Tasmanian Cricket Association Ground
Derwent Football Association 1901-4; STFA/TFL junior grade 1905-7; TANFL/TFL 1908-1944
Yellow and black
During its comparatively brief existence, the Cananore Football Club was responsible for giving considerable enjoyment to thousands of football supporters, and for providing a home to many of the most notable identities in Tasmanian football during the first four decades of the last century.
After beginning life as a junior club in the Derwent Football Association in 1901 (where it was successful in procuring the 1901 and 1904 premierships), Cananore transferred to the STFA’s junior grade (effectively its reserves competition) in 1905. In 1906 and 1907 it won the junior grade premiership, and in 1908 it replaced Derwent in the three team senior competition, which in 1907 had changed its name to the TFL. Despite losing every game in its debut season in the ‘big time’ Cananore was not disgraced, and in 1909, with Tasmania’s 1908 carnival coach Bruce Carter having arrived at the club from Mersey, it proved that it was an extraordinarily quick learner by not only annexing the local premiership, but the first ever official state flag as well after a 4.6 (30) to 2.6 (18) victory over northern premier Launceston at Hobart.
Somewhat unusually, although Bruce Carter was both Cananore’s coach and, arguably, the finest footballer in the state at the time, he did not captain the side, leaving that duty to former Carlton (16 games) and Melbourne (69 games) player, Jack Gardiner. With this pair at the helm, the Canaries as they were known proved well nigh invincible, adding further successive local and state premierships in 1910 and 1911, as well as providing the nucleus of Tasmania’s 1911 Adelaide carnival side, which proved to be one of the strongest in the state’s history.1
Despite starting the 1912 season in fine form with a 10.12 (72) to 7.6 (48) defeat of 1911 runner up, North Hobart, Cananore, which had lost coach Carter to North Launceston, struggled for the remainder of the year, managing just 1 further win to finish last.
Bruce Carter’s importance to the team was graphically demonstrated when he returned to the fold in 1913 and immediately inspired the Canaries to rediscover the winning formula, culminating in a fourth premiership in five seasons thanks to a 10.13 (73) to 4.12 (36) grand final defeat of Lefroy. The state premiership match between Cananore and NTFA premier Launceston was sensationally cancelled after the northern club objected to the engagement of a TFL umpire to control the match. Launceston ended up being disqualified by the TFL, which had that right as the official, Australasian Football Council-recognised Controlling Body for all Tasmanian football. The ban was ultimately lifted before the start of the 1914 season. Meanwhile, Cananore was awarded the state title on forfeit.
The Canaries again contested the TFL grand final in 1914, losing by 3 goals to North Hobart, but arguably the most significant occurrence of the season was the debut in a Cananore jumper of one of the greatest footballers Tasmania has ever produced, Horrie Gorringe. Possessed of blinding pace and impeccable disposal skills, Gorringe spent his entire playing career, which lasted thirteen seasons, at Cananore, and represented Tasmania with distinction at the 1924 and 1927 carnivals at Hobart and Melbourne respectively.
An interstate carnival was also held in 1914, in Sydney, and while it was taking place the AFC arranged for an exhibition series to take place in Brisbane, featuring leading clubs from each of the four major football states. Cananore was invited to participate as Tasmania’s representative in this series, and despite the absence of a number of key players who were representing Tasmania in Sydney the side performed with credit against mainland heavyweights in the shape of Collingwood (VFL) and Perth (WAFL). South Adelaide (SAFL) also participated.2
After another losing grand final in 1915 (against Lefroy), Cananore, along with Tasmanian football in general, went into recess because of the war. When football resumed in 1919 there was further disruption in store as an influenza epidemic broke out which resulted in the suspension of all major sporting activities on the advice of the Tasmanian health authorities. Cananore was comfortably placed at the head of the TFL ladder, having won all 7 matches contested, when the season was brought to a premature end.
The 1920s proved to be a highly fruitful decade for the Canaries as, with record crowds now following the game, they won both local and state premierships in 1921, 1922, 1925, 1926 and 1927. Cananore’s 1925 combination would probably have to go down as one of the strongest in Tasmanian football history. Prior to the TFL finals the Canaries played a challenge match against visiting SAFL side Port Adelaide and, watched by a disbelieving crowd of 4,000, won with stunning ease, 31.30 (216) to 5.8 (38). Both the local and state grand finals were won in similarly emphatic fashion: North Hobart was vanquished 15.14 (104) to 7.9 (51) in the TFL, while NTFA premier North Launceston was overwhelmed 20.17 (137) to 9.12 (66) in the state premiership decider.
With former Collingwood champion Albert Collier coaching the side Cananore enjoyed another remarkable season in 1931, a year which yielded record attendances and gate receipts for the league. The Canaries, as minor premiers, faced North Hobart in the grand final, and at the end of an exhilarating tussle scores were deadlocked on 9.12 (66) apiece. The replay the following week was just as absorbing, with Cananore finally edging home by 3 points, before scoring an even harder fought 1 point win over North Launceston to secure the state title. Albert Collier was rewarded for a dominating season with the William Leitch Medal to go alongside his 1929 Brownlow.
Two years later Cananore again overcame North Hobart on grand final day to secure what would prove to be the club’s last ever senior flag. There was to be ignominy mixed with the triumph, however, as the Canaries became the first TFL premier to lose a state premiership decider on southern soil. North Launceston was the victorious northern club.
In the years leading up to World War Two Cananore continued to perform competitively, reaching three more grand finals before the TFL was forced, owing to a shortage of players, to suspend operations in 1942. When the competition resumed three years later its new, district-orientated structure meant that there was no room for clubs like Cananore, which lacked a discrete district base.
During its brief existence, Cananore was the TFL’s second most successful club, with its overall record bettered only by that of North Hobart. Moreover, the club’s achievement in procuring ten state premierships was unsurpassed at the time of its demise. These achievements alone should be sufficient to earn the Canaries a prominent place in any objectively selected football ‘Hall of Fame’, but the sad reality is that, with football outside the AFL-VFL behemoth being accorded less and less value and credence with each passing year, it is not likely to be very long before Cananore’s highly laudable legacy disappears without trace.
1 Apart from losing heavily to eventual carnival champions South Australia, the Tasmanians performed creditably in all their games, thrashing New South Wales by 74 points, scoring a surprise 5 point victory over Western Australia, and giving the VFL a real run for its money before going under by 31 points. These results were sufficient to earn Tasmania third place at the championships.2 The results of the three matches played during the exhibition series, which took place between 8 and 15 August 1914 (the conflict that was to become known as the Great War having commenced on 4 August):Collingwood 9.7 (61); South Adelaide 8.13 (61)Collingwood 12.19 (91); Cananore 10.10 (70)Perth 21.8 (134); Cananore 14.16 (100)
John Devaney - Full Points Publications