One Hundred Years Ago: Round 4, 20th May, 1911

The Carlton Football Club was founded in 1864, and from its earliest days its vigorous approach to the game drew the description ‘wild men…not particularly observant of the rules’ from observers of a more genteel inclination. The events of this day would do nothing to change such perceptions.

In a period not short of controversy Carlton had raised football turmoil to an art form. Following a premiership hat-trick under Jack Worrall, the club had contrived to split in 1909 over player payments and personal differences. When a Reform group overthrew Worrall as secretary before the 1910 season, key players ‘Silver’ Caine, ‘Mallee’ Johnson, Charlie Hammond and Fred Jinks walked out in sympathy – going on to play in a VFA premiership at North Melbourne that year.

If that wasn’t enough, a spiteful round 4 game in 1910 ended with triple premiership player George Topping knocking a South Melbourne player unconscious, provoking a crowd invasion. Topping was subsequently suspended until 1912. Then, on the eve of the finals, comes the gambling scandal (mentioned here) which sees another two players suspended for five years. Despite all this, Carlton make it to the grand final for the fifth successive time – losing to Collingwood in a brawl of a match, which resulted in two more lengthy suspensions for Navy Blue players.

It all makes you wonder how it was South Melbourne who were known as the Bloods.

After two draws and a narrow loss to start 1911, the dominant team of the last five years faced University still in search of a win. Things weren’t going to plan. Champion Blues centreman Rod McGregor was left stunned and largely ineffective after an early collision with a teammate. Bert Hartkopf was back for the Students, Jack Brake was starring, and having led all day University were still 3 points to the good at ¾ time.

We can only speculate as to the mood in the Carlton camp at the final break. Doubtless it wasn’t pleasant. Coaches were not yet allowed onto the ground to address players. Indeed, most clubs had not long had a coach at all. However, Carlton coach Fred ‘Pompey’ Elliot was also captain. If any conscious decisions were made, it was amongst the players. Perhaps there was just an unconscious accumulation of tensions.

Early in the final quarter one of the Students’ better players on the day, Vic Trood, gathered the ball and kicked downfield. The ArgusObserver offered a description of what followed: ‘the two Carlton men closed on each side of him. An arm shot up to his jaw, with a deliberate upper-cut, and Trood simply fell as if he were dead and was carried off the ground.’

There was concern for Trood’s welfare. This being a University match, three doctors were quickly on hand to tend to him. Slowly, he came to in the change rooms. A sick and sorry Trood was quoted a few days later as saying “I have no idea what struck me, but it could have been a cable tram”.  After missing a week, he resumed playing.

The repercussions of the incident lingered longer.

Following the clash, Carlton kicked 4 goals to none to record their first win. University were outraged. Their secretary J.A. Seitz wrote to Carlton declining the scheduled return match in round 13 unless the players involved were left out.

This created an issue. Though he offered description of the incident, Observer also added: ‘the remarkable thing is that amongst the hundreds of spectators who saw the incident there were only a few who could absolutely say who the offender was’. The crowd at the MCG that day was a low 2664, but opinions as to who was the culprit were divided. The umpire also claimed to miss the incident. No football charge would be laid.

Carlton seized on this to refute University’s demand. In any case, ‘they would decide who was to represent the club without any input from outside and they would happily accept a forfeit.’

Martin Gotz and Alex Bamingham were eventually identified as being involved. By the following Thursday University had arranged summons for assault against Gotz, a veteran of four grand finals and known for ‘belligerence’ out on the ground. Within a month he was found guilty and fined £10 with £5/5 costs. Owing to the contradictory evidence of witnesses, Gotz eventually won an appeal against conviction in August.

While his old team caused drama at the MCG, Jack Worrall’s new side was having a day to remember just up the road at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. Unimpressive in perfect conditions the previous week, Essendon put on a dazzling display of team football in the drizzle against Collingwood. ‘All their eighteen were taking an active and useful share in the match’ as they romped away from a stunned Magpie side to win 21.12.138 to 7.11.53 in front of an alternately delighted or shell-shocked crowd of 15,000.

