At 2 o’clock on Saturday afternoon it was quite evident that the grand final in the Football league between Essendon and South Melbourne would draw a record crowd. The whole of the stands and the sitting space on the M.C.C. ground were then crowded, with an hour to wait.
Finally the attendance, as recorded by the turnstiles, reached 54,463 people, which is a record for any football match in Australia. In Sydney, I understand, 52,000 or over have watched a rugby game. The gate—£1,950 2/6—is the biggest ever taken for a football match in Victoria, though it has been surpassed by the Rugby internationals. Not despondent
Except that there was a strong north wind blowing, scarcely felt on the protected Melbourne arena, the conditions were perfect for football, and everyone looked for a fast and desperate match, with South Melbourne as probable winners. Essendon found it necessary to fill gaps in their team for their last match—not always an easy task because then reserves have long since strayed elsewhere. They had to put in Martin and Griffith, who have not played much this year, and South Melbourne having with the exception of the injured Grimshaw, probably their best side in the field, were very sanguine as to the result.
The Essendon fellows have stoutly maintained all through the year that if it came to a struggle between them and the South on the Melbourne Cricket-ground, with its wide spaces, they would win, and they have justified that boast twice within a few weeks. There was practically no advantage to be gained from the wind, goals being got in about equal numbers at both ends.
In opening the game, Milne, Charge, and Ricketts formed a Southern ruck, as opposed to Belcher and Baring with Ogden in place of the injured Cameron, whose absence from the final everybody deplored. South Melbourne looked altogether a bigger and more athletic side than their opponents, and some of that effect was probably due to the uniforms. As soon as they started, the South fibbed the ball up by degrees right to the Essendon back line, where Hanley stopped them, and Sewart took it away. Bowe checked another rush on the half-back line; then Essendon shone in one of their wing dashes, Chalmers by neat play passing it on to Armstrong who, with a hurried shot, just missed the goal. Within a few seconds Shea had a try, with no better success.
The game was already fast, but, as it always is in the finals, not too skilful. The players were very much in earnest, and dominated always by the one desire to force it anyhow to the enemy's end. With the cool passing which ever distinguishes him, Ricketts, the South Melbourne captain, passed on the ball to Mortimer, but he could only get it out of bounds. In the next instant it was back in South Melbourne's ground, and Thomas, their dashing back, was streaming away with it. Ogden, the little Essendon rover, was then conspicuous in a splendid rush and should, I think have had a free kick within range, but the umpire missed it. South in their turn attacked gallantly, Carpenter, Milne, and Rusich all helping it on. After a check for a moment, Charge took a splendid high mark, and skimmed it to Carpenter. The attack looked dangerous, but Griffith finally marked the ball right in his own goal. Again Ricketts and Caldwell brought it in, but the ever reliable Bowe was in the way.
South seemed to be coming on. Charge and Mortimer got it to Franks, who had an easy chance, but made a rather bad miss. Rusich got a free kick then at a difficult angle, but he was equal to it, and the Southern yell told first goal for the red and white. Essendon's reply was only a matter of seconds. White took a beautiful mark, rushed it on, and in the scramble about the southern goal Caine kicked it through.
Then Essendon began to play. Ogden passed to Baring, who took a fine highmark, but Saltau of the South, was in the way. The red and black were doing exceedingly well, though the red and white uniforms seemed at times to be very thick. Essendon's pace was already superior, and Walsh's best efforts on the back lines were required to keep them off. In their next attack, Kirby passed to Armstrong, who took a running shot and missed. A little mistake by Bowe gave South Melbourne an opportunity which they seized quickly, Ricketts and Rusich were bombarding goal instantly, but again Griffiths marked right at his posts. South Melbourne's good work was being done in the back lines, because they were being kept pretty constantly on the defence. In one of their rushes Thomas opened up from that point, and passed on to Mullaly. He in turn gave it to Rusich, then to Franks, who hung on just a little too long and was free-kicked. The two little fellows, Chalmers and Prince, interested the crowd very much by their clever dodging play. At first the Essendon man had the better of it, but later Prince quite got back his own.
The game was beginning to be fast and open, Belcher and White shining out for Essendon. Again Ricketts passed the ball with such absolute accuracy to Mortimer that one would have thought he had a string tied to it, but the forward was kept too far out to be very dangerous. In the opposition dash, Belcher, Chalmers, and Ogden stood out for Essendon. Then came a characteristic South Melbourne rally, in which the ball for a time was wholly in possession of Scobie, Charge, Ricketts, and Mortimer. Belcher, of the South, marked close up to goal, hurried his shot, and hit the goal-post. Within a minute, Carpenter also missed, but his was on an angle. Caldwell was playing very cool, fast football on one of the South wings, and Saltau doing very reliable work for them back. Next Charge passed it to Franks, who took a fine high mark followed it with a tremendous drop kick, and missed. It was noticeable that little Ogden was playing at his finest in order to fill Cameron's place.
