EARLY DAYS IN KENSINGTON

Thomas Jack ‘Jock’ Spencer was born in 1928 and grew up in the Melbourne suburb of South Kensington. It was a natural progression for Jock to play at Arden Street (North Melbourne FC’s ground) as the oval was just ‘around the corner’ from his home. Jock left school at fourteen years of age and began work in the ‘City’ abattoirs. It is believed that his father had also been employed as a slaughterman with the same company.

1946-1947 NORTH MELBOURNE THIRDS


NORTH MELBOURNE THIRDS WIN A FLAG

Jock played his junior football with Kensington. He was a tall youngster (185cm, 79kg) with a great leap and strong hands. Jock would have looked a likely proposition to NMFC football officials and he was ‘signed-up’ without delay; and selected for his first game for North Melbourne thirds in 1946.

The VFL Under: 19 Grade was formed in 1946 and Jock was an original or ‘founding playing-member’ of that competition. He was also part of the NMFC Under: 19 premiership team that season. According to Gerald Dowling in his book entitled ‘The North Story’…

“The North boys had an excellent year. They swept through the home and away matches ...and won their way straight into the first under-19 grand final in history.”

The match was played between North Melbourne and Carlton. North won in convincing style by 33 points. North Melbourne 11.9. (75) defeated Carlton 5.12. (42). The Grand Final is said to have been played at Warringal Park in Beverly Road, Heidelberg. Jock Spencer was mentioned in the best players in that game.

North Melbourne Thirds 1946 v2 (SLV 122_067)  by Charles Boyles - Jock Spencer (extreme right of middle row)
North Melbourne Thirds 1946 v2 (SLV 122_067) by Charles Boyles - Jock Spencer (extreme right of middle row)


THE INFLUENCE OF ‘SEL’ MURRAY


One text stated that Jock had modeled his game on that of the Shinboner’s star Norman ‘Sel’ Murray* (1937-48). This is probably true as Sel was somewhat of a hero at Arden Street in those days. He was an adept forward, a superb high mark and also possessed a ‘true boot’ in front of goal.

Note: When Sel played his last game for NMFC in Round: 13 against Geelong at Arden Street, ‘young’ Jock Spencer was a member of the team. Sel also played 13 games for Richmond FC in a VFL career of 121 games which realized 461 goals.

Sporting Globe 14Jun1939 P10 Sel Murray North Melbourne
Sporting Globe 14Jun1939 P10 Sel Murray North Melbourne
Wally Carter - 1934 MacRobertsons 1_2d Footballers - Australianrulesfootballcards
Wally Carter - 1934 MacRobertsons 1_2d Footballers - Australianrulesfootballcards


THE GUIDING HAND OF WALLY CARTER

The first coach of the North Melbourne Under: 19 team was Wally Carter. The relationship between Wally and Jock would become significant in future years. Wally not only coached the NMFC thirds and the reserves but was also appointed Senior XVIII coach of the club (in two stints) for a total of 219 senior VFL games.

The North Melbourne Under: 19 team included some imposing young talent such as Vic Lawrence (later NMFC skipper and VFL representative), John Reeves (later VFL representative), Colin Thornton, Dick Maddocks and, of course, Jock Spencer.

Jock played in the NMFC Under:19 team in 1947. That season, NMFC lost to Melbourne in the Grand Final by two goals.

Wally Carter was appointed Senior XVIII coach in 1948. There was much wisdom in Wally’s appointment as his record in coaching young men was ‘second to none.’ Wally was regarded as the best man to develop and hone the skills of the young brigade; and with such a pool of young and enthusiastic talent things looked bright. Jock’s rapid development under Wally’s tutelage was obvious and the NMFC selectors didn’t hesitate to ‘throw him into the deep end’ as part of the ‘new look’ team at Arden Street.

1948 AN IMPRESSIVE DEBUT AT GEELONG

Some indication of the impact that Jock made as a recruit at Arden Street can be gauged by the fact that he was selected to play in the Round:2 of the 1948 season against Geelong. ‘Young’ Jock was issued with the number: 7 guernsey. It would be the jumper number he would wear throughout his entire VFL career.

Although Geelong won comfortably, the positive news for the Shinboners’ was that Jock Spencer had booted five of his team’s 10 goals. Wally Carter and the club officials must have been impressed, perhaps excited, about the debut of the nineteen year old lad with ‘spring heels.’

By the end of the 1948 season, Jock had consolidated his position as a key forward and kicked a total of 32 goals. One of North’s most experienced players Don Condon won the goal kicking in 1948 with 38 goals. NMFC finished in eighth position on the VFL Ladder but there was optimistic feeling around the club; and a sense that Wally Carter was taking his young team in the ‘right direction.’

