One Hundred Years Ago: Round 16, 19th August, 1911

The VFL was more prepared to make allowances for interstate football one hundred years ago than it would ever consider today.

The 50th jubilee of the codification of the games’ rules had seen a grand festival of football held in Melbourne in 1908 under the nominal auspice of the Australian Football Council. With nationalist fervour still  high in the wake of Federation in 1901, football held aspirations to spread the word through such events, television being but a gleam in a few inventors’ eyes at the time.  Apart from the established Australian Rules strongholds, New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand had all participated, with New Zealand managing wins over both the aforementioned states.

In 1911 the carnival was held in Adelaide, this time minus New Zealand and Queensland. The Victorian Football League placed sufficient importance in the event to suspend its own season for 21 days at a critical juncture. The tournament was judged a great success, and proved profitable into the bargain.

There were signs, however, that parochial interests were already intruding on the bigger picture. South Melbourne and Melbourne had made their own trip arrangements and declined to provide representatives. The squad named was nominally first choice of the rest, but there were enough notable omissions to suggest that not all were eagerly available.

As the fixturing anticipated, the result of the tournament came down to the final game between the undefeated Victoria and South Australia sides on the 12th of August. Following a dry week, the Adelaide Oval curator had seen fit to pour 25,000 gallons of water over the ground before the final day. During the early game between Tasmania and Western Australia (won by Tassie) it had, of course, proceeded to rain for three solid hours. Conditions were now expected to considerably favour the Victorians.

It mattered little as it eventuated, because a faster, more skilful South Australian side ran away in the second half to comprehensively claim victory 11.11.77 to 5.4.34. SA captain Bert Renfrey stood Dick Lee at full back and had the better of that crucial contest. The South Australian forward line of Frank Hansen, William ‘Shrimp’ Dowling and Angelo Congear were impressive, and (former Saint) Vic Cumberland starred.

The Victorian squad had some injury issues, most notably Greenham (Uni) and Smith (Ess), which had necessitated the call-up of Jim Sharpe, who happened to be in town with a touring Collingwood party. However, only Greenham was unable to take his place when the VFL season resumed for round 16.

The final table of the tournament was as follows:


1911 Carnival Premiership Ladder






Points Against



South Australia








Victorian Football League
















Western Australia








New South Wales









A telling bit of football business occurred whist the games were played. The Australian Football Council – presumably at the insistence of the VFL – had instructed the South Australian League to overturn an agreement they had signed with the VFA. That agreement had committed to play interstate matches between the two organisations for the following five seasons. Under pressure of expulsion from the AFC, South Australia reneged. The VFA was understandably disappointed, claiming ‘that they took on the interstate matches when the Victorian League refused to handle them, except on their own financial terms, and that they cannot conceive of the South Australian League now throwing them over.’

It had become obvious that the mooted merger between the VFL and the VFA was now a remote prospect.

When domestic VFL hostilities resumed on 19th August, all eyes were turned to the Lake Oval where South Melbourne tackled Fitzroy. South were locked in battle with Essendon for top spot and the crucial right of challenge come finals. Fitzroy were facing a tough finishing draw as they attempted to hold off Collingwood for fourth spot.

With the stakes high, Fitzroy adopted a policy of closing up the play, with numbers around the ball a constant feature of a low-scoring affair. Two early goals to Dick Casey and Bob Deas saw South lead, but Bruce Campbell hit back for Fitzroy with two answering goals. The Maroons would have been pleased to be on terms at ¼ time, South having the early advantage of an ‘oblique’ wind.

Campbell’s 3rd goal proved to be the only major of the 2nd term. Though he marked well and kicked straight, Observer felt Campbell  ‘often slow in gathering the ball’ and ‘had trouble anticipating his team mates’ kicks’. This may account for Carlton letting him transfer to Brunswick St mid season.

