The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Vera Narazin’s quote is most applicable in regard to how the football commentators have overlooked the brilliant exploits of former Richmond centre man Eric Zschech.
Hopefully, this story will shed new light on the accomplishments of a young man who left Minyip and became a champion of Victorian and Tasmanian football.
Hopefully, this story will shed new light on the accomplishments of a young man who left Minyip and became a champion of Victorian and Tasmanian football.
Table of contents
- PART:I MINYIP AND RICHMOND
- GROWING UP IN MINYIP
- ERIC COMMENCES WORK
- A NATURAL GIFT
- ERIC STARTS HIS FOOTBALL AT MINYIP
- ERIC WINS THE CAMERON CUP
- ERIC ARRIVES AT PUNT ROAD
- ERIC PLAYS IN THE FIRST OF SIX GRAND FINALS FOR RICHMOND
- ERIC PLAYS HIS FIRST SENIOR GAME FOR THE TIGERS
- 1931 ERIC MAKES AN IMPRESSION AT PUNT ROAD
- 1932~ERIC PLAYS A BLINDER
- A SENIOR PREMIERSHIP FOR ERIC ZSCHECH
- 1933 ‘CHECKER’ HUGHES LEAVES PUNT ROAD
- ERIC CREATES A RACKET IN TENNIS
- ERIC REPRESENTS VICTORIA
- 1934 PERCY BENTLEY TAKES THE REINS AT RICHMOND.
- ERIC PLAYS IN ANOTHER RICHMOND PREMIERSHIP TEAM.
- ERIC RETIRES FROM VFL FOOTBALL
- PART: II - THE WEDNESDAY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
- PART: III - FOOTBALL IN TASMANIA
- PART:IV WAR SERVICE AND OTHER MATTERS
PART:I MINYIP AND RICHMOND
GROWING UP IN MINYIPEric Zschech grew up in the small Victorian town of Minyip. The township was first settled in the 1870’s and, in time, with the expansion of the railway system became a railhead throughout the region. A fascinating aspect of settlement of the district was the number of German Lutheran families who left South Australia and started new lives as farmers in the Wimmera. It is known that Eric’s grandparents Andreas, Anna Zschech and family “…moved to the Minyip area where they farmed in the newly opened wheat belt.” Extract from the ‘A Little Leaven-The Peucker History’
Eric Zschech (born 1909) was the son of Paul Bernhardt and Laura Zschech. Eric’s father was a wheat farmer prior to becoming a produce merchant/machinery agent in Minyip in 1915. The business address of the produce store in those days was simply listed as ‘Main Street.’
Note: Laura’s maiden name was ‘Peucker’ and explains the above reference. It is uncertain whether Laura was related to Ken Peucker who played 60 games with Essendon (1954-61). Ken played in the 1959 Grand Final against Melbourne and also played for South Adelaide(SANFL), Kyneton FC and Mt Gravatt (QFL.)
Eric had one sister Esther (b: 1907) and two brothers Victor Berthold (b: 1908) and Sydney Roy (b: 1912).
Eric attended the Minyip State School (No: 2167) from 1915 until 1924. A school photograph, taken during that period, shows only 29 students in ‘the frame.’
Minyip State School in 1923
Back Row - 1 Harold Olney 2. Bill Kubale 3. Roy Burge 4. Eric Zschech
5th Row seated on ground - Syd Zschech
Note: According to the ‘Nhill Free Press,’ the population of Minyip was about 400 people in 1914.
The ‘Minyip Guardian and Sheep Hills Gazette’ reported on the Minyip and District State Schools’ Picnic Day, which was held in November 1918; and the name ‘Zschech’ appears regularly in a variety of events including the flat races, Siamese races, the potato race and the boys’ high jump.
ERIC COMMENCES WORKAccording to documentation provided by Shirley Smith of the Minyip Historical Society, Eric left school, at the age of 15, and commenced work in the Post Office at Minyip.
The ‘Zschech’ family name can also be found in articles related to local commerce, market reports, events at the Lutheran Church, social gatherings and news from the nearby area known as ‘Kirchheim.’ Kirchheim was the site of the Church and was completely settled by Lutheran families.
