St. Kilda’s most successful team between 1897 and 1964


St. Kilda’s most successful team between 1897 and 1964


If success is judged by finals wins and grand final appearances, then St. Kilda’s most successful team for the 68 years from the VFL inception in 1897 to 1964 (obviously 1965 and 66 brought two Grand Final appearances and a premiership), then the 1913 Grand Final team is it.


Using the criteria of finals wins and grand final appearances, let’s look at the finals record of St. Kilda between 1897 and 1964.


1907 Semi Final Loss

1908 Semi Final Loss

1913 Three Finals: two Wins and a ‘Grand Final loss’.

1918 Semi Final Loss

1929 Semi Final Loss

1939 Two finals: one Semi Final win, one Preliminary Final loss

1961 Semi Final Loss

1963 Semi Final Loss


Eleven finals in 68 years, with three wins and eight losses. Two of those wins came in 1913 resulting in the 1913 Grand Final appearance against Fitzroy, the first for St. Kilda in the VFL. Delving deeper into who was in this 1913 team, and who missed out, there are four players from this team (or era) who were inducted into the VFL/AFL Centenary Year in 1996 as an original AFL Legend or into the AFL Hall of Fame. These four players from this 1913 Grand Final team comprised original AFL Legend Roy Cazaly and Hall of Famers, Wels Eicke, Vic Armstrong and Dave McNamara.


The only other St. Kilda players I can see who were inducted into the VFL/AFL Hall of Fame who played between 1897 and 1964 (and not part of the 1965 and 1966 Saints teams) were goalkicking great of the 1930’s Wilbur ‘Bill’ Mohr, Les Foote (mainly through his exploits with North Melbourne, but certainly impacted as Captain Coach of the Saints in 1954 and 1955 and winning the Saints Best and Fairest in 1955) and 1958 Brownlow Medallist, Best and Fairest and Saints Captain from 1958 to 1962, Neil Roberts.


Dave McNamara actually did not play in this 1913 Grand Final team. In fact he did not play at all for the Saints in 1913. McNamara’s 122 games and 187 goals for the Saints were played over the period, 1905-1909, 1914-15, 1918-19, 1921 to 1923. McNamara in 2000 was named in St. Kilda’s Team of the Century as a Forward Pocket. He was one of the reasons why the Saints made the finals for the first appearance ever in 1907 and starred for Victoria in 1908. McNamara and Cumberland were listed in the AFL Season Record guide as the best two players for St.Kilda in their first final in 1907 against Carlton, going down by 56 points. McNamara kicked 3 goals. George Morrissey also played in this game.


McNamara missed the entire 1913 season. In Jim Main and Russell Holmesby’s Encylopedia of AFL Footballers, it stated that “McNamara stood in as captain of the Saints as a 21 year old in 1908 and in 1909 was one of many players who were in dispute with the club and left to play with VFA side Essendon. McNamara became the first player to top a century of goals with 107 goals from Centre Half Forward and in one match kicked 18 goals. St. Kilda and McNamara made their peace, the Saints wooing him back for the 1913 season, but a protracted clearance battle meant that he wasn’t cleared”.


Dave McNamara, original 1996 Hall of Famer, who was the first St. Kilda player to kick 10 goals in a game, against Geelong in his final year in 1922, as Captain Coach none the less. (Surprisingly the history records showed in 1922 the Saints leading goal kicker that year was Harry Moyes who was club leading goalkicker in 1915 and also from 1921 to 1923). McNamara also coached the Saints in partnership with George Sparrow in 1913 and was Captain Coach in 1922 and 1923. He captained the club in 1914 with 1913 Grand Final Captain Harry Lever.


Notably from this era Dave McNamara was recognised in 1996 as an original AFL Hall of Famer. As was Harry ‘Vic’ Cumberland, the oldest recorded player to play VFL/AFL football in at 43 years of age in 1920, where he played 126 games for the Saints and kicking 72 goals between 1903 and 1920. Cumberland was a premiership player with Melbourne in 1900 as a ruck rover, where he was named best for Melbourne by some ‘footy experts’ in their 4 point win over Fitzroy.


A pioneer of the game Cumberland reportedly left the club in 1904 to head to New Zealand to set up the Australian game there. Was he forerunner to the Saints trips to New Zealand earlier this century? Armstrong was a Magarey Medallist in South Australia and a World War 1 Soldier.


1913 Saints Grand Final half back flanker, Wels Eicke, played 197 games for the Saints from 1909 to 1926. He kicked 61 goals, won three Saints best and fairest’s in 1914, 1915 and 1919. Like Les Foote, Eicke in 1919 was Captain Coach of the Saints and won the best and fairest. He represented Victoria in 9 games and also coached the Saints jointly with Percy Wilson in 1924. In 1996 Eicke was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.


Some judge Eicke to have been the best Saints player in the 1913 Grand Final. Many also say he was as good a mark as anyone in the game. Eicke must have been a prodigious talent as a youngster, debuting for the Saints aged 15 years and 315 days old in 1909. And still the third youngest ever, behind Essendon’s Tim Watson and Collingwood’s Keith Bromage.


“Up There Cazaly”, Roy Cazaly was the fourth of the 1913 St. Kilda players to be recognised in the VFL/AFL Centenary Year by being named one of 12 Legends of the game. 99 games for the Saints, 39 goals, the Saints 1918 Best and Fairest winner and Captain in 1920. Cazaly’s professionalism and determined nature, not to mention his high leaping marks, brought further great modelling of success and the way to prepare your body and mind as a VFL footballer to this era at St. Kilda. Cazaly also played 99 games for South Melbourne and coached Hawthorn in 1942 and 1943. Cazaly took the Hawks to the finals in 1943 for the first time in their 19 seasons in the VFL. Cazaly also led the change for Hawthorn to be no longer called the Mayblooms, but renamed as the Hawks.


