Saints walk off at Maryborough in 1993 sensation

by Richard Jones

PERHAPS the most sensational incident in Bendigo football I can recall happened a touch more than 20 years ago.

In round 14 1993, Kennington-Strathdale senior players walked off Maryborough’s Princes Park, 13 minutes into the third term.

Citing “safety reasons” the Saints hierarchy said their prime responsibility was the welfare of their players.

The Magpies were ahead 10.8 (68) to 3.4 (22) when Saints’ senior coach Stephen Jones ordered his players from the field.

Addressing his players in the visitors’ dressing room Jones said: “I take full responsibility. I don’t mind fighting …. but when the umpires don’t do a single thing about it, enough is enough.”

Injuries had left Kennington with fewer than 15 fit men at Princes Park by 3.35 pm on that fateful Saturday.

Maryborough coach Brent Dyer told the Bendigo Advertiser he, and his coaching team, were stunned.

“We are completely shocked. It was an unsportsmanlike thing to do and I don’t believe our style of play influenced the situation,” Dyer said.

There’s no doubt the match was quite physical. Although I was at another fixture that day, the umpires awarded 14 free kicks during the second term — 12 to Kennington-Strathdale and just two to Maryborough.

The Magpies then kicked away to a big lead after the main break. It was at about this time the crowd became aware of uncertainty in the Saints’ play.

A skirmish involving most players on the field broke out on Maryborough’s half-forward flank, grandstand side.

The umpires attempted to settle things down with a quick ball-up. Maryborough took advantage of easy possessions to score two quick goals before a Kennington player deliberately kicked the ball through Maryborough’s goal — registering just a point, of course. The team then left the ground, leaving no player onfield to restart play by kicking the ball back in.

Just how many Saints’ players departed at that stage remains a bone of contention.


MARYBOROUGH president Jock Adams told the Advertiser the game was played no differently to any other game of footy.

“Our players were in total disbelief, even shock, at what happened.”

Mr Adams added only half of Kennington’s team came off after the deliberate point had been kicked. “Half didn’t want to come off and some went back,” he said.

“It was a total mess and sad for the Bendigo Football league.”

The official Advertiser report on Monday July 5th said some Kennington players reached their dressing room door, then headed back towards the fence before joining other, slower teammates who were still exiting the oval.

Umpires then confirmed with Maryborough captain Geoff MacIlwain and they also left the ground.

There was a feeling of disbelief among the crowd as Saints’ players, then the umpires, left the ground.

Supporters then joined the mud-spattered players in the home dressing room minutes later after cheering the Magpies from the ground.


SAINTS’ non-playing coach Jones said he’d made the decision and it hadn’t been taken lightly.

“We had three broken noses, plus two concussions — and that all happened before half-time.

“We’d played young footballers, 15 and 16-year-olds, in this match and I maintain that the umpires had given no protection to our players.

“They lost control early,” Jones asserted.

The coach said the performance against the Magpies had probably been his club’s best for the ’93 season which had seen the Saints still winless as the year wound down.

The umpires later told the Advertiser: “We were prepared to keep going but when Kennington walked off, that was it.”

On the Sunday following the match, BFL president Rod Fulton ordered a full investigation into the incident, and matters leading up to the walk-off.

“We’re in the process of trying to piece together a full picture of what eventuated and why.

“It’s the first time in my memory that a senior side has decided to leave the field.

“We’ll be taking action to absolutely ensure it never happens again.”

Only a week earlier the BFL board had approved Kennington-Strathdale’s withdrawal from the under-18 competition because of a severe shortage of under-18 players.


APART from the announcement of a major investigation into the circumstances surrounding the walk-off two other important things happened.

*Maryborough was awarded the four premiership points but despite leading by 46 points at the time of the third quarter walk-off, no percentage was awarded for the victory, and;

*Kennington club doctor Tony Van Der Spec reported that the game had ended with an unusually high number of serious head injuries.

Dr Van Der Spec said the number of injuries he’d treated on the Sunday after the walk-off had been most alarming.

“Of the three Kennington players I treated for head injuries two had suffered concussion while the third had sustained a broken nose.”