A particularly sad event that was unearthed in this research was the tragic death of Victor Zschech (Eric’s brother) in 1925. Victor drowned in the Richardson River, at Banyena. It is believed that the accident occurred while Victor was camping out with the Minyip Boy Scout Troop.
Eric’s father (Paul Bernhardt) died in October 1945 and his mother (Laura) died in 1969. Both are buried in the Minyip Cemetery.
A NATURAL GIFTIt is known that young Eric was a competent sportsperson and the Melbourne publication entitled ‘Table Talk’ carried the following article in September 1932…
“Eric Zschech was born at Minyip 23 years ago, and was educated at the State school there. He was an enthusiastic cricketer and footballer at school, and when he left in 1926 he played both these sports with the Minyip side. Eric also found time to play a fair amount of tennis—but of all sports football was his favourite,”
In the ‘Encyclopaedia of AFL Footballers’ it is noted that Eric also played baseball. However, it was difficult to find any reports of Eric ‘at the plate’ in research for this story.
One press cutting reveals that the legendary Roy Cazaly played cricket with Minyip in 1925. Roy had a tough day against Horsham in that particular match; he took only one wicket for 48 runs and made a ‘duck’ when he opened the innings for Minyip CC. The score sheet also noted that a player named ‘Zschech’ took a catch for Minyip that day.
ERIC STARTS HIS FOOTBALL AT MINYIPEric began his football with Minyip Football Club which was affiliated with the Wimmera District Football League. Other teams in the WDFL in that period were: Ararat, Horsham, Rupanyup, Murtoa, Stawell, Dimboola, Nhill and Warracknabeal
Minyip Football Club really ‘hit the news’ when Roy Cazaly was appointed club coach in 1925. While Roy’s transfer was one of the biggest stories in the metropolitan dailies; the ‘Emerald Hill Record’ appeared to be reluctant to waste ink, as the report on Roy, being cleared to Minyip FC, ran to just forty words …
“It is reported that Roy Cazaly has been appointed coach of Minyip at a salary of £12 a week. Cazaly has played some wonderful football in League company, and at the carnivals last season he gained further laurels.” March 14th 1925.
Some readers may be puzzled as to why such a celebrated footballer as Roy Cazaly would leave the city and play for a small bush team such a Minyip? The answer is straight forward; in that era, footballers earned much more money in country leagues than was ever possible in the VFL.
It is not widely known, that Roy Cazaly played eleven years for St Kilda (1909-20) as an amateur. The majority of VFL players were receiving £3.0.0 (pounds) a week for playing in the VFL at that time. The other major attractions for players’ relocation to the bush were: - (i) the provision of accommodation and (ii) the possibility of work as ‘part of the deal.’ Eric Zschech would have been team mate of Roy Cazaly at that time.
ERIC WINS THE CAMERON CUPIn April 1929 ‘The Horsham Times’ reported that Eric was departing Minyip for Melbourne to work in the GPO*. The article also refers to Eric winning the local league’s Best and Fairest award in 1928…
“Eric Zschech, of the Minyip post office, who has been transferred to the telegraph branch Melbourne, was entertained at a farewell social recently. He was a prominent member of the Minyip football team for the past two years and won the Cameron Cup for the best and fairest player in the Wimmera League last season.” April 12th 1929.
Eric was probably the first player in the WDFL to have won the Cameron Cup as a report, from The WDFL delegates meeting in September 1927, indicated that…“H. Cameron promised to donate a cup to the fairest player in the league next year, to be decided by the field umpires.” ‘The Horsham Times’ September 30th 1927.
Eric left home for Richmond FC early in 1929. According to the available archives, Eric was not the only footballer from Minyip to head off to play VFL football that year. Jack ‘Copper’ Evans was cleared to Geelong from MFC also in 1929; Jack went onto play 149 games with Geelong and also represented Victoria.
Minyip FC has produced a ‘fair share’ of VFL players and it appears to be a country club that has always ‘punched above its weight’ in providing VFL clubs with recruits.
- Note: Eric’s training in the Minyip Post Office would stand him in ‘good stead’ as unemployment increased during the ‘tightening grip’ of the Great Depression.
