INTRODUCTION

Harold Vivian Cumberland, better known as Vic, (sometimes referred to as Harry), was born in Toorak in 1877. Vic became somewhat of a ‘legend in his own lifetime.’ He was footballer of immense ability and spirit, a traveller, and survivor of the battlefields of France .

While his durability football is well recognised in the history of the national game, there are many things that have been glossed over, ignored or forgotten. Vic Cumberland’s life makes an absorbing study.

Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1904 n057 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1904 n057 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1907-08 n044 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1907-08 n044 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1912 n050 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1912 n050 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1913 n048 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Standard Cigarettes (Sniders & Abrahams) 1913 n048 Cumberland - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards


A CELEBRITY FOOTBALLER


Vic had exceptional ability and from his first days at Melbourne he was a ‘top shelf’ player. Holmesby and Main state that…

“He specialised in the punt kick, but could also use the stab kick or place-kick. He was a superb mark and had the knack of grabbing the ball at throw-ins and handballing to a rover.”

Although only 182 cm tall, he challenged the tallest and the best with his adept ruck work and his highly energized style of play around the ground. It was said that he was a ruckman of no equal and according to ‘The Weekly Times’…

“…it would be harder to find a sounder follower, when he is in his prime than Cumberland.” (July 7th 1917)

Vic was a personality of VFL football and his handsome reputation was often the subject of newspaper scribes in those early days of Victorian football. It is difficult to accurately gauge his influence on football in that era but respected football historian John Devaney believes that…

“Harry Vivian Cumberland epitomised the spirit of his era by eking out an auspicious three decade football career in three Australian states plus New Zealand …He was also, arguably one of the best.”

Glowing tributes about Vic’s ability were common in the newspapers of earlier days and an article carried in the popular Sydney journal called the ‘Referee’ of 27th July 1927 is indicative of the praise that Vic often received…

“It was about 1898 that Cumberland, a tall thin stripling with a particularly firm grip and some pace first came into the limelight.

At his best, however, he had a lot of dash, while his judgement was exceptionally good and he could hold hi s own with anybody in the air. He had strong and anything he touched was his.”

Vic made an impact on Victorian football in many ways and in time he became a much admired identity with the St Kilda fans. His popularity grew to such a point that a poem was written about his football prowess…

''The finest player of them all, we’ve seen what he can do
He’s the greatest champion on the ball St Kilda ever knew
When from the ruck he brings it out or taps it with his hand
You’ll hear the old familiar shout of ‘Good boy Cumberland.’''

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS~ IN BRIEF


The highlights of Vic’s remarkable football record include:-
  • Played football in Tasmania.
  • In 1898 made his debut for Melbourne FC. (Note: Vic’s brother Cec played 5 games with Melbourne in 1899.)
  • Played 50 games with Melbourne.
  • Kicked 15 goals for Melbourne.
  • Member of Melbourne’s premiership team of 1900. ( see below)
  • Cleared to St Kilda in 1903 and was later to play in St Kilda’s first ever VFL final team in 1907.
  • Played 126 games in four stints with St Kilda between 1903 and 1920.
  • Kicked 72 goals for St Kilda.
  • Transferred to the SANFL and, while playing with Sturt FC, won the Margarey Medal in 1911.
  • Returned to St Kilda and played in the 1913 Grand Final against Fitzroy. ( see below)
  • Played 27 interstate matches.
  • Vic played football in New Zealand 1905-1906 and was a significant force in developing the game in that country.
  • Voted the ‘Champion of the Season’ in 1904 and 1913. This award was similar to the Champion of the Colony which appears to have been selected by a panel of football journalists.
  • Along with other St Kilda players of that era Wels Eicke, Dave McNamara and Roy Cazaly, Vic was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.

A FIRST FOR MELBOURNE AND VIC


There is evidence to suggest that Vic played football in Tasmania at the young age of fifteen. When he returned to the mainland in 1898 he was recruited to Melbourne FC after being spotted starring in a suburban junior match. Vic played his first senior game against Geelong at the Corio Oval in 1898 and so started his amazing journey in Australian football.

