1917: Death Without Glory

INSCRIPTION FOR A WAR

by A.D. Hope 


Stranger, go tell the Spartans  

we died here obedient to their commands.  


Inscription at Thermoplae 

​Linger not, stranger; shed no tear; 

Go back to those who sent us here. 

We are the young they drafted out 

To wars their folly brought about. 

Go tell those old men, safe in bed, 

​We took their orders and are dead.


This year saw the adoption by the German high command of the disastrous policy of unrestricted submarine warfare - disastrous in that it brought about the USA's entry into the war within the space of a couple of months, and ultimately led to her downfall the following year. Meanwhile the British launched a major offensive at Passchendaele in autumn 1917: as at the Somme the previous year it proved a highly costly failure. In 1917 Russia's exited the war after two revolutions, the first in February and a second in October.  

In Australia, the matter of whether or not conscription should be extended to include service overseas once again assumed centre stage in September 1917. This time the motion was rejected even more emphatically. Among those opposed to conscription for overseas service were most of the soldiers fighting in France one of whom wrote home in December that that “we are all waiting for the result of the referendum to see what sort of time Mr W Hughes has got for his trouble. He won’t get a yes from the boys over here that’s sure.”[1] Perhaps the Australian troops’ apparent affection for Hughes, as displayed during his visit to the Western Front,  was, in truth, somewhat less than skin deep.  

Hughes was a strange character, of whom Manning Clark opined “It may be doubted whether he loved any man”.[2] His loyalty was first and foremost to the British Empire rather than to Australia as an independent nation. The main reason for this was that he doubted Australia’s ability to stand up for itself alone in what he perceived as a fundamentally hostile world. Consequently, he actually wanted Australia to surrender some of its independence to Britain in order to ensure Britain’s full protection in the event, say, of a Japanese invasion, something many Australians at the time feared.[3]  

In Australia, the general mood in 1917 has been described as deflated and somewhat cynical - in stark contrast to the feelings of ebullient patriotism so many had espoused when the war began. Not even the Americans’ entry into the war could assuage the feelings of hopelessness and resentment. Why on earth should Australians, in their thousands, sacrifice their lives on the other side of the world in defence, not of their own country, but of Britain and France? Hughes’ answer - that Australia’s and Britain’s destinies were inextricably intertwined - was most emphatically not the view of most Australians.  

Still, there was always sport, and if attendances at major sporting events remained deflated compared to the immediate pre-war years, for many it afforded something of a panacea, an escape route back to normality. In Victoria the VFL remained active in 1917 with six clubs - two more than in 1916. Collingwood ultimately triumphed, although not before a scare. Minor premiers, they lost the final by a goal to Fitzroy before making amends a week later with a 9.20 (74) to 5.9 (39) win.   

For the second season in succession, South Fremantle overcame local rivals East Fremantle in the premiership decider, this time by the slightly narrower margin of 15 points, 6.5 (41) to 3.8 (26). Other premierships went to Paddington in the NSWAFL and Wanderers in the newly formed Northern Territory Football League. The SAFL, VFA, TFL and QFL continued in abeyance.  

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Quoted in Australians: Eureka to the Diggers by Thomas Keneally, page 353. News, needless to say, travelled much more slowly a century ago than it does today.  

[2] A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 226.  

[3] Japan had, of course, comprehensively defeated Russia in a war just over a decade earlier, while during the Great War she had, seemingly effortlessly, captured a number of German overseas colonies in the Pacific, and later provided an extremely efficient and effective escort service for British ships in the Mediterranean. 


South Melbourne vs Fitzroy, 9th June 1917

South Kick Themselves in the Foot

Match report from the “Weekly Times”, 16/6/17, page 21

A large attendance at South Melbourne realised what can be done by accurate kicking. From the outset the South men followed a policy of wastefulness that brought them eight points against the nine scored for Fitzroy from half the opportunities. Only one goal was notched during the bout, Parratt, of Fitzroy, being the kicker. After South had been credited with minor points requiring double figures to count them, Fitzroy made a second sixer. This had the apparent effect of shaming South out of their missing craze, and goals were put on by Doherty and Morgan. Thus half time saw the Southerners leading by 10 points, every one of which represented a scoring shot. In the third bout the local men increased their lead through the instrumentality of Tandy, but his goal was associated with five other chances yielding only one notch apiece. Fitzroy, on the other hand, struck only twice, but scored the full points once. Hence at lemon time South were only fourteen points ahead - all of them scoring shots. Then accuracy of marksmanship began to influence the issue. South persevered like good sports, and maintained the lead for a long while. When they made a goal with less than ten minutes to go, it seemed all right for the local cause. The ‘Roys were equally determined, however, and by a special and well-maintained dash they crowded two goals into the concluding five minutes, and won by 5 points. The goal crossings were favorable to South by 25 to 15. The game may almost be styled Wigraft’s match, the ex-Prestonian securing four of Fitzroy’s eight goals. Holden, Mullen, Leithbridge, Moore, Purcell and Bamford were prominent among the winners, as were the South men, Howell, Caldwell, Payne, Belcher, Daly and Rademacher.

The final scores were Fitzroy 8.7 (55); South Melbourne 5.20 (50). The ‘Roys were reigning premiers, while South Melbourne was back in the VFL fold after missing the 1916 season. South's kicking for goal during the early part of the 1917 season was atrocious. In the first three rounds their tallies were 9.18, 8.16 and 5.18. Nevertheless they went on to qualify for the finals, only to crash out at the first hurdle agaInst eventual premiers Collingwood. The 'Roys too went on to make the finals and ended up playing off for the premiership against the Magpies. In the teams' first meeting in the final Fitzroy won by a goal, but Collingwood as minor premiers had the right of challenge, and they employed this to good effect, claiming the flag by a margin of 35 points.


1918: Australia is Safe

The Year in Brief

“In the fighting-lines there was bewidered relief when the guns ceased to fire. There was no fraternisation and little rejoicing. In England people were less restrained. Work ceased in shops and offices as news of the armistice spread, Crowds surged through the streets, often led by airmen and Dominion troops on leave. Omnibuses were seized, and people in strange garments caroused on the upper deck. A bonfire heaped against the plinth of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square has left its mark to this day. Total strangers copulated in doorways and on the pavements. They were asserting the triumph of life over death. The celebration ran on with increasing wildness for three days, when the police finally intervened and restored order.” (From English History 1914-45 by A.J.P. Taylor, pages 113-114.)  


“Peace on 11 November brought out thousands of people in every Australian capital city, although because of the time difference, the real celebrations did not take place until the following day. At least eight million soldiers had been killed and perhaps as many as 12 million civilians. All casualty figures are approximate because the bodies of over half a million men who fought in France and Belgium were never found, or if found, never identified. Australia had sent about 330,000 volunteers to the war and of those nearly 60,000 were killed, 150,000 wounded and 4,000 taken prisoner. And, a most amazing thing - the two major combatants, Britain and Germany, had managed to fight the war on other people’s territory and it ended without a single enemy soldier standing on their soil.” (From Australia: A Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley, page 89.)  


Australia emerged from the Great War scarred, somewhat economically depleted, and with a less roseate view of Britain and Empire than she had harboured four years earlier. In the view of some, notably the nation’s Prime Minister William Hughes - the “Little Digger” - the war had been fought to safeguard Australia’s identity. Central to that identity was the concept of a White Australia. The opinions of those inhabitants of Australia who did not have the good fortune to be white were deemed irrelevant.   

