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Essendon vs Fitzroy

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GF   Venue: M.C.G.   Date: Sat, 20-10-1923 2:50 pm   Crowd: 46,566  
Essendon C:  Syd Barker
Fitzroy C:  Vic Belcher
  FITZ by 1FITZ by 1ESS by 10ESS by 17  

Match Report

34510.AFL-Ess1923.JPG 13257.AFL-Fitz1923.JPG

After a long drawn out season the premiership of the Victorian Football League was decided on the Melbourne cricket ground, on Saturday, when Fitzroy were beaten by Essendon after a hard game by 17 points.

If the Melbourne cricket ground is easily affected by rain, it has correspondingly quick recuperative powers. One could hardly believe that a week before the arena had been practically under water, but the care and attention of the curator (A. Luttrell) and his ground staff had transformed it into a perfect playing space. There was little wind—just enough to favour the Richmond goal—and all the conditions were ideal.

There was a good crowd—by no means a record—and it was remarkable that the bulk of spectators were Essendon sympathisers. One looks to the balcony of the Melbourne Cricket Club pavilion as the last place from which unsportsmanlike cries should emanate, but I was surprised on Saturday to hear men, presumably members jeering at Fitzroy men, in fact insulting them for no apparent reason but that of partisanship.

Umpiring failures

Fitzroy's methods have been much criticized, but on Saturday there was little of which to complain and in the instances to which I refer absolutely no justification. And let me say here that on many occasions on Saturday when spectators blamed and the field umpire penalised Fitzroy players, there was no offence either of bad sportsmanship or breach of rules. While admitting that Mutch the field umpire had a difficult task one cannot help saying that on many occasions on Saturday he penalised a player for a perfectly fair and legitimate bump, and in this connection Fitzroy had decidedly the worse of it. Mutch is to be commended for his handling of the previous games, but he should discriminate between a fair stop and an unfair one. It is not always a free kick when a man falls.

Essendon’s altered tactics

23b58.BarkerSyd-Ess1924.jpgEssendon as leaders at the end of the first round had failed in their semi-final against South Melbourne and as they had lost both games against Fitzroy their prospects did not look rosy. In their first game Fitzroy won by 8-12 to 4-13, and in the return match Fitzroy kicked 10-18 to 8-9. In each game Essendon had shown themselves weak against the strong determination of their rivals. While they could beat any other team it seemed that their style was not capable of successfully opposing Fitzroy.

After very serious consideration they decided on alterations to their team. Three of the changes were to include Baring, Rawle, and Hardy, and there was strong criticism of the committee. When at the last moment Hunter was unable to play critics also questioned the wisdom of putting Jenkins in the team. Each man fully justified his inclusion. Baring's marking and kicking made him ideal in the position of full back, Hardy's pace and scouting on the half forward line kept the game open there, while Jenkins's strength, high marking and long kicking gave Essendon just what they wanted in that part of the field. Rawle was of great service to the side for he has had a deal of experience as a shepherder, and it was his attention to Collins that made that player much less valuable to Fitzroy than in previous games.

At the opening of the last term, Barker, having placed Rawle in the ruck went forward and to his surprise found Collins there instead of being in the pack. Barker at once altered the disposition of his forces and put Rawle on to Collins while he himself took on the ruck work. Rawle's work was of the solid rather than the brilliant order, and though he had to be spoken to by the umpires more than once he carried out his instructions "to spoil Collins" excellently. It was greatly due to him that the Fitzroy ruck failed. In the previous games Fitzroy's dash and force had swept Essendon aside and the general opinion was that their previous successes would be repeated. Essendon's watchword for this game however was "stand to them," and, when Essendon's big men had "stood" the bumping, their small men were too sharp and clever. Fitzroy did not seem to have the vim of their previous games, their field kicking was weak, and they tired before their opponents. It was not the same earnest, purposeful side we saw before, and on the day Essendon were clearly the masters.

The attendance

The attendance on Saturday was 46,566 and the gate receipts £1,911/9/2. It was a splendid attendance on the whole, for after a break of a week, with all the counter attractions a smaller crowd might easily have been expected. It was far short of last year's attendance when 50,054 people contributed £2 221/1/4. The total attendances at the semi-final and final games this year have been 213,462 people and the receipts have been £9,862/9/8. When all accounts have been paid, and the charity vote allocated, it is estimated that there will be a profit of about £4,900, so that the divided to each club should be between £540 and £550. The teams compared

Although Fitzroy were a fraction of a pound heavier and a fraction of an inch taller than their opponents, man for man, it was remarkable that Essendon had the heaviest (Norm Beckton, 15st.) and the lightest and shortest man, Charlie Hardy (8st, 9lb., and 5ft. 1in.); Fitzroy had the tallest (G. McCracken, 6ft. 3in.) Essendon had six players 6ft or over Fitzroy had four; Essendon had three players under 5ft. 6in., Fitzroy had one; Essendon had three men under 9st. 3lb., Fitzroy had none but each had six men weighing over 13st.