Vic was immediately a regular in the Melbourne team, playing 14 games in 1899 and 18 in 1900. In 1900,Vic played in Melbourne’s first-ever premiership. Melbourne FC was formed in 1858 and is the oldest football club in Australia. A Foundation member of the VFA in 1877, but Melbourne never won a VFA premiership. The club affiliated with the VFL in 1897 and won its first pennant in 1900.

On that day Melbourne played Fitzroy at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. ‘The Argus’ reported…
“Twenty thousand people who contributed nearly £500 at the gates assembled on the East Melbourne Cricket Ground to witness the final contest…..and for well-nigh two hours the large crowd was stirred to enthusiasm by magnificent play, the earnestness of the players, and by the fact that to the ringing of the final bell the issue was in doubt.”

The scores were:

Melbourne 2.3 2.5 4.8 4.10 (34)
Fitzroy 1.4 2.7. 2.3. 3.12 (30)

According to Robert Pascoe writing for ‘Grand Finals Vol;1’ the best players for Melbourne that day were listed in this order: Cumberland , Langley, McGinis, Moodie, Purse and Wardill.

In the 1900 season Vic played in 18 matches for MFC and kicked 7 goals. An indication of Vic’s brilliant role in Melbourne’s success was that he was named among Melbourne’s best players on fourteen occasions during that season.

Melbourne FC 1900 - Source:100 Years of Football by ECH Taylor - State Library of Victoria Collection
Melbourne FC 1900 - Source:100 Years of Football by ECH Taylor - State Library of Victoria Collection



FAR & WIDE ~ AMATEURS, ST KILDA & NEW ZEALAND.

The 1901 season was Vic’s last with Melbourne. He played 15 games, and Melbourne ended the season in 5th position, missing the finals only on percentage. Vic appeared to be a man who liked to travel and in 1901 he unsuccessfully applied for a clearance to St Kilda. The clearance was refused by the Melbourne FC. in 1902.
In 1902 and ‘The Argus’ (Thursday 24th April page 8) made a passing reference to Vic’s decision to travel west in 1902

VICTORIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE.PERMIT COMMITTEE.

“The permit committee of the Victorian Football League met last night, at the Port Philip Club Hotel, Mr. C. M. Hickey in the chair. The following permits were granted; H.V. Cumberland, Melbourne, to West Australia….”

Although he received a permit to travel to WA, Vic played the 1902 season with Collegians in the Metropolitan Junior Football Association. At this time the MJFA had good relations with the League, but by 15 the relationship would sour with many MJFA clubs working with the VFL to form the VFL Seconds competition, while Collegians and others would form what today is known as the VAFA.

Vic returned to the VFL in 1903 having joined a new team in St Kilda. Vic played in the opening round of that season against Geelong at the Junction Oval, and in 1903 and 04 he played twenty six games for StK FC.
In 1904 Vic won the ‘Champion of the Colony’ award. (See below also).

Vic’s effort in 1904 were so regarded that there were later included in football historian C.C. Mullen’s famous ‘Champion of the Colony’ award which was compiled in the late 1940’s.

At this point in his life, Vic travelled to New Zealand and in 1905 and 06 he played with the Auckland Imperial Football Club in the Auckland FL. Although there are few details available it is said that tried to further develop Australian Rules football in NZ. In a press release in April 2014 the St Kilda FC made reference to Vic in this regard…
''
“His trade as an electrician enabled him to get work wherever he went and he was something of a footballing nomad…… At the peak of his footy career at the age of 27 he left the Saints and headed to New Zealand in 1904. By the start of 1905 he was playing in the fledgling Australian Rules (or Victorian Rules as it was called then) competition in Auckland which had been started the previous year. As one of the great ruckman of the time in Australia he dominated across the Tasman in the newly born competition playing for Auckland Imperials. By the start of 1907 he had returned.”''

It is recorded that as far back as 1882, there were 36 clubs New Zealand playing Australian Rules football. It would have been a major coup for the competition to have gained the services of a highly regarded Victorian Premiership player.
According to Ken Piesse…

“New Zealand competed in the first Australian championships under the captaincy of Mr.T.J. Wright in 1908 winning two and losing two of its matches.”