When he addressed the House of Representatives on 10th September Hughes summarised the matter thus:  

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]  

More succinctly, Hughes ventured the opinion that, as a result of its efforts in the war, "Australia is safe".[2]

During 1918, as optimism increased over the eventual outcome of the war, interest in sport and attendances at major sporting events increased. The VFL competition was bolstered by the re-admission of Essendon and St Kilda; only Melbourne remained in recess. Attendances were well up on 1917 as well, as they were in all states where the game was being played. Even in South Australia, where the official league competition was still in abeyance, attendances to matches in the rather shoddily administered patriotic league were comparable with those of the SAFL in the immediate pre-war period.  

On the field in the VFL there was much to get excited at and enthuse over. The finals series was particularly noteworthy, with the three finals matches being decided by margins of 9, 5 and 5 points. The premiership deciding match between South Melbourne and Collingwood is reported on elsewhere.  

Another indication that things were returning to normal was the resumption of the VFA, albeit with only six out of ten clubs competing. North Melbourne capped a 10 match unbeaten home and away season with hefty finals wins over Brunswick and Prahran to lift what was effectively, given the break in competition owing to the war, a third consecutive flag.  

The WAFL challenge final between East Fremantle and East Perth was attended by a record Western Australian crowd of 7,000. Read about it elsewhere on the site.  

Premiers of the NSWAFL were East Sydney. The Darwin-based NTFL changed from a winter to a summer season, running from October 1917 to March 1918. The premiership was won by Wanderers.  

FOOTNOTES 

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

[2] Ibid, page 237.


East Fremantle vs East Perth, 21st September 1918

Old versus Young

In 1918 East Perth enjoyed their best season since joining the WAFA, as it was known then, in 1906. The Royals won the minor premiership, and with it the right of challenge in the finals, having lost just 2 of their 15 home and away matches.[1] In the first semi final they trounced South Fremantle by 55 points, 12.16 (88) to 3.5 (23). However, two weeks later they came unstuck in the final against East Fremantle, going down by 26 points. Invoking their right of challenge therefore on Saturday 21st September the Royals prepared to take on Old Easts at Subiaco Oval to determine the destiny of the 1918 premiership.

Already by 1918 East Fremantle had begun to develop an enviable tradition having won a total of ten flags since entering the competition in 1898. In 1918 Old Easts were hoping it would be third time lucky after losing out to South Fremantle in both 1916 and 1917. In 1918 they qualified for the finals in second place with a 10-5 record and then ousted semi final opponents Perth from premiership contention with an 8.8 (56) to 4.8 (32) win. As mentioned above they then scored a solid win over East Perth in the final setting up a challenge final re-match with the Royals a week later.

“The day was ideal, and the vast crowd of onlookers were treated to a strenuous and spectacular display of our winter pastime.”[2]

Conditions may have been ideal from the point of view of spectators, but as far as the players were concerned it was uncomfortably warm. Despite this, the two teams managed to put on a show which was always interesting and seldom less than captivating.  Indeed, in the view of some it was the best finals match seen in the West for several years,[3] with absolutely nothing separating the teams for the first three quarters.

East Perth had the aid of a fairly strong breeze in the opening term and they raced into attack from the first bounce and soon had the first score - a behind - on the board courtesy of Slattery. Shortly afterwards Harrold took a mark on the wing and secured another minor score with a thumping kick. 

At this period in time East Perth were known interchangeably as the Royal Blues and Young East (Old East, of course, being East Fremantle). With Phil Matson in dominant form they continued to press forward and after two fairly easy shots had been missed Hayes marked near to goal and made no mistake.

Old Easts responded forcibly and after attacking for some minutes they opened their account with a goal from Rawlinson. The play was extremely fast at this stage, with both teams squandering some relatively easy scoring chances before exchanging goals. East Fremantle also notched a behind making the scores 2.1 apiece. After Hayes had missed an easy chance for East Perth Old Easts took the ball straight to the other end of the ground and Cinoris kicked truly.

The closing minutes of the quarter saw East Perth in control and by the time the bell sounded they had added a goal courtesy of Slattery plus three behinds to lead at the first change by 3 points, 3.4 (22) to 3.1 (19).

With the wind at their backs Old Easts opened the second term brightly but a minor score was all they could manage. East Perth responded with a series of quick attacks which yielded a behind and a major score, the latter off the boot of Harrold. Play was now see-sawing between one side and the other. East Fremantle took up the baton next and soon had a goal on the board, kicked by Lawn. Then it was East Perth’s turn and a six pointer to “Digger” Thomas restored their narrow advantage. Not to be outdone, Old Easts responded determinedly, and after a couple of near misses Riconi and Sheedy in quick succession registered full points to make the half time scores East Fremantle 6.4 (40) to East Perth 5.4 (34).

East Perth surged into attack at the beginning of the third quarter and a scored goal from “Digger” Thomas soon had them back on level terms. Old Easts responded with a sustained period of attacking which culminated in a goal to Gallagher. Not long afterwards Clinoris converted from a set shot and East Fremantle had nosed in front by a goal. After both sides had added behinds to their tallies the Royals again levelled the scores when Bayes goaded after a fine passage of play which saw the ball conveyed the length of the ground. The bell sounded soon after with both teams on 8.5 (53) - anybody’s game on the face of it, but Old Easts would be kicking with the aid of a strong breeze in the final quarter.

“In the final term the seasiders took charge from the bounce, and it was soon seen that their superior condition and weight were too much for their now tiring opponents.”[4] Shortly after the resumption Sheedy registered full points putting Old Easts a goal to the good, and although the Royals tried desperately to fight back East Fremantle’s defence stood firm. Then, when Old Easts next attacked, Cinoris claimed his fourth goal of the encounter, and after that the heads of the East Perth players seemed to droop. Lawn added East Fremantle’s eleventh goal soon afterwards and the match was as good as won. When the bell sounded the scoreboard showed East Fremantle with a 21 point advantage, 11.8 (74) to 8.5 (53), with East Perth having failed to trouble the scorers at all in the final term.

Best for the victors were defender Brown, half forward flanker Sheedy, wingman Bell, half forward Rawlinson and forward pocket Cinoris. The Royals were best served by follower Slattery, centreman Matson who outpointed a fine opponent in “Nipper” Truscott, rover Gepp and wingman Allen.

“When the customary hot-air was released at the close of hostilities Captain Truscott paid tribute to the victorious 18s’ trainers, and he hit the very pupil of the bullseye when he mentioned that stamina accounted for East Perth finishing second. No doubt the better - only a shade the better - team won on the day, and East Perth’s president (Harry Mann) was the first to admit it. It was a clean, open game throughout, and Crapp’s firmness in stopping an exchange of knuckles was only twice in evidence.”[5]

East Fremantle were deserving and popular premiers, but East Perth’s time in the sun would not be long in coming.

FOOTNOTES

[1] East Perth had previously finished top of the ladder in 1910, but with an inferior win-loss record to 1918. They had ultimately finished second after losing the premiership deciding match to East Fremantle.

[2] “Old Timer” writing in the “Westralian Worker”, 27/9/18, page 8. The attendance of the match was given as 7,000 which constituted a record.

[3] See, for instance, “The West Australian”, 23/9/18, page 7.

[4] Ibid, page 7.

[5] “Sunday Times”, 22/9/18, page 2.


