One Hundred Years Ago: Round 9, 17th June, 1911


The Saturday of round nine dawned fine and still, a rare occurrence in the June of this particular year. But the effect of recent rain on the football grounds of Melbourne was plain for all to see. This round of games would be played on quagmires.

The Lake Oval handled the wet better than most at the time, but this meant it was still half submerged as around 25,000 filled the ground to watch South Melbourne take on undefeated Essendon. With the ball quickly sodden, an even struggle ensued before two quick goals near ¼ time gave Essendon a 7 point advantage. Early in the second term key Essendon player Lou Armstrong ‘got a nasty knock over the eye, which took all the football after him’. Despite this, Essendon seemed to hold a slight advantage in general play and their 9 point lead looked very useful in the conditions.

When Lou’s brother Bert kicked his 3rd goal (and Essendon’s 5th) not far into the 3rd term they seemed to have the winning of the game. Their ‘strong running’ game began to flounder, however, as South began to ‘play to each other with more certainty’. Blood Dick Casey pounced ‘quick as a hare’ to kick their 4th goal, and Jim Cameron scored their 5th to make the deficit only 3 points at the final break.

The Belcher brothers had found themselves opposed in the ruck for much of the afternoon and it was Essendon’s Allan who ran into an open goal and missed a sitter early in the final term. It would prove a crucial mistake as scoring opportunities diminished. Finally, Bruce Sloss emerged out of the maul and put South in front with around 10 minutes to play. Paddy Shea had Essendon’s best chance to snatch back the win but missed with seconds to go. The Same Olds had suffered their first loss of the season.

Sloss, apart from his match-winning goal, was the best for South, strongly supported by 18 year old jack Walsh. Vic Belcher and Fred Carpenter also starred, whist Casey’s 2 goals were invaluable. Amongst Essendon’s best were Ernie Cameron and Percy Ogden, along with Bert Amstrong’s 3 goals and Allan Belcher’s rucking efforts.

Essendon weren’t the worst losers on the day. Fitzroy back-man Bill Marchbank, a constable with the Victorian Police Force, was refused leave to play for Fitzroy against Richmond. He was, instead, assigned to this match to patrol as a mounted policeman. As Sloss kicked his goal the home crowd roared, causing his horse to rear and throw him against the iron fence. Marchbank fractured his kneecap. It was the end of his season and he had to play the rest of his career with a ‘specially woven knee protector’.

Meanwhile, his Fitzroy colleagues were battling Richmond on a Punt Rd gluepot. The players had donned long sleeves in an attempt to gain purchase on the ball but it remained ‘just a game of kicking along the ground or punting when the ball was handled’. The Tigers were on a run of three successive victories but minus the clever Bob Bowden. The Maroons welcomed back skipper Lal McLennan as they tried to recover from successive bad losses.

Fitzroy started slowly and trailed 0.1 to 2.3 at the break. Richmond’s lead would have been more but for a goal disallowed by umpire Elder (who apparently didn’t reserve crucifixion exclusively for the Pies). It wasn’t until close to half time that the Maroons managed to narrow the margin. The second half saw only two goals scored, with a ‘low skimming kick’ finding its way through a forest of up-stretched arms to give Fitzroy the lead. Richmond had chances in the final term, but could only manage 0.6 as the final bell found them 2 points in arrears. This was in spite of the efforts of Bill Mahoney who kicked 2 goals and was ‘by far the finest player of the match’.

Melbourne and Carlton defied the MCG mud to give the 8,745 crowd an exhibition of straight shooting, kicking a combined 22.13 for the match. The Fuchsias didn’t kick a behind until almost ¾ time, but couldn’t create enough chances to stay with a Carlton side ‘always a little the better’ which showed ‘more judgement in kicking along the ground’, crucial in the conditions. By game’s end the players were ‘literally covered in mud’ and the Blues ran out 33 point victors with Vin Gardiner kicking 4 goals and Jack Wells 3. Jim Marchbank, the ‘raw boned woodchopper from Woods Point’ kicked two goals, meaning he had a much better day than his unfortunate step-brother Bill.

This was the 152nd and final game in the career of Melbourne skipper Vin Coutie, who retired with a 3 goal effort ahead of his wedding the following day. His 212 career goals include a huge bag of 8 kicked against Geelong in 1904. Having the misfortune to debut in 1901 – the year after the Fuchsias won an unexpected flag largely owed to the vagaries of the finals format of the time – Coutie had endured a long Melbourne lean patch.