The New Zealand team wore a black Guernsey with a golden fern leaf motif . There is no proof, but it may be possible that Vic Cumberland played a hand in bringing the New Zealand team to the 1908 Carnival in Melbourne.


VIC CUMBERLAND LIFTS ST KILDA TO AN HISTORIC FINALS APPEARANCE

Australasian 18-May-1907 p27
Australasian 18-May-1907 p27

Vic returned to St Kilda in 1907 and resumed his VFL career with enthusiasm. It may be no coincidence that with his return to St Kilda the club played finals football that year against Carlton. It was St Kilda’s first appearance in a VFL final series. Carlton won in convincing style by 56 points.

While Vic was St Kilda’s oldest player at thirty years of age, he was by no means the oldest player in that match. Carlton’s Jim Flynn (36) and Mick Grace (33) were the veterans on that ground that day.

In 1908, Vic also played in another Semi Final against Carlton. The Blues, coached by John Worrall, won by 58 points.




1909-11~STURT AND THE MARGAREY MEDAL

As history shows, football took Vic far and wide. After the 1908 season Vic moved to Broken Hill to take the position of coach for the Broken Hill Team,but in 1909-10-11 he played in the SAFL.

Australasian 24-Jun-1909 p36- E. L. RENFREY AND B. V. CUMBERLAND both late of St. Kilda Club, Victoria
Australasian 24-Jun-1909 p36- E. L. RENFREY AND B. V. CUMBERLAND both late of St. Kilda Club, Victoria
Daily Herald Adelaide 10-Oct-1910 p6 S Hosking (PortAdelaide) and H.Cumberland (Sturt)
Daily Herald Adelaide 10-Oct-1910 p6 S Hosking (PortAdelaide) and H.Cumberland (Sturt)


1910 Sturt Team known as the immigrants brought together to try and win Sturt's first premiership. Apart from Vic, the team had a number of WA imports including Bert Renfrey, Phil Matson, Albert Hendrichs, 'Diver' Dunne, Frank Golding, Bert Lee and Bob Honeybone.The team won the minor premiership but lost the final by 5 points to Port Adelaide. In the right of Challenge match Port Adelaide won again.

Vic quickly garnered a handsome reputation in SA football and he was runner up in the Magaray Medal (SANFL Best & Fairest ) in 1910, and in 1911 won the Medal for the while playing for Sturt.

Register 27-Oct-1911 p7
Register 27-Oct-1911 p7
‘The Register’ of (October 27th 1911) carried a photograph of Vic and a substantial column outlining his win in the Margery Medal. When reading the article it would appear that there was some surprise perhaps disagreement about the merits of Vic’s win in the prestigious award.

CHAMPION FOOTBALLER. H. V. Cumberland Selected…..


“The long-awaited award of the football umpires' committee regarding the selection of the Magarey medallist for 1911 was made available on Thursday evening. The committee devoted considerable deliberation to the question, but its final decision — to the effect that H. V. Cumberland, of Sturt, has been the 'fairest; and most brilliant player of the season— may be somewhat unexpected among football followers generally. While admitting that the fine Sturt ruckman may be included among the first trio of South Australian footballers, at least one ether player has a record which many consider superior to that of the chosen champion. However, the umpire committee, in its wisdom, has made its selection; and has undoubtedly chosen a splendid exponent of the national game. This is the second time that the champion of champions has hailed from Sturt.”

Vic was also a member of South Australia's winning Team at the 1911 Interstate Football Carnival.
South Australia - 1911 Carnival - Chronicle Adelaide - 12-Aug-1911 - p31 - photo H Krischock (Far Right - Second Front Row)
South Australia - 1911 Carnival - Chronicle Adelaide - 12-Aug-1911 - p31 - photo H Krischock (Far Right - Second Front Row)


With only 36 games, Sturt selected Vic on the interchange in their Team of the Century.

