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Reference_ 1942 VFL R02 Melbourne v Richmond - Truscott's Return

Matches



Introduction

In the dark days of the early part of the Second World War, Australia wanted heroic stories that they could hang on to, for many people, footballer Keith Truscott provided such a story. In 1942 Truscott returned to the MCG for a one off game, it would be his last as he would die the following year.

May 1942 The Broad Picture

In May 1942 the war was not going well for the allied nations. Hitler's German armies were well inside Russia and in the process of encircling and defeating another huge Russian army. British convoys were being regularly sunk by U-boats and Tobruk, scene of famous 1941 siege would soon be falling to a resurgent campaign by Edwin Rommel's Afrika corp.

Japan's entry into the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbour had been spectacular. In 1942 the British Empires most important base in Asia had fallen sending tens of thousands of Australian and Commonwealth troops into captivity as POW's. American soldiers had lost the Philippines and there had yet to be a major victory against fast moving Japanese forces.

In February 1942, Australia's Prime Minister John Curtin controversially recalled Australia's professional soldiers back from the middle east to defend Australia, In February Darwin had been bombed.

May 1942 Close to Home

By May 1942 there had been few major victories and there were many names on the casualty lists that were regularly published in Australian newspapers. Even the news of famous flier Keith Truscott returning to play football appeared on the same page as a list of RAAF casualties, a reminder to many how close the war had become.
The Age 16May1942 p4 RAAF Casualties
The Age 16May1942 p4 RAAF Casualties


The Melbourne Football Club had already lost Barney Wood (1941 Syria), Ron Barassi Snr (Tobruk 1941), Harold Ball (Singapore 1942), Jack Atkins (H.M.A.S. Perth 1942). Like many clubs Melbourne were having difficulty fielding teams as many players were on war service and their Home Ground and Training venue, the MCG had been taken over by the military.

Keith Truscott

From 1937 'Bluey' Truscott played for the Melbourne Football Club. A half-forward flanker in Melbourne's premiership team in 1939, he kicked two goals and was among the best players. His decision to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force on 21 July 1940 attracted much publicity. Curiously, for someone of his mental and physical ability, he struggled with flying lessons; had he not been a prominent sportsman he would have been suspended from pilot training. Given extra time denied to others, he began to demonstrate the qualities of co-ordination, anticipation, judgement and determination which had made him a champion footballer. Yet he never fully came to terms with landing and persistently levelled out about 20 ft (6 m) too high. Granted leave by the air force in September 1940, he again played in Melbourne's winning grand-final side. -Australian Dictionary of Biography

Daily News Perth 21Apr1942 p1 Football Club Plans to Honour this Flier
Daily News Perth 21Apr1942 p1 Football Club Plans to Honour this Flier

Truscott flew with an Australian Squadron in England and became a successful ace with 11 confirmed kills, as well as three other probables. He had won the Distinguished Flying Cross and had became popular in the press. His profile had risen quickly and in England, he had already been the centre of one fund raising drive to buy Bluey his own spitfire.

With bad news in the war and with many football competitions shutting down for the duration of the war, it was a delicate time for the VFL. The decision to keep playing was debated in the community. The VFA had stopped playing. As far as the league was concerned, Truscott's return was fortuitously timed.

Melbourne Football Club pulled out all stops. The premiership flag was not unfurled at the start of the season as was usual, and was held over till Truscott’s return. Captain Percy Beames gave up his position as captain for the match.

On his return, Truscott performed a number of publicity shots, with American airman and with his family. It is unlikely that he was actually able to do any football training, especially as he had not played competative football for over 18 months.

Courier-Mail Brisbane 16May1942 p2 Truscott back in Australia
Courier-Mail Brisbane 16May1942 p2 Truscott back in Australia
Daily News Perth 29May1942 p9 Footballer Ace
Daily News Perth 29May1942 p9 Footballer Ace



Players

Melbourne fielded seven players with less that 10 games experience as well as Truscott who had not played for 18 months. The most famous of the new faces was 20 year old Fred Fanning, playing his 7th game. Richmond played four players with less than 10 games with Andy Brannan and Eddie Ford playing their first VFL games.