ERIC ARRIVES AT PUNT ROAD
There are two brief references to Eric Zschech arriving at Richmond FC in 1929. ‘The Onlooker’ of ‘The Argus’ commented that Eric had been injured in the Richmond’s practice match in April that season…
“Wilson, a utility player from Elsternwick, was impressive. Zschech hurt his leg in the first quarter, and did not take any further part in the game.” April 8th 1929.
In the preview of first match of the 1929 season, it is stated that Eric was one of three emergencies named for Richmond’s clash against Collingwood at Victoria Park…
“The three emergences are Wilson (Elsternwick), Street (Richmond Juniors) and Zscheck (Wimmera) are all new men. Harris who wrenched his ankle on Saturday is not available.” ‘The Argus’ April 29th.
In 1929 Richmond was coached by Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes. Frank had arrived at Punt Road in 1927 and found immediate success in building the RFC into a combination to be ‘feared by all.’
In 1929 the Tigers were runners-up to Collingwood. The Magpies set up victory in the first quarter (with six wind-assisted goals) and maintained a healthy lead for the remainder of the game.
Note: While the Magpies won the flag by 24 points; the most disturbing aspect of that game was the death threats that eleven Collingwood players received prior to the start of the match. According to Graeme Atkinson…
“All (the letters) were received in the Collingwood rooms, and wisely withheld by officials until after the game.” ‘Courage Book of VFL Finals’ Page 90.
ERIC PLAYS IN THE FIRST OF SIX GRAND FINALS FOR RICHMONDAs for Eric, (178cm), who had played for the Richmond Seconds team throughout the season, he was part of a Richmond’s first-ever Seconds premiership team. Eric started the game on the half forward line and kicked a goal to assist Richmond ‘across the line.’
The unheralded captain and coach of the Richmond Second XVIII that year was Paddy Scanlan. Very few Richmond supporters, today, would have heard of Paddy although he had played one hundred VFL games with South Melbourne and represented Victoria on four occasions.
ERIC PLAYS HIS FIRST SENIOR GAME FOR THE TIGERSEric played his first Senior XVIII game for Richmond against Carlton in Round: 2 of the 1930 season. The Richmond team had an abundance of prized players including Percy Bentley, Kevin O'Neill, Maurie Sheahan, Jack Baggott, Jack Titus and Alan Geddes. However, it seemed that names and reputations meant nothing to Carlton’s coach Dan Minogue as the Blues gave the Tigers a severe drubbing that day. Eric received a brief mention in the match review…
“Richmond's display throughout was more slogging and rugged than scientific, and it lacked the polished football of its opponents. It was best served by Sheahan (whose defending deserved better backing up). Hunter, Heifner, Murdoch, Titus, and Zschech stood out from the rest.” ‘The Argus’ May 12th 1930.
Despite a promising debut, Eric did not win senior selection again for Richmond until Round: 10. However, there is a clue that suggests that he had sustained a serious injury at training….
“Richmond has 10 men on the injured list and is hard put to it to raise a team worthy… Collins and Watson are still unable to play, and Baggott, Dunn, and Zschech (injured at practice), Griffiths, Murdoch, and Fincher also laid aside …” ‘The Argus’ May 16th 1930.
Eric’s last senior match that season was against North Melbourne; and the Tigers were brilliant that day and streaked away to win by 15 goals. Eric kicked one goal while Jack Titus (6) and Bill Benton (ex-Birchip) kicked seven goals.
Eric played in his second Grand Final for Richmond Seconds against Geelong. The Cats turned the tables and wreaked revenge for its defeat in the previous season. Eric was selected in the centre that day.
The scores were:
Geelong 14.12.(96) defeated Richmond 11.8.(74).
The best players for Richmond Seconds were: Leather. Zschech. Payne. Lynch. Wigcraft and Street.
Note: Bervin Woods (later Collingwood) was centre half-back for Richmond that day. Bervin’s story can be found on this website.
In 1930, ‘Checker’ Hughes led Richmond (Senior XVIII) to another final series. In a dramatic and bruising First-Semi Final against Collingwood, the Tigers went down by three points. That season, Collingwood’s won its fourth successive VFL premiership under the indomitable leadership of Jock McHale by downing Geelong in the Grand Final.
Richmond supporters received some consolation when wingman Stan Judkins won the Brownlow Medal on a count back from Harry Collier (Collingwood) and Alan Hopkins (Footscray).
