In 1940, in the week set aside for the cancelled interstate football carnival, (which was to be held in Tasmania), the VFL ran a 12-team, one-day lightning carnival. St Kilda received a good draw, but still had to defeat 1940 Grand Finalists Richmond to win their first ever VFL Premiership, 26 years before the more famous occasion in 1966.
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BackgroundIn May 1940, as France was falling in WW2, the official decision was finally made to cancel the ANFC Interstate Carnival which was to be held in Hobart. It was decided to wait for 'happier times'.
Soon after, the various Leagues around the country replaced the event with a range of Fund Raising events for the war.
On the 25th of May 1940, as British and French soldiers were being rescued at Dunkirk and Churchill would soon issue his "We shall fight them on the Beaches" speech, the VFL decided to use the now vacant 3rd August date for a one day knock out carnival (Argus 25-May-1940 p12).
The knockout carnival was not the only option, but teams did not want to travel to the country and using one ground would be simpler than getting agreement with staff and management at multiple grounds.
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South Australia took a similar position to Victoria and ran a one-day knockout competition. Western Australia ran an old-timers game featuring ex Western Australian Interstate players. South Australia and Western Australia both ran their competition in July.
In a side note, the May League meeting also voted to ensure that goal posts were uniformly white, against the protest of the St Kilda club, where the goal posts had been painted yellow.
Although all twelve VFL clubs competed, the 1940 Patriotic Cup is a St Kilda Story. Like all clubs, many of its players and club members were joining the Services and maintaining the club was not simple.
St Kilda used 40 senior players in the 1940 VFL series. The club had used 32 in 1939. There were not many experienced players to call on.
To provide an idea of the inexperience in the side, in the week after the knock out competition, St Kilda played Footscray at the Junction Oval. Of the 19 St Kilda players, they had played a combined total of 677 Games. Two players, Bill Mohr (194 games) and Clarrie Curyer (97 games) account for over 42 percent of that total, with only 4 player playing over fifty games. In contrast the Footscray team had a combined total of 1047 games with eight players with over 50 games. In the same week, Richmond's 19 players combined for 1521 games. Other weeks provide a similar comparison.
Ivor Warne-Smith, writing in the Argus, wrote that teams were attempting to win the patriotic cup by speed alone (Argus 5Aug1940 p9). Maybe St Kilda's youthful legs provided acceleration in the short games and the stamina and strength useful in a regular game were less an advantage.
St Kilda players at the Patriotic Carnival mentioned in the Argus and the Age Newspapers (by game)
|Player||Game 1||Semi Final||Final|
Other players listed in the VFL record in the team list are
Clarrie Curyer, Jack Bray, Jack Kelly, Reg Garvin, Clarrie Riordan, Marcus Hines, Bob Wilkie, Jack Cliff, Ern McIntyre, Ron Mudge, Eddie Cranage, Stan Lloyd, Lance Regnier, Ron Hartridge, Bill Sharp ,Harold Bray
The Round 14, the week before the Patriotic Cup, the St Kilda line up against North Melbourne was the following:
Note that the return of the experienced full forward Bill Mohr would mean that Norm Raines probably shifted to a different position.
Games - 3rd August 1940
The newspapers the week of the Patriotic Cup regularly reported dogfights over the English Channel, which today we include as the opening week of the Battle of Britain when as Churchill said, "Never has so much been owed by so many, to so few.".
The 'Patriotic Cup' would raise money for the 'Comfort Fund' which provided 'comfort', entertainment and basic luxuries to soldiers serving in the Armed Services.
Matches were for 20 minutes. A tie would result in the match restarting and the next team to score being declared the winner. It does not appear that the teams were seeded as two o the strongest teams, Richmond and Melbourne played off in Round one.
FundraisingApart from an interstate event, it was rare to be able to see all the Leagues leading players on the same day. With jack Fyer, Marcus Wheelan, Herbie Matthews, Des Fothergill and Dick Reynolds all participating, as well as Jack Titus who also ended up as the leading goal kicker on the day.
The players were not paid for the day and as in other charity events many others, such as the police and gate attendants also gave their services for free. The official crowd of 30,407 was higher than most home and away games where even the match of the round often had less than 20,000 patrons. Only the VFL finals where the crowds were over 40,000 were higher.
Round 1/2 - Teams with a Round 1 Bye
11:30am North Melbourne v South MelbourneNorth Melbourne (12th on VFL Ladder) v South Melbourne (11th on VFL Ladder)
12:00pm Hawthorn v St KildaHawthorn (10th on VFL Ladder) v St Kilda (9th on VFL Ladder)
12:30pm Richmond v MelbourneRichmond (4th on VFL Ladder) v Melbourne (1st on VFL Ladder)
1940 VFL Grand Finalists Richmond and Melbourne played off in round one. Though Melbourne would win the VFL Grand Final, Richmond knocked them out of the competition.
1:00pm Collingwood v Footscray(7th on VFL Ladder) v Footscray (6th on VFL Ladder)
1:30pm Fitzroy v EssendonFitzroy (5th on VFL Ladder) v Essendon (3rd on VFL Ladder)
2:00pm Geelong v CarltonGeelong (2nd on VFL Ladder) v Carlton (7th on VFL Ladder)
230pm Richmond v FootscrayRichmond (4th on VFL Ladder) v Footscray (6th on VFL Ladder)
3:00pm Fitzroy v CarltonFitzroy (5th on VFL Ladder) v Carlton (7th on VFL Ladder)
3:30pm North Melbourne v RichmondNorth Melbourne (12th on VFL Ladder) v Richmond (4th on VFL Ladder)
4:00pm St Kilda v CarltonSt Kilda (9th on VFL Ladder) v Carlton (7th on VFL Ladder)
4:30pm Richmond v St KildaRichmond (4th on VFL Ladder) v St Kilda (9th on VFL Ladder)
AftermathAnother lightning premiership was run in 1941, on the same day as the VFL v NSW game. Collingwood were the victors, but the crowd was less than 20,000. A cut down version involving just four teams was trialled in 1943.
In the future the VFL would try the lightning premiership concept again, as well as many other ways of expanding the competition.
St Kilda did not win a VFL Premiership until 1966.