One Hundred Years Ago: Round 5, 27th May, 1911

On the Friday evening prior to Round 5, a joint conference of VFL and VFA representatives had met to discuss the control of football in Victoria. They produced the startling recommendation that the two organisations should amalgamate into one controlling body, appointing a board with equal representation for both parties. This offered the prospect that the often bitter division between Victorian football’s senior competitions might end as early as June 2nd.

It was a bit like the Hatfields and the McCoys agreeing to terms.

A separate VFL meeting on the same evening, after examining the proposals, resolved to defer discussion until their next regular meeting. The VFL clubs wanted time to consider the ramifications.

That same VFL meeting heard Fitzroy delegate G. Moriarty put a proposal to limit player payments to 30 shillings per week during the season, plus approved expenses. The St Kilda delegate Keane seconded the proposal, but the Carlton delegate opposed the motion, claiming ‘it would be impossible to see that the maximum was not exceeded’. For those curious, the Carlton delegate’s name was Cooke, not Elliot.

Carlton aside, five other clubs opposed the motion, with University abstaining, presumably on grounds of amateur purity. It failed to pass.

Whist the game’s administrators discussed matters of control, it was an issue which had proved beyond their control which was dominating the headlines. ‘Larrikinism’ or ‘blackguardism ‘ by those who played the game, or those who watched it, was a perennial theme in the press of the period.

Whilst some of the headlines reflected the middle class prejudices of the scribes, there was no doubt a problem. The VFL was hardly oblivious to the damage violence was causing football’s reputation. In 1910, the VFL tribunal suspended no fewer than eight players for periods of 16 weeks or more because of violent acts. Many still seemed undeterred by the penalties.

Members of Victoria’s government were also concerned by the issue. That week, Acting Chief Secretary McBride asked the Chief Commissioner of Police to ‘submit a report to him of his views as to the best means to be adopted to put down blackguardism at football matches’.

To show that the problem wasn’t confined to VFL football, a report from a Federal League game at Mordialloc that week is typical.  The game between Cheltenham and Victoria Brewery descended into violence. The umpire had failed to attend and a Mordialloc resident, Bert Munro, filled in. Players exchanged blows. Constables Hore and Kennedy ‘eventually secured order’. When later a Brewery player struck an opponent, Hore took the name and address of the offender. They were later proved to be ‘wrongly given.’ Returning to the pavilion, umpire Munro was ‘struck twice on the neck by a Brewery player. Neither Munro or witnesses could identify the attacker’.

The Chief Commissioner would have his work cut out for him.

For those still able to focus on the football, attention was turned to Collingwood and how they would react to the worst defeat in their history. Compounding their situation, they had to travel to the Lake Oval to play undefeated South Melbourne, and they were still minus Dick Lee.  South were missing star rover Charlie Ricketts.

In greasy conditions, the Magpies took their chances better early, leading 3 goals to 1 at ¼ time. They held their advantage in the 2nd quarter despite South appearing ‘quicker on the ball’. Magpie Percy Gibb was ‘so superior on the wing’ that Jim Caldwell was required to swap flanks to try and nullify him.

Observer describes the 3rd term as ‘willing’, meaning ‘rough and fast’. ‘A good deal of unnecessary charging and many other offences too’ took place. Umpire Boyle was finally moved to ‘pick up the ball and talk to the players about their misconduct’. It seems it wasn’t only the players steamed up. When a ball went into the crowd it  came back ‘useless, apparently burst by a spectator’s knife’.

The Bloods lay siege in the final term. When Vic Belcher kicked their 4th goal they looked likely to win. Collingwood hung on grimly, assisted by missed scoring chances from Mortimer, Hiskins and Sloss. In the dying minutes the South effort faded, and the Pies hung on to win 5.10 to 4.10. Magpie honour was restored.

Tom Baxter was again invaluable for Collingwood with 3 goals, while Jock McHale, Gibb and captain-coach George Angus also stood out. In the crisis, Ted Rowell’s kick outs were critical. For South, Len Mortimer kicked 3 goals, and dashing centreman George Bower, Jim Caldwell and half back Tom Grimshaw were best.

The other anticipated clash was fourth placed Fitzroy hosting third placed Geelong. Around 12,000 turned out in wet conditions which soon saw a mass of players scrumming around the ball. There were few signs of ‘that open, fast football one expects whenever a Geelong side is engaged’. At the end of a close first half Geelong’s Bert Whittington broke his collarbone and dislocated his shoulder in a crush of players, leaving the Pivotonians a man short.

