4 CONTRASTING SOUNDS
by Katherine Gallagher
There are no players for the chessboard.
The trees to have gone, leaving a minor banquet:
dull shapes, at angles to each other: Kandinsky’s chariot
sweeping left to right - upwards
marking lines to a hushed universe.
Circles rim shades: the drums of colour
summoning your heart. The atmosphere is as calm
as can be imagined: that calm after the shearers
have been through, taking their pickings,
while black-ringed moons pitch shadows,
putting out antennae, snail-like,
for a new slide forward. They hide a residue of faith.
This is 1924, a quarter of the century folding
back on itself. War is the old solution
where the fat death reigns, a bogey
that can’t be bought off. Back to the chessboard -
people study the game. Promises, entreaties …
Long term winners float on their crinkly sea,
navigate a certain tilt, an aftermath,
believing they have everything to play for.
In 1924 the population of Australia was estimated at 5.8 million. The country saw itself as “clean, white, cheerful and resolute”. This was almost certainly a roseate image, but the fact that it legibly informed the politics of the day would be difficult to refute.
Those politics continued to be somewhat complex, not only in Australia but in the world at large. The fall-out from the recent global conflict was still being felt. For instance, on 12th April HMAS Australia was sunk off Sydney Heads with full naval honours in compliance with the recent Washington disarmament treaties. Meanwhile an international commission had put forward a plan requiring French occupation of the German Ruhr region to end. The plan also proposed a staggered reparation payment schedule for Germany. The governments of the former allies of the Great War jointly approved the plan but the general populations of France and Germany were less impressed.
Meanwhile back in Australia there was widespread concern over the spread of extremism, particularly left wing extremism. The Australian communist party was growing in strength and in 1924 it sought to affiliate with Labor, but the move was rebuffed. There was also discontent among Australia’s sizeable Irish minority at Britain’s - and hence, by extension it was felt, Australia’s - hard line stance on the issue of Irish Home Rule. Of more general concern was the confusion deriving from the fact that laws and policies came from two different sources, the Federal and state parliaments. Particular confusion, not to mention resentment at times, occurred when national and local legislatures were under the control of different political parties.
Away from the political sphere a number of important technological advances were in evidence. For instance, radio stations began broadcasting in several state capitals in 1924, and a ground-breaking airmail service between Adelaide and Sydney commenced. This was mirrored by similar advances in Europe, the United States and Japan. Among the most significant was John Logie Baird’s achievement in inventing and demonstrating a semi-mechanical analogue television system. This took place in England, and within five years the British Broadcasting Corporation’s first television service got underway.
Other key events in 1924 included the death of Lenin on 21st January. His successor, Joseph Stalin, initially paid lip-service to Lenin’s ideals before steering a very different course. In Germany meanwhile former army colonel Adolf Hitler was jailed for five years for his part in the previous year’s failed coup but the coup’s leader, General Ludendorff whom Germans widely revered as a war hero, was neither arrested nor charged.
Sport continued to enjoy a boom period in many parts of the world. The 1924 Olympic Games took place in Paris and attracted large attendances, in spite of which they ran at a loss financially. Australia sent thirty-six athletes to the event and they won a total of half a dozen medals, including three golds. Future Hollywood actor Johnny Weissmuller (pictured above), representing the USA, wins the 100 metres freestyle swimming event and also receives a bronze medal as a member of this country’s water polo team. Back home, football continued to attract more spectators than any other sport, despite the rather strange and contentious decision of the VFL to play its finals series on a round robin basis. Despite the fact that this involved a total of six matches rather than four, aggregate attendances were down 46.7% on the previous year, a situation aggravated by the fact that Essendon had as good as clinched the premiership after 2 games, making the last round of fixtures virtually meaningless. All told, the six matches of the finals series attracted an average of 28,455 spectators, which was not appreciably more than the average home and away attendance per match. In South Australia meanwhile a crowd of 44,300 crammed into the Adelaide Oval to witness West Torrens’ ground breaking 9.12 (66) to 8.10 (58) challenge final defeat of Sturt. The average crowd over the four weeks of the traditional finals series was somewhat higher than the VFL’s at 36,665.
An important development in 1924 was the introduction by the VFL of an award for the best and fairest player or players for the season. The first winner of this award, known as the Brownlow Medal, was Geelong's Edward 'Carji' Greeves. This was quite fitting as Charles Brownlow, the man after whom the Medal was named, had been a Geelong administrator for four decades.
In Western Australia East Perth’s sequence of six consecutive premiership victories was brought to an end by Subiaco, who downed East Fremantle by 27 points in the decisive match of the year. It would be a long time between drinks for the Maroons who would not again achieve premiership glory until 1973.
Arguably the highlight of the 1924 football season occurred in Hobart where the VFL met Western Australia in the deciding match of the fifth interstate carnival. The match was not only a nail-biter it was by common consent a truly great, even majestic affair, which the Big V ultimately won by 8 points. This carnival was also the first to feature Queensland but, perhaps not surprisingly, their team struggled.
Still in Hobart, Lefroy won the TFL premiership thanks to an 8.3 (51) to 4.11 (35) defeat of Cananore in a match played in extremely testing, wet conditions.
The VFA, unlike its ‘Big Brother’, opted for a traditional finals format which culminated in Footscray comfortably accounting for the challenge of Williamstown in the final. The Tricolours then went on to down VFL premier Essendon in a charity match played at the MCG in front of 47,000 spectators, which was more than had attended any of the League’s six finals. Footscray owed its win to its superior pace and its highly effective use of handball. Years later, some of the Essendon players suggested that the match was a “stitch-up” but this was very likely an attempt to rationalise the result to an audience attuned to the unquestioned superiority of the VFL.
Other premiers in 1924 were Launceston (NTFA), Paddington (NSWAFL), Wanderers (NTFL), Brisbane (QFL), and Latrobe (NWFU). Meanwhile in Canberra the Federal Territory Football League got underway with Acton claiming the competition’s inaugural premiership.
1. A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, p. 174.
2. Under the terms of the three treaties the navies of the principal powers were to be drastically reduced in size for a period of ten years. The agreed relative strengths of each navy were to be: USA 5; Great Britain 5; Japan 3; France 1.75; Italy 1.75.
