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Dear Editor: Can we have some footy talk, please?

I do realise that we’ve just had six months of footy and the Almanac had been saturated with stories of our great game, but now that the racing carnival is almost over and before the cricket gets underway in earnest, maybe it’s time for a bit of footy talk again. Not current day footy, but a glance at what journalism and the game was like 83 years ago.

Melburnians alive and kicking between 1922 and 1996 will remember the Sporting Globe, that wonderful pink newspaper that for 70 odd years gave the football-loving public something to look forward to twice a week.

The Saturday evening edition, released just hours after the completion of the afternoon’s games, was not only an integral part of footy culture in Melbourne – especially before television was introduced – but a vital tool for in-depth match analysis and results. After its demise in 1979 the Wednesday edition continued for a further 17 years, before ceasing publication altogether in 1996.

I am now in the possession of a copy of the 1164th edition, dated Saturday September 30, 1933, at the princely sum of 1½d which in today’s terms is 0.075 of a cent. I don’t have the full paper (6 pages), just the front page, and the size is 68cm height x 50cm width. Compared to today’s dailies it is 27cm x 21cm larger: more than double the size! It is huge! (continues below)

Sporting globe 1933

Unfortunately the paper is so large that the photograph of it doesn’t enable the small text to be read.

The headline, under THE SPORTING GLOBE First in the Sphere of Sports reads:

South Melbourne Wins First Premiership Since 1918 By Defeating Richmond

Sub headings read: South Sweep Through to Victory; Tigers Feeling Strain of Hard Game; Pace Kills Richmond’s Chances; South’s Brilliant Form on Every Line Tells, and Points About The League Grand Final Game. Under this latter heading there is: An Analysis of the play in the game between Richmond and South Melbourne today shows the following:

This is where the terminology and statistics of the 30s become interesting. The columns read:
Free Kicks To
Free Kicks Against
Passed to Comrade
Shots for Goal
Goals obtained
Behinds Obtained

The statistics reveal a major difference to the current game.

South had 309 kicks, compared to 201 in the 2016 GF.
102 marks, and 91 in 2016
28 “passes to comrade”, and 171 (handballs) in 2016. (I’m not sure what was regarded as “passes” in 1933, as the flick pass had been abolished in the late 20s and then reinstated in 1934).
37 free kicks, compared to the much-discussed 8 this time round.
And 83 years on, there are what is now known as tackles, 101 of them by the Swans. Not part of the game in 1933.
Richmond’s and Footscray’s respective stats were not that dissimilar, except for the disproportionate number of frees to the latter in 2016!

And a breakdown is given of what the free kicks were for, such as: 12 boundary infringements, of which five were against Richmond full back Sheehan

The lists of players’ names and positions also includes their weight and height. Interestingly, of the 19 players in each side, only nine are 6 feet (183 cm) including two of them 6.1″ (185cm). The average height in that game was 5’10” (178cm). Today’s players average out at 6.2″ (188.4cm), with some as tall as 6.9″ (210cm).

The caption under the main photo at the top of the page says: One of the man duels at the League grand final. Man duels? I like it!

The journalist W.S Sharland makes some fascinating observations in his match report, written in short, succinct 20-odd word statements, some of which are:

Richmond players had reason to be satisfied with the cool conditions prevailing today. After their hard games in the second semi-final and final (not preliminary final), a warm day might have been disastrous to them.

Scott was appointed field umpire, and representatives of both clubs expressed satisfaction that he was available. (Concerning the umpire, a report from the Argus stated: “The central umpire, R. Scott, who did very well, was cheered as he left the field”)! Can you see us doing that today?

The play was full of life from the start.

Reville’s place kick shot was touched by Bolger. Reville showed how a place kick should be executed by keeping his eye on the ball all the time.

South’s defence was very strong. McLaughlin and Nash did splendidly with safe defence, while Murdoch and Stenhouse did yeoman service for Richmond.

South’s team work was definitely better and their attackers and ruckmen allowed more enterprise. Of course, everything was in their favour, as they had spelled for a fortnight.

Richmond then began to shake it up on the flanks.

The kicking for goal was not up to standard. The ball may have been the reason for this.

Nash’s wonderful marking delighted the crowd. For ground and jar work combined he is the best half back since the war.

The finish was tame, as Richmond could not raise a gallop. South finished too strong and their supporters were delighted with their showing.

Scott umpired well.

Another journalist “Short Pass” noted: The cool fine weather was ideal for the game. The turf, however, was rather hard.

Richmond had spent an anxious week and in the dressing room before the match seemed a trifle highly strung.

South Melbourne were in a far happier position and, in the smaller dressing room from which so many winning teams have emerged for finals – they were full of confidence.

Attendance was: 76,676 (then an Australian record) and the Gate Receipts were £4,231/8/6d. Melbourne’s population in 1933 was approximately 1.03 million, meaning one in 13 people attended the game. Today, based on a population of approximately 5.00 million, of the 100,000 in attendance at this year’s grand final, one in 50 would have been the comparison. How many more would attend if there was a stadium large enough, I wonder? Although I doubt there would have been the proportionate number of corporates and big wigs in 1933 who now fill most of the seats at the G these days.

