From GERONTION

by T.S. Eliot

Here I am, an old man in a dry month, 
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain. 
I was neither at the hot gates 
Nor fought in the warm rain 
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass, 
Bitten by flies, fought.
My house is a decayed house, 
And the Jew squats on the window sill, the owner, 
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp, 
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London. 
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead; 
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds. 
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea, 
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter. 
                                              I an old man, 
A dull head among windy spaces.


In the wake of the Great War there was a paradigm shift in world affairs which gave rise to prosperity, most especially in the USA. Allied to this, the desire to forget and move on from the war spawned both hedonism and a desire to push boundaries, culturally, politically, artistically and economically. The French refer to the 1920s as "années folles" ("Crazy Years”), while in the USA they are remembered as the “Roaring Twenties” (despite, or perhaps partly because of, the fact that partaking of alcohol was officially prohibited throughout the decade).

The decade also witnessed a boom phase for football with record crowds watching a sport that was becoming ever faster and more tactically sophisticated. The VFL in particular became more professional and its superiority over other competitions was magnified. That said, in the interstate sphere the VFL was not quite the dominant force it would become. During the decade the VFL state side won eleven times against South Australia, drew once and lost five times, with two of the defeats occurring in Melbourne. Against Western Australia the record was 4-3, and even against New South Wales VFL representative teams lost three of sixteen matches.


1920: Bloody Sunday

The Year in Brief

War is sometimes regarded as a regenerative force, rather like the Australian bushfire that consumes energy, burns away the outmoded accretion of habit and allows new, more vigorous growth to occur. The Great War brought no such national revitalisation. It killed, maimed and incapacitated. It left an incubus of debt that continued to mount as the payments to veterans and war widows continued. Even in the depths of the Depression in the 1930s there were more Australians on war benefits than in receipt of social welfare. Its public memorials were a constant reminder of loss but provided little solace to those who mourned, for the ethos of national sacrifice discouraged excessive personal grief as selfish. So, far from strengthening a common purpose, it weakened the attachment to duty: to live for the moment was a common response to the protracted ordeal. The war increased rather than lessened dependence, hardened prejudice, widened divisions. (A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, pages 168-9.)
 

In Australia, the legacy of the war hung heavy. At least half the households in the nation had a personal reason for grief, having lost a family member during the conflict. Many questioned if Australia’s involvement in the war had been necessary or desirable, but there were also many whose loyalty to Britain and to Empire had been both ratified and augmented. This made division and conflict, in words if not actual brute force, inevitable.

Elsewhere, the world was still dealing with the fallout from the Great War. In Russia, the Bolsheviks were gradually tightening their grip on the country's affairs, whilst also negotiating the ground rules for their relations with many of their neighbours. Estonia and Lithuania, for example, were recognised as autonomous, separate states. Rebellion in Siberia was quelled, and the leader of the anti-Bolsheviks, Kolchak, was executed. The main thorn in the side for Russia was Poland. In August the Soviet Red Army was defeated and routed in the Battle of Warsaw, which was remembered by Poles as the "Miracle on the Vistula.” Stalin, aged forty-one, was there as a political commissar and would resent the defeat for the rest of his life.

In the Netherlands, the country’s leader, Queen Wilhelmina, refused to extradite Kaiser Wilhelm, the main propelling force behind Germany’s war effort, to the Allies for prosecution. She - along, it must be said, with a large number of people in Australia - regarded the Allies as grossly hypocritical in endeavouring to occupy the moral high ground all by themselves.

Reflecting Queen Wilhelmina’s viewpoint, in 1920 the British engaged in a number of atrocities in Ireland against advocates of Irish Home Rule. The most notorious occured on Sunday 21st November. The Irish Republican Army, on the instructions of Michael Collins, killed fourteen British undercover agents in Dublin, most of them in their homes. In retaliation the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary opened fire on a crowd at a Gaelic Athletic Association Football match in Croke Park, killing thirteen spectators and one player and wounding sixty. To Irish republicans this became known as Bloody Sunday.

Meanwhile the Treaty of Sèvres ended the war between the Allies and Turkey. The treaty, which limited Turkey to a military force of 50,000. gave Britain, France and Italy full control over Turkey's financial affairs. It also France and Italy "zones of control and influence", and granted autonomy to the Kurds. Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI's representatives signed the treaty confirming arrangements for partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. However, the vast majority of Turks in refused to recognize the treaty.

In the USA, on 16th January, prohibition - a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages - was introduced. It remained in force until 1933.

Less newsworthy - at the time at any rate - was the meeting in Munich on 24th February at which Adolf Hitler presented a twenty-five point program, combining elements of socialism and racism, to the newly formed National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis).

In Australia the main political development was the emergence as a viable force of the Country party. Formed in 1913 in Western Australia the Country party became a national body in 1920 after the coming together of various state-based parties such as such as the Victorian Farmers' Union  and the Farmers and Settlers Party of New South Wales.. The new party’s first leader was William McWilliams from Tasmania (pictured above). In his first speech as leader, McWilliams laid out the principles of the new party, stating "we crave no alliance, we spurn no support but we intend drastic action to secure closer attention to the needs of primary producers” The Country party attracted many former Nationalists and was sufficiently popular to suggest it might well hold the balance of power at the next election. Indeed, for the next four decades it would play the role of corner party to perfection, extracting concessions for Country party interests in return for support.

Sport continued to enjoy a prominent place in the minds of many Australians. In the southern states, football was emphasising its status as the king of winter sports by attracting record crowds, including an all time high of 62,220 for the semi final clash between Carlton and Richmond on Saturday 18th September. Carlton emerged victorious from that particular encounter, but then went down to Collingwood in the final. The Magpies then met minor premier Richmond in the challenge final, a match won by the latter by 17 points, 7.10 (52) to 5.5 (35). It was Richmond’s first ever VFL flag.

The VFA also attracted bumper attendances. Its premiership deciding match is reported on elsewhere.

In the SAFL North Adelaide achieved premiership success for the first time since 1905 thanks to a thumping 9.15 (69) to 3.3 (21) defeat of Norwood in the final. The match attracted a crowd of 31,000. A challenge final was unnecessary as North had claimed the minor premiership.

For the sevond season in succession East Perth captured the WAFL premiership. Just as in 1919 the Royals were opposed in the decisive match of the year by East Fremantle and only inaccuracy in front of goal prevented a massacre, East Perth winning 6.16 (52) to 4.6 (30).

Other premiers in 1920 were North Hobart (TFL), Paddington (NSWAFL), Wynnum (QFL) and Vesteys (NTFL).


VFL vs South Australia, 29th May 1920

Hamilton Reigns Supreme

“No finer exhibition of football has ever been seen in Melbourne, the display being almost perfect. One side was almost as good as the other. No unprejudiced person could rob the South Australians of the credit of having played the nippier and more finished football. Their strongest features were dash and high-marking, while the place kicking of Dewar, who got five goals, was magnificent.”[1]


A crowd of 29,943 yielding receipts of £1,816/5/6 attended the match which was played in ideal conditions; blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and a light breeze which blew directly across the ground. Play in the opening term was characterised by swift movement of the ball and excellent overhead marking from both teams. Paddy O’Brien, Victoria’s centre half back who had been a last minute inclusion in the side, was the most conspicuous player on the ground as he single-handedly repelled many South Australian forward thrusts. Equally effective if rather less eye catching was Vic follower Con McCarthy who used his weight to good effect in the ruck by repeatedly obstructing Tom Leahy’s run at the ball. As a consequence, most of the hit-outs for the quarter were won by the big Richmond ruckman Barney Herbert.

Two other players to catch the eye were South Australian centre half back Dan Moriarty and half back flanker Jack “Snowy” Hamilton. The former was excellent overhead and his kicking was superb. Hamilton meanwhile combined tremendous pace with the unteachable ability of predicting where the ball was going to land and stationing himself there in anticipation.

Early in the quarter O’Brien was beaten overhead for one of the few occasions in the match by Stone, who soared high to mark brilliantly. From the resultant kick Stone scored the game’s first goal. The home side responded energetically, however, and before long they had drawn level courtesy of Fitzroy rover Clive Fergie. Dewar then goaled for South Australia with a majestic, towering place kick that “soared through like a bird”.[2]

The remainder of the term was dominated by Victoria who added two more goals courtesy of Albert Borromeo and George Bayliss. South Australia’s pace had enabled them to dominate at ground level, particularly when the ball was under dispute, but Victoria’s winning rucks had overall given them a slight edge. At quarter time the scoreboard showed Victoria on 3.3 (21) leading South Australia 2.3 (15).

In the second quarter the ruck shepherding duties for Victoria were initially assumed by Seddon, but he was nowhere near as effective as McCarthy with a result that South Australia dominated in the rucks. Victoria responded by reinstating McCarthy but this did not have the desired effect as Leahy seemingly now had his “eye in”. 

After Seddon had snapped a behind for the Vics South Australia swept the ball to the opposite end where Bryant was presented with an easy goal scoring opportunity on which he failed to capitalise, his kick falling short. The situation was quickly rectified, however, as Clarrie Scrutton, one of the nippiest players on the field, got his hands to the ball first and managed to put it through. Behinds followed to Bryant and White putting South Australia ahead by the narrowest of margins.

Superb high marking was a notable feature of the match in this quarter with Curnow and Scrutton excelling for the visitors and Eicke for the Vics.

Victoria recaptured the lead when George Haines snapped truly but South Australia’s response was swift and conclusive, Richardson dashing out of defence before passing to Smith who relayed the ball to Dewar. From a tight angle Dewar made no mistake. For the next few minutes South Australia, displaying great pace and consistently outmarking the Vics, continued in the ascendant. Their fifth goal duly arrived when Dewar evaded Thorp and kicked truly from close in.

During the closing minutes of the term the ball went from end to end with bewildering rapidity. Finally, Herbert marked close in for Victoria and calmly slotted the ball through. A long, weaving run by Hamilton elicited thunderous applause from the crowd. Moments later Bryant made a mess of a glorious scoring opportunity. With the goal gaping before him all he needed to do was pick the ball up cleanly but he fumbled, and Victoria hurriedly rescued the situation. At half time it was a 1 point game: South Australia 5.7 (37); Victoria 5.6 (36).

“Everybody had been delighted with the play so far. Nothing finer had ever been seen on the ground. While there was little between the teams in actual play,, the visitors were the more impressive side. Their dash was unmistakable, and their marking, hand and foot passing, and teamwork generally could scarcely be faulted.”[3]

The home side opened the third term brightly and it was not long before they regained the lead thanks to a goal from “Dick” Lee. Again the Vics attacked, haines picking out a fast leading Bayliss and the latter player was unfortunate in that his high kick just grazed the top of the goal post. Victoria now led by a single straight kick, but not for long as South Australia took up the running through centreman Karney who passed to White whose kick presented Dewar with the easiest of goal scoring chances which he duly took. 

The next goal was Victoria’s, Bayliss making amends for his earlier miss. As had been the case for most of the match the teams were going goal for goal. Dewar might well have maintained the cycle after being unceremoniously slung to the ground when not in possession but to the visitors’ consternation no free was awarded. Most of the frees during the game were in fact given against South Australia for holding the man.

Stone had an excellent opportunity to register another goal for the visitors but he foolishly ran over his mark and was fairly tackled. South Australia continued to attack however and the next score, a behind, was kicked by their imposing ruckman Tom Leahy.  Shortly afterwards the best chain of marks of the match involving Moriarty, Curnow, Stone and Scutton culminated in the last named kicking truly.

