History of St Kilda as Suburb and Footy Club and Footy in New Zealand

Introduction

In the end of last year, Stephen Silvagni’s return to Carlton Footy Club made me to research about history of Carlton (suburb) and relations between Italian immigrants and footy (especially the Blues). When I finished writing the article, I decided to do the same work for St Kilda because I would like to gain more knowledge of my favourite club and the suburb which the Saints were (and I hope still are) representing.

First half of 1800s and early days at St Kilda

In early years, Yalukit-Willam, a sub-branch of the Boon Wurrung territorial group within the Kulin Nation owned Euroe Yroke (now known as St Kilda) traditionally until European colonisation.

In 1802, a naval exploring ship that colonial-surveyor Charles Grimes was on board visited from Sydney and described the St Kilda coastline. Two emus were sighted at Elwood.

An official civilian settlement was sought on the banks of the Yarra River that would be called Melbourne later in 1835. At the time, a whaleboat from the schooner Enterprise, privately financed by J.P. Fawkner, landed at Elwood to seek settlement. In 1839, Benjamin Baxter was granted to build a stockman’s hut and St Kilda was known as Green Knoll.

The following year, Scottish immigrants on the Glen Huntly fever ship were confined at Port Ormond. It became Victoria’s first Quarantine Station and St Kilda’s first graveyard after the death of three passengers.

In 1840s, the name of the suburb was suggested to change to St Kilda. At a champagne picnic on the Green Knoll, Superintendent La Trobe was overviewing the bay and hearing anchoring off the offshore from the schooner-yacht Lady of St Kilda. The yacht had been named in 1834 by then owner, Sir Thomas Dyke as a tribute to his intrepid wife who was the first English lady to be rowed shore to the remote Hebridean (Scottish) archipelago of St Kilda in 1812.

That is how the suburb is called St Kilda.

Establishment of sport clubs at St Kilda

In 1855, St Kilda Cricket Club was formed as an amateur team. The club is playing at the Victorian Premier Cricket.

St Kilda Football Club was established in 1873, eighteen years later.

From my past research, footy was formed for cricketers to keep fit in the winter. The sport code was founded in 1857.

What I thought about the establishment of the St Kilda Football Club was to provide physical benefits for St Kilda Cricket Club players.

However according to Wikipedia, the footy club was containing of elements of old South Yarra Football Club who were strong in Victorian Football Association (VFA) but disbanded a year earlier.

St Kilda Football Club joined VFL (Victorian Football League) in 1897. The league was formed by six strongest VFA clubs as breakaway – Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne (now Sydney Swans). Carlton and St Kilda were invited from VFL at the time.

In the old days, players were loaded on to the back of a horse and cart tray to go to a game and as they travelled along the track which is now six-lane St Kilda Road (highway), had to watch bushrangers who frequented the area.

Relations between St Kilda Football Club and cricket

It sounds there is no connection with cricket for the Saints, but there are!

Georgie Day from St Kilda Football Club Heritage Museum helped my research and provides information about relations between the club and cricket.

The St Kilda Football Club shared Junction Oval with St Kilda Cricket Club. Opened in 1852, the ground is the home of the cricket club and had St Kilda’s home game (footy) until 1964.

Not only sharing the Oval, but also the fact many champion cricketers from the club became champion footballers tells us that there are connections between the footy club and cricket.

Recently St Kilda Football Club has revealed that our new General Manager of Football Performance, Jamie Cox would return to the pitch in February for a charity cricket game. The Saints will take on the Seaford Tigers, the local cricket club, at the second annual T20 to support Pink Stumps Day.

Our recruit Jack Lonie (drafted at Pick 41 in 2014) has played for the Seaford Tigers; that was surprising for me.

Opposed to Lonie, Shane Warne played cricket first including for the St Kilda Cricket Club. During the cricket offseason in 1987, Warne played five footy games for the St Kilda Football Club’s under 19 teams. But he was delisted following year and focused on playing cricket solely.

Footballers and war services

Sadly footballers have been ordered to fight for Australia.

