1911 revisited: Round 5
One Hundred Years Ago: Round 5, 27th May, 1911
On the Friday evening prior to round five, a joint conference of VFL and VFA representatives had met to discuss the control of football in Victoria. They produced the startling recommendation that the two organisations should amalgamate into one controlling body, appointing a board with equal representation for both parties. This offered the prospect that the often bitter division between Victorian football’s senior competitions might end as early as June 2nd.
It was akin to the Hatfields and the McCoys settling terms.
A separate VFL meeting on the same evening, after examining the proposals, resolved to defer discussion until their next regular meeting. The VFL clubs wanted time to consider the ramifications.
That same VFL meeting heard Fitzroy delegate G. Moriarty put a proposal to limit player payments to 30 shillings per week during the season, plus approved expenses. The St Kilda delegate Keane seconded the proposal, but the Carlton delegate opposed the motion, claiming ‘it would be impossible to see that the maximum was not exceeded’. For those curious, the Carlton delegate’s name was Cooke, not Elliott.
Carlton aside, five other clubs opposed the motion, with University abstaining, presumably on grounds of amateur purity. It failed to pass.
Whist the game’s administrators discussed matters of control, it was an issue which had proved beyond their control which was dominating the headlines. ‘Larrikinism’ or ‘blackguardism ‘ by those who played the game, or those who watched it, was a perennial theme in the press of the period.
Whilst some of the headlines reflected the middle class prejudices of the scribes, there was no doubt a problem. The VFL was hardly oblivious to the damage violence was causing football’s reputation. In 1910, the VFL tribunal suspended no fewer than eight players for periods of 16 weeks or more because of violent acts. Many still seemed undeterred by the penalties.
Members of Victoria’s government were also concerned by the issue. That week, Acting Chief Secretary McBride (right) asked the Chief Commissioner of Police to ‘submit a report to him of his views as to the best means to be adopted to put down blackguardism at football matches'.
To show that the problem wasn’t confined to VFL football, a report from a Federal League game at Mordialloc that week is typical. The game between Cheltenham and Victoria Brewery descended into violence. The umpire had failed to attend and a Mordialloc resident, Bert Munro, filled in. Players exchanged blows. Constables Hore and Kennedy 'eventually secured order'. When later a Brewery player struck an opponent, Hore took the name and address of the offender. They were later proved to be 'wrongly given.' Returning to the pavilion, umpire Munro was ‘struck twice on the neck by a Brewery player. Neither Munro or witnesses could identify the attacker’.
The Chief Commissioner would have his work cut out for him.
For those still able to focus on the football, attention was turned to Collingwood and how they would react to the worst defeat in their history. Compounding their situation, they had to travel to the Lake Oval to play undefeated South Melbourne, and they were still minus Dick Lee (left). South were missing star rover Charlie Ricketts.
In greasy conditions, the Magpies took their chances better early, leading three goals to one at quarter time. They held their advantage in the second quarter despite South appearing 'quicker on the ball'. Magpie Percy Gibb was 'so superior on the wing' that Jim Caldwell was required to swap flanks to try and nullify him.
Observer describes the third term as ‘willing’, meaning ‘rough and fast’. 'A good deal of unnecessary charging and many other offences too' took place. Umpire Boyle was finally moved to 'pick up the ball and talk to the players about their misconduct'. It seems it wasn’t only the players steamed up. When a ball went into the crowd it came back ‘useless, apparently burst by a spectator's knife’.
The Bloods lay siege in the final term. When Vic Belcher (right) kicked their fourth goal they looked likely to win. Collingwood hung on grimly, assisted by missed scoring chances from Mortimer, Hiskins and Sloss. In the dying minutes the South effort faded, and the Pies hung on to win 5.10 to 4.10. Magpie honour was restored.
Tom Baxter was again invaluable for Collingwood with three goals, while Jock McHale, Gibb and captain-coach George Angus also stood out. In the crisis, Ted Rowell’s kick outs were critical. For South, Len Mortimer kicked three goals, and dashing centreman George Bower, Jim Caldwell and half back Tom Grimshaw were best.
The other anticipated clash was fourth placed Fitzroy hosting third placed Geelong. Around 12,000 turned out in wet conditions which soon saw a mass of players scrumming around the ball. There were few signs of ‘that open, fast football one expects whenever a Geelong side is engaged'. At the end of a close first half Geelong’s Bert Whittington broke his collarbone and dislocated his shoulder in a crush of players, leaving the Pivotonians a man short.