The match, played on Saturday 9 August, was the second part of a double header, being played immediately after the Tasmania-New South Wales game. The official crowd figure was 15,687, producing receipts of £1,511.
For both teams, this was the second match of the carnival. On the preceding Wednesday Western Australia had got the championships underway with a surprisingly comfortable 37 point win over South Australia. At half time, the sandgropers had led by just 7 points, but thereafter, thanks to winning rucks and greater pace all over the ground, they had added 10 goals to 5 to send out a clear message to the Vics - and everyone else - that they were not going to surrender their crown as Australian champions easily.
The following day had seen the VFL side take its bows in a clash with the host state that proved much more problematic than expected. Early on the Tasmanians, showing great alacrity, passion and purpose, were the better side, and the Victorians, for a time, seemed all at sea. That they eventually fought their way back into the game, and ultimately were able to eke out an unconvincing 39 point victory, was attributable less to any inherent superiority in football skill than a combination of strength, experience and greater fitness. With an aging side, including four players over thirty, some observers suggested that the Vics would have trouble coping with the blistering pace of the West Australians.
In the view of many, the battle between the two teams' principal ruck combinations - Outridge (best afield against the South Australians), McDiarmid and Duffy for Western Australia, Beasy, Wigraft and Tandy for the Big V - would be the single most critical factor in determining the outcome of the match. 'Horrie' Gorringe for Tasmania had, as the cliché goes, 'roved the pants' off his Victorian counterparts, and the West Australian rovers were every bit as nimble and lively as the Apple Islander. If Mark Tandy and Arthur Pink managed to produce their best form, however, it might well be enough to see the Vics home.
The Teams: VFL - P.O'Brien (Carlton - captain); M.Tandy (South Melbourne); E.Elliott (Fitzroy); A.Duncan (Carlton); L.Wigraft (Fitzroy); L.Hagger (Geelong); T.Fitzmaurice (Essendon); G.Collins (Fitzroy); V.Thorp (Richmond); C.Watson (St Kilda); R.Taylor (Melbourne); M.Beasy (Carlton); A.Chadwick (Melbourne); R.Cazaly (South Melbourne); E.Wilson (Collingwood); A.Pink (Geelong); J.O'Connell (South Melbourne); N.McIntosh (Richmond)
Western Australia - J.Craig (West Perth); J.Gosnell (West Perth); J.McDiarmid (West Perth); G.Taylor (West Perth); H.Campbell (East Perth); L.Duffy (East Perth); W.Hebbard (East Perth - captain); G.Owens (East Perth); H.Sherlock (East Perth); W.Thomas (East Perth); H.Harrold (East Perth); J.Dolan (East Fremantle); R.Moodie (East Fremantle); J.Hamilton (Subiaco); A.R.Green (Subiaco); T.Outridge (Subiaco); G.Scaddan (Subiaco); J.Leonard (Subiaco)
1ST QUARTER - Paddy O’Brien won toss for the Victorians and elected to kick to the pavilion end.
The Vics moved straight into attack from the opening bounce, but Len Wigraft's long drop kick was cleverly marked by West Australian centreman Jim Gosnell who initiated a flowing sequence of passes involving Larry Duffy, Bert Harrold and 'Paddy' Hebbard, with the last named booting the game's first score - a behind - with 52 seconds showing on the clock.
The VFL responded by moving the ball straight down the central corridor culminating in Wigraft booted the equalising behind.
For several minutes after that, the Victorians continued to press, but Western Australia defended stoutly, full back Harry Sherlock on one occasion marking deep in the teeth of the goal square under considerable duress.
A second VFL behind to Lloyd Hagger was swiftly followed by the game’s 1st goal, kicked by Alex Duncan after he had marked on his chest within easy range. The clock showed 5½ mins had elapsed since the start of play, most of which had been dominated by the Vics.
George Scaddan on a wing was WA’s most prominent player early, and after one particularly exciting run he propelled the ball very close to goal, but none of his team mates were able to capitalise. The VFL then ran the ball to the opposite end of the ground but Colin Watson’s long shot for goal was saved, almost on the line, by Jim Craig.
Clever combined play by Duncan, Bert Chadwick and Pink perhaps deserved to be capped by a goal, but Pink’s shot was wayward and only a minor score resulted.
A decisive counter-attack by the sandgropers culminated in their first goal of the game, kicked, almost inevitably, by 'Bonny' Campbell. A few minutes later he added a second and suddenly it seemed that Western Australia, with Duffy, 'Fat' McDiarmid and Campbell to the fore, were beginning to acquire a stranglehold on the game. Inevitably, however, the Vics, with Tom Fitzmaurice, Duncan and Pink especially prominent, hit back, and the next goal, courtesy of Hagger, was theirs.
A feature of the game at this stage was the intense pressure under which both team’s forwards were being forced to operate, with a result that many seemingly good scoring chances either went begging completely or produced only minor scores.
As the quarter wore on, the pace of the game increased, and overall there was very little to choose between the teams. However, it was noticeable that the Victorians were proving generally stronger in the air, while the West Australians superiority in pace gave them the advantage when the ball was on the ground.
The next goal came via Campbell again, shortly after his team mate Harrold had been unfortunate enough to see a shot of his strike the post. The Vics’ response was swift, Duncan accepting Norm McIntosh’s pass before running in to kick a nice goal.
The opening term had seen the VFL side generally combining better and producing football that was more pleasing to the eye. However, the West Australians had contrived some telling play in bursts, and were matching the Vics in determination and commitment.
Moments before the bell, 'Staunch' Owens had a golden opportunity to give his side the lead, only to emulate Harrold’s effort of a few minutes earlier by hitting the post. Quarter Time: VFL 4.8 (32); Western Australia 4.6 (30)
2ND QUARTER - Rain began falling during the interval, and on resumption both the ball and playing surface soon became slippery.
Western Australia moved straight into attack from the initial bounce and Campbell reduced his team's arrears to 1 point with his first miss of the afternoon. The Vics then raced to the opposite end of the ground and, despite the desperate efforts of Craig, managed to maneuver the ball to Pink, in the clear, and he coolly goaled.
