A premiership on protest
The 1907 premiership decider between East Fremantle and Perth at the Claremont Showgrounds attracted a record crowd for the competition, together with a record gate of £200. The game to which that crowd were witness “was undoubtedly the best that has been witnessed on the coast this season”. Although it was not immediately realised, it was also to prove one of the most controversial matches in the top level history of the sport.
Just prior to the commencement of the match both sides made one change to the teams that had been published a couple of days earlier, Brown replacing Norman Doig for East Fremantle, and Louis Cherry coming in in place of Henry Shepherd for Perth.
The two teams therefore lined up as follows:
|BACKS||Harry Crase||Reg Cherry||Ron Southee|
|HALF-BACKS||Mick Kennedy||Len Edwards||Richard Kennedy|
|CENTRES||Lou Cherry||Doug Moffat||Andy Ferguson|
|HALF-FORWARDS||Austin Gilligan||Roy Wilson||Harry Nankervis|
|FORWARDS||Jack Leckie (C)||Harry Edmonson||Ossie Winston|
|FOLLOWERS||Alex Clarke||Eddie Thompson||Billy Orr|
|BACKS||E.Kjellgren||Jim Beswick||John Doig|
|HALF-BACKS||L.Bidstrip||Jim Doig||Tom Wilson (C)|
|CENTRES||Charles Honeybone||Sydney Parsons||Arch Strang|
|HALF-FORWARDS||George Brown||Harry Sharpe||Chas Doig|
|FORWARDS||William McIntyre||Jim Hesketh||Dave Christy|
|FOLLOWERS||Albert Heinrichs||Dick Scott||Charles Sweetman|
Charles 'Dick' Sweetman
East Fremantle headed the ladder going into the finals with a 14-3 record, ahead of Perth only on percentage. West Perth (12-5) and South Fremantle (10-7) made up the top four.
In the first finals match, played at Fremantle Oval, Perth, after seeming in control from midway through the second quarter against South, had to endure a nervous final few minutes before hanging on to win by 4 points, 4.5 (29) to 3.7 (25).
The second week of the finals saw East Fremantle take on West Perth at Claremont Showgrounds. A dominant opening quarter burst of 5.1 to 2.0 by the Fremantle side set up an eventual 10 point win, but overall it was a somewhat less than convincing performance.
The grand finalists had confronted one another twice during the course of the 1907 minor round, on both occasions at the Showgrounds. In round 6 Old Easts had won by 9 points, 6.9 (45) to 5.6 (36), while in round 13 Perth had raced away to a resounding and, in the view of most observers at the time, sensational 28 point victory, 6.4 (40) to 0.12 (12). If the general consensus was that this was something of a freak result, it nevertheless emphasised the fact that East Fremantle could by no means expect to have things all their own way on grand final day. This, indeed, was how it proved, although nobody could possibly have predicted the bizarre sequence of events that combined to make the 1907 grand final such an incredible, indeed unique, occasion.
East Fremantle had the aid of the breeze in the opening term, and the game got underway in fast, furious fashion, with neither side dominant, and play proceeding repeatedly from end to end. The first goal of the game was kicked by McIntyre for Old Easts, but their advantage was maintained for only a couple of minutes as Perth surged straight into attack from the ensuing centre bounce, and after some frenetic play in front of goal, Winston was awarded a free from which he levelled the scores.
Much of the remainder of the term saw East Fremantle attacking strongly, but the Perth defence was equal to their task, and only minor scores were registered.
Quarter Time: East Fremantle 1.4 (10); Perth 1.2 (8)
Perth dominated the majority of the second quarter, but found goals hard to come by. They managed just two, off the boots of Edmonson and Orr, but they should really have capitalised more on their superiority. During the last ten minutes or so of the quarter East Fremantle came back into the game strongly, but as the half time bell approached they had added just a solitary major to their score. Chas Doig was then awarded a free kick directly in front, from which he converted, but the Perth players argued that the bell had already commenced sounding when umpire Crapp (pictured left) blew his whistle to award the free. Crapp waved away the protests, however, and the goal stood, so that at half time the scoreboard showed the two sides deadlocked on 22 points apiece.
Half Time: Perth 3.4 (22); East Fremantle 3.4 (22)
The third term produced arguably the best football seen in the competition all season. On the whole, the teams appeared evenly matched, but superior teamwork and more efficient finishing enabled Old Easts gradually to grind out an advantage. Some of the high marking shown by players of both teams was exceptional, as was the ferocious, but usually fair, tackling.
East Fremantle added 3.4 in this quarter, with the goals coming from Heinrichs, Brown and Christy (pictured at top of page). Perth had a fair number of scoring chances themselves, but managed just 2 minor scores for the term.
Three Quarter Time: East Fremantle 6.8 (44); Perth 3.6 (24)
Perth rallied strongly in the final quarter, but only after Sharpe had extended Old Easts’ lead early on with an excellent goal from a snapshot. Perth responded with the nearest thing to a rush of goals seen in the game as Edmonson, Wilson and Nankervis reduced the deficit from 20 to 4 points, East Fremantle managing just a couple of behinds during this period.