Scores were now tied at 50 points apiece whereupon South Australia, who were continuing to dominate, added a flurry of behinds. Then, as so often happens, they were made to pay for their waywardness as Victoria mounted a rare attack which was finished off by another goal to Lee. The Bell sounded soon after with Victoria in the lead by 3 points, 8.8 (56) to 7.11 (53).

From the opening bounce of the final term South Australia launched a determined attack but this was repelled by some good combined play between O’Brien and Thorp. Victoria then attacked and added a couple of behinds in quick succession. Then it was South Australia’s turn to push forward and a great chain of marks involving Hamilton, then Leahy, and finally Curnow resulted in a goal. The visitors now had their tails up, and their very next attack resulted in another major score from a superb drop kick by Dewar. South Australia were now playing magnificently, and it was no surprise when another fast, fluent attacking move culminated in Lewis nabbing another major. For the first and only time in the match a team had registered three goals in succession and it would prove decisive.

“The character of the struggle had undergone no change. It was up and down and across, with Leahy the man of iron, still in the ruck. There was no diminution in strength, dash and vigour. Two dangerous-looking Victorian rushes were gallantly thrust aside by Hamilton. On the first occasion he was surrounded by foes - resembling a pack of greyhounds after a hare - yet he outwitted and outpointed the lot, and relieved. Never during my long connection with the game have I heard such cheering.”[4]

Nevertheless the Vics did not give up without a fight. With Bert Rankin displaying his best form of the match in the centre of the ground and others who had been down on form starting to have an impact the navy blues dominated the closing exchanges. However, three shots at goal produced just one goal and two behinds - in stark contrast to the accuracy of the South Australians earlier. 

“The excitement was intense as the play fluctuated first one way and then the other …… Hamilton was doing the lion’s share of the defensive work. It was a thrilling finish. The Victorians dashed goalwards, but Hamilton, Scrutton, Richardson and Moriarty formed a solid barrier.”[5]

In the dying moments a seemingly goalbound kick from Brown was saved by the irrepessible O’Brien. Seconds later he final bell went with the scoreboard showing that South Australia had achieved victory by just 5 points, 10.11 (71) to 9.12 (66).

Goals - South Australia: Dewar 3; Scrutton 2; Curnow, Lewis, Stone   Victoria: Bayliss, Fergie, Lee 2; Boromeo, Haines, Herbert
Best - South Australia: Hamilton, Moriarty, Richardson, Trescowthick, Scrutton, Leahy   Victoria: O’Brien, Haines, Eike, Fergie, Ogden, Lee

FOOTNOTES

[1] John Worrall in “The Australasian”, 5/6/20, page 21.

[2] Ibid, page 21.

[3] Ibid, page 21.

[4] Ibid, page 21.

[5] The “Mail”, 29/5/20, page 3.


Footscray vs Brunswick, 9th October 1920

Park Pounces

Footscray, with sixteen wins and just two defeats, finished the minor round comfartably ahead of the field in what was a top-heavy VFA competition in 1920. Second placed Brunswick and North Melbourne who ended up third both had thirteen wins, while fourth team Port Melbourne managed twelve. Next best with a 9-9 record were Northcote, leaving no one in any doubt that the four best sides would be contesting finals.

The first semi finals saw second placed Brunswick overcome fourth placed Port Melbourne by 24 points, 5.15 (45) to 2.9 (21). The following week saw Footscray and North Melbourne contest one of the most controversial matches in VFA, indeed Australian football, history. In the dying moments of a fiercely contested match, with Footscray ahead by 5 points, North launched one last desperate attack which culminated in full forward Bill Considine taking a mark some thirty metres from goal. After awarding the mark umpire Hurley became aware that the bell was sounding, and blew for time, but many Footscray supporters believed that the bell had begun ringing before Considine had marked. The result was an invasion of the playing arena by hundreds if not thousands of Tricolours fans - so many that the police proved unable to remove them. After conferring with Association authorities umpire Hurley ruled “no game”, and the decision was eventually taken that the match would be replayed, although it was not until a fortnight later that the replay actually took place. This re-match proved just as tight and tense as the first encounter, with Footscray ultimately emerging victorious by 4 points, 10.9 (69) to 9.11 (65). The Tricolours then faced Brunswick knowing that, if defeated, they would, as minor premiers, be entitled to play the Magpies again to decide the destiny of the premiership.

The 1920 VFA final was played at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in bright, fine conditions, with a strong and cool southerly breeze blowing straight up the ground. Paying spectators  numbered 15,294 yielding gate takings of £931/12/-. The actual attendance was closer to 18,000 because some 2,500 spectators were admitted to the ground free of charge.

The match was fast and open from the start, with Footscray on top, but Brunswick faring better in open play. Fortunately for the Tricolours the Magpies were not wearing their kicking boots, and their first four scoring shots all produced behinds. In reply, Footscray could only manage a single minor score.

The opening goal of the encounter came after a fluent Brunswick move involving Cahill, Alessio, Christie, Shand and Kiely, with the last named obtaining the score. Footscray responded with a behind to Banbury, but the Magpies continued to enjoy the better of exchanges and added a behind of their own off the boot of Christie. Finally Footscray managed to move the ball forward with purpose and conviction and after good interplay between Grierson and Howell the ball was transferred to Martin who goaled. 

Following this breakthrough the Tricolours’ energy and work rate increased noticeably. Ruckman Carmody’s seemingly goal-bound shot was blocked but before the Magpies could clear the dangerCraddock obtained possession for the Triicolours and was awarded a free by umpire Hurley. From the resultant  kick he split the centre for maximum points.

The game had changed, and now it was Footscray calling the shots. The Tricolours’ third goal was not long in coming, and again it was their skipper Craddock who obtained it. Shortly before the end of the term Craddock had another opportunity to score but he only managed a behind. At the first change therefore Footscray, despite being distinctly second best for much of the quarter, led by 9 points, 3.2 (20) to 1.5 (11).

Brunswick surged into attack at the start of the second term and they soon had their second goal on the board courtesy of Christie. Playing with great vim and vigour the Magpies repeatedly swept the ball forward and “Footscray were badly beaten in the open, and the men were all out of place”.[1] Fortunately for the men from the west Brunswick kicked badly, adding three behinds in quick succession. Although this was good enough to put them level on the scoreboard their dominance was such that they should have been two or three goals in front at this stage.

Finally, after yet another sweeping attack, Carmody was presented with an easy opportunity close to goal which he converted. 

Footscray’s first concerted attack of the quarter proved productive as Craddock converted to level the scores once more. The Magpies once again assumed control, only to let themselves down once again by poor kicking for goal. Towards the end of the quarter they were made to pay as Footscray hurriedly added 1.2 to go into the main break with a 4 point advantage, 5.4 (34) to 3.12 (30).

“Supporters of Footscray were well satisfied with this state of affairs as they expected the Magpies to lead at half-time. The final stages were looked to as Footscray’s. It was thought the speedy ‘Wicks would crumple up under the bulldog intensity and remarkable staying power of the tricolours. So, in the end, it proved, but not till wearers of the red, white and blue had had the scare of their lives.”[2]

Footscray mounted a penetrative attack at the start of the third term but only a behind resulted. From the ensuing kick in the Magpies took the ball the length of the field and Moore kicked truly. Over the next few minutes the ball travelled repeatedly from end to end with no addition to the score. The deadlock was ultimately broken by Kiely who had a running shot and goaled for the ‘Wicks. Footscray attacked from the resumption and Howell had a chance but his shot hit the goal post.

The match was being played at a tremendous pace. The Tricolours were winning in the ruck courtesy of Howell and Carmody but around the ground Brunswick had the edge.The Magpies therefore did the bulk of the attacking but in the run up to the quarter time break they only managed to add three behinds to their tally. Footscray’s attacks were more infrequent, but from one of them Roy Park, the ex-University and Melbourne player, registered a goal so that when the bell rang the scoreboard showed an inaccurate Brunswick on 6.15 (51) leading Footscray 6.7 (43).

Brunswick’s inaccuracy proved to be tantamount to kicking themselves in the foot. Early in the final quarter though they continued to enjoy the bulk of the possession and indeed to play better football than the Tricolours. Within a few minutes of the restart the Magpies had extended their lead to 19 points thanks to goals from Christie and Alessio.

“Down went the Footscray supporters’ hopes, and even the neutral pressmen judged that the tricolours’ knell had rung. Like a giant among the pigmies (sic.), Howell burst through, and transferred to Holden, who forwarded. Park secured the ball, and with uncanny cleverness wormed his way past a bunch of foemen and kicked. Straight as an arrow the ball sped and a yell proclaimed success.”[3]

Then came the twin mishaps which might well have sealed Brunswick’s fate as first Christie and then Adams registered minor scores from kicks which hit the goal post. Footscray rallied, and Park once more drilled the ball through for maximum points. Although still 15 points in arrears the Tricolours began to play with poise and confidence while many of the ‘Wicks players suddenly seemed tired. Footscray attacked again, and a high kick was pumped deep into the forward pocket where two Brunswick talls contested the mark with Roy Park, the most diminutive player on the field. Park, however, could leap, and on this occasion he did so with interest, and pulled down an amazing grab. Then, making light of the tight angle he kicked truly eliciting the loudest roar of the afternoon from the large crowd.

The Tricolours continued to hold sway during the closing minutes, and another goal and behind put them just 3 points in arrears. Inevitably, the decisive goal of the encounter was booted by Park following another tremendous mark. Shortly afterwards Craddock stretched Footscray’s lead to 4 points after a near miss. The drama, however, was not yet over. Drawing on every last ounce of energy they possessed the Magpies launched one final, desperate attack in which virtually the entire team surged forward. With the seconds ticking away, and the ball deep into the Brunswick forward lines, a free kick was awarded to McInerney, the ‘Wicks right half back flanker. The resultant kick would decide the destiny of the 1920 VFA premiership pennant. Had it been a forward taking the kick a goal would almost inevitably have ensued, but McInerney was unused to opportunities of this sort, and like so many of his team mates had previously done he kicked waywardly, and only managed a behind. Seconds later the final bell rang and Footscray had snatched a memorable victory by 3 points, 10.9 (69) to Brunswick’s 8.18 (66).

GOALS - Footscray: Park 5, Craddock 3; Howell, Martin   Brunswick: Christie 3; Kiely 2; Alessio, Cahill, Moore
BEST - Footscray: Howell, Park, Martin, Mckenzie, Samson   Brunswick: Cahill, McInerney, Hassett, May, O’Connor

“The match was pulled out of the fire. While great credit is due to Footscray’s final fighting quality - an acquisition that has undoubtedly won them the premiership - it cannot reasonably be said that they were a better team than Brunswick. For fully three parts of the game Footscray were the dominating side. Superior pace and system characterised the players’ efforts; but in the all-important department of goalkicking they suffered badly by comparison. Footscray played splendidly on occasions, yet were the underdogs most of the time. To the victors belong the spoils, still Brunswick played a dashing game; their concerted brilliancy repeatedly thrilling the onlookers. The winners are a solid combination, and have repeated their last years performance by succeeding in the greatest match of the series.”[4]

FOOTNOTES

[1] “The Independent”, 16/10/20, page 1.

[2] Ibid, page 1.

[3] Ibid, page 1.

[4] John Worrall in “The Australasian”, 16/10/20, page 21.


1921: Marking Time

From "THE TOMB OF LT JOHN LEARMONTH"

by John Manifold


This is not sorrow, this is work: I build

A cairn of words over a silent man,

My friend John Learmonth whom the Germans killed.

There was no word of hero in his plan;

Verse should have been his love and peace his trade,

​But history turned him to a partisan.

Far from the battle as his bones are laid

Crete will remember him. Remember well,

​Mountains of Crete, the Second Fire Brigade!


