Almanac Soccer: The Dockerty Cup – outside of Melbourne?



When was the only time the final of the Dockerty Cup was played outside Melbourne?


The answer is in 1931 when after two drawn final games between Wonthaggi Magpies and Brunswick, the second replay was held in the Latrobe Valley, with the locals winning by a single goal to nil.


In the depths of the Great Depression soccer in Victoria was just recovering from a damaging split which saw two warring bodies competing for the loyalty of clubs and fans in Melbourne. In 1929 Brunswick won the second division and were promoted to the first grade along with Caledonians. But as often happened the promoted side struggled at the higher level. Things were not helped when Brunswick refused to play a match at the Motordrome when ordered to do so by the Victorian Amateur Soccer Association. This resulted in the expulsion of the club, which promptly appealed. The conduct of the appeal was then the subject of criticism by the Council leading to long-time official and former president, Harry Dockerty, who donated the Cup in 1908, resigning from the Appeals Board in protest. His two colleagues refused to continue without him.


At the end of the 1930 season the Council readmitted Brunswick to the First Division, only for the St Kilda club to launch an appeal claiming that this was unconstitutional and that the club finishing at the bottom of the ladder should be relegated. Council agreed and expunged its previous decision from the records. Nevertheless by the time the new season began in 1931, Brunswick were back in the first division and went through the league and cup matches undefeated until they came up against the mighty Magpies in September.


In the semi-finals of the Dockerty Cup, Brunswick accounted for Brighton by two goals to one, while Wonthaggi took two games to overcome Footscray Thistle. The first game was a one-all draw in Footscray, but the Magpies won the replay one-nil thanks to a combination by two of the three the Spooner brothers—P Spooner crossed for J Spooner to score the only goal.


Three of the Brunswick stars were not available for the final as they were with the Australian team touring Java in September—Percy Lewis, George Semple and George Weir. These lads were worked hard. They played 13 games between 29 August and 24 September, winning nine, drawing one and losing three. Brunswick compensated for the loss of these men by signing replacements from the Goulburn Valley district.


The Dockerty Cup competition was always keenly contested and was regarded by some in the press as ‘virtually the state championship’. The final was played in pouring rain at Brunswick Oval on Saturday 12 September 1931. The rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Wonthaggi fans, but the match was scoreless after full time and extra time. South Yarra won the Reserve cup final, played as a curtain raiser to the main game, beating Caledonians by the odd goal in seven. A replay of the Dockerty Cup final was scheduled for the following Saturday.



A strong wind was the problem when the replay took place at Brunswick Oval on Saturday 19th September. Wonthaggi were the chief sufferers from minor injuries and several faulty decisions by the referee, who stopped several promising moves for free kicks while the Magpies were in possession and play should have been allowed to continue. Both sets of forwards were off their game and once again the match finished scoreless even after extra time had been played.



So the contest went to a third game, this time in Wonthaggi. The Melbourne papers carried extensive reports on the game before ‘a record crowd’. Once again a strong wind had an influence on the game, with the home team handling it better. The home team won the toss and kicked with the wind, dominating the first half, but found Morgan in goal for Brunswick in fine form, while the Wonthaggi forwards could not convert a number of chances. B. Cook was closest to scoring with a pile-driver which struck the crossbar with Morgan well out of position for once.


In the second half against the wind, the home team kept the ball on the ground and put Brunswick under pressure for long periods. The Argus describes the decisive moment.


Twenty minutes from the end J. Spooner went through, Weir and MacFarlane both jumping at him to prevent his shot. The referee at once ordered a penalty, from which Mackey gave Morgan no chance to save his goal. … After the winning goal had been scored J. Baker, of Brunswick, who had previously been cautioned, was sent off by the referee for allegedly striking Mackey; Lyons, also of Brunswick, walked off the field and did not return.


The depleted Brunswick team tried hard to get on terms, but the Magpies ‘hung on to their advantage to the end and gained a well-earned victory’.


This must have been a great occasion for Harry Dockerty. Not content with restarting the game in Melbourne in 1908 and presenting the cup which bore his name thereafter, he took a Melbourne select team to Powlett River in June 1910 to help stimulate the game in the Latrobe valley by playing a new team there, the Wonthaggi Rangers.


Morwell Falcons emulated the Wonthaggi Magpies in 1994 when they beat Melbourne Zebras in the Dockerty Cup final, but this match was played at Olympic Park. This, to date, is the only other time the trophy has been won by a team from outside Melbourne.


Mark Boric has an extensive report on the Magpies’ triumph and reproduces the extensive match report and the celebrations thereafter in the Powlett Express. You can look at it HERE.



You can read more from Roy HERE.


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  1. Dennis Gedling says

    Great stuff Ray.

    What are your thoughts on the FFA Cup changes? Big fan of stand alone semi and final weekend.

    Would you like to see it named the Australia Cup like it once was?

  2. Thanks, Dennis. I agree we could make so much more of the Cup competitions, plural. State and National. Now that FFA has become FA, why don’t we call it the FA Cup. Surely there can be no confusion with a small local competition in England! We could have a play-off every other year in Oz and England between the two winners.

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