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Footy Stats – A Short History

By Ken Mansell



The Boylesfootballphotos website was established in 2012 to honour the photographic work of Charles Boyles. In his own time Boyles was a well-known and much appreciated figure in the football world. After his death, and as the years rolled on, the memory of Boyles gradually faded. His glass plate negatives and photographic prints did not fade however. Fortunately, the precious glass plates were preserved and eventually donated to the State Library of Victoria and the Melbourne Cricket Club’s Museum. For years many of the prints continued to turn up in private memorabilia collections and collectables shops – with their creator’s name and Brunswick business address clearly ink-stamped on the back.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the Boyles legacy is the number of times publishers of football history books have ignored the Boyles ink-stamp and reproduced his creative work without acknowledgement. Boyles photos of individual players were also sometimes reproduced in his own time as football card images, and as photos in the VFL Record, again without proper acknowledgement.

Until about thirty years ago football history books of any kind were rare. At last, towards the end of the eighties, they began to appear more frequently, many of them featuring unacknowledged Boyles photos. It is tempting to imagine old Charles, if he had still been alive, rushing off to speak to his solicitor. Nowadays it is much more difficult for publishers to get away with it, yet there still seems to be this idea, beloved of trendy post-modernists, that the author is dead and the text – in this case the photo - is everything.

Over the years the creators of football statistics tables have suffered the same fate as the photographers. No-one seemed to care in the past who actually collected the football statistics published in newspapers such as The Argus and The Sporting Globe and one can look in vain to discover the name of the worker (or workers) who toiled in the press box or crowded outer to notate them. The names of football writers – journalists such as Hugh Buggy, Percy Taylor, Hec de Lacy, Alf Brown and Percy Beames – were always suitably emblazoned across the top of their articles but the poor blighters who toiled in excruciating anonymity to trap the kicks, marks and free kicks were rarely mentioned. 1 There is no doubt a tradition of anonymity developed over time – photographers and statisticians had as much claim to fame as the football club bootstudder. Self-imposed modesty might have been part of the explanation. A statistical table from the 1933 VFL Grand Final (South Melbourne versus Richmond) reproduced in a Melbourne newspaper carried the identification ‘Statistician’ which indicates to me that the author of the table was probably proud of his craft but also decidedly modest. 2

The historical anonymity of the original football statisticians is one of the reasons it is difficult to trace the origins of the craft. It does seem however that statistical detail of certain VFL matches had begun to appear in print by 1931. As Ted Hopkins, in his published autobiography of 2011, put it:

‘More enhanced statistical detail – kicks, marks, handballs, frees for and against, goals, behinds and misses – first appeared for match of the day features in newspapers around 1931. This was possible because instead of a journalist the newspapers allocated a statistician to call the game and contact the switchboard’. 3


The Twenties


South Australia 1928

In suggesting ‘more enhanced statistical detail’ first appeared in newspapers around 1931 Ted Hopkins has obviously been unaware that South Australia was already pushing ahead with enhanced football statistics as early as 1928 – another example of South Australian football not receiving credit where credit is due. In the late twenties The Mail in Adelaide pioneered the use of detailed and accurate statistical categories. Oswald James O’Grady, a journalist employed by The Mail, played an important role in popularizing football statistics in Adelaide. In June 1928 O’Grady set out to capture the stats at a West Adelaide versus Port Adelaide game:

‘The question of just how many kicks the average player has in a match induced me to witness the Port-West encounter on Monday, and with the assistance of a friend the accompanying match statistics were charted’. 4


Mail Adelaide 9 Jun 1928 P11 West V Port Stats
Mail Adelaide 9 Jun 1928 P11 West V Port Stats


The resultant table published by O’Grady employed the following categories5
  • Player
  • Marks taken
  • Kicks
  • Handballed to comrade
  • Knocks out to rover
  • Frees received
  • Frees given away
  • Kicks from out of bounds
  • Goals
  • Behinds

The following Saturday in Adelaide O’Grady collected statistics at the interstate match between Victoria and South Australia.6

Mail Adelaide16 Jun 1928 Vic V SA Stats
Mail Adelaide16 Jun 1928 Vic V SA Stats


The statistical categories employed on this occasion were even more sophisticated than the headings he used the previous week. Not only do these categories appear to be more advanced than any being employed in Victoria at around the same time, they actually resemble, and perhaps foreshadow, some of the modern-day statistical categories first conceived by Champion Data about eighty years later - ‘contested mark’, ‘effective kick’, and ‘clanger’:
  • Player
  • Total marks
  • Marks against opposition
  • Total kicks
  • Kicks direct to comrade
  • Kicks direct to opponent
  • Handball to comrade
  • Knock out to comrade
  • Frees received
  • Frees given away
  • Kicks from out of bounds
  • Goals
  • Behinds


South Australia 1929


By the following football season O’Grady’s statistical analyses had become a regular feature in The Mail. His analysis of South Australia’s two-goal win over Victoria on July 13, 1929 employed his familiar established categories 7
  • Player
  • total marks
  • marks against opposition
  • total kicks
  • kicks direct to comrade
  • kicks direct to opponent
  • handball to comrade
  • direct knockout from ruck
  • frees received
  • frees given away
  • goals/behinds

O’Grady’s 1929 post-game feature articles included several pieces forensically analyzing and comparing the performances of particular individual players. After the Glenelg-West Torrens match on May 4, O’Grady compared the statistics of West Torrens pair Broderick (captain) and Troughton and Glenelg trio Sexton, Owens, and Brown. 8 On June 15 he dissected and contrasted the performances of rival centre players Alick Lill (Norwood) and A.J.Ryan (South Adelaide) at Adelaide Oval. 9 On May 18 O’Grady even featured a table showing the ‘origin’ of goals scored in a Port Adelaide-Glenelg match. 10

Mail Adelaide 15 Jun 1929 P4 Analysis Of Play
Mail Adelaide 15 Jun 1929 P4 Analysis Of Play


South Australia 1930-32

Oswald O’Grady continued to use statistics for his articles in the early thirties, during which time his categories changed only very slightly – in their wording and refinement only. The categories used for O’Grady’s analysis of the Carnival ‘Test Match’ played at Adelaide Oval between a ‘Red team’ and a ‘Blue team’ on July 19, 1930 were – total marks/marks against opposition/total kicks/kicks to team mate/kicks to opponent/frees received/frees given/handball or knockout/goals/behinds. 11 Almost identical categories were used three weeks later to record play in the final match of the Australian Football Championship in Adelaide (in which Victoria defeated South Australia 12.15 to 7.5). 12 Similarly in the case of the statistics recorded at the South Australia-Victoria match at Adelaide Oval on August 6, 1932 (won by South Australia). 13

It should be noted that O’Grady had his figures ready for publication almost immediately after the conclusion of these Saturday afternoon matches. This says a lot about his professionalism and efficiency.

The life story of Oswald James O’Grady (1901-1971) – or ‘Ossie’ (or ‘Pat’) as he was popularly known - is indeed intriguing, and not just because he may in fact have been the nation’s first serious football statistician. It is definitely worth noting some of the highlights of his quite extraordinary life. O’Grady, born in Adelaide, graduated with a Diploma of Commerce at Adelaide University and initially worked in a bank. In the depths of Adelaide’s economic depression of the thirties he established his own cash order business (Cash Orders Ltd) which eventually grew to become one of the largest companies in South Australia - David Murray Ltd. 14

It was as a footballer, and football statistician, that Ossie O’Grady first came to prominence however. A rover and forward pocket, O’Grady played 61 matches and kicked 75 goals over five seasons (1921-25) with SANFL club West Torrens. He was a member of the club’s inaugural premiership team (1924) and played three interstate matches against Western Australia and Victoria (including a memorable three-point win over Victoria at Adelaide Oval in 1925). O’Grady retired at the end of the 1925 season due to ‘injuries received during his playing career’. 15 O’Grady went out with a bang rather than a whimper - in his second last game (the 1925 SANFL second semi-final versus Port Adelaide) O’Grady was best-on-ground and kicked five of the eight West Torrens goals. In his very last game (the Grand Final of 1925) O’Grady’s team lost by a single point (to Norwood). John Devaney has paid him the following tribute:

‘(O’Grady was) one of that rare group of league footballers to have played the game wearing spectacles. O’Grady was a combative and speedy player who excelled at finding space when the going was tight’. 16

Immediately after his retirement as a footballer, O’Grady was appointed feature football writer for Adelaide’s Sunday Mail newspaper. Later in life he served as President of West Torrens Football Club (1954-70). 17


Mail Adelaide 25 Sep 1924 P10 Oswald OGrady Thumb
Mail Adelaide 25 Sep 1924 P10 Oswald OGrady Thumb
Magpie Cigarettes 1925 - Australian Footballers - O.J O'Grady West Torrens - Source: Private Collection
Magpie Cigarettes 1925 - Australian Footballers - O.J O'Grady West Torrens - Source: Private Collection
Magpie Cigarettes 1925 - Australian Footballers - O.J O'Grady West Torrens (Reverse) - Source: Private Collection
Magpie Cigarettes 1925 - Australian Footballers - O.J O'Grady West Torrens (Reverse) - Source: Private Collection
O.J O'Grady West Torrens
O.J O'Grady West Torrens


The Thirties

Two football history books published in the eighties reproduced statistical tables from VFL Grand Finals of the 1930’s but in typical cavalier style they did not bother to even tell us from which newspaper sources these tables derived, let alone the names of the individuals who created the tables and collected the statistics in the first place.


Victoria (VFL) 1931


Cats’ Tales, compiled by Col Hutchinson
Cats’ Tales, compiled by Col Hutchinson


The Geelong Football Club history book Cats’ Tales, compiled by Col Hutchinson and published in 1984, reproduced (from who knows where?) an interesting statistics table from the 1931 VFL Grand Final – Geelong versus Richmond. 18 From the perspective of today, there is a touch of archaic eccentricity about these 1931 statistical categories and the order in which they were listed:

Geelong (1931 Grand Final) -
  • Player
  • Free kicks to
  • Free kicks against
  • Marks
  • Kicks
  • Passes to comrade
  • Shots for goal
Each of the categories had its own vertical column and the figures in each vertical column were totalled up (Geelong - total ‘kicks’ 261, total ‘marks’ 62, total ‘free kicks to’ 42 etc).

  • Players who kicked goals.
  • Players who kicked behinds.
Of the free kicks awarded to Geelong, nineteen were for ‘boundary infringements’. Geelong obtained 2.6 from ‘marks’, 6.6 from ‘snaps’, 1.1 from ‘frees’, and one behind was rushed. 19

‘Free kicks’ were mentioned first, before ‘kicks’ and ‘marks’. Nowadays of course the ‘kicks’ always come first. The term ‘Passes to Comrade’ is odd for several reasons. The use of the word ‘comrade’, apparently quite standard throughout the thirties, is certainly intriguing - for obvious political reasons. (As a ‘baby boomer’ in the fifties I always associated the wonderful word ‘comrade’ with the supposedly subversive communists being urged to ‘Go Back to Russia’). The meaning of the term ‘Passes to Comrade’ may in fact have been quite clear to football fans in the thirties but it is so vague as to be almost meaningless from the perspective of 2016. I honestly have no idea what it means, so I’ll guess. The fact that the word ‘passes’ is used rather than ‘handpasses’ initially suggested to me that this particular statistic was a record of kicks, presumably kicks successfully directed to a team mate (comrade). But the total number of ‘passes’ (only 19 in total) made by the winning team Geelong suggests to me now that this figure is a record of ‘handpasses’. Geelong players had 261 kicks altogether in the 1931 Grand Final. Surely there would have been more than a mere nineteen kicks directed to a team mate. Also, we know that, in the pre-Reg Hickey (or, if you prefer, pre-Ron Barassi) eras, the use of handball by VFL footballers was minimal. Nineteen handpasses seems just about right.

The term ‘Passes to Comrade’ is also intriguing as a gauge of evolving football trends. The statistics from the 1937 Grand Final, also featuring Geelong and also reproduced in Cats’ Tales, reveal a significant increase in the number of ‘Passes to Comrade’ since 1931. If I am right and the term does refer to ‘handpasses’, then it would appear that the use of handball had been increasing in the course of the thirties decade and as the game continually evolved. Worth mentioning also is the extraordinary number of free kicks paid in the 1931 Grand Final – Richmond received 51 (Murdoch ten on his own!) and Geelong 42. That is almost one per minute!

Victoria (VFL) 1933


Great Grand Finals
Great Grand Finals


In 1989, George Handley published his important study of ‘great Grand Finals’ in which he reproduced copies of contemporary newspaper reports of selected VFL Grand Finals from 1933 to 1978.20 This reproduced material included a significantly large number of statistical tables. As with the tables reproduced in Cats’ Tales, Handley did not indicate or acknowledge his sources, presumably newspapers of the day.

Interestingly, the statistical categories used in the table from the 1933 Grand Final (famously won by South Melbourne’s ‘Foreign Legion’ team against Richmond 9-17 to 4-5) are almost identical to the categories for the 1931 Grand Final discussed above:

South Melbourne (1933 Grand Final)
  • Player
  • free kicks to
  • free kicks against
  • marks
  • kicks
  • passed to comrade
  • shots for goal
Each of the categories had its own vertical column and the figures in each vertical column were totalled up (South Melbourne - total ‘kicks’ 319, total ‘marks’ 102, total ‘free kicks to’ 37 etc).
  • Goals were obtained by.
  • Behinds were obtained by

Of the free kicks awarded to South Melbourne, 12 were for ‘boundary infringements’. South Melbourne’s full back (Austin) received four. South Melbourne obtained 2.10 from ‘marks’, 6.6 from ‘snaps’, 1.1 from ‘frees’. During the game the ball was thrown in from the boundary 12 times.

This statistical table from the 1933 Grand Final was introduced as ‘an analysis of the play’ by ‘Statistician’. It is most likely from ‘The Sporting Globe’ as it refers to the game played ‘today’. 21 There are significant differences from 1931. ‘Passes to comrade’ have increased – the winning team South Melbourne recorded 28 (compared to Geelong’s 19 in 1931). The figure for ‘marks’ is a lot higher (102 for South compared to only 62 for Geelong) as is the figure for ‘kicks’ (319 compared to 261). Whether these differences mean anything, or mean anything significant, it is difficult to tell. The extremely low figure for boundary throw-ins – 12 – is also strange and difficult to reconcile with the figure of 12 free kicks given to South for ‘boundary infringements’.


Victoria (VFL) 1937

The preferred statistical categories had not changed a great deal by 1937, if the table from that year’s classic Grand Final between Geelong and Collingwood, published in Cats’ Tales, is any indication.

The statistical categories for the 1937 Grand Final:
  • Player
  • kicks
  • marks
  • frees for
  • frees against
  • pass to comrades
  • errors
  • goals
  • behinds
Each of the categories had its own vertical column and the figures in each vertical column were totalled up (Geelong - total ‘kicks’ 291, total ‘marks’ 100, total ‘frees for’ 37 etc). 22

The order has certainly changed – ‘kicks’ now leading off and followed by ‘marks’ and ‘frees’. However the only major difference, apart from the change in order of presentation, is the addition of the category ‘errors’. The meaning of the term ‘errors’ is not specified. We can only assume the term refers to mis-kicks, dropped marks, missed shots for goal and such like – even ‘clangers’, to use a modern term. ‘Passes to comrades’ is retained as a key term, with Geelong recording 32 (a small increase against South’s 1933 figure of 28). One apparent anomaly is the fact that the winning team, Geelong, recorded twice as many ‘errors’ as their Magpie opponents – 45 to 22. Collingwood also recorded more kicks, more marks and more ‘frees for’ than Geelong.