South Melbourne vs Collingwood, 7th September 1918

Last Gasp Win for South

“It has been a good season, with sidelights and the incidents almost as numerous and as interesting as in the palmy days of the sport.”[1]


“It was not at all good football. League finals are not as a rule the best reflex of the game. The best football is usually shown in the second “round” of the home and home series, when clubs are fighting for places.”[2]


With 13 wins from 14 minor round matches South Melbourne comfortably topped the VFL ladder 3 wins clear of second placed Collingwood. Carlton and St Kilda (both 8 wins) completed the final four. South Melbourne’s only defeat of the season came in round four against St Kilda at the Junction Oval. The margin was a mere 5 points. Opposed in the semi final by Carlton South had eked out a grinding, unconvincing win by 5 points, 8.10 (58) to 7.11 (53). The other semi final had seen Collingwood come from 7 points behind at three quarter time to claim victory by 9 points, 7.16 (58) to 7.7 (49). The final between South Melbourne and Collingwood would only decide the season’s premiers if South were victorious. As minor premiers the southerners enjoyed the right of challenge which, when invoked, would necessitate another match, known unsurprisingly as the challenge final.

Play in the opening quarter was fast and physical which inevitably undermined the more spectacular features of the code. Moments after the commencement Robertson of South goaled.  Collingwood hit back almost immediately when, following a scrimmage in the goal square, “Dick” Lee picked the ball up and kicked truly.

Umpire Elder appeared to have decided to allow players a lot of leeway with respect to the game’s more physical aspects. Space in which to move was therefore at a premium, and the most conspicuous players early on were all defenders - Vic Belcher and Arthur Rademacher for South, and “Con” McCarthy for the Magpies. Collingwood continued to attack after their goal and a long kick from ruckman Les “Lofty” Hughes sailed over the heads of the South defenders and was swooped on by “Snowy” Lumsden who snapped truly.

As would be the case for much of the day play see-sawed repeatedly from end to end. After South centre half forward Tom O’Halloran had missed with a comparatively easy shot on the run Gerald Ryan raised two flags with a kick from virtually the same spot. Next it was Collingwood’s turn to attack, and another long, high kick went over the heads of South’s backmen. First to it this time was Charles Laxton and, like Lumsden a few minutes earlier, he managed to spear the ball through for a goal.

The quarter ended with the Magpies 4 points to the good, 3.3 (21) to South’s 2.5 (17).

“Alan” O’Donoghue[3] and Jack Howell excited cheers from the large crowd after taking spectacular marks early in the second term. Otherwise, however, play tended to be drab and somewhat pedestrian. Among the few players to catch the eye consistently were Hughes, Laxton and William Walton, all of Collingwood. South’s was a more even team effort with no individuals standing out.

As the quarter went on both sides had numerous chances to score but with the exception of a handful of behinds to the Magpies all such opportunities were wasted. Shorty before the bell for half time “Dick” Lee marked in a forward pocket for Collingwood and with the resultant kick registered the only major score for the term. South indeed had not troubled the scorers at all in this quarter, and the Magpies had extended their lead to 16 points, 4.9 (33) to 2.5 (17).

During the half time break John Worrall, the former top player and coach, now a journalist, spoke to “a prominent Southerner, who said: - “Our boys are very excited. They are not showing to advantage, but I am hopeful that some master-hand will steady them down in the second half.”[4]

The speed of the play increased noticeably after the long interval but there was still a lot of fumbling and kicking by both sides tended to be errant and haphazard. The opening goal of the quarter went to South, off the boot of O’Halloran. Lee then missed an easy goal scoring chance, whereupon South swept the ball to the opposite end of the ground and Ernie Barber, after fumbling an easy mark, followed up quickly, gathered up the ball and kicked his side’s fourth goal of the match. The deficit was now a single straight kick.

Collingwood were on top for the next few minutes but their play was untidy, and they proved unable to capitalise. Bill Twomey, for example, was frequently a conspicuous figure with his exhilarating pace, but his judgement was awry, and he was proving more of a liability than an asset. Finally Hughes, the best player on the ground at this stage, grabbed the ball from a ruck contest near goal and fired the Magpies a further 6 points in front. Another goal attempt by Collingwood a couple of minutes later was stopped on the line by South.

The closing phase of the third quarter brought the best football of the match. Play was still fast and fierce, but there was also now a cohesion to it that had been lacking. Time and again the ball was sent fluently from one end to another, but for the time being both defences stood firm. Finally, after Barber had missed completely from an angle, Chris Laird obtained the ball and made no mistake. It was now a 5 point ball game, but within a couple of minutes “Dick” Lee had extended the Magpies’ lead to 11 points with a goal on the run from close in.

The time-on period brought two more goals, another to Laird for South and, almost at the death, another to Lumsden for the Magpies. At “lemons” the scoreboard read Collingwood 7.12 (54); South Melbourne 6.6 (42).

On resumption Collingwood raced into attack with William Walton, Tom Wraith and Charlie Pannam featuring. The last named registered a behind and the Magpies’ lead was looking handy.

South responded with a purposeful attack but Albert Colechin and Alfred Reynolds combined well for the Magpies and relieved the danger. Next it was Collingwood’s turn to attack but Lee, normally the deadliest of kicks, sent his shot across the face of goal, and South relieved. South then mounted a quick counter which culminated in their full forward Gerald Ryan making no mistake with a running shot. A behind from Howell moments later reduced the arrears to just 5 points.

Collingwood pressed forward once more but Belcher managed to intercept the ball and clear. The Magpies again attacked and Walton’s shot registered a minor score - Collingwood in front by 6 points. South, paying with greater purpose and fluency than at any previous stage in the match, swept the ball forward from the kick in, and to the raucously expressed delight of their fans, levelled the scores thanks to a goal from Ryan.

With time ticking away an attacking foray by the Magpies saw Lee’s shot marked in the goal square by Belcher, and the threat was repelled. Collingwood’s next attack did bear fruit, however, albeit that it was only a behind, kicked by Lumsden. The closing moments were frenetic and pulsating as South tortuously worked the ball forward. From a scrimmage near goal the ball popped out and Laird was on hand to soccer it over the unguarded line for full points. Play had barely recommenced when the bell sounded leaving South Melbourne victors by 5 points, 9.8 (62) to 7.15 (57).

Best players for the victors were follower Howell, full back Sam “Chip” Turner, centre half forward O’Halloran, wingman Wood and full forward Ryan, while the somewhat unlucky losers were well served by ruckman Hughes - arguably the best player afield - rover Laxton, centre half forward Walton and centreman Percy Wilson.

“In reviewing the great and intense struggle it is hard to conceive how Collingwood was defeated. In the first half they were the more finished and resolute side, handled the ball in cleaner and superior manner, helped each other better, were mostly in front, and, contrary to all expectations, showed more dash. From the bounce of the ball it was unmistakably apparent that the southerners were rattled. They overran the ball frequently, fumbled at times shockingly, and when two of their men were battling with an opponent both in their eagerness went for the ball instead of one lending the other a helping hand."[5]

The match attracted a crowd of 39,168 spectators, the most since 1913, and produced receipts of £1,175/7/ . Seated in the eastern grandstand were some 400 returned soldiers who no doubt would have listened with interest during the half time interval to a group of recruiting sergeants addressing the crowd. Perhaps reflecting people’s newfound optimism over the outcome of the war they were not subject to the usual abuse and heckling but were well received.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “Pivot” writing in the “Leader”, 14/9/18, page 23.

[2] Ibid, page 23.

[3] His given name was Aloysius.

[4] “The Australasian”, 14/9/18, page 23.

[5] Ibid, page 23.


1919: Spanish Flu

The End of the Affair

by Elizabeth Riddell


I do not forgive your old age.

I have liked lavishness, a splurge,

so I do not forgive caution, nor

the desire blurred, scribbled over, half-erased,

nor the corner of the mouth turned down

as if dragged by an aching critical tooth.