JOCK PLAYS FOOTBALL IN BROKEN HILL

In September 1948 North Melbourne travelled to Broken Hill to play an exhibition match against a combined Broken Hill FL team. Jock was included in the touring party and the local newspaper (‘The Barrier Miner’ September 6th 1948) described Jock, in the preview of the match, as follows ….

“Jock Spencer, 19 years, plays full forward and is the makings of a good one. This is his first year, and although his tally of goals is not great there is promise of bigger things to come.”


The match, which was played on September 13th at the Jubilee Oval, was witnessed by 3963 fans (including 277 children). According to the ‘Barrier Daily Truth’ it was a ‘very instructive game’ and…

“…probably saw the best exhibition of handball used properly, ever seen here. It was entertainment first class on its own.”

With Les Foote dominating the proceedings and a ten goal second quarter North Melbourne won by 15 points. Don Condon kicked seven goals while Jock notched two majors that day at Jubilee Oval.
The scores were:

North Melbourne: 2.2 12.7 15.11 19.15 (129)
Broken Hill: 5.2 9.5 13.11 17.12. (114)

Goal kickers for North Melbourne: Condon 7 Foote 3 O’Brien 3 Spencer 2 Dynon 2 Hedley Reeves.

Best for North Melbourne, as reported in the ‘Barrier Daily Truth’ were: Foote Radloff Condon Reeves Dynon and O’Brien.

Note: A little known but interesting connection between NMFC and Broken Hill was uncovered during this research. In reading the football columns in the newspapers of Broken Hill, it seems that Pat Kelly and Chris Carroll (both played with North Melbourne in that match) also played in the BHFL in 1946. The ‘Barrier Miner’ of January 1947 stated …

“Two prominent local footballers, Chris Carroll (Centrals) and Pat Kelly (Norths) will leave for Melbourne on Monday night. They will travel to Melbourne via Adelaide. Both players have been signed up by the North Melbourne Club to play in Victorian League games next season.”
‘Barrier Miner’ January 21st 1947.

Pat Kelly went on to play 105 games while Chris Carroll played 13 games with the Kangaroos. Both Pat and Chris played in the victorious NMFC Second XVIII premiership team of 1947. Perhaps the fact that Pat and Chris were cleared from Broken Hill to NMFC may explain why North Melbourne journeyed to the outback of New South Wales to play a football match.

1949 JOCK BUILDS A REPUTATION

1949 was a watershed year for the Shinboners as the team went from strength to strength. It must have been a thrilling year for the loyal fans as the ‘new look’ Shinboners accounted for ‘some of the best’ in the VFL competition.

North won fourteen of its nineteen games to finish on top of the league table at the end of the home and away series. A premiership was ‘in the making’ and ,with such an array of young talent, anything was possible.

Developing footballers is all about recognizing potential, being patient and providing opportunities for youngsters to play at the highest level. At Arden Street that year, things under Wally Carter seemed to be ‘falling into place.’

There is no doubt that the performance of Jock Spencer, as the spearhead, was a major factor in the Kangaroos success that season. Laurie Shipp, who played 33 games as a ruck man with NMFC (1949-51), has never forgotten Jock’s brilliant marking and long kicking….

“Jock Spencer was a superb full forward. He was rangy and ungainly. But he had an uncanny ability to know where to go to get the ball, and when he did, he usually managed to use his huge hands to good effect to grab a strong mark in a vice-like grip. If he was within 60 metres of goal, he would most times guide it through using one of his rather ugly looking flat punts.”
Laurie Shipp. September 2014.


Argus Teams - 1949 North Melbourne - Jock Spencer back row (thrd from right)
Argus Teams - 1949 North Melbourne - Jock Spencer back row (thrd from right)


In the Second-Semi Final, North was defeated by Carlton in a stirring contest. North led at half-time by six points and had increased the margin by three-quarter time. However, in a spirited revival Carlton kicked six goals in the final term to run out winners by 12 points.

Carlton: 3.5 5.9 9.10 15.13 (103)
North Melbourne: 2.3 7.3. 11.4. 14.7 (91)

North Melbourne goal kickers: Spencer 6 Brooker 2 Foote 2 Dynon Marchesi Radloff and Robb.

Best players for NMFC were: Francis Brooker Reeves Marchesi McKenzie Malone and Spencer.

Argus 12Sep1949 p18 - Jock Spencer in the 1949 Second Semi Final
Argus 12Sep1949 p18 - Jock Spencer in the 1949 Second Semi Final

The Preliminary Final, against Essendon the following week, was a tough and hard- hitting affair. Jock Spencer featured in a dramatic incident when he was penalized in a marking duel during a tense final quarter…

“ ..then in an atmosphere of extreme excitement and tension, the ball flew high towards the North goal; and a pack rose to intercept it. Jock Spencer...shot clearly above his two opponents, McClure and Brittingham and brought down the mark. Then followed a sensation. That yelling, screaming, shouting throng was stunned into instant silence. Umpire Jack McMurray junior coolly walked up and awarded a free kick to McClure. All the North Melbourne supporters could do was to stand there in astonished amazement.”

