By Percy Beames
Everything points to one of the best years on record for the Victorian Football League which today opens its 1951 season with a particularly even draw. Essendon, 1950 premiers, meets Melbourne in the game of the day, and the experienced Dons are favored to beat the Demons, who have included six new men.
Partisan interest has reached fever heat as the 12 clubs having finished with trainlng preliminaries, now stand fit and ready to go into action. Essendon is still a powerful combination despite injuries at training which have left gaps at centre half-forward and on the wing, and the loss through the retirement of Dick Reynolds. These losses are not llkely to prevent the Dons swinging into their confident stride while Melbourne, with six men new to League football, strives to find its feet.
For Melbourne to surprise Essendon I fancy that its new full forward, Smeaton, would have to be something of a sensation and that Rowse, at full back would have to blanket John Coleman. Odds weigh heavily against those eventualities. No club has a better full back than Brittingham, and, from the little I have seen ot him, Smeaton's style of play will be to the Essendon's full back's liking.
Unless Melbourne's half-forwards can break loose to deliver the ball with certainty to Smeaton's leads, the country champion will find Brittingham beside him in every move. Melbourne's new full-back, Bob Rowse, (steady, solid and dependable as he is, has a terrific responsibility to cope with Coleman, who is reported to be in better form than last season. It is not a happy thought for the Demons that Coleman usually "turns it on" against them.
Melbourne should be seen to its best advantage in the air and ruck, while Arnold, at centre half-back, may be a constant stumbling block to the Dons' direct approaches to Coleman. However, I think Melbourne's work will lack sufficient cohesion to provide any serious threat to Essendon.
The outstanding feature of the Essendon-Melbourne clash at Essendon on Saturday, was the sharp contrast in the forward work of the teams, with the Dons giving a lesson in how to exploit a spearhead. Melbourne made a spirited last-term bid, but Essendon, 48 points in front at the final change, held on to win by 10 points. Melbourne's full-forward hope, Bill Smeaton, was not given much chance to show his ability. His leads were mostly ignored, and he went for the ball attended by other forwards as well as the Essendon defenders.
At the other end, John Coleman was left plenty of room and generally given every opportunity to exploit his brilliance. Denis Cordner dominated the rucks for the Demons, but when he was off the ball the Dons took charge. Melbourne lost the chance of setting up a good lead with the wind in the second term by ignoring the attacking wing and wasting opportunities with inaccurate kicking. They kicked seven points before their only goal for the quarter was posted. The Dons' defence, with McDonald, Martini, McClure and Gardiner outstanding, stood firm. Short passing against the wind paid divi dends, and bottling-up play on the defensive wing held the score down.
Essendon reorganised its half-forward line in the next quarter. Jones was moved to the attacking flank and Gill took over the centre half-for ward position. The moves were eventually successful. After an initial burst of two goals by Melbourne, the Dons attacked accurately through Jones and the rovers—Tate, Hutchison and O'Halloran—to Coleman. Coleman kicked 5 goals 1 behind out of Essendon's total of 9.2 for the quarter.
Melbourne, but for bad kicking could have retrieved the game in the last term. With the half-back line almost impregnable, the Dons were held scoreless, while Melbourne doubled its score to add 5.8. Essendon, worried at its inability to pass the Demons half-back line, moved Coleman to centre half-forward, but still could not score.
|33||Allanson, Noel||0||25y 117d||55||0|
|19||Bigelow, Doug||0||22y 278d||49||17|
|23||Brittingham, Bill||0||27y 228d||135||180|
|10||Coleman, John||7||22y 149d||41||227|
|15||Dale, Alan||0||21y 158d||7||1|
|18||Gardiner, Les||0||28y 86d||119||0|
|34||Gill, John||0||19y 2d||1||0|
|7||Hutchison, Bill||0||27y 358d||170||293|
|24||Jones, Jack||2||26y 165d||107||107|
|14||Lambert, Chris||0||31y 40d||121||18|
|2||Law, Alby||0||21y 118d||1||0|
|1||Martini, Ray||0||20y 281d||5||0|
|12||May, Wally||0||24y 222d||62||1|
|31||McClure, Bob||0||25y 320d||89||17|
|25||McConnell, Roy||0||23y 243d||34||0|
|4||McDonald, Norm||0||25y 132d||78||0|
|11||McEwin, Ron||0||23y 110d||40||32|
|13||O'Halloran, Jack||1||21y 286d||4||1|
|26||Syme, Bob||0||26y 142d||63||37|
|16||Tate, Greg||3||25y 182d||53||65|
|10||Arnold, Lance||0||24y 350d||80||84|
|30||Beckwith, John||1||18y 217d||1||1|
|16||Bickford, George||0||24y 102d||94||12|
|4||Christie, Ken||0||23y 236d||1||0|
|3||Collins, Geoff||0||24y 254d||40||4|
|1||Cordner, Denis||0||26y 297d||41||46|
|9||Daly, Alan||0||21y 345d||1||0|
|32||Dockett, Len||1||31y 47d||93||44|
|7||Jackson, Eddie||0||26y 36d||52||5|
|14||Johnston, Bob||0||21y 235d||9||0|
|17||McGivern, Geoff||0||20y 115d||19||11|
|2||McKenzie, Bob||2||21y 123d||51||103|
|5||McLean, Ian||0||21y 237d||1||0|
|35||McMahen, Noel||0||24y 173d||66||24|
|18||Paynter, Nevin||0||20y 324d||2||0|
|27||Rowse, Bob||0||24y 225d||1||0|
|28||Smeaton, Bill||1||22y 131d||1||1|
|12||Spencer, Stuart||4||19y 77d||17||9|
|33||Thomson, Jack||1||22y 86d||17||18|
|37||Woods, Mike||0||24y 263d||32||0|