In the next couple of seasons, Eric Zschech , Stan Judkins and Alan Geddes would become a forceful trio in Richmond’s ascension in VFL football.
1931 ERIC MAKES AN IMPRESSION AT PUNT ROAD
Injury-free throughout the 1931 season, Eric consolidated his position, in the Richmond team, and played 19 games including two finals. It is during this period that ‘Checker’ Hughes brought Eric, Stan Judkins and Allan Geddes together to form one of the most potent centre lines in the competition.
Eric’s flair and ability came under notice and he caught the eye of experienced and critical observers. John Devaney of ‘Australian Football’ fame gives an insight into Eric’s undoubted ability…
“Deceptively indolent and casual in approach, Eric Zschech was actually a supremely effective performer for Richmond throughout his comparatively brief six seasons, 102 game VFL career. Recruited from Minyip, where he had played under the great Roy Cazaly, Zschech soon established himself as the Tigers' centreman, where his effortlessly accurate foot passing marked him out as a player of rare class…..His understanding with champion full forward Jack 'Skinny' Titus was legendary, and seemed at times almost telepathic.”
1931 was Eric’s ‘break-out’ season in VFL football and he received plaudits for his ball handling and precise kicking to position. In the match against St Kilda that season, ‘The Australasian’ praised Eric for his fine display in heavy conditions. Although St Kilda’s ground was a quagmire and in ‘a state that beggared description’, Eric’s class shone through…
“…Judkins and Geddes were dashing flankers, Zschech a splendid centre man, and other good men were Titus …” July 25th 1931.
1932~ERIC PLAYS A BLINDEREric had proven that he was an adept centre man and in 1932 he was a most influential player in turning the fortunes of the Richmond team. The Tigers’ midfield of Judkins, Zschech and Geddes provided constant drive and plenty of chances for the forward line that included Jack Titus, Maurie Hunter, Doug and Gordon Strang.
‘Holmesby and Main’ mention that Eric’s….
“…cooperation with Jack Titus was legendary and although not showy he (Eric) was a match winner.” Page 649.
Apparently Eric’s footpassing was ‘centimetre perfect’ and usually found Jack ‘on the lead.’ Eric and Jack were not only strong team mates at Richmond but firm friends in life. (See later).
Richmond won 14 games in 1932 and was considered a genuine contender to take out the flag. Richmond met Carlton in the Semi- Final. Although trailing all day, the Tigers hit back hard with a string of goals, early in the last term, to snatch the lead for the first time in the contest. It was a win full of fight and character.
The final scores were:
Richmond 18.16.(124) defeated Carlton 14.15.(99).
Doug Strang kicked seven goals in a brilliant display while Maurie Hunter booted six. It is recorded that the Strang brothers took a combined total of 27 marks for Richmond in the final.
That was the day that Eric Zschech wrote in his name into the annals of Richmond history. Eric was unanimously named as the B.O.G (Best on the Ground) by the press and, in an article, following the match, it was written….
“Eric Zschech has played many fine games: for Richmond this season, but none so brilliant as his effort against Carlton on Saturday week last. He did the damage from the outset, and his brainy playing out to the forwards from his central position was a feature of the game. In fact, he was generally adjudged "the best man on the ground." ‘Table Talk’ September 28th 1932.
A SENIOR PREMIERSHIP FOR ERIC ZSCHECH
Richmond met Carlton in the 1932 VFL Grand Final at the MCG in front of a then-record crowd of 69,724. The Richmond team that day was:-
|B:||Martin Bolger||Maurie Sheahan||Kevin O'Neill|
|HB:||Jack Baggott||Joe Murdoch||Basil McCormack|
|C:||Stan Judkins||Eric Zschech||Allan Geddes|
|HF:||Jack Twyford||Gordon Strang||Jack Titus|
|F:||Fred Heifner||Doug Strang||Maurie Hunter|
|Foll:||Percy Bentley||Tom O'Halloran||Ray Martin|
Reserve : Jack Anderson
It was a fierce contest as Richmond played with grim determination and poise. The game was ‘heated and willing’ at times but it was a spectacle worthy of praise. Richmond had a handful of match winners that day but none were more important than Maurie Sheahan and, his co-defender, Basil McCormack. Both played doggedly in restricting the Blues’ forwards opportunities in front of goal. Richmond’s 19th man, Jack Anderson was the ‘man of the moment’ when he booted a crucial goal in the desperate last minutes of the game.