1912 RETURN TO ST KILDA

In 1912 Vic Returned to St Kilda. He was also immediately back into the Victorian State Team.
Vic in the 1912 Victorian Team - Chronicle Adelaide 17-Aug-1912 p31 (Second player from the left - Second back row)
Vic in the 1912 Victorian Team - Chronicle Adelaide 17-Aug-1912 p31 (Second player from the left - Second back row)


1913~CHAMPION OF THE COLONY AGAIN

The title ‘Champion of the Colony’ has received a degree of debate in VFL history. One current football historian Mark Pennings forcefully questions whether the award actually existed in the early years of Australian football.

However, according to the Australian Rules Football website there was a ‘Champion of the Colony’ award from 1856 until 1901. It can be shown that another award entitled ‘Champion of the Season’ was instituted in 1902 and still existed until 1945. The issue becomes a little more clouded because the Brownlow Medal was awarded in 1924 for the VFL’s Fairest & Best Player.

Many sources state that Vic Cumberland won the ‘Champion of the Season’ in 1904 and 1913.
Other esteemed winners in that era include Dave McNamara (St Kilda 1907 & 1914), Bill Busbridge (Essendon 1908-09), Dick Lee (Collingwood 1910 & 1915), Bruce Sloss (South Melbourne 1911) and Vic Thorp (Richmond 1916).
Whatever the status of ‘Champion of the Season’ proves to be in the years to come, it is fair to say that the recipients were elite players in VFL football in those times.

1913~ ST KILDA’S FIRST VFL GRAND FINAL

Vic returned to St Kilda in 1912 and his strong play was a contributing factor throughout the season and assisted St Kilda to play in the 1913 VFL Grand Final against Fitzroy The match was at the MCG before a then-record crowd of 59,479 people .

St Kilda kicked only one goal to three-quarter time and despite a last quarter resurgence, Fitzroy ran out comfortable winners by 12 points. Vic played in the first ruck and was listed in the better players for St. Kilda.

The scores were: - Fitzroy 7.14. (56) defeated St Kilda 5.13. (43). St Kilda’s best players were: Eicke, Woodcock, Schmidt, Ellis, Bowden, Cumberland, Baird and Collins.

St Kilda’s coach in that game was ex-South Melbourne /St Kilda player George Sparrow. George coached St Kilda in 1913 and then again in 1920, 28 & 29. George was quite a successful as coach with a win /loss ratio of 59%. George placed great emphasis on fitness and one text referred to him as a ‘fine coach.’

Note: Two of Fitzroy’s defenders on that day, Arthur Harrison and Jack Cooper, were to later die on active service in World War: I

1913 St Kilda Grand Final Team (Vic Back Row - Third from the right ) - Source - 25_17 - VFL On Film 1909-1945 - Marking Time V1
1913 St Kilda Grand Final Team (Vic Back Row - Third from the right ) - Source - 25_17 - VFL On Film 1909-1945 - Marking Time V1



1914-15

Vic continued with St Kilda in 1914 and 1915. He brought up his milestone of 100 games for the club and at the end of the season at age 39, was already one of the oldest players to ever play VFL football.

AFL Record 1914 R17 p15 H Cumberland StKilda
AFL Record 1914 R17 p15 H Cumberland StKilda


1916 ~OFF TO WAR

Page 1 of Vic's WW1 Personnel File - Source: AWM
Page 1 of Vic's WW1 Personnel File - Source: AWM
The War years brought about substantial changes to the Australian way of life. The early mutterings about ‘it being all over by Christmas’ were way off the mark. As the casualty lists grew so did the debate about patriotism and military enlistment. The urgency to recruit young men into the military was exemplified in the words of the world famous creator of the Sherlock Holmes novels…..

“If the cricket had a straight eye let him look the barrel of a rifle. If a footballer had strength of limb let him serve and march in the field of battle.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. September 1914.

The pressure bearing down on member-nations of the British Empire must have been considerable. As the bitter rankling widened, all aspects of Australian daily life were brought into question. Sportsmen, including VFL footballers, were no exception and the criticism of ‘stay-at-home’ footballers was often trenchant. G& B Atkinson wrote…

“…continuing players were subjected to severe criticism for playing sport instead of enlisting. Other was related episodes included St Kilda changing its colours which happened to be those of the……Germany .”


