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Carlton is once more crowned as King of Football in Victoria, and the only matter for regret is that the fifty thousand people who watched the match, and who in this state established a record for attendance at a football match, did not see a better game—one at least reasonably worthy the reputation of the two fine teams which engaged in it. It is not exaggerating the public sense of disappointment to say that it was the worst game Carlton has played this season—the poorest final we have seen for years.
With the exception that a heavy wind blew towards the Richmond side of the ground, the conditions favoured a fine display for the spring turf was in fine condition, smooth and elastic, firm enough to give a sure footing and fast enough to permit the players to show all their pace, yet soft enough to avoid jar.
Without in the least depreciating Carlton's prowess—for upon the season's results which are after all the real test of merit they fully established their right to top place—they are a singularly fortunate team in having won the premiership without having to play Essendon a second time. The simpler explanation of it is that like the bulk of the fifty thousand people who watched them win they got in early and avoided the crush. It was only Essendon's slow beginning, coupled with the fact that their forwards served them badly all day that lost them the match and possibly the premiership.
At half-time they seemed to be a beaten side but the gallant way in which they rose to a great emergency in the second half was by far the finest feature of the game. During that period they only allowed Carlton to score one point; the dark blue defenders, who did such dashing work in the first half were fairly rattled—their straight ahead dashes from goal which were so often cheered in the beginning almost disappeared. They were driven to every desperate resource that shrewd experience and able leadership—both on the field and off it—could suggest, and they were never as fortunate as at that period in having a heavy wind which enabled them to get the ball away down to the eastern boundary where it was hard for Essendon to bring it back again in the teeth of a half gale.
For that last half Carlton were playing to keep the lead which a couple of straight lucky kicks had given them. The winners resorted to the plan of packing all their men upon or about the ball, a desperate resource which has not often been forced upon them this last couple of seasons and it was that plan alone—favoured by the wind—which enabled them, while spoiling the game as a spectacle, to win the premiership.
Essendon were driven to some dangerous expedients for the final match in playing men new to the colours and the team. Londerigan was absent through a death in his family. They put in Heaphy, a Tatura player; Daykin, from Bendigo; and Prout, late of the Wesley College team. Carlton had the same, old, even, meritorious lot, though they were at one time alarmed by the prospect of losing Johnson's help through a couple of painful bruises got against St. Kilda. He was persuaded to play, however, and, when he warmed up, there was nothing in his play to indicate unfitness, even for such a tough ordeal as the season's final.
At one time, when the oval ball with sharp ends was in use, the first quarter of the match would have been spoiled, but since Sherrin started to manufacture the blunt end balls it plays truly from the start; and Saturday's game was proof enough that the drop-kicking is not in any way affected by the new shape, because all through the average length of the kicks was most noticeable.
Kennedy and Hammond were conspicuous men in the first rush on Essendon's goal—and from their fine effort came Carlton's first behind. A couple of free kicks helped Essendon to the centre. Both Topping and Kelly missed marks soon afterwards in dangerous positions, but the latter redeemed his mistake, had a hurried shot at the goal, and missed it by a few feet. Johnson, of Essendon, brought the ball out of danger with a fine rush—but Kennedy, who played beautiful football all through, stopped him on the centre line. Payne came in conveniently at an awkward moment for Carlton, and though the play was very fast it was far from being perfect. Marchbank sent it up to the front with one of his long, sure kicks; Gotz took the shot, and the flutter of blue and white flags announced a goal for Carlton long before the umpire signalled it.
The next feature visible was an Essendon attack. Very slowly they made ground—for Essendon at that stage were fumbling much more than their opponents, and seemed to be more affected by the responsibility of a great occasion. P. Shea got it very close, and Clarke was prominent by lion-like struggles in defence for Carlton, though McGregor was the man who chiefly eased the strain upon the Blue's goal. Once more Essendon were within range and this time Clarke and Flynn came to the rescue.
Busbridge was playing magnificently in defence for Essendon—and but for his efforts the side would have fared badly just then. Kelly failed in a chance; Davies sparkled a moment for Essendon on the wing; and then Payne passed the ball to Marchbank, who though a long way out took a calm deliberate shot and scored Carlton's second goal. Straight passing by long kicks was the finest feature of Carlton's play; and in such an interchange Lang, Elliott and Kennedy took it the length of the field in a few seconds; but Gardiner was just a little bit out in the resulting shot for goal.
For a time there was a tremendous struggle in front of Carlton's goal, and it was a treat to see their backs at work, but in spite of their best Farnsworth had an easy shot, and missed with a left-foot kick; but with a nice easy kick P. Shea put it through, and scored first goal for Essendon just on the change of ends—Carlton leading by 15 points to 7.
Comparing the mistakes of the two sides, the balance of blunders in mishandling the ball was all on the side of Essendon. Their worst fault was in not realising the exact moment for a telling kick, and this no doubt came from over eagerness. Without considering the points, Carlton looked the better side, and 90 per cent of the onlookers felt that they had the game well in hand, even with three-quarters to go.