Another of the cool Ricketts-Mortimer passes, but no particular gain to South Melbourne. It looked as though the game was swinging in South Melbourne's favour, but Essendon lifted the siege through Bowe, Baring, and Caine, the result being a shot to Kirby which hit the goal-post. Just on time Armstrong had a try, but the ball was touched by the man at his mark, and on changing ends Essendon led by a point.
There was much interest as to how their second ruck, composed of Hanley, Walker and Kirkwood as against Sloss, Belcher, and Rusich, would shape. It was soon evident that Essendon were playing at a high pressure, forcing on the pace, and unquestionably showing themselves a faster team than South Melbourne. For a time the play was even and general, one rush answering another. Kirby got a try for Essendon, but was a long way out. Thomas eased the strain on South Melbourne's goal for an instant, but very soon Sewart had it back to Baring, who marked within range, but made a bad shot. It looked as though Essendon, the superior side, were imperiling their chances by bad shooting. Everything they did was exciting and good, except their tries for goal. Belcher gave Walker a chance, but he, too, missed an easy one. Saltau and Milne gave the South momentary relief, but Essendon were soon back at their goal. Kirkwood had a hurried shot, but only added a point.
Then Baring marked the kick-off, had it back in the goal crush in an instant, and Armstrong with another hurried one, hit the goal-post a second time. Shea also contributed a point to Essendon's growing pile. Belcher, the Essendon captain, who had not played well in recent matches, realised apparently that something special was required from him, and he gave it ungrudgingly. The big fellow was in every crush always doing something useful for his side.
Their defence, too, was very sound. While the red and black in their attacks kept the ball close to the Southern posts for some time, the assaults of the other side were never maintained, it was a dash in and quickly out again. In their next effort of the kind, Sloss, Carpenter and Ricketts were prominent, but the captain's try went out of bounds. Essendon came with a splendid wing rush, Hanley and Sewart passing it on quickly to Shea whose angly try was a failure.
Essendon faces were looking serious; they were working tremendously hard, getting only points where goals were earned and possibly playing themselves out. With the next attack there was a change. Ogden had a very difficult try from the wing, but with it scored second goal for Essendon. They kept up the strain, Kirkwood and Shea giving Armstrong a chance which, figuratively went miles wide. Then Chalmers again passed to Shea who got a bit closer. The South Melbourne, in their turn, were getting home when Belcher blocked them.
Essendon's third goal was very cleverly got. Walker, Martin, and Shea carried it to Kirby, whose snap was successful. South answered with a rush, and a behind, and just on time Milne forced it home, and Franks kicked their second goal. Essendon had a lead of 11 points at half-time. All expectations as to the game were being overturned by the amazing dash and cleverness of the red and black, and already nine-tenths of the people on the ground realised that it was only a question of lasting out in order to win.
After the rest South Melbourne were prominent. Milne and Prince both made fine dashes which ended in nothing. Then Mortimer and Milne worked the ball up to Carpenter, who had a hurried shot, and missed. Griffith's kicking-in was very fine. Baring took one of them high in the air, passed it on to Kirkwood and Caine, but Charge marked right up at the Southern posts. Again Caine, who was proving himself a very useful man in this emergency, had the ball up to the Southern end, and this time Saltau stopped it. Sloss began to show up amongst the red and white men, and one of his smart dashes got very close to goal. Then Rusich gave Caldwell a try. It was a long shot, and failed to cover the ground. Essendon, working as usual up the wing, got up to long range and Caine's shot at a difficult angle went very close.
At that stage Sloss was one of the few men in red and white colours who did all that was expected of him. On the other side, Sewart and Martin played out to Armstrong, whose luck as a forward was all out, for again he missed. Mortimer got a free kick, and the South watched anxiously, but his direction was altogether bad. Scobie, getting desperate, made a couple of splendid rushes, and he too, was one of the few factors of strength in the Southern ranks. Essendon were still playing the better game—a winning game always. In spite of the good efforts by Caldwell on the wing and Saltau back, Essendon had another fine chance, but Shea and Armstrong soared for the ball together and spoiled it. Still they were attacking. Bowe, Belcher, Armstrong, and Martin gave an exhibition of quick and brilliant passing, but Martin's shot was, as usual, faulty. Sloss, taking it up, found O'Brien in the way. Then Kirby had an opening for Essendon with an almost clear goal and again missed it.
