1911 revisited: Round 12
Round 12, 8th July, 1911
A "grey, windless, foggy afternoon" was the setting for round 12, the coldest football match-day recorded to this time. The temperature wouldn’t rise above 7.1°C (44.8°F) as six clubs began the day within close proximity of a top four position.
20,000 spectators ignored the conditions and flocked to Brunswick St to watch fourth-placed Fitzroy host third-placed Carlton in a match Observer declared the "finest of the season". Carlton were without crucial centreman Rod McGregor and after a "slow and methodical" opening period were soon floundering as Fitzroy’s football ramped up to "cracking" pace. Only "the weight, the determination and the vigilance of their backs saved Carlton from disaster". Fitzroy’s inability to convert their play into scores also helped, until Bruce Campbell (right) opened their account against the team he’d represented in round three.
In the second term Fitzroy "simply played over their opponents in the outfield, and time after time failed just when the reward seemed sure". Another quarter of dominance had yielded them only 1.6, and a 10-point half-time lead. To this stage Tom Reardon had dominated, and Clarrie Dall had kicked two goals, whilst Jack Cooper had been "magnificent" in defence.
The many Carlton stars who had been struggling showed more promising signs in the third term, but the Blues still found themselves down by eight at three-quarter time. The start of the final term saw Carlton winger George Bruce (left) dash the ball away in customary style, with sharp-shooter Vin Gardiner goaling as a consequence. Thus "in two kicks much of Fitzroy's hard earned advantage was swept away". The scene was set for a thrilling conclusion.
Viv Valentine now worked his way into the game, featuring regularly in Carlton’s forward sallies from this point. After Fitzroy missed another couple of scoring opportunities, Gardiner goaled with a long distance place-kick, then Valentine "ran within range" and put Carlton ahead for the first time in the game. Despite desperate late Maroon efforts, it proved the winning goal.
Carlton’s win owed much to the efforts of a couple of experienced defenders, both veterans of Worrall’s premiership sides of 1906-8.
Norman 'Hackenschmidt’ Clark (right) stood only 170cm tall, but weighed in at 86kgs. He was a "round tough barrel of muscle", who was quick enough to have won 1899’s Stawell Gift. To speed and power he added "the courage to go through anything". Rod McGregor, writing later of his old teammate, said "we often wondered how he could lift his bulk so high". "Clark's particular type of play has not been duplicated, chiefly because no one of his pattern has since appeared". Until Wayne Harmes perhaps. Clark would go on to coach the Blues to flags in 1914-15, making him a crucial contributor to the club’s first five premierships.
Alongside Clark stood William ‘Billy’ Payne, who’d already long established himself as a big game performer. Regarded by many as the best player in the 1906 Grand Final, he’d also featured amongst the best in the following two flag wins. He demonstrated his commitment by playing in the 1909 Grand Final with an "eye condition", ignoring doctors’ advice that he was risking his eyesight. A fine mark and excellent kick, Payne also "possessed great dash" over 127 games in a very successful era for the Blues.
The afternoon’s chill would have been no better down at Corio, where Collingwood journeyed to face a crucial battle against Geelong on a heavy track. Missing the suspended Dick Lee, the Magpies had dropped to fifth, and the Pivotonians could close to within a win of fourth with a victory here. This soon looked likely, as the home team dominated with "superb football" in the opening 10 minutes. Sadly, they only saw a 1.5 to 0.1 scoreboard reward.
Collingwood hung in, trailing by three points at half time, before a third-quarter surge saw them lead by 12 points at the final break. Magpie captain-coach George Angus (left) had ordered his men to close the game down once they led, and follower Les ‘Lofty’ Hughes was ideally suited to the situation. He used his long arms and 188cm height at stoppages and won "more free kicks than any other two players". To which the Geelong supporters "howled furiously".
Out of the last quarter slog Percy Martini engineered a snapshot goal, and Geelong were only down by four points with their supporters roaring them home. At a crucial moment, Dick Grigg, whilst "repelling an attack, made the serious blunder of kicking across goal". Young Dan Minogue, who’d returned quietly the previous week following his broken collar bone, was alone on the wing. His goal gave the Pies the break they needed and they hung on by eight points.