Western Australia hit back immediately, and a spell of concerted pressure ended with tenacious Subiaco small man Johnny Leonard goaling after receiving a free for a push in the back right in front of the uprights.
Players of both sides were making light of the greasy ball and increasingly muddy ground to produce some fine, fluent football.
Duncan embarked on an extended sprint through the middle of the ground but his kick for goal was off target. The ball remained in the VFL’s attacking zone, however, and not long afterwards Pink, after smoothly gathering up the ball as though it were dry, booted his second six pointer of the term. His purple patch continued a couple of minutes later when he goaled again after getting on the end of an excellent pass from McIntosh.
For the next few minutes play proceeded rapidly from end to end, with both teams’ defences standing firm. The deadlock was finally broken by Hagger, who kicked truly with a neat, angled snapshot.
Owens soon replied for Western Australia with an easy goal from a free kick close in.
The state of both the ball and the ground surface were at last beginning to have an inimical effect on the standard of play, but the immense desperation of the players, coupled with the closeness of the scores, made it an absorbing tussle.
Roy Cazaly crowned a spell of Victorian dominance with a good goal, but Owens replied soon afterwards, collecting the ball from a boundary throw-in deep in a forward pocket, and running unchallenged into the goal square to blast the ball through. 'Digger' Thomas and Harrold then combined well with the latter player goaling cleverly before Owens, from a free close in, inexplicably gave the Vics a let off by missing badly.
Western Australia continued to play the better football for the last few minutes of the term, and shortly before the bell Campbell kicked truly to reduce the half time margin to just 2 points. Half Time: VFL 9.10 (64); Western Australia 9.8 (62)
3RD QUARTER - Torrential rain was falling as the third term commenced, and Western Australia, moving purposefully and sweetly, were first into attack, only to give away a needless free kick near goal to Watson, who relieved the pressure. Moments later the ball was in Roy Cazaly’s hands within easy kicking distance, but he somehow conspired to miss everything.
The first goal of the third term came six minutes in off the boot of Hagger, who added another a couple of minutes later as the Vics suddenly began to dominate.
Good combined play by Craig, Scaddan and Owens enabled the sandgropers to work the ball the length of the ground and, as players from both sides hurled themselves at each other and into the fray close to goal, the umpire picked out a free kick to Campbell, who gratefully goaled. Despite being constantly manhandled and double-teamed, Campbell was proving a real thorn in the Victorians’ side, emphasising his status as one of the finest goalsneaks of his era.
Some of the individual clashes were quite riveting, notably that between Owens and O’Brien on the wing, with the former slightly ahead on points at this stage.
Perhaps partly because of the conditions, the umpire was allowing both teams plenty of latitude, and play became more wantonly aggressive, indeed almost brutal, as a consequence. In particular, there was the unseemly sight of frequent kicking in the ruck, by players of both teams, most of which went unpunished.
By inelegant but effective means the Vics hustled the ball forward, and Hagger, having a fine quarter, capped things off with an excellent goal, but Western Australia responded almost right away through Tom Outridge.
As in the second term, the West Australians seemed to be finishing more strongly than the Vics, but their kicking for goal was proving suspect until Campbell, “working like a Trojan”, showed them how it should be done with a beautifully judged snapshot under intense pressure.
Showing he was a quick learner, Leonard soon afterwards added another with a glorious long drop kick on the run, bringing the scores level for the first time since the early moments of the match. The large, mostly neutral crowd began really raising their voices for the first time, and the players responded with observable zeal.
Western Australia continued to attack relentlessly, but the Vics were stout in defence. O’Brien, who had made a temporary move into the back lines, was throwing his weight around in spectacular fashion, and to good effect.
The last scoring chance of the quarter came to Owens, but, just as Cazaly had earlier, he made a complete mess of a comparatively easy set shot, and no addition to the score resulted when even a behind would have given his side the lead. Three Quarter Time Western Australia 13.10 (88); VFL 13.10 (88)
4TH QUARTER - The last quarter was as fierce and frenetic as a grand final. At first, the West Australians resumed where they had left off in the previous term, and Campbell’s point a couple of minutes in gave them the lead for the first time since early in the opening term. Not long afterwards the same player extended his team’s lead with an easy six pointer. Incredibly, however, this would prove to be Western Australia’s last score of the match.
The VFL’s response was to become more physical, hitting their opponents repeatedly with firm, bone-crunching bumps. Slowly but surely, the momentum began to switch, but, at least initially, the Vics found the Western Australian defence impossible to crack.
With twelve minutes remaining, the sandgropers still led by 7 points, and the VFL had not yet registered a score for the quarter. A long, hopeful kick by Jack O’Connell finally remedied this with a minor score, but the West Australians continued to defend magnificently, playing the boundary line repeatedly, and to excellent effect.
Play had become unkempt in the extreme, with players of both sides as often as not choosing to soccer the greasy, waterlogged ball rather than endeavour to pick it up. The Vics managed to scramble another behind, but clean possessions were at a premium, and it looked as though the reigning champions were going to hold out.
Lloyd Hagger, though, had other ideas, and after marking the ball close to the boundary in the forward pocket, he scrupulously steered through his side’s first goal since midway through the third term. (Some of the Western Australians claimed that Hagger was actually over the boundary line when he took the grab, but the ground was so muddy that the white boundary markings were scarcely visible.) Having found the secret of scoring, the same player proceeded to do it again almost immediately, and suddenly the Vics had some breathing space.
Western Australia responded with predictable energy and fire, but despite dominating the closing exchanges, the only further score of the game – a minor one – went the Vics’ way. Final scores in what was popularly regarded as one of the most exciting games of football ever seen in Hobart was VFL 15.13 (103); Western Australia 14.11 (95)
POST-GAME SUMMARY - As expected, it was the ruck clashes which proved decisive, and although Tom Outridge in particular tried hard for the West Australians, overall it was the Vics who had the edge for most of the game. Moreover, in Mark Tandy and Arthur Pink the Big V had the two pre-eminent rovers on view.