THE YEAR IN BRIEF

In 1921, Western Australia passed legislation allowing women to stand for parliament. The following year, on 12th March, Edith Cowan (pictured above) became the first beneficiary of the legislation when she was elected for the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth. A Nationalist, she was keenly interested in domestic and social issues, which she felt were not being given adequate attention. Hers was not a long political career, however. She lost her seat at the 1924 election and failed to regain it three years later.

William Hughes’ Nationalist Party retained a somewhat tenuous grip on power in 1921. Despite having a numerical majority in parliament there was always the risk that some of his own party members might defect over specific issues, a risk which became greater over time as his rather truculent and arrogant leadership style undermined his popularity. Basically, Hughes had been lauded both at home and in many overseas countries for his “performance” at the Versailles Peace Conference, and if truth be told this had rather gone to his head. His full comeuppance would arrive in 1922.

A number of overseas developments were, or would soon retrospectively become, of particular interest to Australians. for example:

  • On 23rd May, in Leipzig, war crimes trials commissioned by the Allies against nine German Great War veterans got underway. They were popularly lambasted all over the world, and in 1922 all charges were quietly dropped. 
  • The Irish War of Independence was ended and a truce signed by the British government and Irish forces. This paved the way for the establishment of the Irish Free State which ended up including the whole of Ireland with the exception of six northern counties. The Irish Free State would remain in the British Commonwealth, a new name introduced to replace the somewhat less palatable “Empire”.
  • On 28th July Adolf Hitler became the chairman of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
  • In Russia, by the end of the year the Communists no longer faced any viable military threats to their authority.​
  • On 23rd November in Italy a paramilitary group declared itself a political party: the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascist). The party's leader was Benito Mussolini (El Duce).

In the southern states of Australia the national game of football achieved new heights in popularity. Enhancing this, the VFL finals series proved to be one of the most exciting ever. In the semi finals Richmond overcame Geelong, and minor premiers Carlton downed Collingwood. The clash for the flag between Carlton and Richmond, which took two matches to resolve, is covered elsewhere.

Arguably the main event in the VFA in 1921 was the withdrawal from the competition after eight rounds of North Melbourne, which made an ultimately unsuccessful bid to join the VFL. Williamstown won the premiership with a 3 goal victory over Footscray in the decisive match.

Arch rivals Port Adelaide and Norward contested the SAFL challenge final in front of a record crowd of 34,800. The honours went to the Magpies, who won a low scoring encounter by 8 points. Another highlight of the year was Dan Moriarty’s feat in becoming the first man to win the Magarey Medal on three consecutive occasions.

East Perth were still the team to beat in Western Australia. The Royals overcame East Fremantle by 31 points to register their third consecutive premiership triumph. In 1921 the WAFL introduced a fairest and best player award, the Sandover Medal. The inaugural recipient was Subiaco ruckman Tom Outridge, although in 1997 a retrospective award was made to Perth's Cyril Hoft who had originally finished second to Outridge after an umpires' poll.

Other premierships went to Cananore (TFL), North Shore (NSWAFL), South Brisbane (QFL) and Waratahs (NTFL).

The fourth Australasian football championship series in Perth involved just the three major football states: Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Host state Western Australia won the title.


Glenelg vs North Adelaide, 21st May 1921

Seasiders Struggle

During the early years of the twentieth century the Glenelg area, which at the time boasted a population of only about 8,000, was represented in various junior level football competitions, but it could hardly be claimed that the groundwork was being laid for admission to the state's senior competition, the South Australian Football League.  Nevertheless, shortly after World War One the Glenelg Oval Association launched an audacious application for league membership and although this did not meet with initial approval there was sufficient encouragement given to ensure that the matter would not be permanently dropped.

In 1919, a prototype Glenelg Football Club participated in, and won the premiership of, the United Suburban Association, in the process raising the profile of the sport in the locality, and engendering a substantial amount of public interest together with - and perhaps more to the point - financial and political backing.  Glenelg Oval was upgraded, and fenced, and in March 1920 the mayor of Glenelg, John Mack, presided over a meeting at the town hall at which a new 'Glenelg Football Club' was inaugurated, and plans to seek affiliation with the SAFL discussed.  The SAFL at this time was a seven team competition, and there was a strong desire in League circles to eliminate the inevitable weekly 'bye' via the admission of an eighth club.  With the backing of the mayor and other local luminaries, and the strong support of neighbouring league side, Sturt, Glenelg was fast emerging as the favourite to fill the vacancy.

Events moved apace in those days: when the new football season kicked off less than two months after the town hall public meeting, Glenelg was a member of the SAFL 'B' grade, where it would reside for a probationary term of still to be determined duration.  In colours of red, yellow and black, the newcomers performed creditably for much of the 1920 season, winning 3 of their 14 matches to finish seventh.  Considering the haste with which everything had been put together, and allowing for the fact that many of the best Glenelg-based footballers had, understandably, opted to play at league level with other clubs rather than in 'B' grade with Glenelg during 1920, the consensus was that the season had been a success.  This certainly appears to have been the view of the SAFL management committee, which on 4th October 1920 unanimously endorsed Glenelg's application for full league membership, effective from the following season.  

The fledgling club was to be captain-coached in 1921 by former South Adelaide player Jack Hanley. He would be in charge of an extremely inexperienced side, with only two other players, Bill Murdoch (pictured above), formerly of South Adelaide, and ex-Norwood rover William Harvey. Hard times ahead were predicted.

Glenelg’s first match in league company was against West Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval and resulted in a 77 point loss. Worse was to follow: in round two the Bays as they were popularly known [1] travelled to Alberton Oval to take on eventual 1921 premiers Port Adelaide. By the standards of the time, what eventuated can only be described as a massacre, with the Magpies romping home by 107 points, 19.21 (135) to Glenelg’s 3.10 (28).

Round three saw the seasiders making their home debut and hopes were high that playing in familiar surroundings would enable them to give a good account of themselves, although the fact that the opposition was provided by reigning premiers North Adelaide meant that not even the club’s most ardent barrackers entertained hopes of a victory.

A modest crowd of 3,500 turned up for the match, some of them, if the writer in “The Register” is to be believed, principally intent on seeing the Governor of South Australia, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir William Archibald Weigall, opening the new pavilion. The Mayor of Glenelg also took part in the opening ceremony which was held about quarter of an hour before the beginning of the match. Perhaps sensing that the expensive structure lacked something in the way of visual appeal it was noted that “the committee do not intend to rest satisfied with what has been accomplished, for artistic and ornamental embellishment is to be added to the initial perfect utilitarian work”.[2]

When the match got underway the home sided began brightly and had a goal on the board, off the boot of Hawkes, inside a minute. North responded swiftly and incisively though, and within a couple of minutes Davies had levelled the scores. Then Fuss made a long tenacious run which culminated with his registering the northerners’ second goal.

Just as in their opening two fixtures, Glenelg were finding it difficult to match the pace and precision of their opponents, who continued to attack persistently. Goals to Frost and Wedger gave the red and whites some breathing space, and but for some poor kicking for goal, notably by Oliver who missed a couple of “sitters”, the match might have been as good as over by the first change. As it was a goal just before the bell by Davies gave North a handy 24 point lead at quarter time. Scores were North Adelaide 5.4 (34); Glenelg 1.4 (10).

Glenelg’s players apparently bebefited from their brief rest because, just as in the opening term, they began the second quarter brightly, and inside a couple of minutes Hawkes had bagged both his and the seasiders’ second goal. The play then went from end to end for a time with no addition to the scores. Finally North’s Percy Lewis was awarded a dubiuous looking mark close in from which he comfortably converted.

Generally speaking, the play during the second term was more even than it had been in the first, with Glenelg doing their fair share of the attacking. From one such forward thrust Curnow punted the Bays’ third goal, but North responded almost immediately with a six pointer to Frost. By half time the visitors had extended their lead by a mere point after a closely fought and relatively high standard quarter.

The opening of the third term was a carbon copy of the previous two with Glenelg racing straight into attack and nabbing an early goal courtesy of Grealy. North, however, responded almost immediately with Wedger kicking truly after being awarded a free kick near to goal and directly in front. 

Glenelg made a semblance of a fightback culminating in a goal from point blank range to Grealy, but from that point onwards it was North who assumed complete control, adding three further goals before the final change. The scoreboard when the teams changed ends for the last time showed North Adelaide 39 points to the good, 12.11 (83) to 6.8 (44).

Given that North now enjoyed a match-winning lead it is understandable, if not perhaps quite forgivable, that they noticeably took the foot of the accelerator during the final term. Glenelg indeed registered the first couple of goals of the quarter, kicked by Hawkes and Rice, but any lingering hopes of a home team revival were quickly extinguished when Davey goaled for North. Much of the remainder of the play was quite frenetic but it was also somewhat unkempt and other than a couple of behinds to each side there was no further scoring. Final scores were North Adelaide 13.14 (92) defeated Glenelg 8.10 (58). All things considered it had been the Bays’ best performance of the season so far, but in acknowledging that it also needs to be admitted that the team had not yet given any real indication that it could provide the other seven teams in the SAFL with more than a token challenge.

That said, it is doubtful if many people at Glenelg Oval that day would have predicted exactly how long Glenelg’s time in the doldrums would last. Moreover, in hindsight, during the course of the next four years there must have been many who came to regard the SAFL's decision as premature.  During that time, the Glenelg Football Club blundered its way into the record books in spectacular, unparalleled fashion, losing every one of 56 league matches contested; indeed, during the entire course of its first 10 SAFL seasons, Glenelg never once finished higher than seventh on the ladder, and managed a paltry success rate of just 15.1%.  By any objective criteria, it would seem that the club was not ready for the demands of league football. Nevertheless, a league competition without Glenelg during the 1920s might have robbed aficionados of the game of the delight of seeing players of the calibre of Len Sallis, Jim Handby and Jack Owens in action.  Sallis was a combative but highly skilful centreman who played 172 games for Glenelg between 1924 and 1935, winning the club's best and fairest award on five occasions; old timers remember him for his sure ball handling, irrespective of opposition pressure, and tremendous disposal skills.  Handby, the club's first Magarey Medallist, shifted from South Adelaide in 1925 and made his debut in Glenelg's first ever league win; he was a determined, energetic and forceful player who played 123 games for the club - interestingly, without kicking a single goal - between 1925 and 1932. Broken Hill-born Owens was the first in a long line of great Glenelg full forwards; between 1924 and 1935 he played 177 games for the club, booting 827 goals, and heading the league goalkicking list on three occasions.

Two of these men, Sallis and Owens, were teammates when Glenelg surprised the football world by winning the 1934 premiership.  Prior to 1934, the Seasiders as they were popularly known at the time had never finished above 6th on the ladder, but under the coaching of former West Adelaide champion Bruce McGregor, appointed the previous year, the side had begun to play a tougher, more resolute - and ultimately much more successful - brand of football.  In 1933, Glenelg enjoyed what the Americans term “a winning season” for the first ever time, emerging victorious from 9 of its 17 league fixtures.  The following year saw it overcome a slow start to transform itself into a formidable combination, vying for supremacy for much of the season with perennial powerhouse, Port Adelaide.  In the end, both Glenelg and Port finished the minor round equal on points, and ahead of all other teams, with the Magpies' marginally better percentage securing the minor premiership.

The Seasiders' first ever league final was an ostensible disaster which may, in fact, have constituted just the kind of wake-up call required to transform them from pretenders into bona fide contenders.  Port Adelaide won with ease, 22.21 (159) to 13.16 (940, with Glenelg displaying a brittleness and indecisiveness which had not been apparent since the opening couple of games of the season.