​I do not forgive the tufts, the patches, the stained skin.

Not your fault, of course, but still unforgivable

to go russet from red and white to dark in

so few years, to lose the spring,

the stretch, the hair, the glistening eye.

Most of all I do not forgive your tolerance

when I reject you. It is no substitute for rage.

{And most of all I do not forgive myself,

mirror image of your decay, the soon shredded flesh.}

Give me this, do not sleep through the cavatina

and I will stay awake for you, for the last time.


THE YEAR IN BRIEF

The world had changed. Europe was no longer at its epicentre. The USA, whose losses during the war had been minuscule compared to numerous other nations, Australia included, could alone be described as a major global power. Germany, apparently vanquished and certainly impoverished, was seething not far below the surface. The two polar extremes of Communism and Fascism would all too soon be gorging themselves on the feelings of political helplessness enshrouding Europe. Already indeed Europe’s largest nation, Russia, had nailed its colours to the communist mast.

Communism was also becoming increasingly difficult to ignore in Australia, a nation which had punched above its weight during the war, but in which no fewer than fifty per cent of families had lost at least one loved one. As far as the establishment was concerned, the war had been fought with the aim of safeguarding White Australia, and common wisdom had it that success had been achieved in that regard. Nevertheless, there were doubters, including most particular the sizeable minority - many Catholics, the urban poor, a large number of women of all classes - who believed that the war had been a complete waste - of time, money, effort and, most particularly, lives. With no conclusive evidence yet available as to how Communism might manifest itself if permitted to hold the reins of power its ideology held a certain allure to many of those who felt disenfranchised or downtrodden.

Of more immediate concern, however, were some of the logistical problems associated with the end of the war, such as how to repatriate the thousands of Australians serving abroad. Such an enterprise would have been difficult in any circumstances, but it was rendered infinitely harder by the outbreak of a pneumonic influenza epidemic. Popularly known as the “Spanish Flu”, although there is no firm evidence as to where it actually originated, in the space of just over a year this disease killed somewhere between 40 and 100 million people worldwide - more than died during the entire course of the Great War. Unlike most strains of influenza which are typically only fatal for the very young or the elderly “Spanish Flu” was actually much more likely to kill you if you were young and healthy. This meant that soldiers returning home to Australia from Europe were just as much at risk as anyone else, and indeed possibly more at risk than many because they had been living in Europe where the illness had had a headstart. Consequently, many troop ships arriving back in Australia were held in quarantine. At one stage the entire state of New South Wales was declared an infected area, and schools and all public entertainment venues were closed. Paradoxically and rather perversely though, people were encouraged to visit beaches as sea air was considered to be beneficial to health. Not surprisingly, many instances of flu were contracted at the seaside.

Ultimately, somewhere in the region of 12,000 Australians died of “Spanish Flu” - a comparatively meagre total compared to 150,000 in England and Wales, in excess of 500,000 in the USA, and an estimated 15 million in India. Nevertheless its impact on Australian society was marked and very real. Among the casualties were the major football competitions of Tasmania (TFL, NTFA and NWFU) and Queensland (QFL) which had planned to resume in 1919 after having been in recess during the war, but instead opted to remain in abeyance for another season.

Elsewhere, even in New South Wales, top level football continued. Paddington won the NSWAFL premiership, defeating reigning premiers East Sydney by 20 points in the year’s decisive match.

The first recorded case of “Spanish ?Flu” on Australian soil occurred in December 1918 in Melbourne. However, overall the impact of the disease on both the city and the state as a whole was minimal. As far as the VFL and VFA were concerned it was business more or less as usual. The VFA, which was contested by the same ten clubs as in the years immediately prior to the war, reverted in 1919 to fielding eighteen players per team. Footscray ended North Melbourne’s run of success by accounting for the blue and whites by 22 points in the premiership decider.

The VFL enjoyed a financially lucrative season with crowds at an all time high. Collingwood won the premiership by defeating Richmond in the challenge final after losing to the same team a week earlier in the final. It was the first time since they entered the competition that the Tigers had played off for the flag and better things were just round the corner for the men from Punt Road. Another noteworthy event in the VFL in 1919 was the introduction of an official reserves competition.
Going one better than Richmond East Perth, which had joined the WAFL competition in 1906, won a first ever premiership by overcoming their conquerors of 1918, East Fremantle. Final scores were East Perth 10.8 (68); East Fremantle 7.4 (46).

In 1915, the last year of full scale SAFL competition before it went into recess, Sturt had won their first league premiership, and in 1919 they beat North Adelaide at the second time of asking to clinch their second.

In the NTFL Wanderers won their second consecutive flag with a 9.9 (63) to 3.5 (23) grand final defeat of Waratahs.

The political sphere in 1919 is dominated by the Versailles Peace Conference. Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes enhances his reputation by ensuring that Australia is included as a signatory to the eventual treaty. He also manages to get the League of Nations, formed as a consequence of the treaty, to approve a mandate whereby Australia is given administrative control over German New Guinea. Capitalising on his popularity in the wake of these developments Hughes calls a Federal election in November at which his Nationalist Party achieves a resounding victory. The 1919 Federal election was the first to use proportional representation rather than the first past the post system which had hitherto applied.



Collingwood vs Fitzroy, 28th June 1919

Capitulation at Collingwood

"Football at Victoria Park on Saturday where Collingwood and Fitzroy played, was of various types and grades, but the game had a stirring climax. Fine footballers who failed early redeemed themselves later, and the winning team carried the day after one of the most vigorous offensives witnessed for a considerable time.”[1}


After eight completed rounds both Collingwood and Fitzroy had won 5 of their seven matches and lay in third and fourth places on the VFL ladder respectively. Matches between the two sides were always keenly anticipated, and this one more than most, given tboth their high positions on the premiership ladder and the fact that it was their first meeting since the end of the war. Given that the match was being played at the Magpie fortress of Victoria Park Collingwood were warm pre-match favourites. A massive crowd estimated at 32,000 turned up and they certainly got their money’s worth as the finish of the match was just about the most exciting of the 1919 season.

Fitzroy had not won at Collingwood since 1913, a premiership year for the ‘Roys, but there were many who felt that their 1919 combination was at least on a par with that of six years earlier and so a strong showing was eagerly anticipated. In the first quarter, however, Collingwood was much the better side, although in truth neither team produced football that was particularly compelling. Kicking with the aid of a fairly strong breeze the Magpies were quick in taking advantage and had a goal on the board within three minutes off the boot of Harry Curtis, a beanpole-shaped ruck man of the old school. Weather conditions were inimical to fluent football as, in addition to the wind, there were intermittent showers of rain throughout the afternoon rendering both playing surface and ball extremely slippery. 

At the first change Collingwood had registered the games only two goals, and led by 13 points, 2.5 (17) to 0.4 (4). The football had been unkempt and energy sapping, but in the second term there would be some improvement. Shortly after the resumption Len Wigraft kicked Fitzroy’s first goal and for a short while the ‘Roys enjoyed a purple patch. Fitzroy forward Robert Merrick was engaged in a great tussle with his Magpie opponent Alex Mutch, who was a tough and tenacious defender. Merck, however, was strong overhead, and it was after taking a towering mark that he registered his first and his side’s second goal. 

Continuing to press forward Fitzroy soon had a third goal on the board, courtesy of Gordon Rattray (pictured above), a wily and persistent player who, in the opinion of Roy Cazaly, was responsible for inventing the torpedo punt.[3] 

Rattray’s goal had the effect of giving impetus to the Magpies who shortly afterwards obtained their only goal of the quarter. The scorer was “Con” McCarthy, who kicked truly after taking a fine mark from wingman Tom Drummond’s typically penetrative pass. 