The Victorians will doubtless also have been thankful for the incessant rain and heavy playing surface, conditions with which they, much more so than their opponents, would be familiar. Much of the football produced was unspectacular in the extreme, "but as far as action and thrills went the match is one that never will be forgotten in the history of football in Tasmania".
Both sides won their remaining three carnival fixtures. The West Australians won resoundingly by 264 points against Queensland, with 'Bonny' Campbell kicking a carnival record 23 goals, unconvincingly by 39 points against the host state, and effortlessly by 117 points against New South Wales. The Victorians meanwhile had no trouble whatsoever in overcoming the challenges of New South Wales (by 80 points), Queensland (95 points) and South Australia (53 points) to run out convincing, unbeaten winners of the championships, with a percentage of 176.6. The sandgropers' annihilation of Queensland helped give them an astonishing percentage of 250.7 from their 4 wins; South Australia was next with 3 wins and a percentage of 174.1; then came Tasmania (2 wins, 140.7%); New South Wales (1 win, 58.9%); and finally the hapless Queenslanders with 0 wins and a meagre 19.8%.
Financially, the carnival was a triumph, attracting 60,705 spectators over the nine days of competition, and accruing gate receipts of £5,823.
Based on a report in ‘The Advertiser’ of 29/9/24. All quotes are from this source.
West Torrens, which was formed in 1894, had to wait until 30 years later to play off for a premiership, and even then they had to rely on the right of challenge. After qualifying for the major round in pole position with an 11-2-1 record the side played poorly in the first semi final against third placed Norwood to go under by 15 points. As minor premiers, however, the players were then afforded the luxury of licking their wounds and sitting back and watching as the Redlegs and Sturt slugged it out in the following week's final with the eventual victors - Sturt - then qualifying to meet Torrens in the premiership-deciding challenge final.
The Double Blues - formed almost a decade after Torrens, in 1901 - had already earned premiership honours on two previous occasions and included a solid nucleus of finals hardened competitors in their line up.
'SA Footballer' writer 'the Wizard' previewed the encounter thus:
"Across the centre and in the rucks the teams look to be evenly matched. Sturt are probably Torrens' superiors in the air, but the Blue and Golds I think put a little more snap and vim into their ground play than the Unley men do. So it resolves itself into a question of how the forwards will fare against the opposing defence lines, and ....... I am inclined to think that it is here that Sturt will gain the advantage.
Most pundits concurred with this view, but Torrens, given the mediocrity of their track record, were the warmest of sentimental favourites."
The prospect of a classic 'David slays Goliath' scenario attracted a record South Australian sporting crowd of 44,300 to the Adelaide Oval and, after the blue and golds opened well, kicking 3 goals to 1 in the first term, they were treated to a tense, closely fought game. Indeed “The Advertiser” proclaimed it “one of the finest second round games that has been played on the Adelaide Oval”.
The sides were evenly matched but favoured contrasting styles of play. Sturt preferred a strictly traditional, kick and mark approach, while Torrens were renowned for their expedient use of the flick pass (although some claimed that their over-indulgence in this skill was a weakness).
The match took place in near perfect conditions with the rain that had been forecast not eventuating. The sky was overcast and the breeze negligible, although it would strengthen somewhat as the match went on. Torrens had enjoyed a three week break since their previous match but would doubtless have been well aware that this was potentially a double-edged sword in that they could find it difficult to come to terms with the pressure and intensity of finals football, particularly early on. Sturt, by contrast, were “on a high” after their fine display in downing Norwood by 14 points in the week’s final.
As it happened the blue and golds had no trouble whatsoever in adjusting to the tempo of the game and indeed they were the better team during the opening term. After their skipper Roy Brown had won the toss the blue and golds kicked to the river end, which meant they would have the benefit of such scant breeze as there was. Torrens burst quickly out of the blocks and for the first fifteen minutes or so were much the better combination. Playing with great verve and no small amount of skill the blue and golds attacked relentlessly but, owing to resolute defending from Sturt, led by the redoubtable Frank Golding at full back, they only managed a couple of goals, scored by Hollis and Karney. Then, from an all too rare forward foray, Sturt pulled a goal back to give a deceptive closeness to the scores. Just before the first change, however, Torrens restored their two goal cushion after Marvel flicked the ball out of a goal square scrimmage to Karney who kicked truly. At quarter time the blue and golds were leading by 14 points, 3.3 to 1.1. Up to this point Torrens’ superior pace had been the principal difference between the two sides, and not only when they had possession of the ball. On numerous occasions during the opening term Torrens players made telling interceptions by virtue of outpacing their direct opponents to the ball despite those opponents having had head starts.
With the wind at their backs Sturt showed some improvement during the second term as first one side and then the other forced the ball forward. They did so in contrasting fashion, the Double Blues typically kicking the ball long to position through the central corridor, while the blue and golds advanced the ball mainly along the wings with a proliferation of short passes by both hand and foot. The first goal of the quarter are the way of Sturt by way of their lively forward Horrie Riley. Torrens quickly responded with a goal of their own off the boot of their ‘man mountain’ of a ruckman Len ‘Booby’ Mills (pictured above). Not normally the most reliable of kicks he split the centre of the goals with every football connoisseur’s delight, a superlative drop kick. Sturt surged into attack from the ensuing centre bound centre bounce and Riley capped off a fine move with bis second major score of the afternoon. The see-sawing nature of the contest, highlighted by the contrasting approaches of the two teams, had the immense crowd enthralled. The next goal was Sturt’s, once again off the boot of Riley, and for the first time in the match the Double Blues had hit the front. Torrens were not to be outdone, however, and following some e energetic play Adams restored their advantage with a nice goal. Minutes later, after taking a spectacular mark, the same player had another opportunity but he registered only a minor score. Shortly afterwards the half time bell rang out with Torrens holding sway by 4 points, 5.7 to 5.3.
During the third term Sturt centreman Vic Richardson, who thus far had been engaged in an even tussle with his Torrens counterpart Roy Brown, began gradually to get on top. There were few more engaging sights in football than the elegant, resourceful Sturt skipper when operating at full throttle. Partly as a result of Richardson’s dominance the Double Blues enjoyed probably their best spell of the match, capped by a goal to Lyne. Torrens, however, hit back almost immediately when a rare attack culminated in a goal to Hollis. Sturt were still much the better side at this point but the Torrens defence stood firm and a solitary goal to Donnelly was scant reward for the level of the Double Blues’ dominance. As the bell for three quarter time sounded the scoreboard showed the blue and golds a single straight kick to the good with scores of 7.11 to 7.5.