The free kicks

The following analysis of free kicks will be interesting. As in the previous game, Collins received more penalties than anyone else. The list of those who gained free kicks is: ESSENDON (37): Shorten, Maher, (5 each), Rawle, Watt, Barker (4 each), McCarthy, May, Harrison (3 each), Garden, Laing, Stockdale (2 each), and Fitzmaurice (1). FITZROY (28): Colllins (8), Atkinson (4), Dickens and Corrigan (3 each), Wigraft (2), Elliott, Rattray, Tarbottom, Jenkins, Parratt, McCracken, Freake, Fergie (1 each).

The play

Fitzroy had first use of a slight breeze which favoured the Richmond goal. Collins, McCracken and Fergie for Fitzroy, and Beckton, Rawle and Maher for Essendon were the first rucks. The bounce favoured Collins, who broke away, but Baring well out from goal, marked and Fitzmaurice, Shorten, and Garden got it to Beckton whose high punt only brought a point, the first in less than two minutes. McCarthy marked the kick in, but Wigraft checked that advance. A free kick to Rawle however, enabled him to pass out to Stockdale whose snap was true and amidst great cheering the flags went up for the crack forward's 67th goal. His comrades shook the new record holder by the hand and on went the game. It was very fast for no sooner had Donaldson turned a dash at one end than Molan was stopping one at the other.

The keenness was noticeable too, for when Atkinson swept back an Essendon charge with a legitimate shoulder, Essendon trainers roared at him. The practice of having trainers round the ground may be all right, but they certainly should not be allowed to interfere. The little men of Essendon, Watt, Shorten, Maher were going like racehorses, and little Watt knew to his sorrow that a Fitzroy fist is hard.

Fitzroy were not predominating in the ruck as was expected, Rawle though slow, being very busy. It was brilliant and hard, but singularly fair and the crowd roared. With quick ruck changes Essendon were holding their own, and it was a long while before Fitzroy scored, and then it was only a rushed point.

Before Essendon could beat them off McCracken had passed to Fergie. The rover's pass to Freake seemed to have failed, but Freake with great cleverness chipped in, and a quick snap brought the goal. A dash by Irwin preceded a snapped point by Stockdale, and then Tarbotton, with a run, gave Fitzroy relief. An undeserved free kick to Harrison for a trip when he really was the offender helped Essendon, and, as the ball came down, Stockdale shot it across to Jenkins. His shot was short, and McCarthy marking on his finger-tips, scored easily. Two free kicks in succession helped Fitzroy, but for once Freake failed. McCarthy was dominating the ruck at that stage, but quick work, Dickens to Carter, gave Fitzroy a chance. Carter kicked well, but only a point came. A great mark by Laing kept Fitzroy off for a moment, but Lattray, from a long way out, scored with a lovely flying shot. In a flash the Essendon reply came, Maher passing to Stockdale. It was a good pass, but Stockdale missed the mark. Then, recovering quickly, he snapped the ball through. The term was near its end, and Essendon were five points to the good, but just on the bell Freake took a splendid mark. As he placed the bell rang, and Essendon men crowded round to baulk him. Freake, however waited coolly till the umpire had cleared a space, and then, with a beautiful shot, scored, giving his side a hard-earned lead of a point, the board showing 3-3 to 3-2 in Fitzroy's favour.

Stirring second quarter

The second term opened with a grand mark by Molan, but two free kicks to Rawle, the second for a "jolt in the neck," gave Wigraft a chance to show his ability in defence, but for a while Essendon were bombarding the goal, but could score only three points. Then Collins, Cockram, and Bryant took it straight down the ground. A run by Laing checked, but did not stop, the attack, for Fergie passed to Freake, and the little man scored with a long snap. Corrigan was playing brilliantly in the centre for Fitzroy, but otherwise the maroon's centre line was being beaten. When Molan ran straight over Watt there was a roar, but little men must be prepared for the onrush of the heavy-weights. A clever pass by Barker out to Stockdale and back to the goal front gave McCarthy a chance, but he was too close in; and only a point resulted. Collins, working like a tiger, put Fitzroy in attack and it looked then as if Essendon might crumble.