Fitzroy responded with a series of attacks, from the last of which Merrick again evaded Mutch to mark the ball before quickly playing on and kicking truly. At the main break therefore the Maroons were in the lead by 3 points, 4.6 (30) to 3.9 (27).

In the third quarter Collingwood blew the game open by kicking 6.3 to 1.0, thereby opening up a seemingly match-winning lead of 30 points. Play during this term was characterised by a number of noteworthy individual efforts. Collingwood’s “Dick “ Lee scored the Magpies’ first goal of the quarter with a superb drop kick, and the Magpies smaller players, such as Tom Drummond on a wing, centreman Percy Wilson, and skilful utility “Gus” Dobrigh, came increasingly to the fore with some speedy and intelligent football. Had it not been for some fine defensive work, most notably by “Snowy” Atkinson, Fitzroy might have sustained even greater damage during this term. The Magpies though still managed to add another five goals to their tally by the last change, at which point the scoreboard read Collingwood 9.12 (66); Fitzroy 5.6 (36).

Most spectators could have been forgiven for believing the match as good as over but the Fitzroy players had other ideas. Nevertheless, the first five minutes of the final term did nothing to encourage optimism on Fitzroy’s part as the scores remained unchanged. Then Chris Lethbridge split the centre with a high punt kick to claim for the Maroons’ sixth goal but there still seemed no reason for alarm bells to ring in the Magpie camp. Gradually, however, the regularity with which with the ‘Roys were eating into Collingwood’s lead made the threat impossible to ignore. Fitzroy’s seventh goal was kicked by Wigraft after a tremendous mark against three opponents. Moments later the same player added another major score, and suddenly the deficit was less than two straight kicks. Next Rattray, escaping the attentions of his direct opponent, collected the ball and went on a swerving run which culminated in possibly the goal of the match. With plenty of time left on the clock Collingwood’s advantage was now a mere two points, 9.12 (66) to 9.10 (64).

The Magpies then came to the fore but desperate defending by Fitzroy restricted them to just a couple of behinds. With time-on fast expiring the Maroons launched one last desperate assault on goal and play became bottled up by a scrimmage in the square. Scenes of great confusion followed as the ball traversed the goal line and players of both sides appealed to both the field umpire, Jack Elder, and the goal umpire. Their ruling - confirmed later - was that the ball had last connected with the shin of Fitzroy’s Tom Heaney, and that therefore it was a goal. Collingwood’s players protested in vain; the match was effectively over, and the ‘Roys had emerged with the most improbable of victories by a 3 point margin, 10.11 (71) to 9.14 (68). Best players for the victors were Wigraft, Rattray, Atkinson, Robert King and George “Shorty” Shaw. The Magpies were best served by ruckman Les “Flapper” Hughes, McCarthy, Charlie Pannam, Wilson and Drummond.

Fitzroy’s win elevated them to second place on the premiership ladder, while Collingwood dropped to fourth. However, ultimately it would be a season to celebrate for the Magpies who ended up capturing the premiership thanks to an 11.12 (78) to 7.11 (53) challenge final defeat of Richmond. A week earlier the Tigers, who were an emerging force in league football, had upset Collingwood by 29 points in the final.

Following a disappointing loss of form during the second half of the season Fitzroy ended up finishing fifth, and consequently missed the finals. In their final match of the season the ‘Roys faced Collingwood at Brunswick Street, knowing that a win would ensure finals participation, at the expense of either Carlton or Richmond. After leading at every change by 7, 13 and 2 points the Maroons meekly capitulated under Magpie pressure in the final term and lost by 3 goals.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “The Age”, 30/6/19, page 11.

[2] There were nine clubs in the VFL in 1919, one of which had a bye each week. 

[3] This seems extremely unlikely. The kick can easily be produced by accident and was, in all likelihood a feature of the game from its earliest days.


VFL vs South Australia, 2nd August 1919

Vics Hold On

“The revival of inter-State football in Melbourne on Saturday, when Victoria played the return match against South Australia, was marked by all the pleasing features that characterised the games in pre-war days. The attendance was 31,000, and the takings £1,632 - figures which dispel any doubt as to whether football would retain its drawing power after the war. The enthusiasm was just as great, the excitement quite as keen, and the football equally as good as in the stirring times before hostilities broke out. When the game ceased the cheering for both teams was as generous as it was genuine. That wholesome impartiality which is reflected in popular demonstrations to both victors and losers was again manifested, and not one incident occurred to earn the displeasure of the crowd or to mar the afternoon’s sport.”[1]


South Australian teams were usually pacy and heavily reliant on long drop kicking. If allowed to run unfettered they could overwhelm the opposition, but they tended to react badly to the sort of fierce tackling in which Victorian teams specialised. In this match, however, they opted to dispense with their trademark drop kicking and instead favoured the punt kick, a choice as baffling as it was misguided. It was left to the Victorians to demonstrate how accurate and effective the drop kick could be. Somewhat more sensibly, however, the South Australians opted to fight fire with fire, and their attack on the ball or opponent was vigorous but measured throughout. The effectiveness of their tackling and general body work was perhaps enhanced by the fact that, man for man, they were a bigger, heavier side than the Vics.

Conditions for the match were ideal: cool and fine, with a moderate southerly breeze favouring the Richmond end. Victorian captain Vic Belcher won the toss and chose to kick with the aide of the wind in the first quarter. Play in the first term was extremely fast and vigorous, but it was also disappointingly one-sided. The Victorians handled the ball superbly, passed well using low, skimming drop kicks, and seemed to have a much better team understanding than South Australia, who repeatedly fumbled the ball and kicked waywardly. The South Australians also placed a heavy emphasis on handball, and although this did enable them to produce a few passages of fluent, attractive play, more often than not they came unstuck. By the first change onlookers could have been forgiven for imagining the match was as good as over with Victoria leading by 27 points, 5.3 (33) to 1.0 (6). Vic forwards “Dick” Lee and Gordon Rattray had been particularly conspicuous, and it was difficult to see how the visitors could hope to turn things to their advantage.

South Australia improved somewhat in the second term although they failed fully to capitalise on their use of the breeze. The pace of the play slowed discernibly in this quarter with the Vics perhaps treading water prior to raising their intensity and vim after half time.  Defender Jack Tredrea was South Australia’s best player at this stage. Ruckman Tom Leahy was also to the fore as he outpointed both Fred Baring and Tom O’Halloran during the second term and repeatedly gave his rovers first use of the ball. For the home side Bert Rankin, Paddy O’Brien (pictured above), “Max” Hislop, Robert Carew, Rattray and Lee were all performing brilliantly. At the long break Victoria’s lead had been reduced, but only marginally. The margin was now 22 points, with Victoria on 6.6 (42) leading South Australia 3.2 (20).

“J.Woods, the old Norwood crack and great centre man, made a stunning speech to the Adelaide men in their dressing room before re-entering the field. He advised them to cut out the silly hand passing, to keep in front of their men, and to play quickly and unselfishly. The advice was taken to heart, and the combined and individual play of the team in the second half was as sound, brilliant, and determined as any Adelaide team has ever registered in this city.”[2]

Several South Australian players who had been virtually unnoticed in the first half came into prominence this term. Dan Moriarty at centre half back was fleet of foot and provided excellent rebound; Jack Hamilton was moved from a half back flank to a wing where he comprehensively outpointed Carew; “Shine” Hosking on the other wing was beating Mark Tandy; Frank Golding was marking and kicking well on the forward lines; and Angelo Congear was benefiting from the increasing dominance of ruckman Leahy and roving superbly.

