Almanac Art and Footy History: Richmond v Footscray, Punt Road, 1904

Artist and writer DJ Williams is a graduate of Deakin University (Australian History and Anthropology – Honours). Here is his bnext piece:

 

RICHMOND v FOOTSCRAY

1904

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Artwork by DJ Williams

Above is a scene from the match between Richmond and Footscray at the Punt Road Oval in 1904.

Original artwork reproduced with pigment inks on 300gsm cotton rag archival paper.

Limited edition of 175

Prints available in both A2-60cm x 45cm ($165) and A1-90cm x 60cm ($225)

For all enquiries please email darren@djwilliamsart.com.au

www.djwilliamsart.com.au

 

 

When eight teams broke away from the VFA competition at the close of the 1896 season to form the Victorian Football League, the Richmond and Footscray clubs found themselves among the five clubs left behind. With the introduction of the Brunswick club, the VFA forged ahead in 1897 with a six team competition. The first season of the new look VFA saw Port Melbourne take out the premiership. Footscray performed admirably throughout the year; the club finished with thirteen wins and seven losses to come in third behind the Premiers and second placed North Melbourne. For Richmond, it was a year best forgotten. The Tigers started well enough with a win over newcomer, Brunswick, but it took until round sixteen and the third meeting with the fledgling club for Richmond to secure its second win of the season. Two wins and a draw by season’s end saw the yellow and black finish the year at the very bottom of the ladder.

 

Footscray was able to build on its solid 1897 performance and rise to the top of the ladder to win the 1898 premiership. The club suffered just three defeats throughout the year and was beaten only four more times over the next two seasons – a single loss in 1900 was to second placed Williamstown on a waterlogged ground by just five points. The rich vein of form enabled Footscray to extend its record to an impressive three consecutive premierships.

 

Though Richmond had also improved throughout the period, it had no answer for the might of the western club in their head to head battles. Footscray went on to extend its winning streak over the Tigers to five years. Despite Richmond’s inability to defeat Footscray, the club’s supporters were given much to cheer about. Their team’s steady improvement since its disastrous 1897 resulted in eight wins in both the 1898 and 1899 seasons. Those results were bettered in 1900 with a ten win season that saw Richmond finish third in a nine team competition that now included Essendon Town and the two 1899 additions, West Melbourne and Prahran.

 

When Footscray easily accounted for Richmond in the season opener in 1901, it appeared that its domination of the Tigers was set to continue. Soon after, however, the fortunes of each club began to turn – Footscray’s season faltered and Richmond went from strength to strength. The Tigers were then able to break the drought of wins against the tri-colours in round ten with a resounding fourteen point victory. Richmond’s fine form continued for the remainder of the season. A second place finish by season’s end was the club’s best ever result. Port Melbourne was far ahead of all opposition in 1901 and the club claimed its second VFA premiership. Footscray’s stranglehold on the competition had come to an abrupt end and the club limped to the line to finish in sixth place.

 

The 1902 season started brightly for Richmond with wins in each of its first three matches. The club then played host to Footscray, who had shown signs of improvement from the previous year in its first three outings. The men from the west had registered two wins and a narrow two point loss to Williamstown.

 

The match at Punt Road was a hard fought encounter and provided those at the ground with a grand spectacle. The home team was playing the better football, but had kicked poorly in front of goal. The Tigers scored three goals and fourteen behinds in the first three quarters and led by just two points at the final break. Little changed in the final term as the Tigers appeared to be doing their best to lose the contest. Despite their failure to register a goal, Richmond was able to restrict Footscray to just one goal and hold on to win by the narrowest of margins.

 

Richmond 3.20 (38) to Footscray 5.7 (37)

 

Footscray’s fortunes were mixed over the coming weeks, while Richmond went through to round ten before second placed Port Melbourne inflicted the club’s first defeat of the season. It would be Richmond’s only loss for the year and the club finished one game clear of the Borough to claim its first ever premiership. Richmond and Port Melbourne had finished well clear of the competition, while Footscray was far off the pace in fifth place with just seven wins.

 

In 1903, the premiership would no longer be decided by the team that finished the season with the most wins. A finals system was introduced that would involve the top four teams. There was to be two semi-finals; the team finishing on top would play the third placed team, while the team finishing second would take on the team that came in fourth – the two winning teams would then meet each other in the final.

 

The 1903 season saw the introduction of a new club, Preston. It also saw Footscray re-emerge as a power in the competition. Despite the club’s return to form, Richmond maintained its winning edge in their head to head battles and proved too strong in both their encounters. The Tigers went on to suffer just two defeats for the season and finish on top of the ladder and claim the minor premiership. North Melbourne was two points further back in second place. Footscray’s resurgence saw the western club rise up the ladder to finish in third place and set up a meeting with the Tigers in week one of the finals.

 

Richmond went into the semi-final as clear favourites, though it was said that the Footscray team gave itself every chance of success. The confidence of the Footscray players prior to the contest was only enhanced after the first thirty minutes of football when the defence restricted Richmond to a solitary point. The Tigers were unable to make up any ground on the men from the saltwater river who powered home to win by 36 points.

 

In the second semi-final, North Melbourne easily accounted for fourth placed West Melbourne by 28 points to set up a meeting with Footscray in the final. As minor premiers, Richmond had earned the right of challenge and would wait to meet the winner of the final for the opportunity to make it back to back titles. Footscray fought valiantly in what was a bruising encounter with the North Melbourne club. The contest was often played outside the rules and Footscray fell short by twenty points.