The incident appeared to have a bearing on the game. North suddenly lost momentum while Essendon capitalized on its good fortune and went on to win the game by 17 points. Jock kicked two majors and brought his season tally to a most creditable 65 goals.

Argus 19Sep1949 P18
Argus 19Sep1949 P18


JOCK’S FIRST GOAL KICKING TROPHY

Jock won the first of seven goal kicking awards at the club and also featured in the NMFC’s special final series awards that season…

“Jock Lineen, the follower, has been awarded North Melbourne's special prize as the most serviceable footballer last season. Other awards announced yesterday were:- Best first-year player: L. Shipp… best in the final series: L. Francis… best in the semi-final against Carlton: T. Brooker… best against Essendon: E. Jarrard… Special prizes for play in the final series: J. Spencer, E. Ryan, and Jim Malone… Special trophy for goal kicking: J. Spencer…”
‘The Argus’ December 10th 1949.

According to the records of VFL tribunal hearings*, Jock was reported in Round: 4 (7th May) against Footscray at the Western Oval on a charge of ‘striking and jostling’ an opposition player. At the tribunal hearing, Jock was found ‘not guilty’ and consequently cleared to play the following week. *See this website for tribunal reports 1877-1980.

Note: Jock was a member of the NMFC team which played an exhibition game against Hobart at the North Hobart Oval in 1949. Laurie Shipp’s memories of that game can also be found on this website.

1950 Kornies Football Card (Front)
1950 Kornies Football Card (Front)
1950 Kornies Football Card (back)
1950 Kornies Football Card (back)


1950 NORTH MELBOURNE PLAYS IN THE GRAND FINAL


The following season (1950) was historic for NMFC for two reasons:-

• The club changed from being known as the ‘Shinboners’ to the ‘Kangaroos’.
• The impetus created in the previous season carried the club onward and upward into a Grand Final.

At the end of the home and way series the Kangaroos had earned the right to play Essendon in the Second Semi-Final at the MCG. Despite a gallant fight back by Essendon, North held on to win by three points in a ‘tough, tight and torrid’ contest.

Argus 212 May 1950 P24
Argus 212 May 1950 P24
Argus 5 Jul 1950 P13
Argus 5 Jul 1950 P13


North accounted for Geelong in the Preliminary Final the following week. Jock Spencer was instrumental in leading the Kangaroos to victory with a five goal haul.

Argus 18 Sep 1950 P11 Preliminary Final - Jock Spencer on left
Argus 18 Sep 1950 P11 Preliminary Final - Jock Spencer on left


The 1950 Grand Final was the ‘return match’ between Essendon and North Melbourne; and it was the peak of NMFC’s exciting climb in VFL football. It was the club’s first-ever Grand Final since joining the competition in 1925.

Understandably, the North Melbourne supporters were fervent and buoyant in the lead-up to the game.

In excess of 85,000 (exact figures vary) fans packed the stands of the MCG that day. Such was the crowd that day that officials, from the Victorian Health Department, ordered the gates to be locked two hours before the start of the match. A photograph, that accompanies Gerard Dowling’s account of the day, shows hapless fans being turned away by mounted police at the barred MCG gates.

The North Melbourne team that day was:

B:Pat KellyJock McCorkellJohn Reeves
HB:Ted JarrardReg RyanLes Reeves
C:Keith McKenzieKevin DynonLes Mogg
HF:Gerald MarchesiFrank JeevesDon Condon
F:Bob BrookerJock SpencerTim Robb
Foll:Colin ThorntonLes FooteJim Malone
Reserve(s):Vic LawrenceJack Hedley
Coach:Wally Carter


North Melbourne Annual Report 1950 - First VFL Grand Final Team - Jock Spencer middle of back row
North Melbourne Annual Report 1950 - First VFL Grand Final Team - Jock Spencer middle of back row


The match was a physical but dour affair as Essendon took control early and pressed home its advantage. After half time, heavy rain tumbled down and virtually washed away North’s chances of victory. North could only register only two goals after half time; and the last quarter was marked by several ugly incidents as North went ‘down fighting.’

Aboriginal star Norm MacDonald (later to play for Victoria) was deemed to be the best afield while Essendon’s champion Dick Reynolds led by example. John Coleman kicked four goals for the victors and brought his season goal tally to 120 goals. Jock kicked three majors for the Kangaroos but the season finished on a sombre note for Wally Carter and the club.

