One Hundred Years Ago: Round 10, 22 & 24 June, 1911


Though King George V had ascended the throne after his father’s death the previous year, his official coronation was held on Thursday 22nd of June in 1911. The VFL took advantage of the public holiday to stage two games to commence the second half of the season. The Argus believed that ‘altogether the idea of playing football on Coronation Day was, for a number of reasons, not a success’.

Certainly the choice of clubs to play on this day was curious. As the newspaper elsewhere proclaimed the  ‘world-wide significance’ of the event by showing a map of ‘British Possessions’ which included Ireland, Richmond and Collingwood faced off in front of 15,000 at Punt road. Two VFL clubs with strong Irish Catholic influences at the time, one wonders how mixed their feelings were on a day dedicated to celebrating the English monarchy.

Political and cultural considerations aside, the football was underwhelming. The match report heading was ‘a wallow in the mud’, which rather tells the tale. Richmond’s small man brigade was weakened by the absence of last Saturday’s star Bill Mahoney and the continuing absence of Bob Bowden. However, they began in a ‘very active’ fashion to claim the early advantage with a couple of goals.

The game turned on two ‘really clever’ goals from Collingwood captain-coach George Angus. They enabled the Magpies to lead at the break. The 2nd term was entertaining, although as much due to amusement at the appalling conditions as the football. After the long break Collingwood took over, the Tigers not kicking another goal until late in the final term. Running out comfortable 20 point victors, Collingwood were  ‘slightly faster to the ball than their rivals, and picked their own colours out more accurately’ through most of the game. Apparently no clash strips were considered necessary.

Tom Baxter again figured amongst the best for the Pies, further rewarding that ‘Collingwood subterfuge’ which had freed him from suspension in the off-season. Baxter was a colourful player of the period for more than just his considerable playing skills. One of the many country recruits playing in black and white at the time, he effectively replaced Dick Condon as a flamboyant and mercurial element in an outfit that emphasised discipline. A superb ball-handler and left foot kick, his talents earned him leeway even from those who thought him not a ‘team player’.  He continued to lead Collingwood’s goal scoring for the season to date.

Fitzroy hosted Melbourne in a ‘sliding exhibition’ in the other Thursday fixture. Both teams lined up to offer three cheers to the King prior to the game, a tribute noticeably missing at Punt Road. A modest crowd was on hand to watch 21 year-old Hughie Odgers debut as Fuchsia captain, replacing the retired Coutie. A Melbourne line-up minus star forward Harry Brereton was in trouble early, only kept alive by the Maroons’ inaccuracy, as the ½ time score line of 4.11 to 2.1 indicates. Fitzroy maintained a comfortable lead til the end, but with ‘water splashing up at every stride’ and ‘players skating though the centre in all sorts of exaggerated and unexpected attitudes’ frustrations grew. Some players came to blows as dusk settled, necessitating a constable’s intervention.

Saturday’s fixture was dominated by the return of Jack Worrall and his new Essendon side to Princes Park. Despite the bitterly cold day 25,000 packed the ground to see the Navy Blues battle their old coach.

Attentions were diverted prior to the game as suspended Essendon player Jim Martin – attending as a spectator – was served summons for assault by the police for the incident involving Fitzroy’s George Holden from round 8. Martin would be convicted and fined, but subsequently found not guilty on appeal. This left the VFL  in the awkward position of having suspended a player for the season when a district court had found him innocent of the deed. The VFL stood its ground despite an Essendon appeal. It would not be the last time football would regard itself beyond the law.

While all this was going on, the Same Olds kicked with the aid of the gusty wind and led by 13 points at quarter time. In the 2nd and 3rd terms they benefitted from Carlton’s 10 successive behinds, yet only led by 14 at ¾ time. Well into the final term it looked to be enough, as Essendon kept the ball trapped on the dead wing. But Viv Valentine could not be subdued and when Vin Gardiner goaled cleverly from a free kick it sparked a devastating final Carlton burst. They scored the last four goals of the match to sweep to a 12 point victory, leaving Essendon with successive losses and Worrall still without a win against his old team.

Observer, watching this game, passed the opinion that ‘football this season does not compare favourably as a spectacle with that of 2 or 3 years back’. The poor weather was no doubt contributing, but it may also serve as a comment on the Worrall method. Though he set the example for many to come in the way he coached his teams, they were never renowned for being pretty, just effective.

The Carlton side he built from 1902 became known for ‘big, heavy, tall players who were strong marks and could hand out some physical pressure to the opposition’. Carlton ‘crowded the play, developing a ‘crush’ around the ball, and upon gaining possession would shoot out a handpass to a nippy team mate on the fringe, who would kick the ball forward to  a good marking forward with a rover at his feet’. The side’s strength was a defence that became known as the ‘garrison’.

The Essendon side he inherited in 1911 had been eliminated in the 1st Semi Final in five out of the previous seven seasons. They had pace and talent, as their demolition of Collingwood in round 4 had shown, but Worrall’s challenge remained to instil the necessary discipline to go all the way. Thus far they’d been found wanting against his old charges.

Geelong’s home game against St Kilda was reported as ‘the scramble in the mud’. Coronation day celebrations, then a public school game on the Friday, had left the Corio Oval a mess. Undaunted, a good crowd attended in hope the home team would avenge their shock first round loss to the Seasiders. They were not to be disappointed.

Kicking with the wind, the Pivotonians led all day and were 33 points to the good at ¾ time. Coming home with the wind St Kilda surged and briefly looked a chance. In a rather un-Geelong like move they stacked the backline, and the last 10 minutes was described as ‘wretched’. Nevertheless, it secured a 15 point victory which left the Pivot within reach of the top four.