Argus 19-Jan-1916 p5
Argus 19-Jan-1916 p5


As the bitter debate about the need suspend football to encourage enlistment raged, Vic Cumberland was cited as a shining example of those admirable footballers who had responded to the Empire’s ‘call to arms.’

It is known that Bill Cubbins who had been a team mate of Vic’s at St Kilda in 1915 had enlisted and served abroad. Bill was to become a star in VFL football with St Kilda and Footscray in later years.

Another St Kilda footballer that played with Vic Cumberland in those pre -war years was J. William ‘Bill’ Lowrie. Bill played 30 games between 1914-1920 and kicked 27 goals. Records show that Bill was a driver with the 15th Company AASC and won a Military Medal for bravery.

The Australian War Memorial records J.W. Lowrie …

“Water issuer at Bridges Road …did excellent work in guarding tanks under trying circumstances .”

Anti-German feelings ran high in Australian. Holmesby and Main give details about one well known VFL player named George Heinz. George, who played with three VFL clubs, changed his name to ‘Haines’ because of the fervent anti-German attitudes that existed in those years. George was said to have been a dynamic rover and starred at the 1914 Carnival which Victoria won. (The Carnival was held in Sydney). In total, George played 185 VFL games (Geelong, St Kilda and Melbourne) and kicked 169 goals. He also coached St. Kilda.

Like Vic Cumberland, George Haines served in the AIF. Vic’s enlistment to fight in the First World War was most newsworthy and the scribe known as the ‘Onlooker’ of the ‘Referee’ wrote in no uncertain terms…

“Crack St Kilda footballer Cumberland has also joined the ranks. Big and burly, 6 ft high and over 14 stone, ‘Cumbie’ making for the enemy trenches with his football swing and pluck will prove a formidable fighter.”

Round 16 of the 1915 season was to be Vic’s last game before entering military service. On that day St Kilda played Richmond and the St Kilda team included such VFL stars at Gordon Dangerfield (159 games), Wels Eicke (218 games) Harry Lever ( 217 games), Bob Bowden ( 150 games) and Bill Cubbins (182 games).

‘The Adelaide Chronicle’ also carried the news ….

“Followers of football in South Australia will be interested to learn the H.V. Cumberland of the St Kilda club has enlisted. Some years ago he was the champion player of this State and won the Magarey medal as a member of the Sturt team.”

According to the World War:I Embarkation Rolls, Harry Vivien Cumberland (Service Number: 2886) was a member of the 8th Infantry Brigade, 26th Infantry Battalion (1-6 Reinforcements). The embarkation date was given as the 4th April 1916 aboard the HMAT (His Majesty’s Australian Transports) Euripides A14. According the A.I.F Nominal Roll, Vic was 38 years of age at the time, held the rank of private and his trade was listed as- ‘electrician.’

The official website of the St Kilda FC (the writer appears to be Luke Holmesby) states the following….
“Cumberland enlisted for the Army and headed to Europe where he served in the 29th Battalion. Wounded in the wrist and knee he returned to action in France once he had recovered in May 1917 and served there for the remainder of the War. He served there until the war finished and did not return to Australia until November 1919.

Lance Corporal Cumberland's only blemish on a fine army record came when he was officially reprimanded for gambling on the deck of the troopship on the way home!” (St K FC Press release… 25th April 2014).

Australian Soldiers of B Company 29th Battalion (Vic's Battalion) - Source AWM E02790
Australian Soldiers of B Company 29th Battalion (Vic's Battalion) - Source AWM E02790


In Feldmann and Holmesby’s definitive history of the St Kilda FC, there is fleeting mention that Vic’s military duties had taken him far and wide to England, France, Belgium, Scotland and Germany.

Later in the book…

“In 1918, the allies and Imperial Germany were locked in trench warfare…Vic Cumberland and young Cubbins were still at the front.”

Vic survived the horrors of The Great War. He was lucky. One of his team mates at St Kilda (in 1912), Hugh Plowman died at Fromelles in July 1916. One text, on the subject of VFL footballers who fought in the First World War, stated that five of Victoria’s combined team in 1912 died in either Gallipoli or in France.

