Jones Files: South Bendigo holds out fast-finishing Sandhurst in classic Grand Final

By Richard Jones

SOUTH Bendigo won the Bendigo Football League’s sensational 1955 grand final by a point over hard-working Sandhurst.
It was a day when weather conditions really played a huge part as the QEO was lashed by freak winds and heavy rain.
The Bloods won the toss in the big game, played on Saturday 1 October, and kicked with the aid of a howling gale to the city end.
Bombing the ball long on the back of 50 miles-an-hour wind gusts, South piled on eight goals to one in the opening term.
If Sandhurst’s players thought they would enjoy the wind assistance in the second term they had their hopes dashed.
The wind abated and in its place came sheets of pelting rain.
The Maroons could manage just six behinds kicking to the city end and went to half-time trailing by a massive 43 points, 1.8 (14) to 9.3 (57).
So severe was the gale during the first quarter that a mature tree was uprooted next door in Rosalind Park. The tree came crashing to earth at about 3pm.
Another incredible aspect of the ’55 grand final was the slant taken by the Bendigo Advertiser lead sports story on Monday.
The opening two paragraphs of the lead story read: “Although South Bendigo surmounted great odds to win the Bendigo League pennant, ask any of the 15,000 people who saw this memorable game and they will tell you it was Sandhurst’s day.
“The glory — every bit of it — went to the Maroons, a remarkable thing, for they were certainties beaten and the sporting public is not usually over-generous to defeated favorites.”
Continuing in this vein came the headline accompanying the article from Sandhurst identity, Alan ‘Snodger’ Arthur.
The headline on page 6 of the paper said: “Toss Of Coin Decided The 1955 Pennant”.
It must be said that Arthur was more generous to the Bloods than the headline suggests. He praised South Bendigo for “a grand fighting season” while adding that “Sandhurst won the plaudits of the crowd for one of the greatest fights against odds I have ever seen in a Bendigo grand final.”
South came from fourth place on the ladder, meaning the Bloods had needed to win every finals game they contested to claim the flag.
Eaglehawk coach Ollie Grieve was the newspaper’s second special comments man. His article was headed: “South’s Magic First Term Swung Game”. Capital letters were used freely in 1950s papers.
Grieve noted that “disregarding the wind assistance, the Bloods’ first quarter play was magic and equal to any Melbourne team.”
But back to the actual game itself. South skipper Jim Elvey won the toss and the Bloods kicked with the aid of the roaring gale.
South players kicked the ball 60 yards with ease, the match report noted. In the opening 15 minutes South posted 5.2 without a reply from Sandhurst and ended the quarter with eight majors.
Lloyd Jones was on top of Moore playing from a forward pocket, city end. Even though he was later swung into the ruck and spent some of the second half in defence, Jones booted three goals for South on the day.
Trailing by 43 points at quarter-time the Maroons supporters looked skywards. A brooding atmosphere enveloped the ground with black storm clouds darkening the scene in an eerie stillness.
Then it came. A rocketing wind which blew paper all over the QEO and dislodged the number plates from the scoreboard.
In the wind’s wake came the sheets of rain through which spectators could barely identify the players.
It was a frustrating second quarter for Sandhurst. The Maroons had the ball at their end for most of it but South defenders used the wind to bury the ball in the forward pockets.
Even when the Maroons forwards had shots for goal, the wet ball slipped off players’ boots. Sandhurst star Terry O’Farrell was left for too long in the pressbox pocket and had little impact in the vital second term.
And the rain sent hundreds and hundreds of fans streaming out of the QEO gates at half-time, believing South had a stranglehold on the result.
But Sandhurst kicked eight goals to one in the second half. The inspiration for the Maroons was 33-year-old coach and ruckman Kevin Curran and wingman Brendan Edwards, later a Hawthorn star.
Curran sparked the comeback with a hand in four Sandhurst goals in the third term before Edwards added the fifth with a spectacular long shot.
South led by 17 points at three-quarter time. The Maroons gradually reduced the gap in the last quarter and when Jim Byrne took a pass from 17-year-old Ray McHugh to goal, Sandhurst was just six points behind.
Curran slammed through his third major, but in the meantime South had scrambled a point — the score which turned out to be the winning margin.
For the final, tense few seconds Sandhurst had the ball close to the city end goals. But the Bloods’ defenders held firm.
The break through came just as the timekeepers reached to press the siren’s button for the last time. Byrne marked within range but his kick fell short and was marked by a South backman as the siren sounded.
Ollie Grieve said the third quarter move by Curran of Don Blackmore to the centre was a winner. “With Kennedy, Fred Swift, Edwards, Austin Walsh and Ron Ford well to the fore and the forward line functioning smoothly for the first time Sandhurst had the opposition slightly bewildered,” he wrote.
Grieve said South could thank full-back Pollock for his fine defensive work all match while Jim Elvey worked hard at full-forward.
“Even though Jim got only one goal he worked efficiently harassing Max Elliott all day and leading him away from the goal square.”
Arthur noted that wily coach McDonald had thrown an extra man or two across South’s half-back line to make Sandhurst’s job harder.
“Ken Carter was solid but not as brilliant as usual because McHugh played close to him. Ken Smalley was an avenue to goal and Joe Zanelli is a much improved player.
“And in the first two quarters I thought South rover Frank Lenaghan was wearing a Sandhurst guernsey so often did he take the Maroons’ hit-outs.”

SOUTH BENDIGO 8.3 9.3 10.4 10.7 (67)
SANDHURST 1.2 1.8 6.11 9.12 (66)

GOALS – South Bendigo: L. Jones 3, C. Cugley 2, A. Nalder 2, F. Lenaghan, N. Kemp, J. Elvey. Sandhurst: K. Curran 3, R. McHugh, B. Edwards, R. Wee Hee, D. Blackmore, J. Byrne, C. Tuohey.
BEST – South Bendigo: B. Pollock, K. Walsh, L. Jones, F. Lenaghan, K. Carter, C. Cugley. Sandhurst: K. Curran, B. Edwards, A. Walsh, K. Kennedy, R. Ford, M. Elliott.
Replacements – South Bendigo: A. Nalder replaced playing coach Alan McDonald in selected side; M. Ellis replaced by L. Walsh, last term; R. Johnson replaced by J. Connelly, last term. Sandhurst: Fred Swift replaced by Bruce Reid, last term.
Umpire (VFL): Robinson.
Attendance: 15,062. Gate receipts: 1843 pounds.

Golden Square won the seconds grand final by 15 points over Kyneton: 8.12 (60) to 6.9 (45). It was Square’s second consecutive twos premiership and its 15th win in a row in 1955.
And South won the thirds flag by less than a kick in a thriller against Eaglehawk: 5.9 (39) to 4.11 (35).

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