Essendon 13.14. (92) defeated North Melbourne 7.12.(54)

In the 1950 final series, Jock kicked 10 goals and brought his season tally to 86 goals.

PERCY TAYLOR PRAISES JOCK

It had been a noteworthy season for Jock and his eleven goal return, at the Lake Oval against South Melbourne in Round: 16, attracted great attention from the scribes. Jock had ‘arrived’ in VFL football and a leading Melbourne journalist Percy Taylor (‘The Argus’ May 27th 1950) wrote that Jock had played a great part in the club’s meteoric rise up the VFL Ladder…

“Jock Spencer of North Melbourne, played a great part in the rise of his club last season, and, as he is still only 21 years, he is likely to be a power in the game for a number of years.

Jock is a good mark, and is the lively type who does not give up when he does not mark the ball. He kicks well, particularly the long punt for goal. . When he first played with the seniors he had a tendency to kick the ball into the man on his mark when he was shooting for goal, but he quickly lost that habit….He is a wharf labourer, and is single. Quiet and well spoken, he enjoys his association with the club officials and players, and plays a good game of cricket in the summer.”

Jock also polled quite well in the Brownlow Medal and gained 6 votes. Allan Ruthven (Fitzroy) won the medal with 21 votes. In a splendid performance, John Coleman kicked 120 goals to win the VFL goal kicking trophy. In only 40 games with Essendon, John had kicked 220 goals at a staggering average of 5.5 goals per game.

Argus 14 Aug 1950 P12 11 Goals
Argus 14 Aug 1950 P12 11 Goals


1951 JOCK WINS THE SYD BARKER MEDAL

In 1951, the Kangaroos drive stalled and the team slipped out of the four and back to ninth position with only seven wins.

However, for Jock it was a most rewarding season as he won the Syd Barker Memorial trophy. In a team that included such names as Les Foote, Don Condon, Keith McKenzie and Ted Jarrad it was a commendable win. Jock also won the club’s goal kicking with 57 goals.

Jock Spencer 1951 Football Record
Jock Spencer 1951 Football Record
Jock Spencer - Victorian Famous Footballers 1951 - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Jock Spencer - Victorian Famous Footballers 1951 - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Jock Spencer Kornies Football Card 1951 (Front)
Jock Spencer Kornies Football Card 1951 (Front)
Jock Spencer Kornies Football Card 1951 (Back)
Jock Spencer Kornies Football Card 1951 (Back)

In 1951 Jock kicked 10 against South Melbourne despite the team being beaten in a ‘nail biter’ by one point. He also kicked seven goals against Hawthorn at the Glenferrie Oval that year.

To highlight Jock’s importance to the success of the Kangaroos that season; only one other player kicked more than 20 goals for North and that was tenacious rover Kevin Smith (later Footscray) with 27 goals. The other ‘Roos forwards experienced ‘lean pickings’ that year.

1952 JOCK GAINS STATE SELECTION.

Despite the disappointment at Arden Street in the home and away matches in 1952, Jock, Vic Lawrence and wingman Less Mogg won selection for Victoria. Jock was in esteemed company as the team included such names as Bill Hutchison (Essendon), Thorold Merrett (Collingwood), Geoff Collins (Melbourne) Roy Wright (Richmond), (Bill Stephen (Fitzroy) and Bill Gunn (South Melbourne).

Jock’s selection was not without controversy as he was named ahead of some other well-known forwards of that era including John Coleman, Tony Ongarello (Fitzroy), George Goninion (Geelong), Ray Poulter (Richmond) and Noel Clarke (Melbourne). Jock was 23 years of age when he was first selected to wear the ‘Big V’

VFL Interstate Team 1952 - Jock Spencer 2nd from left in 2nd top row - Source Blueseum
VFL Interstate Team 1952 - Jock Spencer 2nd from left in 2nd top row - Source Blueseum

News Adelaide 9 Jul 1952 P24 - New Sneak With Victoria
News Adelaide 9 Jul 1952 P24 - New Sneak With Victoria

Jock’s selection that season is noted in ‘Holmesby & Main’ (page 553)…

“For most of his career he played (Jock) he played second fiddle to Essendon’s John Coleman but in 1952 he was selected ahead of Coleman in the state side and kicked six goals out of 13 against WA.”

It was to be the first of seven occasions that Jock would represent Victoria (see below also).

1952 was a year of mixed fortunes for the Kangaroos . The first part of season could only be described as ‘dismal’ for the club. At Round: 6, North was languishing on the second bottom rung on the VFL Ladder. However a late season resurgence, including a ‘streak’ of five wins in the last six games of the season, lifted the spirits of supporters (and the club to seventh).

Jock kicked 51 goals in 1952. He kicked six ‘bags of five or more goals’ and at the end of the season he had taken his career tally to 291 goals after 90 games. Jock and Ivan Larsen polled the highest number of Brownlow Medal votes for NMFC that year with seven votes each.