The final scores were:
Richmond: 3.3 7.9 8.12 13.14 (92)
Carlton: 2.3 5.6 7.11 12.11 ( 83)
Goals for Richmond: D. Strang 4, Titus 2, J Hunter, Heifner, Martin, G. Strang, Anderson, Bentley, O’ Halloran
Goals for Carlton: Vallance 5, Shea 2, Clarke 2, Bullen 2, Crisp
Best for Richmond: G. Strang, McCormack, O’Neill, Baggott, Bolger, Martin
Best for Carlton: Mackie, Martyn, Oprey, Huxtable, Johnson, Egan, Crowe.
Eric Zschech played a significant part in the victory; the match-day statistics indicated that he had gained 24 kicks, 5 marks and 4 handballs that day.
1933 ‘CHECKER’ HUGHES LEAVES PUNT ROADIn 1933 ‘Checker’ Hughes left Richmond and took up a coaching position at Melbourne FC. He had coached Richmond from 1927 and in that time had taken the Tigers to the finals on six occasions (for one pennant in 1932). In all, ‘Checker’ had coached Richmond in 120 games for 87 wins with an impressive win-ratio of 73%.
The Richmond FC Committee appointed Billy Schmidt to the position for the 1933 season. Billy was a former centre man at Punt Road and had also played at St Kilda. He was 45 years of age when he signed on as the coach Richmond FC; and he was in no doubt that he had very ‘big shoes’ to fill.
As the records would reveal, Billy fell ‘short of the mark’ that the RFC officials had set for him.
Eric played in the 1933 Grand Final against a star-studded South Melbourne team. Because of the number of imported players for South Melbourne that season, the team was dubbed, by commentators, as the ‘Foreign Legion.’ Eric played a dashing game on South’s champion centre man Len Thomas and, according to the limited statistics taken that day, he gathered 19 kicks.
Note: An interesting coincidence transpired in the 1933 Brownlow Medal Count. That season, Richmond’s famous centre line of Alan Geddes, Eric Zschech and Stan Judkins each polled 6 votes in the Medal.
ERIC CREATES A RACKET IN TENNISOne of the intriguing pieces of information uncovered for this story was in relation to Eric playing amateur tennis. The interpretation of amateur status was a constant irritation to the authorities in those times, but in Eric’s case it caused quite a commotion…
“At the M.C.C. annual tennis tournament in March Eric Zschech, the Richmond centre man, was a competitor. The referee (Mr. Harley Malcolm) questioned Zschech's status as an amateur on the ground that he was paid for his services as a footballer, and, holding that he was not eligible, told Zschech that he must withdraw. The player did so.” ‘The Argus’ May 11th 1934.
While on the subject of tennis, Eric was back in the limelight later in the year when he won a silver cup in a local tennis championship…
“On Saturday night the 'Chalet Tennis Players' held a social evening, with dancing as the chief attraction. There were over 100 present; the chief object was the presentation of gold cups, donated by the Hon. R. Williams to the champion players. Mr, Eric Zschech was the successful man and Miss Valarie Woods headed the women.” ‘Record ‘(Emerald Hill) December 22nd 1934.
Eric was a fine tennis player and his name continually ‘cropped up’ in relation to tournaments and club results during those years.
ERIC REPRESENTS VICTORIAA highlight of Eric’s football career was his selection for Victoria against South Australia in Adelaide in June 1934. It was a well-earned honour in an era when the VFL had so many brilliant and experienced footballers.
The Victorian team included such household names as Bob Pratt, Jack Regan, Hayden Bunton Snr, Wilfred ‘Chicken’ Smallhorn, Colin Watson, Albert Collier and Les Hardiman. This was the only occasion that Eric was chosen to represent the VFL in an interstate fixture; but it was a strong indication of Eric’s status in Victorian football.