Final score: South Melbourne 9.17.71 to Richmond 4.5.29

Best players: South had a very even side, and it went on to mention the names. Then, I liked the reference: Hard battlers for Richmond were.……….

There is also a little boxed article with the heading Richmond Finances are Sound. Richmond are in a good financial position and may finish the season with a credit of £400. To the credit of some of the players there is as much as £100 in the provident fund.

All very interesting! I am very grateful to Ken Woolfe for sending me this 83 year old document.

He also sent me a copy of the Sportsmen’s Club 1970 Dinner brochure in honour of Peter Bedford’s Brownlow Medal achievement that year. The front has signatures of some of the most famous of names: Bobby Skilton, Peter Bedford, Fred Goldsmith, Ian Stewart, Stan Judkins, Dick Reynolds, Bert Deacon, Ron Clegg, Jack Dyer, Chicken Smallhorn and Lou Richards.

Ken Woolfe got in touch with me a short while ago, having bought my book. He very kindly sent me the original document he received when umpiring his first VFL game, back in June 1956, which I scanned and included in my Almanac article after our grand final loss

Ken also sent me a copy of an article published in Pavilion 2016-17 pages 15 and 16, under the heading A TRUE ALLROUNDER which gives us a little insight about Ken.

Almost 50 years ago, Ken helped form the Australian Cricket Society. He has met Neville Cardus, kept wickets to ‘Typhoon’ Tyson, befriended a down-and-out Cluck Fleetwood-Smith, umpired football great Ron Barassi and built one of the great collections of cricket and football books (including The Record) in the land.

With business and family interests a priority, Ken’s own sporting pursuits were restricted to suburban competitions and would have risen further as a player in cricket and football had be been able to devote more time to training. After retiring he took up the demanding role of umpiring in both sports. He had four seasons at VFL level (1956-59) when of course only one field umpire officiated.

A dedicated Collingwood supporter since an early age, Ken, now 88, attended his first Grand Final in 1939 and has been to 55 of the 56 held since 1961. He has also visited the UK 10 times since 1968 to follow the Ashes series. During his many visits to London, he would frequent his favourite Charing Cross second-hand bookshops just as eagerly as he would Mrs Bird’s at the top of Bourke St in Melbourne. At its height, his collection was the equal of almost anybody’s in Australia and included the rarely seen World of Cricket from 1914.

The article concluded with: Few have ‘ticked more boxes’ or have an achievement CV quite like Ken.

So, how lucky am I to have been sent such interesting and historic material – and from a Collingwood supporter! Proves they’re not all bad!



About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    “Passed to Comrade” Love it. Ahh the days when 15 years was a drought. Great stuff Jan.

  2. jan courtin says

    Yes, Phil. “passed to comrade” is the pick of them. I also liked:

    “The play was full of life from the start”.

    “Richmond then began to shake it up on the flanks”.

    “For ground and jar work combined…”

    “The kicking for goal was not up to standard. The ball may have been the reason for this”.

    “Stenhouse did yeoman service for Richmond.”

    And, imagine a game without tackling!!

  3. jan courtin says

    The photo is supposed to be pink!!

  4. What a fascinating insight into footy of years gone by. I think I learn more about the Swans of old through your stories, Jan, than from any other sources!
    Thank you

  5. Pass to comrade, it’s funny how a simple phrase can capture an era. Nice read, Jan

  6. Peter Fuller says

    Love it Jan, thanks for stimulating a few memories. As I was a kid from the country in the pre-television era, newspapers in general and specifically the pink paper were if anything even more essential to sate our football appetite. Attending a VFL match was a rare treat.
    Thanks also for the note about Ken Woolfe; what a lovely man he must be (in spite of the Collingwood link: I guess he feels free to disclose that decades after his umpiring days. The umpiring fraternity are paranoid about acknowledging any prior support for a club).
    I have a distinct memory of obtaining Umpire Woolfe’s (he would have been Mr. to me rather than Ken in the 1950s) signature, when he officiated at a Hampden League match. My autograph hunting was selective. I only sought players in our local comp who had played in the big time, and Ken would have met my criterion as a VFL field umpire. I don’t know if the practice at the time was rotation, or if Ken had been dropped from the VFL for that week, but it was his status as one of those who had been on the field at VFL level, that motivated me to request him to sign.
    Also a pedantic observation, Jan: I think your decimal conversion is wrong. A penny-ha’penny, 1.5d is 1/8 of a shilling (10 cents), so the equivalent is 1.25 cents.
    I’m sure that you will treasure the Sportsmen’s Club dinner brochure and signatures.
    Thanks again Jan.

  7. jan courtin says

    HI Marcel, Nic and Peter
    Many thanks for your words.

    I’m sure Ken will be chuffed to know that someone sought an umpire’s signature, Peter, and if he reads this will definitely know where he umpired and when.

    Oh dear, I knew someone would check the conversion! To tell you the truth, I asked Marshall to do it for me and took his word for it! Just proves that if you put your name to something, do all the grunt work yourself!!

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