Argus 28-Apr-1952 P16
Argus 28-Apr-1952 P16

In September that year, North Melbourne played a combined country team at Bolton Park in Wagga and the match preview as published in the ‘Daily Advertiser’ described Jock as…

“….one of the best known of North's players as he is one of the outstanding forwards of present-day football. He is a brilliant high mark and an exceptionally good kick and can get goals from a long way.”
September 6th 1952.


1952 ‘THE ARGUS’ PEN PICTURE OF JOCK

Jock Spencer received plenty of publicity during his football career but this rather lengthy ‘pen picture’ by Peter Golding of ‘The Argus’ in 1952 takes ‘the cake.’ Peter’s entire article, as carried in the paper, is as shown…

“Ever since he crashed into the League lime- light a little while back, North's full forward, Jock Spencer, has been the centre of controversy. A lot of people reckoned he was overrated, but a lot of others, including, of course, the North fans, reckon he's a champion. It has been no easy task for Jock Spencer to kick goals for North Melbourne. He's never had anyone to pass to him much. He's rarely been hit in the chest with the ball. If you looked through the North team today - or last year, or the year before - you would be hard pressed to find one player who could stab-pass to Spencer. Result is. Spencer's career has been a hard fight. He's had to earn his kicks by clever judgment, anticipation and marking.

In his first four seasons he kicked just on 250 goals, and this year he is well up the list again - despite his side's low position on the ladder. His best year so far was 1950, when he collected 86 goals. Tall - he's 6ft. lin. - handsome Jock Spencer came to North in 1948, when he was 18. This year his ability won him State selection - no small feat in the face of such tremendous opposition. Jock has earned both the admiration and respect of the Victorian football public because of his unselfishness. Weekly he throws away goals by passing to a team-mate closer in. Spencer lives locally at North Melbourne, and is a waterside worker. He is single. He plays cricket in the summer and does a bit of running.

Incidentally, he likes playing against South. Back in '49 he collected 11 goals against the Southerners, and followed it in 1950 by getting 10. Best effort, however, was with Kensington Socials. He bagged 15 one Saturday.” (June 27th 1952).


INJURY STRIKES

Missing the 1952 VFL finals was disappointing for the supporters but worse news was in store. In December, Jock and three of his team mates were involved in a serious motor accident in Curzon Street, North Melbourne. ‘The Argus’ carried the full details…

“Four North Melbourne footballers, were injured last night when their car crashed into a tree in North Melbourne. Three of them are in Royal Melbourne Hospital with possible fractures of the skull. They are : John Reeves, interstate follower-condition serious…Les Reeves, half-back, his brother-condition serious…Jock Spencer, interstate full forward. The fourth man, Pat Kelly, suffered minor injuries, and was due to go home early this morning.

The footballers' car crashed into a tree at the corner of Curzon and Victoria Streets, North Melbourne, about 10.30 pm. Hospital authorities said the driver must have been blinded by last night's storm.”

‘The Age’ newspaper also reported that Jock had injured a nerve in his shoulder.

Note: There are conflicting views as to whether John and Len Reeves were actually related as stated in the above newspaper report.

1953 Argus Football Portraits - Jock Spencer - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
1953 Argus Football Portraits - Jock Spencer - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards

1953 THE HORROR SEASON CONTINUES FOR JOCK


Jock recovered from the injuries caused in the car accident but the 1953 season turned out to a ‘dreadful nightmare’ for Jock. He played only four games that season because of a series of injuries.

By combing through newspaper reports it is possible to list some of Jock’s injuries that season. They included: a cut mouth/leg injury (April), ankle injury (April), another ankle injury (May), corked thigh (June) and a broken finger in June.


Argus 5-Apr-1953 P6 Hurt In Fall
Argus 5-Apr-1953 P6 Hurt In Fall
Argus 24-Jun-1953 P12 Breaks Finger
Argus 24-Jun-1953 P12 Breaks Finger


1953 was Jock’s ‘annus horribilis’ but his loyal band of supporters were always happy to see ‘their hero’ back on the training track at Arden Street…

“North fans welcome Spencer back…North Melbourne supporters welcomed Jock Spencer last night when he trained for the first time since the plaster had been taken off his broken hand. He ran around smartly, but took no risks, marking the ball on his chest. He may be ready to play in two or three weeks.”
‘The Argus’ 22nd July 1953

However Jock’s interrupted season severely weakened the Kangaroo’s attack and the club finished in seventh position on the ladder. The ‘patched-up’ forward line was led by Gerald Marchesi (49 goals) and ably supported by a young rover named Alan Aylett who ‘chipped-in’ with 32 goals.

Jock finished the 1953 season on a brighter note by kicking five goals against Carlton in the final game of the season.