Such frailties were swept aside the following week, however, as Glenelg came roaring home in the last quarter to defeat Sturt by 13 points, having trailed narrowly at every change.  Despite this, few pundits could see any reason to tip anything other than a substantial Port Adelaide grand final win.

The 1934 SANFL grand final was one of the most exhilarating witnessed up to that point.  Played at breakneck pace, Port Adelaide managed the first goal of the afternoon but never thereafter led.  The majority of the Glenelg players put in the performances of their lives, enabling them to resist everything that their more illustrious opponents could throw at them.  Nevertheless, when Port levelled the scores late on in the final term there would have been few members of the 30,045 strong crowd who did not expect them to go on with the job.  'Blue' Johnston (shown left), however, had other ideas, and his spectacular defensive mark on the goal line moments later effectively transformed the momentum of the game, precipitating as it did the move from which Glenelg secured the match winning goal.  Final scores were Glenelg 18.15 (123); Port Adelaide 16.18 (114).  Few at the Port could believe it, but the rest of the League rejoiced along with Glenelg.  

Best in a fairly even team display by the victors was spring-heeled centre half forward Arch Goldsworthy, with the fleet-footed roving trio of Arthur Link, Roy Colyer and Lance Leak also exerting a decisive influence. 

But more about Glenelg’s historic and heroic 1934 achievement in due course.

​Back in 1921 Glenelg, of course, finished an unceremonious last. North Adelaide failed to defend the premiership won the previous season, and indeed failed to qualify for the finals altogether, finishing fifth. The flag was won by Port Adelaide, which defeated arch rivals Norwood by 8 points in a dour, low scoring challenge final.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Newspaper reports of the time interchangeably refer to Glenelg as the Bays and the seasiders. The Tiger moniker was still to be thought of.

[2] “The Register”, 23/5/21, page 3.


Western Australia vs South Australia, 13th August 1921

Carnival Clincher

“Western Australia won the football championship of Australia on Saturday last and indisputably, too, as the only unbeaten side of the 1921 Carnival.  They stepped onto Perth Oval full of confidence, after their glorious defeat of Victoria last Wednesday, and beat South Australia in a game chock full of good football and swaying fortune by 10 points.”[1]


The match was watched by a Western Australian record crowd of 26,461, while gate receipts amounted to what 'The West Australian' claimed was a new Australian record figure of £2,376.  It was a fine, sunny day, with a moderate breeze blowing almost directly across the ground.  The playing surface was “a trifle holding” after recent heavy rain.  

The opening quarter saw arguably the best football of the carnival, and thereafter “it was always fierce and brilliant and open”, with scores invariably sufficiently close to keep excitement near to fever pitch. 

According to ‘The West Australian’, South Australia produced the better all round football, characterised by “magnificent half distance passing” and clever use of handball, but Western Australia won the match because of their insatiable determination coupled with quite astonishing accuracy in front of goal.  “Eleven majors straight was uncanny kicking, and enough to shatter the morale of any opposing side.”  ‘Bunny’ Campbell led the way in this respect, kicking truly every single time he marked within range.

South Australia were “nippy, fast and clever”, as well as relentless in their determination to win the ball.  The Western Australians, particularly early on, sometimes seemed a yard slower, and may, to some extent, have still been feeling the effects of their sterling battle with the VFL on the previous Wednesday.  Whatever the reason, their play was less fluent and eye-catching than that of the South Australians, but their determination and resolve were unquenchable.  Especially late in the game, when South Australia was challenging ferociously, they refused to buckle, and “hurled repeated South Australian rushes back time and again”. 

​Tom Leahy, still sick and sore following South Australia’s clash with the VFL the previous Saturday, was unable to lead his side, and was replaced as skipper by Harold Oliver.  For Western Australia , Clem Bahen in for Len Cinoris was the only change from the side that had triumphed over the Victorians.

​The Teams

Western Australia: Allen (East Perth), Boyd (West Perth), Campbell (South Fremantle), Ford (Subiaco), Bahen (Subiaco), Sheedy (West Perth), Steele (Subiaco), Winbridge (West Perth), Hoft (Perth), Truscott (East Fremantle, captain), Mudie (East Fremantle), Brentnall ((East Perth), Thomas (East Perth), Green (Subiaco), Gunnyon (South Fremantle), Hewby (Perth), Ion (East Fremantle), Outridge (Subiaco)

South Australia: Oliver (Port Adelaide, captain), Allen (South Adelaide), Hamilton (North Adelaide), Packham (Norwood), Daly (South Adelaide), Trescothick (North Adelaide), Vickers (South Adelaide), Scott (Norwood), Daviess (West Torrens), Peters (West Adelaide), Moriarty (South Adelaide), Beatty (Sturt), Bishop (West Adelaide), Cossy (West Torrens), Karney (West Torrens), McKee (South Adelaide), Hanley (Glenelg), Lewis (North Adelaide)

1st Quarter

Any wind advantage resided with the South Australians in the opening term, but its significance was negligible.  

From the opening bounce, Western Australia moved straight into attack, and a neat pass by ‘Nipper’ Truscott found Wally Gunnyon close to goal.  The South Fremantle half forward made no mistake, and onlookers might have been forgiven for imagining it was going to be all too easy for the home side.  

After Jack Bishop had missed an easy scoring chance for South Australia, the sandgropers ran the ball the length of ground culminating in an inch perfect Gunnyon pass to Campbell, and Western Australia’s second major score.

The huge crowd was being treated to some fast and flowing football; with the play moving swiftly from end to end, both down the middle, and, particularly from the South Australians, along both wings.

South Australia were typically foot-passing the ball between twenty-five and thirty yards, to good effect.  One example of this was Johnny Karney to Harold Oliver to Bishop, with the West Adelaide rover bringing up the croweaters’ first full pointer.  

The ruck duels were fierce and evenly contested, but at this stage of the game the West Australian rovers were taking the ball away more often, and they soon set up Campbell for another goal.

South Australia rallied with goals to Steve McKee, off the ground, and Clarrie Packham, from a clever snap, only for Campbell, Bahen and Campbell again to wrestle back the initiative for the home team.  However, in a match which ebbed and flowed continually, South Australia gained brief control to hit back with goals to Packham and Oliver to reduce the quarter time margin to just 3 points.  Quarter Time: Western Australia 6.0 (36); South Australia 5.3 (33)

2nd Quarter

The second quarter proved to be just as topsy-turvy as the first.  South Australia’s elegant foot-passing, in addition to being effective, was often extremely attractive to watch, and on several occasions was acknowledged as such, with appreciative applause breaking out among the sporting home crowd.  Western Australia were proving equally effective, however, albeit with longer, seemingly less calculated, kicks to position.  They also appeared to be moving more swiftly this quarter, with some of the cobwebs of the Victorian game perhaps having been shrugged off. Most significantly of all, perhaps, the westerners continued to kick accurately for goal, adding majors this term by Campbell (2), Gunnyon and 'Barney' Sheedy, while for South Australia John Daly’s and McKee’s goals were accompanied by a succession of behinds.  Half Time: Western Australia 10.0 (60); South Australia 7.7 (49)  

3rd Quarter

​​“The Westerners were first away after massage” but it was South Australia who converted first, courtesy of Karney, to reduce the arrears to a single point.  Shortly afterwards, however, Truscott eased West Australian nerves by adding his side’s 11th straight goal.  Play for the remainder of the quarter was extremely fiercely contested.  Late in the term, South Australia, playing with great intensity, lifted the tempo to new levels, but the home side refused to crumble.  South Australia’s football was relentless and non-stop, players almost invariably electing to play on, and keep the ball moving, at all costs.  When Oliver converted shortly before the final break all the momentum appeared to be with the visitors, but the sandgropers remained narrowly in front on the scoreboard.  Three Quarter Time: Western Australia 11.3 (69); South Australia 9.8 (62)

4th Quarter

​Western Australia appeared tired early in the last quarter, and South Australia’s first attack seemed almost too easy.  Thankfully for the home supporters, however, it culminated in a poster.  The westerners then lifted the intensity themselves, and a mark and goal to Wally Steele (ironically a former South Australian) increased the margin to 12 points.  South Australia responded strongly, and with Dan Moriarty, Jack Hamilton and Wally Allen to the fore, they surged forward repeatedly, but Western Australia’s half back line of Harold Boyd, Arthur Green and Reg Brentnall proved as defiant and impenetrable as in the closing moments of the VFL game.  For all their territorial dominance, all the South Australians could manage were 2 behinds, and so Western Australia hung on to win a famous victory by 10 points.  Final Score: Western Australia 12.3 (75); South Australia 9.11 (65) 

Postscript
‘The West Australian’ was generous in its praise of the South Australians, suggesting that they scarcely deserved to lose, but adding that, at the end of the day, it is the points on the board that count – or, to put it another way, ‘bad kicking is bad football’.

“Looking through the individual performances of the game one must give Moriarty the pride of place.  Moriarty was easily the champion footballer of the carnival and proved himself at half back a rare football genius.  Against Victoria he beat the mighty Clover.  On Saturday last he never made a mistake all day.  He marked superbly, used fine judgement, came out of the thickest welter always with the ball and greatest of all cleared away with long driving and well-directed kicks.”[2]  Other fine South Australian players included Allen, Hamilton, Karney, Oliver, 'Wat' Scott and Edwin Daviess.

For Western Australia – Boyd “by virtue of his knack of coming to light when matters press”, “good both in the air and on the ground”; plus Brentnall, Ray Mudie, Green, Fred Winbridge and Norman Ford – and not forgetting Campbell, whose 11 goals in 2 matches made him the carnival’s champion goalsneak.

FOOTNOTES

[1] "The West Australian", 15/8/21

​[2] Ibid


Site Content

Dan Minogue (Richmond)

Carlton's Albert Boromeo

Clarrie Hall of Richmond

Paddy O'Brien (Carlton)

Paddy O'Brien (Carlton)

Richmond's Norm McIntosh

Hugh James (Richmond)


Richmond vs Carlton, 8th and 15th October 1921

Tigers Tame Blues (twice)

When eight leading clubs departed the VFA to establish a new competition, the VFL, in 1897, Richmond was quick to establish itself as one of the Association's most powerful remaining members.  Prior to that, its twelve years as a senior club had been signally inauspicious.  Only once, in 1888, did it manage more wins than losses in a season, and for the most part it proved to be an ignominious chopping block for larger, wealthier clubs like Geelong, South Melbourne, Carlton and Essendon.  Between 1897 and 1907, however, Richmond only once failed to finish in the top four in the Association, giving rise, inevitably, to a much improved self-image, as well as heightened aspirations.  By the time the yellow and blacks won their second VFA flag in 1905 it was clear that they were unlikely to remain contented for long with life as a large fish in a small pond.  Participation in the VFL, preferably sooner rather than later, was the club's express aim, a fact which did not sit at all well with either the Association hierarchy, or the majority of its member clubs.  By 1907, Richmond was being treated as a virtual pariah, both on and off the field, and at the end of the season - one suspects as much in desperation by this stage as out of a genuine sense of ambition - the club made an official approach to the VFL, seeking to be admitted to that competition the following year.  It took the VFL little over a week to approve the application, and so Richmond, along with University, took their places among Victorian football's elite from 1908.

It took Richmond quite some time to establish itself at the higher level, and its first eleven seasons generated a success rate of just 35.6%.  Despite this, the club boasted a definite sense of tradition, was well organised and administered, and its desire to succeed was unquestionable.  All it needed was a catalyst to transform these latent qualities into tangible, on-field success.  The appointment of Norm 'Hackenschmidt' Clark as coach in 1919 was arguably that catalyst.  Clark, who had coached with considerable success at Carlton, brought a wealth of football knowledge with him, and under his expert tutelage the "eat 'em alive" philosophy was fully fleshed out for the first time as Richmond became a team of immense solidity who were extremely difficult to beat.  Discounting the 1916 season, when they had contested the finals by default as there had only been four teams in the competition, 1919 represented the Tigers' VFL finals debut, and they finished a highly creditable second.

