Introduction

It is hard to tell Peter’s story without a better understanding of the era. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the margin of difference between the VFL and other Leagues was much less than it was in later years. Many great players haunted the WAFL, SANFL and the VFA. In Victoria the VFA had been so successful that in 1925 the VFL incorporated three of their top teams (Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn) into their own competition.

A Beginning

Stephan Brown (Peter’s son), provides a background for Peter.

Peter Brown was born Peter John Sullivan in East Ballarat on 9 October 1905, the son of Robert Francis Sullivan and Mary Ann Jemima (nee Brown). Mary Ann’s father, also Peter Brown, worked in the Victorian Railways as a driver in the locomotive branch, and later lived in Errol Street North Melbourne. His father and Mary-Ann’s grandfather, George Brown had emigrated from Scotland after 1856 and worked as a fettler on the Melbourne to Geelong railway in 1857. Both East Ballarat and North Melbourne were the location of large railway locomotive depots. Young Peter Brown and several others in the family also worked with the railways at some time.

Peter was raised in North Melbourne by his grandmother, his mother’s mother, Elizabeth Brown and later took the surname Brown. His elder sister Lal spoke of him playing cricket and football in the laneways around North Melbourne. (It should be noted that playing football in the street was illegal in the 1920’s and people were often arrested and fined)


1923 West Melbourne United Football Club

Football careers often start in the minors and Peter was no exception.

Peter’s family collection includes a Premiership medal from “West Melbourne United Football Club”, titled “Premiers 1923”. It is difficult to be certain which competition this was from, but a ‘West Melbourne’ team did play in the Sunshine District Association in 1923.1 Other teams in that competition included Altona, Buckingham, East Brunswick, I.N.F. Kingsville, Shell, Sunshine and Werribee.

At 17-18 years old this fits as a starting point for a senior career. Such a junior level competition was not widely reported, but the Werribee Shire Banner did include an amusing report on their game against West Melbourne, including missing players where the club president had to put his boots on and play as well as the novelty of the team travelling to the game in a ‘Motor Van’.

Werribee Shire Banner 28 Jun 1923 P3
Werribee Shire Banner 28 Jun 1923 P3


This was Peter’s first premiership medal, in 1923, the days when Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn were still in the VFA, Teams played 18 a side without reserves or an interchange.

WMUFC Premiers 1923 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
WMUFC Premiers 1923 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1924 Williamstown Juniors

In 1924 Peter moved up to play with Williamstown Juniors (essentially Williamstown Seconds). He received a number of favourable mentions, including by Williamstown Chronicle’s football writer ‘fair Dinkum’ noting that against Carnegie “Brown (back) defended in good style. He is a new comer of the Dick Condon type.”2 and against Preston, “Without doubt, Brown was 'Town's best man. He was played centre, and his dash 'was wonderful. He is showing the selectors that any position suits him.”3

1925 Back to West Melbourne

It appears that Peter Brown went back to playing for West Melbourne in 1925. After his impressive start at Williamstown this appears strange, but time seems to have clouded over the reason.
The big news for the year was Peter’s involvement in a brawl at a match against Stony Park. Football in the 1920’s was tough and fights and brawls (including spectators) were not uncommon, but this one went further than most; in this particular case a spectator attacked Peter with a bottle, which most would agree was going too far. This brawl ended up in Court.

In a game against Stony park of North Fitzroy, there was obviously unhappiness with the umpire. The West Melbourne treasurer testified at the court case that “the umpire gave all the preferences to Stony Park”. Amos Decs, the umpire on the day, testified that he had spoken to West Melbourne players about roughness but when he put a West Melbourne player off the field, reducing the team to seventeen the trouble began and he was attacked by West Melbourne players led by Brown the umpire though escaped all injury.)” 4

The rush of West Melbourne players caused players from the other team to run to the umpires defence. There was a free fight involving “fully fifty people”. Two policemen were in the centre of things trying to restore order. One spectator was seen “wildly flourishing a revolver”. Peter was knocked down to the ground by a “fierce assailant” and hit on the forehead with a bottle when he tried to rise.

The court case saw the assault charge for attacking Peter dropped, but there were a range of fines for the wielder the revolver. 5

Apart from this incident, the football results are sadly missing. Peter though moved on to bigger things.

1926 Dimboola – Wimmera – Follower

In 1926, twenty one year old Peter moved to the country for work. He played football for the Wimmera wheat farming town of Dimboola, usually playing as a follower. Dimboola was developing a strong team and would be Grand Finalists for the subsequent four years (1927-1930), winning two premierships in 1928 and 1929.

Wimmera League 1926
Wimmera League 1926


In 1924 and 1925 Dimboola’s coach had been Geelong ex captain, Bert Rankin (who btw is also credited with the suggestion that Geelong take on the Cats as their moniker). Rankin took his coaching duties in Wycheproof in 1926 and Beechworth in 1927 before returning to Dimboola as a central figure well into the 1930’s.6

Peter Brown  (Date Unknown) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown (Date Unknown) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


As replacement captain in 1926, Dimboola appointed veteran player Fred Ulbrich, ex Lefroy, Launceston and Footscray.