1954 JOCK PLAYS ANOTHER VFL FINAL

In 1954 NMFC was a club in transition. Former defender Jock McCorkell had taken over as the senior coach and Jock Spencer was back into hard training and ‘rearing to go.’ He started the season in blistering style and kicked eight goals against Richmond.

Argus 16Jul1954 P17 North Melbourne Private Collection
Argus 16Jul1954 P17 North Melbourne Private Collection


Jock brought up his 100th VFL game against Footscray that year and along with John Reeves, he was the most experienced player in the team that day. On the other hand, a new recruit named Albert Mantello* made his debut in that game for NMFC.

Note: Albert was a lion-hearted utility player who played 107 games with NMFC and captained the team in 1960.

1954 Fyna Foods Victorian Footballer Caricatures - Jock Spencer - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
1954 Fyna Foods Victorian Footballer Caricatures - Jock Spencer - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
1954 VFL Coles Footballers Series 1 - Jock Spencer - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
1954 VFL Coles Footballers Series 1 - Jock Spencer - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards


Jock McCorkell discovered a ‘winning formula’ in his first season and the Kangaroos won the right to play Melbourne in the First Semi Final at the MCG that year. Under the ‘strong hand’ of Norm Smith, the Demons had rocketed from the bottom of the ladder to ‘new heights’ in one season.

The final was an anti-climax for North’s supporters. Through the agency of Noel Clarke (6 goals), Melbourne gradually pegged back North’s early lead to go on to win by five goals. Jock was held to only one goal that day.

Jock’s tally for the season was 38 goals. Considering Jock’s standards, it was a relatively low return but still enough to win the club goal kicking trophy again.

1955 THE BUBBLE BURSTS

North Melbourne crashed back to earth with a resounding thud in 1955. The Kangaroos could only muster three victories that season. In fact, the club performed in such a disappointing manner that Jock McCorkell stepped down from the coaching position at the end of the season. Jock McCorkell cited ‘family and business reasons’ in his statement of resignation to the NMFC committee.

Any renaissance was short lived and NMFC hopes for another tilt at a flag had been dashed. Jock had performed creditably in a struggling team in 1955 and kicked 68 goals from 16 games.

Argus 11-Jul-1955 p19 Right And Wrong
Argus 11-Jul-1955 p19 Right And Wrong


Jock was one of the shining lights for the ‘Roo’s in such a dark year. That season the selectors had ‘turned over’ 45 players in an attempt to ‘kick start’ the club. Jock played a ‘lone-hand’ in the forward line as no other NMFC player kicked more than 18 goals. Records indicate that Jock had kicked almost 40% of the total club goals that season.

1956 STATE SELECTION AGAIN

Jock Spencer 1956 Argus Fireside Footballers - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
Jock Spencer 1956 Argus Fireside Footballers - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
The Kangaroos had another ‘rough ride’ in 1956. Despite the appointment of club stalwart Charlie Gaudion as coach, the club dropped one position to finish ‘rock bottom.’

The club was in diabolical trouble on and off the field. Gerard Dowling gives two major reasons for the NMFC’s malaise in that period…

“During this phase deeds on the field were over-shadowed by two struggles which dominated the administrations activities. The first was the difficult evolution from a chiefly local club to a semi-professional body. The second was the drive to achieve satisfactory ground tenure.”

Jock and speedy wingman Kevin McMahon were selected for the Victorian team to play in the ANFC Carnival in Perth that year. Once again, Jock’s selection in the State team wasn’t greeted warmly by all. However, by the end of the series several journalists were forced to eat ‘humble pie’ as Jock had starred in the series and kicked 17 goals in only four games.

Mirror Perth 16 Jun 1956 P1 - Promoting the Perth Carnival
Mirror Perth 16 Jun 1956 P1 - Promoting the Perth Carnival

Jock had been the stand-out forward of the Carnival and was regarded as unlucky not to have been chosen in the All-Australian team. According to the entry in ‘Holmesby & Main’…

“Jock…..was part of the 1956 carnival side when most judges considered he was wrongly excluded from the All-Australian side.”

Victoria won the ANFC title and eight Victorians were selected for the All-Australian team…Ron Barassi, Jack Clarke, John Chick, Bill Hutchison Peter Pianto, Des Rowe, Ted Whitten and Roy Wright . Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer won the Tassie Medal for the best player during the championship. .

At club level, Jock again won the NMFC goal kicking award with 40 goals. It was the seventh occasion that he had taken out the trophy.

A NIGHT AT THE TRIBUNAL

In September 1956 Jock was reported on a charge of striking Jim Heenan of Essendon during the night match* at the Lake Oval…

“Spencer cleared…Only player charged, who was exonerated, was North Melbourne and Victorian full forward Jock Spencer. He beat two charges of striking Essendon defender Jim Heenan in the second quarter of their game last Tuesday night.”
‘The Argus ’ September 1st 1956.

