The Melbourne Cricket-ground was a fine sight at 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon when a crowd of 44,437 people waited for the first sight of two irregular lines of dark blue and maroon jackets stringing through the throng to reach the ground for the last League football match of the season. The competing teams were Carlton and Fitzroy.
How impossible it would have been to play such a game anywhere else, and give the same number of people—the greatest crowd that has ever been present at a football match in Victoria—a chance of seeing the game! It was good to look at the ground, and realise that what the Melbourne club are said to have done irregularly they have done surpassingly well. The new stand was open to members, and from its upper story gave a lofty birds-eye view of the play.
The pleasant afternoon and the huge pack of people were a surprise and a delight after the gloomy anticipations of the morning. The pressure upon the arena fence was so great at one point that finally the stout iron structure gave way, bent in, and part of the crowd spilled over it on to the turf and formed a ring inside the boundary. The jam between the scoring-box and the new pavilion was so great that some of the pack, envious of the coveted room inside, threatened to storm the barricade. A crow-bar was brought to brace it up against the assault and as it was hammered into position the crowd chimed in tune to the strokes of the hammer, suggesting the "Anvil Chorus" or "The Yeoman's Wedding" song.
Everything else but football was forgotten as soon as a sudden burst of cheers told that the players were coming out—that Carlton and Fitzroy were ready for the great game of the season. Although one hardly felt any breeze upon the ground—so well is it sheltered with its ring of tall buildings from all winds but the south easterly—the flags streaming over the old stand showed that it was a substantial aid to the side kicking that way. Fitzroy had it with them at the start.
The game commenced and was carried on to a constant humming of voices, which broke at intervals into sudden exclamatory shouts or rose and lengthened into a long roar. The players on both sides were flushed, eager, over-anxious; the discipline of places was shaken—the end men showed a disposition to come out, the flanks to press inward. There was no sign of flinching; players were indifferent for the time to personal considerations. Amongst the blue jackets, Jinks and Topping were the most conspicuous, and the little man scored Carlton's opening point.
It may have been that the dark Carlton jackets suggested solidity, but Fitzroy seemed over-weighted by their antagonists when Fontaine, Walker, or Sharp were not in the crush. Smith, of Fitzroy, marked and placed the ball for a long shot; next instant a dozen players went up in the air together, right in front of Carlton's goal and then down together a tangled heap of blue and red and white, squirming on the grass. One had to watch it closely to see the chopping, hipping, shouldering, all the little tricks, allowable and forbidden that make up the game of checkmate between two eager rucks.
The beginning of Fitzroy's bad luck in the game was Brosnan's hitting the goal post with a hurried shot out of a scramble. They seemed to have a natural bias towards the left goal post. Trotter hit the same post at the other end in the second quarter, and three times they were on the wrong side of it by about a foot. When the victors are praised these mischances, so depressing at the start of a big match, should not be overlooked.
After Clarke—the Sandow of the Carlton team— had stopped a Fitzroy rush, and Elliott surged his way through a crush, Carlton forwards got their chance. Caine put it within reach of Grace, who in his effort to mark came over the heads of his opponents like a diver. Then the scoring began in earnest. A lucky try by Marchbank in a scramble along the Fitzroy goal front gave Carlton their first goal; but in a minute Smith answered with one for Fitzroy.
Just at that stage Fitzroy were playing better football, and looked like rising to a great occasion. The onlookers, not realising the strength of the wind, saw more significance in their form than it really merited. The fatal fascination of the left goal-post alone prevented them getting a lead, Trotter, Brosnan, and Naismith all missing the goal by a trifle. Carlton's luck was in, and before the quarter ended Jinks and Topping both scored goals for them.
The second quarter gave the first clear indication of the end. Fitzroy had one shot—one only—then Carlton began to score in a way that made their part of the northern suburbs roar with ever-increasing ardour. Goal after goal from all spots and angles—so Grace, Topping, Hammond, then Grace again put on the points in bundles, until there were seven goals on the board, and the match seemed assured to Carlton. After each goal a brown homing pigeon rose out of the crowd to carry the news to— whom? Not Carlton, for all Carlton seemed to be at the match.