In the build-up to the highly anticipated match, Eric received press coverage in the ‘News’…
“South Australians will be watching a versatile sportsman in action when they see Eric Zschech at centre for the Victorian side on Saturday. Zschech transferred to Richmond from Minyip about three years ago, and has been a regular member of the side since then. In addition to his league engagements he plays with the Post and Telegraph team in mid-week games.” June 14th. 1934.
26,000 passionate football-lovers turned out to see a match that developed into a truly classic contest between two highly skilled teams. The report of the match by Steve McKee (‘Adelaide News’) lauded the exhibition that day…
“For once in a long while South Australia joined issue wholeheartedly, and the result was one of the most brilliant football spectacles seen in Adelaide for years. Rarely have Adelaide football followers seen such prolonged bursts of non-stop action; such brilliant thrust and counter thrust. It was a striking example of the efficacy of what by common usage is termed the "go through" style.” ‘News’ June 18th 1934.
As can be gauged from the score line, South Australia won the game in the third term when its forwards, led by Ken Farmer and Max Pontifex, added seven goals to Victoria’s three. In ‘The Daily News’ that phase of the game was described as… “a burst of inspired football.”
The final scores were:
Goals for SA: Farmer 7, Pontifex 5, Parry 3, Hender 2, Murdy 2, Hooper, Johnston
Goals for Victoria : Forbes 5, Bunton 4, Pratt 4, Shea 3, Evans, Wrout
Best for SA: Mackay, Burton, Johnston, Hender, Fisher, Pontifex, Sallis
Best for Victoria : Forbes, Collier, Bunton, Huxtable, Davis, McKay, Shea
It is difficult to establish how Eric played that day in Adelaide. There is no mention of his name in any of the match reviews and he was not selected for Victoria for the return match against South Australia on the 11th August at the MCG.
Eric’s position in the centre was taken by Allan LaFontaine of Melbourne. Victoria settled a few ‘old scores’ that day by kicking thirty goals. South Melbourne’s super star, Laurie Nash kicked 18 goals for Victoria in one of the greatest exhibitions of ‘power football’ ever seen in the game.
1934 PERCY BENTLEY TAKES THE REINS AT RICHMOND.Percy Bentley replaced Billy Schmidt as the Richmond coach in 1934. Billy had been the subject of harsh criticism for his tactics during the final series and the ‘axe’ fell soon afterwards…
“Short term coach Billy Schmidt was offered handshakes of appreciation for having tried his best but the Tiger administration believed he should have won the 1933 flag and promptly appointed Percy Bentley as playing-coach.” ‘Tigerland.’ Page 61.
Jack Dyer later wrote about the difference that Percy made to the performance of the team after Billy had been fired…
“Billy Schmidt had been replaced by Perc Bentley and Perc was a clone of Checker Hughes. He was an inspiring leader ….and the ‘Eat ‘Em Alive spirit of Richmond 1932 was back with vengeance.” ‘The Jack Dyer Story.’ Page 92.
In June that season, 35,000 people crammed into the Lakeside Oval to see a ‘re-run’ of the 1933 Grand Final. Unlike in the movies, this particular ‘re-run’ had a vastly different ending to ‘the original.’ That day, Richmond seemed to ‘vent its spleen’ as the Bloods faltered and capitulated. Once again, Richmond’s centre line dominance was a key factor in the 44 point victory win…
“…special mention must be made of Alan Geddes, Eric Zschech, and Stan Judklns who won all day along the centreline.” ‘Referee’ June 14th 1934.
Richmond’s triumph over South Melbourne was a pointer of things to come as the season unfolded. Percy Bentley was not only a dynamic footballer but he was a ‘ready-made’ coach and, under his astute leadership, Richmond cemented top place on the VFL ladder after 18 rounds.
Richmond defeated Geelong by 84 points, in the mud, which gave the club the right to play in the Grand Final. ‘Fireworks’ were expected as South Melbourne, the glamour team of the VFL that season, dispensed with the Cats and made ready for another duel at the Tigers.
ERIC PLAYS IN ANOTHER RICHMOND PREMIERSHIP TEAM.There was considerable doubt as to whether Eric would be able to take his place in Richmond’s line-up for in the 1934 Grand Final against South Melbourne…
“Eric Zschech, the Richmond centre man, has been suffering from an injury to his back. It was hoped that he would be able to play today. Yesterday, however, the stiffness had increased, and it is doubtful whether he will take the field. The Richmond committee will make its final decision about midday. It is expected that Baggott will replace Zschech at centre, and that Heifner will play on the back line.” ‘The Argus’ October 13th 1934.