Melbourne

B:Bob Spargo b1913George ArchibaldAdrian Dullard
HB:Don HewsonJack MuellerFrank Deayton
C:Norm MatthewsAllan La FontaineGeorge Lenne
HF:Maurie GibbRon BaggottKeith Truscott
F:Don CordnerNorm SmithRoy Dowsing
Foll:Fred FanningJack O'Keefe
Rov:Percy Beames
19thRay Shearer
CoachPercy Beames


Richmond

B:Danny GuinaneJack CraneJack Symons
HB:Bill PerkinsIan HullGeorge Smeaton
C:Leo MerrettBernie WaldronBert Edwards
HF:Wally RussellEddie FordJack Sullivan
F:Bob BawdenJack TitusAndy Brannan
Foll:Jack DyerLen Ablett
Rov:Dick Harris
19thCharlie Priestley
CoachJack Dyer


Positions Ref:Argus 15 May 1942 p6, Argus 18 May p6

The Match

With the MCG used by the military, Melbourne's home game was played at Punt Road Oval.

Punt Road Oval
Saturday 16th May 1942

TeamQ1Q2Q3Final
Melbourne4.3 (27)6.4 (40)16.8 (104)18.9 (117)
Richmond4.2 (26)14.8 (92)18.8 (116)30.16 (196)
ME by 1RI by 52RI by 12RI by 79


See http://afltables.com/afl/stats/games/1942/111419420516.html

The match was a high scoring affair with a big wind advantage. The highest aggregate score of any VFL game yet played.

Scores swung dramatically when each team had the advantage of the wind. Norm Smith strained his groin in the second quarter and moved to the forward pocket with Ray Shearer coming on for Smith in the fourth quarter. Maurie Gibb broke his nose but continued to play.

Richmond though were the stronger team and Jack Dyer and Dick Harris took control of the match in the second half (The Age 18-May-1942 p4), Seven Goals by Dick Harris, six by Jack Titus and four by Dyer were part of the 30 goals kicked by Richmond, who kicked 12 goals to 2 in the final quarter.

Mail Adelaide 16May1942 p2 Rapturous Reception for Truscott
Mail Adelaide 16May1942 p2 Rapturous Reception for Truscott


West Australian 2Jun1942 p2 Famous Airman again Footballer
West Australian 2Jun1942 p2 Famous Airman again Footballer
The Age 18May1942 p4 Keith Truscott
The Age 18May1942 p4 Keith Truscott


1942 Truscotts Match - Truscott leads lead - 1_29_14 - VFL On Film 1909-1945 - Marking Time V1
1942 Truscotts Match - Truscott leads lead - 1_29_14 - VFL On Film 1909-1945 - Marking Time V1
1942 Truscotts Match - Truscott leads lead - 1_29_16 - VFL On Film 1909-1945 - Marking Time V1
1942 Truscotts Match - Truscott leads lead - 1_29_16 - VFL On Film 1909-1945 - Marking Time V1


Truscott's Interpretation

An interesting article in Brisbane's Courier Mail hints that Truscott understood the myth that had been created around him. Maybe it is the style of the writer, but in an interview with a Brisbane reporter, Truscott appears to speak about himself in the third person, as if that person is not really him. Rather than basking in the glory of adulation, it appears that the media mantle did not sit comfortably.
Courier-Mail Brisbane 20Jun1942 p2 Spitfire Ace Hides Face
Courier-Mail Brisbane 20Jun1942 p2 Spitfire Ace Hides Face


The Aftermath

In retrospect, the battles that would turn the war (Midway (1942) and Stalingrad (Aug 1952-Feb 1942)) occured soon after the completion of the match. The war though did not turn quickly, and Australians' would soon be hearing a new word, 'Kokoda', as fighting in New Guinea intensified in the second half of 1942.

The war though would continue into 1945.

Melbourne would finish eigth on the VFL ladder and Richmond would go down to Essendon in the Grand Final held at Princes Park.

By July 1942, just weeks after appearing in Melbourne, Truscott was flying in Papua New Guinea. By August he was flying a Kittyhawk fighter-bomber at the Battle of Milne Bay. Truscott at one stage took over his squadron when his commander was killed and was mentioned in dispatches.

In March 1943 at Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia, Truscott died when he accidently crashed his Kittyhawk into the sea on a training exercise. He became the highest profile Australian Rules footballer to be killed in the Second World War.

Northern Miner Charters Towers 7Apr1943 p8 Funeral of Squadron Leader Keith Truscott
Northern Miner Charters Towers 7Apr1943 p8 Funeral of Squadron Leader Keith Truscott


Today the Melbourne Football culub awards the Keith 'Bluey' Truscott Memorial Trophyto their Best and Fairest player.


Another Photo
Australasian 23-May-1942 p3

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