Geelong’s Record Run – Round 3, 1953: Collingwood v Geelong – fanatical fighting spirit versus power and class


Geelong’s Record Run




Fanatical fighting spirit v power and class



Collingwood v Geelong

Saturday 9th May 1953

Victoria Park


Featuring Russell Middlemiss



Collingwood coach Phonse Kyne had several headaches before the Round Three match against Geelong. A big loss to the Shinboners the week before, injuries to key players and the “Geelong menace” combined to give Collingwood a tough task in Round Three.


Commenting on Geelong’s long unbeaten run, the Football Record (9th May 1953) observed “It’s been a long time since they bit the dust that they might be forgiven for a little over-confidence, but this is one team that isn’t likely to fall into that trap.”


Collingwood selectors had to find replacements for the injured trio of Lou Richards, Mick Twomey and Peter Lucas. Geelong’s injured pair, Leo Turner and Harry Herbert, were replaced by like-for-likes Noel Rayson and George Swarbrick.


The teams




Backs:            Tarrant Hamilton Batchelor

Half backs:      Tuck Waller Kingston

Centre:            Hickey Parker Healey

Half forwards:   P. Twomey Finck R. Rose

Forwards:       Tebble Flint R. Richards

Followers:        Mann Clarke

Rover:              Merrett

Reserves:        Gooch Hams





Backs:              B. Smith Morrison Sharp

Half backs:       Middlemiss Hyde Williams

Centre:             Worner Palmer Fulton

Half forwards:   Rayson Flanagan Davis

Forwards:          Swarbrick Goninon Pianto

Followers:          McMaster Renfrey

Rover:               Trezise

Reserves:          Reed Baumgartner


At half time, with Collingwood having doubled Geelong’s score (8.8 to 4.4), spectators might have questioned whether Geelong had fallen into the trap of being too confident against the team they defeated for the ’52 flag. In truth it was Collingwood’s fanatical fighting spirit in the first half that gave them hope. But it was unsustainable. Undermanned and with further injuries, the Magpies succumbed to Geelong’s powerful comeback the second half as the Cats piled on ten goals to one. The move of Bob Davis from half forward to the centre quickly led to a bombardment of Collingwood’s goal, with Fred Flanagan and Noel Rayson leading the way up forward.


Geelong’s strong defence and Collingwood’s ineffective forward line play were the telling factors in a hard bumping contest at Victoria Park. The Cats walked away knowing they could resist a mighty challenge and prevail with their experience and class.




Geelong                     2.1       4.4       9.9       14.14 (98)

Collingwood             3.5       8.8       8.14     9.19 (73)



Goal kickers: Geelong – Goninon 4, Flanagan 3, Trezise 2, Swarbrick 2, Pianto, Rayson, Sharp

Collingwood – R. Rose 3, Healey 2, Mann, Tebble, Merrett, Tuck


Best: Geelong – Rayson, Flanagan, B. Smith, Swarbrick, Morrison, Davis

Collingwood – Healey, Mann, R. Rose, Hickey, Merrett, R. Richards



Umpire:         Jamieson                    Attendance:  26 500

Reserves:      Collingwood 11.11 (77) defeated Geelong 4.17 (41)



Around the grounds



At Punt Road Carlton 16.8 (104) defeated Richmond 15.8 (98)


At Windy Hill Essendon 17.20 (122) defeated St. Kilda 7.16 (58)


At the Lake Oval Fitzroy 12.14 (86) defeated South Melbourne 10.15 (75)


At the Western Oval Footscray 16.15 (111) defeated Hawthorn 6.6 (42)


At Arden Street North Melbourne 12.12 (84) defeated Melbourne 11.17 (83)



The tallest ruckman in the VFL at the time, Essendon’s Geoff Leek, will be remembered by some Almanackers as a highly respected radio broadcaster and member of the ABC TV Football Panel in the 1970s and ‘80s. Leek (affectionately known as the ‘Gentle Giant’) played 191 games for the Bombers in a career that spanned twelve seasons, 1951-1962. He was named among Essendon’s best in their big win over St. Kilda in Round Three 1953. Leek’s last game of VFL football was the club’s 1962 premiership win over Carlton, a game in which he blanketed John Nicholls.


Geoff Leek is the Essendon player in the action photo accompanying Neville Waller’s profile below.