Eric did play and, once again, served his team with distinction. Despite his injury cloud he was most effective and accumulated 23 kicks and 9 marks; a good return for a player hampered by severe back injury.
The Richmond centre line collected in excess of 50 kicks and reiterated the importance of winning ‘midfield possessions’ in football.
A crowd of 75,000 watched on as Richmond played desperate and ‘straight ahead’ football. The Tigers dominated the third quarter as they applied relentless pressure and converted accurately when the chances arose.
Jack Titus kicked six goals for Richmond and may have been the difference; because at the other end South Melbourne’s Bob Pratt was starved by a ‘lack of supply.’ Bob kicked his second goal in the last quarter to register his 150th for the season. Laurie Nash booted six goals in a ‘lone-hand effort’ for the Bloods.
The Grand Final scores were:
Goals for Richmond: Titus 6, O’Halloran 3, Harris 3, Bentley 2, Baxter, Murdoch and Zschech.
Goals for South Melbourne: Nash 6, Pratt 2, Brain, Diggins, O’ Meara, Bertram
Best for Richmond: Titus, O’Neill, Baggott, Bolger, McCormack, Sheahan.
Best for South Melbourne: Pratt, Reville, Austin, Nash, McLaughlin, McKenzie.
What a reward for Percy Bentley! In his first Grand Final, as captain and coach, Percy had kicked two valuable goals; and his tactic of ‘crowding’ Bob Pratt was a masterstroke.
The Richmond supporters had much to talk about as they celebrated the mighty victory that night; and one of the most common themes was the ruck display of a youngster named Jack Dyer.
ERIC RETIRES FROM VFL FOOTBALLIn May 1935 Eric and his brother Sydney made news in the press for being injured on the same day playing football…
“Eric Zschech, the premier's centre man, also was injured. During the last quarter he sustained a severely bruised shoulder and this may keep him out of the side for a fortnight. Zschech continued playing until the final bell. In the park outside the ground, Eric Zschech's brother, Sydney, was kicked while he was playing with the Burnley Football Club. Suffering, it is feared, from a fracture of the left thigh, he was admitted to St. Vincent's Hospital. An X-ray examination will be made tomorrow.” ‘The Argus’
Eric’s injury (against North Melbourne) that day was serious enough to force him to miss the next two games. He returned for the match against Fitzroy and he received a compliment in the ‘Record’ around that time…
“…Eric Zschech, the brainiest player in the Richmond team and the pivot on which the Tigers' system swings.” June 15th 1935.
Eric played his 100th senior XVIII game for Richmond against South Melbourne at the Lakeside Oval. South thrashed Richmond to the tune of 44 points that day.
As the record books indicate, Richmond played off again in the finals in 1935 but went down to Collingwood by 28 points in the Preliminary-Final. This was Eric’s last game of Senior XVIII VFL football. He had played 102 senior games, kicked 16 goals and polled, a total, of 21 votes in the Brownlow Medal.
Eric was only 26 years when he decided to leave Punt Road; he probably left at a high point in his career as that season he had received 9 votes in the Brownlow Medal. Only Gordon Strang (11) and Jack Dyer (10) had polled more votes that season.
There is much to remember about Eric’s time at Punt Road. He had the privilege and ability to play in eleven Senior XVIII finals and he played in six Grand Finals for Richmond Seniors and Seconds in that time.
PART: II - THE WEDNESDAY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
ERIC STARS FOR POST & TELEGRAPH
As stated earlier, Eric a came to Melbourne to further his career in the Post Office and that included representing his work place in the Wednesday Football League that existed in that period. A surprising number of VFL footballers played in matches in the Wednesday League while others opted to play in the Saturday Morning Industrial League.
Eric played for the Post & Telegraph XVIII in the Wednesday League for at least four seasons. In the match against the Fire Brigade in May 1929; Eric kicked two goals to assist Post & Telegraph to a thrilling victory at Collingwood.
In June 1930, Eric was selected to represent the Wednesday FL in a challenge match against the Saturday Morning Industrial at the MCG. All proceeds from the game were forwarded the District Nursing Society’s Appeal.