South Australia (SANFL) 1937

Interestingly, the statistical categories employed by the Adelaide newspaper The Mail in 1937 appear more forensically sophisticated than the relatively simple categories employed by its Victorian counterparts. We have already noted how in the late twenties The Mail pioneered the use of more detailed and accurate statistical categories: total marks/marks against opposition/total kicks/kicks direct to comrade/kicks direct to opponent. 23

The Mail’s basic format in 1937 was essentially the same as our example from 1928. Here are the categories employed by the newspaper to analyse the 1937 SANFL semi-final between South Adelaide and Torrens: 24

Mail Adelaide11 Sep 1937 P29 South V Torrens Stats
Mail Adelaide11 Sep 1937 P29 South V Torrens Stats

  • Player
  • Marks without opposition
  • Marks against opposition
  • Kicks (not foot passes)
  • Foot passes to team mates
  • Effective handpasses
  • Ineffective handpasses
  • Free kicks received
  • Goals
  • Behinds
The basic categories – kicks, marks, and handpasses – have all been broken down further to provide a clearer and more accurate picture of the state of play.

The Sporting Globe (Victoria) 1932-1938


The story of Melbourne’s beloved Sporting Globe, the ‘Pink Bible’ of every sports fan and fanatical football follower, is indeed a fascinating one. 25

SportingGlobe 10-Sep-1932 p6 Footscray
SportingGlobe 10-Sep-1932 p6 Footscray


The Sporting Globe’s journalistic innovations in its first decade certainly enlarged the coverage of football. There is no evidence however that The Globe’s path-breaking publication of Saturday night VFL match reports in the twenties extended as far as the publication of detailed player match statistics. The evidence suggests The Globe started publishing player match statistics in the early thirties. The recent digitization of The Sporting Globe by the National Library of Australia and the availability of the 1922-1954 editions on TROVE has provided ready access to some interesting material. For example, a September 1932 issue of The Globe published a quite remarkable table detailing the overall season’s performances of every Footscray VFL player - with statistics in the following categories: 26

  • Player
  • matches played
  • total of all kicks
  • marks
  • free kicks for
  • free kicks for (out of bounds)
  • free kicks against
  • free kicks (out of bounds)
  • passes to comrade
  • shots for goal
  • goals
  • behinds
  • total points

The statistics of the 1931 VFL Grand Final reproduced in Col Hutchinson’s Cats’ Tales (without attribution) – see above – are almost certainly the 1931 Grand Final statistics originally published in The Sporting Globe. (The statistics of the 1933 VFL Grand Final reproduced in Handley – see above – are also almost certainly derived from the original Sporting Globe figures). The 1931 categories laid out by Hutchinson were as follows:

  • Player
  • free kicks to
  • free kicks against
  • marks
  • kicks
  • passes to comrade
  • shots for goal

This is a ‘dead give-away’. The Sporting Globe employed this particular set – and the same order – with very little deviation from the thirties to the fifties. The set comprised the standard set of categories employed by The Globe statistician Dave Stewart in his regular Saturday night column of the thirties. Stewart’s column published the detailed statistics – dubbed ‘an analysis of the play’ – of just one particular VFL match. (Significantly however this effort was greater than the effort of The Globe in the fifties when only VFL finals matches were likely to receive detailed statistical attention). Stewart’s categories in 1936 were: 27
  • Player
  • free kicks to
  • free kicks against
  • marks
  • kicks
  • passed to comrade
  • shots for goal
  • goals obtained by
  • behinds obtained by

Stewart added a new category to this standard set in 1937 and 1938 – the category of ‘errors’ which he defined as including ‘mis-marking, mis-kicking, missing the bounce, and bad or missed passes – but do not include ‘free kicks against’ ’. Readers will no doubt recognize the similarity to the modern-day (Champion Data) category of ‘clangers’.28

A fascinating Sporting Globe article published in 1938 provides an insight into the football community’s growing awareness of the value of match statistics. The Globe’s statistician Dave Stewart recorded the match statistics at the 1938 VFA Grand Final between Brunswick and Brighton and then compared them with statistics recorded at VFL matches. He was able to convincingly demonstrate that the VFA’s adoption of the new ‘throw pass’ had not lowered the incidence of kicking and marking. The article is worth quoting in full.

‘Further evidence that the new throw pass of the Association has produced non-stop football of the highest class is provided by the table taken by Dave Stewart on the Grand Final between Brunswick and Brighton at Toorak Park on Saturday. The figures finally kill all the bogeys that the throw will kill the best features of the Australian game – marking and kicking. Actually there were many more marks and kicks in the Association game and fewer free kicks. There were 54 more kicks and thirteen more marks in the Association game as against a main League fixture. In the Association game there were 151 more acceptances and disposals of the ball than in a League game. That is to say on 151 more occasions a player got possession of the ball and passed it on. There were 38 throw-ins from the boundary and six ball-up decisions. (The figures were inadvertently reversed in The Globe on Saturday when it stated that there were 38 ball-up decisions and six throw-ins from the boundary).

A comparison of the statistics of the Association Grand Final and the average figures of the last ten main League games this season:

Brunswick (330) and Brighton (320) had 650 kicks between them as compared with the average for the League games of 596 kicks. They took 173 marks as against the average in the League games of 160 marks. The Association players had 160 throws between them as compared with the average number of passes of 76 in League games. This credit of 54 kicks, 13 marks and 84 throws or passes shows that this game contained 151 more movements than a League game, a striking testimony to the Association’s claim that they now provide a brand of non-stop football. There were but four frees given for boundary infringements, twice against Fay (Brunswick), once against N.Egan (Brighton) and once against George (Brighton) when the full-backs after a behind had been registered kicked out in attempting to place the ball with team mates in a back pocket. At no time was the ball deliberately forced out of bounds and players on both sides used every effort to keep the ball in play. The number of ball-up decisions (6) was negligible. In most cases they were caused by players disputing a mark and not by scrimmages. The total of free kicks on Saturday was 80, as against an average in the League games of 96. There was a complete absence of vice. Only once was a player debited for interfering with the man after he had taken his kick. The umpire’s task was made light by the absence of congested play, and every move was easy to follow. I would say that the throw pass has made it almost impossible to close up the game. Brighton tried to offset Brunswick’s pace by doing this on Saturday but found the task impossible. The large number of throws (93) by Brunswick foiled Brighton’s intentions.

Although there were many more moves and more figures to compile in Saturday’s final I found it easier to follow the game and actually saw more of it than in any match during my seven years as The Globe statistician for League matches. The Association appears to me to be definitely on a winner’. 29


The Forties


Australian Rules football in all states of Australia was severely disrupted by the outbreak of World War Two (1939-45). Many players served in the armed forces or worked in essential industries. A significant number of them made the ultimate sacrifice. The VFL competition managed to continue after a fashion although foundation club Geelong was forced to drop out in seasons 1942 and 1943. The VFA went into recess (1942-44) and many of the Association’s best players turned out for League clubs. Because of the shortage of newsprint, rationing, and other unavoidable contingencies, the war period proved difficult for newspapers. Understandably the collection and publication of football statistics was not their highest priority.

Tasmania 1949

One Australian newspaper that appears to have kept football statistics in the forties however was The Mercury in Hobart. Its report of a match between North Hobart and South Hobart in August 1949 included a statistical table based on the following categories:30
  • Player
  • kicks
  • marks
  • frees
  • player total

Mercury Hobart 3 Oct 1949 P16 North Launceston V NewTown Stats
Mercury Hobart 3 Oct 1949 P16 North Launceston V NewTown Stats
Mercury Hobart 27 Sep 1949 P22 RCazaly
Mercury Hobart 27 Sep 1949 P22 RCazaly


The October 1949 match between North Launceston and Newtown for the State (Tasmania) premiership was also covered statistically by The Mercury – with a similar table to the one previously used except for the addition of the ‘handball’ category: 31
  • Player
  • kicks
  • marks
  • free kicks
  • handball
  • player total

The ‘Cazaly’ mentioned in the list of Newtown players was not the great Roy Cazaly, but his son. Cazaly Snr was an Australian Rules legend who had previously (and famously) played and coached in Victoria. Roy Cazaly Snr, aged 56, was non-playing coach of Newtown in 1949. Newtown had been premiers in the Hobart-based Tasmanian Football League (TFL) and North Launceston had been premiers in the Northern Tasmanian Football Association (NTFA). Newtown trailed by only five points at three-quarter time but North Launceston kicked six goals to one in the final term. (Edit - Corrections Jan 2017)



