) to 12.5 (77) in their favour.
The rest opened the final term brightly with Thomas, Head and McKee prominent, but the carnival team's defence stood firm. Then, from their first attack of the quarter the state side registered full points off the boot of Johns. From the resumption the carnival side attacked again and Port's Jack Ashley put them a point to the good with his first goal of the match. Shortly afterwards the teams were deadlocked on 91 points apiece after Dunn brought up a single flag for the next best combination.
Next, the two sides exchanged goals, Drummond scoring for the next best and Golding for the carnival team. A point to Johns gave the carnival side the lead by that margin but to the cheers of many in the small crowd the rest responded with a goal to Robinson and, with time on having started, the underdogs led by 5 points. The remainder of the match saw the carnival combination attacking relentlessly but all they could manage was a single minor score. The bell rang with the scoreboard showing next best 15.13 (103) defeated carnival team 15.9 (99) giving the latter "the surprise of their lives".
Among the spectators looking on were the members of the Western Australian carnival team who were en route to Sydney. A few days later they would go down by 5 points to South Australia in the best and closest match of the series. South Australia ended up defeating every state except Victoria to finish in a commendable second place.
 “The Mail”, 1/8/14, page 4S.
 Ibid., page 4S.
Port Adelaide's John Robertson
In December 1914 the British General Staff came up with a plan to weaken Turkey, one of Germany’s principal allies, by forcing a passage through the Dardanelles and bombarding Constantinople. They also hoped that this action might divert some of Germany’s and Turkey’s attention from Russia, which had suffered a defeat at Tannenberg.
Among the troops earmarked for involvement were the Australians and New Zealanders training in Egypt. These men were split into the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division and were collectively known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs). Although the number of British forces involved in the Galipolli campaign greatly exceeded that of the Anzacs the name “Galipolli” has a much greater resonance in Australia and New Zealand than anywhere else. Perhaps the main reason for this is that Galipolli represented the first ever time since independence that Australians and New Zealanders had engaged in open military conflict. Many more Anzacs would die and be wounded in western Europe than at Galipolli, but the Turkish campaign brought the horrors of war coupled with the courage and resourcefulness of so many of those involved into the national consciousness of both Australia and New Zealand for the first time. Whatever the cold truths in terms of facts and statistics there is a sense in which, completely outside the boundaries of mundane experience, the quintessential Australian spirit was born out of mateship forged in fire, terror and adversity. Anyone who has watched an Anzac Day parade in any Australian city will know that such things can no more be explained than doubted.
Getting to the real truth of what happened at Gallipoli is probably impossible as so much is enshrouded in myth, uncertainty, bias, speculation and blind, unreasoned supposition and wishful thinking. But the reality of war is probably impossible to convey meaningfully to those who have not endured it at first hand. That, rather than modesty or reticence, is perhaps why so many combat veterans are reluctant to speak about their experience.
The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli, took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire between 25th April 1915 and 9th January 1916. Troops from all over the British Empire as well as France attempted to secure the peninsula, and in doing so obtain direct access by sea to Russia. They launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula, intending to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). The naval attack was repelled and after eight months' fighting, with many casualties on both sides, the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force was withdrawn to Egypt. The humiliation of the withdrawal was tempered by the impressively efficient way it was carried out. Indeed, the withdrawal was undoubtedly the most impressive undertaking of the entire campaign with the allies sustaining just one death.
In the wider scheme of things, the events at Galipoli were comparatively insignificant. Galipolli, indeed, “is hardly recalled in European accounts of the First World War”. Moreover, the stark, brutal reality of the matter is that Gallipoli “was a bungled defeat, probably unnecessary, a tragic waste of life, and (from the standpoint of the Anzacs) someone else’s fault”. Or, one feels forced to enquire, is that actually the case? Others would have it that the Anzacs “did not consider they had been defeated; it was a loss in the tradition of a hard-fought game. Many in Australia saw the episode in the same way they regarded sport - showing that the country still had more than enough of the right stuff”. By contrast, in Turkey Gallipoli - or the Battle of Canakkale as it is known there - is viewed as a great victory and a defining moment in the country’s history.
What is hard to refute, however, is that the Anzacs have claimed the Gallipoli campaign as their own. Even in Britain, if Gallipoli is mentioned, those few people who have heard of it tend to think of it in terms of its assocaition with Australia.