Despite these marked improvements South Australia did not achieve the level of dominance they would manage in the final stanza. The home side continued to play with pace and purpose and, aided by the breeze, marginally outscored the visitors in this term, extending their lead to 27 points. At “lemons” the scores were Victoria 10.7 (67); South Australia 6.4 (40).

The final quarter saw South Australia mounting a determined comeback which only fell narrowly short. 

“It soon became evident that Victoria were up against it, for Leahy, the good-tempered giant, and a mighty follower, dominated the ruck, in spite of the fact that the home followers were repeatedly changed. He was hitting out to Congear on almost every occasion, not a Victorian ruck man being able to live with him, and was by far the freshest man in the pack, in spite of his previous efforts.”[3]

The opening ten minutes of the last quarter saw South Australia add 2.2 whilst producing their best sustained burst of football of the match. South Australia’s deficit was now just 13 points and the Victorian crowd actually began to cheer for the visitors rather than their own heroes. Victorian full forward “Dick” Lee was then awarded a free close to goal and he made no mistake, In general play, however, the South Australians continued to dominate, and the next two goals of the afternoon were theirs. With five minutes remaining Victoria’s lead was a single straight kick, just as it had been in Adelaide a month earlier. 

“The crowd was unmistakably with South Australia, who were playing gallantly. Time and again O’Brien and Hislop turned them back, with Tredrea, Richardson and Moriarty fighting just as spiritedly in the visitors’ defence. The play was up and down, and across the ground, the home team’s centre and defence work saving the day. Leahy, aided by Curnow, had taken possession of the ruck, and time alone saved Victoria …..”[4]

FOOTNOTES

[1] “Pivot” in “The Age”, 4/8/19, page 11.

[2] John Worrall in “The Australasian”, 9/8/19, page 30.

[3] Ibid, page 30.

[4] Ibid, page 30.


North Adelaide vs West Torrens, 6th and 13th September 1919

Epic Win For North

Final

"....... football has seldom been witnessed in such dreary circumstances."  ('The Advertiser', 15/9/19, page 10)


​The match commenced in heavy rain, with an extremely strong north-westerly breeze blowing more or less directly across the oval from wing to wing.  Apart from the seated areas in the grandstands, the crowd was sparse - quite understandably, given the weather conditions.  At one point a large group of male spectators, tired of being at the mercy of the elements, stormed the members' stand after its gates had been opened to admit a contingent of ladies; before the police could intervene, the stand was full to overflowing, with not only the seats but all of the aisles crammed with boisterous, bedraggled, but mainly good humoured supporters.

North Adelaide's captain Tom Leahy won the toss and elected to kick to the southern end, which was probably marginally favoured by the wind, although overall its impact was negligible.  The ground surface was exceptionally slippery, rain having been falling continuously since mid-morning, and there were also about a dozen puddles of water of various sizes ranged all over the oval.  Within minutes of play starting the ball had become like a heavy, sodden bar of soap, and for most of the afternoon the spectacle presented to the crowd would be more akin to soccer or water polo than football.

1st Quarter

Predictably, play from the outset was very scrambly, with numerous scrimmages, and much soccering of the ball off the ground.  Torrens attacked first, but the North half back line held firm.  Then it was North's turn to push forward, which they did with a fair amount of craft and purpose given the conditions, and five minutes in Fullarton snapped the first goal of the game.

During the opening minutes, players of both sides had had difficulty keeping their feet, but as the quarter went on they began to cope better with the conditions.

Torrens responded to North's goal by raising the tempo of the play.  They even managed to produce a few passages of decent football, one of which culminated in their first score of the match, a behind.  For most of the remainder of the term the blue and golds were in the ascendancy, but it was not until moments before the bell that a chain of passes involving Karney, Patten and Marvell ended with the last named running into an open goal to fire his team to a 1 point advantage at the first change.  QUARTER TIME: West Torrens 1.1 (7); North Adelaide 1.0 (6)

2nd Quarter

With the rain showing no signs of abating, North opened the second quarter by mounting their first concerted attack since the early stages of the first term, but Torrens were quick to repel them.  

With the ball still comparatively dry, Torrens were making good use of handball, and a neat sequence of inter-passing saw them maneuver the ball to within a few metres of goal, only for Tom Leahy to intervene for the northerners and relieve the pressure.  The blue and golds attacked again, and a snapped behind from Marvell gave them the first score of the term.

​As the quarter continued, all science and system departed from the play, which consisted mainly of a series of frantic scrimmages, interspersed with hurried, hopeful kicks off the ground.  Moreover, the ball seemed to be out of bounds almost as often as it was in play.  Many of the players were soon coated from head to toe in mud, and it became increasingly difficult to tell the teams apart.  There appeared to be little adherence to the principle of sticking to your position, and for the most part upwards of twenty players might be said to be on the ball.  From time to time, Torrens would endeavour to initiate a sequence of handpasses, and although one such move gave rise to a second behind of the term to Marvell, for the most part the conditions were quick to reassert themselves and play reverted to a frenetic, uncoordinated mud scramble.

Midway through the quarter North mounted a promising attack, but Torrens centreman Johnny Karney, having intercepted the ball close to goal, embarked on an exhilarating fifty metre run that briefly brought the somewhat sombre crowd to life.  His kick landed on the half forward line for the blue and golds, but North's will 'o the wisp defender Jack Hamilton intervened and promptly sent the ball back from whence it came.

An untidy sequence of "punches, kicks along the ground, and certain unorthodox maneuvers" enabled North to launch another promising attack, but the Torrens defence seemed virtually impregnable at this stage of the match, and combined well to relieve.  Moments before the bell North full forward Dan O'Brien had his team's first and only shot for goal of the term, but the ball sailed out of bounds.  At the long break, Torrens had extended their lead from 1 to 3 points, with Les Marvell having been responsible for his team's entire score.  HALF TIME: West Torrens 1.3 (9); North Adelaide 1.0 (6)

3rd Quarter

Quite a number of players changed their shorts during the half time interval, and when they re-emerged from the changing rooms they would have been gratified to discover that the rain had, at last, abated.  Once play got underway, however, it proved to be just as scrambly and unkempt as ever.

Five minutes into the quarter a rushed behind gave the red and whites their first score since the opening term, and when Torrens attempted  a swift riposte they were repelled by Hamilton who, almost alone among the thirty-six players on view, seemed capable of handling the ball cleanly, and disposing of it with vim, vision and purpose. 

North, seemingly the stronger and more desperate side at this stage of the match, forced the ball forward once more and it was scrambled through for another behind to reduce the margin to just 1 point.  Shortly afterwards, Bert Fooks, a former Torrens player, cleverly gathered the ball in a scrimmage and snapped truly to give the northerners the lead their more decisive play since half time warranted.

From the ensuing centre throw-up (bouncing the ball being entirely out of the question) Torrens attacked briskly, but O'Brien, now taking a run on the ball, took a well judged relieving mark.

An unusually fluent phase of play saw Torrens maneuver the ball to well within range of goal, only for Marvell to ruin everything by fumbling badly.  As a result, he was bundled unceremoniously aside by the North defenders, and the danger was cleared.

​Play was becoming more willing and strenuous, and there was a good deal of illicit activity - tripping, jumper tugging, even hacking - going on outside the ken of umpire Johnstone, who in any case seemed inclined, for the most part, to keep his whistle in his pocket, no doubt as a concession to the conditions.

