The coming football season, 1887
During Easter week a sickly cricket season, as far as Victoria, at any rate, is concerned, will come to a close, and the footballers once more will have possession of the grounds. On the 23rd of April the seniors feel their way as usual against the juniors, and on the following Saturday public interest in their movements will fairly commence. It will be almost a month later before we see the premiers of last season in Melbourne, their first engagement being the customary match with Hotham, on the East Melbourne ground. On the same day Essendon play Tasmania, and as it has been the custom to give visitors a clear day, and a fair chance of paying the expenses of their trip, it may at first sight appear as though the Geelong and Hotham match, as well as that between Richmond and Carlton, on the Richmond ground, unfairly clash with the islanders.
The association, however, has shown the visitors every courtesy, as they have a clear day against the Victorian team on May 21, and there are probably sufficient people in Melbourne desirous of seeing a football match on the Queen's Birthday, to give all three matches a fair patronage. The same consideration has been extended to the Adelaide team in their meeting with the Carlton team on the 28th May. All the other chief club engagements for that day are fixed for grounds outside Melbourne. This is as it should be. Last year there was, if anything, a disposition to place club considerations first, and it is satisfactory to find that nothing of the sort was suggested this year. Victorian footballers, in a sense, owe a parental duty to both South Australians and Tasmanians, though the majority of New South Welshmen still decline to take lessons from their grandchildren in the matter of sucking eggs.
At this time of the year the possible changes in the composition of senior teams is the one great topic for conversation amongst senior footballers. Rumour in each particular district credits that particular team with a choice of players from nearly every other club. The fact that such changes can be discussed shows a want of loyalty on the part of footballers, but it must be said in their defence that not a third of the changes confidently asserted as likely to take place ever really occur, and when they do the reason is just as often change of residence as anything else. At the present time a column might be filled with these possible changes, but the opening of the season will find most of the men true to their colours, and any alterations that do take place may be announced with much more safety a fortnight hence.
Carlton is credited with the loss of two grand players in Bloomfield and Baker, and in this case it is to be feared that rumour is correct, for both men have, for the present, settled down so far from Melbourne that, admitting their inclinations and enthusiasm to be as strong as ever, it is difficult to see how they could play with any regularity.
But the most surprising of all gossip in connection with football comes from Geelong. The footballers there have always been regarded as a splendid illustration of the truth of the saying, “Union is strength.” The good feeling between the players and the machine like regularity with which 20 units worked together has been the secret of their success. Now, it is said, the team is to be divided on questions of religious belief, but though it is a matter for common talk amongst footballers in Melbourne, the rumour seems so utterly absurd that I fully expect to learn before long that it has no foundation. In the old days of Geelong football, a riot was always possible when the Barwon and Geelong teams found themselves in opposition, but questions of creed or conscience were never suggested as the reason for it. It is a long time since Geelong people found out that no city, town, or borough can support two clubs with any hope of seeing one of them at the top of the tree for a season, and a few other places have yet to learn that lesson.
At the close of last season it was said that the supporters of the game in Williamstown had seen the error of their ways, and would concentrate both their players and their enthusiasm this year. The season has come, and found the footballers of Williamstown, however, still divided, and two planets clashing in the same orbit. Port Melbourne have made a most encouraging start for their second year, if the enthusiasm at their annual meeting is any augury of success in the field. Everybody who was anybody in a public sense at Port Melbourne was present. The member for the district and the borough councillors all came to wish the footballers ‘good luck’ during the winter. At Port Melbourne there appears to be a great deal of that whole-souled local feeling which, when lent within the bounds of fairness, is a splendid support for any game. South Melbourne owe a great deal of their success to it, and if it lasts in the sister municipality, the footballers are certain to succeed.
Hotham have the choice of a lot of capable juniors to fill in any gaps in their ranks, and it is said that a great many old players will be supplanted by juniors this season. Fortunately, junior footballers are not so prone to stick together as the cricketers, and thus the lovers of the game have an opportunity in seeing in the senior twenties all the best players of the colony.
The Essendon team has been taken in hand this year by Mr A. Curwen-Walker, who, in the days when the club was lighting its way slowly into the ranks of the seniors was - with Messrs. Bryant, F. Hughes, Powell, Graham, and a few other veterans who still cheer on the twenty - one of its chief players. This year the whole of the senior players of the club will be members of the East Melbourne gymnasium, and thus a defect which had a great deal to do with the loss of matches last year will be remedied.
South Melbourne have made great preparations for the season, and would have done still more had not the Minister of Lands asserted his claim as landlord. Naturally the enthusiasm of the club in the matter of ground improvement was checked, but a moment's consideration will show them that they are really in no worse position than they were before. Anyone has the right, and always will have the right, to go into any of these recreation grounds without paying and although this claim has been talked about for many years, no one has ever cared to assert it. If the grounds are open to the public when not otherwise engaged, there can be very little cause for complaint, and above all other places, it seems unlikely that in South Melbourne many Ishmaels will be found.
It may always be argued that the charge is not so much for admission to the ground as for the privilege of seeing a good match. Those who decline to pay sixpence to see two hours of exciting football are most probably bankrupt, and should, for purely humane reasons, be allowed to go in free. The strong local support which has done so much for South Melbourne football has again come to the rescue, and so that the improvements may go on whether a revenue be derived from gate money or not, some 20 or 30 residents have each become guarantee in the sum of £100. Security was thus given for the money spent on the ground. The first and most necessary work is the extension of the embankment round the ground, and this will be carried out during the present football season. The erection of a grandstand will follow in due course. As regards the possible strength of other clubs nothing definite can yet be said.
And now a word for the association. As last year, Mr. T.S. Marshall is honorary secretary, and a bettor man for the position it would be hard to find. Years ago he was identified with the Carlton club, and on leaving Melbourne he carried the love of the game into the North Eastern district. Along the Murray valley he took a leading part in establishing some very capable twenties, and returning to Melbourne finds himself in his natural place as head of the association. And the tables of attendances for last year, which were circulated at the last meeting of the association, show that his interest in the game has not waned. Nineteen meetings of the association were held last season, and Mr. Marshall was not once absent. The Permit and Umpire committee met on 22 occasions, and here again he attended every meeting, though in each case he stands alone in the enjoyment of this distinction.
The Intercolonial committee met as usual in November to amend the rules: where required, the associations represented being Victoria, South Australia, South Tasmania, North Tasmania, and New South Wales. The alterations are not of a very radical nature, and in many cases the amendment merely had the effect of legalising what was already a universal custom. Briefly the alterations may be summarised as follow:
*Any club found playing more than its proper number of men shall not alone forfeit any goals it may have kicked, but pay a fine of £10.
*In matches played during the months of June and July the time shall be 50 minutes each way, in the other months of the season an hour in each direction.
*The rule relating to tripping, &c., is further enlarged, and unfairly interfering with a player after he has made a mark will not be permitted; whilst pushing behind is not under any circumstances allowed.
Players offending against these rules may in future be reported to the association instead of their side, suffering for their misdeeds to the limited extent of a ‘free kick.’
*Any player receiving payment for his services at a footballer, either directly or indirectly, shall be disqualified for any period the association may think fit. The club paying him shall be fined £10, lose the match, and be disqualified for the remainder of the season.
Title: The Football Season. Author: Observer Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria: 1848 - 1957) Date: Saturday, 2 April 1887, p. 10 (Article) Web: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/7877543