Dimboola’s star player in 1926 was a young 19-20 year old Jack Baggott, another young city boy who had already played a season for Northcote in 1925. Baggott was the Wimmera League’s best on Ground when the League went down to the VFL by three points at Horsham.7

In 1926, Dimboola ended Home and away in 2nd on the ladder but lost the Semi final to Warracknabeal.8

After the 1926 season the Wimmera League decided to clamp down on player payments and for the 1927 season disallowed player payments, except for end of season bonuses.9 This is possibly why some of Dimboola’s key players returned to Melbourne in 1927.

From the Dimboola team, Jack Baggott joined Richmond in 1927 where he was a two time Premiership player, playing 128 games between 1927 and 1935. Baggott later moved to Essendon in 1936 where he was a player and coach. Fred Ulbrick (Ulbrich) returned to Footscray in 1927. Peter’s quality somehow reached Footscray management, possibly via Fred Ulbrich, and in 1927 Footscray made a call.

1927 Permit Problems at Footscray

In June 1927, the VFL permits committee recorded “P. Brown Dimboola to Footscray”.10

Footscray were still new to the VFL and 1927 was only their third year in the competition. During this period they were usually the best of the three new teams (North Melbourne, Hawthorn and Footscray). Peter must have already practiced with the team as the same week that his permit appeared in the paper he was listed in the Footscray team to take on Collingwood at the Western Oval. The anticipation must have been intense, but unfortunately for Peter, his permit was challenged by Collingwood and the following week:

P.Brown (Dimboola) who was granted a clearance to Footscray last week, was recalled before the permit committee last night. After additional evidence had been given he was notified that his permit had been cancelled.” (Argus 23-Jun-1927 p16)
The Permit committee had a very tough line (Under the League’s residential zoning, Peter was probably zoned to another club and he had no choice who that was). The opportunity was lost.

1928 North Melbourne

Another of the teams to recently move from the VFA to the VFL was North Melbourne and in 1928, North’s fourth year in the VFL, Peter was part of the team.

North Melbourne was struggling in the competition and had only won a combined three games in the last two seasons. Collingwood captain Charlie Tyson dramatically exited that club in 1926 and was now in his second year leading North Melbourne, it was also the second year at the club for two of North Melbourne’s biggest names of the era Charles Cameron and Johnny Gregory.

Peter’s first game was round one against Richmond where north Melbourne kicked 2.9 (21), their lowest score in the competition to date. For Richmond, Peter’s Dimboola team-mate Jack Baggott kicked 5 goals.

Peter came back in Round 4 when the team kicked three goals five to two points in the final quarter to come back from a 20 point three quarter time deficit to win by one point in an exciting game at the Lake Oval.

Peter began to be regular in the team, playing each week and picking up mentions in the papers.

The best player for North Melbourne was Dwyer whose wing play was brilliant. He was pitted against Hopkins in the centre in the final term and did well in that position as well. Russ in the early put of the game was prominent, but he tired after half time. Lamb, Nolan, and Gregory worked hard in defence, and McDowell and Brown were the pick of the forwards.11

and
Trevaskis, Kavanagh, and Brown were the best of the forwards.12


It looked like Peter was set.

After the first 11 games of the season North was 2nd bottom on the latter having beaten Hawthorn and South Melbourne, the other bottom dwellers of the season but also a surprise win against finalists Carlton. The three wins though had already equalled the entire previous year’s efforts

Table 1: Peter Brown - North Melbourne 1929

RoundPlayedOppositionVenueResult
Round 1PlayedRichmondPunt RdRichmond won by 78 pts
Round 2DNPHawthornArden St North Melbourne won by 15 pts
Round 3DNPSt KildaJunction OvalSt Kilda won by 2 pts
Round 4PlayedSouth MelbourneLake OvalNorth Melbourne won by 1 pt
Round 5PlayedCarltonArden StNorth Melbourne won by 16 pts
Round 6PlayedCollingwoodVictoria ParkCollingwood won by 39 pts
Round 7PlayedMelbourneArden StMelbourne won by 63 pts
Round 8PlayedFootscrayWestern OvalFootscray won by 62 pts
Round 9PlayedEssendonArden StEssendon won by 11 pts
Round 10Played GeelongCorio OvalGeelong won by 25 pts
Round 11PlayedFitzroyArden StFitzroy won by 46 pts


Argus 21 May 1932 P6  - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Argus 21 May 1932 P6 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


North Melbourne Football Club 1928  - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
North Melbourne Football Club 1928 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Eight Men Out

In early July 1928 the struggling North Melbourne team took drastic action at a committee meeting and headlines of “Eight players stood down” swirled around the country. The club indicated that the reason was on field performance but Old Boy at the Argus questioned this with the comment “If it were only a matter of dropping some men from the first eighteen to the second, why make such a fuss” (Argus 6-Jul-1928 p5).

The names were also a surprise…Vice Captain Bill Russ, and experienced players Alf Lambe, Jacky Lock and Joe Lovett had played for North Melbourne since at least 1925. The others were also a mix.. Peter Brown had been a regular since joining the club that year, George Styles had only played one game for North since moving from Carlton the previous season. Other names mentioned were McCabe and Carter…neither of whom had played a senior game for North in 1928. Finally a ninth player Metcalf opted to retire. (The Age 6-Jul-1928 p6) It is difficult to believe the club’s explanation that the issue was player performance when two players mentioned had not even played a senior game that season. Regardless the deed was done and of the nine, only McCabe ever again played a senior game for North.