In 1920 Clark returned 'home' to Carlton as senior coach.  Meanwhile, under his successor at Richmond, Dan Minogue, the Tigers added attacking potency and a penchant for the unpredictable to their armoury, and became an extremely formidable combination indeed.  Minor premiers for the first time that year, the Tigers overcame the setback of a semi final loss to Carlton to annex their first ever league premiership courtesy of a 7.10 (52) to 5.5 (35) challenge final defeat of Collingwood.  As the 1921 football season loomed, everyone connected with the club was determined to prove that this success had been no mere flash in the pan.  Staying at the top is often said to be harder than getting there in the first place, but Minogue's Tigers were fiercely determined not to rest on their laurels; one premiership was nowhere near enough - they had dynastic aspirations.

The 1921 Home And Away Season

Despite their best intentions, the Tigers' early season form in 1921 was worryingly inconsistent, but as the year progressed they began to improve, and their last home and away loss occurred in round 12 at home to Fitzroy.  Far and away the most impressive side in the competition, however, was Carlton, which lost just once all year, to Fitzroy.  Most of its wins were by substantial margins, and there were some observers who went as far as to suggest that it was the best Blues team of all time.  

The two meetings between Richmond and Carlton both went the way of the latter, by 9 points at Punt Road in the opening round of the season, and much more conclusively by 51 points at Princes Park in round 10.  The Blues' four victories over the other two eventual finalists, Collingwood and Geelong, had been by an average margin of almost 22 points, and it would be fair to suggest that only during the early stages of the match against Geelong at Corio Oval had they been seriously tested.

The biggest controversy of the 1921 season came during the final home and away round and led to clamorous, but ultimately unheeded, calls for the finals system to be changed.  Prior to round 18 the composition of the final four had been decided, as had the fact that Carlton would win the minor premiership, and Richmond would finish second.  Third place, however, was still up for grabs, although given that a team's 'reward' for finishing third was a cut-throat semi final against Carlton it is hard to see what advantages, if any, this had over finishing fourth.

​hat, at least, appears to have been the attitude down at Geelong.  The Pivotonians, who lay in fourth place on the ladder, behind Collingwood only on percentage, were scheduled to play Melbourne on the MCG in the final round, while the Magpies were at home to the might of Carlton.  A win to Geelong and a loss to Collingwood would see the former supplant the latter in third place, and be confronted with the unenviable task of facing the Blues in a semi final.  Much better to lose, and face the ostensibly easier challenge of Richmond in the finals - which, by fielding a team containing seven untried youngsters, is precisely what Geelong did.  Quite what the VFL's reasoning was in giving the third placed team a harder first up final than the fourth placed team is unclear, but the ridicule and scorn it periodically attracted from the press was seldom as vitriolically expressed as in 1921.  It would be another decade, however, before the league saw fit to introduce a fairer finals system.

The Semi Finals

Geelong's last round shenanigans fell flat on their face as the Pivotonians were rankly outclassed by Richmond in the first semi final.  After a closely fought opening term, the Tigers exploded into life, adding 14 goals to 3 over the remaining three quarters in what was probably their most complete team performance for the year.  Geelong did not help their cause by some atrocious kicking for goal, particularly in the last term when they booted eleven straight behinds while Richmond rattled on six goals four.  Cliff Rankin was the Pivotonians' worst offender in front of the sticks, booting 2.10 for the match.  Best afield was Richmond's full back Vic Thorp, who was ably assisted by centre half back Max Hislop, half back flanker Jim Smith, full forward George Bayliss (5 goals), and rover Frank 'Checker' Hughes.  The losers were best served by ruckmen Wally 'Jumbo' Sharland and Lloyd Hagger, full back Keith Johns, and back pocket player Les Smith.  Final scores were Richmond 16.19 (115) to Geelong 6.18 (54), with an extremely sizeable crowd of 41,649 in attendance.

The second semi final, played out in front of 37,813 spectators, was a much harder fought affair, although when Carlton 5.6 (36) led Collingwood 1.7 (13) at half time this appeared unlikely to be the case.  In the third term, however, the Magpies raised their game, adding 5.2 to 2.1 to reduce the lemon time deficit to just 4 points.  The scene was set for a hard, slogging last quarter, but fortunately for the Blues, this was precisely the type of football at which they excelled.  Collingwood battled gamely, and remained in with a chance until quite late on, but overall Carlton proved too assured and systematic, winning in the end by 13 points, 9.11 (65) to 7.10 (52).  It had been a gruelling match, however, leaving many Blues players feeling stiff and sore, notably centre half forward Horrie Clover who would ultimately prove unable to front up for the final.  Best players for the victors included centre half back Paddy O'Brien, centreman Bill Blackman, wingman Newton Chandler, follower Rupe Hiskins, and former Collingwood half back flanker Walter Raleigh.  Clover, with 4 goals, was the Blues' leading goalkicker.  Telling performances for the Magpies came from wingman Bill Twomey, follower 'Con' McCarthy, and the defensive trio of Tom Hammond, Bill Buck and Charlie Tyson.  Full forward 'Dick' Lee, whose 4 goals all came during the third quarter, also had a significant impact on the match.

The Final

"Saturday was a day which in its way had no parallel for footballers in the history of the game in Melbourne.  Hail fell heavily at half time with such intensity and density as to obliterate the view from the stands and to completely cover the ground.  It was a decidedly novel experience.  When the storm had spent itself the reserve presented a pretty winter setting in its deep coating of white, fringed with the green from the trees around, but the people naturally were not generous to landscape art, for, no matter the sight, the disturbance to many meant saturated clothes, with the risk of accompanying ills, and besides they had come to see football, a pleasure which had been so unexpectedly removed from them.  It was water polo instead.  A game which had opened well, and had all the glamour of a championship contest around it, fell to the common level of a physical scramble, devoid of incidents that attract and delight, and a test along anything but football lines."  ("The Age", Monday 10 October, 1921)

(Meanwhile, at East Melbourne, the Association final between Footscray and Williamstown was abandoned when the storm hit during the third quarter with the Seagulls leading by 4 points.)

The Tigers were at full strength, while, as mentioned above, the Blues were without their champion centre half forward Horrie Clover.

1st Quarter

Carlton started brightly, with Alex Duncan, Rupe Hiskins and Frank Martin all marking strongly within the opening couple of minutes.  Blues veteran forward pocket Charlie Fisher had the first scoring chance of the final but his long kick on the run fell just short. Richmond responded with some neat inter-passing involving Max Hislop, Clarrie Hall and Donald Don, with the last named kicking truly to register the first goal of the game.

Max Hislop was marking nearly everything that came his way at this stage - "those great aerial flights which bring risks, but have all the splendour about them when they come off" - eliciting great cheers from supporters of both teams.

Play was fiercely physical, with the followers of both sides engaging in numerous heavy body clashes.  When the ball was in the open, centremen Mel Morris (Richmond) and Bill Blackman (Carlton) were especially prominent, with neither player having the advantage at this stage. 

​Most of the attacking was now being done by the Tigers, who appeared both faster and hungrier than their opponents.  However, in Carlton centre half back Paddy O'Brien they found a redoubtable adversary, who single-handedly repelled many attacking thrusts.  Inevitably, however, the pressure told, and Richmond's quarter time advantage of 16 points accurately reflected their superiority.  The best goal of the term belonged to Carlton, though, courtesy of a thumping place kick from Perce Daykin.  Quarter Time: Richmond 4.2 (26); Carlton 1.4 (10)

2nd Quarter

The first few minutes of the second term saw the Tigers attacking relentlessly, and Bob Weatherill, with a hefty punt kick, soon had their fifth goal of the encounter on the board.  

With the match in danger of slipping away from them, the Blues responded by raising both the overall tempo, and the ferocity of their attack on both ball and ball carrier.  Wingman Chandler and forward Fisher featured prominently in many of Carlton's attacking forays, but goals proved hard to come by.  In quick succession Duncan, Gordon Green, Fisher and Green again only managed to raise one flag, but thankfully for them the Tigers proved even more wayward when it was their turn to attack.  Dan Minogue was the worst culprit, twice being freed well within range of goal, but managing just one behind from his two shots, the other sailing out of bounds well wide of the point post.

Much of the football was fast, open and entertaining, and a long, swerving run by Richmond half back 'Snowy' McIntosh brought the loudest roar of the game so far from the crowd.

Shortly before the half time bell, Daykin, having been freed just in front of the posts, had no trouble in registering Carlton's second goal of the game, but the Blues were not functioning with anything like the conviction or fluency that had characterised their play for most of the season.  Half Time: Richmond 5.5 (35); Carlton 2.10 (22)

3rd Quarter

The half time deluge changed the match completely, and, given that Carlton's only defeat for the year had occurred on a day of torrential rain at Fitzroy, there were many in the crowd who thought that the omens favoured the Tigers.  Certainly slick, cohesive football - the Blues' forté for much of the season - was now totally out of the question, and the drenched spectators, having been treated to a fast, open game during the first half, were now presented with a dour, relentless war of attrition.

To many people's surprise, it was the Blues who initially adapted better to the conditions; they were "surer in picking up than Richmond, longer in their punts, and more certain in their passing".  Early on Vic Thorp, on the last line of defence for the Tigers, twice saved seemingly certain scores, snapping a behind post clean in two on the second occasion after running into it.

Carlton continued to press, however, and in the midst of a heaving scrimmage of players just in front of goal Frank Martin managed to toe poke the ball over the line for full points.  A rushed behind to the Blues followed shortly after, and when Green snapped truly amidst heavy traffic midway through the term scores were level - 35 points apiece.

Good scoring chances to Daykin and Raleigh then followed, but the first was wasted, and the second saved by Thorp.  Then Richmond's first attack for several minutes, pioneered by McIntosh, culminated in a rather fortuitous snapped goal to Bayliss, and the Tigers were back in front.  They did not retain their advantage for long, however, as Edric Bickford brought the Blues level moments later with an excellent long, left foot goal, and then Green, with a bad miss from close in, put them a point to the good, and in the lead for the first time in the match.

​​Carlton were totally on top at this stage, a fact that Stewie McLatchie emphasised with a clever goal to stretch their lead to 7 points, but then the pendulum swung back in the Tigers' favour and quick goals to Minogue and Morris saw them briefly back in the box seat.  Then came arguably the most critical phase of the match, as Carlton attacked with great vigour and intensity for several minutes, only to miss a series of excellent scoring chances.  The worst offender was Duncan, who, having marked in the goal square, sliced his kick so badly that he only just managed to register a behind.  However, shortly before the bell the Blues finally nabbed an improbable goal when Fisher's speculative kick somehow conspired to roll through, eluding several Richmond backmen in the process, despite initially coming to ground at least fifteen metres from the posts.  Three Quarter Time: Carlton 7.14 (56); Richmond 8.5 (53)

4th Quarter

If the football on display in the third term had tended towards the unkempt, this was as nothing compared to the sometimes farcical spectacle of the final quarter.  "It was slither and slide all the time.  The hail had melted, and well defined water courses were left.  Into and along these players waded, and the ball sometimes floated towards its destiny."