There were still some ten minutes remaining in the match and Perth, who were making all the running, appeared almost certain winners. However, East Fremantle displayed all their experience during the closing minutes to slow down and bottle up play repeatedly, thereby preventing their opponents from finding the space to mount a serious goal bound threat. Indeed, it was Old Easts who added the only remaining score of the match – a behind – leaving the final scoreboard showing:
East Fremantle 6.11 (47); Perth 6.6 (42)
Perth Mount An Appeal
However, soon after the match it emerged that Perth’s officials were not content to let the matter of East Fremantle’s goal late in the second term lie, claiming that it ought not to have been allowed as, in their view, it had occurred after the sounding of the bell for half time. Accordingly, they asked that the matter be considered by the League’s Appeal Board. Moreover, they also contended that East Fremantle’s fourth goal, kicked in the third term, had in actual fact been a behind, and were considering protesting about that as well (although press reports of the meeting of the Appeals Board which was convened to examine Perth’s concerns contain no mention of this second controversy).
The Western Australian Football League Appeals Board met at the United Service Hotel on Tuesday to consider Perth’s protests.
Jim 'Scotty' Doig
'The West Australian' reported that “The central umpire, Ivo Crapp, stated that when the incident occurred, out of which the dispute had arisen, the boundary umpire had thrown the ball in, and as C.Doig was picking it up another player caught him by the neck. He (witness) blew the whistle, and just at that time the bell sounded. He thought the whistle had beaten the bell, and for that reason he decided that Doig was entitled to a free kick. The barrackers were causing a great noise at this time and he did not, perhaps, hear the first sound of the bell.” Mr. F. Kennedy (Perth timekeeper) “said the whistle was blown two seconds after he had finished ringing the bell, and the bell was ringing about five seconds”.
Mr. R. Salter (East Fremantle timekeeper) “was certain that the whistle was blown five seconds before the bell rang". When cross-examined, he admitted to having taken a bet on the outcome of the match, but insisted that this had in no way influenced him or undermined his impartiality.
Numerous other witnesses were called and then the Board spent time carefully considering the evidence. The Board Chairman, R.A. Sholl, eventually declared that the Board “had unanimously decided that the weight of evidence bore out the contention of the protesting club – that the timekeeper had rung the bell before the central umpire’s whistle was sounded. Therefore the ball was dead when the free kick was given, from which the goal in dispute was scored. The appeal would therefore be upheld.”
Perth’s representative Mr. McLeod thanked the Board for its decision, but said that his club would not want to claim the premiership on protest, and would be willing to engage in a re-match on the forthcoming Saturday.
East Fremantle ’s representative Mr. Gray replied that he was not in a position to respond to Mr. McLeod’s invitation, but would place the matter before his club’s executive.
At a full meeting of the League the following night the matter of a re-match between Perth and East Fremantle to determine the destiny of the 1907 premiership was raised.
Mr. Cookson of North Fremantle proposed the motion that the Appeal Board’s decision was invalid as a matter of this significance and gravity ought to have been referred to the League first, and only passed to the Appeals Board with the League’s sanction. There was no seconder to this motion, however, so it lapsed.
As regards the matter of a ‘re-match’ to decide the premiership, the Chairman of the League ruled that the 1907 premiers had already been determined as a result of the decision of the Appeal Board. Any match arranged privately by the two teams could in no way alter the decision of the Board.
Alex 'Squeaker' Clarke
Perth secretary Mr. Kennedy then offered to play East Fremantle in a 'friendly' in order to find out “which was the better team”, but East Fremantle’s Mr. Fanning replied “I do not think we will again have the pleasure of meeting Perth this season.”
Tom Wilson (Old Easts captain) confessed to having been “very surprised” by the Appeal Board’s decision, and added, “There is one thing that strikes me as extraordinary....... and that is the allowing of outside witnesses to give evidence. The evidence of the officials is, in my opinion, all that should have been taken..... The central umpire’s version was sufficient for the Board to come to a decision on, and I feel confident that, had the Board abided by his evidence alone the decision would have been in our favour.”
Jack Leckie (Perth captain, pictured right) said “I was hoping that there would be another match because I consider it would be far better to win the premiership without a protest. It was a real good ‘go’ last Saturday. There was very little if any difference in the teams, and East Fremantle were very unfortunate to lose on a protest.” Leckie added that he had not been responsible in any way for the protest.
The whole matter continued to simmer for several more days, occasionally threatening to boil over. For a while it looked likely that East Fremantle would appeal to the Australasian Football Council, but this never eventuated. Tom Wilson, Old Easts captain, even suggested referring the matter to the VFL for a 'neutral' adjudication. The incident went on to be a source of real bitterness between the two clubs for many years; in 1908, when the sides again contested the grand final, the memory of the recent controversy was a major motivating factor for Old Easts as they 'evened the score' with a 5.7 (37) to 0.8 (8) win. After that, the sides would not again meet on grand final day for almost half a century, but when they did there were many who saw fit to hark back to the events of 1907 as a means of exacerbating the already intense natural rivalry which existed between the teams.
With Chas Doig's controversial second term goal erased from the score, the quarter by quarter summary for the 1907 grand final reads thus:
|East Fremantle||1.4||2.4||5.8||5.11 41|
Perth: Ferguson, Edwards, Southee, Crase, B.Kennedy, Nankervis
East Fremantle: Wilson, Strang, Sharpe, McIntyre, C.Doig, Christy
Perth: Edmonson 2; Nankervis, Orr, Wilson, Winston
East Fremantle: Brown, Christy, Heinrichs, McIntyre, Sharpe
Attendance: 10,000 approximately at the Claremont Showgrounds
Principal sources: 'The West Australian' of 30 September, 2 October and 3 October 1907