The stand-down also occurred after the permit season had closed so the club was not able to replace the players, and the players themselves were not able to switch clubs. There was talk of Russ and Brown moving to Footscray. Although Peter did not return to Footscray, Bill Russ went on to have two of his best seasons of League Football with that club.

1928 Football Action - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
1928 Football Action - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


It is difficult to provide a clear reason for the exit of so many players, whether it was wages, or internal leadership issues, or another reason, it is impossible to say…

North Melbourne won two of their remaining two of their remaining seven games, though they only defeated Hawthorn (by 4 points) and South Melbourne ( by 2 points), their companions in the seasons bottom three.

As a side note, in 1929, Peter’s number 17 was given to a young Wally Carter in 1929 (1929-1940). Other players to wear the 17 later included Allen Aylett (1952-1964), Denis Pagan (1967-1974), Graeme Melrose (1975-1979) and Kym Hodgeman (1981-1985).

1929-1933 Northcote – Half Back then Roving


1929 Premiership

In hindsight, the end of Peter’s time at North Melbourne was a blessing. After winning five games in 1928, North Melbourne won the wooden spoon for the next three years, winning only one game in 1929, one game in 1930 and zero games in 1931. North Melbourne did better in 1932-33 ending both seasons 8th on the ladder, but again won zero games in 1934. Even as a regular player, Peter would have had little to celebrate.

…luckily for Peter, the VFA had not collapsed after the loss of three teams and though not on par with the top of the VFL, still maintained a high level competition.

But in early 1929 the powers at Northcote in the VFA decided to win a FVA Premiership and to buy players to make that happen. Northcote had played in the VFA since 1908 and In 1928 Northcote had ended the season eighth on the VFA ladder, the team had yet to win a VFA premiership. Within months in early 1929 Northcote’s side was completely transformed to make that happen.

As the Age newspaper wrote in their preview of Round 1 1929:
“The Northcote team has practically become a League team, and against Preston tomorrow there will be only five players who have not had League experience”. (The Age 19-Apr-1929 p6) Consider that of the remaining five, Doug Nicholls went on to play 54 games with Fitzroy, Norm Cockram would captain St Kilda, Jim Heenan had a run at North Melbourne in 1930 and Emergency Billy Cole played 29 games with St Kilda in 1936-37.

The core of Northcote’s existing team retained from 1928 were
  • Frank Seymour (Carlton 6 games) – Age 25 was a promising Full Forward who would play 12 seasons for Northcote and was the Association Leading goal kicker in 1930,1932 and 1934. Seymour had only crossed to Northcote mid 1928 after a dispute at Carlton. Seymour played 5 games for Fitzroy in 1935.
  • Doug Nicholls Age 23, had joined Northcote in 1927 after being rejected by Carlton. Nicholls believed that this was due to racism. Nicholls would eventually play 54 games for Fitzroy between 1932-37)
  • Jack Perkins Age 26, A Policeman played with Northcote. In 1934 he was de registered from the Association because of on field digressions before moving to St Kilda where he became an interstate player and St Kilda captain in 1936.
  • Alec Gray played with Preston before moving to Northcote. He would play until 1936 when he was Northcote captain/coach.Alex was Northcote captain again in 1938, Alex was a keen cricketer and was later secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
  • Others included Bill Poulter, Billy Cole (later played 20+ games for StKilda) and Jim Heenan (who later played for North Melbourne in 1930) and L.H. Brown recruited from Fitzroy in 1928 (Possibly Luke Brown)

There must have been a buzz in the air around the Northcote ground in early 1929. There would have been tensions with the exit of existing players, but also with the recruitment of over a dozen League quality players, a belief that they could win. Club supporters, management and players must have felt the excitement as the new players began to know each other and work out a system.

The club recruited two experienced Collingwood men to lead the team A number of ex players returned from Carlton, and possibly Bill Koop and Jack Perkins assisted in bringing fellow policeman Neville Huggins aboard later in the season.

The 1929 recruitments included:

