AFL Round 14 – Sydney v Carlton: Not exactly a bloodbath

By David Williams

The most infamous of clashes between the Swans and the Blues is the 1945 VFL Grand Final; aptly referred to as The Bloodbath. And tonight’s game at the SCG between Sydney and Carlton seems the perfect opportunity to pay due homage to its fabled predecessor of the forties.  In communication with my mates earlier in the week, I conjure up the ridiculous idea that we should recreate the events of the ’45 Bloodbath.  Perhaps against their better judgement, Neil, Tony & Jason all agree; a Bloodbath reenactment it is.

In that Grand Final nine players were reported.  Many additional incidents were missed by the umpires who found it impossible to monitor all of the spite and violence that sparked around the ground. The police had little hope of quelling the altercations in the crowd.  It was a most unsavoury affair.  The public outcry reverberated through to the tribunal and some harsh penalties were meted out.  I fear getting swept up in trying to recreate history to the absolute letter, so suggest to my mates that common sense should place some limits on our recreation of the 1945 events.  We are keenly aware that should things get out of hand, the tribunal on the home-front has been known to dish out some exacting punishments too.

One of the key perpetrators in 1945 was South’s Ted Whitfield, a classy wingman whom the newspapers of the day suggested “played to the beat of his own drum”.  When 16 years of age, Whitfield started his own unique pre-match tradition.  He would have six beers before each Saturday afternoon match.  Folklore has it that he would follow-up with another at half time.  He continued this ritual throughout his career, making no exception of the ’45 Grand Final. One suspects that routine administration of such a traditional amber substance would not be found in the Stephen Dank Almanac of Performance Enhancement.

Whitfield’s pre-match sacrament is thankfully one part of the Bloodbath’s events that is easily reproduced. The four of us meet at The Porterhouse Hotel in Surry Hills and have six beers.  The banter accompanying our beers suggests that a marketing opportunity has been missed by AFL Inc., and we dub tonight’s game “The Whitfield Clash”.  We head off to the SCG feeling that our reenactment is off to a terrific start, albeit that beer drinking is our only completed task.  In AFL-speak we have “ticked all the boxes” at this point.

Our cab driver from the pub to the ground is displaying all the urgency of Matthew Lloyd lining up for goal.  The nastiness of the weather outside prevents us from giving him the hurry-up, even though he invariably uses up his full 30 second quota before taking off when the lights turn green. We’ve missed part of the first quarter, but given the pelting rain and the lateral water on the SCG turf, we haven’t really missed much at all.

Sydney kicks the first five goals and the game looks set to be a one-sided and unspectacular affair.  I keep myself amused by calling the various Sydney and Carlton players by the names of their corresponding number-wearers of 1945.  Kurt Tippet becomes Vic Castles (8), Josh Kennedy becomes Billy King (12) and Chris Judd becomes Lance Collins (5).  Continuing this commentary is becoming increasingly challenging, and I note that the Carlton folk sitting in front are finding it increasingly annoying.  Not to be deterred, I continue. With Craig Bird racking up the possessions, I am calling Reg Richards (14) quite often.  For convenience, I shorten the call to “Richards” which provides confusion for those not privy to the nuances and traditions of barracking at a Whitfield Clash.  Finally, a rebuke comes my way, “That’s Bird you idiot, not Richards”.  Fair enough.   Even I’ve had enough of it; any initial humour has long worn thin.

Half time comes and panic sets in with the realisation that we’ve completely forgotten our Bloodbath reenactment commitments.  I mention to my compatriots that Whitfield was reported for striking a goal umpire – or at least attempting to.  Even after several beverages, whacking a goal umpire in the name of reenactment seems a bridge too far; certain to raise the attention of the constabulary.  Tony suggests that one of the Dads goal umpiring the Auskick during the interval could provide a softer target than an official goal umpire.  Complete mimicking of the 1945 Whitfield incident would require one of us running the length of the field with his jumper pulled over his head so as to cover his guernsey number to avoid being reported.