In 1915, the horrors of Gallipoli must have seemed distant to the inhabitants of Australia, but distance if anything accentuated the emergence of a semi-mythological view of things. The first Anzac Day commemorations took place on 25th April 1916, exactly one year after the first Gallipoli landings. It is easy to imagine people even then embellishing or embroidering facts in order to construct a heroic national identity for themselves in a world where national identity - be it British, German, American, French, Japanese or whatever - was becoming, if anything, increasingly important. At the same time, many would doubtless have enjoyed the fact that, for the time being at any rate, Australia was not being directly threatened in a military sense (unlike during the second global conflict), and it was still possible to enjoy such distractions as sport. All states except Queensland ran their major competitions more or less as usual in 1915, although VFL club University elected to disband. Perhaps unsurprisingly attendances were well down on those of 1914, and there were some comments in all states to the effect that the standard of play had been reduced following the enlistment in the AIF of many players. Nevertheless, there was still much to enjoy, both for those at home, and those fighting abroad, with many of the latter avidly looking forward to news each week of how South Melbourne, East Fremantle or Norwood had got on.
Following University’s withdrawal the VFL became an eight team competition, removing the need for a weekly bye. The premiership decider saw Carlton re-assert the superiority over Collingwood they had enjoyed for much of the preceding decade. The two teams actually played one another on three occasions during the 1915 season with the Dark Blues merging victorious on every occasion. One of the minor round meetings between the sides is reported on elsewhere.
In the VFA North Melbourne achieved the memorable distinction of winning all 14 matches contested during the season to secure their fifth senior grade premiership. Had the VFA competition not been suspended in 1916 it is intriguing to speculate on how much success North might ultimately have achieved, especially in light of the fact that they were to win the first post-war VFA premiership in 1919.
Although the SAFL was much depleted by the enlistment in the forces of top players the 1915 season was nevertheless significant in that it marked the first time since their admission to the competition in 1901 that Sturt had headed the list. The fact that the premiership was won at the expense of Port Adelaide rendered it all the more noteworthy. The Blues overcame the Magpies, who were minor premiers, by 13 points in a tense, low scoring challenge final having earlier over come both South Adelaide by 24 points and West Adelaide by 20 points.
The climax of the WAFL season is discussed elsewhere. It was generally maintained that while the standard of football produced during the minor round was disappointing, the three finals were on a par with anything seen during the immediate pre-war years.
Other state premiers in 1915 were Lefroy (TFL) and Paddington (NSWAFL).
 Australia: a Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley, page 72.
 Ibid, page 73.
 Australia: a History by Mike Walker, page 130.
 In the popular eighties British sitcom “Blackadder Goes Forth” Lieutenant George, recalling the fates of those with whom he had enlisted, mentions that one of them had died “at Gallipoli with the Aussies”, despite the fact that the Aussies constituted a comparatively small percentage of the troops involved in the campaign.
By 1915 the rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood had developed into one of, if not the, sternest in the VFL. When Collingwood developed its famed “system”, based on neat, co-ordinated forward thrusts in which short kicking, notably the stab pass, featured prominently along with a good deal of handball, Carlton, under the league’s first ever coach, Jack Worrall, were the first team to come up with an effective counter. The Blues players were instructed to mark their opponents as tightly as possible, and when in possession to kick long and high to position, thereby making the most of the aerial prowess of many of their players. Carlton had used these ploys consistently ever since 1905 and, given their success, saw no reason to alter them.
When Collingwood and Carlton confronted one another at Victoria Park in round sixteen of the 1915 season the Magpies were top of the VFL ladder with 12 wins from 13 matches, with their only loss having been sustained against Carlton in round 7 at Princes Park. The margin - just 2 points. The Blues meanwhile lay in third place having won 10 and drawn 1 of their 13 games. As was almost invariably the case during the first world war, spectators tended to patronise one of the week’s matches at the expense of all the others. Thus, on this particular Saturday, a crowd of some 25,000 crammed into Victoria Park for what was unequivocally the match of the day, while the league’s other three fixtures were played out in front of negligible attendances. Carlton were missing their top forward, Vin Gardiner, but were bolstered by the unexpected inclusion of three players who had signed for the AIF but granted leave to play. The Magpies were more or less at full strength.
