1911 revisited: Round 7
Round 7, 5th June, 1911
Monday the 5th of June 1911 was the 46th birthday of King George V, necessitating the footballers of the Victorian Football League to drag their weary bones out of bed and play a second round of football games in the space of three days. It goes without saying that there was no AFLPA back in those days.
Though Melbourne was without a visit from King George, another king had perchance arrived in time for the holiday. ‘American March King’ John Phillip Sousa was in town with his band for a series of concerts and the marching band fraternity gathered in their hundreds at Spencer St station to greet him. Following the obligatory speeches, the massed ensemble marched through the centre of town to give locals a taste of military pomp with a Yankee flavour.
Sadly for Mr Sousa, Melbourne’s weather was no respecter of visitors or footballers: the day was the coldest of the year so far and heavy rain fell most of the morning. Combined with the short break between games, conditions seemed tailor-made for some upsets.
The feature match of the round saw second placed Fitzroy host fifth placed South Melbourne in front of a hardy holiday crowd of 18,000. The Bloods had slipped down the ladder after successive narrow losses.
It transpired that three days was a long time in football, as the Fitzroy ‘Phoenix’ of Saturday crashed heavily into the Brunswick St mud on Monday. South kicked into the wind but led at quarter time, and thereafter the game became a procession as the visitors overwhelmed their opponents to win by 48 points.
This abrupt turnaround in form was largely due to two very divergent characters in South colours.
Bruce Moses Farquhar Sloss (left) was then playing only the 19th game of a career that would eventually see The Encyclopedia of VFL/AFL Footballers dub him the ‘James Hird of his era’. At 181cm and 76kg, he dominated as a follower (what later became known as ruck-rover) this afternoon and many others. Born in East Malvern, he failed to make a mark in an early try with Essendon, before starring in the VFA with Brighton. Once South managed to get him a clearance he never looked back.
Combining matinee idol looks, sound education and natural leadership qualities with his playing ability, Sloss became one of the stars of the league. Famously he almost singlehandedly sparked a South comeback in the 1914 Grand Final which only just failed to snatch victory from Carlton. That would be his last league game. A prized catch for the army, he’d already enlisted and was to die on the fields of France, aged just 28.
Dominating Fitzroy alongside Sloss was Richard ‘Dick’ Casey (right), a Brunswick born Blood of very different nature and inclination. Casey was a jockey-sized 168cm and 58kg, but known as a "smart, combative and aggressive footballer" prone to provoking both opposition and press. In 1910 he had indirectly caused enormous controversy after a round six game. Reported for striking and charging, Casey was suspended for the rest of the season. South’s champion follower Bert Franks had attended the tribunal meeting and was inflamed upon hearing the verdict. He vented his feelings towards umpire Lardie Tulloch (an ex-Magpie player) and found himself suspended ‘during the pleasure of the league’. He did not play again until 1912. The loss of both players was a big factor in South’s loss to Collingwood in the 1910 preliminary final.
Casey was on his best behaviour this afternoon and along with Sloss - and five goals from Len Mortimer (at left in his Williamstown days) - was too much for an overwhelmed Fitzroy. Jack Furness kicked two of the Maroons' three goals and ‘Tunner’ Reardon was again their best.
A large Carlton contingent accompanied the team by steamer and rail to Corio, where the Blues took on the Pivotonians. "Constant rain in the forenoon" was followed by heavy rain after first bounce. Just to cap it off, 10 minutes of fierce hail followed later.
Given the conditions, it was little surprise Vin Gardiner missed with his first two place-kick attempts for Carlton. He found his range, but his three goals were only enough to see the visitors up by a goal at half time.
At the break Geelong, who had faltered in the third term the previous week against Essendon, were "enjoined to go all they were worth on resuming". They did, producing a third term that saw them 18 points clear at the final change; too much to be overhauled in the rain.
Dick Grigg "followed up his sterling performance on Saturday by another fine exhibition fair and good". Alec Eason kicked three goals, George Heinz again roved effectively, Harry Marsham rucked well, and Billy Orchard also starred. For the Blues, their smaller brigade of Viv Valentine, Gardiner, and Roy Johnson were best.
University travelled to a very muddy Victoria Park to battle the Magpies in front of a "moderate" crowd - atypical of Victoria Park, some might say. Collingwood proceeded to kick 2.10 in the first term. The Students managed goals with their first two shots and hung in until half time. After the break Collingwood broke away and the final quarter became ‘willing’, with University ‘contributing their share of the willingness’. Class war by other means?
Willing or not, the Pies won comfortably by 26 points, with Jims Sadler (left) and Sharp dominant across half back, McHale controlling the centre and Paddy Rowan filling in well in the ruck for the missing George Angus. Baxter, Gilchrist, Ryan and Wilson all kicked a brace. For University, the defenders ‘had the largest share of work to do’ - notably Jack Gray, George Elliot and Ted Cordner. Ken McLeod "bore and gave his share of most of the trouble" in kicking 2 goals, whilst followers Brake and Greenham "did most of the football".
Melbourne and Richmond enjoyed better conditions at the MCG, and 8,130 spectators saw a free-flowing and even battle for three quarters, before the Tigers continued their revival by outlasting the Fuchsias in the final term. Their followers showed "great stamina" in "having the better of the finishing struggle" - notably Barney Herbert, Syd Reeves and Bill Mahoney. New skipper Len Incigneri again shone. Fuchsias Vin Coutie and Wally Naismith both played well in their respective 150th games.
Essendon hosted St Kilda at East Melbourne and scored the first 20 points before the visitors "inspired the scorer to an effort on their behalf". After that the ground surface cut up and the Saints improved. Premonitions of Moorabbin ‘local showers', perhaps? For all their improved effort, the Saints couldn’t reflect their work on the scoreboard, whilst the well-drilled Essendon outfit proved more adept at ‘opening up their forward precinct’.
For the Same Olds, the Armstrong brothers were at it yet again, Lou (right) kicking three goals, Bert two. Paddy Shea also contributed three, whilst Ernie Cameron, Wally Chalmers and Fred Baring were "conspicuous". For the Saints, the familiar names of Harry Lever, Bert Pierce and Artie Thomas fought the good fight, assisted by Gordon Dangerfield and Tom Baird.
Fitzroy’s loss saw them slip from second to fifth on the ladder, with South climbing to third and Collingwood to second.
Round 7, 1911 results
Round 7, 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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- Encyclopedia of AFL/VFL Footballers: Russell Holmesby & Jim Main