Somehow, despite the conditions, scores continued to be posted, albeit very infrequently.  The Blues were the more successful side at producing something approximating to football, and indeed some of their ball handling was quite remarkable considering the conditions.  The Tigers, by contrast, eschewed picking up the ball almost entirely, and were content to play soccer, an approach that may have upset the purists, but which ultimately proved more effective.  The only two goals of the quarter both went to Richmond, to Barney Herbert, after a rare mark taken directly in front, and to Hugh James with a scrambled kick along the ground.  The Blues meanwhile, despite monopolising possession for long periods, managed just 3 behinds, meaning that they would be required to invoke their right of challenge as minor premiers if they were to stand a chance of taking out the 1921 flag. Final Score: Richmond 10.7 (67); Carlton 7.17 (59)

BEST - Richmond: Hislop, Turnbull, McIntosh, Herbert, Taylor, Minogue  Carlton: Duncan, Hiskins, Fisher, Blackman, Raleigh, Boromeo
GOALS - Richmond: Bayliss, Herbert, Morris 2; Don, Hall, James, Minogue   Carlton: Daykin 2; Bickford, Fisher, Green, Martin, McLatchie

ATTENDANCE:  42,866 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground


The Challenge Final

"Without acknowledging that it was a great game from the standpoint of team excellence, it rose to being great in the popular sense because of brilliant phases of individual effort, the closeness of the scores, and a really fine finish, in which masterful tactics of leaders and men came into the science of things."   ("The Age", Monday 17 October, 1921)


Richmond fielded the same eighteen as in both of its previous finals, while Carlton was strengthened by the return from injury of its champion centre half forward Horrie Clover.  The weather was "in fickle mood, sun one minute and rain the next early, but mostly rain later".

1st Quarter

Gordon Green, playing what would prove to be his last VFL match, won the toss for Carlton and, to the surprise of many observers, elected to kick into the breeze during the opening term.

​The Blues opened in aggressive, determined fashion, with Paddy O'Brien showing up well across half back, and some of Newton Chandler's foot-passing a delight to the eye.  The pace of the game was quick and it was less overtly physical than during the opening phase of the previous week's encounter.

After Carlton had done most of the early attacking, it was Richmond who went ahead thanks to a long, hopeful kick from Mel Morris which miraculously bounced through having landed a good distance from goals.  This had been the Tigers' first  proper attack of the match, and their success seemed to have inspire them to greater efforts, with Don moments later adding a behind from an adroit snap.

Carlton responded by upping the physical stakes, and for a time this had the desired effect of putting Richmond on the back foot.  A goal to Green on the ten minute mark was the Blues' first score of the match, and as heavy rain began to fall they continued to hold the initiative, with Clover, O'Brien and Chandler in particular showing up to good effect.  Carlton's second goal, off the boot of McLatchie, was the culmination of a sustained period of dominance that ought really to have given rise to a greater advantage on the scoreboard, but Richmond, having weathered the storm, went on to enjoy a brief spell of superiority of their own, without troubling the scorers.

Moments before the bell, Blues forward Alex Duncan was unlucky when his seemingly goal-bound shot struck a post, leaving the margin between the teams at the first change a single straight kick.  Quarter Time: Carlton 2.2 (14); Richmond 1.2 (8)

2nd Quarter

The Tigers attacked first in the second quarter when James was freed near the centre of the ground.  His kick found Minogue, who relayed it to Hughes, who found full forward Bayliss close in on no appreciable angle.  However, the former Balmain Church of Christ player missed everything, much to the distress of the more seasoned among the Richmond supporters who were taking to opining that, every time Bayliss failed early, their side lost.

A couple of minutes later, Blues ruckman Harry Toole, from a free, should have made Richmond pay for their profligacy, but he too missed everything.

Carlton, with Albert Boromeo repeatedly in the thick of the action, continued to press forward, but the Richmond half back line of McIntosh, Hislop and Smith, together with the peerless Vic Thorp at full back, combined brilliantly to keep them at bay.  Boromeo it was who finally found a way through, however, kicking what proved to be the only goal of the quarter after superbly marking Clover's deft pass.

Midway through the term the Tigers finally began to take up the initiative, but found the Blues' future skipper Paddy O'Brien well nigh impassable at centre half back.  Similarly, when Carlton attacked, they proved unable to progress to within scoring range owing to the resolute play of the Richmond half back line.

If the lack of scoring was disappointing to the crowd, the aerial exploits of players like Clover, Boromeo and Hislop helped to compensate for it to some extent.  The mark of the quarter, and indeed of the match, was taken by Hislop, who soared high above a pack of half a dozen players and, at full stretch, just managed to get his hands around the ball.  Given that that ball was, by this stage in the match, in an extremely greasy, sodden condition, it was a quite extraordinary feat.

​Towards the end of the term, Carlton attacked continuously, but could only manage a couple of minor scores.  Once again, it had been the Blues' quarter, but their superiority was still not being realistically reflected on the scoreboard.  Half Time: Carlton 3.4 (22); Richmond 1.3 (9)

3rd Quarter

Rain, which hitherto had been only intermittent, if sometimes heavy, fell continuously during the third term, making smooth ball handling extremely difficult, and the Tigers, eschewing such niceties, appeared to adapt to the conditions better.  From the opening bounce of the term Dan Minogue carried the ball downfield and kicked towards centre half forward where Morris was first upon it.  Morris's kick found Bayliss on a tight angle, but with the ball still comparatively dry he kicked superbly to register the Tigers' second goal.

Shortly afterwards Richmond should have had a goal when Norm Turnbull at half forward left passed towards Bayliss at full forward, only for the ball to sail over his head into the waiting arms of Barney Herbert.  Of all the players on the field, Herbert was probably the least reliable kick for goal, and he further enhanced his reputation by managing just a behind from ten metres out directly in front.

Carlton fought back strongly, but their kicking was wayward, and the Richmond defence had little trouble mopping up.  One such Blues' foray came to grief near centre half forward where Vic Thorp marked strongly before sinking his boot into a perfect punt kick that travelled to right centre wing, and into the waiting arms of Hughie James, who, up to this point, had arguably been the Tigers' most impressive player.  James ran on, and sent an equally impressive kick in the direction of Bayliss, who marked cleanly and brought his team to within a point with a nice goal.

The only remaining score for the quarter was a behind to the Blues, leaving the three quarter time scoreboard reading Carlton 3.6 (24); Richmond 3.4 (22)

4th Quarter

The scene was set for a frenetic, gruelling climax, and players of both sides showed great desperation as they hurled themselves into the fray.  Umpire McMurray was frequently called upon to intervene, with some of his decisions, particularly regarding the holding the ball rule, causing great perplexity among players and spectators alike.

On the whole, Richmond was continuing to have the better of things, although the play of both teams was uncoordinated and unsystematic in the extreme.  The Tigers in particular seemed content to move the ball forward by any means available, and few spectators would have been surprised when the first goal of the quarter came from a long, hopeful soccer kick out of a scrimmage by James.

Richmond now led for the first time since early in the opening term, and with goals likely to prove as rare as proverbial hen's teeth, the Blues were under immense pressure, and for a few minutes seemed on the verge of being overwhelmed.  First Bayliss, who on the evidence of his third quarter performance seemed to have found his kicking boots, marked close in, but to Carlton's relief he failed even to make the distance with his kick.  Moments later Donald Don had a free run in on goal, only to slip over when just a couple of metres from the line; the ball was scrambled through for a behind.  Another behind soon followed, kicked by Hugh James, and the difference between the teams was a straight goal, in the Tigers' favour.  From the ensuing kick in, Barney Herbert marked, and this time, instead of trying to kick for goal, passed to Norm Turnbull, who vindicated the decision by marking and kicking truly - Richmond 5.6 (36); Carlton 3.6 (24), with eight minutes left on the clock.

Belatedly, but with great vigour and determination, the Blues began to make a fight of it.  A long, raking kick by Fisher travelled deep into the forward lines and bounced perfectly for Jack Stephenson to run onto it, straighten up, and kick Carlton's fourth goal.  The crowd, which had been surprisingly subdued, was now, virtually to a man, roaring almost manically.

​The Blues moved straight into attack from the centre bounce, and for the final five or six minutes of the match, that was where they stayed.  However, the Richmond defenders, all of whom were coated from head to foot in thick black mud, defended heroically, and all Carlton could manage were two minor scores, bringing them to within 4 points.  

The most dramatic incident of the entire match occurred just a minute from time.  As the Blues launched yet another, desperate attacking thrust, the ball looked to be sailing towards Alex Duncan, who was unencumbered close to goal, and looked certain to mark.  However, he failed to hold on to the ball, and "Hislop, dashing in and picking up smartly, kicked it well out of danger".  (There is no suggestion in 'The Age' match report that Hislop spoiled Duncan, as is claimed in some sources.)  In the few seconds remaining, Carlton proved unable to mount another attack, and so the Tigers had won arguably the most difficult and noteworthy premiership in the club's rich history, overcoming not only a powerful and highly rated Carlton combination - twice - but the worst that the Melbourne weather could throw at them.  There were some who claimed that, on overall balance of play, the Blues deserved to win both matches, but Richmond's resolve was immense, and their team spirit, bolstered perhaps by not having to make any changes to their line-up throughout the finals series, was indefatigable.  Their triumph may not have been either polished or spectacular, but it was earned the hard way, and thoroughly deserved - the sort of triumph which constitutes an important building block in a club's culture and tradition.

"The bell rang amidst scenes of the wildest enthusiasm.  Every Richmond player was carried in, and the ground was overrun with jubilant supporters, one of them being a young woman, who showered confetti on a number of men.  It will remain a memorable game."

BEST - Richmond: McIntosh, James, Harley, Smith, Hislop, Thorp, Carew  Carlton: O'Brien, Jamieson, Chandler, Blackman, McLatchie, Stephenson, Boromeo
GOALS - Richmond: Bayliss 2; James, Morris, Turnbull   Carlton: Boromeo, Duncan, McLatchie, Stephenson

ATTENDANCE:  43,122 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground


1922: Changing the Guard

SCHOOL GIRLS HASTENING

by John Shaw Neilson


Fear it has faded and the night: 
The bells all peal the hour of nine: 
The schoolgirls hastening through the light 
Touch the unknowable Divine. 

What leavening in my heart would bide! 
Full dreams a thousand deep are there: 
All luminants succumb beside 
The unbound melody of hair. 

Joy the long timorous takes the flute: 
Valiant with colour songs are born: 
Love the impatient absolute 
Lives as a Saviour in the morn 

Get thou behind me Shadow-Death! 
Oh ye Eternities delay! 
Morning is with me and the breath 
Of schoolgirls hastening down the way.


THE YEAR IN BRIEF

The British Empire was in decline, or so common understanding had it. However, somewhat perversely, in terms of the geographical area it covered the Empire in 1922 was larger than it had ever been, accounting for a fifth of all the land on earth, including, of course, Australia. 

The fabric of Empire was altering though. Countries of the Empire ostensibly had King George V as head of state, but in an increasing number of instances this status was merely nominal. A case in point was Ireland, which had just achieved its independence, and was an autonomous dominion.[1] In real terms, the British Empire was a declining force in world affairs, if indeed it could even be said to be a force, at least in any discrete, coherent sense.

Arguably the most significant events of 1922 occurred not in Britain, but in Russia. That year saw the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, as it was known, assuming control over former territories of the Russian Empire, and becoming known as the Soviet Union. Vladimir Lenin remained as head of the government. On 3rd April Joseph Stalin was selected to the influential post of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. On 26th May Lenin suffered a stroke, and thereafter his health declined rapidly. Ultimately, he would be succeeded by Stalin whose impact, not only on his own nation but also the world at large, would be immense.