Conditions for football were almost perfect. The weather was cool and dry, and the playing surface firm. The only negative feature was a strong northerly breeze which blew across the oval and, given their respective styles of play, might have been expected to impede Carlton more than Collingwood. Such indeed proved to be the case early on as the Magpies, deploying a good deal of effective handball, managed to rattle on three goals without reply off the boots of Dick Lee, Malcolm “Doc” Seddon and Harry Kerley. However, late in the quarter some slipshod play by the Magpie defence allowed the Blues to capitalise with a goal of their own, scored from point blank range by Charlie Hammond, making the score at the first change Collingwood 3.0 (18); Carlton 1.1 (7).
Play in the second term was rugged and tempestuous, with first Carlton and the Collingwood taking the initiative. At one stage the Blues led by a point, but the Magpies fought back hard to forge ahead by 4 points, 6.2 (38) to 5.4 (34). Collingwood’s style of play was described as beautiful to watch, but a trifle flashy. At half time both teams were cheered from the ground.
The Dark Blues dominated the opening minutes of the third term, but their kicking was wayward, and they only managed 4 consecutive behinds. This, however, was enough to level the scores, and it produced a determined and telling response from the Magpies, who went a goal in front courtesy of "Dick" Lee. Shortly afterwards Laurence “Gus” Dobrigh, marking close in, nabbed Collingwood’s eighth major. Viv Valentine then pulled a goal back for the visitors, but the Magpies responded with another goal to Lee, leaving them 15 points to the good at the final change: Collingwood 9.5 (59) to Carlton 6.8 (44).
The last quarter proved, for the most part, to be the equivalent of an arm wrestle. Neither side scored until ten minutes from the end when a goal to the Dark Blues brought them to within 9 points. The goal was the culmination of one of the best passages of play of the match, involving neat interplay by hand and foot between Rod McGregor, Harry Haughton and Alf Baud ending with a mark to Herb Burleigh close in, from which he could scarcely miss. Several members of the Collingwood team looked to be tiring, whereas the Blues were playing intelligently, finding teammates repeatedly with crisp, accurate foot passes.
With the game in the balance “Gus” Dobrigh of Collingwood indulged in a long, swerving run during which he evaded two Carlton opponents but was snared by the third. The Blues promptly took the ball almost the entire length of the ground and Jimmy Morris, with a clever snap, goaled, reducing the deficit to just 3 points.
Collingwood rallied, but could only manage a couple of behinds, and with the crowd now at fever pitch the Blues attacked and, after Collingwood defender Alfred “Pen” Reynolds’ pass was fumbled by Alec Mutch, Valentine swooped in to snatch up the loose ball and kick truly. Carlton had now hit the front by a solitary point.
From the resumption the Dark Blues again attacked but Les “Flapper” Hughes saved the day for the Magpies with a soaring mark. Collingwood then pushed forward in numbers, but Carlton’s defence stood firm to the end, leaving the final scores Carlton 9.9 (63) to Collingwood 9.8 (62).
Most press reports were critical of what was seen as Collingwood’s over-indulgence in handball and tendency to run with the ball too frequently. The Blues meanwhile were praised for the dash and vigour of their play, but in truth, given Carlton’s eventual margin of victory, there can have been very little to choose between the sides.
Best afield, by common consent, was Carlton follower and occasional defender Harry Haughton. “Whether forward or back, his effect on the match was tremendous. His marking was magnificent, and he has unusual dash for a big man” Other Blues players to catch the eye were Rod McGregor, the consummate centreman, rover Viv Valentine who booted 3 clever goals, defender Andy McDonald and half back flanker Alf Baud, of whom Roy Cazaly once remarked he made Haydn Bunton senior look “ordinary”.
Apart from his mistake near the end which cost his side the match Collingwood’s best player was probably Alec Mutch, while others to do well included Paddy Rowan and “Doc” Seddon, both of whome were newly enlisted soldiers.
Collingwood went on to claim the minor premiership in 1915 with a record of 14 wins and 2 defeats (both of which had been inflicted by Carlton). The Magpies then sustained an unexpected 34 point reversal in their semi final against Fitzroy, but having topped the ladder they would have a second chance by playing the team which won the final in a challenge match. That team proved to be Carlton, and for the third time during the 1915 season they proved to have the Magpies’ measure, winning on this occasion with something to spare - in the end at any rate. The first three quarters were as fiercely contested as in their round sixteen minor round meeting, with Carlton leading by just 5 points at the last change. However, in the final term the Dark Blues added 5.4 to 1.0 to win in the end by 33 points.
 “The Australasian”, 14/8/14, page 21.