Towards the end of the term it was noticeable that the strength of the wind had declined, but the heavy surface and slippery ball still made skilful football virtually impossible.  Torrens finished the quarter in the ascendant, but found it hard to get closer to goal than their half forward line.  At last, however, a loose ball was gathered up by Manning some forty metres out and, with time and space to run on and steady, he made no mistake from a distance of about twenty-five metres to restore the blue and golds' lead.  THREE QUARTER TIME: West Torrens 2.3 (15); North Adelaide 2.2 (14)

4th Quarter

​Torrens had played with a loose man in defence for most of the third quarter, and, despite only leading by the narrowest of margins, persisted with this ploy in the final term.  Ironically, it almost succeeded, for although North spent a lot of time in attack they were largely unable to get close enough to goal to attempt a shot.

The first golden opportunity of the quarter fell to Torrens, however, as Marvell gathered the ball in acres of space well within scoring range, with only North full back Wallis between him and the goals.  Instead of taking a shot though the nippy rover backed himself to dodge around his opponent and was comprehensively collared.

Hamilton and Curnow then combined well for North but the latter's seemingly goal bound kick was marked almost on the goal line by Daviess, the Torrens 'goal keeper' and future captain.  Moments later the red and whites again managed to maneuver the ball to well within scoring range, but the umpire picked out a free kick to the Torrens skipper, Patten, and the danger was quelled.

Midway through the quarter the sun came out for the first time in the game, and almost as if in celebration North registered a behind to level the scores.  The hitherto moribund crowd was now beginning to make a considerable amount of noise as North pressed repeatedly forward in a bid to snatch the game.  Torrens, however, defended with grim efficiency, kicking the ball out of bounds at every opportunity, and repeatedly hurling bodies en masse at the ball in order to force scrimmages, and hold up play.  For all their pressure and territorial superiority the red and whites failed to eke out a single, clear-cut scoring opportunity, and with a couple of minutes left to play it was Torrens who almost clinched the game.  A long, probing kick from Marsh seemed to be skidding and rolling ominously goalwards until Hamilton, who for much of the afternoon had been playing football on a different plane to virtually every other player on the field, made an electrifying dash across the face of goal, scooped up the soggy ball as thought it was dry, and sank his boot into a hefty punt kick that transferred the focus of play to the veritable buffalo wallow that masqueraded as the centre of the ground.  A frantic, all-in melee ensued which was still in full swing when the bell sounded to end the match.  FINAL SCORE: West Torrens 2.3 (15); North Adelaide 2.3 (15)

BEST - West Torrens: Johnson, Wade, Karney, Patten, Campbell, Marsh   North Adelaide: Hamilton, Curnow, Dayman, Leahy, Fooks, Frost

GOALS - West Torrens:  Marvell, Manning   North Adelaide: Fooks, Fullarton


Final Replay

"There will be few who will gainsay this.  Never this year have teams been so evenly matched.  West Torrens died hard." ('The Advertiser',  22/9/19, page 12)


In contrast to a week earlier, the weather was fine, and the condition of the turf, according to 'The Advertiser's' football reporter, "first-class".  A large crowd, estimated at somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000, was in attendance - somewhat more than might have been expected had there been any major counter-attractions, such as an important race meeting, on offer.

The West Torrens line-up was identical to that which took the field in the previous week's drawn final, while North were forced to omit Trescowthick because of injury, with his place being taken by Vincent Leahy.

Just as he had a week ago, North's captain Tom Leahy won the toss and elected to kick to the southern end of the Adelaide Oval, although what slight breeze there was seemed to favour the northern end.

1st Quarter

Many of the Torrens players must have experienced a sense of déja-vu as they saw their team surge into attack from the opening bounce, only for Jack Hamilton to intervene, and clear the danger with archetypal smoothness and conviction.  North then pressed hard in a bid to find an opening, but Clarence Curnow marked strongly in front of the goal posts to relieve.

The next few minutes saw the blue and golds displaying some of the excellent combined play, featuring deft, intelligent handball and short, crisp stab passing, that had characterised their best performances during the minor round.  A frantic passage of play near the Torrens goal culminated in a North defender spearing a low kick toward the half back left boundary, only for Stan Patten to pick the ball up on first bounce, run on, and register the first goal of the game with a thumping punt kick from roughly fifty metres distance.

Torrens continued to play the better football, and a couple of minutes later Patten nabbed a second goal from a similar position to his first.  With only six minutes having elapsed, the blue and golds had almost equalled their entire previous week's score.

In complete contrast to a week earlier, players of both sides, particularly North, were kicking long, and marking well.  There were occasional fumbles, but these seemed to be attributable to over-eagerness, and as the quarter went on they were less frequent.

For several minutes the play moved from end to end at considerable pace, but there was no addition to the scores, although a long shot from North's centre half forward Dayman seemed to be sailing through for a goal only to be marked right on the line by Allen, the West Torrens back pocket player.  

Several minutes elapsed before North again had a chance to score, through Fullarton, but this time it was Marsh who came to the blue and golds' rescue with a fine saving mark.

North continued to attack, however, and with time running out Dayman finally managed to post their first score of the afternoon, a major, courtesy of a hurried snap from close in.  Moments later, and within seconds of the bell, another seemingly goal-bound shot from the northerners was juggled and then dropped a metre or so from the line by a Torrens defender, and umpire Johnstone controversially awarded a mark.   Needless to say, many of the North players protested, but the umpire was unmoved, and before play could resume the bell sounded to end the term.  QUARTER TIME: West Torrens 2.0 (12); North Adelaide 1.0 (6)

2nd Quarter

Torrens centreman Karney had injured his shoulder during the opening term, and began the second quarter in a forward pocket.  He was replaced in the centre by O'Loughlin.

Stan Patten, the Torrens skipper, grabbed the ball from the opening centre bounce of the term and kicked toward centre half forward, where Marvell marked well.  His shot for goal failed to make the distance, however, and the North defence combined well to relieve.  The blue and golds were soon back on the attack again, and during a strenuous passage of play near goal umpire Johnstone, adjudging that a North defender had thrown the ball away when tackled, awarded a free kick to the tackler, Les Marvell.  From a mere twenty metres out directly in front the Torrens goalsneak had no trouble in raising two flags.

North's response was spirited and effective as a long, probing punt kick by Davey was marked in the goal square, three metres out, by Dayman, who made no mistake.  From the ensuing centre bounce, North attacked again, and as Tom Leahy chased the ball in front of goal he was manhandled by his Torrens opponent and promptly awarded a free.  His goal to tie the scores elicited the loudest roar of the afternoon from the hitherto fairly subdued crowd.

The first behind of the afternoon arrived a couple of minutes later, to Torrens.  From the kick in, Dayman took an excellent mark and initiated a promising looking North rush which was eventually short-circuited by O'Loughlin.

For some five minutes around the middle of the quarter Torrens enjoyed a purple patch during which they attacked relentlessly, but the red and white defence was, for the most part, equal to the task of containing them.  

The most fluent move of the game so far saw the blue and gold quartet of Manning, Marvel, Karney and Patten maneuver the ball the length of the ground to well within range of goal, where Mayne marked.  He kicked badly, however, only just managing to register a minor score.  North responded with some neat football of their own which culminated in Fullarton hitting a fast leading Vin Leahy on the chest with a bullet like stab pass.  Less than thirty metres out, on the slightest of angles, Leahy duly converted to put the northerners in front for the first time in the match.

The play of both teams was becoming faster, and better to watch, and the crowd was beginning to give voice to its appreciation.