Given that Sturt would be kicking with the aid of a strengthening breeze it seemed reasonable to speculate on whether the blue and golds’ 6 point advantage would suffice for them to get over the line and secure a historic first flag.
Play during the final term “was fierce and willing” with Sturt enjoying the better of the opening exchanges. A brace of exchanges to Riley was followed by a goal from Donnelly which saw the Double Blues reclaim the lead. Torrens’ response was swift and incisive with first Adams and then Hollis procuring six pointers to put the Double Blues 11 points to the good. Over the closing minutes of the match Sturt attacked relentlessly without creating g any clearcut goal scoring opportunities thanks in large part to the tenacious close-checking of the Torrens defenders. As a last throw of the dice the Double Blues shifted their star full back into the forward lines where he had played with some distinction earlier in his career. It was to no avail as all Sturt could manage were a succession of behinds, after the last of which the bell rang out leaving Torrens as victors by 8 points, 9.12 to 8.10. The sounding of the bell was a cue for throngs of West Torrens supporters to rush onto the oval congratulating their heroes and hoisting some of them onto their shoulders before carrying them to the changing rooms. Sturt skipper Vic Richardson visited the victors changing rooms afterwards and, after offering his congratulations, ventured the unusual - indeed almost unprecedented - observation that "We would have rather lost to you than any other team".
West Torrens also won the B Grade flag with a 9.20 to 4.7 defeat of Port Adelaide in the final.
The blue and golds would go on to claim three further senior grade premierships before amalgamating with Woodville in 1990.
Compulsory voting in Australian federal elections had been introduced in 1924 and was first enforced in November of the following year. The impact of the measure was clearly evidenced by the fact that in 1925 91.4% of the electorate cast a vote compared to 59.4% three years earlier. The Nationalist-Country coalition led by Prime Minister Stanley Bruce were returned to power with 63 seats in the House of Representatives compared to 23 for Labor plus 2 Independents. (Labor, however, had the largest share of the vote of any party.) Meanwhile 22 of the 36 seats in the Senate were put to the vote with the coalition winning all 22. Bruce was unambiguous when announcing the coalition’s election platform:
It is necessary that we should determine what are the ideals towards which every Australian would desire to strive. I think those ideals might well be stated as being to secure our national safety, and to ensure the maintenance of our White Australia Policy to continue as an integral portion of the British Empire. We intend to keep this country white and not allow its people to be faced with the problems that at present are practically insoluble in many parts of the world.
A poster which was widely circulated during the Nationalist election campaign of 1925 “showed brutal Cossacks shooting down Australian fathers, mothers and children as they fled from a burning church” and if this was an image which admittedly might have helped the party cause it was not a subject on which the average Australian dwelt for long. Generally speaking, the shared image of Australia was “of a clean, white, cheerful and resolute country”.
The Nationalist-Country coalition’s position of strength, however, was undermined to some extent by Labor’s consistent success in state elections. During the middle years of the 1920s Labor was in office at some point in all states except Victoria. Questions of national security and racial integrity were much less important from a Labor perspective than matters of social welfare including universal pension rights, insurance for employees paid for by employers, free secondary school education and ongoing support for returnees from the Great War.
Some of those returnees formed “resistance cells’ which trained together by night and would, presumably, have been available to defend the country in case of invasion, whether from Communists or the increasingly perceived threat of Japan.
Although the mid-1920s were widely regarded as a time of prosperity in reality this was only partially the case. At no stage during this period did unemployment fall below 6%, for instance. Moreover, some states were significantly more prosperous than others, with the federal government feeling the need to give extra grants to Western Australia in 1925 and Tasmania a year later.
Sport remained a national obsession, with attendances burgeoning. The VFL, having abandoned its disastrous round robin finals format of the previous year, was confident enough to invite three new clubs, Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne to join its ranks. A record total of 1,645,904 spectators thronged to the league’s twelve venues over the course of a seventeen round home and away season which saw Geelong, Essendon, Melbourne and Collingwood qualify for the finals. Collingwood only just scraped into the four ahead of fifth placed Fitzroy on a minuscule amount of percentage. However, the Magpies then downed Essendon in the first semi final and Melbourne in the final to set up a challenge final clash with minor premiers Geelong. Played in front of a crowd of 64,288 the Cats seemed comfortably superior for much of the match and led at every change by 3, 17 and 25 points before withstanding a strong last quarter burst from the Magpies to edge home by 10 points, 10.19 (79) to 9.15 (69). Meanwhile, the three newcomers occupied the last three places on what, following their admission, had become a twelve team premiership ladder, although it is perhaps worth noting that tenth placed North Melbourne finished adrift of ninth team Carlton only on percentage.
Football in South Australia was similarly well patronised, with minor premiers Norwood claiming their third flag in four years, all of which were won without the need to employ the right of challenge. On challenge final day, opposed by reigning premiers West Torrens, the Redlegs won, but some observers felt the blue and golds were somewhat unfortunate. Final scores were Norwood 8.4 (52); Torrens 7.9 (51) making it the closest premiership deciding match in league history up to that point.
The WAFL implemented some noteworthy changes in 1925 including the introduction of a full scale district zoning system and the start of a reserves or seconds competition. East Fremantle procured a somewhat unexpected premiership victory when they overcame minor premiers Subiaco by 27 points in a disappointingly one-sided challenge final.
Elsewhere in Australia flags went the way of Brunswick (VFA), Cananore (TFL), North Launceston (NTFA), Sydney (NSWAFL), Vesteys (NTFL), Valley (QFL), Devonport (NWFU) and Federals (FTARFL). The Tasmanian State Premiership was resoundingly claimed by Cananore thanks to a 20.17 (137) to 9.12 (66).