A handsome dark haired chap, Coutie was obviously a popular figure with both team mates and reporters, who said of him that ‘few have left football with a cleaner record’. His team ‘brought out a chair, hoisted their captain into it, and marched around the ground cheering’. The amateur player was presented with a testimonial of 50 sovereigns, to which he replied with a ‘manly’ speech of thanks.

The Observer report on the game at Corio possibly reveals its sympathetic allegiances by boasting a headline ‘Varsity’s Brilliant Burst’ for a game won by Geelong. What had been a tame affair for three quarters burst to life as the Students charged home in the final term on the back of 4 goals from Bert Hartkopf and 3 from Ken McLeod. With Hartkopf on fire and their 23 point ¾ time lead now just 6, the Pivot had been forced to move Dick Grigg onto the Uni spearhead. His late effort in ‘evening the honours’ in the contest steadied the shaky Pivot, and Percy Martini’s 3rd goal sealed the victory. The 8,000 strong Corio crowd had grown ‘restless with anxiety’, a feeling which would become familiar to them down the years.

The final game of the round saw Collingwood and St Kilda ‘in mud up to their ankles’ at Victoria Park. The game began in near farce as players could barely stand. ‘No sooner was the ball bounced than Les Hughes (Coll) came down on the broad of his back in the quagmire’. ‘Nearly all through the game the ball was kicked along the ground’ but in the conditions St Kilda somehow contrived to lose by the substantial margin of 53 points.

Tom Baxter again starred for the Magpies with 4 goals. Dick Lee had his best return of the season to date with 3 goals but also came a cropper in the mud. As Observer chose to report, ‘when he reappeared to view his face was black as a nigger’s’. A small reminder that qualms about racial vilification were still a very long way off.

The halfway point of the home and away season had been reached with the four clubs who’d been finalists of the previous two seasons once again ensconced in the top four.


South Melbourne 1.2   3.3   5.5   6.8 44 Sat 17-Jun-1911 Venue: Lake Oval
Essendon 2.3   4.6   5.8  5.11 41 South Melbourne won by 3 pts
Richmond 2.3   3.4   4.6  4.12 36 Venue: Punt Rd
Fitzroy 0.1   3.3   4.4   5.8 38 Fitzroy won by 2 pts
Melbourne 2.0   5.0   8.1   9.2 56 Venue: MCG
Carlton 4.2   9.6  11.8 13.11 89 Carlton won by 33 pts
Geelong 2.0   7.2   9.5 10.12 72 Vanue: Corio Oval
University 2.3   4.5   5.6   9.6 60 Geelong won by 12 pts
Collingwood 1.1   5.5  7.10 12.13 85 Venue: Victoria Park
St Kilda 0.4   1.5   3.6   4.8 32 Collingwood won by 53 pts


Rd 9 Ladder
ES 9 30 198.4
SM 9 26 150.1
CA 9 24 132.8
CW 9 24 102.7
FI 9 20 105.8
GE 9 18 93.5
RI 9 16 84.0
ME 9 14 89.5
UN 9 4 66.8
SK 9 4 52.3



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100 Years of Australian Football: ed. John Ross

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Encyclopedia of AFL/VFL Footballers: Russell Holmesby & 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. Andrew Fithall says

    When the Reid brothers were selected and likely direct oppoents in last week’s game Coll v Syd, there was a search for precedent. The popular one was the Maddens (Ess v Carl). Nowehere did I see the Belcher brothers mentioned.

  2. John Butler says

    We live in a time of short memories AF.

    At least where a lot of our media is concerned.

    One qualifying factor is that ‘ruck’ seems to be used interchangeably with ‘follower’ in much reporting of the day. It also often seems to refer to the following division as a whole. But the Belchers both generally played as ruckmen, so it’s reasonable to assume they opposed each other for at least part of the afternoon.

  3. Reckon a few Abletts played against each other at some point. Geoff and Kevin perhaps?

    1911 is unfolding with few surprises.

  4. John Butler says

    There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot yet Dips.

    No reading ahead now. :)

  5. johnharms says

    I like the idea of an umpire being involved in multiple crucifixions.

    And obviously being chaired off was a different thing in those days – I didn’t know that. Brilliant.

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