Fitzroy continued to be dogged in the 3rd quarter, but increasingly Observer felt ‘the zeal was all one way, and the skill all the other’. South began to show marked advantage when the ball could be released from the ‘rucks’. They scored a lucky goal when George Bower’s shot should have been cleared by Maroon defender Bert Lenne. Lenne missed the ball altogether with an attempted clearing kick. Len Mortimer then snared 2 goals to give South an advantage heading into the final term.

As they often did effectively at their home ground, South now bottled up play on the defensive wing. In this they received assistance from their opponents, who insisted on playing the flanks coming out of defence. Though George Shaw scored a late goal for Fitzroy, South held on for a 9 point victory.

Centreman Bower had been best for the Bloods, along with Vic Belcher in the ruck and defenders Grimshaw, Thomas and Pentland. For the Maroons, veteran Bill Walker ‘whether in the crush of the ruck or playing back’ was the star. Fitzroy would have been frustrated with the result, as well as their play. Observer felt them a ‘strangely contradictory side in this game- always just on the point of doing something valuable, and always failing at the last moment’.

While Fitzroy lost by the Lake, Collingwood reclaimed fourth place with a minimum of fuss against University. The Students failed to score any goals at the MCG, with only 5,962 in attendance to witness  the Magpies win 98 to 9. Dave Ryan scored 4 goals, Dick Lee 3 and George Angus 2 as Collingwood did much as they liked. McHale, Sharpe, Saddler, Baxter and Ryan all enjoyed themselves, whilst Jack Brake played pretty much a lone hand for the losers.

If  St Kilda fans were hoping for an improvement on the previous week’s Carlton debacle their hopes proved in vain. Essendon were in no mood to show mercy and they crushed their hosts to the tune of 24.19.163 to 5.8.38. This topped Geelong’s previous 1899 VFL record score by a point.

Lou Armstrong may well have been singing as he bagged a personal best 8 goals. Same Old skipper Dave Smith showed he’d recovered from his state duties by scoring 6, whilst a host of other team mates found the scoreboard in a veritable romp. Alan Belcher, Paddy Shea and Percy Ogden dominated against inexperienced opposition.

With the majority of their best players still on strike, St Kilda could boast only Bill Woodcock and Bert Pierce as having played more than 17 VFL games. Most hadn’t played 10 games, whilst another eight debutants were thrown to the slaughter. Woodcock strove hard for the Saints, and Ernie Sellars managed 3 goals.

The best quality game of the round took place at Princes Park, where Carlton took until the final quarter to shake off a Geelong side that played freely without the pressure of finals prospects. Viv Valentine followed up good state and club form with another star turn, whilst wingmen George Bruce and Tom Clancy stood out. Norman Clark and Ernie Jamieson again formed a wall in defence. Joe Slater shone in the middle for the Pivot, while Alec Eason continued his good form roving and forward.

Richmond appeared to hold the early upper hand at Punt Road against Melbourne, but never managed to shake clear of the Fuchsias. Thanks to 4 goals to Harry Brereton, Melbourne took the lead at ¾ time and held on for a 9 point victory. Young Mick Macguire kicked 3 for the losers, who had centreman Syd Reeves dominating the middle, well supported by Bill Mahoney. Vic Thorp again stood out in defence.

Apart from Brereton, young defenders Bill Hickey and Mal Kennedy helped set up the win for Melbourne, while winger Bill McKenzie continued his great form, as did skipper Hughie Odgers. This win saw Melbourne climb to 6th, but with no hope of making the finals.

Fitzroy now found themselves a game out of the four with only two rounds to play, whilst top spot was looking likely to be decided when Essendon and South met in the final home and away round.