While Jock was found ‘not guilty’ of the striking charge, six other players (including Albert Mantello and Noel Teasdale of NMFC) were suspended by the tribunal, for two matches each for various offences, during the two opening matches of the night series. It had been a wild week of night football and a busy time for the tribunal members.

Note: The VFL night football series was played under floodlights at the Lake Oval in 1956. The series involved those eight teams that were not participating in the VFL final series.

1957 GOOD BYE TO ARDEN STREET

1957 Kornies Mascots - Jock Spencer - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1957 Kornies Mascots - Jock Spencer - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1957 was to be Jock Spencer’s last season in VFL football. In his final year he played 12 games and kicked 31 goals. John Dugdale* won the club goal kicking award with 37 goals.

Note: John Dugdale who played his first game in 1955 would become a star with the Kangaroos and, like Jock, would become a VFL player of the highest calibre.

Jock Spencer’s last game for North Melbourne was against St Kilda at the Arden Street Oval and he kicked two goals. The Kangaroos went down by four points that day. It was a better season for NMFC in 1957 and the club ‘leap-frogged’ from bottom to eighth; and when summarising a ‘season of noticeable improvement’ Gerald Dowling wrote…

“One disappointing note did intrude…the retirement of one of North’s and the VFL’s finest full forwards, Jock Spencer.”

Jock was 29 years of age when he played his last game with North Melbourne.

JOCK HOLDS THE NMFC RECORD UNTIL 1995

In a senior VFL career, which had commenced in 1948, Jock played 153 games and kicked 475 goals for NMFC. His tally would stand as the club record until 1995. In Round: 20 of the 1995 season at Princes Park, John Longmire* surpassed Jock’s total.

Note: John Longmire kicked 511 goals in 200 games for NMFC including 98 goals in 1990.

In his VFL career Jock kicked 475 goals and 350 behinds which is a conversion rate of approximately 57 %. As a comparison, recent ‘straight shooters’ such as Tony Lockett and Matthew Lloyd calculate to be around 70%.

Jock Spencer kicking - Source Unknown
Jock Spencer kicking - Source Unknown


There are critics of Jock’s ‘wayward kicking’ but closer examination of his conversion rate, against each club, throws up some ‘food for thought.’ For example his percentage conversion rate against South Melbourne was 65%, Richmond (63%) and Carlton (58%). Against Collingwood, Jock’s conversion rate dropped to only 28%. It is hard to explain such inconsistency but perhaps it may have been because Jock kicked flat punts and was often forced ‘out wide’ from goal. Perhaps Peter Golding’s comment (see above) about Jock’s career being a ‘hard fight’ makes a great deal of sense.

During his years at NMFC, Jock collected a total of 27 Brownlow Medal votes and he represented the VFL on seven occasions in interstate football matches.

JOCK’S BEST OPPONENTS

Herb Henderson - Football Record 13-Jun-1953 p9
Herb Henderson - Football Record 13-Jun-1953 p9
Ron Clegg by Charles Boyles
Ron Clegg by Charles Boyles
Shane McGrath - 1950 Kornies Card - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
Shane McGrath - 1950 Kornies Card - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards


Having been involved in VFL football since 1948, Jock had played with and against some of the most exciting stars of the post-war game. Jock rated Footscray’s full back Herb Henderson highly and he also had the greatest respect for Melbourne’s defender Shane McGrath.

In an interview with Jon Anderson (‘The Herald Sun’), Jock listed Ron Clegg of South Melbourne as the best mark he had ever seen in all his years of VFL football. Other players he regarded highly were John Coleman, Bill Morris (Richmond), John Nicholls (Carlton), Les Foote (North Melbourne & St Kilda) and Kevin Dynon (North Melbourne).

As often occurs in football, many of Jock’s best friends played with opposition teams and included Ron Clegg, ‘Mopsy’ Fraser, Bill Morris, John Brady and Footscray’s Charlie Sutton.

1958-1961 LIFE MEMBERSHIP & RETURN TO KENSINGTON

Not long after his retirement from VFL football, Jock was granted Life Membership of NMFC. Other players of that era who received NMFC Life Memberships were…Les Foote, Kevin Dynon, Les Reeves, Keith McKenzie, Allen Aylett and Ted Jarrad.

After departing from Arden Street, Jock returned to suburban football. It is known that he was captain of Kensington FC in the Victorian Sunday Football League and records show he played with Kensington for four seasons.

‘The Footballer’ (the official publication of the VSFL) shows that Jock wore his ‘favourite and famous’ number 7 guernsey and was listed as captain for the match against Montague FC at the Port Melbourne Football Ground. (Issue: June 19th 1960).