Of much less significance in global terms was Australian National Party Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ fall from grace:

“To many, Billy Hughes’ post-war career would seem erratic, with the meetings of cabinet seeming strange, volatile affairs, and with the Country Party refusing to join him in government because of his apparent socialism in having his government buy into a Commonwealth Shipping Line, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries and Amalgamated Wireless. He would fall from office after the 1922 elections, the Country Party agreeing to give their weight to the Nationals only if the Melbourne businessman and Gallipoli hero (fighting with the Royal Fusiliers) Sir Stanley Melbourne Bruce took over the leadership.”[2]

Like Hughes, Bruce (shown above) was a singularly distinctive character, but there the resemblance between the two ended. It has been said of Bruce that he was in actual fact an Englishman who just happened to have been born in Australia. Given the sentiments which it was believed had motivated Australia’s involvement in the first world war he was an odd, bewildering choice as Prime Minister.

“Not by birth, education or temperament did he ever feel any sympathy with the bush myth of mateship and equality, or the larrikin tradition of the towns. Naturally aloof by inclination, he advertised his difference from the democratic tradition by the Englishness of his clothing (he wore spats), by his English rather than Australian accent, and by his English manners of speech when speaking to the working classes (he always addressed a member of the Labor Party in the lobbies of the House by his last name only.)”[3]

For the larrikins, of course, sport, particularly football, was infinitely more important than politics. The 1922 VFL season, especially the finals series, was especially absorbing. After four closely contested finals the premiership was won by Fitzroy who overcame the challenge of minor premiers Collingwood by 11 points, 11.13 (79) to 9.14 (68), having also earlier defeated the Magpies in a semi final. The crowd for the semi final clash between Essendon and Carlton attracted an Australian record attendance of 64,148.

The VFA premiership went to Port Melbourne who defeated Footscray in a thriller by 2 points, 9.6 (60) to 8.10 (58).

Other premiers were Norwood (SAFL), East Perth for the fifth successive time (WAFL), Cananore (TFL), Paddington (NSWAFL), Brisbane (QFL) and Vesteys (NTFL). 

In the interstate sphere Victoria downed South Australia in Melbourne but lost to them in Adelaide. Second string VFL combinations also played New South Wales twice, winning by 45 points in Sydney and by 17 points in Melbourne. New South Wales and Queensland met in Sydney with the home side procuring victory by 15 points.

FOOTNOTES

[1] When Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 Ireland’s status as an autonomous dominion meant that it was not obliged to follow suit, and it elected to remain neutral. Australia, by contrast, chose to enter the war,

[2] Australians: Flappers to Vietnam by Thomas Keneally, page 19.

[3] A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, pages 241-2.


South Fremantle vs East Perth, 9th September 1922

Royals Overturned

“The stiff breeze made combination rather a difficult matter. East Perth rely so much on their exchanges that, in my opinion, they were handicapped a little more than South Fremantle. The red and whites are a vigorous side, with combination playing a secondary part, and anything that tends to haphazard play, such as wind etc., would give them an excellent chance of winning.”[1]

East Perth had finished the minor round at the head of the premiership ladder, with South Fremantle two places below them. In their three meetings during the home and away series East Perth had enjoyed 100% success, winning by 23 points at Perth Oval in round three, by a solitary point at Fremantle Oval in round eight, and by 8 points in round thirteen, again at Fremantle Oval. Not surprisingly therefore the Royals were favoured to win again, but they might not find the windy weather conditions to their liking as their style of play was based on fluent, precise movement of the ball. By contrast South were a robust, hard tackling side who might be expected to benefit to some extent from the unsettling effects of the breeze. The South Fremantle changing room prior to the start of the match was a place of confidence and steely intent. As their head trainer remarked “All fighting men today”.

In the opening term East Perth enjoyed the advantage of the breeze, which was blowing strongly towards the city end of the ground. Despite this, the Royals took a while to settle into their stride, and South had the better of the early exchanges, and indeed kicked the first goal of the match rounding off some excellent combination play of which the Royals would have been proud. Chalmers, using a place kick, was the goal scorer, but the move leading up to the goal was initiated by half back flanker Adams, and went via Tuxworth, Johnny Campbell and Heinrichs before ending up with Chalmers.

East Perth’s response was determined and vigorous but lacked coordination and as a result a succession of good scoring chances went begging. Ten minutes in the Royals had still not troubled the scorers. Finally, after a scramble in the goal square, Giese managed to soccer the ball through to level the scores.

Following East Perth’s goal it was the red and whites who took up the running, and it was not long before Ochiltree, with a place kick, had registered their second six pointer. The Royals, with centre half back Brentnall and rover Duffy to the fore, dominated the remaining minutes of the term and their efforts were rewarded with a goal from a long punt kick by Owens. This made the scores at quarter time East Perth 2.4 (16) to South Fremantle 2.3 (15).

“The vigour of the game was refreshing, and the heavy artillery was the dominant factor. But what of the hand-passing? I have never seen it so thin.

“If Allen and Giles were not throwing that ball we don’t know the meaning of the term. With double-handed palming they sent it sideways and over their shoulders. But it made for pace, and umpire O’Connor was consistent in allowing it all day.”[2]

South went a considerable way toward winning the match in the second quarter during which they added 4.6 to 2.1. However, it was the Royals who drew first blood thanks to a goal mere seconds in by Giese. This produced a vigorous riposte from South, and shortly afterwards their wingman White added what was probably the goal of the day after a coruscating run from his position on centre wing deep into the forward lines.

With the red and whites generally faster to the ball and superior overhead the blues were forced onto the back foot. A goal to wingman Giles gave South the lead, and a few minutes later “Bonny” Campbell added another with a thumping punt kick.

The best player on view in the second quarter was Adams, at half back left for South. Playing with great dash and tremendous anticipation he single-handedly repelled many East Perth attacking forays. 

“Almost invariably when the blues succeeded in plating up, this grand defender dashed their hopes. Not once did he err.

“Could East Perth make up their leeway and hold a substantial lead at lemons? Their supporters remembered the blues being six goals behind Souths at lemons, and still winning.”[3]

When the bell sounded for half time the scoreboard showed the southerners in front by 16 points, 6.9 (45) to 4.5 (29).

From the opening bounce of the third term the Royals raced into attack. Owens picked out Hebbard who in turn found Matson and the veteran, with a lovely running shot, registered full points. Moments later Giese wasted a golden opportunity to add another goal and the red and whites seemed on the verge of cracking. However, the next few East Perth attacks were foiled by Adams, who was in resplendent form, and “worth any three - friends or foe - absolutely unbeatable”.[4]

The play during the third quarter was not at all pretty to watch, but both sides were relentless in pursuit of both ball and ball carrier. The goal of the match was scored by East Perth’s Val Sparrow by means of a superlative drop kick from an acute angle. This was followed shortly before the bell by another Royals goal courtesy of Giese, who snapped truly under pressure. At the final change East Perth had edged in front by 3 points, 7.7 (49) to South Fremantle’s 6.10 (46). But, given the strength of the breeze, with which South would be kicking in the closing term, would this be enough?

“In the roughest quarter of the year, Adams at times was playing almost a lone hand. At the other end, Brentnall was coming through like a locomotive, and Owen’s marking was very attractive even though his kicking lacked accuracy. In the relentlessness of the terrific struggle, the hefty Bateman and Sunderland had been cruelly battered.”[5]

The early stages of the last term saw East Perth playing with great vim and determination, and no small amount of flair. However, with the exception of a shot from Weston which struck a goalpost they proved unable to score. Eventually, South found their feet, and goals in quick succession to Bunny Campbell, Staton and Johnny Campbell made the margin three straight kicks in their favour.

East Perth would not give in, however, and the remainder of the quarter saw them attacking relentlessly. With barely a minute to play Giese pulled a goal back, and directly from the ensuing centre bounce they raced into attack once more and Harrold booted another. Had the match lasted another two or three minutes it is highly possible that the Royals would have emerged victorious; as it was, South had won a hard earned and well merited triumph by 3 points, 9.11 (65) to 9.8 (62).

South Fremantle might have won the battle, but victory in the war would go the way of East Perth. In the following Saturday’s final South succumbed to West Perth by 28 points, leaving the Royals, as minor premiers, to challenge the Cardinals for the flag. This they did successfully giving them their fourth successive premiership. In 1923 they would go on to make it five in a row, a sequence of success which would be unsurpassed in the twentieth century.

FOOTNOTES

[1] The “Westralian Worker”, 15/9/22, page 8.

[2] Ibid, page 8.

[3] Ibid, page 8.

[4] Ibid, page 8.

[5] Ibid, page 8.


Fitzroy vs Collingwood, 14th October 1922

Persistent Maroons Prevail

"It was wonderfully fast and fierce, with no turning of the other cheek, and while the play was too intensive to be scientific, all instinctively knew that great things would happen ere the old Lysander bell would peal out its final tones.” (John Worrall in “The Australasian”, 21/10/22)


Collingwood finished at the head of the VFL ladder in 1922, a win and a half ahead of Essendon (111.6%) and Fitzroy (108.8%), and two wins clear of Carlton. In the semi finals Essendon accounted for Carlton by 5 points, while Fitzroy surprised with a gallant 4 point triumph over Collingwood. The final saw Fitzroy coming from behind to defeat the Dons by 23 points leaving Collingwood, as minor premier, to face the ‘Roys for the flag.

“It was a common phrase throughout the city and the suburbs during the week to hear football patrons remark, “Well, I think Collingwood is the more finished side, but that Fitzroy team never gives in”. It was a well deserved compliment.”[1]

The weather - hot, humid and overcast - was on the face of it inimical to good football, but both sides made light of the situation as they combined to produce the best football seen during the finals. In terms of style, the combatants were very different: Collingwood were famed for their mastery of the short game, while Fitzroy excelled in kicking the ball long to position and using their pace to advantage in one on one contests.

From the outset, the match was played at a frenetic pace, although neither side managed to play with any real fluency. Collingwood full forward “Dick” Lee was prominent early, and obtained the game’s first couple of goals, whereupon the Maroons moved Jim Atkinson onto him. This had the desired effect of nullifying the Magpie champion’s impact. The situation was mitigated by Collingwood’s tendency of trying to pass the ball to Lee at every opportunity when there were other, potentially profitable options available.

The ‘Roys hit their straps during the closing stages of the first term and added a couple of goals leaving the score at quarter time Fitzroy 2.5 (17); Collingwood 2.3 (15).

The Magpies were the better side for much of the second quarter, but their superiority was not fully reflected on the scoreboard. At the long break it was Collingwood 4.5 (29) leading Fitzroy 3.6 (24), “and no one could confidently say which team had the better winning chance. It was wonderfully fast and fierce, with no turning of the other cheek, and while the play was too intensive to be scientific, all instinctively knew that great things would happen ere the old Lysander bell would peal out its final tones. Supporters of both sides were satisfied at the interval, Collingwood in that they were holding their own in skill and personal contact, and Fitzroy in that they only had five points to make up.”[2]

The third term got underway in quite dramatic fashion. Gordon McCracken of Fitzroy won the tap, which he directed to Len Gale, who went on a short dash before finding Freake with a pinpoint pass. Freake was roughly thirty-five metres from goal and made no mistake. Fitzroy had hit the front, and no Collingwood player had yet touched the ball in the third quarter.

Playing inspired football the Maroons continued gto dominate, and five into the term they had increased their lead to 14 points, 6.7 (43) to the Magpies’ 4.5 (29). The remainder of the third quarter was evenly contested, the two sides going goal for goal so that at the final change it was Fitzroy 15 points to the good. Line scores were Maroons 9.10 (64); Collingwood 7.7 (49).