Meanwhile, the significance of some of the events and developments in the rest of the world would only really become apparent with the benefit of hindsight. In Germany, Adolf Hitler having been released from prison just prior to Christmas 1924 obtained permission from the Prime Minister of Bavaria to reform his banned ultra right wing Nazi political party after pledging good behaviour and adherence to democratic ideals. He also finished dictating the memoirs he had started in prison to Rudolph Hess. Published under the name “Mein Kampf”, meaning my struggle or my battle, the public response might charitably be described as having been lukewarm. Only after Hitler becomes German Chancellor in 1933 did sales of the book sky-rocket, although it is doubtful if very many who purchased it would actually read it from cover to cover. “Mein Kampf” outlines in rambling detail Hitler’s ideology, and in particular his views on race, which mirrored to some extent those of the Ku Klux Klan in America and even some aspects of the White Australia Policy.
Extreme right wing politics were also flourishing in Italy, where Mussolini installed himself as a dictator in January 1925, as well as Imperial Japan which had aspirations of conquest that might conceivably even extend as far as Australia. Partly in response to the perceived Japanese threat a growing anti-imperialist communist movement was emerging in China, a development which would help precipitate decades of turmoil and privation throughout the country.
1. ‘The Age’, 6/10/25.
2. A Concise History of Australia by Stuart McIntyre, page 173.
3. Ibid, page 174.
In 1896 Geelong and North Melbourne had been members of the Victorian Football Association which at the time had been the nation’s top football competition. North had won 8 and drawn 1 of their 18 home and away fixtures, a return which saw them finish sixth of thirteen teams, five places above a Geelong team which had managed just 4 wins and 3 draws for the year. Despite this discrepancy in achievement, when a new elite competition, the Victorian Football League, was established in 1897 Geelong was among eight founder member clubs while North Melbourne remained in the VFA. For North, it was a state of affairs which rankled, and on a number of occasions over the next two and a half decades they applied without success to join the Pivotonians in the ‘big league’. Finally, ahead of the 1925 VFL season North’s persistent door knocking received an affirmative response and the club’s rivalry with Geelong, which had been quite a noteworthy feature of the VFA prior to 1897, could resume.
That resumption took place in the opening round of the 1925 season at Corio Oval. Geelong, which had finished fifth on the VFL ladder in 1924, were widely expected to be considerably too strong for a North side which had also come fifth a year earlier. A crowd variously reported as being 12,500 and 14,000 (both figures approximate) turned up and was treated to an absorbing tussle. Geelong’s new Charles Brownlow Henry Young stand was in use for the first time and during the course of the afternoon it was officially opened by Senator Guthrie.
The opening five minutes of the match were dominated by North but they did not manage to impose themselves on the scoreboard, managing just a solitary point. The remainder of the term saw a pattern emerging which a large proportion of onlookers might have assumed would persist for much of the match. Virtually all of the attacking took place in Geelong’s forward lines with North breaking out only occasionally. A couple of Geelong’s small men, Arthur Pink and Jim ‘Dugger’ Warren, sustained injuries quite early on resulting in the former man being redeployed from the ruck to the forward lines, and the latter player being forced to leave the ground for a time.
Geelong amassed 3.5 in the opening term compared to North’s 1.1. Pink kicked two of his team’s goals. A noteworthy feature of the term was that the ball only went out of bounds on one occasion, in stark contrast to the second quarter when, thanks to North’s penchant for playing along the western side of the ground, which was the direction to which the wind was blowing, the ball was frequently having g to be thrown back into play by the boundary umpire.
North’s tactic paid off as they were every bit as dominant in this term as Geelong had been in the first. They obtained 4 goals for the quarter with Geelong’s solitary reply coming just before the bell for half time, at which point the scoreboard showed North on 5.8 leading Geelong on 4.6.
Arthur Pink was absent when North Melbourne re-entered the arena after the half time break meaning that his side would be reduced to seventeen players. Indeed it could have been worse as Keith Johns, having suffered a rib fracture, was advised not to resume, but he ignored this advice and, after having his ribs strapped, resumed his position at full back.
The early stages of the third term saw the home side holding sway but registering mainly behinds. Finally, at the seventeen minute mark Lloyd Haggar procured the first major score since the long interval and scores were level. From the ensuing centre bounce Geelong centreman Edward ‘Carji’ Greeves snared the ball and started a chain of crisp passes involving Stevenson, Warren and Haggar and culminating in the last-named player scoring his side’s sixth goal. North quickly responded with a goal of their own to Fred Metcalf. Shortly before the bell Metcalf was again prominent, taking a fine mark before passing to Harold Johnston who goaled, giving North a 5 point lead going into the last change. Scores were North Melbourne 7.8 (50); Geelong 6.9 (45).
Two minutes into the final term the home side recaptured the lead when Eric Fleming marked Greeves’ pass and brought up both flags. North pressed forward after the ensuing centre bounce but Syd Hall, having intercepted, went on a long, weaving run to get the ball out of the danger zone., but the relief was only fleeting as North’s next forward thrust culminated in a shot by Johnston which struck a goal post, thereby levelling the scores. Moments later Johnny Lewis registered a minor score for the visitors from a free kick and North had hit the front by a point, a lead which they went on to extend to 4 points after a flurry of behinds.
With time on looming Geelong mounted a rare attack which culminated in Fleming marking and kicking truly putting the home side 2 points to the good. The teams then exchanged goals leaving Geelong with a slight advantage but the visitors were not to be denied, and goals during time-on to Harry Clapson and Johnny Lewis ensured that they ended up with the spoils. Final scores were North Melbourne 9.13 (67); Geelong 8.11 (59). Things would not get any better in 1925 for a North team which managed only another 4 wins to finish up in tenth place, ahead only of fellow newcomers Footscray and Hawthorn. By contrast, Geelong would only taste defeat twice more all season, against St Kilda in round fourteen, and Melbourne in a semi final. It would prove to be far and away their best campaign since the establishment of the VFL, and would be crowned by the ultimate achievement of a premiership, the club’s first since 1886 and, needless to say, their first since the formation of the league.
1. North also finished ahead of eventual founding VFL clubs St Kilda and Carlton, while Richmond, which would enter the competition in 1908, finished the 1896 VFA season in last place.