Hollis and Campbell teamed well for Torrens along the grandstand wing, and the latter found Manning in the forward pocket with a good pass.  Manning's kick was a beauty, and the blue and golds were back in the box seat.

No more than a minute later Hollis was again in the thick of the action, this time combining well with Stone to release Karney close to goal, and the nimble Torrens rover was able to run to within near point blank range and easily secure full points.

Another dangerous looking Torrens attack followed almost immediately, but North's half back flanker Hamilton, playing with his customary verve, poise and brilliance, intercepted superbly and sent the ball well over the centreline into his team's attacking half, where Fooks gathered and kicked long towards the goal square.  As the inevitable pack formed, Tom Leahy came rushing in from behind and soared high to take a sky-scraping mark, easily the best of the game so far.  He made no mistake with his kick, and shortly after the resumption the bell sounded with the scoreboard showing the blue and golds holding a slim, 2 point advantage.  HALF TIME: West Torrens 5.2 (32); North Adelaide 5.0 (30)

3rd Quarter

Johnny Karney resumed after half time with his left arm strapped to his side, a legacy of the shoulder injury sustained during the opening term.  As in the second quarter, he stationed himself in a forward pocket, but it was clear that West Torrens would effectively be playing a man short from now on.

The first five minutes of the third term saw the ball being swept repeatedly from one end of the ground to the other, although there was a discernible contrast in the way the two teams achieved this.  The northerners favoured long kicks to position, whereas Torrens relied heavily on handball, which they utilised with swift, almost unerring efficiency.  The opening score of the quarter, a behind to North, came courtesy of a Vin Leahy place kick.

As Torrens endeavoured to battle their way back into contention the play became more scrambly, with many players of both sides leaving their positions to chase the ball.  Tom Leahy was playing a hero's game both in the ruck and all over the ground, and the blue and golds were reduced to employing illicit means to keep him under control.  Umpire Johnstone was quick to penalise any misdemeanours, however, and 'the prince of ruckmen' was awarded at least ten free kicks during the term.

Another player to catch the eye was North's half back flanker Williams, who took a series of telling marks.  Taking a leaf out of his fellow half back flanker Hamilton's book, his disposal was first rate, too.

During the second half of the quarter it was noticeable that Torrens were playing with much greater aggression, and there were many more scrimmages and stoppages as a result.  On one occasion, play had to be suspended for a couple of minutes after the North Adelaide centre half forward Clem Dayman was knocked out cold during a marking contest.  He eventually got groggily back to his feet.

The blue and golds' only score for the quarter came via a rushed behind, but had Johnson's booming kick from almost the centre of the ground carried a couple of metres more it would have produced one of the goals of the season.  THREE QUARTER TIME: West Torrens 5.3 (33); North Adelaide 5.1 (31)

4th Quarter

The early running in the final term was made by North, who soon had a behind on the board off the boot of Tom Leahy.  The veteran ruckman was at his indefatigable best, and the behind came after he comprehensively out-bodied his Torrens opposite number in Wade to take a typically commanding mark.

The blue and golds attempted to respond, but North's half back line was too good, and within a couple of minutes it was the northerners who were again attacking relentlessly.  After a particularly frantic scrimmage close to goal the ball spun loose into the goal square and North's full forward Dan O'Brien was just able to toe poke it over the line before being flattened.  The goal gave the red and whites a lead of 5 points, but there were still at least twenty minutes of play remaining.

Those twenty minutes saw plenty of fast, furious football, but also plenty of fumbling as the pressure of the situation got through to the players.  North were winning consistently in the air, but Torrens' ground play was superior.  Overall, this produced something of a stalemate, with neither side able to manufacture a decisive opening.  Torrens were clearly missing the drive from centre that would normally have been provided by Karney, and as the quarter wore on their forwards began to wander further and further towards the middle of the ground in search of kicks.  This proved to be entirely counter productive, however, as all it did was make the play more congested, enabling North to force repeated stoppages in the play.  

Towards the end of the match Tom Leahy had an excellent chance to score when he was freed across half forward but his kick for goal was well saved almost on the line by Mayne.

When the bell sounded, the red and whites were on the attack, and Torrens had only one man, the injured Karney, ahead of centre.  Although overall there was very little if anything between the two teams, the blue and golds looked a very tired lot by the end.  FINAL SCORE: North Adelaide 6.2 (38); West Torrens 5.3 (33)

​​BEST - North Adelaide:  T.Leahy, Williams, Dayman, Davey, Hamilton, Fooks  West Torrens: Johnson, Manning, Willis, Wade, Campbell, Mayne

GOALS - North Adelaide: T.Leahy 2; Davey, Dayman, V.Leahy, O'Brien  West Torrens: Patten 2; Karney, Manning, Marvel


Postscript - The Challenge Final and Replay

Prior to the 1919 challenge final, North Adelaide and Sturt had never met in a finals match.  It was somehow appropriate, therefore, that their first encounters should be so grimly and closely fought.

In the challenge final on Saturday 27 September North, having won the toss through Tom Leahy and kicked to the Cathedral end, opened brightly, and seemed well on course for victory when they led by 26 points at the first change.  The Double Blues, however, fought back strongly in the 2nd term, and by the long break had reduced their deficit to just 5 points.

Play in the 3rd quarter was congested, untidy, and pressure-packed.  Only 3 behinds were registered, 2 to Sturt, and 1 to the northerners, meaning that at 'lemons' the difference between the teams was a mere 4 points, with North on 5.4 (34) to the Blues' 4.6 (30).

The early stages of the final term were similarly frenetic, with defences still very much in the ascendancy.  With time-on approaching, and North ahead by one straight kick, 5.9 to 4.9, Sturt full forward Frank Golding marked near goal and played on immediately with a handpass to Les Smith, who kicked truly to level the scores.  The last significant scoring chance fell to the Double Blues, deep into time-on, but Owen Beatty, having marked a mere thirty metres from goal on no appreciable angle, kicked woefully to miss everything.  Final scores: North Adelaide 5.9 (39); Sturt 5.9 (39).

The replay was scheduled for the Labor Day holiday on Wednesday 8 October, and proved to be just as thrilling as the initial encounter between the teams.  After an evenly contested opening term, North gradually seemed to be asserting themselves, and they led by 7 points at the half, and 14 points at the last change.  Early in the final term North almost grabbed another goal but Ted Colquhoun rescued his team, and their season, with a spectacular last gasp save.  Sturt then went straight to the other end of the ground and goaled.  A second goal midway through the quarter reduced the margin to just 2 points, and with two minutes of the game left a behind to Owen Beatty made the scoreline North 2.6 (18) to Sturt 2.5 (17).  Ivor Nicolle's winning goal just 35 seconds before the final bell has entered football folklore, and remains arguably the most memorably dramatic moment in the entire history of the Sturt Football Club, perhaps only seriously challenged for that distinction by Keith Chessell's demon-exorcising post-siren goal to beat Port at Alberton in 1966.

The Double Blues had won the flag, and the dissension at Unley was briefly forgotten as the team and its supporters celebrated joyously.  Entering the Sturt changing rooms along with his chairman Fred Bennett, North captain Tom Leahy manfully suppressed his personal disappointment by declaring, "No doubt it was thought, after your long recess, that you would not find your feet again.  After the match which we made a draw, I expected a harder struggle today.  The game was played in a splendid spirit.  We would have loved to get the premiership, but it was not to be ours".

North Adelaide's moment would soon come, however.  Less than twelve months later, still under Leahy's captaincy, they would procure the 1920 pennant without the need for a challenge on the strength of a resounding 9.15 (69) to 3.3 (21) final victory over Norwood.