Amongst the many Essendon goal scorers, Bert Armstrong led the way with 6, brother Lou starred in the middle with 3, Percy Ogden kicked 4 and Paddy Shea 3. Collingwood, who were credited with playing reasonable football also, saw veteran Ted Rowell kick 3, whilst McHale, Baxter and Gibbs fought against an overwhelming tide.

To give proper perspective to this performance, it was only the third score of 20 goals since the VFL began, and the first for 10 years. It was the first score of 100 points Collingwood had conceded, making them the last team to do so. Essendon at one stage kicked 12 consecutive goals without a miss, which was unsurpassed until 1929. Scoring accuracy for the league across the season was only 42%.

With this performance Worrall’s Same Olds seemed to announce something entirely new in the making.

Contrasting with elsewhere, ‘the game was free from undue roughness or feeling’. In what many would consider an atypical observation, ‘Collingwood took their crushing defeat like men’.

Corio Oval would have seemed a comparative haven, albeit a showery one this day, as Geelong hosted Richmond. Missing Joe Slater, Geelong matched it with the Tigers in the first half before getting away in the third term to eventually register a 13 point win. Percy Martini kicked 4 goals, with his place-kicking again a feature, whist Observer found it ‘monotonous’ to again have to declare Dick Grigg best afield. The Eason brothers, Alec and Bill, were also prominent, whilst fullback Neil Freeman  ‘saved Geelong again and again’. The win saw the Pivotonians climb to third.

Richmond found the wet conditions unconducive to their preferred run and short-pass game. Bob Bowden strived tirelessly on a wing, while Mick Maguire and Billy Schmidt stood out with 2 goals apiece.

Melbourne travelled to the Lake Oval and produced an improved effort against South Melbourne, leading at ¼ time by 7 points. Thereafter, the Bloods showed themselves ‘a fairly even lot afield’ and too good overall, reclaiming the lead and going on to record a 26 point victory. Forwards Fred Carpenter (4 goals) and Len Mortimer (3) proved decisive, as did winger Jim Caldwell, ruck Vic Belcher and defender Jack Scobie.

The Fuchsia’s were best served by diminutive (165 cm, 65 kg) winger Bill McKenzie and skipper Vin Coutie, who again led their goal tally with 3.

The round’s final game was at Brunswick St, where an 8,000 crowd of mainly Fitzroy supporters confidently ‘thought it a good thing’ for a win over the Saints. Despite atrocious kicking for goal, their expectations were met with a 10.24 to 4.6 win. Skipper Harold ‘Lal’ McLennan led the way for the Maroons in the middle, well supported by Percy Parratt and second gamer Tom Reardon. Prodigal son Chris Kiernan contributed 4 goals, while teammate Bob Rahilly ‘aroused the love of crowds for record breaking by hitting the post 4 times. He spoilt his record by putting the ball between the posts twice without touching either pole’.

St Kilda captain Harry Lever kicked out 24 times and his drop-kicks ‘on each occasion sailed well into the centre of the ground’. As Saints fullback in this era, Lever would have had plenty of practice at kicking out. His career would span from 1905 to 1922, totalling 218 games. As befits the relatively position based style of the time, he only snuck forward for 6 goals in all that time. Recruited from Brighton, he overcame a workplace accident which cost him two fingers to be ‘a totally reliable full back’ over a long period for a club with more downs than ups. His St Kilda games record lasted for half a century.

Essendon and South Melbourne sat clear atop the ladder, both with thumping percentages, at the conclusion of a round which left ramifications for some time to come.