 “Leader”, 14/8/15, page 19, gives the player to have mis-passed the ball as Percy Wilson.
 Ibid, page 20.
 Perhaps surprisingly, Haughton’s application to enlist in the AIF had been rejected. See “The Argus”, 9/8/15, page 11.
 Rowan would die in action at the Somme in 1916. Sedan was gassed while serving on the front line, but survived, and indeed played some of the best football of his career in his final three seasons after the war.
The contest was always willing and vimful but somewhat stodgy and cramped as a result of the determination of as many men as possible to be everlastingly “on the ball”.
Subiaco and Perth played off for the 1915 WAFL premiership in front of what was described as “a record crowd” at Perth Oval. The teams had qualified for the final after winning their respective semi finals, Perth at the expense of East Perth by 25 points, and Subiaco in a thriller against South Fremantle by 7 points. During the home and away season the two sides had met in round six at Subiaco Oval with the Maroons achieving victory by 16 points, round thirteen at the WACA when Perth had turned the tables with a 19 points win, and round twenty at Perth Oval when Perth had again emerged triumphant, this time by the rather more comfortable margin of 34 points. Subiaco managed just 1 more win than Perth during the minor round and so a close game was confidently anticipated.
In the opening term Subiaco, their captain Steele (pictured above) having won the toss, kicked with the aid of a slight breeze and attacked aggressively from the start. Perth’s defence, however, stood firm, and when the first score - a behind - arrived it was the Rednecks who secured it. Subiaco then retaliated strongly and after a scuffle just in front of goal umpire Orr - who was the league’s secretary at the time - were awarded a free kick to Steele who converted. The remainder of the term saw each side enjoying periods of dominance but only one further score, a behind to Subi, was registered. Thus, at quarter time there was a single straight kick in it with Subiaco on 1.1 leading Perth on 0.1.
The second term was noteworthy for the fact that virtually every player on both teams appeared to regard himself as an on-baller, making much of the play untidy and congested. Perth did most of the early attacking but proved unable to eke out a scoring opportunity, and Subiaco, in their first attack of the period extended their lead to 7 points when “Hubba” Limb’s soccer kick from close in narrowly missed.
Perth responded brightly, and after registering their second behind levelled the scores when Wimbridge kicked truly in dense traffic. Play after that see-sawed from end to end, with Perth, aided by the breeze, marginally the more penetrative side. By half time they had added 2 more points to their tally and so led by that margin when the bell sounded. The scoreboard showed Perth 1.4 to Subiaco 1.2 and at this stage there was very little indeed to choose between the two teams.
Such wind advantage as there was had more or less disappeared by the time the third quarter got underway and the early play was uneventful. Subiaco’s "Tiny" Willis, with a behind, eventually got the opening score of the term and until a few moments before the bell it proved to be the only one. Then, as the clock ran down, Chester of Perth got the ball near goal and managed to elude his marker. Finding himself with several metres of space he steadied before kicking truly, giving his side a useful 7 point advantage at the final change: Perth 2.4 (16); Subiaco 1.3 (9).
Kicking with the aid of a freshening breeze in the closing term Perth began confidently but their kicking for goal was errant, and they could only manage a couple of behinds. However, in the context of such a closely contested game every single score was welcome.
Subiaco responded with pace and purpose, forcing virtually every Perth player into defence. For a time the Redlegs managed to hold firm, but the Maroons were determined and focused “and working the leather forward again Willis, securing from the scrum, snapped a hurried twin-flagger”. The goal cut Perth’s lead to 4 points.
The Rednecks attacked from the resumption but could only manage a minor score, and as the match entered time on it was the Maroons who were on the offensive. A behind to Subi reduced the deficit to 4 points once more, and then came the decisive moments of the match. With just two minutes remaining Bruce Campbell of Subiaco marked within goal kicking range but his place kick fell short and a desperate scrimmage ensued just metres from goal. Subiaco’s full forward Limb, who had been well contained for most of the match, managed to get hold of the ball and just had time to throw it onto his boot. The kick sailed through for full points and suddenly the Maroons had their noses in front with less than two minutes to go. Perth tried desperately to attack from the restart but time was against them and Subiaco ran out winners by 2 points, 3.3 (21) to 2.7 (19). The victory gave Subi their third flag in four years.
The match was widely lauded as a fine exhibition, which was particularly gratifying given the generally mediocre standard of football that had been on display during the minor round. Players on both sides displayed excellent endurance and speed - “speed not of feet alone, but of thought and action, when a moment’s hesitation might have meant disaster”.