When they went in at half time-Carlton flushed with assurance of victory, buoyant in every action; Fitzroy slowly, dejectedly, like men who knew their Waterloo had come—half the ground was tossing its arms and cheering. The elm trees, still bare of leaf, had burst into a sudden bearing of humanity; each carried its load of boys, under whose impulses the branches swayed. The only drawback was that the Carlton boy on one branch could not with any vigour drive home his convictions to the Fitzroy boy on the branch next above him. A sense of insecurity kept them both quiet. There was a feeling of sympathy with Fitzroy just then—they had played so well and got so little for it.
The crisis of the game came in the third quarter. Fitzroy rose to the emergency splendidly, and when Brosnan got the second point they had scored since the opening quarter things, which looked so gloomy, took a sudden turn for the better. Trotter, Walker, Brosnan, Millis, and Sheehan scored goals for them in fairly regular succession, and with each goal the Fitzroy yell rose louder and sharper. The whole crowd were carried away by the excitement of these minutes, when Fitzroy seemed to be coming to their own again.
Carlton had not been quite idle, for Caine, with two of those tremendous punt kicks which carry so far on the wind, had brought their score to nine. Still there was great hope for Fitzroy, for in the last 10 minutes of the quarter Carlton were undoubtedly a bit rattled. Victory seemed to be slipping away from them; they had lost their firm grip of the game; their anxiety was evident in their uncertainty about their places in the impulse to run here and there to check this impending danger. And the game grew rougher then than at any other stage. Light men were thrown about without apology; the rucks crashed into each other with ever increasing force; elbows were used freely and fists occasionally.
On the Carlton back line, Hammond was playing with desperate energy, downing everyone who came in his way. He seemed to be over-anxious and reckless rather than intentionally rough, but from his play others took their cue. Payne, in the same quarter, was playing with equal vigour and more effect. At starting the quarter Fitzroy were 33 points behind; they had reduced it to 14 before the finish, although Carlton's luck was still holding, for with two shots they scored two goals.
The sense of growing disappointment when Carlton took so strong a lead had changed again to keenest anticipation. Anything might happen. Those whose sympathy was with Carlton only because the old club had been so long out of premierships were asking each other, "Will the Fitzroy-Collingwood charm never be broken? Are Fitzroy going to win again?" And the attitude of the players had changed. It was the Carlton men who were quiet just then; Fitzroy, alert and hopeful. "If they had only done this in the first quarter," their followers remarked regretfully. The crowd were not kept too long in suspense.
Fitzroy's plan was to take all the risks in the effort to force it. They had nothing to gain by the safe game. So they gradually thinned out their defence lines and threw extra men forward to the attack, until the sturdy Moriarty was alone on the goal-front, with Walker, playing splendidly, the only other effective barrier between the goal and the centre line. It was the policy of desperation—all or nothing. Once Carlton had reached the half-back line they were almost certain to score. The end soon came.
The goals went up to Carlton with convincing succession—their captain did not make the mistake of weakening his attack in response to Fitzroy's move. He had some of his best men, and, still keeping up their wonderful accuracy in shooting, they turned every try into a goal. They were got in succession by Caine, Elliott, Grace, Little, Elliott, and Beck—six goals for the quarter without a single behind intervening, and so with a convincing crown upon a convincing game, Carlton, by merit as well as good fortune, won the League premiership for the year. How long will it be before some club south of the ridge wins the same distinction?
Immediately the bell rang an impulsive, excited torrent of Carlton men poured over the fence; their tired heroes were picked up and carried home; and blue and white flags appeared everywhere like magic, and were waved in frantic joy. Let it not be whispered for a minute that Carlton won by any other right than strength and skill, which combined make merit. They were the best team on the day, they have been the best team of the year; they took a lead in the beginning and were never headed. All this is in harmony with the hackneyed sentiment, "May the best men win."