The Fifties



Western Australia 1953

At least one senior Australian Rules football club of the fifties era pursued an active interest in match statistics. A 1953 article in The West Australian newspaper detailed the remarkable statistical activity of a precocious 16-year-old Claremont schoolboy called Ken Casellas. Casellas began keeping the statistical records of Claremont players as a hobby. The Claremont club learnt what Casellas was doing and invited him to make his records available to the club:

‘Casellas readily agreed and has been providing his statistical reports ever since. Casellas keeps a tally of the number of kicks and marks for each player in the League team. In addition he records whether or not each kick goes to a team mate and the effects of handpasses. Casellas has perfected a code system to ensure accuracy and speed in making his notes’. 32


WestAustralian 15 Aug 1953 P19 Schoolboy Statistics
WestAustralian 15 Aug 1953 P19 Schoolboy Statistics


The Claremont club was probably way ahead of its time in realizing that match statistics were more than just a curiosity:

‘The records are valuable for several reasons’ said the secretary of the Claremont club (Mr John Flemming) yesterday. Mr Flemming said that the records exposed the showy player who handled the ball frequently but made poor use of it. ‘This was of special value to the team’s selectors’. 33


In keeping with the impression non-Victorian football competitions were ahead of their Victorian counterparts when it came to statistical effort, a statistician was even on hand when Collingwood – the reigning VFL premiers – journeyed to the Adelaide Oval to take on a South Australian Second Eighteen in June 1954. Adelaide newspaper The Mail published the statistical details for each player in the following categories: 34
  • Player
  • Kicks
  • Marks taken
  • Effective handpasses
  • Frees received


The Sporting Globe 1954-57

Melbourne’s ‘Pink Bible’, The Sporting Globe, was the undisputed leading Victorian publisher of football statistics in the fifties, although the Globe’s devotion to the stat apparently did not extend to ordinary home-and-away VFL matches. Football fans had to wait until the Finals rolled around before they could indulge their passion for the figures. The fans then had to wait until the Wednesday edition of the paper. It was simply impossible for the editorial staff at The Sporting Globe to prepare complicated statistics in time for the Saturday evening edition. Statistics in the Saturday edition were minimal – total marks and free kicks for each team but no individual stats (except for goal kickers):

The Sporting Globe, Saturday, September 18, 1954 - Preliminary Final Geelong v Melbourne
Melbourne received 36 free kicks, Geelong received 23. Melbourne took 64 marks, Geelong 59.

The Sporting Globe, Saturday, September 25, 1954 - Grand Final Footscray v Melbourne
Footscray received 27 free kicks, Melbourne received 30. Footscray took 70 marks, Melbourne 57.

What is most intriguing about The Sporting Globe statistics of 1954 and 1955 is that the categories used are almost exactly the same as the categories used in 1933. The order of presentation is also the same. The only difference that had occurred in twenty-two years is that ‘passes to comrade’ has become ‘passes to team mate’ – which, at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, is perfectly understandable. Even the word ‘obtained’ was retained.

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, September 22, 1954 - Preliminary Final Geelong v Melbourne
  • Player
  • Free kicks to
  • Free kicks against
  • Marks
  • Kicks
  • Passes to team mate
  • Shots for goal

  • Scores were made by (players).
  • Melbourne obtained (score) from snaps, (score) from marks and (score) from frees.

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, September 29, 1954 - Grand Final Footscray v Melbourne
Player: free kicks to/free kicks against/marks/kicks/passes to team mate/shots for goal. Scores were made by (players). Melbourne obtained (score) from snaps, (score) from marks and (score) from frees. 35

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, August 31, 1955 - First Semi Final Geelong v Essendon
Player: free kicks to/free kicks against/marks/kicks/passes to team mate/shots for goal. 36

In The Sporting Globe’s statistical coverage of the 1956 VFL Finals series, the term ‘handpasses’ appeared for the first time:

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, August 29, 1956 - First Semi Final Geelong v Footscray
Player: Free kicks to/free kicks against/marks/kicks/handpasses/shots for goal. Scores were made by (players).

The fact that ‘handpasses’ appeared in the space previously occupied by the term ‘passes to team mate’ (or ‘passes to comrade’) would seem to indicate beyond much doubt that these latter terms were references to ‘handpasses’ all along. In the 1956 First Semi Final, Geelong and Footscray each recorded 38 ‘handpasses’ and this figure roughly corresponds to the figures previously given for ‘passes to team mate’. In every other respect the format used by ‘The Globe’ had not altered. Geelong’s 1956 semi final statistics published in The Sporting Globe were:

NameFree kicks tofree kicks againstmarkskickshandpassesshots for goal
Hovey11214 4 0
Gazzard 3052210
Sutcliffe 123921
Smith 4262160
Davis 3072330
Haygarth3141430
O’Neill 1231520
Borrack 1241510
Brown2211131
Rayson 223902
Ferrari 1231011
Bullen302811
Trezise2121611
Wooller113904
O’Connell112821
Sharp3151420
Bartle 123810
Pianto 1113050
Bow010500
GEELONG3424592613812
FOOTSCRAY2434692423825


The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, August 29, 1956 p. 3. (I have reproduced the Geelong stats only).

One further minor alteration was made by ‘The Globe’ for the remaining three 1956 VFL Finals. The category ‘marks’ shifted to the front row.

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, September 5, 1956 - Second Semi Final Melbourne v Collingwood37
  • Player
  • Marks
  • Free kicks to
  • Free kicks against
  • Kicks
  • Handpasses
  • Shots for goal

  • Scores were made by (players).

The format remained the same for the 1957 VFL Finals series.

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, September 11, 1957 - Second Semi Final Essendon v Melbourne
Player: Marks/free kicks to/free kicks against/kicks/handpasses/shots for goal. Scores were made by (players). 38


The Argus 1956

The general football coverage in Melbourne’s daily newspaper The Argus was excellent and set new standards in sports journalism from the early fifties on. Percy Taylor and Hugh Buggy were the two top football writers for The Argus and many of their articles are worth reading for their literary excellence. From 1952 to 1956 The Argus published a series of high-quality football publications in magazine format and containing much historical material. The Argus football cards of 1953 and 1954 (and the ‘Fireside’ series of 1956) have since become seriously valuable collectors’ items. In July 1952 The Argus printed the first of its regular Monday colourised football action photos and maintained the colour for another three years. The colour VFL (and VFA) team photos that appeared in The Argus in the football seasons of 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955 have of course also become seriously collectable. 39

The publication of football statistics however was not a forte of The Argus. Melbourne’s grand old daily lagged far behind The Sporting Globe, the pink upstart. For a number of years the closest The Argus got to publishing footy stats was its regular Monday morning table called ‘How They Kicked’ which recorded the ‘goals, behinds, and misses’ of players in each of the six VFL matches. This model was as far as The Argus was prepared to go even in the VFL Finals series of 1955. 40

The Monday, August 27, 1956 edition of The Argus reporting on the VFL First Semi Final between Geelong and Footscray appears to be the very first occasion that the newspaper ventured beyond simply recording the ‘goals, behinds, and misses’ of players:

The Argus, Monday, August 27, 1956 - First Semi Final Geelong v Footscray
  • Player
  • Goals
  • Behinds
  • Misses
  • Kicks
  • Marks
  • Frees to
  • Frees against
  • Passes completed
  • Passes not completed.

‘Completed passes are passes (both hand and foot) directed to and taken by a team mate. Incompleted passes were those intercepted by opposing players.’ Geelong recorded 44 ‘completed’ and 24 ‘incompleted’. Footscray’s record was 40-21.

Predictably, the table of columns published on August 27 began with ‘goals/behinds/misses’ but it broke new ground in employing the categories ‘passes completed/passes not completed’. The definition provided is even more interesting: ‘Completed passes are passes (both hand and foot) directed to and taken by a team mate. Incompleted passes were those intercepted by opposing players’. The definition is particularly interesting in that the category ‘both hand and foot’ completely obliterates the specific recording of handpasses – and it does this at the very same time (for the very same match) that The Sporting Globe initiated the specific recording of handpasses! The distinction between ‘completed’ and ‘incompleted’ makes the figures more precise at one level but at another level we have no idea how many of these passes were by hand and how many were by foot. Surely a step backward as well as a step forward. Geelong’s 1956 semi final statistics published in The Argus were:

PlayerKicksMarks Frees toFrees againstPasses completedPasses not completed41
Hovey1522130
Gazzard 2033000
Sutcliffe 821210
Smith2235263
Davis 2562042
Haygarth 1532132
Brown1132231
Borrack 1331221
O’Neill 1532232
Rayson 911221
Bullen 913110
Ferrari 720120
O’Connell1121020
Wooller 921121
Trezise 1712113
Sharp 1554131
Bartle821212
Pianto 3031145
Bow 500100
FOOTSCRAY2445923344021
GEELONG2644734234324


The Argus, Monday August 27, 1956, p. 17. (I have reproduced the Geelong stats only - KM).