Five free kicks in succession to Collins showed that his merit was earning the earnest attention of his opponents. It was also evident that Rawle's shepherding was worrying the Fitzroy champion. Essendon were working hard, but two behinds to Fitzroy, though only small reward, were useful. Then Essendon opened the game out and raced for goal, but again only points came. They might have made the game safe, but their shooting was hurried and astray. A dash by Corrigan failed through over-running and from the rebound Hardy passed to Jenkins, who scored with a nice drop kick and once more Essendon were five points to the good, but not for long, for Freake taking the pass from Carter, placed the ball and kicked a splendid goal, and again Fitzroy had their point. Hardy and Beckton tried to wipe it out before half-time, but the ubiquitous Collins was in the way and they went for the long rest with the board showing Fitzroy 5-5, Essendon 4-10.

Fitzroy worn down

Fitzroy were out after half time several minutes before Essendon, who had to be talked to for wasted opportunities. As soon as they began it looked as if the warning had fallen on deaf ears, for faulty passing nearly cost them dear. However, Shorten got the ball to the goal front where Jenkins was too crowded to have a shot, but McCarthy nipped in and running across goal tipped it through for fifth goal. When soon after Rawle snapped a behind, Essendon had a clear goal lead.

It became fierce for a while and McCarthy earned for himself a caution and a hooting for an attack on Atkinson. Fitzroy were handicapped by McCracken being lame, and it would have been better policy to have him right forward. Amusement was caused by Irwin shadowing Freake, who could not move without being watched. It was hard plugging, with but little result until after Jenkins had cleared the Fitzroy goal, the ball came out to Maher, who scored with a snap and gave Essendon a lead of two goals. They were wearing Fitzroy down, and the maroons were not able to beat them back as they had expected. Fitzroy, striving hard, were kicking badly, but it was only Baring's great work that beat one rush back. Fitzroy held on for the rest of the term, but could not make up their leeway, and at three quarter time the board showed Essendon 6-13, Fitzroy 5-9.


Essendon's final triumph

With 10 points to the good, Essendon dashed to increase then lead, but Stockdale lost a chance through impetuosity. The game was fast and brilliant, each side straining every effort. When Garden, Laing, Shorten and Stockdale got the ball to Maher it looked dangerous, but Atkinson close to goal, turned them back and from him Fergie tore down the centre, and, with a long low pass, found Carter. Though hampered and checked, he raced on and scored a nice goal, and with only six minutes gone Fitzroy had reduced the lead to five points. Then, striving mightily, Fitzroy went for a recovery, but Fitzmaurice and Laing were defending stoutly. Once Sherry dashed in from the wing, and his shot went so close that Carter could not get his foot to it to turn it in before it went behind.

With a quarter of an hour to play Fitzroy were only four points behind and, as they came on, they threw all their weight into it and in so doing ran counter to the views of the umpire. Both sides were making mistakes and Essendon were lucky in getting the benefit of free kicks which were at the least doubtful. Then Hardy, scouting well, passed across to Maher, who ran in and snapped the goal. Only 10 minutes were left, and Essendon had a 10 points' lead once more. Each side was still going strong, but it was plain Essendon would hold Fitzroy.

With only five minutes to go, Carter and Freake with a last despairing rush, got the ball to Parratt, but his hurried shot was turned by Baring, and Shorten, Watt, Hardy, Rawle and McCarthy raced it up the pavillion wing. A Fitzroy defender was penalised for throwing the ball, but only a behind resulted. There was still time for Fitzroy to pull the game out of the fire, but they were beaten, and with only the added time to go, little Shorten dashed round the ruck and scored the last goal, which made the game safe and won Essendon the premiership. When the bell rang there was loud cheering, and the crowd swept across the ground to congratulate the winners, while the more sedate sat and watched the board which read:—

Essendon, 8 goals, 15 behinds, 63 points. Fitzroy 6 goals 10 behinds, 46 points.

The goal-kickers: Essendon: Stockdale (2), McCarthy (2), Maher (2), Jenkins, and Shorten. Fitzroy: Freake (4), Rattray, Carter.

The best players

Essendon showed that when strength is met by strength the clever little man comes into his own, and so McCarthy, as the strong man of their ruck played his best game and did splendidly. Little Shorten's dash backed up the strength of the followers and was a delight. These two might be singled out in that ruck struggle but Barker, Rawle, and Beckton in the heavier work, and Maher in the delicate roving, were splendid. On one wing Watt was fine, on the other Garden was always dashing, though Sherry gave him a fine tussle. Harrison was the best of the backs with Fitzmaurice very sure, and Laing brilliant. Baring did well in goal. Stockdale, Jenkins, and Hardy were very good forward.

For Fitzroy, Collins did all that man could do, and when McCracken broke down he had to do more than his share. Bryant and Wigraft also did good ruck work, and Fergie and Carter divided the roving ably. There were not so many men at their top, but Tarbotton has never done better, and Atkinson was always busy, but Elliott was little seen, and Molan only occasionally. Freake was clever forward, but Parratt, Cockram, and Rattray were not at their best and in this line the side suffered.