Stuart King has captained St Kilda Football Club and was also a champion cricketer. One of ovals at the Junction was named after him. King was a Flying Officer during WW II but unfortunately was killed in action in 1943.

Twenty-two former St Kilda players lost their lives in WW I and WW II. Anzac Day match means so much to the club because of this fact.

Long history of the Saints and New Zealand

I had only known the Saints’ commitment for New Zealand for recent years (since the club had revealed the plan to play home and away games in Wellington in 2012). But the club website has an interesting feature content with the subject.

According to writing by the sport’s earliest historian C.C Mullen, in July 1875 when the sport was infant, five New Zealand football clubs (three from Christchurch and two from Wellington) played their own form of football. They wrote a letter to Victoria asking about the finer points of “Victorian Rules” as the game was referred to in those times. These Kiwi teams had plans to invite Melbourne and Geelong to visit the Dominion and hoped that Henry Harrison and Tom Wills would make the trip to give lectures on the game. Also another source telling us that another form of football was played by the Nelson Football Club with combining rules of soccer and “Victorian Rules”.

Sadly economic depression hit Victoria in the 1890s and Victorians who lost jobs sought jobs across the ditch. Mullen wrote that there were 44 football clubs across New Zealand playing “Victorian Rules Football”.

However the game seems to have fallen away after its peaks and troughs until a revival in 1903. Vic Cumberland was a famous Saint ruckman and one of many footballers who crossed the Tasman for work. He was in New Zealand only for a couple years but the sport was gathering in strength and by 1908 the country sent a team to the first National Football Carnival where teams from all Australian states played. The game was progressing well, but the WW I seems to have put the sport to an end and it seems to have been disappeared in New Zealand for many years virtually.

Years after, St Kilda made a way back to New Zealand in 1991 playing a post-season match against Geelong in Auckland.

Two clubs were rising a month earlier in the AFL season and had contested an epic final.

But some big names from both sides were not in the play list at the park.

While the club legend Tony Lockett was in Queensland racing his greyhounds, Stewart Loewe was having a knee “clean-out” after a long season.

The Cats suffered with a longer absentee list where Gary Ablett, Paul Couch, Garry and Steve Hocking, Damien Bourke, Mark Bairstow or Andrew Bews did not play.

Thanks to a smaller venue (the Western Springs ground) comparing ovals in Australia, the game was played with modified rules with 16 players on the field and six interchange.

Geelong played strongly in the first quarter that led an eventual 13-point win. Cats’ boosting six goals in 10 minutes at the final term helped win by 12.11 (83) to 10.10 (70). While Robert Scott and Gavin Exell kicked three goals apiece for the Cats, St Kilda’s best players were Frank Coghlan, Bret Bowey, Mick Dwyer and Danny Frawley.

Twenty-two years after the exhibition match in Auckland, the Saints were back in New Zealand for annual Anzac Day clash. They played against Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions for the previous matches.

Anzac Day in 2015 has a big meaning as the 100-year anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. Claude Crowl (St Kilda) and Fen McDonald (Carlton) died on 25 April 1915. They also shared their VFL debut at Princes Park at Round 15 in 1911.

It is good to see St Kilda playing Carlton whom we enjoy rivalry since both two clubs were invited to VFL back in 1897 in such a great opportunity.

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge Georgie Day from St Kilda Football Club Heritage Museum for great help providing relevant information for this article. Without her help, I would not be able to research about history of the footy club.

About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.

Comments

  1. Great work Yoshi, keep it going. We’ve booked our air fare and accomodation for the Anzac day match. Looking forward to heading across the Tasman to watch some footy.

    Glen!

  2. G’day Glen,

    Thanks for your compliment and I hope you will enjoy watching the Anzac Day clash in Wellington!

    Are you planning to see around Wellington too? If you have time, I suggest you to go to Martinborough seeing wineries. I have lived and worked over there for several months and enjoyed!

    Cheers.