The Argus used the same basic model for the remaining three matches of the 1956 VFL Finals series but dispensed with ‘passes not completed’ while adding the new category ‘hit-outs’.42
  • Player
  • Goals
  • Behinds
  • Misses
  • Kicks
  • Marks
  • Frees to
  • Frees against
  • Passes (completed)
  • Hit-outs

The flirtation of The Argus with football statistics was interesting but brief. Less than four months after the 1956 Grand Final, and with the excitement of the Melbourne Olympics slowly receding, a devoted readership and the wider publishing world were shocked to the core when the Saturday, January 19 (1957) edition announced the newspaper’s immediate demise.


The Sixties



VFL Grand Finals

One persistent theme in the story of football statistics is the theme of anonymity. The identity of the statistician was nearly always unknown. The newspapers that published the work of the stats creators maintained the tradition of concealing their names. Even in the sixties this continued to be the case, as we shall see.

The tables of statistical categories published in the sixties did not differ significantly from the tabular model adopted by The Sporting Globe in the fifties. The basic formula remained the same – ‘kicks/marks/handpasses/free kicks to/free kicks against’. The one new category that appeared was the category ‘ruck hit-outs (bounce/throw-in)’. 43

Two separate tables of statistics recording the 1963 Grand Final (Geelong versus Hawthorn) have been reproduced, neither of them indicating their original source. What is particularly notable about the two tables – one published in Handley’s book and the other in Cats’ Tales - is the extent to which the figures differ between the two. The figures for almost every player are different. An example will suffice to demonstrate what I mean: in Handley, Geelong’s John Devine is credited with 13 kicks and three marks whereas in Cats’ Tales he is credited with 19 kicks and two marks. Another interesting statistic from this match is the handpass tallies: Geelong handpassed 44 times and Hawthorn only 19 times. Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer’s eleven handpasses account for some of this huge discrepancy but Hawthorn’s incredibly low figure does point to how much the game has changed in fifty years. 44


Footy Week

The most important development in the evolution of football statistics in the sixties decade was the publication of the weekly magazine Footy Week by Harry Beitzel and Ray Young. Beitzel and Young commentated on the football for 3KZ in the sixties and were the first commentators ever to use stats in the broadcasting of football matches. 45 At the start of the 1965 VFL season they broadened into print and launched Footy Week. The new magazine was certainly innovative. It featured elaborate statistical tables for each of the six VFL senior games played on the Saturday. As Ted Hopkins put it –

Sporting Globe 16 Jul 1949 P4 Harry Beitzel
Sporting Globe 16 Jul 1949 P4 Harry Beitzel


‘The publishing of Footy Week magazine in 1965 is acknowledged as the first time match-day statistics, including kicks, handballs, marks, frees for, tackles and scores for each player and each game, appeared in print after each round’. 46

The Beitzel-Young formula for Footy Week was to print two pages for each game. One page was taken up with a statistical table and the other page with a commentary by a regular anonymous (and ‘one-eyed’) author. Geelong’s reporter, for instance, was known only as ‘Catseye’. 47

Footy Week, August 28, 1965, pp.20-21
Footy Week, August 28, 1965, pp.20-21



The statistical model used by the editors of Footy Week in its first year notably introduced two new elements. The model specified whether kicks and handpasses were ‘effective’ (no doubt a variation on the previously used category of ‘completed’), and also introduced an analysis of ‘where’ (on the ground) free kicks were given. 48

An article celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Footy Week appeared last year in the AFL Record. Written by regular contributor Ben Collins, the article heaped praise upon Harry Beitzel as ‘a pioneer of footy statistics’. 49 Collins correctly pointed to the magazine’s cutting-edge role – the publication, for the first time, of ‘individual player stats from every game on a weekly basis’. 50 However his suggestion that Beitzel virtually invented football statistics as we know them today seems to be an exaggeration. 51 I find it odd that Collins mentions Beitzel’s collaborator Ray Young only briefly in passing. Much more odd though is the absence of any reference to HOW the stats were captured, any nod to the poor blighters standing in the outer capturing the statistics. It is as if Collins is naïve enough to believe Harry Beitzel did this himself. 52

AFL Record 2-5 Jul 2015 p20
AFL Record 2-5 Jul 2015 p20


In November 2015, I interviewed Malcolm Macpherson about Footy Week. Macpherson, a former star Williamstown (VFA) footballer, befriended Harry Beitzel in the forties and collected statistics for the new magazine in its first year (1965). Malcolm stood in the outer with a group of friends. Their role was to ‘call’ the game to him and his role was to operate the ‘keyboard’ – a pencil and pad.

Mal Macpherson
Mal Macpherson


Here are Mal’s memories of how it felt to be wielding the pencil and pad and collecting statistics in the sixties. In telling his story, Mal breaks with tradition and its code of anonymity. The skilful but humble statistician called ‘Hawkeye’ is identified and honoured at last. 53

Harry Beitzel started the magazine (Footy Week) in 1965. Harry was a good friend of mine – we played cricket together. He said ‘Look, will you do an article on Hawthorn each week. It’s worth three quid a week’ and I said ‘OK Harry, fine’ and then of course he tells me he wants me to keep some statistics as well. He knew I used to watch Hawthorn. Harry always considered me to be a good critic because I used to be able to pick things up on the ground and I’d say to him ‘I noticed such and such’ and he’d say ‘Gee, you keep your eye on things’. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I was anything out of the box. Harry knew I was good as far as administration was concerned, and I was reliable, so that’s why he asked me to do the job on Hawthorn for him – but then I was unaware that he was going to ask me to do stats. Immediately he asked me to do each game for Hawthorn I had to do the stats, right from the word go. I did it when he first started - the first part of the year (1965). I was doing it for Harry, not for the Hawthorn Football Club. (I was however a member of Hawthorn-East Melbourne Cricket Club which used the grandstand at Glenferrie Oval). It would have been an entrepreneurial idea (like he always had) and he would have gone around and got a bloke from each club and organized them. He probably had quite a few other blokes that were doing it, the same thing.

So I used to go with my mates. The blokes who helped me out were Mac Irving, Peter Griffiths and Les Botham (well-known Hawthorn-East Melbourne wicket-keeper). Peter used to take his sons – only young kids – but they were on the ball. We were standing in the outer, shoulder to shoulder. Being short I had to sometimes get on my toes to see what was going on. They used to help me because they were aware of what was going on. They all got involved with it – ‘who got that kick?’ We’d all say ‘Who got that kick?’ and try to get it as accurate as possible. I reckon at the end of the day it would be about 75% accurate – but you’d miss a few you know. 54 It was hard to see across the other side of the ground from the outer. We got it pretty right, I think. Anyway, we did our best. If I was a bit doubtful I’d say ‘Who got that?’ If I got behind someone would help me out. We did get behind a couple of times but you’d soon pick it up. You’d be on top of it all the time. I was organized. I used a pad and paper. I set it up on a clipboard – ruled up, all set, pens and paper, everything under control. I used a pencil with a rubber on the end of it, HB pencil I’d say. I’d write all the players down on the left hand side (I only had to do Hawthorn) and I’d put a tick down (or a dot, or whatever it was) when they got a kick. Marks, kicks and handballs, goals and behinds – that’s all. I didn’t worry about free kicks for and against and all that sort of stuff. The two main things were kicks and marks. There were hardly any handballs. It was a different game altogether. There were more contested marks – marks were pretty clear cut. My mates weren’t using pad and paper – they used to just tell me who got that kick. 55 They were the callers – although they only called when I asked them. I did mostly ‘away’games – for example Windy Hill, Punt Road, in the outer – hardly any at Glenferrie Oval. 56 .