Collingwood
  • Percy Rowe (Collingwood 96 games) , a follower, was recruited as Northcote Captain a position he held from 1929-1934). Rowe had been part of Collingwood’s 1927 and 1928 premiership teams. – Age 33
  • Ernie Wilson (Collingwood 126 Games) a defender, had played in Collingwood’s 1927 premiership team and would be Northcote vice captain. – Age 27
  • Charles Towers (Collingwood Seconds)
  • Herb Pruser (Collingwood – zero Senior games)
Carlton
  • Bill Koop (Carlton 20 games), originally from Dimboola. Koop was a policeman who had moved to Melbourne. He became a key central defender, moving to Prahran in 1930, winning the VFA Recorder Cup in 1931. A Member of Carlton’s 1928 VFL 2nds Premiership Team.
  • D.G. ‘George’ Gough (Fitzroy 23 games, Carlton 24 games) Age 29 had already played five seasons for Northcote before spending 1927-28 at Carlton. Gough was a fast forward who held the VFA record for most goals in a game, Kicking 25 goals in a game against Prahran in 1924. Gough played 9 games in 1929 and did not last the season.
  • Hector Ross (Collingwood 2 games, Carlton 9 games) Age 30, had already played with Northcote returning after two years away. A Member of Carlton’s 1928 VFL 2nds Premiership Team.
  • WF ‘Billy’ Wood (Carlton 7 Games) – Age 24 A Member of Carlton’s 1928 VFL 2nds Premiership Team.
Essendon
  • Greg Stockdale (Essendon 106 games) – Age 30. Victorian Interstate representative, 1923 VFL Leading Goal kicker. Later moved to Coburg as Captain/Coach in 1932-33.
Fitzroy
  • Neville Huggins (Fitzroy 4 games) Age 23 A Policeman, Crossed mid season to Northcote. Later played 86 games for North Melbourne 1931-35 before moving to Williamstown where he won the VFA best and fairest medals; the Recorder Cup in 1937 and the VFA Medal in 1936 and 1937.
  • Norm Cockram (Fitzroy 106 games), Age 29. Once a forward, Cockram had become a backman. , Cockram would go on to play another 14 games for Fitzroy 1932-33
  • C.R. ‘Roy’ Milne (Fitzroy 21 Games)
  • Jack Woods
  • Tom Corrigan (Fitzroy 107 games) Age 26 a regular centreman for Fitzroy. Corrigan died on active service in WW2 after a misdiagnosis by a doctor in Melbourne.
Hawthorn
  • Ralph Goullet – (Hawthorn 1928) Age 25. Later Northcote captain 1934-35. Brighton Captain/Coach in 1936-37
North Melbourne

Peter Brown - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


The new Northcote team included quality players who would have been welcome at any VFL club. By comparison, it is hard to see North Melbourne’s 1929 team win against them.

Northcote 1929 - (Peter Middle Row - 4th from left) - Scrapbook 1 Loose - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Northcote 1929 - (Peter Middle Row - 4th from left) - Scrapbook 1 Loose - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


In 1929 North used 45 players and won only one game. The following is the North Melbourne team for their only win of 1929, against Footscray In Round 14 at Arden Street13:

B:Charlie HealyEdmund ClauscenArthur Lowe
HB:Gerry Tuite Bill McCabe b1908Tommy Dea
C:Cyril KempJohnny GregoryCharles Cameron
HF:Tim TrevaskisJohn ThompsonOrm Saunders
F:Jimmy AdamsonTeddy BriggsWally Carter
Foll:Johnny LewisMax Pitchford
Rov:John Dowling


The team had 509 games experience between them, with 7 players with less than 14 VFL games experience. Only three players had over 50 VFL games experience. 14

In contrast in the same week Northcote were missing their Captain Percy Rowe from the team (96 VFL games) and sat future star Neville Huggins on the bench, but still fielded a team with 527 VFL games experience and four players with over 100 VFL games experience.

A comparison that also included VFA experience would vastly extend the difference between the teams. Remember that the 509 games for North Melbourne included 143 VFL games within the 1929 season and zero have been counted for Northcote players for the same period.

B:Bill Koop
Carlton 20
Age: 23
Norm Cockram
Fitzroy 106
Age 29
Ernie Wilson
Collingwood 126
Age 27
HB:Greg Stockdale
Essendon 106
Age 30
Jack Woods
-
Age: abt 24
Jim Heenan
-
Age: 23
C:Charles Towers
-

Tom Corrigan
Fitzroy 107
Age:26
Doug Nicholls
-
Age 23
HF:Alec Gray
-
Age: abt 21
C.R. ‘Roy’ Milne
Fitzroy 21
Age 20
Hector Ross
Collingwood,Carlton 11
Age 30
F:Herb Pruser
-
Age: abt 24
Frank Seymour
Carlton 6
Age 25
Bill Cole
-
Age: 20
Foll:Bill Poulter
-
Age: abt 23
Ralph Goullet
-
Hawthorn 14
Age:25
Rov:Peter Brown b1906
North Melbourne 10
Age 23


Peter (playing as No.4) was a regular in the Northcote team. He was a versatile player able to play in a variety of positions. Though often played as rover.

Hog For Work - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Hog For Work - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Games 1929 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Games 1929 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1929 Player List – Brown 24 of 26 Games - Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Goal 1929 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
1929 Player List – Brown 24 of 26 Games - Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Goal 1929 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
'

Overall the VFA added two new teams in 1929, Sandringham and Oakleigh, expanding the competition to 12 teams. Williamstown president (and racing identity JJ Liston took over as VFA president. The ‘Flick’ pass was reintroduced as a legal form of handball and a substitute was allowed for an injured player within the first half of a match. (A substitute was not allowed in the VFL until 1930.

Northcote had a shaky start, losing 5 of their first 8 games but finally found form and won their final 14 games to end the home and away season as minor premiers by percentage over a strong Port Melbourne team. According to the finals system in place, if the minor premiers did not win the finals series, they had the right to a ‘right of challenge’ match against the winner of the finals for the title of season premiers.

Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 4 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 4 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection

Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 4 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 4 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection

Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Mark V Port Melbourne - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Mark V Port Melbourne - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection

Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Northcote V Coburg - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown - Northcote No 4 - Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Northcote V Coburg - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Northcote defeated Preston, and Port Melbourne accounted for Brunswick putting the top two teams from the season into the final.

At three quarter time , in front of 13,500 people at the Coburg Ground, Northcote 7.14 (56) led Port Melbourne 7.7 (49), with the final quarter ending in a terrific draw.

It was difficult to select the best players in such a hard and congested game. Rowe, however, worked splendidly in the ruck. Wilson and Cockram were tireless in defence and showed fine cooperation. P. Brown was an able and determined rover. Stockdale played cleverly occasionally, and Pruser fought desperately in making opportunities in attack.15

A replay the following week attracted 21,217 people at the MCG, again Northcote led at three quarter time, and four goal final quarter by Port Melbourne brought them a narrow four point victory.

Northcote as minor premiers invoked the challenge game and the teams met for a third time in three weeks. This time in front of 17,304 people at the MCG. This time the game was a blowout. Northcote kicked away in the second quarter and ran away winners by 42 points. Their first ever VFA premiership.

Peter was picked in the Grand Final Team abut was unable to play due to injury. Bert Hill took his place on the backline. (Age 14-Oct-1929 p6). Peter’s Premiership medal is shown below:

Northcote Premiers 1929 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Northcote Premiers 1929 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Northcote Team - Allan Studios - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Northcote Team - Allan Studios - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1930-1931 Twice Runners up to Oakleigh

In 1930 the core of Northcote’s champion side remained at the club. There was talk of Peter playing for Maffra but this did not eventuate.

Scrapbook 1 Page 5 Association Record c1930 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 5 Association Record c1930 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


File is not an image.


Newcomers Oakleigh won the 1930 and 1931 VFA premierships, both times meeting Northcote in the Grand Final. Oakleigh included players such as Frank Maher (137 games for Essendon), George Rudolph (80 games for Richmond), Eric Fleming (105 games for Geelong) and Ted Thomas (104 games for Melbourne)

The 1930 Grand Final was a rough affair with Northcote the main instigators

Peter played in the 1930 Association final at Arden Street. The game was close all day with Northcote making a concerted effort to use their weight to turn the game to their favour. “Elbowing, kicking, punching, tripping, charging, hacking and all the various forms of roughness were rife. Many of these incidents happened right before the eyes of the umpire without being penalised to the extent of a free kick.” The fighting culminated with a melee in the final quarter.

Emblematic of the game was in the final quarter when the ball was inadvertently kicked into the umpires face nearly knocking him out. According to the Age, umpire McKinnon “staggered around the ground holding his head. Players, glad of a respite from the gruelling game, made no attempt to go to his assistance, while a large section of the spectators, stood and cheered.16

According to the newspaper reports after the game, three or four Northcote players received minor injuries to their hands, but the Oakleigh dressing room was a contrast, with Nott bleeding with a broken nose after being kicked in the face, Goding suffering severe concussion after being elbowed in the face also with torn cartilage of the nose. O’Neil had a split tooth, Dolen had a tooth knocked out, Rudolph was covered in bruises and Wiltshire had a torn leg muscle.17

Northcote led by two points at half time, but a better second half by Oakleigh saw them come out winners by nine points.

1930 results (Includes Finals) – Peter played every game for the season - Scrapbook 1 Page 7 2 Northcote 1930 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
1930 results (Includes Finals) – Peter played every game for the season - Scrapbook 1 Page 7 2 Northcote 1930 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Goalkickers - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Goalkickers - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Northcote Football Club 1930 (Peter middle row - 3rd from right) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Northcote Football Club 1930 (Peter middle row - 3rd from right) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 1 Page 4   Northcote 1930 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 4 Northcote 1930 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter broke his toe at Training in late May 1931 which was later amputated but was out for most of the season.

(Cropped Version of photo above) Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Northcotes Loss - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
(Cropped Version of photo above) Scrapbook 1 Page 6 Northcotes Loss - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Injured Foot - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 7 Injured Foot - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter did not play in the 1931 grand final. where Northcote led by four points at three-quarter time, but ultimately went down by three points to Oakleigh.

1932-33 Northcote Premiers

Peter returned to Northcote in 1932, and his appearance was welcomed by the Press “Brown made a welcome reappearance, and showed dash and ability in defence.”18 Also gaining a best on ground against Camberwell. Records indicate that peter was Vice-Captain” or Northcote around this time (the scrapbook newspaper articles are not dated).

Scrapbook 1 Page 13 2 V Camberwell - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 13 2 V Camberwell - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection



Followup - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Followup - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 13 2 NorthcotesBrownie - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 13 2 NorthcotesBrownie - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter 5th From Left - Scrapbook 1 Page 12 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter 5th From Left - Scrapbook 1 Page 12 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter 8th from left - Scrapbook 1 Page 14 Northcote 1932 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter 8th from left - Scrapbook 1 Page 14 Northcote 1932 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


A new player, Len Smith (brother of Norm Smith) joined the club and added his class to the team. Oakleigh on the other hand imploded as a team with many players leaving the club, after being premiers in 1930 and 1931, Oakleigh were wooden spooners in 1932.