 “The Sunday Times”, 26/9/15, page 2S.
 By “Rover” in “The Daily News”, 1/10/15, page 16. No attendance figure was given, however. “The Sunday Times”, op cit, concurs that the crowd was “great for the times”, and gives the gate as £225.
 “The Sunday Times, op cit, page 2S.
 “The West Australian”, 27/9/15, page 4.
From THE TRENCHES
by Frederick Manning
We stumble, cursing, on the slippery duck-boards,
Goaded like the damned by some invisible wrath,
A will stronger than weariness, stronger than animal fear,
Implacable and monotonous.
THE YEAR IN BRIEF
In October 1915 Andrew Fisher accepted the position of Australian High Commissioner in London, and attorney-general William Hughes, a renowned orator of Welsh extraction, though actually born in London, replaced him as Prime Minister. Early in 1916 Hughes was invited by the British government to visit England, and he accepted. He was popularly received everywhere he went, particularly by those who had prospered from the war, and after his tour of England was complete he made his way to the western front, where he enhanced his reputation as a “man’s man” still further. The troops christened him the “Little Digger”, a label that would stick.
Hughes returned home convinced that Australia needed to increase its contribution to the war effort. In particular, he became a staunch advocate of conscription for service overseas, despite the fact that his party was fundamentally opposed to it. When he announced that he planned to order a referendum on the issue he was expelled from the Australian Labor Party. The referendum, however, went ahead. On 28th October Australians were asked to answer yes or no to the question: “Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?” A total of 1,087,557 voted “yes”, while 1,160,037 voted “No”. Among the repercussions were that Hughes was sacked, extremely acrimoniously, as leader of the Australian Labor Party. In some ways this represented a shot in the foot as it effectively split the party, and Labor would remain in the political wilderness for more than a decade. Hughes and his supporters subsequently forged an alliance with the Liberals and early in 1917 a new political party, the Nationalists, was established with Hughes as leader and, because the party had a working majority, Prime Minister.
Following the debacle of Gallipoli the AIF forces had been evacuated back to Egypt for rest, recouperation and further training. Between March and June 1916 four Anzac infantry division were shipped to France, with the cavalry units remaining behind. Three of the Anzac infantry divisions ended up being used in the first Battle of the Somme, which began on 1st July, and lasted five weeks. By that time 23,000 Australian troops were dead or had been wounded. And for what? This was the question many Australians were now asking. As a result, recruitment numbers began to falter. By the second half of 1916 at least 7,000 new volunteers were wanted each month, but only half that number were coming forward. Roman Catholics in particular were becoming more and more vociferous in their opposition, if not always to the war per se, then most assuredly to the involvement of Australians on the other side of the globe. The brutal putting down by British troops of the Irish Easter rebellion of 1916 inflamed opinions still further. Why, many people wanted to know, should yet more Australians be sent to the front line with the effect of freeing up additional British soldiers for policing duties in Ireland?
The cavalry units which had remained behind in Egypt when the other Anzac forces departed would play a comparatively unsung but important role in helping oust Turkey from the war early in 1918, but more of that at the appropriate time.
Back home, the war’s damaging impact on sport was at its peak in 1916. The SAFL disbanded its competition, as did the VFA and all three senior Tasmanian competitions. The VFL, WAFL and NSWAFL continued, but in atrophied form. Attendances in all three competitions were greatly diminished. The VFL had just four clubs, which farcically played twelve rounds of home and away matches followed by a finals series in which all four teams participated. Fitzroy, which had finished a distant last after the near meaningless minor round, went on to claim a premiership which gthe V/AFL would consider to be of precisely the same worth as every other premiership in the league's history. Quite a number of players from the VFL clubs which had elected not to continue saw service with one or other of the four remaining sides in 1916.
In the WAFL, from which North Fremantle had withdrawn never to return, South Fremantle broke through for the first flag in the club’s history, achieved by downing arch rivals East Fremantle 7.12 (54) to 5.5 (35). Paddington won the NSWAFL flag with a 3.14 (32) to 1.8 (14) defeat of Balmain in the decisive match of the year.
