Geelong’s Record Run – Round 11 1952: Essendon v Geelong – A draw… but Geelong’s undefeated run continues




Round 11 1952  


Featuring Norm Sharp and Sid Smith from out west



Essendon v Geelong

Windy Hill

Saturday 5th July 1952


Facing Essendon for the second time in three weeks was an opportunity for Geelong to avenge the ‘Brisbane debacle’ of Round 8. Throughout their record streak of undefeated games in 1952-53, the Dons were among Geelong’s strongest and most respected opponents. And so it would be at Windy Hill in Round 11.


The Footy Record noted that the ‘Pivotonians’ were not impressive against Hawthorn in round 10 and would need to do better in their next three games against strong sides Essendon, Collingwood and Melbourne.


In Geelong’s favour this time around was having Bruce Morrison back in the side to counter John Coleman. Morrison was equally renowned for his free running, attacking play as his defensive ability. Their duel would no doubt be a highlight of the match.


The teams




B. Heenan Brittingham Syme
HB. Gardiner McConnell McDonald
C. O’Sullivan Dale Lunn
HF. Jones Gallagher McEwin
F. Mann Coleman Gilmore
Foll. Gill Carstairs
Rov. Hutchison
Res. Clarke Markini




B. Hovey Morrison Sharp
HB. Middlemiss Hyde S. Smith
C. Turner Palmer Reed
HF. Rayson Flanagan Davis
F. Pianto McMaster Morrow
Foll. Renfrey Swarbrick
Rov. Trezise

Res.      Tuckwell          Worner


Geelong was without regular centre half back Geoff Williams but with defenders to spare, John Hyde comfortably slotted into the position. Tony Walsh lost his place in the team after just two games and the versatile Bill McMaster moved to full forward with George Goninon still out injured.


Essendon, kicking against a strong wind, had two goals on the board courtesy of John Coleman before the Cats found their feet. Was Coleman set for another day out? Suddenly Geelong burst away after Bob Davis kicked a long goal, piling on five more majors before the first change. From that moment Geelong took control and with three quick goals after half time pushed their lead out to over five goals and the game should have been in the bag.


Finding themselves 24 points down at three quarter time, the Bombers regrouped and with the breeze at their backs pushed the Cats hard in the last quarter. But missed opportunities proved costly. Jack Jones and Coleman combined for a goal in time-on, which levelled the scores. A frantic final two minutes saw the ball held in the teeth of Essendon’s goal, but the cool Morrison prevailed for Geelong and scores remained tied at 76 apiece when the final siren blew.


Was it an escape or a missed opportunity?  Draws always pose such questions. In the final analysis, seven consecutive points in the last term did the Bombers no favours. Geelong kept its undefeated run going, but coach Reg Hickey had work to do.





Essendon                       2.2                        6.5                        7.8                        10.16 (76)     

Geelong                           6.5                        8.6                        11.8                     11.10 (76)


Goals: Essendon – Coleman 4, McEwin 3, Hutchison, Gilmore, Carstairs

Geelong – McMaster 3, Davis 2, Pianto 2, Hyde, Trezise, Swarbrick, Flanagan


Best: Essendon – Hutchinson, Gill, Gilmore, McDonald, Coleman, Brittingham

Geelong – Hyde, Pianto, Middlemiss, Palmer, Davis, Trezise


Umpire:           Jameison                         Attendance: 21 000


Reserves:        Essendon 6.16 (52) defeated Geelong 4.3 (27)



Around the grounds


The draw for Round 11 of the VFL was a carbon copy of the round eight fixtures. To give an indication of how well the round eight interstate and country matches were supported, Round 11 in Melbourne produced only 5 300 more spectators than the novel venues totalled three week’s earlier.


Spectators throwing punches at players and a melee involving an intruder, players, police and umpires marred football in Melbourne that Saturday in 1952.



At the MCG, Fitzroy 11.17 (83) defeated Melbourne 11.7 (73)

At Glenferrie Oval, Carlton 9.24 (78) defeated Hawthorn 5.11 (41)

At Victoria Park, Collingwood 10.19 (79) defeated Richmond 8.8 (56)

At the Junction Oval, Footscray 12.13 (85) defeated St. Kilda 11.13 (79)

At Arden Street, South Melbourne 10.17 (77) defeated North Melbourne 7.4 (46)

At the MCG, Fitzroy 11.17 (83) defeated Melbourne 11.7 (73)



In the game at the MCG, Melbourne half back flanker Noel McMahen was “a tower of strength in defence against Fitzroy.” The Age listed McMahen as one of the “Star Players” of round 11. When his 175 game VFL career ended, McMahen captain coached Bendigo League team Rochester from 1957 until 1961, winning two premierships with the northern Victorian club (1958 and 1959). He returned to the city and coached South Melbourne between 1962 and 1964. Noel McMahen was named on the half back flank in Melbourne’s Team of the Century.