The VSFL booklet also carried a brief report on an interleague match between VSFL and the Western District FL. The VSFL won the encounter and ‘J. Spencer’ (presumably Jock) kicked 4goals.

1962-1965 JOCK STARS FOR SHEPPARTON UNITED

John  Brady - 1953 Argus Football Portraits - Source Australian Rules Football Cards
John Brady - 1953 Argus Football Portraits - Source Australian Rules Football Cards

In 1962 Jock was cleared to play for City United* in the Goulburn Valley Football League. Ex-NMFC John Brady captain (1957-59) was the coach of City United FC and it is that stated that Jock and John played major roles in the CUFC winning the GVFL premiership that season. The scoreboard for that Grand Final was: City United 13.14. (92) defeated Mooroopna 3.8.(26)

Jock won the GVFL goal kicking award in 1963 (71 goals) and again in 1965 when he booted 61 goals. Jock’s last season with SUFC was in 1965. He was 37 years of age when he ‘hung up his boots.’

It had been a meritorious career and Jock had been an ornament to VFL and GVFL football. Wherever he had played, Jock was a crowd favourite and his exciting brand of football rarely disappointed the fans at Arden Street or later at Shepparton United FC.

The Goulburn Valley FL has produced an impressive list of outstanding footballers but Jock was unequivocal that Tom Carey, from Shepparton United, was the best country footballer he had seen …


“…without a shadow of doubt. He (Tom) played one game with North Melbourne in 1961, but did his knee and went back home. He would have been a top centre half back.”
‘The Herald Sun’ August 11th 1997.

Note: It was reported in a newspaper article that Jack was still working as a slaughterman at the Tatura abattoirs at the age of 69 years.

Jock and his wife Karen made their home in Shepparton. They had three children Donna , Marcus and Stephen. It is well documented that Marcus and Stephen carved out fine reputations in regional football…

“His (Jock’s) sons Stephen and Marcus became outstanding footballers in their own right- Marcus having captain the club to the 1987 premiership and was a valuable part of the club's hat-trick of premierships from 1987 to 1989.”
Shepparton United FC website.

Note City United FC was later to be renamed as Shepparton United FC.

HALL OF FAME & TEAM OF THE CENTURY

When Jock died (following illness) in April in 2003, NMFC had lost one of its ‘all-time favourite sons’. Men like Jock can never be ‘replaced or forgotten.’



Former North Melbourne star rover and President, Allen Aylett spoke about Jock as a ‘true legend’ of the Kangaroos..,

"Jock played in the same era of John Coleman and many times was compared favourably with the goal kicking great… His importance to our club was also recognized just recently with his nomination for our Hall of Fame, which will be announced next month. The Kangaroos have lost a true legend of the club and I have lost a great friend."

Jock was also named as full forward in the NMFC ‘Team of the Century.’ As can be seen below, the team is star studded across all lines.

Jock’s selection at full forward in such a ‘galaxy of stars’ further highlights his extraordinary ability and enduring service to the Kangaroos…
North Melbourne Team of the Century

B:Glenn ArcherDavid DenchMick Martyn
HB:John RantallRoss GlendinningTed Jarrard
C:Keith GreigLes FooteLaurie Dwyer
HF:Malcolm BlightWayne Carey (c)Wayne Schimmelbusch
F:John DugdaleJock SpencerAllen Aylett
Foll:Noel TeasdaleAnthony StevensBarry Cable
Int:Brent CrosswellBarry DavisPeter Steward
Sam KekovichJim KrakouerBrent Harvey
Coach:Denis Pagan


A FINAL WORD ABOUT JOCK SPENCER

It is hoped that the above story can do justice to the exploits of Jock Spencer and it may also assist younger readers to appreciate the deeds of one of football’s most spectacular and popular forwards of that era.

When Laurie Shipp was invited to write a tribute to Jock for this website story, he thought that the following words summed up Jock’s attitude to life and his concern for his friends and team-mates perfectly…

“In one game against South Melbourne in 1950, Jock kicked 11 goals for his record bag. Close to the final siren, I stab passed to Jock from the left half forward flank, but he misread my kick and turned and ran for goal. My stab kick landed behind him and was cleared by the South defence. Immediately after the game he came to me and apologized for mucking up the play. With typical humility, he was more concerned about my feelings in the incident than the fact that he had missed the chance to add another to his record bag. He was that type of guy.”
Laurie Shipp. September 2014


Img089 North Melbourne Annual Report 1950
Img089 North Melbourne Annual Report 1950


THE END


A special ‘thank you’ from Boyles Football Photos.

Sincere appreciation is expressed to Laurie Shipp for his willing assistance in recalling and writing about his playing days at NMFC with Jock Spencer.