It wasn’t just footballers who grabbed the attention of the nation newspaper readers. There were thousands of other Australians who died at Gallipoli and the Western Front. Each young man had a story but sadly many were never to be told.

Graves at the Australian National Memorial, Villers‑Bretonneux, Aomme - MRiley 2010
Graves at the Australian National Memorial, Villers‑Bretonneux, Aomme - MRiley 2010


Note: Wikipedia registers those VFL footballers who died in the World War:I. The list again underlines the heartbreaking loss of so many young fine Australian sportsmen who died or suffered horrific injuries in that war ‘across the sea.’ Wilfred Owen’s (1893-1918) poem entitled ‘Disabled’ leaves no doubt about the immense price that so many athletes paid for their service to ‘King and Country.’

According to Jim Main and Russell Holmesby (‘The Encyclopaedia of AFL Footballers’) Vic was said to be…

“…a grand soldier and was wounded three times including a shot in the knee. Yet he played again for the Saints immediately off the troop ship .”

1920 - BACK TO ST KILDA.

Vic (aka Harry) returned to the football field again and it was news in South Australia as well as in Victoria. ‘The Daily Herald’(Adelaide) reported on the 21st May 1920 that ...

“Harry Cumberland , the 1911 Magarey Medal winner has rejoined St Kilda on his return from war and played in a practice match. The old Sturt player played against our 27th Battalion team in France.”

1920 proved to be a difficult season for St Kilda. In reading the available history of the times, it appears that St Kilda was a ‘house divided’ and bitter off-field disputation and disunity affected on the team’s on-field performances.

Vic’s return match with St Kilda was against Collingwood at Victoria Park in Round: 6 on the 7th June 1920. Jack Worrall described Vic’s homecoming with great feeling…

“The heart of every St Kilda rose high when the team took the field. Among the players was Vic Cumberland back from war and ready to give it his all for the Saints despite his 43 years. Not only did Cumberland ruck all day, but he played superbly. On admiring comment was that he was easily St Kilda’s best player and one would have been justified in considering him a colt in the prime of his life….It was 22 years since he had played his first VFL game and 17 years since his debut for his beloved Saints. Supporters were quick to put their hands into their pockets to show their admiration. They presented Cumberland with a wallet of notes.” (Argus 12-Jun-1920 p25)

VIC STEPS DOWN AT THE AGE OF 43


Vic played 10 games for St Kilda in 1920 before hanging up his boots at the ‘ripe old age’ of 43 years and 50 days. The average age of the St’ Kilda team was 26 years and 218 days.

Table 1: Oldest VFL/AFL Players as at Round 12 - 2014
Rank Age Player Final Game Final Year Notes
1 43y 50d Vic Cumberland SK v SY - R16 1920
2 39y 296d Jack Leith ME v ES - R7 1912
3 39y 239d Syd Barker Snr NM v ES - R13 1927
4 39y 181d Jim Flynn CA v SY - Semi Final 1910
5 39y 95d Ted Rowell CW v CA - Grand Final 1915
6 39y 32d Dustin Fletcher ES v GW - R12 2014 (1)
7 38y 291d Craig Bradley CA v PA - R19 2002
8 38y 144d Les Hughes CW v ME - R17 1922
9 38y 123d Charlie Hardy ES v CW - R12 1925
10 38y 106d Teddy Rankin GE v CW - R9 1910
11 38y 97d Michael Tuck HW v WC - Grand Final 1991
12 38y 75d Bill Proudfoot CW v SK - R15 1906
13 37y 237d Paul Salmon ES v PA - Semi Final 2002
14 37y 222d Alby Morrison WB v ME - Semi Final 1946
15 37y 195d Rod McGregor CA v SK - R1 1920
16 37y 192d Alec Hall SK v SY - R10 1906
17 37y 141d Jock McHale CW v ES - R1 1920
18 37y 87d Charlie Forbes ES v SK - R14 1902
19 37y 81d Henry Young GE v SY - R15 1910
20 37y 55d Bill Fraser SY v CW - R3 1904

(1) Still Playing as at time of writing
Source: http://afltables.com/afl/stats/alltime/misc_players.html#06

His last game was against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval on the 21st August 1920 and South Melbourne won by 51 points. It is said he received rousing cheers by both teams in the dressing rooms following the match. .

