Football captains: Studies in styles
Today the football season opens, and tried and untried captains will take the field at the hand of their teams. The captains are selected by the players, and although it sometimes happens that the choice lies with the good-natured, sociable champion, with little capacity for leadership, it more frequently happens that the teams show good judgment in selecting for there commanders men who know how to act and to act promptly in an emergency, and can think calmly while playing a dashing game.
A good football captain should first of all command the respect of his men. His conduct must therefore be manly on and off the field, and he must live cleanly. He must be a sterling player. He must not only be able to tell his men what to do, but be must be able to do it himself. He must be quick-brained and keen and observant. He must see the weakness of his own side, and the strength of the enemy, and he must note these feature at once, and take action accordingly.
The captain has not the keen-witted coach whispering in his ear in the midst of a hard-fought quarter when the enemy is piling up points. He must think for himself and plan some move in an instant. And if he changes the positions of his men he should be careful not to give offence to his followers, for even sturdy, "bullocking" footballers can be as sensitive as artists. He must persuade his men that he in making the changes because they are playing so well that he wants to take full advantage of their splendid efforts. He must not cry aloud and gesticulate wildly, but he must give his orders coolly, without any fuss, and save the situation with so little demonstration that his leadership is unnoticed save by the most observant critics in the crowd.
It is somewhat unfortunate that in the fast game as played now days captains can seldom he veterans. They are mostly young men, well under thirty years of age. Then judgment is scarcely matured when the speed of the game necessitates their retiring, and instead of players they becomes onlookers, with an everlasting regret as they view a match that ripened experience is so seldom in accord with pace and vigour and vim. But they are a fine lot of fellows who have been appointed to lead the league teams this season and although they may not all win laurels as leaders, there is no doubt that they have already proved themselves fine manly footballers.
Allan Belcher, Essendon
Allan Belcher, who will lead Essendon, the premiers of last season, is a native of New Norfolk. Tasmania. His age is 27 years, his height 5 ft. 10 1/2 in., and his weight 13st. 3lb. He was captain of the team in the season 1910, but finding that the duties of leadership interfered with his play he stood down for Dave Smith, who has gone to England with the Australian Eleven. In Smith's absence Belcher has once more taken up the captaincy.
He is a strong player - that is the aptest description one can give of Belcher. He is splendid follower and a sterling back man. He was the best follower playing for the league last season. He shared the first ruck with Baring and Cameron (the rover), and they were a very fine trio. As an illustration of strenuous work, Belcher, with his bare arms outstretched for the ball and his face eager and determined, could not he excelled. So great is his desire for freedom for his strong arms that he objects to wear sleeves on a wet day, when, in order to handle the sodden ball, most players prefer to use mittens as well as sleeves. He is a man who puts his weight into his work - not unfairly, but solidly and determinedly - and he has a lot of spring, which gives him buoyancy and dash. Weight and spaced are the great factors on the football field, and when a man has these qualities, and is as strong as Belcher, he is indeed a champion.
Charlie Ricketts, South Melbourne
A very brainy player is Charles Ricketts, who is at head of the South Melbourne team. He is 36 years of age is 5ft 8 in. high, and weighs 10st. 10lb. He is a native of Geelong where he first came into prominence as a footballer in the Geelong West, a junior team. In 1904 he came to Melbourne and joined Richmond which was not then in the league, but in 1906 he was transferred to South Melbourne. He was captain of the South Melbourne team which won the premiership in 1909. As a rover or in a place he never appears to bustle himself. He never runs a yard more than is necessary, and he does not wear himself out in useless pursuit of the ball. He always picks the vacant spots, and always kicks to players who pick the vacant spot. He is very fast. He is an adept at the stab kick and maintains his stride with each kick, so that he loses no ground; and he is very clever at passing the ball. He instinctively knows where the right man will be, so accurate is his judgment. He is very quite in his demeanour. He does not shout instructions to his men. Ricketts with a smile always hovering over his face, will give his brother captains many difficult points to ponder over this season.
Jack Wells, Carlton
John Wells, captain of Carlton, is over 13st. in weight, and he is a man of fine build. He used to play in the centre once, but nowdays he does his best work for Carlton in the ruck. He is a very powerful fellow, a good honest player, a very handy man on any side-one who can battle hard all day and keep his temper. He may not be very fast, but there is no doubt about his utility in the ruck. He is also a capital mark, and at place-kicking he is excellent That he is well liked by his fellow players is proved by their action in appointing him captain on Thursday night.
Jock McHale, Collingwood
James McHale, who will lead Collingwood, has played in the centre for years, and he is as good a centre-man as there is playing today. He is a very fine mark, and when he gets the ball he always kicks it into the danger zone -for the enemy- well forward where the crack goal-kickers are waiting. He can twist and turn, big man as he is, like a hare. All centre men must be able to turn with the suddenness of lightning flashes. In their position in the field they turn as on a pivot-face to the ball all the time and then one desperate effort, a whirl and a vigorous kick, and the ball has gone forward, straight, when the centre man is McHale, towards a tall, restless forward - Dick Lee. McHale never wastes a kick.