Noel McMahen



The Top Four

Collingwood 11 36 152.9
Geelong 11 34 117.8
Carlton 11 32 116.9
South Melbourne 11 32 114.2


Leading goal kickers

  1. Coleman (Essendon) (4) 38
  2. Ongarello (Fitzroy) (2) 34
  3. Spencer (North Melbourne) (4) 34
  4. Howell (Carlton) (3) 30


Next week      Round 12 Geelong v Collingwood at Kardinia Park

With a feature on Geelong player Fred Flanagan.

For the opposition – Collingwood’s Bob Rose.


This week’s featured Geelong players:  Norm Sharp and Sid Smith


Ruckman Norm Sharp was recruited by Geelong in 1952 from Hampden League club Camperdown. Sid Smith also joined the Cats in 1952. He was recruited from Wimmera League club Horsham, where he played in the full back position. Both, Sharp and Smith were premiership players for Geelong in 1952.


Seventeen year-old Sharp made his debut for Geelong in Round 3 against St. Kilda and played 13 games in 1952, including a grand final appearance against Collingwood. In his first season he still lived on the family farm at Camperdown, travelling to Geelong to train and play.


Norm Sharp


Sharp was described in The Age (8 August 1952) “as one of the most talented big men to break into league ranks for several years… Powerfully built, courageous, and possessing a brilliant knowledge of the game, Sharp has sufficient pace to match the League’s fastest ruckmen, is a very safe mark and a good kick. There is not a fault in his football, and he is the sort of player about whom coaches dream when thinking of recruits.”


Not a bad rap for a young player making his way in league football!


Some observers named Sharp among Geelong’s best that afternoon in 1952 against Essendon. The following week, in round 12, Sharp suffered a hand injury (broken knucklebone) in the game against Collingwood, which sidelined him for several weeks. Norm Sharp went on to play 88 games for the Cats before suffering a career-ending knee injury in 1957. He then played country football at Modewarre and later at Mallee League club, Nullawill.



Sid Smith Junior (his father, also named Sid Smith, played for Geelong in 1911)  was a part of 18 of Geelong’s 26 record run of games. A defender, Smith made his debut in round five against North Melbourne. He only played in two losing games for Geelong in his 23 game career – his second appearance, round 8 1952, and the 1953 grand final, his last VFL game. He then joined Ballarat and played in a premiership in 1954.



Country football connections


That Saturday in 1952, Norm Sharp’s old club Camperdown (Hampden League) enjoyed a three goal win over South Warrnambool while Sid Smith’s former club Horsham (Wimmera League) suffered a 60 point loss to Jeparit.


Meanwhile, Noel McMahen’s future club Rochester (Bendigo League) lost to archrivals Echuca by 40 points.



For the opposition


Essendon greats, Jack Jones and Lance Mann, continued their playing careers in the Ovens and Murray League with Albury in 1955.


Essendon legend Jack Jones captain coached Albury between 1955 and 1959 leading the Tigers to the 1956 premiership. Affectionately known as ‘Gentleman Jack’, Jones played 175 games for the Bombers and was a member of Essendon’s 1946, 1949 and 1950 premiership teams.


Lance Mann, originally from upper Murray River town Walwa played with Albury before joining Essendon. Mann’s timely return to Albury in 1955 resulted in him winning the league’s best and fairest award, the Morris Medal, as well as a premiership, both in 1956. He returned to Windy Hill in 1958 and played two further seasons with the Bombers before retiring.


But his achievements in the VFL and the Ovens and Murray League were not his only claims to fame. He was a talented sprinter, winning the Stawell Gift, the Bendigo Easter Gift and the Wangaratta Gift in 1952. Mann was the first athlete to do so in the same year.


That Saturday in 1952 Albury had a four point win over Rutherglen in a low scoring match.




Meanwhile …


Frank Sedgeman became the first Australian to win the triple Wimbledon Championship in the same year, with victories in the men’s singles, the men’s doubles and the mixed doubles. Sedgeman became the first Australian to win the Wimbledon singles title since 1933. Teamed with Ken McGregor, the Australian pair defeated the V. Seixas (USA) and E. Sturgess (South Africa) in the men’s doubles. Sedgeman and Doris Hart of the US took out the mixed doubles.


Victoria’s wild winter weather continued with gales, hail, thunderstorms and snow reported over large areas of the state. Meanwhile, Mornington Peninsula residents were treated to the Aurora Australis ‘lights show’ on the evening of Thursday 3rd July.




Peter Clark also wrote about St. Kilda’s premiership season in his 1966 And All That series. You can read that HERE.





