1911 revisited: Round 6
Round 6, 3rd June, 1911
It may surprise many that Richmond, the club that wears “Captain Blood’ as a badge of honour, initially regarded itself as a bastion of the ‘right and proper’ way to play the game. Furthermore, the colour of their jumper wasn’t originally yellow and black.
What will not surprise is that they have long possessed a talent for passionate conflict.
Founded by a meeting at Byrne’s Royal Hotel in 1885, the Richmond club’s initial strip was an all-blue affair. The cap, worn during play, was the only element with the famous tiger colour combination. Due to popular demand, the cap colours had bled down to the jumper by 1888. Tigers they would remain.
In the early VFA days Richmond’s first great rival was Port Melbourne, but events soon saw North Melbourne usurp the Borough as Tiger enemy number one. In 1903, the Tigers lost a brutal Grand Final to the Shinboners who, according to Richmond, took their nickname too literally with liberal use of illegally sharpened boot studs.
The rancour from this match continued through to the next season when both were vying once more for premiership honours. A long undefeated Richmond run was halted by another controversial loss to North. Richmond had demanded of umpire Allen that he inspect the North players’ boots. They refused to offer them up for perusal and Allen didn’t press the issue. When the Tigers lost, they again complained of gashed shins and loudly denounced Allen, who took deep offence.
Though they had finished top, guaranteeing a Grand Final spot anyway, Richmond took a stand on principal (as they saw it). They wrote to the Association threatening to forfeit if Allen was appointed to umpire the return match. The VFA responded by appointing the controversial umpire and inviting Richmond to forfeit the flag to North if they chose. Which they promptly did.
Richmond’s relationship with the Association never recovered, and they actively pursued a spot in the VFL. The victory over North Melbourne in the VFL admission vote of late 1907 must have been sweet.
To show how times can change, Richmond’s early VFL seasons were helmed by a couple of Collingwood types. One of them – early coach Dick Condon – was even more Collingwood than Collingwood could eventually handle.
Condon was one of the great players of the turn of the century, but his temper and strong individual streak was a constant source of trouble. Magpie captain in 1900, he attempted to lead a player walk-off in protest at an umpiring decision. Later that season he received a life ban for insulting the character of the daughter of ‘Prince of Umpires’, Henry ‘Ivo’ Crapp. Collingwood let him stew for 18 months before seeking to have the ban overturned. Just to show he was flexible, during a later period when he’d again fallen out with the Pies, he did a stint of umpiring himself down in Tasmania.
When not in strife, Condon also left indelible marks on the playing field. The Magpies famously toured Tasmania in mid-1902, where Condon is given most credit for the invention of the stab pass, which he started experimenting with whilst lairising against under-strength opponents in a social match. Collingwood soon realised it sped up their ball movement and it became the basis of Collingwood’s premiership-winning ‘system’ for years to come.
Despite his playing contributions, Condon remains the only Magpie to have played 10 years for the club and not be granted life membership. All of which makes him an intriguing choice as Richmond’s first coach in the ‘big time’ of VFL.
Charlie Pannam, another Collingwood great, also experimented with that novel kick that day, and would later become grandfather to Lou and Ron Richards. He was Richmond’s initial VFL captain, but left disgruntled when Condon was appointed coach.
Unsurprisingly, Magpies and Tigers didn’t really mix, and the success Richmond sought in those first VFL years proved elusive. Yet another ‘Reform Group’ had organised by 1911, wanting to ‘cleanse the Augean stable’. The playing group backed the incumbent administration, but morale was low.
On the eve of Richmond’s round six clash with second-placed South Melbourne, Tiger captain Will Schmidt stepped down, citing poor form. Defender Len Incigneri replaced him as skipper.
Incigneri won his first toss in front of the 15,000 strong crowd and kicked with the breeze to the railway end of a soggy Punt Road oval. The Tigers didn’t initially take advantage, but South wasted their turn with the wind by kicking behinds with their first six shots of the second term. Richmond’s six-point deficit was, according to Observer, largely due to an ‘excess in handpassing’.
As the breeze abated, so Richmond improved. They led by 13 points at the final break, but South closed in the final term. When Blood Len Mortimer scored his third place-kick goal of the afternoon, they were within a point. Richmond rallied but missed chances. Finally, Percy Maybury’s second goal made the result safe.
It was a morale boosting victory owed largely to Tiger big men Barney Herbert, Bill Jones, Hughie James and Paddy Bourke. Vital as well was the centreline of Bob Bowden, Frank McCashney and Syd Reeves. For South, Bruce Sloss continued his great season on the ball, Jim Caldwell was the only one to ‘hold his own’ across the centre, and Arthur ‘Poddy’ Hiskins also stood out.
