Between Round 9 1952 and Round 13 1953, Geelong had a famous run of 26 games without a loss. This passed the previous record of 21 games by Collingwood's 1928/29 side and is still today a VFL/AFL record. This period in Geelong's history has been widely written about. This article attempts to describe the streak, demonstrate that it was more than a random fluke never to be repeated and finally fits the streak into a wider context within Australian football outside the VFL/AFL.
Table of contents
Multiple RecordsStatistics can always be argued and this record streak is no exception. The streak created two key records. Firstly, a record number of VFL/AFL wins in a row (23) and secondly, a record number of undefeated games (26) in a row.
Interestingly the streak was actually 27 undefeated games. Geelong also defeated a combined Tasmanian (T.F.L.) team during the streak and thus the actual number of club wins in a row was 24 and undefeated games 27.
26 Undefeated Games
The Streak itselfIn World news, the Korean war ended in 1953, just after Geelong's final win.
|1||21-Jun-1952||R9||Geelong||7.13 (55)||South Melbourne||4.11 (35)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||20|
|2||28-Jun-1952||R10||Hawthorn||6.8 (44)||Geelong||10.10 (70)||Glenferrie Oval||Geelong||26|
|3||5-Jul-1952||R11||Essendon||10.16 (76)||Geelong||11.10 (76)||Windy Hill||Draw||0|
|4||12-Jul-1952||R12||Geelong||9.8 (62)||Collingwood||4.9 (33)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||29|
|5||19-Jul-1952||R13||Geelong||14.26 (110)||Melbourne||8.6 (54)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||56|
|6||26-Jul-1952||R14||Footscray||8.9 (57)||Geelong||9.12 (66)||Western Oval||Geelong||9|
|7||2-Aug-1952||R15||St Kilda||7.13 (55)||Geelong||9.16 (70)||Junction Oval||Geelong||15|
|8||9-Aug-1952||R16||Geelong||12.16 (88)||Fitzroy||5.10 (40)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||48|
|9||16-Aug-1952||R17||North Melbourne||11.9 (75)||Geelong||15.13 (103)||Arden St||Geelong||28|
|10||23-Aug-1952||R18||Geelong||17.9 (111)||Richmond||10.7 (67)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||44|
|11||30-Aug-1952||R19||Geelong||10.17 (77)||Carlton||3.14 (32)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||45|
|12||13-Sep-1952||SF||Geelong||14.16 (100)||Collingwood||6.10 (46)||M.C.G.||Geelong||54|
|13||27-Sep-1952||GF||Geelong||13.8 (86)||Collingwood||5.10 (40)||M.C.G.||Geelong||46|
|14||18-Apr-1953||R1||Geelong||12.15 (87)||Hawthorn||5.8 (38)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||49|
|15||2-May-1953||R2||Footscray||8.13 (61)||Geelong||15.12 (102)||Western Oval||Geelong||41|
|16||9-May-1953||R3||Collingwood||9.19 (73)||Geelong||14.14 (98)||Victoria Park||Geelong||25|
|17||16-May-1953||R4||Geelong||12.7 (79)||Essendon||9.11 (65)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||14|
|18||23-May-1953||R5||Richmond||6.16 (52)||Geelong||15.16 (106)||Punt Rd||Geelong||54|
|19||30-May-1953||R6||Geelong||14.16 (100)||South Melbourne||7.5 (47)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||53|
|20||6-Jun-1953||R7||Melbourne||8.10 (58)||Geelong||11.16 (82)||M.C.G.||Geelong||24|
|21||13-Jun-1953||R8||Geelong||21.10 (136)||Fitzroy||7.8 (50)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||86|
|22||20-Jun-1953||R9||St Kilda||6.8 (44)||Geelong||9.6 (60)||Junction Oval||Geelong||16|
|23||27-Jun-1953||R10||Carlton||8.15 (63)||Geelong||10.14 (74)||Princes Park||Geelong||11|
|24||4-Jul-1953||R11||Geelong||12.14 (86)||North Melbourne||13.7 (85)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||1|
|25||11-Jul-1953||R12||Hawthorn||9.8 (62)||Geelong||12.14 (86)||Glenferrie Oval||Geelong||24|
|19-Jul-1953||Combined T.F.L.||8.13 (61)||Geelong||17.24 (126)||North Hobart||Geelong||76|
|26||25-Jul-1953||R13||Geelong||11.12 (78)||Footscray||8.10 (58)||Kardinia Park||Geelong||20|
Note - The win over the combined T.F.L. team is usually not counted as the 26 games is a record for consecutive VFL/AFL games only.