In the grand Final (held at Coburg), the game was a tight two point margin at three quarter time, but Northcote kicked away in the final quarter to win by 26. Frank Seymour kicked 8 goals and Peter played in another grand final.

Northcote Premiers 1932 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Northcote Premiers 1932 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1932 Results - Scrapbook 1 Page 17 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
1932 Results - Scrapbook 1 Page 17 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1933 was Peter’s final year at Northcote. Peter was now a senior player at the club and recognised as such. Peter was played a number of strong games through the season but was not selected in the grand final team. Whether this was due to form or nagging injury is unclear.

Scrapbook 1 Page 19 Recorder c1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 19 Recorder c1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 10 Recorder c1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 10 Recorder c1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 1 Page 18 Injured c1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 18 Injured c1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter crouching in centre of photo - Argus 8 May 1932 P13
Peter crouching in centre of photo - Argus 8 May 1932 P13


Peter (no.4) on far left - Scrapbook 1 Page 4 Season Opens - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter (no.4) on far left - Scrapbook 1 Page 4 Season Opens - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter in centre of photo (being grabbed) - Scrapbook 1 Page 20 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter in centre of photo (being grabbed) - Scrapbook 1 Page 20 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Recorder 23-Aug-1933 - Scrapbook 1 Page 23 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Recorder 23-Aug-1933 - Scrapbook 1 Page 23 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1933 again ended with Northcote and Coburg at the top of the ladder. Northcote lost their semi final to Coburg and had to get to the grand final by winning the preliminary final against Port Melbourne. 12,000 people saw the final at Olympic Park which was another tough encounter. The Semi Final loss was Peter’s last game for Northcote.

Northcote Premiers 1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Northcote Premiers 1933 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


In five years with Northcote, the team had made the Grand Final each year, with three wins. Peter had been a regular in these teams and proved his quality.

After Peter left the club Northcote went on to win a third consecutive premiership in 1934, they were minor premiers in 1935 but did not make the final, they were premiers in 1936. (This period of 5 premierships in eight years (plus losses in two other grand finals) were the glory years for Northcote, The club faded in the coming decades and never again won a VFA First division premiership.

Victoria Market 1932-1934

Victoria Markets joined the Wednesday League in 1931 and played four seasons. They played until the League was disbanded before the start of the 1935 season. As football did not pay particularly well, many Senior players played twice a week. Some played for country teams and some played in the Wednesday industrial league.

The industrial league fielded teams such as the Fire-brigade, the Railways, Waterside workers and the taxis. A general rule was that each team could field only four senior players (those playing in the VFL or VFA). Peter played for Victoria Markets…actually more than that Peter was captain and coach.

An Argus article indicates that apart from Peter, Markets had E.Brourke (Sandringham), Sing (Port Melbourne), Davidson (North Melbourne/Brunswick), Branston (Brunswick) and Bloomer (North Melbourne) available to them. (Argus 23-Aug-1932 p10)

Scrapbook 1 Page 13 VicMarkets - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 13 VicMarkets - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter appears to have worked at the markets as a ‘banana merchant’. Maybe bananas paid the bills and gave him an excuse to be paid for playing for the Market’s team.

Peter Brown Victoria Market - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown Victoria Market - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 11 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 11 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 1 Page 9 Markets - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 9 Markets - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Peter played strongly for markets, winning medals19 He was also picked in representative sides to play against the Bendigo League. One time picked on the half-forward line beside Footscrays Norm Ware, and another in the same team as Wally Carter who had taken Peters number at North Melbourne.

Scrapbook 2 Page 8 v Bendigo - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 8 v Bendigo - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 2 Page 6 VRailways - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 6 VRailways - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


In another example of his versatility Peter kicked 9 goals for Markets against Press while playing as full forward.
Unfortunately the Wednesday League lost the Police and Fire Brigade teams and collapsed after the 1934 season finished.

Scrapbook 2 Page 8  Waterside Game - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 8 Waterside Game - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 19 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 1 Page 19 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1934 Preston

Peter did not continue with Northcote in 1934. A report in the Argus in May noted that Peter, a forward and Rover, had played 11 games for Northcote in 1933, but had not trained at the club in 1934; Brunswick was showing interest (Argus 29-May-1934 p12). A week later, the paper reported that “Preston had Brown (Northcote) out at practice yesterday”.20 By the end of June, the VFA permit committee approved Peter’s move to Preston.21

Preston Team 1934 (Peter Brown not in team that day) - Source: Brian Membury - Photographer Charles Boyles
Preston Team 1934 (Peter Brown not in team that day) - Source: Brian Membury - Photographer Charles Boyles


Preston was led by 34 year old Charlie McSwain. McSwain had started with Preston in the VJFA years (Preston re-joined the VFA in 1926 after a long absence) before moving to Carton in 1925. McSwain played 68 games with Carlton between 1925 and 1930. Charlie then played with Peter at Northcote before becoming Preston captain coach in 1933.