2. The teams typically played one another at Geelong’s Corio Oval on the Queen’s Birthday holiday, 24th May.
The first interstate match between South Australia and Western Australia took place at the Jubilee Oval in Adelaide in 1904, with the Western Australians winning by 9 points. (The match is reviewed here.) South Australia did not confront the sandgropers on Western Australian soil until the decisive match of the 1921 Perth carnival, when the home state won by 10 points at Perth Oval. Thereafter, however, the two states began to meet one another much more regularly, both in Adelaide and Perth. In 1923, South Australia won easily at the Adelaide Oval, 10.13 (73) to 3.5 (23), only for Western Australia to reverse the result quite conclusively, 13.13 (91) to 4.3 (27), at Perth Oval a fortnight later. The states' next confrontation took place at the 1924 Hobart carnival when, after a closely fought first half, the West Australians pulled away to win convincingly by 37 points, 16.13 (109) to 10.12 (72). On that basis, the home state was strongly favoured to emerge triumphant when Western Australia and South Australia fronted up at Subiaco Oval on 20th June 1925, but the croweaters, it soon emerged, had other ideas.
In 1925, most South Australian and Western Australian footballers still pursued their entire playing careers in their home states, but major changes were on the horizon. The onset of a major economic depression at the end of the 1920s triggered significant changes in the ways in which elite footballers viewed the game. Whereas previously it had tended to be regarded simply as a hobby, or a form of recreation, it now began to be seen as an important potential source of income. For West Australians in particular, the difference between playing football in the WANFL and playing in the VFL was sometimes tantamount to the difference between living just below or just above the breadline. Small wonder, then, that the player exodus from west to east, which had been barely a trickle in the early 1920s, had become a veritable flood a decade or so later.
One obvious legacy of this development was that interstate football, particularly among the three major states, became a good deal less competitive. In the first eight years after the Great War, the VFL's overall success rate in interstate football was 70.6%, compared to 62.5% for Western Australia, and 50% for South Australia. Between 1927 and 1934 there was a seismic shift in favour of the VFL, which by that time had access to many of the finest footballers from other states. The VFL's success rate in interstate football during this period was 86.8%, Western Australia's was 54.2%, and South Australia's was 39.1%. As far as the VFL-orchestrated future of football was concerned, the writing was already clearly on the wall as long ago as the 1930s.
In 1925, however, the pen had scarcely been dipped in the ink. The Western Australian and South Australian teams which took the field at Subiaco Oval on 20th June that year were replete with some of the finest footballers in the land. The home state boasted past and future Sandover Medallists in the shape of Subiaco rover Johnny Leonard (shown above), the mighty George 'Staunch' Owens (East Perth) at centre half forward, and the West Perth pair of Jim Craig and Jim Gosnell. There was the redoubtable Carlisle 'Bub' Jarvis of East Fremantle on the last line of defence, team skipper Arthur Green of Subiaco across half back, Perth's Harry Grigg on centre wing, Hugh 'Bonny' Campbell (East Perth) at the goal front, and West Perth's indefatigable Jack McDiarmid leading the ruck.
The South Australians, too, had plenty of top quality players. They were captained by West Australian-born Frank Golding (pictured above) of Sturt, one of the finest full backs of any era, while Magarey Medallists Dan Moriarty (South Adelaide), Bruce McGregor (West Adelaide), Jim Handby (Glenelg), and Walter Scott and Alick Lill (both Norwood), spectacular high-flyer Leslie 'Bro' Dayman of Port Adelaide, talented goalsneak Roy 'Cool Alec' Bent (Norwood), and formidable South Adelaide utility Alf 'Bulla' Ryan were others to help give the side a formidable look.
Presumably because of the heavy rain which had been falling for much of the week, the match attracted a slightly smaller crowd than in 1923, 16,000 spectators as against 18,000. Nevertheless, there were loud cheers as the two sides lined up for the toss of the coin, which was won by West Australian captain Arthur Green.
The Western Australians moved straight into attack from the opening bounce, only to be repelled three times in quick succession by Golding, who looked in fine touch. When South Australia attacked, however, they found 'Bub' Jarvis to be just as hard to get past.
The first score of the match was a behind to South Australia from 'Bulla' Ryan, but Western Australia quickly levelled the score courtesy of Owens. Moments later an apparently goal-bound kick was marked on the line by the South Australian full back, Golding.
Although the ground surface looked in good condition players of both sides were finding it difficult to keep their feet, and when steady rain began to fall this state of affairs was exacerbated. Western Australia seemed intent on playing a short-passing game ill-suited to the conditions, whereas the South Australians were kicking the ball long to position, with reasonable success.
Making light of the greasy ball and inclement weather, 'Staunch' Owens soared high above Moriarty to mark cleanly. The resultant kick was true, and Western Australia hit the front.
A heavy body clash between West Australian full back Harry Sherlock and South Australian centreman Alick Lill saw the former player laid out and in need of attention from the trainers. The visitors continued to press hard, and McGregor snapped their first goal to level the scores.
A feature of the game was the confrontation between the two centremen, Gosnell and Lill, with honours even to this stage.
After South Australia had snatched the lead by a point, the home side moved the ball sweetly to the other end of the ground culminating in a mark and goal to Johnny Campbell. South Australia responded with some determined attacking, but West Australian wingman Harry Grigg, having been shifted temporarily into the backlines, took some telling defensive marks. The seemingly inevitable breakthrough finally came when Harry Potts marked close to goal and kicked truly, putting South Australia in front by a point.
The remainder of the quarter saw the Western Australians, with Jim Gosnell continually in the thick of the action, assume control, but manage to register only behinds. Quarter Time: Western Australia 2.3 (15); South Australia 2.2 (14)
Another brilliant mark to Owens just after the resumption brought the crowd to life. With half forward flanker Cliff Parks suddenly providing a reliable route to goal, the home side was firmly in the ascendancy, but Frank Golding was still proving near impassable at full back.
Following a behind to Leonard, South Australia moved the ball straight down the middle of the ground, with Lill marking strongly over Gosnell and finding Ryan, but the bullocking half forward could only manage a point. Shortly afterwards, however, Leslie Dayman registered a major score after marking spectacularly, and South Australia edged in front by 5 points.