Whilst we all enthusiastically embrace the idea, finding one of us to volunteer to perform the role of Ted Whitfield proves difficult.  Overly-complicated variations of “scissors, paper, rock” are being proposed before Jason says that we should do exactly what they would have done in 1945 to solve such a dilemma, and he googles Ted Whitfield.  To his delight he finds that Neil bears an uncanny resemblance to Ted Whitfield.  Tony says that such is the likeness that he wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Whitfield was actually Neil’s Dad.  It’s decided.  Neil is to play the leading role.  Genuine reenactment would see Neil “attempting to strike” the Auskick Dad, with the Dad then running across the SCG in hot pursuit of Neil.   Our discussion of how this audacious sprint could unfold evokes equal doses of The Great Escape and Benny Hill.  Surely our reenactment was becoming more ludicrous and increasingly unlikely with each detail added.  Much to his relief, Neil notices that as it is “Women’s Round” in the AFL and all of the Auskick umpires are women.  He assures us that he would have whacked one of the Dad umpires, but as they are all Mums he refuses.  He prudently reminds us that Ted Whitfield received a season’s suspension for this series of events and never played in the VFL again.  A similar banishment from the SCG would be a large price to pay.  We decide that the wise move is to call off this part of the reenactment and to defer to Ted Whitfield’s regular half time ritual and have another beer instead.

The second half sees Carlton forge a mini-comeback.  Even so, it’s apparent that tonight won’t be remembered as much for the game as the pre-match session and the night of banter.  It’s been a night where we have paid more homage to the “running gag” than the ’45 Grand Final.  As the final siren sounds I can’t help but focus on the humour that infinitesimal details can sometimes provide.  The Swans have won by 22 points – Ted Whitfield’s guernsey number!!!  A fitting result for the inaugural Whitfield clash.  It caps off a top night out with mates.

Should you be a wife, child or employer of any of the aforementioned, please note that all characters appearing in this work are fictitious.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  Events and incidents portrayed have been embellished for the purposes of entertainment. 

4.6 5.9 6.11 8.17 (65) CARLTON 0.3 1.5 4.10 5.13 (43)

McGlynn 2, Tippett 2, Bolton, Parker, Pyke, Mitchell.
Carlton: Gibbs, Armfield, Bootsma, Lucas, Tuohy.

Bird, Parker, Mitchell, Kennedy, Tippett.
Carlton: Henderson, Judd, Gibbs, Bootsma.

UMPIRES Findlay, Rosebury, McInerney.
CROWD 25,349 at SCG.

About Arma

Much-maligned footy banterer


  1. Great stuff. Good to see that you complied with the pre-match beers requirement of the ” John Harms Almanac of Performance Enhancement”.

  2. Tony Colombo says

    if neil had of jumped the fence, assualted the auskick ump, then run across the scg chased by said ump, he would have been an instant star on youtube, now that would have been worth the price of admission, well done lads. keep up the good work or should I sat play.

  3. Paul Magee says

    Very amusing, you could have subbed one of the GALS to jump the fence and king hit one of the MUMS thereby enhancing the role of women in footy

  4. Clayton Olver says

    That whole scenario would have made a brilliant addition to the famous Toyota advertisements, where memorable moments were re-lived. The only problem of course being whether the combatants are still with us.
    Well done David, a good read indeed.

  5. Andrew Walton says

    Well written and remembered David. One would assume the six beers in the Whitfield era were glasses in size. Do they have these in stock at the venue of choice or was there a need to upsize. Marvellous effort overall given the conditions.
    Keep scribing.

  6. David Downer says

    Very amusing, Arma.

    A fresh idea laced with several layers of devoted lunacy.

    I played along by picturing the events of your evening in sepia tone as a mark of respect for the 1945 theme. It’s what Whitfield would have wanted.

    As per example – here’s the original movie trailer for “The Lost Weekend”, winner of the 1945 Best Picture Oscar. It’s about an unhinged bloke on a four day bender, very Whitfield indeed..

    Now just a matter of time before American Civil War buffs seek your advice on their own re-enactment techniques…

    And if I make it up to the Swans-Saints game in August, I am expecting a re-enactment theme of my own. Just not the 2005 Prelim. There’s a 1913 SF we can work with. Farren Ray to play the role of Vic Cumberland, Leigh Montagna as Wells Eicke, Jed Lamb as Bert Franks.

    Nicely done.

    Footnote: My Dad actually attended the 1945 GF. On reflection of your musings above, perhaps not the safest environment for a 10 year old at the time!

  7. Neil McLean says

    A lot of giggling from me! Your research set up a great night.
    Whitfield Clash will definitely become a annual event that rivals
    grand final day.
    Great Stuff David.

  8. Jason Poile says

    Love your work Dave. Another really entertaining article.
    “Whitfield Cup” was a top night, further building my AFL education. My only disappointment was that Neil “Whitfield” McLean didn’t recreate history and have a go at the goal umpire. I reckon she would have got him on points! :)
    Great work!

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