I’d come home from the footy on a Saturday night and write the article up – and the stats. I would hand write the article and tidy up the stats. I did them all over again. I wrote under ‘Hawkeye’. I had to look for a headline and I used to just say ‘We want Arthur back’ because all the blokes said we should have Arthur back and I thought that would satisfy the readers. You’ve got to look for a headline and I used that a couple of times. 57 Then I would have to take the article into the Sporting Globe office in the city on a Sunday morning and submit it. Harry had it set up there. It would be published in Footy Week the next week. I did a proper submission when I took it in – it was all very neat and tidy. Today, I’d have it on the computer wouldn’t I? .

I only did it for about six weeks. It might have been eight weeks. Standing in the outer ground in the rain and trying to keep statistics is not the easiest thing in the world. It was a pain really. He (Beitzel) didn’t realize what he was asking. It was a really difficult job. It took the enjoyment out of going to the football, I can tell you. But I used to get quite a lot of pleasure when it was published, when I read the articles that I wrote. I don’t know who he got to take over after me – some poor sucker – but I was very happy to get out of it I can tell you. Afterwards, we still went to the footy but we weren’t keeping any stats. I don’t know if Hawthorn had its own official statistician. I don’t think the stats were very relevant in those days. I don’t think there were a lot of stats. When I was playing for Williamstown we hardly had any stats, how many kicks you got or any of that stuff. .

It (keeping the stats) wasn’t as difficult as it probably would be today. In those days the game wasn’t anywhere near as fast as it is today, more a mark and kick game. When the full-back kicked in he kicked in to a marking contest and then always a clear cut possession. Today it would be impossible – with all those little quick handballs backwards and forwards. The stats have ruined some of the football: some of the blokes are mad keen on stats – they get the ball, handball it, get it back, they get three or four stats, and the little short kicks on the backline. (In my day) if you handballed on the back line you’d be kicked out.


Shell social game 1945 - Harry Beitzel 3rd from left middle row, Mal Macpherson sitting second from left
Shell social game 1945 - Harry Beitzel 3rd from left middle row, Mal Macpherson sitting second from left



The Seventies

We have seen that football’s statistical tables did not alter fundamentally over a period of almost two decades. The basic formula remained the same – ‘kicks/marks/handpasses/free kicks to/free kicks against’ with the addition in the sixties of ‘ruck hit-outs (bounce/throw-in)’. The categories reproduced in Handley from the 1970 Grand Final (Carlton versus Collingwood) and the 1977 Grand Final Replay (North Melbourne versus Collingwood) show that this pattern continued well into the seventies. 58 One important innovation that crept into the picture in the late seventies (specifically in the record of the 1978 Grand Final between Hawthorn and North Melbourne) was the more detailed record of a player’s kicks – quarter by quarter. 59

As usual it is the respective handball tallies that create the most interest. Increasing resort to handball is a sure indication of change in the style of play. It probably means the pace of the game has quickened, increasing the pressure on players who have less time to settle for a kick. It could also mean the increasing use of attacking handball – handpassing to a player further downfield and in the clear. Carlton’s use of handball to record a famous come-from-behind victory in the 1970 Grand Final is legendary. The Blues are supposed to have run riot with handball to run rings around the Magpies in the second-half of the match. In fact, according to the statistics, the number of Carlton handpasses in this game (60 against Collingwood’s 34) is not very much more than Geelong’s number in the 1967 Grand Final (55 against Richmond’s 50). Over time, however, the use of handball increased markedly – and has continued to increase (some would say regrettably) right up to the present day. In the 1966 Grand Final the total number of handpasses was 84 (Collingwood 45, St. Kilda 39). In the 1977 Grand Final Replay the total number was exactly double – 168 (North Melbourne 98, Collingwood 70). It is important to realize handball figures can be deceptive. Quite often, even in the modern game, the team using handball the least is the superior team, as in the 1978 Grand Final where Hawthorn had only 46 handballs, far fewer than their North Melbourne opponents, but still won the match comfortably.

Our discussion of football statistics in this article has largely been a discussion of the age before the arrival in everyday life of the computer. Needless to say, the computer transformed the art and science of football statistics. I will now proceed to review the accomplishments of the greatest exponent of football stats in the computer era (and internet era) – Ted Hopkins.


THE END



Acknowledgement.
I am grateful to my colleague Michael Riley for research assistance with this article, specifically his great ability to find interesting stories on the National Library’s TROVE site.




Boyles Website Newsletter

Just us sending out an email when we post a new article.
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End Notes