Umpire Dwyer had been the source of much angst among the home supporters, who were less than pleased with his officiating. In the final stages of proceedings he’d been forced to stop play and insist ground trespassers remove themselves. At the final bell, he was rushed by "hooting" Geelong fans but escaped serious injury.
Hughes (right) had been the outstanding player for the Pies, as he often was during 225 games in black and white. Not the most gifted player, he combined his physical attributes with a prodigious work ethic to figure in three premierships over a 15 year career.
In the crucial second half, Angus and Jock McHale had been crucial in marshalling their troops. Percy Gibb had also won a vital wing match-up with Percy Scown. For the Pivot, "lightly built half back" Les Armstrong had been best. Armstrong would become the first Pivotonian to wear number 1 when player numbers were introduced for all in the following season.
Essendon confirmed they had lost their early season momentum as they struggled to get clear of Melbourne at the EMCG. This may be somewhat unfair to the Fuchsias, as Observer thought they produced their best football of the season to date. Forward Harry Brereton was the star, kicking five out of Melbourne’s six goals for the game. Brereton shouldered the main Fuchsia scoring burden after Vin Coutie’s retirement and returned an impressive 187 goals (many of them from place-kicks) in 85 games, before crossing to South Melbourne after the war.
Assisting Brereton in harassing the top side were winger Bill McKenzie and "diminutive" rover Hedley Tompkins (left). Tompkins had been rejected as too small for a VFL career by Fitzroy back in 1904, but became an outstanding rover for Melbourne despite being "sometimes tossed like a cork in the sea" amongst larger bodies. After playing for Victoria in 1913, Tompkins left to play for East Perth and would sadly lose a leg fighting in World War I.
Despite narrowly leading most of the day, only a goal in the final minute of play by Percy Ogden had made the Same Olds safe. Followers Alan Belcher and Fred Baring had been their best, and skipper Dave Smith kicked two goals.
The match report for University’s hosting of Richmond was titled "A Slow Friendly Game". The crowd of 4,864 obviously viewed the Students’ injury-decimated side as little chance, and the whole game seems to have been a rather leisurely affair. With understatement, Observer noted the cheering of Tiger fans for Uni free kicks "seemed surprisingly out of place". Richmond managed 1.7 to 1.1 in the first term. The "kicking was wretched, several shots being missed from within the chalk lines in front of the goal posts". It seems Richo had predecessors.
The Tigers ran out lacklustre 20-point victors, with Mick Maguire kicking three goals and their small brigade of Bowden, Mahoney and McCashney again shining, as did Vic Thorp and Frank Love in defence. For the Students, Ken McLeod, Bert Hurrey and Jack Brake were best.
St Kilda crossed Albert Park Lake to take on a South Melbourne who "looked from the first like a side who knew that the match was theirs". After a big Saints’ win the previous week, it was again a familiar story: "individually the St Kilda men were playing smart football, but as an organised side they failed to compare". A major problem was that South defenders like Grimshaw and Scobie were just too big for the Saints forwards. Again, they would have eyed the outstanding form of giant Dave McNamara (playing for Essendon Association) with dismay.
Len Mortimer remained clear leader on the VFL goal kicking with another haul of five goals, while Bruce Sloss was again best on ground. Arthur Hiskins and Vic Belcher were other standouts for the Bloods. Ernie Sellars followed up a dream debut with another three goals in a losing effort. Though "rather too small when opposed to a big lot of backs", Sellars remained "clever and game". Gordon Dangerfield, Harry Lever and Bill Woodcock were the other prominent St Kilda players on the afternoon.
As a consequence of two close results Collingwood reclaimed fourth spot from Fitzroy, whist Geelong slipped precariously behind in the race for a finals berth with six rounds remaining.
Round 12, 1911 results
Round 12, 1911 ladder
For further 1911 season details, click here.
This is an updated version of an article that first appeared on the www.footyalmanac.com.au website.
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