Remember The Argus

 

In remote North Eastern Tasmania, the Melbourne papers were a wonderful window into a wider world. Though they came a day or two after publication, they provided some of the tastes of big city living: advertisements for postage stamps from Myer including countries with exotic names like Brunei or Falkland Islands, results from just about every horse race in the country, and the erotic headlines of The Truth! I do mean ‘headlines’ because it was far too salacious for the likes of young boys to be able to read and was typically always folded in such a way as only the headline was displayed! As well as The Truth,there was the orange-pink Sporting Globe, The Sun, The Age and The Argus.

 

Best of all was The Argus.

 

And best of The Argus was the centrefold. I suppose that these days the full colour lift-out would be called ‘footy porn’. My brother and I were addicted! We had a double page colour picture of 1955 Brownlow medallist, South Melbourne’s Fred Goldsmith, displayed on our bedroom door. It showed him following through after a dropkick. Such elegance: arms wide for balance and his boot reaching the height of his forehead. Fred was ogled much more than any page three girl would have been.

 

Then there was Billy Hutchinson, face in grimace as he busted through the pack. My brother took a liking to this one and became, for a while, an Essendon supporter. Teddy Whitten, covered in mud which we could identify with because of the conditions under which footy was played in wet and muddy rural Tasmania. Ron Barassi too, teeth clenched and fearsome, off the ground after a powerful kick. These memories have not faded for me and they allowed us to imagine what was happening in each of the photos.

 

But my favourite was the full team photograph of Geelong’s 1952 premiership team. No pornographic photo could ever hold a candle to this photo of such an extraordinary group of young men. Some with names almost unpronounceable in migrant-free Tasmania, like Pianto or Trezise; others as common as Smith, Sharp, Turner and Davis, this team captured me in 1953 and has held me captive ever since. I read how they beat Collingwood by 46 points in the Grand Final, a team which boasted such stars as Thorold Merrett, Neil Mann (whose hands were supposedly so big that they could hold a dozen eggs!), Lou Richards, Bob Rose and the Twomeys. One reporter wrote that in the first half, “Collingwood’s vigour was having a negative effect on the Cats’ but the Magpies could not sustain it and the Cats added five goals in the third quarter to set up the win.” Such a story: winning despite the physical attention they received was, at least to one small Tasmanian boy, a display of bravery under fire.

 

Mind you, my love of the Cats has been sorely tested by subsequent events as they were only to win one more grand final (in 1963) before the wonderful run in the first decade of this century. Events such as the 1989 Grand Final (after which I wanted the rules to win changed so that a point was awarded for each winning quarter so that Geelong would have won 3-1!); or my first ever visit to Kardinia Park in 2017 only to see the Cats smashed by Sydney Swans in a bitter and cold night – warmed only by Danger’s appearance at the supporters’ dinner rather than on the ground; or the grand final losses in the 1990s… Excuse me while blow my nose.

 

The Arguswas one of the few ways that we kids got inside football. It appeared to me that they worked on the idea that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and it certainly was as far as young supporters were concerned. It has been described as a conservative morning daily newspaper published in Melbourne from 1848 until 1957. It became ‘left-leaning’ in 1949 until its demise in 1957. I wonder if its final political leanings in conservative Victoria were responsible for this demise, as it must have struggled to compete with other more conservative dailies. 1949 coincides with Chifley’s Labor losing government and the emergence of the Anti-Labor and DLP presence especially in Victoria.

 

Certainly, if we young footy supporters had been aware of its imminent closure we might have protested outside Rose’s milk bar where the papers came in each day from Launceston. Instead, we shifted our loyalties to The Sun which gave very detailed coverage of every game together with some photos, though never as powerful as those in The Argus. The Sun has not let us football supporters down. I recall a June 1989 edition which showed a ¾ page photo of Alex Jesaulenko in full footy gear to announce that he had been appointed coach of Carlton: the caption, the day’s headline simply stated ‘He’s Back’. No name was mentioned on the front page as everyone would (and did) know who it was. Headline news it was, bumping less significant stories to an inside position, such as the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini!

 

I wonder if there are others, like me, who owe their football allegiances to The Argus? For me, it has been a lifetime love affair with the Cats and while I may sometimes struggle to remember the names of my children and grandchildren, the 1952 Geelong footy team is indelibly imprinted.

 

About Chris Aulich

Never quite good enough to be a 'coodabeen', Chris describes himself as a 'neverwassa', playing his footy in the amateurs in Tasmania. After retiring as a player, Chris found a niche in coaching and was part of the 'brains trust' and under 19s coach at Belconnen (ACT) for many years. Now retired as a university professor, he finds great joy in writing about his two passions: footy and travel. He has been a member of his beloved Geelong Cats for many years though is only able to see them live once or twice a year.

Comments

  1. Tony Robb says:

    G day Chris
    I have my fathers scapbook from the 40s and 50s with quite a few cartoon pictorials. I dont recall the cartoonist at the moment however he preceeded Weg. Love the skill and how they capture the culture of footy and the rivalries
    Cheers
    TR

  2. Chris – back in the days of inadequate information flow, the papers had a touch of romance. The “heroes” in the papers were mysterious and wonderful. I have an old scrap book at home with some brilliant old papers in it, including the big, black, bold headlines that screamed “KENNEDY ASSASSINATED”.

    The Argus was before my time but I understand your attachment.

  3. george smith says:

    The cartoonists were Sam Wells in the Age and Jeff Hook in the Sun and the Sporting Globe.

    Jeff created the ultimate icon for us Magpies, the Laughing Magpie, in an era when there was precious little to laugh about.

  4. Margaret Askew-Walinda says:

    Great to read this Chris. My sisters and I had photos of Bob Rose and memories of the 1953 grand final covering the cracks on our bedroom wall. Collingwood won that match not Geelong, but the sentiment I can relate to.

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