The second half was ‘disappointing to all but Fitzroy partisans’, with Geelong failing to kick another goal. Too few carried the load for the Pivot, whist the Maroons were ‘carrying no passengers’. Rain squalls drove the crowd away in the final term as Fitzroy doubled the visitors’ score. Observer, with his remarkable ability to be at all grounds simultaneously, was moved to criticise the umpire for letting an unnamed Fitzroy player ‘unfairly use his elbows in the ruck’. When ‘realising it could be done safely, he simply did nothing else’.

Skipper Lal McLennan was again best for the dominant Maroons, whist Bill Marchbank, Bob Rahilly and Percy Parratt were also prominent. Prodigal son Chris Kiernan showed he’d  ‘lost little or anything of his old skill’ in kicking 2 goals. For the disappointing Geelong, Dick Grigg ‘stood head and shoulders over his comrades’. Bill Eason, George Heinz and ‘flyer’ Percy Scown on a wing warranted mention.

Melbourne was hosting both St Kilda and His Excellency the Governor and Lady Fuller at the MCG in front of 6570 spectators. The sides lined up to give three cheers to Governor Fuller, who met both captains after play. The Governor had expressed the opinion that  ‘the game as played in Australia was a very fine one’. That was most likely before he witnessed this game.

St Kilda ‘showed no organisation and only a few of them any dash’ in a scoreless first term while the Fuchsia’s kicked 4.3. A St Kilda committee man was heard to say ‘we will have to engage a heart specialist’. The Saints ‘somewhat nettled at their failure to score, began playing the man’. When rover Artie Thomas was sent sprawling after kicking the ball, several teammates ‘lost their heads’. Umpire Tulloch had missed the first offence, but in time honoured tradition caught the retaliators. Tulloch ‘missed several more incidents’, provoking similar melees. St Kilda players Bob Monar and Matt Outen were reported, both subsequently receiving 4 week suspensions.

The match ‘ended tamely in a drenching shower of rain with 36 men fruitlessly endeavouring to pick up a greasy ball’. Melbourne’s final margin was 38 points. Of their 9 goals, forward Harry Brereton kicked 5, while giant (190 cm) forward Stan Fairburn kicked 2. Winger Jack Robertson was best on ground for the Fuchsias, with Bill McKenzie and Bill Hendrie notable. For the record, there were 6 Bill’s and 3 McKenzies playing. Cometti would have had a field day.

Of St Kilda it was said, ‘on the shoulders of a few men lay the burden of the day’. Saints fans would understand that.

Carlton left the dramas of the previous week behind to easily account for Richmond at Princes Oval. The Blues ‘excelled in every area except the centre line, where Richmond held their own’, and their ‘passing was judicious’. Richmond were either ‘running too much’ or ‘running in the wrong direction’. Richmond’s ‘forwards were never equal to the Carlton backs’.

Best for Carlton was Viv Valentine with 3 goals roving or forward. Third gamer Roy Johnson kicked 6 goals ‘mainly from Richmond mistakes waiting outside the ruck’. Martin Gotz ignored the summons hanging over his head to kick 2. Bob Bowden was again Richmond’s best.

In the round’s remaining game, Worrall’s Essendon machine was never going to be tested by a University team lacking five significant players. Brake, Hartkopf and Greenham were ‘away at an Inter-varsity sports meeting in Adelaide’, Trood was understandably absent, and Hinman was ‘on vacation in Tasmania’.

University managed one first quarter goal, but the ball ‘was seldom afterwards beyond the centre line’ for them. In another even effort, Fred Baring kicked 4 for the Same Olds, whilst Allan Belcher (brother of South’s Vic), Jim Martin, Dave Smith and Len Bowe also excelled. Ted Cordner was swapped forward and kicked 2 late goals to save some Student face.

When combatants retired to their respective corners, the Same Olds were now clear on top of the ladder.