1. I say ‘rarely mentioned’ rather than ‘never mentioned’ because the individuals involved in recording football statistics were occasionally identified – for example Dave Stewart of The Sporting Globe in Melbourne, and O.J.O’Grady of The Mail in Adelaide (see below).
2. George Handley,The Great Grand Finals, Walshe Publishing, 1989, p. 19.
3. Ted Hopkins, The Stats Revolution – the life, loves and passion of football’s futurist, Melbourne, Slattery Media Group, 2011, p. 96. For my review of the Hopkins book, see Ken Mansell, Ted Hopkins – ‘The Stats Revolution’ (a review)(Boylesfootballphotos).
4. O.J.O’Grady, ‘Who had most kicks? – What statistics of Port-West match reveal – Red and Blacks superior in every department’, The Mail (Adelaide), June 9, 1928, p. 11.
5. The team totals as recorded and published by O’Grady were West Adelaide (120/316/22/6/19/39/9/25/7); Port Adelaide (79/263/14/3/39/19/7/7/23). Another Adelaide newspaper, Saturday Journal, also collected statistics at this match. It published the ‘kicks’ (quarter by quarter) for all individual players. ‘Holiday match statistics’, Saturday Journal (Adelaide), June 9, 1928, p. 14.
6. O.J.O’Grady, ‘Play analysed – Home team had most kicks – Snell and Collier best on ground’, The Mail (Adelaide), Saturday, June 16, 1928, p. 4. The interstate match was drawn. The team totals were:
Victoria (73/20/246/24/9/15/6/16/42/7/13/10); South Australia (102/27/276/38/34/36/12/42/16/12/11/22).
Six weeks later O’Grady employed the same basic categories (except for the substitution of ‘team mate’ for ‘comrade’) to analyse an interstate match between South Australia and Western Australia (won by South Australia by eleven points). O.J.O’Grady, Play Analysed (Open Game by South Australians – Fifty Per Cent More Frees to Local Men), The Mail, Saturday, July 28, 1928, p. 4. The statistics for this match were as follows: Total marks (SA 82 WA 72); Marks against opposition (SA 10 WA 18); Total kicks (SA 298 WA 279); Kicks from out of bounds (SA 17 WA 12); Kicks direct to team mate (SA 76 WA 46); Kicks direct to opponent (SA 33 WA 25); Handball to team mate (SA 18 WA 4); Knocks out to team mate (SA 9 WA 6); Frees received (SA 50 WA 36); Frees given away (SA 36 WA 50); Goals (SA 15 WA 13); Behinds (SA 9 WA 10).
7. O.J.O’Grady, Analysis of Play (South Australia Had Most Kicks – Victoria Slightly Superior in Air),The Mail, Saturday, July 13, 1929, p. 4. The statistics for this match were -
Total marks (SA 86 Vic 91); Marks against opposition (SA 25 Vic 26); Total kicks (SA 283 Vic 260); Kicks direct to comrade (SA 47 Vic 28); Kicks direct to opponent (SA 23 Vic 17); Handball to comrade (SA 18 Vic 14); Direct knockout from ruck (SA 1 Vic 6); Frees received (SA 29 Vic 28); Frees given away (SA 28 Vic 29); Goals (SA 10 Vic 8); Behinds (SA 14 Vic 14).
8. O.J.O’Grady, Play Analysed in Thebarton Match, The Mail, Saturday, May 4, 1929, p. 4. The categories employed on this occasion were – marks/marks against opposition/total kicks/kicks direct to comrade/kicks direct to opponent/frees received/frees given away/goals/behinds/out of bounds.
9. O.J.O’Grady, Analysis of Play, The Mail, Saturday, June 15, 1929, p. 4. The respective figures were - Total marks (Lill 14; Ryan 6); Marks against opposition (Lill 10; Ryan 1); Total kicks (Lill 27; Ryan 39); Kicks direct to team mate (Lill 5; Ryan 12); Kicks direct to opponent (Lill 3; Ryan 3); Handball to team mate (Lill 1; Ryan 3); Frees received (Lill 3; Ryan 4); Frees given away (Lill 0; Ryan 2).
10. O.J.O’Grady, Origin of Goals, The Mail, Saturday, May 18, 1929, p. 5. O’Grady’s table: Player – how ball gained: mark, free, snap shot, received direct from.
11. O.J.O’Grady (The Mail Football Writer), Performances Analysed (No Behinds Recorded By Owens), The Mail, Saturday, July 19, 1930, p. 4.
12. The following figures were recorded (one assumes by O’Grady): Total marks (Vic 137 SA 77)/Marks against opposition (Vic 45 SA 27)/Total kicks (Vic 324 SA 296)/Kick to team mate (Vic 47 SA 32)/Kick to opponent (Vic 8 SA 21)/Frees received (Vic 30 SA 50)/Frees given (Vic 50 SA 30)/Times handballed (Vic 19 SA 23)/Goals (Vic 12 SA 7)/Behinds (Vic 15 SA 5). Anon (O.J.O’Grady?), Analysis of Today’s Play (Lill and Collier have best figures), The Mail, Saturday, August 9, 1930, p.4.
13. The figures for this match were: Total marks (SA 72 Vic 71)/Marks against opposition (SA 17 Vic 21)/Total kicks (SA 288 Vic 309)/ Kicks direct to team mates (SA 22 Vic 25)/Kicks direct to opponents (including out of bounds)(SA 11 Vic 25)/Effective handpass or knockout (SA 19 Vic 19)/Frees received (SA 47 Vic 31)/Frees given away (SA 31 Vic 47)/Goals (SA 11 Vic 9)/Behinds (SA 13 Vic 10). O.J.O’Grady, Analysis of the Players, The Mail, Saturday, August 6, 1932, p. 10.
14. O’Grady maintained full ownership of Cash Orders Ltd (and its twenty branches) until 1938. In 1957 David Murray merged with Robert Reid and Co Ltd. Reid Murray Holdings Ltd collapsed in the ‘credit squeeze’ of 1961.
15. John Storer, West Torrens Football Club (First Part – 1897-1944), self-published, Adelaide, 2007, p. 204. According to Martin Shanahan, O’Grady’s retirement was prompted by ‘stomach cancer’. Martin Shanahan, Oswald James O’Grady, (1901-1971), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000.
16. John Devaney, Full Points Footy’s SA Football Companion, December 2008, p. 386. An Adelaide newspaper biography of O’Grady written in 1954 claimed he had finished runner-up in the Magarey Medal in his first season (1923). John Clark, Business Made Time Pay Off (South Australian Profile No 115), News (Adelaide), Saturday, July 10, 1954, p. 4. I have been unable to verify the truth of this claim but I am skeptical – partly because O’Grady’s first season was 1921, not 1923.
17. It should also be noted that in later life O’Grady was a champion yachtsman and lawn bowler (he finished third in the Australian Singles Bowls Championship of 1952).
18. The Geelong Advertiser/Col Hutchinson (Geelong Football Club), Cats’ Tales, Geelong, 1984.
19. See Cats’ Tales, op. cit, p.109.
20. Handley, op. cit.
21. Handley, op. cit, p. 19.
22. Cats’ Tales, op. cit, p. 111. Again, there is no attribution to the original publisher.
23. See O.J.O’Grady, ‘Play analysed – Home team had most kicks – Snell and Collier best on ground’, The Mail (Adelaide), June 16, 1928, p. 4.
24. ‘South won in air, statistics show – analysis of semi final’, The Mail (Adelaide), September 11, 1937, p. 29. The team totals in this match were as follows: South Adelaide (44/51/273/24/32/4/49/15/13); Torrens (40/26/228/27/20/5/55/7/11).
25. The Sporting Globe was initiated by Keith Murdoch, editor of The Melbourne Herald, in July 1922. For the origins of the newspaper, see Nick Richardson, Saturday Night Replay – How the Sporting Globe came to change Australian Rules Football in Victoria during the twenties, Sporting Traditions, Volume 29, No. 1, May 2012.
26. Anon, Analysis of Footscray’s Performances for 1932 Season (Early Check for Big Hopes – Fair Time Without Anything Startling), The Sporting Globe, Saturday, September 10, 1932, p. 6.
27. Dave Stewart, Points About Richmond and St. Kilda Game, The Sporting Globe, Saturday, May 2, 1936, p. 4. Dave Stewart, Points About St. Kilda and South Melbourne Game, The Sporting Globe, Saturday, May 9, 1936, p. 5. Dave Stewart, Points About Hawthorn-Carlton Game, The Sporting Globe, Saturday, May 16, 1936, p. 5.
The statistics from these three 1936 VFL matches allow a comparison with the equivalent figures of modern football:
Free kicks to (Rich 47 St.K 58) (St.K 56 SM 54) (Haw 43 Carl 38)
Free kicks against (Rich 58 St.K 47) (St.K 54 SM 56) (Haw 38 Carl 43)
Marks (Rich 65 St.K 62) (St.K 59 SM 67) (Haw 101 Carl 109)
Kicks (Rich 259 St.K 268) (St.K 252 SM 253) (Haw 311 Carl 316)
Passed to comrade (Rich 20 St.K 22) (St.K 31 SM 25) (Haw 51 Carl 53)
Shots for goal (Rich 41 St.K 34)(St.K 30 SM 44) (Haw 35 Carl 41)
28. Dave Stewart, Points About St.Kilda and Collingwood Game, The Sporting Globe, Saturday, June 5, 1937, p. 4. Dave Stewart, Points About Richmond and Carlton Game, The Sporting Globe, Saturday, June 12, 1937, p. 4. Dave Stewart, Points About Collingwood and Footscray Game, The Sporting Globe, Saturday, September 3, 1938, p. 6. Stewart included the following supplementary information –
Goals obtained by (players); behinds obtained by (players); Collingwood obtained x from marks, x from snaps, x from frees. Of free kicks – x from boundary infringements. Ball thrown in from boundary x times. X hit-outs from centre.
29. Dave Stewart (‘The Globe’s Football Statistician’), ‘More kicks in new code than in League – Fast non-stop football’, The Sporting Globe (Melbourne), August 24, 1938, p. 11.
30. Anon, Statistics reveal closeness of play in big game, The Mercury (Hobart), August 8, 1949, p. 14.The team totals in this match were North Hobart (179/48/20/247); South Hobart (153/60/22/235).
31. ‘Statistics kept during the State premiership game show that North Launceston players were responsible for nearly 60% of the times the ball was handled, and led particularly in marking and handball’. See ‘Statistics at York Park game’, The Mercury (Hobart), October 3, 1949, p. 16. The team totals were North Launceston ((185/81/24/68/358); Newtown (140/47/34/28/250).
32. ‘Forward’, Schoolboy keeps club statistics, The West Australian (Perth), August 15, 1953, p. 19. Ken Casellas attended St. Louis Jesuit School (Claremont). For the story of a precocious eleven-year-old Victorian schoolboy statistician - who unfortunately did not seek support from his favourite football club - see the following autobiographical article: Ken Mansell, ‘Statistician Extraordinaire 1956-59 (Eat your heart out Ted Hopkins!)’(Boylesfootballphotos). See also Ken Mansell, ‘Catastrophe – Winning the Wooden Spoon (Geelong 1957-58)’(Boylesfootballphotos); Ken Mansell, ‘Catacomb – Struggling Along in the Gloom (Geelong 1959)’(Boylesfootballphotos).
33. ‘Forward’, Schoolboy keeps club statistics, The West Australian (Perth), August 15, 1953, p. 19. Ken Casellas, who only retired in 2013, started covering sport for The West Australian newspaper in 1954. He established a long career in sports journalism and won numerous awards for his broadcasting skills and statistical work. In 1987 Casellas began covering AFL matches at Subiaco for the ABC. He eventually became known as the ‘Godfather of AFL statistics’. In 2000 Casellas received the Australian Sports Medal for Sports Journalism. He was named WA Sports Writer of the Year on four separate occasions, and more recently was awarded the West Australian Football Media Guild's ‘Dennis Cometti Award for Excellence over a Career’. Casellas was also honoured with Life membership of the West Australian Football Commission. See Clint Wheeldon, ‘Honouring the Godfather of AFL statistics’, 720 ABC Perth, November 25, 2013.
34. Brian Shea, Victorian rover got most kicks, The Mail (Adelaide), June 19, 1954, p. 8. Lou Richards was the player who ‘got most kicks’. Collingwood won the match despite having fewer possessions. The team totals were Collingwood (244, 70, 19, 19); South Australia (266, 74, 36, 29).
35. The statistics reproduced by George Handley for the 1953 (Geelong v Collingwood) and 1954 (Footscray v Melbourne) Grand Finals followed the same pattern - free kicks to/free kicks against/marks/kicks – but he left off ‘passes to team mate’ and ‘shots for goal’. Handley, op. cit, pp. 112,132.
36. Exactly the same categories and model of presentation was used by The Sporting Globe for the remaining three VFL finals matches of 1955. See The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, September 14, 1955 and The Sporting Globe, Wednesday September 21, 1955 (‘The Grand Final Play in Figures’).
37. Ditto for the 1956 Preliminary Final (Footscray v Collingwood) and the 1956 Grand Final (Melbourne v Collingwood).
38. Ditto for the 1957 Grand Final (Essendon v Melbourne) - ‘Grand Final in Figures’. The statistical categories reproduced by George Handley in his coverage of the 1959 Grand Final between Melbourne and Essendon were essentially the same as those printed by The Sporting Globe in 1957. The presence of the ‘handpasses’ category would suggest Handley reproduced the statistics from The Sporting Globe. The only difference from 1957 is the placement of ‘kicks’ at the start of the table. Handley’s 1959 Grand Final table is as follows:
  • Player
  • Kicks
  • Marks
  • Frees to
  • Frees against
  • Handpasses
  • Shots for goal
  • Scores made by (players)

