The death of Vic Cumberland
Vic Cumberland, probably the greatest ruckman that ever played Australian Rules football, died last week at St Kilda. He was only just a little over 50, and had been in ill-health for some time.
It was about 1898 that Cumberland, a tall thin stripling with a particularly firm grip and some pace, first came into the limelight. He developed quickly, and before long the names of Cumberland, Moodie, and McGinis—Melbourne's famous ruck, were in everybody's mouth. Many good judges still regard this as the best ruck that ever played the game. I am inclined to agree with them, though a little later Essendon had a famous combination—Baring, Belcher, and Cameron—which came very close to equalising it. Fitzoy about the same time had Milne, Walker, and Trotter—a trio which took a lot of beating. Cumberland, apart from being a class ruckman, was a footballer in any, position.
Held everything he touched
He was big—about 6ft 2 inch—and broad, and his movements gave the suggestion of being labored. At his best, however, he had a lot of dash, while his judgment was exceptionally good, and he could hold his own with anybody in the air. He had big, strong hands and anything he touched was his. He was not a particularly good kick, but had the saving grace of realising his limits in this respect, and made singularly few mistakes in passing or goal-kicking. At knocking out to the rover, he had few, if any, equals.
'Vic' Cumberland (his real name was Harry, though everybody called him Vic), did much to win Melbourne's first premiership in 1900. Later he went to S.A., and on returning, joined up with St. Kilda, for which club he also did much valuable work. Towards the end he became very slow, but he retained his wonderful judgment till he retired—well on the wrong side of 40.
Old crash recalled
Vic had a brother [Cecil] much bigger, heavier, broader than himself—about 16 stone and fully 6ft 5in in height. About that time, Paddy Hickey's famous dashes from the half-back line for Fitzroy were demoralising the opposition. Melbourne got the brother to train specially for the Fitzroy match and to put him half-forward to mind Hickey. The match took place on the Fitzroy ground, and old players still talk of the fearful crash when they first met. There was no wavering or going around for either. Straight into each other they went, and the crowd wondered if either would ever get up again. They did, and the crashes were repeated several times. They were a sore and bruised pair after the match. This was the big Cumberland's one and only game, but Paddy Hickey continued, and was the champion of that year—1899, I think it was.
Paddy Hickey is now a prosperous farmer at Werribee. Con, his brother, is secretary to the Australasian Football Council, and a magistrate under the Pensions Scheme.
The view from Adelaide
Footballers throughout South Australia will regret to learn of the death of Harry Vivian Cumberland, aged 50 years, in Melbourne. He was one of the finest ruckmen that the Australian game has known. His champion performances for Sturt are still fresh in the minds of thousands of supporters.
Cumberland, whose name was known throughout Australia for everything that stood for clean and fine football, died in Melbourne on July 15. He was buried in Melbourne. Although he was Tasmanian born [sic - born in Toorak, Melbourne, raised in Tasmania] Cumberland played for both South Australia and Victoria. In both States he stood head and shoulders over other ruckmen of his time.
Followers of the game in this State can still recall his great battles with Sturt. ‘Diver' Dunne and he made that club famous. Cumberland would on occasion ruck the whole four quarters of a game. He was a powerfully built man, a wonderful kick, and his marking ability was unquestioned. He was a capable exponent of the art of placekicking, and his mighty kicks are still discussed today among footballers.
He joined up with Sturt in 1909 after a visit to Broken Hill, and played for several seasons. He was one of the first men picked for the 1911 carnival team. The carnival was fought in South Australia that year, and in the opinion of critics the State side was the best that has ever represented South Australia. Cumberland on that occasion played magnificent football.
With Cumberland and Diver Dunne, ‘Pug’ Bannigan made up a ruck which in the opinion of some was the best that a South Australian club has had. Later B. Wickens was the rover with the two famous followers.
In 1914 Cumbnerland returned to Victoria and played for St. Kilda the following year. Then he enlisted and served at the war. On his return he settled in Victoria again. The former Sturt footballer was known as "Little" Cumberland in Melbourne on account of the size of his brother. He first played with St. Kilda, then with Melbourne, and later with St. Kilda again.
In that State he was recognised as one of the best followers of the game, and the ruck composed of Cumberland, Moodie, and McGinis was regarded as a most formidable combination. In Melbourne, as in South Australia, he was essentially a fair player, was a magnificent mark, had great stamina, and was always a rare battler. What enhanced his value as a footballer was the fact that he maintained his wonderful form year in and year out.
Mr. J. F. M. ‘Pug’ Bannigan, who is associated with the firm of Duncan and Fraser Limited, today recalled some of the early matches with Cumberland. He said that in his opinion the great follower was the most vigorous ruckman he had ever seen. He was fast, exceptionally powerful, and probably the strongest follower for a fast man that the game had ever known. Not only that, said Mr. Bannigan, but he was a fair footballer.
Cumberland was a man who was always healthy, and his disposition was naturally kindly. Cumberland was most popular with his club mates. He joined Sturt in 1909 and finished in 1914. During the whole of that time he was associated in ruck with Diver Dunne. He (Bannigan) had roved for three seasons to the famous pair. Cumberland received recognition of his great play by winning the Magarey medal during his stay in South Australia.
Tributes to a champion
At a meeting of the Football Veterans' Association held at "The News" Office last night expressions of heartfelt regret were heard on all sides. Mr. Tom Leahy moved that condolences be sent to relatives of deceased. "Cumberland was undoubtedly one of the finest players in the Australian game”, he said. "As an opposing ruckman I can only add that in addition to his outstanding brilliance this footballer was the essence of fairness. In endorsing these remarks Mr. Jack Tredrea said that he had heard with deepest regret of the passing of Cumberland, who was one of the best performers in the game. "Adelaide did not see him at his best as a footballer”, said Mr. R.Corell. "He was at the zenith of his powers when in Melbourne". Mr. S. McKee also paid a sterling tribute to the departed champion. "He possessed a magnificient physique." remarked the former South man. "I knew him personally and regarded him as the ideal footballer. He could not be faulted and was proficient in all departments. Cumberland who was 50 years of age was a tower of strength when the double blues possessed probably more champions than at any other time in their history.
[Editor's note: Various biographies of Cumberland note that he died in a motorcycle accident, although the two obituaries above make no mention of this.]
Title: Vic Cumberland’s death Author: ‘Old Fitzroy’ Publisher: Referee (Sydney, NSW: 1886-1939) Date: Wednesday, 27 July 1927, p.13 (Article) Link: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127910052
Title: Harry Cumberland dead Author: News Staff Writer Publisher: News (Adelaide, SA: 1923-1954) Date: Friday, 22 July 1927, Home edition p.4 (Article) Web: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129293984