 

A crowd of more than 20 000 turned out at the EMCG on the following Saturday to see Richmond take on North Melbourne in the Grand Final. There was a strong wind blowing to the railway end and scoring was made almost impossible for the team without the advantage. North Melbourne had first use of the breeze and kicked three goals while holding Richmond scoreless. The second quarter was a bruising encounter and the Tigers were unable to make the most of their advantage. Though North Melbourne had failed to score, Richmond could only compile a score of one goal four. After the long break, North Melbourne piled on four unanswered goals to take an unassailable lead into the final break. The roughhouse tactics of North Melbourne continued into the final term and the club surged towards its first ever premiership victory.

 

For both the Richmond and Footscray clubs, North Melbourne was now seen as the enemy. The northern club played a brutal brand of football that was in keeping with its well earned reputation; a style of play that was often encouraged by a large section of its ardent supporter base. The three top clubs from the 1903 season were expected to feature prominently in the year ahead and would provide supporters of the VFA competition with much to look forward to.

 

 

ROUND 7, 1904

 

After six rounds of the 1904 VFA season, Richmond and Footscray were equal on points at the top of the ladder with five wins and one loss apiece. Richmond had lost to Williamstown by a solitary point, while Footscray was well beaten by Port Melbourne. Both teams had accounted for their despised rival, and reining premier, North Melbourne – Richmond by 15 points in round three and Footscray by 23 points on the following Saturday.

 

There was much on the line for the two clubs in the round seven clash. The winner would be clear on top of the ladder and well positioned in the race for the minor premiership.

 

The promise of an epic encounter attracted a crowd in excess of 10 000 to the Punt Road Oval. The patrons were met with fine conditions for football, but the outer wing was water soaked as the drainage around the ground had failed to disperse much of the rain that had fallen over the previous night. The wet conditions had an effect on the game as a spectacle, but there was no disputing the efforts of the players as they fought hard at every contest. Kicking to the railway end goal, Footscray had the advantage of the breeze and made good use of it early. Goals to Graham and Fluellyn gave the visitors the early lead. Richmond would not be denied and managed to post a goal just prior to the bell. The teams went into the first break with Footscray holding a slender 6 point lead.

 

Fortunes were reversed somewhat in the second term. Fayle was the hero for Richmond with the only two goals kicked for the term. The Footscray players had only themselves to blame for the position they were in with bad kicking in front of the posts that netted just 5 behinds. The Tigers had edged ahead and took a lead of three points to the main break.

 

Richmond led 3.3 (21) to Footscray 2.6 (18).

 

The third term was played with all the energy of a final and the crowd was treated to an epic struggle. Decoit goaled early to put Footscray in front and it seemed to many that the visitors might begin to build up a healthy lead. Richmond, however, was not to be outdone. The Tigers began to display the type of teamwork that had brought the club such success in recent years. The team reverted to clean, slick play that required the use of frequent handpassing to move the ball around the ground. When using the ball by foot, the players were searching for a teammate free of the congestion around the ruck. Footscray, on the other hand, was relying more on strong, individual play. While it proved effective when running the ball out of the back half, it did little to help with forward play. It was difficult for either team to break through the defences who were on top at both ends of the ground. Scoring was made almost impossible. After several attempts to break through the miserly Footscray defence, Richmond managed to find an avenue to goal late in the term to score a major and stretch its lead to five points at the final break.

 

Richmond 4.6 (30) led Footscray 3.7 (25)

 

The Richmond team had done what it needed to in the term just played and would have the scoring end in the final term. The home crowd anticipated victory and cheered loudly as the final quarter got underway. Footscray was not ready to concede, however, and rallied at every opportunity. The visitors were now playing their best football of the afternoon. Solid teamwork edged the ball forward and resulted in a great mark to Decoit within range of goal. The champion forward made no mistake with his kick and put his team in front.

 

On the resumption of play, the Footscray players won possession and charged forward again with the ball. A final kick found Hughes out wide on the boundary just twenty yards from the behind post. Hughes looked inside and spotted Decoit unmanned. Decoit won the football on the ground and snapped it through for his third goal of the afternoon.

 

With their team now trailing by seven points, excitement raged in the crowd as the Tigers rushed the ball deep inside the forward half. Strong ruck play was waged outside the goal square until Cleghorn kicked the ball off the ground and between the posts for a Richmond goal.

 

Footscray now held tentatively onto its one point lead as Richmond began to dominate play. Another rush forward by the Tigers saw the ball fall to Brennan. The Richmond man’s kick looked good off the boot, but went just wide to add a point to his team’s tally.

 

Scores were level with just moments left remaining in the match. The Richmond forward half was now packed with players from both teams and Footscray had difficulty clearing the area. Richmond players did all they could to either force or carry the ball over the goal line. The Footscray defence met every challenge and twice the ball went over the boundary just wide of the behind post. A hurried kick from the Footscray defence cleared the immediate danger only to be marked by McDonald of Richmond. As he went back to prepare for his kick the bell rang to end the match.

 

With scores level, the result of the match rested solely on the boot of McDonald. He set the ball up for a place-kick then launched into his kick. The ball sailed high above the waiting pack and as it neared the posts it dropped short of the goal line and failed to register a score. The match ended in a draw with both teams on 5.7 (37) – a fitting result, perhaps, for a contest that remained even throughout the entire afternoon. The two teams continued to share top spot on the ladder with Richmond marginally ahead on percentage.

 

For Richmond, Johnson, Hassett and Fayle were best; while Footscray’s best players were Hinch, Decoit and Marmo. Foyle with 2 goals for the home team and Decoit with 3 for the visitors were the multiple goalkickers.

 

About DJ Williams

Football history artist living in Torquay

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