The second half was 'disappointing to all but Fitzroy partisans', with Geelong failing to kick another goal. Too few carried the load for the Pivot, whist the Maroons were ‘carrying no passengers'. Rain squalls drove the crowd away in the final term as Fitzroy doubled the visitors’ score. Observer, with his remarkable ability to be at all grounds simultaneously, was moved to criticise the umpire for letting an unnamed Fitzroy player 'unfairly use his elbows in the ruck'. When 'realising it could be done safely, he simply did nothing else'.
Skipper Lal McLennan (left) was again best for the dominant Maroons, whist Bill Marchbank, Bob Rahilly and Percy Parratt were also prominent. Prodigal son Chris Kiernan showed he’d 'lost little or anything of his old skill' in kicking two goals. For the disappointing Geelong, Dick Grigg 'stood head and shoulders over his comrades'. Bill Eason, George Heinz and ‘flyer’ Percy Scown on a wing warranted mention.
Melbourne was hosting both St Kilda and His Excellency the Governor and Lady Fuller at the MCG in front of 6,570 spectators. The sides lined up to give three cheers to Governor Fuller, who met both captains after play. The Governor had expressed the opinion that 'the game as played in Australia was a very fine one'. That was most likely before he witnessed this game.
St Kilda 'showed no organisation and only a few of them any dash' in a scoreless first term while the Fuchsia’s kicked 4.3. A St Kilda committee man was heard to say 'we will have to engage a heart specialist'. The Saints ‘somewhat nettled at their failure to score, began playing the man'. When rover Artie Thomas was sent sprawling after kicking the ball, several teammates ‘lost their heads’. Umpire Tulloch had missed the first offence, but in time honoured tradition caught the retaliators. Tulloch ‘missed several more incidents’, provoking similar melees. St Kilda players Bob Monar and Matt Outen were reported, both subsequently receiving four-week suspensions.
The match ‘ended tamely in a drenching shower of rain with 36 men fruitlessly endeavouring to pick up a greasy ball'. Melbourne’s final margin was 38 points. Of their nine goals, forward Harry Brererton (right) kicked five, while giant (190 cm) forward Stan Fairburn kicked two. Winger Jack Robertson was best on ground for the Fuchsias, with Bill McKenzie and Bill Hendrie notable. For the record, there were six Bills and three McKenzies playing. Cometti would have had a field day.
Of St Kilda it was said, 'on the shoulders of a few men lay the burden of the day'. Saints fans would understand that.
Carlton left the dramas of the previous week behind to easily account for Richmond at Princes Oval. The Blues 'excelled in every area except the centre line, where Richmond held their own', and their 'passing was judicious'. Richmond were either 'running too much' or 'running in the wrong direction'. Richmond’s 'forwards were never equal to the Carlton backs'.
Best for Carlton was Viv Valentine (left) with three goals roving or forward. Third gamer Roy Johnson kicked six goals 'mainly from Richmond mistakes waiting outside the ruck'. Martin Gotz ignored the summons hanging over his head to kick two. Bob Bowden was again Richmond’s best.
In the round’s remaining game, Worrall’s Essendon machine was never going to be tested by a University team lacking five significant players. Brake, Hartkopf and Greenham were 'away at an Inter-varsity sports meeting in Adelaide', Trood was understandably absent, and Hinman was 'on vacation in Tasmania'.
University managed one first quarter goal, but the ball ‘was seldom afterwards beyond the centre line' for them. In another even effort, Fred Baring kicked four for the Same Olds, whilst Alan Belcher (brother of South’s Vic), Jim Martin, Dave Smith and Len Bowe also excelled. Ted Cordner was swapped forward and kicked two late goals to save some Student face.
When combatants retired to their respective corners, the Same Olds were now clear on top of the ladder.
Round 5, 1911 results
Round 5, 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.
- Encyclopedia of AFL/VFL Footballers: Russell Holmesby & Jim Main
- 100 Years of Australian Football: ed. John Ross
- Up Where, Cazaly? : Leonie Sandercock & Ian Turner
- The Argus
- AFL Tables
- Football's Black Book: Jim Main
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