    Yoshi

  3. Ta Yoshi, we were in Martinborough for a wedding last August. Lovely place to visit. I’m not sure if we wil crioss the Rumatakas this time. We’ll see.

    Glen!

  4. No worries, Glen. I’m glad that you have been to Martinborough. Cheers – Yoshi

  5. Brilliant work, Yoshi, I love the volume of research you put in to your St Kilda articles. If the Saints players have the half passion for their great club as you do, St Kilda should have a superb season on-field in 2015.

  6. G’day Pete,

    Thanks for your compliment on my work. I like to know about the Saints and footy more and more because I love the game and my club!

    I hope St Kilda players will read my article and know how passion I am. Even I cannot be an on-field performance coach, could I be a motivating coach?

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  7. G ‘day Yoshi. Last time in Wellington we visited the marvellous Te Papa museum, full of great displays. However whilst in Te Papa i asked one of the staff if there was any footy displays in their cultural/sporting areas. He was befuddled. I tried explaining that Australians who went to New Zealand to dig for gold in the late 19th century brought this game onto the goldfields, and it was quite popular until the time of The Great Trade War, aka WW1. He asked me if i meant soccer. I gave up.

    However i’m looking forward to this years Anzac Day match in Wellington .

    Glen!

    PS: Yoshi, i forget. Have you seen my side of AFL/VFL footballers from the land of the long white cloud ? I submitted it late last year.

  8. G’day Glen,

    Thanks for your comment and you have mentioned me about your list of footy players from Aotearoa that I have had a look at.

    As an ex-expat in New Zealand, Kiwis love rugby union. I have watched two rugby matches at stadiums and loads of games at pubs and on TV. Wellington has Hurricanes for Super 15 Rugby and Lions for domestic rugby competition. I reckon Wellingtonians are passionate of rugby union. And I think this year’s Anzac Day clash would be a good opportunity to feature the footy to Kiwis because of 100-year anniversary of landing at Gallipoli. I hope staff members at Te Papa would not be confused when audiences ask similar questions that you asked last year!

    Georgie Day from club’s Heritage Museum says that she has been to two previous Anzac Day clashes and set up a display at Te Papa Museum. I reckon it’s good to contact her in advance for any display this year.

    Cheers.

    Yoshi

  9. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Yoshi,

    I was out at the T20 game at Seaford today and enjoyed a good close game of cricket from our players and staff. As I was leaving I bumped into Georgie and we talked about you, that you are now a member, and how good you are at research. I told her how we met and how you started writing for the site.

    I also put your name out there as a good researcher to a radio broadcaster today so we are looking for work and an excuse for you to come to Australia and watch a game with us.

    Very interesting article. I’ll send you the name of some good books about the Islands of St.Kilda, I got them after meeting a Saints fan at Malvern Station and talking about her family who came from here, and then an Almanacker told me about the book. Will email them to you.

    Will text soon

    Keep well and great article. Your English is improving with every article.

    Yvette

  10. G’day Yoshi. We will pop into Te Papa when we come across in April, and see what is on display. As i memtioned gold miners from Australia introduced the game iin the lalte 19th century. I’d loveto find out more about the histort of foot in Aoteoroa.

    Yvette, the islands of St Kilda. Do tell more. We have a friend, Neil Blake, involved at the the St Kilda Eco Centre who knows much about life in the bay and around St Kilda.. I wonder if he knows much about them.

    Glen!

  11. Hi Yvette and Glen,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Yvette – I am glad to hear that you went to Seaford to watch the charity T20. It must have been fun for our boys and staff as well as Seaford Tiger cricketers. Thanks for your compliment for what I have been doing and improvement of my English skills as well as for mentioning me to the radio station with positive words and for the names of books. These books would be interesting to read! Also I am glad to hear that you chatted with Georgie. I hope you are doing well too.

    Glen – The fact Australian gold miners featuring the unique sport to Kiwis is important, so I hope there is display about it at Te Papa Museum. Maybe I could be trained at the ST Kilda Footy Club Heritage Museum and then be a staff member at Te Papa Museum?

    Thanks :)

    Yoshi

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