Fourteen times Essendon had from reasonably good tries only got as many separate points. That was the bad feature—and the only bad one—in their work. Right up to the end of the quarter it was all Essendon's game. Once Shea got it fairly between the posts, but he had held the ball a little too long, and the umpire's whistle just anticipated the goal. But it was corrected in an instant. Bowe passed on to Shea, he on to Walker, and fourth goal was scored. At the end of the third quarter Essendon, leading by 20 points, had crossed the goal line 18 times, to their opponents' eight, yet had only the bulk of 38 points to show for it.
There was still a chance for South Melbourne to win, and commencing the final rally, it seemed as though they might win. Essendon, who had hitherto found a dashing attack to be their finest defence, strengthened their goal, and played rather to save what they had got than add to it, while South Melbourne, realising that everything must be risked for goals, weakened their defence, and threw the whole weight into their attack. Prince opened with some very clever play on the wing, but the Essendon captain checked it, passed it on to Shea, who had it quickly up to Martin; but his was only another behind. Rusich, who was suffering from an injured knee, and almost a cripple, kicked the ball up to Casey, who scored third goal for the South.
At that time they had opened out a bit; the Southerners were passing to each other more coolly and accurately than at any other stage of the match, and it looked as though the turning point had really been reached. Essendon followers had certainly some anxious moments. Mortimer, at times outside the ruck, and then forward as the ball went on, was very prominent for the red and white. In their anxiety Essendon gave rather too many free kicks. They were very anxious to get to the wings, not so much in order to waste time, as because that has proved to be all through the season their best line of approach. Shea was free kicked for sending it out of bounds, however, then McLeod had to do his best for them because every time they tried by the right wing little Prince stopped it for the South and rushed it back again. A pass from Ricketts to Mortimer got very close, but not quite there, and then one of the finest efforts of the day ended in a brilliant goal for Essendon.
South had weakened their defences, and Belcher started a move for Essendon in that direction. Baring got the ball from Martin about the centre line, streamed away with his long strides which never suggest pace, but cover the ground amazingly fast. He found two Southern backs ahead of him, each hesitating as to whether he should come out or stay at home. Both of them finally came out, Baring dodged them in turn, ran into goal, and scored fifth for Essendon, an effort which simply made 50,000 people roar with applause. That was really the finishing point of the match. Essendon were still playing too well to give their opponents any chance of overtaking them. Franks made a desperate rush from the centre, which for merit stood second only to that by Baring, but nothing came to the South through his fine effort. Then Prince, Saltau and Charge worked up to goal, where Hanley stopped them.
There is no need to follow the game to a finish. South Melbourne never had a chance. They played it out desperately and hard, and for just a few seconds, when Belcher scored their fourth goal, there was a gleam of hope. It died away in an instant, for Essendon were at tackling gamely. At the pace they had lasted out in a wonderful way, and they added two more points to their score before the last bell rang.
In all the circumstances, Essendon has never won a better pennant than that which rewards their splendid efforts of Saturday afternoon. They took the field with a feeling that their luck was out that at the critical moment. Fate was a bit unkind in depriving them of champions. But there was never a suggestion of hopelessness in their football. On the contrary they played like men who were always sure of themselves, who had no doubts whatever as to the end. Ever since their last match with Fitzroy they have been a new side— nothing could be finer, more dashing, than their last four victories. The impression one got was that Essendon were a team who had survived that period of staleness which so often comes to a highly-trained band of athletes, while South Melbourne possibly had just reached it.
Their only failure on Saturday was about goal; but at the supreme hour both sides were at fault. With a McNamara at that end Essendon would have been a champion side, for on Saturday there wwas hardly a weak man in their ranks. They were always faster than the South, their passing was better; they beat their rivals both in the crush and in the open. It was, without doubt, a popular victory—two thirds of the crowd were cheering Essendon enthusiastically. Some of the "hill tribes" excused, others forgave a failure—but a mean-souled minority vilely slandered men whom they had praised all the season.
Amongst winning players Belcher set his team a grand example. The amount of sheer effort he put into the game was amazing, and it proved infectious and inspiring. With him and close to him all through in merit were Baring, Ogden, Bowe, Hanley, and Walker—for Hanley, like Belcher, came to something like his best where it was most wanted. The forwards—Kirby, Armstrong, and Shea—did everything but get goals. Chalmers was as brisk as a bee—in short, distinctions, as far as Essendon were concerned, are just a splitting of straws, for not a man in their colours but had a material share in winning this splendid victory.