Whilst Richmond gained respite, another club which had suffered internal strife was being proclaimed ‘Phoenix risen’ by The Argus. Comfortably defeating University in front of 12,000 at the MCG, Fitzroy replaced South in second place on the ladder.
The Students held the Maroons to a scoreless opening 15 minutes, but their tendency to fly for marks but ‘rarely bringing it down safely’ began to tell. Fitzroy’s passing was’ very smart and sure’ and they ‘kicked better than their opponents’. They broke away in the third term when Percy Parratt 'took the ball and instantly kicked it back over his own head and between the posts, not the only goal he has got in that way this season'.
After that, Uni were ‘obviously a beaten side’. 'Though including in their team some of the fastest amateur runners in Australia, the benefits of pace were never apparent'. Tom ‘Tunner’ Reardon, in his only VFL season, continued to shine, as did the now usual names - McLennan, Parrot (right) and Kiernan (with 3 goals). Teddy Buist on a wing was another standout. For the Students, Dave Greenham starred, and Vic Trood returned from his Carlton-induced absence to also shine.
Melbourne ventured to Victoria Park to battle Collingwood in front of a modest crowd. Dick Lee was back, ‘though still hardly fit’. A notable debutant for the Magpies was Jim Sharp, who had been Fitzroy captain for the last three seasons before retiring following their internal bust-up. Collingwood enticed him out of retirement, and Sharp would make such an impression that the Magpies voted him captain in 1912. He declined, favouring Jock McHale.
Sharp went on to be Collingwood president from 1913-24. He made history when the club was left one player short in a 1917 game at Corio, becoming the only president to ever take the field. Whereupon he promptly wrecked his knee in the opening minutes. No other president has been tempted by his example.
Melbourne surprised by leading into the final quarter. Five minutes into the final term their nine-point lead had shrunk to one. 15 minutes of scoreless struggle ensued, before Tom Baxter emerged from a maul with a free kick. His second major made him the only multiple goal scorer of the match and secured a Magpie win. Observer thought Melbourne’s 'chief mistake was want of effective shepherding, too many men going for the ball and too few guarding'.
Jock McHale had ‘played wide’ of Fuchsia Hughie Odgers in the centre, and 'given a little room, was always dangerous'. Dick Lee had ‘shaped fairly well, but a couple of hard bumps took something out of him'. For Melbourne, winger Jack Robertson stood out in besting Magpie champion Percy Gibb (left). Harry Brereton 'brought down some nice marks'.
Essendon took 700 supporters with them on the train down to Corio, and though they were ‘palpably short of their best’ in the first half, they would return with a victory. The Same Olds turned in a ‘telling’ third term, 'their short passing with flip kicks was perfect'. They eventually ran out 17-point victors.
For the Pivot, Percy ‘Redwing’ Scown, one of the original Geelong Flyers, stood out despite 'having taken marriage vows the previous day'. Rover George Heinz and ruck Harry Marsham were amongst the best as well. Essendon had their usual across-the-board contribution, with the Armstrong brothers, Percy Ogden, ruck Fred Baring and Jim Martin shading their team mates.
St Kilda hosted Carlton at the Junction Oval, and improved on their recent lacklustre efforts by staying close to the Blues most of the day. Carlton goal sneak Roy Johnson continued his purple patch by kicking the first three goals of the match but was 'never again conspicuous'. After trailing by 20 points at quarter time, the Seasiders closed to only trail by five at the half. Carlton kicked inaccurately in the third term to lead by 17, but were goalless in the final quarter as St Kilda strived to close the gap.
Tempers flared in the second half, and former Blue Charlie Taylor was reported for striking Viv Valentine, who again starred for Carlton. Taylor got off. Apart from Valentine, defenders Billy Payne and Dick Harris were instrumental in holding St Kilda at bay. Alex McKenzie, Wels Eicke, Bert Pierce and Harry Lever were instrumental in St Kilda’s improved performance.
It’s doubtful that Saints fans failed to notice that former star Dave McNamara kicked nine goals in the VFA on the same day. He’d fallen out with the club in 1909, and was spending some of his prime years with Essendon Town before again returning to the Saints.
Yet another St Kilda ‘what if’.
Round 6, 1911 results
Round 6, 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.
- Tigerland: Brian Hansen
- The Tigers of Old: Paul Hogan
- Encyclopedia of AFL/VFL Footballers: Russell Holmesby & Jim Main
- The Argus
- AFL Tables
- Full Points Footy