The goal-kickers: Stockdale breaks record

f0971.StockdaleGreg-Ess1923a.JPGGreg Stockdale, the Essendon goalkicker, by scoring two goals on Saturday, broke the record for the number of goals kicked in a season. Until Saturday, Jim Freake (Fitzroy) and W. H. ‘Dick’ Lee (Collingwood) had the record, each having kicked 66 in 1916. When Stockdale, who had kicked 66 goals prior to Saturday, got his first goal for the day, he was loudly cheered. Freake, by kicking four goals, takes second place.

Celebrating the victory

It took the Essendon players a long while to reach their dressing room, a way having to be forced for them by a posse of police. When they did get into their room they had hardly room to dress, and there was a scene of great enthusiasm. Speeches were made by the president and other supporters, and then the president of the Fitzroy club (Mr. D. J. Chandler), the captain (Gordon Rattray), and the coach (Vic Belcher), came across to offer the congratulations of Fitzroy. When at length the room was cleared and the players were dressed there was still a crowd outside.

Subsequently the team was entertained at dinner at Carlyon's, and after a drive round the esplanade they went to Essendon. By good stage management they reached Puckle street, Moonee Ponds, just at the interval of the picture theatre. The team were uproariously received, and after driving up and down Puckle street half a dozen times they went to their headquarters at the Essendon Cricket-ground, where they had a smoke social.

Yesterday the team was taken for a motor drive to Lilydale, and a long list of festivities is being prepared in their honour. Mr. W. Crichton has invited a large party to a conversazione. The president (Mr. W. Raper) is arranging a dinner, and the local social clubs are also arranging entertainments.


Match report by Old Boy


Title: Essendon premiers: Stockdale’s goal-kicking record
Author: 'Old Boy'
Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, 1848-1957)
Date: Monday, 22 October 1923, p.16 (Article)

Match stats

Essendon Match Stats Career
# Player K M H D G B HO T FF FA Age Games G
5 Baring, Fred 0 32y 309d 149 92
1 Barker, Syd 0 35y 328d 45 19
3 Beckton, Norm 0 25y 169d 50 39
2 Donaldson, Clyde 0 29y 133d 94 28
6 Fitzmaurice, Tom 0 25y 105d 67 29
28 Garden, Jack 0 28y 231d 71 19
33 Hardy, Charlie 0 36y 202d 28 13
13 Harrison, Joe 0 20y 287d 9 1
18 Irwin, Vince 0 24y 258d 34 17
21 Jenkins, Tommy 1 21y 136d 38 63
15 Laing, Roy 0 30y 199d 110 3
24 Maher, Frank 2 28y 28d 45 41
14 May, Charlie 0 24y 245d 31 1
16 McCarthy, Justin 2 29y 28d 33 41
6 Rawle, George 0 33y 322d 1 0
30 Shorten, George 1 22y 215d 14 8
25 Stockdale, Greg 2 24y 82d 25 73
10 Watt, Rowley 0 25y 95d 30 11
  Rushed   15  
  Totals         8 15         27y 268d 874 498
Fitzroy Match Stats Career
# Player K M H D G B HO T FF FA Age Games G
17 Atkinson, Jim 0 27y 199d 76 0
23 Bryant, Les 0 27y 113d 16 15
11 Carter, Harold 1 23y 205d 38 34
11 Cockram, Norm 0 24y 54d 34 24
29 Collins, Goldie 0 22y 34d 34 4
27 Corrigan, Tommy 0 20y 238d 31 3
14 Dickens, Arthur 0 20y 123d 13 0
5 Elliott, Ernie 0 23y 290d 44 0
3 Fergie, Clive 0 27y 304d 53 31
9 Freake, Jim 4 34y 266d 166 424
4 Jenkin, Horrie 0 30y 248d 97 22
24 McCracken, Gordon 0 25y 212d 48 24
2 Molan, Stan 0 30y 24d 94 58
30 Parratt, Percy 0 36y 235d 195 202
7 Rattray, Gordon 1 25y 1d 81 59
18 Sherry, Clarrie 0 28y 138d 75 3
21 Tarbotton, Jim 0 24y 168d 18 0
10 Wigraft, Len 0 26y 265d 78 25
  Rushed   10  
  Totals         6 10         26y 233d 1191 928

Match highlights

Clarrie Sherry played his last game for Fitzroy (V/AFL, Premiership Season, GF)
Percy Parratt played his last game for Fitzroy (V/AFL, Premiership Season, GF)


* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.