The goal seemed to inspire the croweaters, whose levels of intensity and determination lifted noticeably. Another goal to Dayman, this time from an elegant drop kick on the run, extended their lead, and moments later Ryan missed an easy chance to register the South Australians' 5th goal.
The visitors were now playing with considerable cohesion and purpose, while the home side's players always seemed to be under pressure, making their handling inelegant and their disposal correspondingly wayward.
Bruce McGregor beat his man to the ball and kicked accurately to extend the croweaters' lead to 19 points, a margin that by no means flattered them.
Western Australia's first attacking thrust for several minutes culminated in a goal to Park, and shortly afterwards Johnny Campbell had a good chance, but only managed a minor score.
The last few minutes of the quarter were dominated by South Australia, who registered a behind through Maurie Allingham, and then a goal, shortly before the bell, from Ryan, after some smart work by Bampton and Scott. Half Time: South Australia 6.6 (42); Western Australia 3.5 (23)
West Australian coach Tom Cain had clearly had some stern words for his charges during the half time break as the sandgropers opened the third term with newfound aggression and purpose. Moments after the resumption they registered a behind, and for several minutes afterwards continued to attack relentlessly. Yet another spectacular mark to Owens visibly lifted his team mates, and moments later 'Bonny' Campbell beat Golding to the ball, flung it hastily onto his boot, and sent it tumbling through an unguarded goal. The West Australians were now in the ascendancy as firmly as the South Australians had been during the second quarter, and when Johnny Campbell goaled to reduce the arrears to 8 points it was no more than their purposeful, incisive play warranted. For the next few minutes the home side continued to attack frantically, only for Golding, who remained a tower of strength in the goal square, to save repeatedly.
For a few minutes during the middle of the term South Australia managed to procure some useful possession, and a goal to Bent pushed the margin out to two straight kicks. The sandgropers fought back strongly, however, and a major score to Johnny Campbell sandwiched in between behinds to Ahearn and Beasley brought them back to within 4 points. The West Australians were still attacking when the bell sounded to end the quarter. Three Quarter Time: South Australia 7.7 (49); Western Australia 6.9 (45)
Western Australia began the final term as they had ended the third, but the South Australian backlines, with Handby suddenly prominent, stood firm. Finally, however, 'Bonny' Campbell marked close to goal and made light of the acute angle to steer the ball through and give the home side a 2 point advantage. Not long afterwards another good chance went begging as Golding yet again took a saving mark near the goal line.
Attack and counter attack now ensued, with Lill and Dayman prominent for the visitors, and Gosnell and 'Bonny' Campbell for the sandgropers, but neither side was able to procure a major score.
After taking a towering mark, McGregor's kick looked goal-bound, but Sherlock 'did a Golding' and saved right on the goal line. The teams then exchanged behinds and, with the clock rapidly running down, the scoreboard showed Western Australia 2 points to the good, 7.11 to 7.9.
Players were still finding it difficult to handle the ball cleanly, and much of the play was scrappy, but South Australia seemed to be finishing the match the stronger. When Roy Bent collected the ball near goal his plight looked hopeless as he was surrounded by three opposition defenders, but he somehow managed to manufacture enough space to enable him to get boot cleanly to ball before he was tackled. The ball never deviated as it sailed through for a goal, and South Australia had hit the front.
During the closing moments of the game, Moriarty and Lill were prominent in the visiting side's backlines as Western Australia pushed forward desperately, but a behind to Grigg was all they could manage before the final bell sounded. At this, the South Australian players rushed en masse to their captain, Golding, who was chaired from the ground in celebration. It had been a superb, intense encounter, with neither side really deserving to lose, but overall the South Australians' more productive use of the ball probably gave them the slightest of edges, while in former West Perth player Frank Golding they possessed comfortably the best and most influential player on view. Final Score: South Australia 8.9 (57); Western Australia 7.12 (54)
BEST - South Australia: Golding, Dayman, Lill, Moriarty, Ryan, Whitehead Western Australia: Craig, Sherlock, Leonard, J.Campbell
GOALS - South Australia: Bent, Dayman, McGregor 2; Potts, Ryan Western Australia: J.Campbell 3; H.Campbell 2; Owens, Parks
ATTENDANCE: 16,000 (approx.) at Subiaco Oval
Just over a month after their game against South Australia, the West Australians faced the VFL at the MCG, and, in a sign of things to come, sustained a frightful 85 point hiding. At half time the Vics led 13.6 to 1.3, and although Western Australia improved somewhat after that, adding 7.7 to 9.5 in the second half, it was still arguably the most embarrassing defeat in the state's history up to that point.
On the way home, the sandgropers fronted up to South Australia once more, this time at the Adelaide Oval, where after a closely fought first half they succumbed to another hefty defeat. The home state won by 44 points, 12.22 (94) to 7.8 (50), with only some slipshod kicking for goal giving a semblance of respectability to the scoreline.
South Australia's encounters with the VFL in 1925 were squared, the croweaters winning by 3 points in Adelaide, and the Vics by 13 points in Melbourne. The South Australians also played a match against Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval, winning resoundingly by 135 points, 27.16 (178) to 6.7 (43).
The VFL met New South Wales home and away in 1925, winning by 41 points in Melbourne, but losing by the narrowest of margins in Sydney.
The 1926 season would produce matches that were similarly competitive, with little to separate the top three states. Western Australia and South Australia squared their two game series, with each state winning comfortably at home. In Perth, the West Australians gained a measure of revenge over the VFL by defeating them twice, albeit by the narrow margins of 3 and 8 points. A stunning South Australian victory on the MCG against the VFL was comprehensively reversed when the Vics visited Adelaide later in the season. Meanwhile the VFL scored substantial victories over New South Wales, both at home (by 80 points) and away (33 points), and over Tasmania in Melbourne (62 points).
As intimated earlier, however, the days when matches between the three main football states tended to be unpredictable and closely contested were well and truly numbered. As more and more of the nation's top players headed for the VFL the best the other states could hope for was to snatch an occasional win. Indeed, by the late 1960s and '70s the best the other states could hope for was to lose with honour, and it was only after the inception of state of origin football in 1977 that the playing field was more or less levelled out once more.