The PlayersRussell Renfrey was the only player to play all 26 games in the streak (he also played against the TFL in the 27th games). Six players played 25 of 26 games and seven players played 20-24 games. In total 36 separate players contributed demonstrating a solid depth to the side.
Typical Team was the 1952 Grand Final Lineup where 18 of the top 20 contributors to the streak (in number of matches) played. The two missing from the top 20 contributors are Les Reed and Harry Herbert. (Terry Fulton 11 of 26 and Jim Norman 5 of 26 appeared)
1952 Grand Final Lineup with number of Games played out of the 26 game streak
|Backs||Bernie Smith 16 games||Bruce Morrison 25 Games||Norm Sharp 17 Games|
|H/Backs||Russell Middlemiss 25 Games||John Hyde 23 Games||Geoff Williams 24 Games|
|Centre Line||Bert Worner 24 Games||Doug Palmer 25 Games||Terry Fulton 11 Games|
|H/Forwards||Bob Davis 25 Games||Fred Flanagan 25 Games||Leo Turner 20 Games|
|Forwards||Jim Norman 5 Games||George Goninon 21 Games||Peter Pianto 25 Games|
|Rucks/Rover||Bill McMaster 22 Games||Russell Renfrey 26 Games||Neil Trezise 23 Games|
|Reserves||Sid Smith 18 Games||Ron Hovey 18 Games|
Bill McMaster b1930
Participation in the StreakAll players who played as part of the streak are listed in the table below. The game numbers correspond to the match list above.
1952-53 Brownlow VotesThough the Brownlow votes for 1952-53 cover games outside the streak, they are a useful indicator to Geelong’s contributors.
Leading Goal kickers for the Streak
A Record not a FlukeThe records for undefeated games in the VFL/AFL is listed in the table below.
The Undefeated Record
|20||Brisbane Lions||Essendon||R10,2001||Western Bulldogs||R04,2002|
Consistancy of DominationThe first thing that one notes is that the teaks with the longest streaks in the VFL/AFL are recognised as some of the best that have ever played the game. The second fact not immediately evident from the table is that the longest streaks have all been part of longer sequences where the teams were dominant within the competition. A number of the top streaks are surrounded by other long streaks of wins.
Warming up for the record, the Geelong team had won 21 of their previous 25 games, including two streaks of 10 games in a row and winning the 1951 Grand Final. Before their unbeaten streak in 1928/29, Collingwood had won 30 of their last 35 games, including winning the 1927 and 1928 Grand finals. Essendon’s 2000 team won 14 of 16 games before their 20 straight wins, then followed it with another 18 wins from 21 games which included the 2001 Grand Final.
This seems to indicate that even longer winning streaks are easily possible within the competition.
Geelong other StreaksGeelong's longest streak is 42 undefeated games played in the early VFA era. games had lower scores during that period, but that VFA team won seven premierships within nine years.