“It was a brilliant and fierce term, in fact the most brilliant quarter of the final series, and the great crowd gave full vent to their feelings. Not only had the pace and force increased, but also the teamwork, the standard vieing with the best of former years.”[3]

During the early stages of the final term the Magpies fought back determinedly, but their kicking for goal was wayward. Nevertheless a succession of behinds reduced the deficit was to just 11 points. Realising the danger, the ‘Roys increased their work rate, and it was they who registered the first goal of the term. This meant that in order to have any chance the Magpies had to get the next goal but instead it was Fred Williams, running in from the wing, who put Fitzroy 23 points to the good. Collingwood finished with something of a flourish, adding two goals of their own, but it was a case of too little too late, and the Maroons ran out deserved winners by a margin of 11 points.

Two Fitzroy players, Bert Taylor and Jim “Snowy” Atkinson, stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the field. Taylor, whether rucking or resting in defence, produced a first class all round exhibition of football, chiefly characterised by superb marking and kicking plus plenty of dash. Atkinson was in the thick of the action for much of the match, and in keeping Collingwood sharpshooter “Dick” Lee quiet he too can be said to have made a sterling all round contribution to the ‘Roys’ cause, Other Fitzroy players to shine included Gorden McCracken (pictured above), who marked brilliantly, rover Clive Fergie, full back Horrie Jenkin, and 4 goal forward Jimmy Freake. 

The Magpies were best served by some of their smallest players, notably Ed Baker, the best Collingwood man on the ground, and also Leo Wescott and Tom Drummond. They were somewhat hamstrung, however, by the fact that so many of their “gun” players such as Charlie Pannam, the Coventry brothers, Gordon and Syd, and Charlie Tyson were inconspicuous. Pannam admittedly had an excuse: he had been the most prominent player afield in the opening fifteen minutes but then sustained an injured ankle which greatly impeded his movement.

FOOTNOTES

[1] John Worrall writing in “The Australasian”, 21/10/22, page 21.

[2] Ibid, page 21.

[3] Ibid, page 21.


1923: Warning Ripples

From "My Country"

by Dorothea Mackellar


​The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!


Noteworthy developments and occurrences in 1923 included:

  • vegemite being launched in Australia;​
  • work starting on the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge;
  • Stanley Bruce being formally installed as Australia’s eighth Prime Minister;
  • the rapid growth in Germany of Adolf Hitler’s political party, or movement;
  • a massacre at the Krupp factory on the Ruhr when French soldiers open fire on workers, killing thirteen;
  • the end of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and a noticeable deterioration in relations between Britain and Japan;
  • the occupation of the Greek island of Corfu by Mussolini’s Italian forces;
  • a massive earthquake in Tokyo which destroys approximately 694,000 homes;
  • a failed coup in Bavaria led by Adolf Hitler and German war hero Erich Ludendorff resulting in Hitler being brought to trial and subsequently imprisoned.

Compared to such events, developments in Australian football were of meagre significance, but it would have been hard to convince many of the inhabitants of Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide, Perth, and numerous other settlements up and down the land of that.

In the VFL, Essendon emerged from more than a decade in the doldrums to capture their fifth league flag, and their ninth in all when VFA premierships are included. The Dons' victims in the decisive match of the year were reigning premiers Fitzroy. A detailed review of the clash can be read in the previous article.

Footscray won the VFA premiership thanks to a 14 point defeat of Port Melbourne. Success was also achieved by Norwood (SAFL), East Perth (WAFL - a fifth successive triumph), North Hobart (TFL), Sydney (NSWAFL), Brisbane (QFL) and Wanderers (NTFL).

The Western Australian State Premiership was contested for the last time between coastal premiers East Perth and their Goldfields counterparts Mines Rovers. Victory is achieved by the Royals by a margin of 30 points.


South Australia B vs Southern Tasmania

Tassie Triumph

Prior to the famous defeat of the mighty Vics at York Park in 1960, arguably the finest moment in Tasmanian football history came at Adelaide Oval in 1923 when a South Australian 'next best' combination was overwhelmed by 32 points in front of 25,000 of its own supporters.  (South Australia's first choice combination was playing against Western Australia in Perth the same day.)  The team of Tasmanians responsible for inflicting the 14.14 (98) to 9.12 (66) defeat were drawn exclusively from the 4 Hobart-based TFL clubs of Cananore, Lefroy, New Town and North Hobart, and so, in the strictest sense, given that there were no northern representatives, it was not a bona fide Tasmanian state team.  Not that this would have made the bitter pill of defeat any easier to swallow for the croweaters, whose pain would have been exacerbated still further by the realisation that their demise had been masterminded - and, to a large extent, effected - by former Sturt player Bill Mayman.  Originally from Kalgoorlie, Mayman had captained Sturt to its first two league premierships in 1915 and 1919, and was now captaining fledgling TFL club New Town.  Having left Sturt in somewhat acrimonious circumstances his performance against South Australia may well have been fuelled by a certain measure of resentment, but whatever the reason he was comfortably the most influential player on view, with 3 goals and a stream of telling possessions.  Among his team mates was pacy rover Freddy Odgers, who hailed from South Australia, and had played alongside Mayman in Sturt's 1919 premiership side.  Like Mayman, Odgers seemed to relish the experience of putting one over his former compatriots, and was one of the TFL side's most effective performers on the day.  Others to play well for the Tasmanians included Jack Charlesworth (shown above), Gorringe, Brooks, Martyn and Dunn.  So plucky was the Tasmanian display that by the final quarter the home supporters had taken to booing their own team and applauding the work of the visitors.

Sadly for the Tasmanians the superb form displayed during this game did not carry over to the following year's Hobart carnival when the team could manage only 2 wins from 5 matches.


Essendon vs Fitzroy, 20th October 1923

Dons Blitz 'Roys

By finishing at the head of the ladder at the conclusion of the minor round Essendon earned the double chance. This was fortunate, because the Same Old lost their semi final clash with South Melbourne by 17 points. Fitzroy meanwhile had comprehensively ousted Geelong from premiership contention with a 14.13 (97) to 8.14 (62) semi final triumph. The ‘Roys then went on to defeat South Melbourne by three straight kicks in the final, setting up a challenge final encounter with Essendon.

It may surprise modern readers to learn that Essendon went into the match as a warm sentimental favourite, as a footballing David to Fitzroy’s Goliath. The Maroons after all were not only the reigning VFL premiers, but with a total of seven flags to their name were the most successful club in the history of the league. 

Originally scheduled for Saturday 13th December the challenge final was controversially postponed for a week because the MCG was deemed too waterlogged for play. The postponement had a dramatic impact on the match attendance, with just 46,566 spectators - easily the smallest crowd of the finals series - turning up. According to John Worrall, “If the grand final had been played on the previous Saturday, as should have been the case, all records would have been broken, for the crowd would have numbered fully 70,000. How they would have been accommodated is another matter; yet the error was dearly paid for.”[1]

In terms of physique, Fitzroy was much the bulkier side, and indeed Essendon’s success in 1923 had been largely attributable to the consistently brilliant form of their smaller players - the “mosquito fleet”, as they became known. Having played just one match in a month the Same Old players might have been expected to have lost their edge, but in actual fact they appeared invigorated. Fitzroy on the other hand discernibly lacked the vim which had characterised their premiership triumph ofthe previous season.

It was a fine, warm day, with a light south easterly having replaced the strong north wind which had been blowing earlier. The ground was in excellent condition, showing no signs of having been partially submerged in water a week earlier. “Of the game itself, it can be classed as a good, hard one, with occasional flashes of beautiful concerted play, and many fierce scrambles. On the whole, it was not a pretty match, being intensely strong, though played at a clipping pace.”[2] And it was chiefly the Essendon small men who were responsible for the pace of the game, although it has to be admitted that many of the Fitzroy players rose to the occasion and fought determinedly right to the end. The ‘Roys were also not afraid to use their weight, and indeed it was on the basis of an physical superiority that they had won both their encounters with Essendon in the 1923 minor round. This time, however, Essendon made an obvious - and predominantly successful - attempt to match fire with fire, leaving the mosquito fleet with greater scope to impose themselves.

The opening fifteen minutes of the match saw Essendon’s small brigade in sparkling form, while their bigger players were at least managing to hold their own.[3] The first goal of the encounter went to Greg Stockdale (pictured above) via a smart snapshot, prompting large sections of the crowd to roar appreciatively, it being the Dons spearhead’s 67th major of the season, which constituted a new record. Unusually for the period, several of Stockdale’s team mates acknowledged his achievement by hugging him.

As the term wore on Fitzroy began to make an impression with their own full forward Jimmy Freake - the second most prolific goal kicker of the season - especially conspicuous. At the first change it was the Maroons by a point, 3.3 (21) to Essendon’s 3.2 (20).

Play in the second term was vigorous in the extreme but seldom unfair. Essendon were much the more impressive side in general terms, but their kicking for goal let them down. They added 1.8 for the quarter compared to 2.2 for Fitzroy who thereby retained their 1 point advantage heading into the main break. The best player afield was “Goldie” Collins of the ‘Roys who was frequently first to the ball, and alsmost invariably used it well. Collins would end up winning Fitzroy’s 1923 club champion award.

When play resumed in the third term it soon became clear that Fitzroy ruckman Gordon McCracken was struggling with an injury as he was limping badly. Instead of continuing on the ball he was stationed in the forward lines where his impact was negligible. Indeed, the whole Fitzroy team - with the conspicuous exception of Collins, who continued to do the work of two men - appeared disjointed and lacking in coordination, with the result that Essendon outscored them by 11 points for the term. At the last change the scoreboard showed the Dons on 6.13 (49) compared to the Maroons’ 5.9 (39).

To their credit Fitzroy, despite being effectively short-handed, began the final quarter well, and six minutes in Harold Carter kicked truly to reduce the deficit to less than a single straight kick. The minority of people in the crowd who were barracking for Fitzroy gave loud vent to their approval but though their heroes attacked determinedly the combined efforts of the Essendon backline, notably Tom Fitzmaurice, Joe Harrison and Roy Laing kept them at bay. The closing minutes of the term saw the Dons re-asserting themselves, and it was they who registered the final 2 goals of the match.. Final scores were Essendon 8.15 (63) defeated Fitzroy 6.10 (46).

Almost every Essendon man could justifiably have been included in the best player list, whilst collectively the side was superior in pace, ground play and aerially. Their one real weakness was in kicking for goal, but the persistence of their attacks meant that this was not the disadvantage it might have been. Arguably the best of Essendon’s many fine performers was Justin McCarthy, whose marking and general play were consistently impressive. George Shorten and Jack Garden were not far behind McCarthy in effectiveness.

Best for Fitzroy, and indeed arguably the most influential and impressive player afield, was “Goldie” Collins, while others to shine included Jimmy Freake, the game’s top goal kicker with 4, and talented defender Jim Tarbotten.

Fitzroy’s days as the acknowledged principal force in Victorian football were numbered. By the time the club procured its eighth league premiership in 1944 that particular mantle had been assumed by Collingwood, which had won the flag on eleven occasions.

Essendon, with their smaller players again to the fore, would go on to claim a second successive premiership in 1924, but after that the club would endure close to two decades in the doldrums before securing their seventh VFL lag in 1942.

FOOTNOTES

[1] John Worrall in “The Australasian”, 23/10/23, page 26.

[2] Ibid, page 26.

[3] According to “Old Boy” writing in “The Argus” of 22/10/23, Essendon actually boasted six players over six foot compared to Fitzroy’s four. The Dons also had both the game’s heaviest player in the shape of ruckman Norm Beckton who weighed 15 stone/95 kg, and the shortest and lightest player in Charlie Hardy (54 kg and 155 cm). The tallest player on view was Fitzroy’s Gordon McCracken at just under 191 cm.