Cazaly was one of the first to implement and practice the art of ‘Physiotherapy’ using massage and other techniques to enhance the body to continually perform at its best. Cazaly forged out a famous career in Tasmania as a coach and player and was part of the first overseeing board of  physiotherapists in Tasmania.


1913 was St. Kilda’s most successful year from 1897 to 1964 and had four men in Roy Cazaly, Vic Armstrong, Wels Eicke and Dave McNamara who were judged over 80 years later to be named as greats of the game over the thousands who played the game from 1897 to 1996. What an achievement by these four St.Kilda pioneers, who helped pave the way for St.Kilda to forge its own history with their efforts during 1913, before and beyond.


All players play their part throughout a season. Below is a brief summary of all players in the St.Kilda 1913 Grand Final team. From 217 gamer, 1913 captain and full back Harry Lever to 10 game Saints rover Algy Millhouse. To controversial and gifted centre Billy Schmidt to goal kicking great and full forward Ernie Sellars. George Morrissey kicked two goals in the grand final. How much does he look like Stephen Milne? All players in 1913 deserve and need to be celebrated and remembered.


As always, or so it seems, there is a what if or could have been story with St. Kilda in a Grand Final.


In the 1913 Grand Final, with the Saints being 25 points down at three quarter time, the Saints rallied a comeback to be within a point of the Lions with minutes to go. The Saints had their chance with a mark to ‘Mons’ Baird in the goal square with the scores two points the difference. Baird remarkably handballed to George Morrissey who kicked hurriedly for a behind (Holmesby Point of It All, p.58,59) making the Saints one point behind. Fitzroy rallied and slammed on two quick goals, leaving the Saints behind at the siren 56 points to the Saints 43 points.


Would McNamara have been the difference in the Saints winning their first flag in 1913? The Saints should have and could have won in 1971, 1997, 2009 and 2010 – all in winning positions in these Grand Finals. How different would the Saints history be with 6 premierships from 7 Grand Finals!


1913 St. Kilda Grand Final Team


Harry Lever (Captain)           Full Back (217 games, 6 goals)

Dick Harris (Vice Captain)        Back Pocket (28 games, 3 goals)

Roy Cazaly                      Half Forward (AFL Legend, Best and Fairest 1918, 99 games, 39 goals)

Wels Eicke          Half Back (AFL Hall of Fame, Best and Fairest 1914, 1915, 1919, 197 games, 61 goals)

HarryVic’ Cumberland        Ruck (AFL Hall of Fame, 126 games, 72 goals)

Gordon Dangerfield        Centre Half Back (159 games, 16 goals)

HerbertBill’ Woodcock        Ruck/Rover (155 games, 48 goals)

George Morrissey           Forward Pocket (93 games, 64 goals)

Billy Schmidt         Centre (90 games, 67 goals)

Harry Hattam          Back Pocket (84 games, 2 goals)

EdwardTed’ Collins         Wing (78 games, 27 goals)

RobertBob’ Bowden         Wing (66 games, 0 goals)

Percy Jory           Half Forward (60 games, 15 goals)

Reg Ellis             Half  Back (52 games, 1 goal)

Ernie Sellars            Full Forward (Leading goal kicker 1911, 1912, 193, 47 games, 119 goals)

Phillip ‘Pat’ Lynch           Centre Half Forward (33 games, 24 goals)

Desmond ‘Mons’ Baird             Forward Pocket (31 games, 7 goals)

Algy Millhouse Rover (10 games 5 goals)



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE


About Mark Tenny

A long time Saints fan, having moved from Aspendale, Melbourne when I was 12 to Adelaide, where I became a Crows member just to watch the Victorian teams play! Although a Saints fan, I am a fan of football just as much. I love hearing and reading the stories of footballers and of their clubs and hope to add to the enjoyment of all football followers my stories, that will hopefully bring a smile to peoples faces.


  1. Kevin Densley says

    An interesting read, Mark. Always good to get this kind of historical detail.

  2. Mark Tenny says

    Thanks Kevin. Appreciated.

  3. A very thorough and comprehensive look at what was and what could have been. Well written.
    Thanks Mark

  4. Have you mentioned, Mark, that the Sainters hold the (world) record for the number of Wooden Spoons collected in VFL/AFL history.

    Yep, 27 Spoons in total. A foundation 1897 club they’ve collected just the single AFL premiership cup and even then only just fell in by a single point.

    I remember as a lad growing up in Geelong the conversation in the change rooms after a junior footy match would be: “who are we playing today at Kardinia Park.”

    If the answer was ‘the Saints’ we’d consider re-jigging our Saturday arvo. It just wasn;’t going to be a contest and not worthwhile going down to watch.

    If the answer was ‘St Kilda’

  5. Harsh Elijah.

    And with that hubris, there goes 2020 for the Geelong FC..

  6. Not really, JTH.

    As journos we know when not to sugar coat historical look-backs. And certainly not to plump up sad and sorry situations to varnish or embellish them.

    I don’t think Catters’ 2020 fortunes would be influenced by articles or comments made on a website. Not even if they appeared on Geelong F.C.’s own website.

    Incidentally the under-age footy I was playing in was in the mid-Fifties. Not long after the Pivotonians’ run of three straight grand finals — 1951 to 1953 — for flags in ’51 and ’52.

    It was no contest at Kardinia Park in those days unless the opposition was C’wood or The Gliders from Windy Hill. Fitzroy turned out tough, biffo 18s but a bit short on skills.

    Hawthorn was a perennial easy beat!

  7. We’re not journos.

Leave a Comment