South Melbourne 1.3   2.5   3.6  4.10 34 Sat 27-May-1911 Venue: Lake Oval
Collingood 3.1   4.3   5.7  5.10 40 Collingwood won by 6 pts
Fitzroy 2.2   3.5  6.11  8.17 65 Venue: Brunswick St
Geelong 2.1   4.4   4.6   4.8 32 Fitzroy won by 33 pts
Melbourne 4.3   5.5   7.9  9.15 69 Venue: MCG
St Kilda 0.0   2.3   3.5   4.7 31 Melbourne won by 38 pts
Carlton 3.7   5.9  8.10 13.11 89 Venue: Princes Park
Richmond 0.1   1.8  2.13  4.15 39 Carlton won by 50 pts
Essendon 5.5   9.9 12.12 12.14 86 Venue: East Melbourne
University 1.0   3.0   4.2   6.6 42 Essendon won by 44 pts

Rd 5 Ladder
ES 5 18 220.2
SM 5 14 162.2
FI 5 12 131.9
CA 5 12 128.9
CW 5 12 88.8
ME 5 10 91.6
GE 5 10 91.2
UN 5 4 67.6
RI 5 4 64.7
SK 5 4 53.1


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

100 Years of Australian Football: ed. John Ross

Up Where, Cazaly? : Leonie Sandercock & Ian Turner

The Argus

AFL Tables

Football’s Black Book: Jim Main

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. johnharms says

    Carlton: forever the silvertails.

    Oh for Observer’s versatility.

    And I must remember the tactic of giving out the name ‘wrongly’. In the presence of the law I have only ever panicked and given my own – in particular while taking action on the possible drought by irrigating a large grey gum in the grounds of the University of Qld c1981.

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Giving the wrong name has not worked at the following golf courses:

    Royal Melbourne West
    Royal Melbourne East
    Kingston Heath
    Barwon Heads
    Commonwealth etc

  3. John Butler says

    When I read about Con Hore’s investigation, I suddenly understood why they might have had difficulty locating all those illegal gambling dens.

    And I think I’ve established in this column that Melbourne and Uni had the silvertail aspirations.

    Catlron are just a bunch of larrikans. (with a bit of dough)

    Jack wouldn’t have been out of place in this period.

  4. JB – the season continues to unfold magnificently.

    On the matter of giving the wrong name two friends of mine were caught in a tight situation some years back – Paul G and Max I. When put under pressure Paul G muttered to Max I “don’t use your real name.” Paul G consequently made up a fictional name. Max I, in a state of panic, also gave a false name – he used the name Paul G ! (much to Paul’s horror).

  5. John Butler says

    Grace under pressure Dips.

    Or lack thereof. :)

  6. johnharms says


    Had to think very quickly on my feet at Royal Troon one late twilight. They were magnificent about it. Having spotted me on 104 different security cameras I was approached my a man who treated me like royalty, all the way to the office, where I was still treated like royalty unitl the cruncher came: “Laddie, ‘d be jus’ the 9 in the gloamin’?”


    “That will be 95 pounds”.

    “I think it’s looking a bit dark.”

    “We’ll see you n the mornin’ then.”

  7. Rick Kane says

    Fantastic and fascinating endeavour Mr Butler. If you want to digress into more tales of Victria Brewery footy exploits, I, for one, will be reading.

    Tell me, is the information you’re gathering shaping the core story of each club (“Richmond were either ‘running too much’ or ‘running in the wrong direction”) or is our modern view of the game through your aperture setting the scene? Or, put another way, are you seeing the arc of club’s narratives, as we understand them today, shaping through the reading your doing about the 1911 competition? Either way, your reading and articles are endlessly revealing.

    And some of the names! My fave this week: Viv Valentine. A Blues man, for sure.


  8. Rick Kane says

    On run ins with Mr Plod:

    29 years ago a friend and I on the way home from seeing Dave Warner at the Shents (Perth) saw a motorbike by the side of the road. Neither of us knew how to ride or had a licence or the keys or was sober but that didn’t stop us from trying. We pushed the bike probably a metre before a paddy-wagon arrived on the scene. When confronted with what we were doing we thought quickly, oh yeah. We were doing our civil duty and taking it home so we could then report it missing to the constabulary. The copper, obviously not as under the weather as us, asked one simple yet penetrating question. He asked why we didn’t take it straight to the police station as it was just across the road.


  9. John Butler says

    That ‘moving mass of muscularity’ Viv Valentine RK.

    Good pick. He’s a star of the period. From Tassie (Phantom take note- they were nicking them even then).

    It’s an interesting point you raise. Its striking how some of the key strands of each club narrative (as we know today) seem in place from a very early stage.

    The founding experiences of the clubs are integral to the reputations they’ve maintained through the years.

  10. John Butler says

    PS: We have some very learned footy historians amongst the Almanackery. More qualified than I.

    I’m not really trying to pass myself off as such.

    I’m just trying to tell the story of this season in some sort of (hopefully) entertaining manner, with some social context, in whatever way my research leads me.

  11. Really enjoyable reading.

  12. John Butler says

    Thanks Edward

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