Almanac Footy History: Footage of the great grudge match of 1950

Footage of the great grudge match of 1950


The 1950 Australian National Football Council (ANFC) carnival in Brisbane was to be the code’s first big thrust post World War II, in what the national body described as its “propaganda war” with the rugby codes. Collingwood premiership hero (1928 and 1930), Bruce Andrew, was based in Brisbane to promote the code.  Andrew, with a small band of local administrators, was making great strides; within a few years leagues were launched in Townsville and Cairns.


Nine teams attended the 1950 carnival. Division One comprised five teams (VFL, VFA, Tasmania, WAFL, SANFL) and Division Two four teams (Queensland, New South Wales, ACT and the Australian Amateurs).


Alan Ruthven, John Coleman, Bill Hutchinson, Charlie Sutton and Bob Davis were some of the big names for the VFL. Fos Williams and Jack Oatey lined up for South Australia, and the great Jack Sheedy was at the helm of a star-studded Western Australia.


The carnival was played in appalling conditions. A rare winter low flooded the RNA Showground, where most matches were scheduled. The venue itself was hardly ideal. Shorter than the SCG and surrounded by a gravel speedway track, it was NOT the MCG or Adelaide Oval. After a few matches the surface was a quagmire. Rivers of water flowed through the ground, and the smell of effluent grew stronger as the carnival progressed.


Crowds for the matches involving Queensland and the Division 1 teams were strong but the weather was appalling (the ANFC lost a hefty 10,000 pounds on the carnival). When Victoria played Western Australia on the Saturday night however, the RNA Showground was packed. They were there to see the best that the Australian game could produce, but another event was to take place that evening that had captured local media and sport lover interest.


Queensland boasted four Trewick brothers in their carnival team. Brisbane taxi driver Ken Trewick was a particularly quick runner.  A confluence of events related to football saw the Trewick name gain prominence in southern media early in 1950. Ken Trewick was sensationally backed to win the prestigious Stawell Gift. He won comfortably in controversial circumstances. Other competitors protested about Trewick’s eligibility just prior to the final race. Loudest in their protests was a half back flanker from Footscray, Eric Cummings, who had run a close second in the 1946 Stawell Gift.


The Brisbane battler prevailed at Stawell in 1950 in an amazing story that John Harms has captured in his imitable way in a story elsewhere. It was the first time a Queenslander had won Australia’s most famous running race since Tommy Miles in 1927.




The grudge between Cummings and Trewick commenced in 1948 when a Jack Dyer-coached Richmond played Footscray in front of 27,000 fans at the RNA Showgrounds. Queensland had beaten Canberra in the curtain raiser that day, and Ken Trewick was in the local’s best players. Earlier in the week the confident Cummings had challenged any Queensland footballer (rugby, soccer or rules) to a match race at half time of the game in which he was playing. By quarter time no challenger had come forward, and local umpire’s adviser, Horrie Hyde, pleaded with Trewick to accept the challenge, to ensure it went ahead.


Trewick beat Cummings (both players ran in football boots) and began his amazing journey to the 1950 Stawell Gift. Cummings remembered that day in 1948 well, and used it in his protests over Trewick’s eligibility for the rich 1950 sprint race at Stawell. Trewick also remembered Cummings’ role in attempting to steal his moment of glory. He challenged Cummings to a match race, “anywhere, anytime”.


Enter John Wren: Collingwood supporter, entrepreneur, illegal bookmaker and racetrack owner. Wren held extensive business interests in Queensland that included ownership of the Daily Mail (a forerunner of the Courier Mail) and five racetracks (including Doomben and Kedron Park). He had allegedly bought a place in the Federal Parliament for former Queensland Premier, “Red Ted” Theodore.


Wren and two local bookmakers put up 450 pounds for Cummings and Trewick to race during the 1950 ANFC Carnival. It was billed as a grudge match and was receiving as much publicity in Brisbane as the football itself.


Three races were run between the pair over three days. Cummings won over 75-yards on the first day, the 100-yard race was declared a dead heat, and Cummings narrowly won the 130-yard event.


Amazing Technicolor footage of the ANFC carnival has recently surfaced. One of the Cummings/Trewick races in the grudge match of 1950 was also captured.


From John Harms: This is one story from the history of Australian football in Queensland. Murray Bird and his team are finalising the history with a view to publish the book in this the sesquicentennial year. More information to come. And more footage to come as well.


They are still looking for stories about Queensland footy. If you have a yarn about a club or a player or a game or whatever your memories add them as a comment and Muz will contact. you.


  1. Fabulous stuff.

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