In 1916 Essendon, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne withdrew from the VFL which meant that the premiership would be contested by just the four inner city clubs: Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond.(1) Each club would meet the other four times in the minor round, following which all four sides would contest the finals. The team heading the ladder at the end of the minor round would be granted a double chance, but other than that the teams would be treated equally during the major round, meaning that, in theory, the side finishing fourth would have just as good a chance of claiming the premiership as the team which finished second. It was a ludicrous system, a fact which events would serve to emphasise, because fourth placed Fitzroy would end up defeating minor premier Carlton in both the final and challenge final to take out the flag.
Given how preposterous the league’s schedule for 1916 was it might be argued that all 24 minor round matches were virtually irrelevant. However, football has never been merely about premierships; first and foremost it is about entertainment, and seldom has this truth been more evident than during the bleakest year of the first world war, 1916.
In years to come, Carlton and Richmond would develop one of the fiercest rivalries in the VFL, but in 1916 Richmond - the Wasps, as they were known at the time - were the competition’s Cinderella side, having so far failed to contest a single finals series. Carlton meanwhile were one of the league’s heavyweights, with a total of five VFL flags to their name. In 1916 the Dark Navy Blues were chasing a third consecutive premiership and they were warmly favoured to manage this.
Punt Road Oval was the setting for Richmond’s round three clash with Carlton in 1916. Richmond had opened the season with two straight losses against Collingwood and Fitzroy, while the Blues had lost their opening round engagement to Fitzroy before overcoming Collingwood in round two. After two completed rounds Fitzroy was the only team to have won both matches but the ‘Roys would not win again until the finals.
Carlton attacked from the off and looked likely to score “but forward arrangements were not quite adequate to the occasion”. Richmond then took the ball to the other end of the ground but Percy Martini and Alex Eason, both of whom were on loan from Geelong, squandered relatively easy scoring chances. Carlton finally got the first score of the match - a behind - but thereafter it was the Wasps who held sway. However, the scoreboard failed to reflect the extent of their dominance, and despite managing eight scoring shots to three their lead at the first change was a mere 10 points, 1.7 (13) to 0.3 (3).
The early part of the second quarter saw Richmond still on top but their kicking for goal remained woeful. As the term wore on the Blues began to attack more and they finished quarter with a flurry of goals to lead at the main interval by 9 points, 3.7 (25) to 1.10 (16). The quarter had been fairly evenly contested, but Richmond had failed to capitalise on a number of good scoring opportunities whereas Carlton’s forwards had been impressive in front of goal.
Carlton opened the scoring in the third term with a goal following a superb mark to Joe Shortill. Thereafter, however, Richmond took charge, and this time their shooting for goal was accurate, with Clarrie Hall and Frank Harley both eliciting two flags from the goal umpire. At this stage, Richmond had a lead of 3 points, and this was quickly increased thanks to goals from Percy Maybury and Martini. Carlton’s only response was a behind, meaning that at three quarter time the Wasps had eked out a handy 19 point lead, 6.14 (50) to 4.8 (32). Their waywardness in front of goal would come back to haunt them, however.
Not long after the resumption Martini again goaled for Richmond and it seemed the match was as good as over, an impression reinforced when the ensuing quarter of an hour saw no additions to either teams’ scores. The deadlock was finally broken by Viv Valentine for the Blues who snapped truly despite having his back to goal. Shortly afterwards Charlie Fisher added another major score to an upsurge in volume from the small crowd. Carlton were playing with formidable purpose and the Richmond backline battled in vain to contain them. There was an air of inevitability about the dying moments of the game with George Topping, Vin Gardiner and Perce Daykin goaling in rapid succession to give the Blues a 5 point victory. The Wasps could only look back and bemoan their woeful inaccuracy in front of goal, a failing which would again blight them the next time they confronted Carlton.
Carlton’s was an even team performance with no exceptionally prominent performers. Perhaps their best player was half forward flanker Perce Daykin, while others to do well included Dayton’s fellow forward Charlie Fisher, plus defenders Ernie Jamieson and Billy Dick. Best for the losers included centreman Percy Maybury, rover Harry Alessio and follower Barney Herbert.
 These four clubs boasted strong working class identities, and generally speaking members of the working classes tended to be much more likely to oppose Australia’s involvement in the war than those of the middle and upper classes.
 “Weekly Times”, 27/5/15, page 19.
 In round six at Princes Park Richmond booted 3.13 (31) to Carlton’s 14.8 (92).
Several London newspapers gave very favourable comments, alluding to the physical fitness that is necessary, the amount of skill required, and its spectacular flavour. There is no sport that I know of equal to our game of football for making the ideal soldier, for pluck, self control, resource, coolness, dash and initiative are its essential characteristics.