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About Peter Clark

is a lifetime Geelong supporter. Hailing from the Riverina, he is now entrenched on the NSW South Coast. His passion for footy was ignited by attending Ovens and Murray League matches in the 1960's with his father. After years of watching, playing and coaching, now it is time for some serious writing about his favourite subjects… footy, especially country footy, and cricket.


  1. Ta Peter, a good read as always.

    The ‘Pivotonians’? I thought Geelong became the Cats in 1923, or am I missing something?

    Spectators punching players; melees? I’m intrigued about this . I’d like some more details.

    Jack Jones, grandfather of current Fox Footy host, Sarah Jones. The Jones family have produced some very smart operators.

    Keep them coming Peter.


  2. Thanks for this, Peter. Another enjoyable read.

    Like Glen!, I am intrigued by the intruder/ melee incidents etc.

  3. Dr Rocket says

    As always Peter a fantastic read, but it sticks in the claw to see Echuca beat Rochy that round in 1952…
    never lost a game to them under Noel McMahen!

    And fancy Jeparit beating Horsham by 60 points!

  4. Peter Clark says

    Glen, yes the name ‘Cats’ was adopted by Geelong in 1923 but the Melbourne press continued to refer to Geelong as the ‘Pivotonians’ for years afterwards. The name seems to have petered out during the 1950s.

    Glen and Smokie,
    According to Percy Beames (in The Age), Richmond defender Don Fraser was attacked by a spectator who ran 40 metres on to the ground during the last quarter. Spectators fought after the game between Richmond and Collingwood, while a trainer was reported for allegedly striking the emergency umpire.
    In the Carlton v Hawthorn game, Carlton full back Ollie Grieve was reported for allegedly attempting to strike a spectator. He was later cleared of the charge by the league.
    The VFL was not the only competition with a fracas or two that day. In the VFA Sandringham v Yarraville game, a Sandringham trainer was reported for allegedly attempting to strike the field umpire.
    And from my understanding those types of incidents were quite common in country football in those days.

    Dr Rocket,
    Noel McMahen was another in the long list of VFL players in 1950s and 60s who went to the country and had great success as captain coaches.


  5. HI Peter: I was a little schoolboy at the 1951 grand final when old Dickie Reynolds ran on as 20th man, last term. Didn’t matter — we still won.

    I missed the ’52 season. Welsh-born Dad took us all back to Manchester, where the family had moved to, No hold-up in the Suez Canal back then. Container ships still figments of the imagination.

    Grandma back home in Newtown mailed us copies of the pink Sporting Globe. Some weeks late but better than nothing

    I recall Johnny Hyde regularly playing CHB in that era. Williams was more a HBF player.

    One interesting fact. The first time Freddie Flanagan saw the MCG was the day he ran out to play on it. Fred was a Swan Hill boy.

    When I flew back home to Viccy from Port Moresby in the mid-60s I used to have a few beers with Jimmy Tuckwell and Hooker Renfrey in the big pub in South Geelong — close to the river. Can’t remember its name.

    Jim was quite a ladies man. Used to tell us he couldn’t have more than 2 or 3 beers. Had a lady waiting for him up the hill in Belmont. Boyfriend apparently worked night shift so Jim had to head off.

  6. Peter Clark says

    Good evening Edward

    You certainly got around… Geelong, Manchester, Port Moresby, and back to Geelong!

    It makes my day to read a comment from someone who wqs actually there at the time and knew some of the Geelong players. Brilliant.

    I hope you enjoy the series.


  7. Dr Rocket says

    Were there any Bendigo boys in the team then Edward?

  8. Peter Fuller says

    Dr. Rocket,
    Peter Pianto (Eaglehawk) qualifies. I was sure that Tony de Bolfo’s Italian team of the century which included PP was the subject of a post on the Almanac; however the search feature didn’t reveal it, so maybe I read the Pianto story elsewhere. I’ll defer to other better-informed Almanackers, but the other players whose origins are familiar to me in the Geelong team for this match don’t include any Bendigo League players. That said there are a number of names new to me.

  9. Correct Peter F. Peter Pianto was recruited from Eaglehawk.

    Also from Eaglehawk in the Bendigo F.L. Rocket Rod is centreman Dougie Palmer. Not very big but a tough in-and-under centreman.

    Noel Rayson was a delightful left-footer. Wingman Leo Turner, IMHO, was a much better player than his son.

    Tom Morrow would have been first ruckman. Hooker Renfrey was a ruck-rover (an inside mid. in today’s terminology) and was just six feet tall.

    I can’t see Bernie Smith in the team Maybe he was out injured. Although he was a Brownlow Medallist Bernie had no left foot. He’d come out of packs and dispose of the pill with a rough punt kick from the outside of the right

    All boots back then were black.of course, and the leather came up ankle-bone high.