The League Ladder


Round 3 M Pts. %
GEELONG 3 12 166.9
ESSENDON 3 8 131.4
FOOTSCRAY 3 8 116.2
Carlton 3 8 114.4
Fitzroy 3 8 95.9
Richmond 3 4 99.6
Collingwood 3 4 90.8
South Melbourne 3 4 85.7
St. Kilda 3 4 72.9
Melbourne 3 84.6
Hawthorn 3 47.2



Leading goal kickers


  1. Coleman (Ess) 10 31
  2. Hickey (Fitz) 5 14
  3. Trezise (Gee) 2 14
  4. Collins (Foot) 6 11
  5. Goninon (Gee) 4 11
  6. Aylett (NM) 3 11
  7. Pouter (Rich) 6 11


Next week: Round 4 Geelong v Essendon at Kardinia Park


Next week’s featured Geelong player: Bruce Murray


For the opposition: Brian Gilmore (Essendon)



This week’s featured Geelong player: Russell Middlemiss from Rokewood


Russell Middlemiss (jumper number 2) was recruited by Geelong in 1949 from Western Plains League club Rokewood.  After being raised in an orphanage in Ballarat, he left school to become a shearer. At age 18 he played in Rokewood’s 1947 premiership team. Middlemiss was soon on the radar of several Melbourne clubs, including Geelong. After the Cats signed him, coach Reg Hickey identified Middlemiss as an ideal half back flanker – a player who gave absolutely nothing to his opponent, but could also provide dash.


One of his most revered performances was the shutdown job he did on Collingwood’s Lou Richards in the 1952 grand final. In fact Middlemiss was an integral part of Geelong’s back-to-back flags in ’51 and ’52. His absence from the team, due to injury, in the 1953 decider against Collingwood was undoubtedly one of the big contributing factors in Geelong’s loss. He played in 25 of Geelong’s run of 26 undefeated games as part of the formidable half back line of Middlemiss – Hyde – Williams. In 1955 his 74 VFL game career ended after a second serious knee injury.


Russell Middlemiss



Russell Middlemiss was a much-loved figure at the Geelong Football Club and he reciprocated with a great affection for his “big Geelong family”. He worked for the past players association at Kardinia Park for many years after retiring from the game. Middlemiss is one of the six players in the famous Geelong wool photo.


For the opposition: Neville Waller (Collingwood)


Neville (‘Fats’) Waller was recruited by Collingwood from Glenhuntly Amateurs and debuted for the club in Round Three, 1953. He played in the backline (most often in the centre half back position) and the second ruck for the Magpies. Waller played 84 games over six seasons at Victoria Park, making three grand final appearances for one premiership win (1953).



Neville Waller handpasses the ball to teammate Neil Mann

while Geoff Leek attempts to spoil

(The Age 10th May 1954)



In 1959 Waller went to Ovens and Murray League club Wangaratta as captain coach for five seasons. He led the Wangaratta Magpies to the 1961 premiership.



Country football connections


In the Ovens and Murray League clash between in-town rivals Wangaratta and Wangaratta Rovers, Neville Waller’s future club Wangaratta won by 20 points.


The former club of Russell Middlemiss, Rokewood-Corindhap, played in the Western Plains League against teams in the 1950s from Derrinallum, Darlington, Cressy, Skipton, Lismore, Carngham and Linton. They kicked off the 1953 season (18th April) on the wrong foot with a 62 point loss to Lismore (scores unavailable for 9th May). Rokewood and Corindhap merged in 1931 and enjoyed post war success in the Western Plains League six with premierships. When that league merged with the Lexton League in 1991, the Lexton Plains League was established. Rokewood-Corindhap (the ‘Grasshoppers’) currently competes with 17 other clubs in the Central Highlands League.




Meanwhile …



Miller, Benaud, Ring and Archer in good form

In the tour match at Leicester the Australians easily accounted for Leicestershire, who were forced to follow-on, with innings’ totals of 109 and 180. Doug Ring was the star with the ball taking nine wickets for the match.


In the next tour match, against Yorkshire at Bradford, the Australians continued their fine form with the bat compiling 6/453 (dec.). Miller was superb again with 159 n.o., backed-up by Richie Benaud with a devastating 97. The New South Welshman then took 7/46 to wreck Yorkshire’s first innings. Following-on, Yorkshire was dismissed for 214.


The tour match against Surrey, played at The Oval, opened with devastating bowling by Ron Archer who took 6/26 in the county team’s first innings of 58. The Australians replied with 256. Archer led the way again with 5/35 in Surrey’s second innings of 122. Surrey skipper Stuart Surridge made 26 and opener David Fletcher top scored with 61.


In the Senate election held on Saturday 9th May, the ALP made gains but the Menzies government looked likely to retain control of the Upper House (31-29). After the result, Federal ALP leader Dr Evatt was optimistic of a Labor win in the 1954 General Election.




To read about the earlier games in Geelong’s run, click HERE.


Peter 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.

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