Geelongs best streaks in the VFL/AFL (other than the 1942-53 Streak), were achieved by two of Geelong’s other great teams; The powerful 2007/09 team won 15 games in a row twice and the next best was 14 in a row by the 1937 Premiership team.
|14||Geelong||Fitzroy||R7, 1937||Collingwood||GF, 1937|
The efforts of the 2007/09 team are even more astounding when you allow for a few losses. Starting in round 6 2007 at Docklands where Geelong 35.12 (222) defeated Richmond 9.8 (65) Geelong won a sequence of 15 wins - 1 loss – 12 wins – 1 loss – 15 wins – 1 loss- 13 wins. Finally ending when Port Adelaide was defeated at Kardinia Park in Round 13 2009. A total of 55 wins and three losses from 58 games! A win of any of the three games Geelong lost would have created a new record for consecutive games without a loss.
Geelong's 42 game streak in the VFA era and near streak in the 2007/09 period demonstrate that the 26 game streak could easily occur again.
The National PerspectiveA sequence of 26 unbeaten games is not a national record (it was not even a record for Geelong!). Streaks longer that Geelong's 26 games have occured numerous times.
In the VFA, records are dominated by the performance of North Melbourne’s team through the years of the First World War. The excellent 'AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL FACTS & FEATS' page compiled by James Hothersall at http://www.oocities.org/jsmooth_00001/Footyfacts.html is the source for most of the records that appear here. His excellent page on statistics across all first class Australian Rules competitions is a valuable asset to anyone attempting to see a wider picture in Aussie Rules history.
VFA Undefeated Streaks
|58||North Melbourne (VFA)||1914 & 1919||(49 VFA & 9 Other)|
|56||Essendon (VFA)||1892 & 1894||(47 VFA & 9 Other)|
|50||South Melbourne (VFA)||1884 & 1886||(47 VFA 3 Other)|
|42||Geelong (VFA)||1885 & 1887||(35 VFA & 7 Other)|
|25||Williamstown (VFA)||1956 & 1957|
|23||Coburg (VFA)||1925 & 1926|
|23||Preston (VFA)||1983 & 1985|
|22||Geelong West (VFA)||1971 & 1972|
Carlton also included a streak of 43 games in the pre VFA era 1872 & 1875
In the strong South Australian and Western Australian Leagues, each includes a team with a streak of 30 games in a row, but neither with another streak above 20. East Fremantle includes being undefeated for the entire 1946 season.
|35||East Fremantle (WAFL)||1945 & 1947|
|32||Port Adelaide (SANFL)||1913 & 15||(30 SA & 2 Other)|
In interstate games Victoria’s VFL representative team was also dominant for long periods,
|25||Victoria (VFL)||1952 & 1959|
|23||Victoria (VFL)||1965 & 1977|
Outside the competitions above, teams have been able to dominate smaller leagues for longer periods.
|60||Sydney Swans Reserves (ACT)||2005 & 2007|
|55||St Marys (NT)||1994 & 1997|
|36||Ulverstone (NTasFL)||1992 & 1994|
|30||Western Suburbs (NSW)||1972 & 1963|
|30||Burnie Dockers (NTasFL)||2000-2001|
|28||Ainslie (ACT)||1952 & 1953|
|27||Launceston (NTas)||1937 & 1939|
|25||Eastlake (ACT)||1960 & 1961|
|25||Ainslie (ACT)||1981 & 1983|
|24||Longford (NTas)||1955 & 1956|
|23||Newtown (NSW)||1972 & 1973|
Longest Ever UndefeatedHighest Known Total is 50 years by St Patricks School (Ballarat). St Pats has been home to 85 VFL/AFL players at time of writing, including Brownlow medallists John James and Brian Gleeson.
In terms of games, Port Melbourne (VFA Third Grade 1946-1952) with 129 games and Heathfield-Aldgate United (Hills FL) 1971-1975 with 88 are listed as the longest streaks.
ConclusionGeelong's impressive streak of 26 undefeated games is a VFL/AFL record. A comparison to other competitions shows it to be a record that will eventally be broken, but whoever does will likely be remembered as one of the greatest teams to ever play the game.
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Note - Introductory cartoon is a section of a Wells Cartoon that appeared in the Age Newspaper 27 July 1953 p12