Danny Warr was the clubs best player, winning the VFA’s Recorder Cup in 1934. Warr began with Preston in 1923 when Preston was still in the VJFA and played eight seasons for Preston in the VFA between 1926-1936, excluding 1928-29 when he played for St Kilda and in 1930 when he captain/coached Rochester. Warr was a goal kicking rover.

Peter lined up for his first game for Preston on 7-Jul-1934, also playing his first game for Preston that day was policeman Wyn Murray, an ex South Bendigo and ex Melbourne player. Murray would go on to captain/coach Preston in 1938.
The game was a spiteful one with “unnecessary vigour in the crushed”, but a triumph for Peter who kicked seven goals from the forward pocket while captain McSwain at Full forward eventually kicking the team to an easy victory. 22

Argus 9-Jul-1934 p14
Argus 9-Jul-1934 p14


Peter was a regular contributor for Preston for the remainder of the season including 5 goals against Coburg and three in Preston’s victory over ladder leaders Northcote.

Scrapbook 2 Page 10 - In Preston Colours - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 10 - In Preston Colours - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Scrapbook 2 Page 8 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook 2 Page 8 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


1934 v Coburg - Scrapbook 2 Page 13 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
1934 v Coburg - Scrapbook 2 Page 13 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Preston ended the Home and Away Season second on the ladder and Peter played in both finals matches. Unfortunately Preston lost both matches as Northcote went on to win their third Grand Final in a row.

Sporting Globe Sep-1934- Scrapbook 2 Page 14 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Sporting Globe Sep-1934- Scrapbook 2 Page 14 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Preston defeated Northcote at Northcote that season , the first team to do so since 1931. Peter played well against his old club that day.

Peter Brown Preston FC - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Peter Brown Preston FC - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


In 1934 Peter had found a new footballing home

1935 An exit from football

At age 27-28 Peter remained a quality player. He was a team regular in a successful team, but Peter gave up playing football. He did not try out for Preston in 1935.

This period though coincided with Peter’s marriage and I would suggest that with starting a family Peter was no longer willing to take the same risk of injury on the football field as he had before, Stephne Brown agrees:

Peter married Hazel Phyllis Greig on 21 June 1935, so your speculation regarding giving up football to prevent an injury from keeping him from work is probably accurate. The responsibilities of being the bread winner as well as future fatherhood would have certainly influenced this decision, especially with the memories of the recent depression. – Stephan Brown


Preston Football Club - a trainer in the forties.

But this was not the end of Peter’s connection to football. He still had a passion for the game and took on a role as trainer first with Preston and later with Collingwood.

Preston were finalists in 1940 and 1941, but did not recover after football began again after the war spending the latter half of the 1940’s toward the bottom end of the ladder. Frank Anderson (ex Carlton) led the team in 1945-46, followed by Jack Blackman (ex Hawthorn) from 1947-1949. Ray Potter was the Association’s leading goal kicker in 1948 and Bill Maslen (Preston team of the Century) was another standout.

Preston 1945– Peter in white (far right – standing) -  Source:Brian Membrey
Preston 1945– Peter in white (far right – standing) - Source:Brian Membrey


Preston Football Club 1947 (middle row far left) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Preston Football Club 1947 (middle row far left) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Preston Football Club Trainers 1947 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Preston Football Club Trainers 1947 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Preston Football Club (Peter Front row, far left) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Preston Football Club (Peter Front row, far left) - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


Trainer at Collingwood Football club in the early fifties.

Peter continued his association with Football taking his experience to Collingwood in the 1950’s where worked as a trainer with Collingwood.

A signed Boyles photo form the Peter Brown Collection c1950-1951 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
A signed Boyles photo form the Peter Brown Collection c1950-1951 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection

A signed Boyles photo form the Peter Brown Collection c1950-1951 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
A signed Boyles photo form the Peter Brown Collection c1950-1951 - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


in the sixties he still had a keen interest in sport as was umpiring cricket at District fourths level as well as goal umpiring for the local football league.

Peter peacefully passed away from the effects of emphysema on 1 January 1988.

Personal Memories by Stephan Brown


I remember that Dad’s Northcote premiership cups and team photographs took pride of place in our lounge room. I also remember when walking to Thornbury Primary School, passing the home of Frank Seymour, one of his old team mates and seeing a very tall old man in overalls tending to his garden.

When my parents moved out of Thornbury and sold their home in the 1980’s, Alec Grey, although retired, conducted the auction as a favour to his old footballer team mate.

Mention of Doug Nicholls staying at our house in Thornbury, I think, is a bit of family mythology, as our small house could not accommodate overnight guests. I do however remember Doug Nichols visiting Mum and Dad on a number of occasions during the 1950’s and 60’s. My mother’s brother was also named Doug which led to one of our family proudly announcing at school, “I’ve got a white Uncle Doug and a black Uncle Doug.”

I can’t remember whether Dad attended any Northcote Football club reunions, but I’m sure that he did. He worked for quite some time, before he retired, with the Northcote City Council and would have been kept informed of such events.

remember that Dad encouraged us all to participate in sporting activities, but not at the expense of education or vocational training. “Sport won’t keep you” was his advice. Possibly because none of us measured up to his skill levels or ability!