One interesting statistic from this 1959 match is the low number of ‘handpasses’ compared to the number of ‘kicks’. Melbourne recorded 230 kicks and 30 handpasses while Essendon recorded 217 kicks and 23 handpasses.
See Handley, op. cit, p. 159.
39. For The Argus in these years (1952-56), see Jim Usher, The Argus – Life and Death of a Newspaper, North Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2007. See also Bruce Kennedy and Michael Rogers, Classic Cats – the Story of Geelong’s Premiership Years 1951-52, 2012.
40. The Argus report on the 1955 Grand Final (Melbourne v Collingwood) also included a table of ‘Free Kicks For and Against’ (both teams). See The Argus, Monday, September 19, 1955. The same model - the table ‘How They Kicked’ - was used right up to the end of the 1956 home-and-away season. See The Argus, Monday, August 20, 1956.
41. The Argus provided the following definitions – ‘Completed passes are passes – both hand and foot – directed to and taken by a team mate. Incompleted passes were those intercepted by opposing players’.
42. See The Argus, September (1956) 3, September (1956) 10, September (1956) 17.
43. See Cats’ Tales, op. cit, p. 117 (1963 Grand Final - Geelong v Hawthorn); Handley, op. cit, p. 205 (1966 Grand Final - St.Kilda v Collingwood) and p. 225 (1967 Grand Final - Richmond v Geelong). The figures for ruck hit-outs were team totals, not figures for individual ruckmen.
44. See Handley, op. cit, p. 183; Cats’ Tales, op.cit, p. 117.
45. Ted Hopkins has explained Young’s role as a 3KZ broadcaster. Young’s job was to ‘watch the game in minute detail, handwriting player statistics for every kick, mark, handball, free kick or ruck hit-out as well as every scoring detail that happened on the field’ – and pass on this statistical detail to a member of the commentary team. According to Hopkins, other radio stations and television broadcasters ‘soon embraced this pioneering commentary model’. See Hopkins, op. cit, p. 101.
46. Hopkins, op. cit, p. 96. Hopkins, p. 4 - ‘Their business was the first to capture basic player and team statistics such as kicks, marks, handballs, frees for, tackles, hit-outs and scoring details for all players and teams in every game for a season’. Hopkins described Beitzel’s relationship with Young as ‘a starting point in the Stats Revolution’. Beitzel himself has claimed ‘we took analysis of football to a new level….’ I am not convinced by Beitzel’s claim. The statistical tables in The Argus and The Sporting Globe in the fifties had the same, or a similar, level of analysis. Beitzel and Young just published stats more often. For the same reason I disagree with Hopkins when he suggests Footy Week’s ‘statistical tables were the magazine’s unique point of difference.’ See Hopkins, p. 103
47. See ‘Catseye’, Little Hope Ahead, Footy Week, August 28, 1965, p. 21. The author was reporting on a Geelong versus Fitzroy game, won by Geelong 9.16 to 8.4.
48. Footy Week’s table had the following columns - player: kicks – total and effective/handball – total and effective/frees for/frees against/marks/goals-behinds/misses. An analysis of where free kicks (for) given – forward line, half forward line, centreline, half back line, back line. Out of bounds. Ball-ups.
49. Ben Collins, 50 Years of Stats, AFL Record, July 2-5, 2015, p. 20. The article says Footy Week was ‘founded in 1956’. Presumably this is a typographical error.
50. Collins wrote ‘Before Beitzel filled this void (the absence of player stats from every game - KM) in 1965, stats had rarely been recorded and usually only for Grand Finals from the early 1950’s’. That is not strictly true – stats had usually been collected (at least by The Sporting Globe) for ALL Finals, as we have seen.
51. Beitzel is quoted as saying ‘I am proud to have started this whole stats thing that the Champion Data empire has been built upon’. This particular opinion seems reasonable. However I find it hard to accept Beitzel’s view that ‘the format (of Champion Data) is still quite similar to how we did it’. This last opinion is debatable. Collins introduced his article by reminding us that ‘long before loose-ball gets, intercept marks and clearances were recorded, statistics were a basic mix of kicks, marks and handballs’. The Footy Week stats were themselves a basic mix of kicks, marks and handballs. This is why I believe it is an exaggeration to suggest the format of Champion Data stats is similar to the format of Footy Week.
52. Harry Beitzel’s Footy Week was published 1965-71.
53. Interview with Malcolm Macpherson, telephone interview, November 19, 2015 (24 minutes 44 seconds). Recorded and edited by Ken Mansell. Malcolm Macpherson played for VFA club Williamstown in the 1940’s. Making his debut in Round One of the 1946 season, he soon became one of the Association’s most dangerous and effective small forwards, a prolific goal-kicker often combining brilliantly with the sensational Ron Todd in a potent Williamstown forward line. Macpherson was near best on ground in the 1948 Grand Final loss to Brighton and a key member of the Seagulls’ 1949 premiership side. A serious knee injury at the start of the 1950 season played havoc with his playing career thereafter. He turned to coaching, firstly with East Burwood in the Eastern District League, and then with Brighton Thirds in the VFA. Macpherson was also an accomplished batsman with District cricket clubs North Melbourne and Northcote.
54. For the interesting reflections by Ted Hopkins on the ‘special knack for player identification’, see Hopkins, op. cit, p. 139 (including footnote 46).
55. To use a modern-day analogy, Mal was the ‘keyboard operator’ and his mates were the ‘callers’.
56. Mal’s memory here is not inaccurate. Hawthorn’s first eight games in season 1965 were against Carlton (Home), Essendon (Away), Collingwood (Away), Fitzroy (Home), Richmond (Away), Footscray (Home), Geelong (Away), and South Melbourne (Away).
57. Mal is here referring to Hawthorn great (and 1961 premiership captain) Graham Arthur whose playing career spanned the period 1956-68. Arthur was captain-coach of Hawthorn in 1964-65. He retired as a player in 1965 to concentrate on coaching but the retirement lasted just two matches. See R.Holmesby and J.Main, Encyclopaedia of League Footballers, Tenth Edition, Bas Publishing, 2014, p. 28.
58. See Handley, op. cit, pp. 249, 272.
59. See Handley, op. cit, p. 294.



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