University 3.2   5.4   6.5   6.8 44 Sat 20-May-1911 2:10 PM Venue: M.C.G.
Carlton 1.2   3.5   5.8  9.11 65 Carlton won by 21 pts
Essendon 5.5  7.10 14.11 21.12 138 Sat 20-May-1911 2:10 PM Venue: East Melbourne
Collingwood 3.2   4.5   6.6  7.11 53 Essendon won by 85 pts
Fitzroy 3.5  5.11  6.18 10.24 84 Sat 20-May-1911 2:10 PM Venue: Brunswick St
St Kilda 1.1   3.3   3.6   4.6 30 Fitzroy won by 54 pts
Geelong 1.3   4.5  7.10  8.12 60 Sat 20-May-1911 2:10 PM Venue: Corio Oval
Richmond 1.1   4.4   5.8  6.11 47 Geelong won by 13 pts
South Melbourne 2.3   6.7  10.9 12.13 85 Sat 20-May-1911 2:10 PM Venue: Lake Oval
Melbourne 3.4   4.6   6.8  8.11 59 South Melbourne won by 26 pts

 

Rd 4 Ladder
ES 4 14 225.0
SM 4 14 179.1
GE 4 10 103.0
FI 4 8 120.1
CA 4 8 109.5
CW 4 8 85.6
ME 4 6 75.8
UN 4 4 73.8
RI 4 4 71.6
SK 4 4 55.1

Sources:

Encyclopedia of AFL/VFL Footballers: Russell Holmesby & Jim Main

The Old Dark Navy Blues: Lionel Frost

100 Years of Australian Football: ed. John Ross

Up Where, Cazaly? : Leonie Sandercock & Ian Turner

The Argus

AFL Tables

Blueseum

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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 is in his 40th year as a Carlton member.

Comments

  1. JB the Blues’ sordid history does not surprise!

  2. johnharms says

    Out: Trood (dead)

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks JB,

    Percy Martini. What a great name.

    Jack Brake is a ripper too.

    Did they name a med-al (Bobbyspeak) in Gippsland after Trood?

  4. John Butler says

    PF, Percy Parratt is a name I love.

    He could play a bit too.

    I’ll investigate the Trood medal.

    PS: I reckon if you played, you’d be a Martini style of player. Shaken, not stirred.

  5. Dave Nadel says

    At the risk of repeating myself from previous weeks, Great piece JB.

    The Gotz case is interesting. VFL/AFL fans, officials and players have very short memories. When Leigh Matthews was charged for breaking Neville Bruns’ jaw various club officials, journalists and Lethal himself all claimed that he was being singled out an the state and/or police never interfered in on field violence.

    In fact Gotz was not even the only player charged in 1911, there was a player named Jim Martin from Essendon who also appeared before the courts. Harry Saunders of Collingwood was charged 11 years later and there were also clashes at the end of the game in 1964 between Geelong and North Melbourne and at half time between Essendon and Richmond in 1974 which ended in court. The Geelong/North one is particularly interesting given that two of those charged were future AFL President Allen Aylett and Geoff Rosenow who was a serving policeman.

  6. smokie88 says

    JB,
    just catching up on some reading….
    I am curious about Harry Lever. He held the games record at St Kilda for 50 years yet
    did not make their Team of the Century nor has he been inducted into their Hall of Fame.
    Curious, me thinks?
    DD

  7. Dave Brown says

    Fascinating. So just in terms of the Matthews claim (that it was the only police prosecution in top level footy), were the Gotz case and the Jim Martin and Harry Saunders ones that Dave Nadel mentions criminal or civil cases?

  8. John Butler says

    Dave, the Gotz case was a civil one (if not a particularly civil act).

    Not sure about Martin and Saunders. Dave N, are you out there?

    Cheers

  9. JB, the scariest thing about all this?

    It has been 7 years since you published this series.

  10. John Butler says

    Smokie, I know what you mean. :)

  11. And 35 years later, the Bloodbath, Carlton (and South) were still at it!

  12. Oops! 34 years later……

  13. John Butler says

    Jan, a bit surprised Bob Chitty and Basher Williams didn’t rate a mention this week.

    No TV footage, I suppose.

    Not that Gaff really compares.

    Cheers

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