Dr Van Der Spec added, to his mind, the injuries he’d seen on the Sunday were “a bit excessive.”

“My own personal opinion is that those sort of injuries should be kept under control by umpires. Fortunately for everyone the injuries I saw were not as serious as first thought.”

The club doctor added two other Saints’ players had been treated for suspected hand fractures.

The other interesting thing about the Saturday walk-off was the arrival of extra police at Princes Park.

Crowd tension had escalated after the sensational departure of Kennington’s players from the oval.

A Maryborough police spokesman told the Advertiser on the Sunday there’d been no reported incidents either inside or outside the ground.


THE war of words continued right through the Sunday and spilled over into the following week.

Bendigo Umpires’ Association president Joe Cadzow said the matter was out of the BUA’s jurisdiction.

“Certainly any investigation will come from the BFL and it would be -– at this stage -– completely wrong for us to become involved,” he said.

“Whatever Kennington may claim they will take those claims to the BFL and if the BFL thinks there is anything in it they’ll talk to us.

“For the moment, we’ll just get on and do our job of umpiring football matches.”

Kennington-Strathdale Football Club president Evan Trevorah said the decision to take the senior team from the ground had been made for safety reasons.

“The decision to withdraw the players was taken in, what our club believes, was our prime responsibility to ensure the welfare of our players on that football field.

“We believe the game got to a situation where there was an unacceptable risk for our players on that field and that’s why the decision was taken.”

The Saints’ supremo added the decision to remove the footballers was made by off-field members of the match committee.

“I would also like to comment that both umpires were told in the second quarter that if incidents on, and off, the field were not pulled up then the action that was taken, would be taken.”

Mr. Trevorah said there was no question that Kennington would field a full senior team for the coming Saturday’s round 15 match against South Bendigo.

Kennington and Maryborough were summoned to a special BFL board meeting on the Wednesday after the walk-off. Both officiating umpires were also required to attend.

Maryborough president Jock Adams, captain Goff MacIlwain, coach Brent Dyer and club secretary Tony Fernandez were summoned to appear.

An unofficial video, filmed by a Maryborough person, was also on hand for scrutiny.


SO WHAT happened in other matches on that eventful July Saturday of two decades ago?

Kyneton booked a finals berth with a huge win over North Bendigo, Kangaroo Flat extinguished Eaglehawk’s September hopes while reigning premier Castlemaine belted 1992 grand finalists Golden Square by 64 points.

And top team South Bendigo, with Peter Curran nailing six goals and David Ivey three, pummelled QEO co-tenants Sandhurst by 58 points.

Apart from Curran, other leading goalkickers were Power (6) and Mangan (4) for the Tigers, Scott Tully six for the Roos and Culpitt five for the Maine.

BFL secretary Kevin McNaughton said Maryborough, while receiving the four points from the Kennington game, would have to wait until the end of the home and away rounds before gaining any percentage.

“At the end of the home and away season, the average of Kennington’s points against will be handed to Maryborough’s points for,” he said.

“The same figure will be added to Kennington’s against,” Mr McNaughton explained.

Maryborough, Castlemaine and Sandhurst were battling for second and third spots on the BFL ladder so percentage was seen to be critical in the race for the 1993 double chance.

Scores: Kyneton 17.16 (18) def. North Bendigo 9.7 (61).

Kangaroo Flat 17.14 (16) def. Eaglehawk 11.9 (75).

Castlemaine 18.13 (121) def. Golden Square 8.9 (57).

South Bendigo 19.12 (126) def. Sandhurst 9.14 (68)

Maryborough 10.8 (68) leading Kennington 3.4 (22).

Maryborough awarded the four, premiership points following Kennington walk-off.


From Bendigo Advertisers of Monday July 5th, Tuesday July 6th, Wednesday July 7th 1993. Accessed at Goldfields Research Centre, Bendigo Library, Hargreaves St., Bendigo.

[Post script: the BFL board handed down severe financial penalties to Kennington –- later revoked with legal proceedings in the wind — and by early 1994 the Saints had gone into recess.

Never to see the light of day again. But those are stories for another day  — perhaps, during the 2014 season.]


































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