The first rucks—Belcher, Martin, and Cameron (for Essendon), Johnson, Hammond, and Elliott (for Carlton)—were well matched. The second pack were Jinks, Flynn, and Lang (Carlton), and Belcher, Prout, and D. Smith (Essendon). Essendon made the first effective rush, but Ford came in as a timely check, and one of Carlton's great rushes followed, in which Hammond, Kennedy, and Elliott passed on with well judged kicks, from which the ball always dropped in Carlton arms and Gardiner was excused in missing a difficult try on the angle.
While they were still struggling in front of Essendon's goal Elliott so keenly pressed that he did not dare attempt to pick up, took a kick at the ball on the ground and by good fortune put it straight through—third goal for Carlton. Gotz and Flynn were soon prominent in a Carlton attack, turned by Daykin (Essendon), who was playing a first-rate game in defence. Belcher, from a free kick had a long shot, which got only a behind, but the best feature of the play at that stage was "Mallee" Johnson's marking. In what way the ball came to him, however, badly he was jostled in the crush, the high mark was invariably his, and it meant a great deal for Carlton.
Legge, by a fine smart effort, got the ball to Carlton's front, and scored Essendon's second goal. Griffith usually plays back, but he had recognised a weakness amongst his forwards, and personally sought to remedy the fault, and it was his kick that brought the ball down. All hands were goal-shooters in this close, scrambling game, for it was Kennedy, their brilliant wing man, who kicked Carlton's fourth goal.
Then came some of the breeziest and best football of the day, in which the play of Busbridge, Martin, Heaphy, and Mark Shea was not less dazzling than the efforts of their Carlton antagonists, Payne—sharing with Kennedy the honours of the match—Gotz and Gardiner. It was the smartness of the little Carlton forwards that won them their fifth goal, for in a struggle by the fence he saw Kelly standing alone in front of goal, and lodged the ball fairly in his arms. The goal was Kelly's, but the merit all Gardiner's. Those who have seen the Gardiners—father and son—play for Carlton realised their distinctly different styles of football, but each in his way was hard to beat. At half time Carlton were just three goals to the good, and on merit they deserved their lead.
Two great rucks faced each other for the third quarter—Johnson, Hammond, and Elliott, for Carlton; Busbridge, Martin, and Smith for Essendon. The two champions, Busbridge and Johnson, picked each other by mutual consent, and within the bounds of reasonable fairness wrestled, checked, stopped, struggled with each other all through the term.
The fault in Essendon's pack was that Smith, as rover, was less certain than usual in getting the ball when it was hit out to him, and in his failure in a couple of shots for goal was a great disappointment to the side. It was Johnson's free kick quarter. He must have got nearly a dozen of them, and that without any suspicion of favour from the umpire. The Essendon fellows knew how necessary it was to stop Johnson, and they rather over-did it in their ardour.
The other chief fault was in Essendon's hand passing which too frequently lodged the ball in the hands of an opponent. None the less, Essendon slowly but surely won back the mastery of the match, and having got it they kept it.
Twice in quick succession the sturdy Clarke stopped their dangerous assaults upon Carlton's goal and there for a moment it seemed that the Dark Blues had a soft thing. Between Topping and Elliott, Lang came in for a free kick close up, but missed an easy one. As the Essendon pressure increased Carlton, either through being rattled or by instruction, packed their men about the ball, and it became a struggle to keep what they had won. Heaphy gave D. Smith a chance, but a nice long kick was not quite straight enough. A splendid effort by the Essendon ruck, with Busbridge, Smith, and Belcher all shining, gave Martin an easy show, and he scored Essendon's third goal.
Excitement increased, the Red and Black were not yet beaten, and right up to the end of the quarter they were always pressing Carlton hard, failing nowhere excepting at that one important spot in front of the enemy's goal, where Payne and, in a lesser degree, Clarke still maintained a brave and dashing defence. Carlton's lead at the last change was two goals, and for the final effort they put Ford, Jinks, and Lang on the ball against Daykin, Farnsworth, and Cameron.
The last quarter was just one long scrimmage; the whole team of 36 men were at times massed in a space of not more than 70 yards. One Essendon back man stood between two posts, with a distant view of the struggle and finally Griffith called him out into the crush and left the goal and half the playing ground vacant.
To pick anything very meritorious in individual play from the seething crush was next to impossible, but it was only Carlton's fine defence, represented in successive efforts by Gotz, Payne, Kennedy, Ford, and Beck that saved them. Essendon badly needed in effective hustler right in goal, where Beck on three occasions took marks almost without interruption. Smith had an easy chance for Essendon, with no one in the way, but to the dismay of the side missed it. Minto got it twice on the angle; failed once in in effort to pass to his men in front, and missed his other shot.
The quarter was just one long struggle on the windy Richmond wing, where the players constantly dashed amongst the spectators crouching inside the fence, and Carlton were glad of every wasted minute at the wing, which brought them nearer the end. How they would have fared in an open game can only be conjectured; this crush undoubtedly served their interests, in enabling them to keep the gradually dwindling lead, which was reduced to nine points when the last bell rang, and the Carlton followers swarmed over the ground to carry home some of their heroes.