Dad did not talk much about the details of his football playing days, but Mum often said that when she went to watch Northcote play at Port Melbourne the Port fans were very rough and intimidating.

He often amused himself by asking his grandchildren, when they were young, to count his toes and they were very puzzled when they could only count nine of them and wondered how he was hiding away the tenth.

Dad maintained a keen interest in sport all of his life and for as long as I can remember was a fanatical and one eyed Carlton supporter. John Nichols, Alex Jesaulenko, Bruce Doull, Barry Gill, Syd Jackson, Wes Lofts, Steven Silvagni and Robert Walls were all among his favourites. The 70’s and 80’s were a good time to be a Blues fan.

He was also keenly interested in cricket and often spoke of promising young players taking part in the district fourths matches that he umpired. Gary Cosier comes to mind. I did some scoring for Northcote fourths in the 60’s and scored for a couple of matches that he umpired. Some of his decisions were controversial among the players, to say the least.

He regularly listened to Sheffield Shield and Test matches on the radio, sometimes late into the night when the matches were being played overseas. I have a booklet published for the 1956 tour of England called “Quest of the Ashes” which includes the Wrigley’s scoring sheet and record of tour, which he has meticulously completed by hand.


The Scrapbooks

Peter played 10 VFL games but his story is so much bigger. Today, the Peters scrapbooks tell a forgotten story and provide a physical connection back to Peter's football days.

Scrapbook Page  - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection
Scrapbook Page - Source: Peter Brown Family Collection


THE END

This article could not have been written without the assistance of Peter’s family who have generously provided material and feedback.





ADDENDUM - NORTHCOTE FOOTBALLERS (Air: “’Tis a Famous Story”)

(Written by special request of the two mascots, Abbey and Buck who now have grown so famous
By bringing Northcote such luck)
Published in the Leader newspaper Friday September 20 1929

Northcote had finished top of the ladder and the finals were about to start.
The song was based on 'Balaclava' From Songs of the People, Sam Henry, written about the charge of the Light Brigade (Oct. 25, 1854) at Balaclava during the Crimean War.


We’re a team of Northcote footballers, all players of renown;
Our foemen find it very hard our colours to take down;
Our barrackers, we have a few, old, young, both short and tall,
With right goodwill their voices raise, when once we’re on the ball.

(Chorus)
‘Tis a famous story proclaim it far and wide,
And those Northcote barrackers remember it with pride;
How we Northcote boys the peerless their name immortal made;
And those barrackers do proudly tell of the sterling games they’ve played.

Percy Rowe, our captain, is a leader good and bold,
For very often he has led our colours green and gold;
And while we keep our places and mind his orders too,
At call of time, once more we’ll find we’ve put our foemen through.

(Chorus) ‘Tis a famous story etc.

Our ruckmen play a sterling game, good solid work they do;
Their handball and their passes are accurate and true;
At shepherding and stab kicking they all succeed so well,
They nearly are invincible as the beaten clubs do tell.

(Chorus) ‘Tis a famous story etc.

There’s Peter Brown our rover deserves from us a word,
At bounce of ball he’s always there and then a cry is heard;
That cry comes from the barrackers for they all see just then,
That he has neatly passed the ball straight to the forward men.

(Chorus) ‘Tis a famous story etc.

Our forwards are a real good set they are unselfish too,
They pass the ball on to the sneak for him to put it through;
Their scouting and their judgement are a pretty sight to see;
The wish of all behind them is a forward for to be.

(Chorus) ‘Tis a famous story etc.

Frank Seymour, who’s our goal sneak, deserves a word of praise,
For he’s the one to do his best the double flags to raise;
His high marks and his kicking have noised his fame around,
Before the sticks he’s hard to beat as other clubs have found.

(Chorus) ‘Tis a famous story etc.

Our wing men we must not forget our backs and half-backs too,
They all deserve their places in the Northcote football crew;
Tho’ hard the fight, they do what’s right a game they’ve never sold;
Then give three cheers for one and all who wear the green and gold.

(Chorus) ‘Tis a famous story etc.

See http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=434 for original lyrics and score.










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End Notes


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4. Football Riot in Albert Park. (1925, September 17). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155805423
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8. SPORTING NEWS. (1926, August 31). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73014064
9. FOOTBALL. (1926, December 10). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved December 16, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73017550
10. FOOTBALL. (1927, June 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 11. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3861034
11. FOOTBALL. (1928, June 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3940948
12. FOOTBALL. (1928, June 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3933110
13. THE TEAMS. (1929, August 2). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 15. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4026412
15. FOOTBALL. (1929, September 30). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 15. Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4040566
16. The Age - Sep 29, 1930 p6
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18. FOOTBALL. (1932, April 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 12. Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4448703
19. WEDNESDAY LEAGUE. (1934, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 14. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10950653
20. ASSOCIATION CLUBS. (1934, June 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 17. Retrieved December 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10943852
21. SURPRISE TRANSFERS FIVE BRUNSWICK PLAYERS. (1934, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 14. Retrieved December 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10950646
22. EASY FOR PRESTON. (1934, July 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 14. Retrieved December 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10975238