In the years just prior to the start of the Great War discussions had taken place regarding the feasibility of staging Australian football exhibition matches in England and the United States. James Smith, a former St Kilda captain who had played 130 VFL games, was responsible for a plan which might actually have seen the game played by top players in London in 1914 had not the war intervened. The war did not exactly scupper the plan, however. Far from it - it actually helped bring things to fruition, because by 1916 a large number of leading Australian footballers had enlisted in the overseas forces, and many were based in England. Consequently the idea of bringing some of them together to provide the London public with an exhibition of the skills of Australian football was hatched, and on Saturday 28th October 1916 at Queen’s Club, Kensington the match took place. The competing teams represented the Queen’s Club Third Division and the Combined Training Units, and all proceeds from the match would be donated to the British and French Red Cross. (A total of roughly £400 was raised.)
Bruce Sloss, formerly of Essendon, Brighton and South Melbourne, was skipper of the Third Division, while the Training Units were captained by Charles “Redwing” Perry of Norwood (wrongly referred to as Percy in Victorian accounts of the match). Among the crowd, which was variously estimated at between 3,000 and 8,000, were the future King Edward VIII (then Prince of Wales), and King Manuel of Portugal. The match received a great deal of publicity, and was arguably the most important game of Australian football played outside Australia up to that point. Just nine weeks after the match, the Third Division’s captain Lieutenant Sloss was killed by a shell while on active service in Armentieres, northern France. He was twenty-eight. Many other participants in the game never again saw Australian shores.
Training Units kicked with the aid of a strong breeze in the opening quarter and dominated affairs, kicking 2.5 to the Third Division’s 0.2. “The fastness of the game was a revelation to the Londoners, who were delighted with the brilliancy of the high marking and the long kicking.”
The second term saw the Third Division make good use of the breeze as they added 2.8 to 2 behinds to lead at the main interval by 3 points. The pattern of the team kicking with the aid of the breeze dominating affairs continued in the third quarter as the Training Units reclaimed the lead by adding 2.2 to 0.3. During the final term Third Division produced the best football of the match to draw level with Training Units before pulling away to a fairly comfortable 16 point victory. Final scores were Third Division 6.16 (52) defeated Training Units 4.12 (36). According to press reports the best players for the victors included Harold Moyes of St Kilda and Carl Willis of South Melbourne, both of whom kicked 2 goals, Percy Jory (St Kilda), Les “Leggo” Lee (Richmond) and Dan Minogue (Collingwood). Most conspicuous for the losers were Jack Cooper of Fitzroy, Percy Trotter (East Fremantle), and Les Armstrong (Geelong). However, it would appear that the cabled report of the match on which all newspaper articles were based was compiled by a journalist conversant only with the VFL who completely ignored players from other states with whom they were unfamiliar. (Percy Trotter would have been well known to him as he was a former prominent Fitzroy player.)
The reaction of English newspapers and periodicals to the match was broadly positive. For example, the “Weekly Despatch” stated “Australian football, owing to the absence of the puzzling offside rule, and the infrequency of checks, has proved its possibilities as a game to draw large crowds”. Meanwhile a slightly less complimentary assessment appeared in “The Referee”: “The regulation to prevent excessively rough play is good, but it deprives the game of the stoutness characteristic of ours, although the colonial exposition lacks nothing of strength or resourcefulness”.
Somewhat sadly, Australian football failed to capitalise on these generally favourable assessments, and future attempts to promote the game in Britain were sporadic and often ill-judged. It is tempting to speculate on what might have happened had someone like James Smith possessed the drive and the financial wherewithal to promote the game in England in the immediate post-war years when people’s minds were generally quite open to new initiatives. Almost a century on, however, Australian football is probably no better known in England than it was during the brief high water mark of 28th October 1916.
 “The Australasian”, 4/11/16, page 26.
 “The Advertiser”, 30/10/16, page 9.
 As reported in “The Daily News”, 30/10/15, page 6.
 Ibid, page 6. The implied notion that Australia remained a colony might well have been a view shared by most English people at the time.
 For example, when highlights packages of VFL matches were sold to the UK TV station Channel Four in the 1980s the accompanying marketing material unabashedly sought to highlight the game’s more brutal aspects, and as a result the term “Aussie No Rules” was coined. Perhaps unsurprisingly this strategy failed to garner a significant audience for the sport in Britain.