Almanac Footy History: 1900 VFL Grand Final – Melbourne v Fitzroy

Melbourne captain, Richard Wardill, and Fitzroy captain, Alex Sloan, preparing to toss the coin for the choice of ends before the start of the 1900 VFL Grand Final.

 

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At the end of the home and away rounds in the 1900 season, Fitzroy sat two games clear on top of the ladder with 11 wins and three losses. Geelong finished in second place, with Essendon, Collingwood and South Melbourne one game further back on eight wins. There was a gap then to Melbourne on six wins and Carlton with 5. St. Kilda finished the year on the bottom of the ladder with just one win marked next to its name – the victory was recorded in round one against Melbourne. The match had ended in a draw, but the St. Kilda authorities had insisted that one of Melbourne’s behinds had been kicked after the three quarter time bell and therefore, should not have been allowed. A complaint was lodged with the League. The protest was upheld and St. Kilda received the four points. Though the win could not be celebrated by those at the ground that day, the club was no doubt pleased that it had been awarded the victory as it would be St. Kilda’s first recorded win in 48 attempts in the VFL competition.

 

The League was trialling a new finals system in 1900 and a quirk in its structure gave all eight teams a chance to play off in the finals. The teams were divided into two groups after the home and away rounds according to their final standings. Section A was made up of the teams that finished first, third, fifth and seventh, while the remaining four teams were placed in section B.

 

A round robin series was then played with the teams heading each section after three games to meet in the final. Essendon topped the table in section A by winning each of its three matches – included in the wins was a three-point victory over the minor premiers, Fitzroy. Section B was a far closer affair with three of the four teams finishing with a record of two wins and one loss. Melbourne won its first match against Geelong by 17 points and then defeated St. Kilda by a massive 71 points. The percentage earned in the match against the Saints would help the Redlegs clinch the remaining place in the final. There were now three teams remaining in the hunt for the 1900 premiership. Essendon and Melbourne would play off in the final, and Fitzroy, as minor premiers had earned the right to challenge the winner.

 

The venue for the final was the Albert Park ground and a crowd of 16,000 turned out to witness the encounter. Essendon went into the match as firm favourites, but Melbourne’s recent run of form meant that it was not without some chance of success. The Melbourne players came out strongly in the first term and seemed to surprise Essendon with their pace and well-drilled system of play. The Redlegs had posted three goals before Essendon managed to hit the scoreboard and went to the break with a lead of 11 points. Essendon, as expected, worked its way back into the contest in the second quarter. It was a tight struggle where goals were at a premium – only one was scored for the term and that was to Essendon. Despite Essendon’s improvement, Melbourne was able to hold on to its lead and went to the dressing rooms at half-time leading by two points.

 

At half-time the scores were Melbourne, 3.1 (19) to Essendon, 2.5 (17).

 

The play from both teams in the third quarter was of an exceptional standard and the ball travelled from end to end. Productivity in front of goal had also improved and five goals were kicked for the term, with three of them to Melbourne. Essendon hit back hard in the final term and it seemed that they were on track to rein in the dogged Redlegs. Essendon’s defence blocked all of Melbourne’s avenues to goal and were lauded for their efforts in the final term. In the forward half, a number of awful mistakes were made by some of Essendon’s most experienced players which resulted in several missed opportunities to take the lead. Essendon was unable to capitalise on its apparent dominance and Melbourne held on to run out deserving winners by two points.

 

Melbourne 7.3 (45) d. Essendon 5.13 (43)

 

Melbourne captain, Richard Wardill, finished the game with three goals and was clearly the best man on the ground.

 

At no stage during the year would anyone have predicted that Fitzroy and Melbourne would be playing each other in an end of season final. Fitzroy, of course, was deemed a certainty to be there by most observers as they sought to clinch a third successive premiership. There were few, however, who could have envisioned that Melbourne would be the team assigned to stopping the Maroons from achieving their goal.

 

A crowd in excess of 20,000 filed through the gates of the East Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 22 for the 1900 Grand Final. Fitzroy immediately displayed its finals experience and before long had kicked the opening goal of the match. After a slow start Melbourne gained its composure and fought back to kick the next two goals and take a five-point lead into the first break. The second quarter was a dour struggle as both teams went on the defensive. Fitzroy kicked the only goal of the term and the teams went to the dressing rooms with the Maroons holding a slender lead of two points.

 

It was clear by the actions of the Melbourne men in the early stages of the third quarter that they were not about to concede to the experienced Maroons outfit. Every challenge that Fitzroy threw at the Redlegs was repelled with ferocious intensity, as they failed to break through and add to their half-time score. At three quarter time, Melbourne was in front by 13 points and it was difficult to see how Fitzroy might bridge the gap. Melbourne defended grimly in the final term. The rucks kept the ball out wide and out of the hands of Fitzroy’s most productive players, but the Maroons showed everyone at the ground why they were two-time premiers and peppered away at the goals. Time after time the goal was threatened, but a spate of inaccuracy by the forwards saw the ball only once kicked between the posts. Fitzroy’s efforts would not be enough to reel in the deficit and Melbourne held on to win by four points to claim the fourth ever VFL premiership.

 

The final scores were Melbourne, 4.10 (34) to Fitzroy, 3.12 (30).

 

McGinis, Wardill and Moodie were Melbourne’s best players on the day, while for Fitzroy, Mick Grace kicked two goals and did all that he could to get his team across the line.

 

 

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About DJ Williams

Football history artist living in Torquay

Comments

  1. So, St Kilda’s first win was against Melbourne – and one protest. Typical Melbourne.

    Melbourne pinched a flag from 7th. Atypical Melbourne.

    If that was the Dees fourth flag, does that mean we are already counting the VFL back to the 1870s (or whenever)?

  2. DJ Williams says

    Tony Tea –
    The article refers to the fourth VFL premiership, not Melbourne’s fourth.
    With Melbourne winning no premierships in the first 20 seasons of the VFA ( 1877-1896 ), it would be unfair to add their 1976 premiership and earlier titles to any overall list involving all clubs.

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