Jones Files: Golden nuggets found in 1949 Football Record

IN LATE winter 1949 I watched Geelong play Footscray at Kardinia Park.
Other matches on the VFL schedule that weekend were all played at suburban venues: Princes Park, Windy Hill, Punt Road, Victoria Park and the Junction Oval.
The competition had 12 teams, a number that had stayed intact from 1925 right through the Depression and up to 1939.
Geelong was forced to drop out for a few seasons during World War 2. But the club rejoined immediately when enough young men were available once hostilities in Europe and the Pacific had been completed.
It’s amazing to look back six decades and leaf through the pages of a yellowing VFL Football Record. It cost threepence … three pennies, for those not used to pre-decimal currency.
I found the program when searching through my collections for material for my weekly Bendigo Football League “Look Back in History” column.
I’m very pleased to report that the Record is what I consider to be the proper size. Not the unwieldy, giant book which thuds into your grasp outside the ‘G these days.
No, it’s a pocket size program containing not only player numbers and names, but also a whole page devoted to what we’d call ‘match-ups’ today. As well, a one-page racing form guide and facing that a page with all the news about Melbourne’s latest movies.
Showing at the Hoyts Capitol was Dark Passage (suitable only for adults) starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (of course) while at the Hoyts Plaza the “snappiest comedy of the year”, The Voice Of The Turtle, was on.
Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Parker and Eve Arden had the starring roles.

Old Ronnie must have very busy in 1949. At the Esquire he was featured in That Hagen Girl with Shirley Temple. It was billed as a “gay sparkling comedy romance”.
The word ‘gay’ hadn’t been hijacked way back in 1949.
A half-page advertisement promoted Eric Welch’s 3DB sports shows.  At 9 pm on Fridays people could listen to ‘It Happened In Sport’ while on Tuesdays from 9.15 pm ‘The Boxing Preview’ went to air.
Remember, television was still seven years away in Victoria.

The absorbing thing about the Football Record in the 1940s and 1950s was the round-up or review of the previous week’s matches.
This was called Among The Players. There was no indication just who the writer was. Bylines were virtually non-existent at that time.
The week before we’d gone to watch the Geelong-Footscray game (Geelong won 13.15 to 4.10) the Pivotonians had played Melbourne.
The Demons — or should I say the Reds, because that seems to have been an interchangeable nickname used then — had won a thriller: 14.17 to 14.14.
Among The Players had this to say about who’d performed well. “Denis Cordner was a real matchwinner. His spectacular marking held up the Geelong attack time and again, especially in the last quarter.
“Stan Rule played a great first half. Geoff Collins was the most consistent defender with Shane McGrath again in better form.
“McGrath held (Lindsay) White except for a period in the third quarter.”
The writer then goes on to say Alby Rodda “ran himself to a standstill” but was “in the thick of it in the final burst which won the game”.
“Bob McKenzie was right back to his best in attack where he was a decided menace to Geelong all day and had most to do with the Reds’ win.”
Turning to the Pivotonians and the writer again waxed eloquent. “Geelong had a brilliant player in Fred Flanagan whose marking in the early stages was outstanding.
“He kicked a couple of glorious goals. In defence (John) Hyde performed great deeds, both in the air and on the ground, while he received excellent support from Tom Morrow, Alan Hickinbotham and Percy Hunt.
“Jock Condon carried the brunt of the ruckwork on his shoulders and (Jim) Tuckwell lent him able assistance.
“Bob Davis did well in attack where Marty Lynch made the best use of opportunities offering. Bernie Smith held control at centre, although his passing was often astray.”
There’s pages of this stuff in the Record. It doesn’t actually tell you much at all, even though it was interesting to note Flanagan had kicked a couple of goals.
North Melbourne was praised in glowing terms. The Shinboners (or to be precise, the Northerners) had downed Collingwood the previous week: 8.6 to 4.13.
Jock McCorkell apparently played a blinder at full-back, Les Foote was an inspiration to his men, Jock Lineen starred in the ruck while John Reeves was “another to pull his weight”.
Jock Spencer booted four valuable goals – half of North’s goal tally – Keith McKenzie sparkled on the wing with Ted Jarrard noticeable in defence.
The Collingwood stars were “dimmed by the shoulder to shoulder play of their opponents”. Nevertheless Des Healey, Charlie Utting, Phonse Kyne, Harvey Stevens (later to cross to the Western Oval) and Pat Twomey were adjudged best for the Woodsmen.
Not Magpies, note. Woodsmen.

So what happened in September, 1949?
Well the Final Four (no nonsense with Final Fives or Sixes and certainly no Top Eights) was: North Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon.
Geelong finished eighth (9 wins, 10 loses), Footscray ninth (7-12) with the bottom two, as they were most seasons back then, St Kilda (4-15) and Hawthorn (3-16).
South Melbourne’s Ron ‘Smoky’ Clegg won the Brownlow Medal from Colin Austen (Hawthorn) and Harold Bray (St Kilda). Essendon’s star full-forward John Coleman booted exactly 100 ‘six pointers’ to win the goalkicking from North’s Jock Spencer (65) and Fitzroy’s Eddie Hart and Geelong’s Lindsay White.
Hart and White both nailed 53 majors in 1949.
After finishing on top of the ladder with 14 wins and five losses North went out of the finals, as we’d say today, in straight sets.
Essendon annihilated Collingwood in the first semi — 20.16 to 8.6 – while Carlton took the second semi by two goals: 15.13 to North’s 14.7.
North Melbourne then had to front up for the preliminary final. Essendon was too good, winning 11.12 (78) to 9.7 (61), and went on to win the flag with a huge win over the Blues.
The Dons prevailed 18.17 (125) to Carlton’s 6.16 (52). The grand final crowd was 90,453.
Apparently it came as no surprise to the footy scribes in 1949 that Essendon won the flag. The Dons had beaten all the other top sides convincingly in the eight weeks leading up to September.
And North, admitted to the VFL from the VFA only in 1925 (along with Footscray and Hawthorn), was contesting its very first finals series.
Incidentally, Coleman kicked his 100th goal in 1949 during the last quarter of Essendon’s then record grand final victory.
The Melbourne Reds won the reserves premiership with Carlton the champions in the under-19s.

Leave a Comment