For the beaten team one or two points may be emphasised. It was their bad day about the goal, while Carlton's deadly accuracy was the incident of a season. Fitzroy were beaten in round figures by 50 points—eight goals—yet they crossed the Carlton goal-line 15 times, while Carlton only crossed theirs 19 times—but they crossed it in the right spot; this was the chief difference. A word of praise is due to the umpire, Wregg. He did his work wisely and well, and if the crowd had not been so wrapped up in the players they would have had a cheer to spare for him at the finish.
It was only at the end of the game that one got some idea of the immense crowd. They had accumulated slowly, special trains from Bendigo, Ballarat, and Geelong bringing provincial enthusiasm to swell the bulk. They poured out of the ground in four broad rivers of humanity—one towards Richmond and the railway station; one, not at all a turbulent stream, due north via East Melbourne to Fitzroy, two other streams towards the city. It was a remarkable gathering considering the fact that in the forenoon hundreds of suburban telephones had been asking someone in the city, "Will the match be postponed?"
The gate was £1,367/14/6, which seems large but when one considers that a shilling admission was charged, and an extra shilling to the stand. A little calculation reveals the extraordinary fact that about half that huge company were "dead heads." It shows what a very fine members-list the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Carlton and Fitzroy football clubs must possess.
It is difficult to pick men who played best in the match, for everyone realised it to be his great occasion. Briefly, the best of the winners were ‘Mallee’ Johnson, Elliott, Kennedy, Hammond, Payne, Topping, Grace, Jinks, Clarke, Caine, and Lang; while for Fitzroy those who showed up best were Millis, Sharp, Walker, Trotter, Johnson, Jenkins, and Beecham.
Title: How Carlton won. Over 44,000 onlookers.
Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, 1848-1957)
Date: Monday, 24 September 1906, p.7 (Article)
|Beck, Les||1||20y 260d||6||2|
|Bruce, George||0||27y 48d||60||8|
|Caine, Frank||3||25y 56d||32||62|
|Clark, Norm||0||27y 314d||26||0|
|Elliott, Fred||1||27y 168d||121||41|
|Flynn, Jim||0||35y 185d||133||31|
|Gillespie, Doug||0||18y 283d||17||0|
|Grace, Mick||3||32y 60d||138||172|
|Hammond, Charlie||1||20y 187d||37||11|
|Jinks, Fred||1||25y 302d||12||6|
|Johnson, George 'Mallee'||0||27y 114d||35||18|
|Kennedy, Ted||0||29y 15d||96||4|
|Lang, Alex||0||18y 194d||18||12|
|Little, Ike||1||18y 246d||8||5|
|Marchbank, Jim||1||28y 36d||19||11|
|McGregor, Rod||0||23y 338d||35||9|
|Payne, Billy||0||24y 271d||37||0|
|Topping, George||3||25y 26d||65||54|
|Abbott, Frank||0||21y 78d||16||0|
|Bailes, Barclay||0||23y 44d||32||16|
|Barker, Lou||0||30y 119d||119||61|
|Beauchamp, Tammy||0||28y 41d||101||8|
|Brosnan, Gerald||1||29y 39d||107||142|
|Fontaine, Fred||1||28y 235d||101||29|
|Jenkins, Ernie||0||26y 353d||154||15|
|Johnson, Joe||0||23y 246d||55||15|
|Kneen, Edgar||0||24y 13d||48||33|
|Millis, Les||1||25y 96d||73||44|
|Milne, Herbert ' Boxer'||0||22y 226d||57||36|
|Moriarty, Geoff||0||34y 329d||103||0|
|Naismith, Charlie||1||25y 114d||21||29|
|Sharp, Jim||0||24y 128d||107||17|
|Sheehan, Percy||0||23y 79d||43||11|
|Smith, Bob||0||28y 303d||41||20|
|Trotter, Percy||1||23y 21d||109||145|
|Walker, Bill||1||23y 120d||65||12|