Turning to the South, however, you have to search a bit for their heroes. Thomas was probably their best man. Scobie and Sloss came later than usual, but were then very attractive. Next to Thomas no pair did better than Prince and Caldwell. Mortimer was off his shooting, but otherwise played a lot of cute brainy football. Franks, Charge, Saltau, Milne, and Ricketts were all useful, but stopped something short of the brilliant stage.
Elder’s umpiring was better than in the previous game—a touch of bitterness had to be repressed at times; his hold on the game was always firm. He missed things of course which onlookers better placed at the moment had a chance to see, but one thing seldom considered is, that most of the crowd look down, with nothing to block their vision; the umpire may have a dozen players shutting out his view of some vital incident.
The Essendon dressing room was a scene of great excitement. A month ago no one gave them a chance; since then they have given no one else a chance! The representatives of South Melbourne came in, and congratulated the winners, and then the Essendon fellows dined with their president (Alderman Crichton) at Hooker's Cafe.
During the final quarter Kirkwood received a nasty knock, and instead of joining in the festivities, he went in an ambulance to Miss Garlick's private hospital, where Dr. Julian Smith found him severely bruised, but he will probably be out and about in a few days. In another room in the hospital, Ernie Cameron, Essendon's rover, was holding a levee of those who wished to tell him all about the game, until the hospital authorities had to refuse to admit any more visitors. Cameron had sent a letter to Alan Belcher, the Essendon captain, earlier in the day, in which he said that all that he wanted was for the team to win, and he asked them to oblige him. His letter was received with great cheering, and so was the appearance of F. O'Shea, who came into the dressing-room on crutches.
The testimonial for E. Cameron is growing largely. The rest of the Essendon team have subscribed £25, the committee has given 25 guineas, a member has collected £25, and they expect at least £100 in the boxes which were handed round in the crowd on Saturday.
Title: The Grand Final: 54,000 excited onlookers: Essendon's great victory Author: Observer Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria: 1848-1957) Date: Monday, 30 September 1912, p.6 (Article Illustrated) Web: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10489976
|2||Armstrong, Lou||0||27y 233d||88||102|
|5||Baring, Fred||1||21y 288d||49||32|
|1||Belcher, Alan||0||27y 301d||122||25|
|4||Bowe, Len||0||26y 337d||105||2|
|27||Caine, Frank||1||31y 62d||92||164|
|7||Chalmers, Wally||0||22y 12d||35||3|
|29||Griffith, Billy||0||31y 277d||183||13|
|10||Hanley, Dan||0||29y 134d||32||5|
|11||Kirby, Jack||1||23y 89d||31||53|
|9||Kirkwood, Fred||0||22y 59d||35||10|
|12||Martin, Jim||0||28y 39d||95||70|
|14||McLeod, George||0||33y 37d||63||6|
|25||O'Brien, Jack||0||25y 3d||11||1|
|16||Ogden, Percy||1||26y 217d||60||34|
|17||Sewart, Bill||0||30y 321d||130||6|
|18||Shea, Paddy||0||26y 195d||100||127|
|20||Walker, Bill||1||26y 30d||34||27|
|19||White, Les||0||22y 19d||32||1|
|South Melbourne||Match Stats||Career|
|1||Belcher, Vic||1||24y 35d||116||51|
|4||Caldwell, Jim||0||24y 48d||64||5|
|6||Carpenter, Fred||0||20y 179d||43||54|
|5||Charge, Les||0||21y 63d||25||21|
|7||Deas, Bob||0||26y 11d||63||69|
|9||Franks, Bert||1||32y 201d||88||58|
|13||Milne, Herbert ' Boxer'||0||28y 233d||153||83|
|15||Mortimer, Len||0||26y 157d||129||263|
|14||Mullaly, Dick||0||20y 101d||17||1|
|17||Prince, Joe||0||26y 364d||51||4|
|1||Ricketts, Charlie||0||27y 87d||82||47|
|18||Rusich, Les||1||23y 142d||19||9|
|24||Saltau, Harry||0||21y 11d||16||0|
|19||Scobie, Jack||0||21y 6d||68||2|
|18||Sloss, Bruce||0||23y 251d||49||24|
|20||Thomas, Bill 'Sonna'||0||25y 323d||117||2|
|21||Walsh, Jack||0||20y 38d||29||0|
‡ Approximate age