South Melbourne visited the MCG to take on University in front of 8,016 spectators, a poor crowd for a Bloods game. Observer felt the wet season was contributing to University’s struggles, but in truth the amateur Students were finding it increasingly difficult in the newly professional VFL environment. Lacking the discipline of some of the other clubs, their defenders continued to fly for marks despite the wet. The canny South forwards stayed on the ground and feasted regularly on the inevitable crumbs. The Bloods won comfortably in the conditions by 38 points to join Essendon on top of the ladder.

As a footnote, South Melbourne trialled a New Zealand player in this game. Ernie George was a part of a Kiwi football scene that had been developing over the previous decade or so, but would soon wither as the Victorian league turned its attentions elsewhere. This was the only VFL game George was to play.

 

Richmond 2.2   3.2   3.2   4.6 30 Thu 22-Jun-1911 Venue: Punt Rd
Collingwood 3.3   4.4   5.8   7.8 50 Collingwood won by 20 pts
Fitzroy 1.4  4.11  6.11  8.15 63 Venue: Brunswick St
Melbourne 1.1   2.1   4.4   5.5 35 Fitzroy won by 28 pts
Carlton 2.4  2.10  2.14  6.16 52 Sat 24-June-1911 Venue: Princes Park
Essendon 4.4   4.5   5.8  5.10 40 Carlton won by 12 pts
Geelong 4.2   5.4   7.7   8.7 55 Venue: Corio Oval
St Kilda 0.2   4.2   4.2   6.4 40 Geelong won by 15 pts
University 1.1   3.3   4.5   4.5 29 Venue: MCG
South Melbourne 3.4   4.8  6.11  9.13 67 South Melbourne won by 38 pts

 

Rd 10 Ladder
ES 10 30 180.8
SM 10 30 155.8
CA 10 28 132.6
CW 10 28 106.2
FI 10 24 111.4
GE 10 22 96.7
RI 10 16 81.9
ME 10 14 85.9
UN 10 4 64.5
SK 10 4 54.0

 

Sources:

The Argus

AFL Tables

Flying High: Michael Maplestone

Kill For Collingwood: Richard Stremski

Footy’s Greatest Coaches: Stephanie Holt & Garrie Hutchinson

Encyclopedia of AFL/VFL Footballers: Russell Holmesby & Jim Main

 

 

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. JB – the Richmond/Collingwood game on Coronation Day makes a lot of sense. The Micks wouldn’t have given a stuff about poor old King George and would have been looking for a distraction. What better than a game of footy!

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Brilliant work JB. Jack Worrall’s influence on the game is considerable as player, coach and writer. He was a pioneer in so many ways.

  3. John Butler says:

    Thanks guys

    Worrall’s legacy really shines through the more you examine it. Apart from his footy influence, he toured England twice with the Aussie cricket team, coined the term ‘Bodyline’ as a journalist, and wrote about sport with great insight for decades. A remarkable life.

    I’m taken by how often the police were called in to deal directly with football matters back in these times. Imagine the furore there’d be today if someone was served summons at the ground.

  4. Rick Kane says:

    Hi JB

    Your series is truly a highlight of the Almanac. There is so much life breathed into the events of yesteryear by your simply rendered accounts. Your balance of summary and eye for interesting detail continue to impress.

    Here are a couple of my faves from your report:

    “a map of ‘British Possessions”! Only 100 years ago. Wow.

    “Baxter was a colourful player of the period … a flamboyant and mercurial element” – I want to know more. Was he a larrikin, a bohemian, gay? What is his story?

    “The side’s strength was a defence that became known as the ‘garrison’” – from the perspective of today my immediate thought is ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’. The skill level may have improved over time and certainly the ground conditions (thank your God and mine) are sublime and we are finessing the hell out of the rules but the core strategies are as they ever were.

    “led all day and were 33 points to the good at ¾ time” – JB, are you now writing as if this were 1911? I love it. I’m going to start using the expression, ‘to the good’.

    Finally, my tip of the hat to a name – Hughie Odgers. “I say old chaps, fancy a spot of footy ball?” Considering you’re writing about Coronation Day I had to cite the most English sounding player!

    Cheers

  5. John Butler says:

    Thanks RK.

    The cheque is in the mail. :)

  6. Andrew Fithall says:

    Should be more police presence. I remember back in Round 8 when we woz robbed. Where were the police then?

  7. John Butler says:

    Spoken like a true Collingwood man AF. :)

  8. Mark Doyle says:

    Well done John! The language of yesteryear is always interesting, but footy culture is much the same. ‘Stack the backline’ is now called flooding of pressing. However, I think I saw your phrase ‘scramble in the mud’ in a recent report in the Dubbo newspaper on a local rugby league game. I like to buy local newspapers when passing through rural cities and towns and some of of the better contemporary football report writing is in these newspapers. Your report reminds me of Hugh Buggy’s excellent footy history reports in the now defunct Catholic Newspaper ‘The Advocate’ in the 1960’s. I think Buggy wrote for ‘The Argus’ in the 1930’s.

  9. John Butler says:

    Thanks Mark,

    Hugh Buggy was one of the more significant writers on football in the first half of the 20th century. He wrote on and off for the Argus for several decades, as well as books, and the Advocate columns you recall. And many others to boot.

    Country town book stores can be a real treasure trove. The local newspapers are often revealing in unexpected ways. This exercise is giving me a real appreciation for old newspapers. They can have a life beyond tomorrow’s fish & chip wrappers. :)

Leave a Comment

*