    The combination of Bernie Smith and FB Bruce Morrison was the only backline pairing able to hold Essendon ace John Coleman who could soar over packs from two steps.

    Morrison would try and tap the ball clear of Coleman and let Bernie do the tidying-up.With a right-foot clearing kick, of course. Coleman would still kick 4 or 5 majors, but not 7, 8 or 9 as he’d do against other then VFL clubs.

    Forget Plugger, Gazza senior, Duck Carey and Leigh Mathews. Coleman is the greatest Aussie Rules footballer I’ve ever seen.

  10. Peter Clark says

    It is fantastic to read your firsthand descriptions of the Geelong players and the VFL football scene in the early 1950s.
    Bernie Smith was troubled with an ankle injury in 1952 and only played 11 games that season. He is back ‘next week’ for the round 12 game against Collingwood.

    Do you have any memories of the two boys from the Warrnambool area – Harry Herbert and George Swarbrick?

  11. Yep, I remember Harry Herbert. He’d have a turn in the ruck as the back-up, mainly to Bill McMaster and Tom Morrrow.

    Back in the day ruckman would ‘rest’ either in the back pocket or the forward pocket, depending on their marking abilities and their ability to match-up with opponents. The rovers would rest just in a forward pocket, so Nipper Tresize and Pianto often crumbed packs in the front half and snapped majors.

    One player who deserves a mention from this era is Forties FF Lindsay White. I had almost forgotten about Lindsay — who played for South Melb. in the latter part of WW2 when Geelong was in recess — and found his name in my very first Footy Record. It was dated June 1949 and I thought we’d played Collingwood.

    But Footscray was our opponent all those 72 years back and there was Lindsay White’s name. If memory serves me right he was a fine, long kick for goal. The old Records were unearthed when a daughter was cleaning up and emptying out old boxes and tubs in our garage in our downsizer.

    Other old papers found their way into the yellow re-cycling bin but not the Football Records.

    But sorry Peter. I can’t recall anything about George Swarbrick. Except his name — playing abilities, zilch from me.


  12. Peter Clark says

    After your reply Edward, I have done some reading on Lindsay White and can see why he was such a Geelong favourite.
    And he was the uncle of early 1950s Geelong player George Swarbrick.

  13. Ellis Whitten says

    Here’s some more info. on Lindsay White, Peter C. and Edward.

    He was Geelong’s leading goalkicker 5 times. His best return was 86 in 1948.

    Lowest was 58 snag rolls in 1949.

    In South Melbourne’s finals team of 1942 (when Geelong was in recess) Lindsay bagged 80.

    He was a standout full-forward inn the WW2 and post-War eras.

  14. Peter Fuller says

    I saw George Swarbrick play for Port Fairy in the Hampden League when he returned to the western district after 23 games with the Cats across 1952-53 (source Encyclopedia of VFL/AFL Players) which records his height as 193 cm.- which I think of as 6 feet 4 inches in the old measure. I’m inferring that this number of games means that he couldn’t command a regular place in the Cats seniors. My hazy recollection is that he fitted the pattern of the time where the taller ruckmen tended to be relatively awkward and immobile, and the outstanding rucks of the time were more typically those around 6-2 or 6-3. I’m thinking Dennis Cordner, Harvey Stevens, Ken Hands, although I was surprised to see in the Encyclopedia, John Gill is also recorded as 193 cm.
    Geoff Leek, on whom the Almanac authority is Rod Oaten, was a Swarbrick-like figure in his early years, particularly a notoriously unreliable kick. Leek developed into a very good ruckman and was a Bomber stalwart in the late 50s/early 60s.
    It seems that during the period Geelong’s ruck duties were shared with Norm Sharp being the fixture when available, Bill McMaster, Renfrey (as something of a ruck-rover), Morrow until his retirement as regulars, Swarbrick, Norman, Herbert and Stewart all featuring at times. No doubt all will be revealed as Peter unrolls the history.

  15. Peter Clark says

    Thanks Ellis,
    Lindsay White must have been well worth the admission price.

    Peter F,
    Thanks for your info on George Swarbrick. Geelong seems to have had a bag full of ruckman at the time – unlike today!

  16. Roger Law says

    And speaking of full-forwards Peter Clark we mustn’t forget George Goninon. He’s still alive and turned 94 either today (Sunday) or the day earlier. He notched 278 goals for the Pivotonians and won what would today be known as the Coleman Medal as the VFL’s leading goalkicker in 1951 Not sure about 1952. He went on to play firstly in the Geelong F.L. and later for Geelong West in the Ballarat F.L.

  17. Peter Clark says

    Yes Roger, it is George Goninon’s 94th birthday today. Happy birthday George!

    A great contributor to Geelong’s success in 51 and 52 but controversially dropped before the 53 grand final.

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