Back-to-back – under controversial circumstances

It is amazing how history aligns with itself.  In VFL/AFL history, just two men have played in back-to-back premierships with different clubs.  Each of those men transferred from one club to another under controversial circumstances.


Lance Buddy Franklin has the chance to become the third.  His transfer caused outrage.  With history as a guide, Hawthorn will lose the grand final to Sydney.


Jim Bull Martin played for three clubs: Carlton, Essendon and Fitzroy from 1902 to 1914.  A rover/forward pocket, he kicked 89 goals from 128 games.


Martin played six games for Carlton in 1902 then spent the next four years with Northcote in the VFA.  In 1907, he was recruited by Essendon and won their goal kicking award with just 16 goals.  The following year, he played as first rover in Essendon’s losing grand final team to Carlton.


In 1909, Martin played for Victoria against East Fremantle.


He was described as a strong, physical player.  Though he was only suspended twice, he seemed to have a temper.  In 1911, he was suspended for 12 weeks for striking Fitzroy’s George Holden.


Martin’s indiscretion had serious ramifications.  The incident was considered so shocking, police charged him with assault.  Martin had the ignominy of being the first VFL player to front the magistrates’ court for a football related incident.


He was found guilty but Essendon appealed and the guilty verdict was overturned.  Despite the court ruling, the VFL upheld Martin’s suspension and he missed out on Essendon’s premiership over Collingwood.


Martin’s redemption didn’t take long.  Essendon won the 1912 premiership against South Melbourne.  By that stage of his career, Martin was playing in the forward pocket.


After nine games with Essendon in 1913, he transferred to Fitzroy, playing alongside Holden, the man he’d belted.


There were fears Martin wouldn’t get along with his new teammates, that there would be residual tension.  But the Lions finished on top and won the premiership against St Kilda.  Martin kicked a goal from the forward pocket.  Holden played on the wing.


Martin became the first man to play in back-to-back premierships with two clubs.  His last game of football was the losing semi-final against Carlton in 1914.


Tom Fitzmaurice played for Essendon, Geelong and North Melbourne from 1918 to 1935.  Originally a ruckman, a leg injury forced him to centre-half-back.  In his last four seasons, he went forward for the Kangaroos and finished his career with 246 goals from 188 games.


Fitzmaurice debuted with Essendon in 1918 and missed the 1921 season when he went to Sydney for work.  While in Sydney, he captained New South Wales against Tasmania and Victoria.


He returned to Essendon in 1922 and played in the 1923-24 premiership teams.  Such was his dominance, he was named champion of the colony during those years.


Following the 1924 premiership, Essendon played VFA premiers Footscray in a charity match to determine Victoria’s champion team.  Footscray won the game in a major upset and Fitzmaurice quit Essendon in disgust, believing some of his teammates played dead to help Footscray’s application to join the VFL in 1925.


Fitzmaurice transferred to Geelong and played in their 1925 premiership team, becoming the second man in VFL/AFL history to play in consecutive premierships with different clubs.


After three years with the Cats, he quit, aged 30, and spent time with Mortlake then Yarraville in the VFL.


Aged 33, Fitzmaurice made a comeback with North Melbourne.  He kicked 196 goals from 54 games with the Roos, winning their goal-kicking award in consecutive seasons from 1932-34.


His last VFL game came in round eight, 1935.  Fitzmaurice spent the following seasons with Brunswick in the VFL and Manuka in Canberra.


He represented Victoria in 1919-20 and 1922-23-24.  In 1996, he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.


Lance Buddy Franklin has played more games and kicked more goals than Martin and Fitzmaurice.  With 655 goals from 203 games, Franklin is a cinch to be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.


He is having his best season since 2011.  Last year, he played in a premiership with Hawthorn.  This year, he’s every chance to win a premiership against Hawthorn.


Franklin has been some find for Sydney.  Coleman medallist in his first year and equal second in the Brownlow Medal.


He is the man the Hawks fear.  Almost impossible to match up on, if Franklin kicks five goals, Sydney will win.


Franklin has the chance to do something rare and unique.  It’s been 89-years since a footballer played in consecutive premierships with two different clubs.


Martin’s transfer was tainted by suspension and a court appearance.  Fitzmaurice’s transfer was caused by allegations of teammates cheating.


Franklin’s transfer was beset by allegations of unfairness due to the cost of living allowance and fraught with danger, given the length of his contract.


It matters not how those men transferred to their new clubs.  History may record those details, but they are peripheral to the most important historical fact.  Martin and Fitzmaurice won transferred to the right team, by luck or design, and won premierships.


Franklin’s transfer to Sydney was by design.  There was no luck involved.


It is Hawthorn, on grand final day, who will need the luck…



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Nice article Matt. Terrific spot of what is a very small ‘club’. And what a player Fitzmaurice must have been … in ability and integrity it seems. Cheers, Aj.

  2. Note to all – there seems to be some controversy surrounding the ‘champions of the colony’ award, and whether or not it is a myth.
    Apologies if I have that incorrect.

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