“At the end of the game both sides gathered in the dressing room to give three cheers for the Grand Old Man of Football. Universally popular, he was a unique figure in the game.” (StKFC Newsletter).

Two of Vic’s team mates that day were the VFL stars Roy Cazaly (to be cleared South Melbourne the following year) and Billy Schmidt (also Richmond).

On the day that Vic retired, Frank Gleeson and Ernie Vernon arrived to play their first games for St Kilda.

St Kilda’s youngest player that day was Billy Sarll, recruited from Warrnambool that season. Billy was 20 years of age when he ran out onto the Lakeside Oval with Vic that day.

The loss to South Melbourne brought the curtain down on a disappointing season for St Kilda and its coach Charlie Ricketts as the club had finished at the bottom of the VFL ladder.

Hugh Buggy of ‘The Argus’ noted in a later article, that on the day of Vic’s retirement, the St Kilda team had nine players in the team who had not been born when Vic played his first game for Melbourne in 1898.

Carlton’s famous coach Jack Worrall wrote…

“It can hardly be said he (Vic) was a champion , yet it can be truthfully noted that throughout his long career there has been no better or more permanent follower than the big Tasmanian.”
Australasian 4-Sep-1920 p21
Australasian 4-Sep-1920 p21


Plans of the St Kilda FC to organise a testimonial for Vic received coverage in the press and the club’s officials anticipated that St Kilda followers would give generously in assisting to raise a large sum of money as some token of gratitude to a player …

“…who had been an ornament to the game.” (‘The Argus’ Aug. 20th 1920).

In summary, as a VFL footballer for two clubs( Melbourne & St Kilda) ,Vic Cumberland played 176 games and kicked 87 goals in a career that extended from 1898 until 1920.

A TRAGIC END


Only some seven years after hanging up his boots, Vic died tragically in a motor bike accident on July 15th 1927. “The Australasian’ newspaper carried the news…

“…the sad announcement of Vic Cumberland, one of the greatest footballers of all time. He was essentially a fair player, was a magnificent mark, had splendid stamina and was a rare battler.”

A week later in the Adelaide ‘News’ (22nd July 1927), considerable column space was devoted to the passing of Vic Cumberland. The following extract gives some insight into how Vic was admired by so many people….

“In that State he was recognized as one of the best followers of the game, and the ruck composed of Cumberland. Moodie and McGinis was regarded as a most formidable combination. In Melbourne as in South Australia he was essentially a fair player, was a magnificent mark, had great stamina, and was always a rare battler. What enhanced his value as a footballer was the fact that he maintained his wonderful form year in and year out. Mr. J. F. M. ("Pug") Bannigan, who is associated with the firm of Duncan and Fraser Limited, today recalled some of the early matches with Cumberland. He said that in his opinion the great follower was the most vigorous ruckman he had ever seen. He was fast, exceptionally powerful, and probably the strongest follower for a fast man that the game had ever known.”

Further into the same article Mr. T. Leahy of the Football Veterans Association stated…

“At a meeting of the Football Veterans' Association held at "The News" Office last night expressions of heartfelt regret were heard on all sides. Mr. T'. Leahy moved that condolences be sent to relatives of deceased. "Cumberland was undoubtedly one of the finest players in the Australian game," he said. "As an opposing ruckman I can only add that in addition to his outstanding brilliance this footballer was the essence of fairness.”

‘The Australasian’ concluded its tribute with these words…..

“When in his heyday of his athletic youth he gave pleasure to thousands and so filled his part.”
Referee Sydney 27-Jul-1927 p13
Referee Sydney 27-Jul-1927 p13


Finally, Vic’s incredible life journey leads one to thinking about the adventures of A.B. Facey in his remarkable autobiography ‘A Fortunate Life’. Both men were daring travellers and spirited men of unique character.
H.V. Cumberland (1877-1927) is buried in the Melbourne Cemetery.

THE END




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