If he has one fault, it is that of punting the ball high, instead of sending it forward with the swift, low ensure flight which follows the skilful drop kick; but although the ball soars high from the punt, it invariably lands in a good position, and with such a smart forward as Lee about, the disadvantage of the punt are penalised. A fine man is McHale…[illegible text]…and cool and always aware of what he is doing. He should make a fine skipper.
Jack Cooper, Fitzroy
John Cooper was Fitzroy's champion last year, and now he is their captain. He may be both before the season is over. It would be difficult to select a back man to beat him, although he is rather on the small side. He makes up for his luck of inches with tenacity and pluck. He sticks to his man all day with a stubbornness commendable to fighter or footballer. He has great dash - the quality of being able to get to the ball in the lead, which all true back men must have- and he can handle the ball when he reaches it. Handling a football when running is a fine art. The finished player nowadays does not grab the ball from the ground with both hands when he reaches it. He scoops it up, as it were, with one hand as he continues his run. Anybody can pick up a football when he has plenty of time to seize it, but the crack player must be able to pick up the ball without relaxing his speed. Cooper is an expert at handling the ball, but, above all, he is a battler.
Bill Eason, Geelong
William Eason, the captain of the Geelong team, has been playing with Geelong for twelve years, and he has practically grown up with the club, for he is 28 years of age. He is a half forward, and is a tricky player. That is, he uses his head, and metaphorically, throws dust in the eyes of his opponents. Accordingly, he requires watching. He is a very fine mark, and a very good kick - straight and long. He is caretaker of the Geelong ground and is well liked by all the players. He is an experienced skipper - this will be his third year at the head of Geelong, and he led the Victorian team in the carnival matches at Adelaide. He stands 5ft. 8in. high and turns the scales at 12st. 5lb.
Eason is also a keen cricketer, and in Geelong is regarded as one of the best. He plays with East Geelong, and has a reputation as a first-class bowler. Geelong enthusiasts consider that the cricket selectors do not give him the opportunity that he needs to develop into one of Victoria's best bowlers.
Alfred George, Melbourne
A fine stamp of a young man is Alfred George, who has been chosen by his comrades in the Melbourne team to lead them this season. He is 6ft. high and weighs 13st. 10lb., and. as he has pace and splendid stamina, he is just the type of player for the solid ruck work, which tests a man's strength and endurance more than anything else. He throws his body, as well as his heart and soul, into his work. He is a manly fellow, and very popular with his mates. To sum him up, he is like Belcher, a strong player, with any amount of vigour and determination. It is not easy to lead a team when following the ball as closely as George sticks to it, but in the change of rucks he will be able to keep a shrewd eye on his men from the half-back line.
Frederick Ohlsen, Richmond
A very willing, strong ruckman is Frederick Ohlsen, who is to command Richmond. He is one of the very best men in the team. He plays back or forward when he is not on the ball, and he is a handy man in any position. He is sturdy and reliable. He loves hard work, and there is no doubt that he has a good heart. He is 5ft 9in., high and weighs 12st. 7lb., a solid battler. Of him it may truly be said and it is the highest eulogy a follower can offer to a follower - "He gives and takes, and doesn't squeak."
George Morrissey, St. Kilda
George Morrissey, who is to captain St. Kilda, is a remarkably powerful player. He is 29 years of age 5ft. 8 1/2 high, and weighs 13st. 2lb. This will be his fifth season with St. Kilda. Some people may think that Morrissey is a little on the slow side, but he has extraordinary strength, and he uses it to great advantage. He can take the ball while standing in a crush, from taller men who are jumping in the air. His judgment has a lot to do with his success in marking, but he is also assisted by his broad shoulders, which seem to keep the leaping men behind him out the way. He is a very determined, game strong player, who makes full use of his weight, but is always fair.
George Ellott, University
The most dashing back man in the League is George Ellott, the University captain. The great feature of his play is his quickness in getting off the mark. He would beat a champion sprinter in a 15-yard spurt, so speedily does he start off. This is a great quality in a footballer. Sprinters of 100 yards are all very well, but champions at 15 yards or so are greater factors in the game. The only fault to be found with Elliott is that he is somewhat uncertain at times. Like other players, he has his off days, when he will sometimes over-run the ball, or not handle it as a finished player should, picking up cleanly and neatly without loss of speed. But fair and determined, and with plenty of go in him, Elliot is always worth watching. As a back man he is in a capital position to watch a game, and if his mind works as quickly as his legs he should prove a very capable leader.
"FOOTBALL CAPTAINS." The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) 27 Apr 1912: 7. Web. 8 Jul 2012 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11670910.