The honours of the game were with Essendon who fully earned one more match for the premiership; but fate—as well as then own failures on the forward line—was against them. Individually the chief credit went to Kennedy, Payne, Johnson Marchbank, Bruce, Flynn, Clarke, McGregor, and Gardiner for Carlton; and to Busbridge, Belcher, Davies, Legge, Daykin, Martin, Bowe, and Griffith for Essendon.
Very rarely has a big game been so efficiently umpired as by Elder on this occasion. He had to keep a strong rein upon the players, and gave more free kicks than were perhaps desirable, but his judgment was admirable, his fairness undoubted, and the occupants of the M.C.C. reserve—whom I regard as impartial witnesses—cheered him heartily, both at half-time and at the finish of the match. The compliment is as exceptional in football as it was in this particular and important instance well deserved.
At the conclusion of the game Messrs. Alexander McCracken (president), E. L. Wilson (secretary), and H. C. A. Harrison (life member) visited the dressing rooms on behalf of the Victorian Football League. Mr. McCracken said in the Carlton dressing room that he had great pleasure in congratulating the team on their victory and continued success. The wonderful crowd that had watched the game showed the feeling of the public towards Australian football, and the responsibility of retaining that confidence rested mainly with the players. The league and the committees of the clubs could do much, but the players had the success or failure of the game in their own hands. He was glad to see that old club, with which he had been associated so long, putting up such a fine tussle with the premiers. Mr. McCracken concluded by eulogising Mr. John Worall for his management, and by personally congratulating Fred Elliott, the Carlton captain.
To the Essendon players Mr. McCracken said he had come not to commiserate but to congratulate. He had been much struck by a remark in "The Argus" of that morning that Essendon had only one man who had played in a final before, while Carlton had 17. That fact meant a great deal on such an occasion, but he felt that Carlton would agree that their captain, Griffith, had kept the word he had spoken some weeks ago when he said, "If Carlton beat us they'll know they've been playing football." Carlton knew and so did the public. He hoped that with so many young players in the team they would play in many more finals. They had this year come from last to very nearly first and they thoroughly deserved the trip to which they were to be treated.
The analysis of the great crowd on Saturday is an interesting study. The final figures show that in the concluding quarter there must have been over 53,000 people present. So keen was the interest displayed that at three-quarter time there was a crowd of fully 4,000 people outside the entrance gates who had waited all the afternoon for the opening of the gates. As soon as Mr. Atkinson, the agent of the trustees gave the order to throw open the gates these people crowded in in the hope of seeing the finish and thus further swelled the crowd. The details of the attendance are as follow:—
Mr. Atkinson stated on Saturday evening that the estimated numbers were rather under-stated than otherwise. The total takings were £1,791/4/, and after the ground expenses, amounting to about £40, had been paid the balance was conveyed to the National Bank in two cabs, under police escort in charge of Sergeant Cummins.
This is very easily a record both in attendance and money, for Victoria, though a Rugby match on the splendid Association Cricket-ground in Sydney on one occasion drew a crowd of 55,000 people.
Title: The football premiership. Won by Carlton. A spoiled game.
Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, 1848-1957)
Date: Monday, 28 September 1908, p.4 (Article)
|Belcher, Alan||0||23y 299d||53||14|
|Bowe, Len||0||22y 335d||28||0|
|Busbridge, Bill||0||23y 239d||61||24|
|Cameron, Ernie||0||20y 219d||42||21|
|Davies, Bill||0||25y 224d||48||4|
|Daykin, Bert||0||20y 63d||7||1|
|Farnsworth, Harry||0||22y 298d||15||12|
|Griffith, Billy||0||27y 275d||133||11|
|Heaphy, Bill||0||19y 283d||2||2|
|Johnson, Bill||0||22y 265d||30||4|
|Legge, Arthur||1||26y 357d||67||30|
|Martin, Jim||1||24y 37d||38||34|
|Minto, Les||0||22y 77d||20||6|
|Prout, Harry||0||21y 152d||1||0|
|Sewart, Bill||0||26y 319d||65||4|
|Shea, Mark||0||25y 155d||91||1|
|Shea, Paddy||1||22y 193d||32||28|
|Smith, Dave||0||24y 12d||83||82|
|Beck, Les||0||22y 265d||43||3|
|Bruce, George||0||29y 52d||96||11|
|Clark, Norm||0||29y 319d||61||0|
|Elliott, Fred||1||29y 172d||153||58|
|Flynn, Jim||0||37y 189d||148||31|
|Ford, Arthur||0||27y 106d||23||5|
|Gardiner, Vin||0||22y 339d||25||42|
|Gotz, Martin||1||25y 213d||43||5|
|Hammond, Charlie||0||22y 191d||72||17|
|Jinks, Fred||0||27y 307d||48||17|
|Johnson, George 'Mallee'||0||29y 118d||71||27|
|Kelly, Harvey||1||25y 186d||34||51|
|Kennedy, Ted||1||31y 19d||133||13|
|Lang, Alex||0||20y 198d||57||33|
|Marchbank, Jim||1||30y 40d||34||17|
|McGregor, Rod||0||25y 343d||69||14|
|Payne, Billy||0||26y 276d||75||0|
|Topping, George||0||27y 30d||95||96|