South Melbourne 2.1   2.3   5.4   5.6


Sat 19-Aug Venue: Lake Oval
Fitzroy 2.2   3.2   3.3   4.3


South Melbourne won by 9 pts
University 0.0   0.2   0.3   0.9


Venue: MCG
Collingwood 5.5  6.10 11.13 14.14


Collingwood won by 89 pts
St Kilda 1.2   2.7   3.7   5.8


Venue: Junction Oval
Essendon 8.4  12.7 20.14 24.19


Essendon won by 125 pts
Carlton 4.2   6.4   8.4  11.5


Venue: Princes Park
Geelong 3.3   4.5   7.7   7.9


Carlton won by 20 pts
Richmond 2.1   5.4   6.8   7.9


Venue: Punt Rd
Melbourne 2.1   3.2   7.4   9.6


Melbourne won by 9 pts



Rd 16 Ladder
ES 16 54 184.8
SM 16 54 150.5
CA 16 48 149.6
CW 16 40 117.8
FI 16 36 114.8
ME 16 26 92.5
GE 16 26 92.3
RI 16 24 83.4
SK 16 8 50.3
UN 16 4 54.5



The Argus

AFL Tables

100 Years of Australian Football: ed. John Ross

Full Points Footy

Flying High: Michael Maplestone

The Clubs: ed John Ross & Garrie Hutchinson

A National Game: Rob Hess, Matthew Nicholson, Bob Stweart & Greg de Moore


About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Disappointing fade-out from the Cats.

    Love Lou Armstrong.

  2. John Butler says

    Yep, the Saints marched in for Lou (and the Same Old).

    But not for themselves.

  3. “…whilst Jack Brake played pretty much a lone hand for the losers”

    So Brake failed to stop the Magpie machine, eh?

  4. John Butler says


    Poor old Jack looks like he would have been prematurely stooped under the dead weight of many of his team mates. It’s all downhill for Uni from this point.

    Collingwood weren’t quite the machine yet. McHale becomes captain-coach next year, but takes a while to find his feet.

  5. I don’t know that I like where this is heading…

  6. John Butler says

    No reading ahead now Litza. :)

  7. Hey JB,
    Were the VFA games being played on Sundays by this stage ?

  8. John Butler says


    As best I can tell the VFA didn’t start playing regularly on Sunday until 1960.

  9. Footy lovers sure were spoilt for choice on Sat’dy arvos.

  10. John Butler says

    Saturday for footy.

    Sunday for church. Or the pub (depending on one’s proclivities).

  11. Dave Nadel says

    Not really JB. The Pub would only have been an option if you were a bona fida traveller. Pubs were closed in Melbourne on Sundays. In the fifties a series of pubs were open about 30 miles from the GPO. I suspect this would have gone back to before World War One, although wowserism increased during the War when 6 o’clock closing was brought in as a “temporary Wartime measure” which they then continued for fifty years, 6 o’clock closing ended in early 1966.

    On another note, the relationships between the VFL, VFA and SANFL never really change. 66 years after the 1911 Carnival, the VFL collaborated with Channel 7 to establish an alternative night football comp to the one run on Channel 10 by the NFL (formerly the ANFC). For Channel 7 this was just part of their campign to get total control of Australian Rules Football. For the VFL and Allen Aylett what upset then was that the South Australians had gotten control of the National Football body and invited the vFA to rejoin. To quote from Chapter 4 of my thesis

    “During 1978, the NFL competition called the Escort Cup and including the VFA as the Victorian representatives, competed unsuccessfully against Amco-Herald Cup. The VFL formed Australian Football Championships Pty Ltd to run a National night competition in 1979, sponsored by Amco and the Herald and shown on Channel 7. The South Australians and Queenslanders refused to participate but all the other States did, although the sponsorship was transferred to the NFL’s sponsor, W.D. and H.O. Wills and the competition renamed the Escort Cup. By the end of May 1979, the SANFL had capitulated and the NFL competition was destroyed. Shortly afterwards Aylett became president of the NFL and used his casting vote to stop the VFA re-affiliating”

  12. John Butler says

    I was thinking more sly grog Dave.

    But you’re right. The wowser element is integral to these times.

    Interesting reminder of the Escort Cup. The VFL has never played very nice.

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