There are no records of how many games Eric actually played for the Post & Telegraph team; but it is known that he played in the 1931 and 1933 Premiership teams.
In the 1931 WFL Grand Final review, Eric was described as “…a particularly clever centre man.”
Jack Dyer also played for Post & Telegraph in that match. The following year, the Fire Brigade defeated Post & Telegraph by 20 points and despite the loss, Eric was said to have been … “…a power in the centre and rarely failed to pass to advantage.”
Note: In 1935 the Wednesday Football League was disbanded. (This website has some further interesting articles and photographs regarding the Wednesday League and the Saturday Morning Industrial League).
PART: III - FOOTBALL IN TASMANIA
ERIC IS CLEARED TO LEFROYAt the end of the 1935 season Richmond’s renowned forward Jack Titus was married at St Bartholomew’s Church in Burnley. Eric Zschech was Jack’s best man at the wedding and Joe Murdoch (Richmond’s rugged defender)was the groomsman. It is not known if Jack or Joe were aware of Eric’s intentions to leave Victoria and play football in Tasmania the following year…
Early in 1936, confirmation of Eric’s appointment was published in ‘The Hobart Mercury’…
“The opinion that the appointment of Eric Zschech, of Richmond (Victoria), as coach of the Lefroy Club for 1936 would prove of great value to the club was expressed at the club's annual meeting at Hobart last night. Mr. A. E. Watson said the appointment would advance the club in many directions. The committee, he said, was to be congratulated heartily on its progressive policy and on its judgment. Zschech was still in his prime…” January 29th 1936.
The decision of Mr Arnold (President) and the committee of Lefroy FC to select Eric for the coaching job would prove to be very wise. In time, Eric would be listed among the greatest footballers of the ‘Apple Isle’ and he would write his name into Tasmanian football history forever more.
A PREMIERSHIP FOR LEFROY FCEric coached Lefroy Football Club from 1936-1939. In that period he played 91 games and kicked 53 goals for the club. In 1937 he led the team to a premiership when the Blues (Lefroy) defeated North Hobart. The final scores were: Lefroy 17.12.(114) defeated North Hobart 9.15.(69).
Eric starred in the big win and it was reported in ‘The Hobart Mercury’ that…“Zschech played brilliantly in the centre, his streaking down into the forward line continually throwing North back on the defensive.” September 20th 1937.
When the final siren blew, there were great scenes of jubilation and it is believed that all the players were chaired from the ground. At the celebrations that followed that memorable match, Eric was the ‘toast of the town’…
“The toast… the Coach and Players… was proposed by Mr. F. G. Fitzgerald, who paid a tribute to the services of Mr. E. Zschech as coach.” ‘The Hobart Mercury’ October 7th 1937.
Note: The club was also runners-up in Eric’s first season (1936) and then again 1938.
WINNER OF THE GEORGE WATT MEDAL
Eric was a star for Lefroy FC and he etched his named into the Tasmanian football history when won the prestigious George Watt Medal for the Best & Fairest Player in the competition in 1936, 1937 ( tied with Len Pye) and again in 1939.
Eric also represented Tasmania twice in interstate matches including being chosen to represent the Tasmania FL, against South Broken Hill at the Hobart Oval, in 1937. Eric played a total of seven inter-league matches during his years in Tasmania.
ERIC MAKES A STAND ON BEHALF OF VERN RAEEric was hardly a controversial figure in football but in 1939 he made a firm stand, which led to a forfeiture of match points, in support of one of his players. Eric’s decision carried significant ramifications but it appears that Eric was a man who placed principles ahead of popularity or self-interest …
“While coaching Lefroy, he (Eric) caused a stir when he refused to allow his team to play against Cananore in Round :2 of 1939. His refusal to play was in protest at his annoyance of the suspension of one of his players by the tribunal arising from an incident in the previous game. The result was Lefroy forfeited their points for that round. The following week Lefroy fielded a team.” ‘Tigerland’ Page 253.
Although not stated, further research indicated that the opposing team was North Hobart and the name of the player was V. (Vern) Rae*. It was also revealed that the TANFL demanded an apology from the Lefroy FC and imposed a fine of £50.0.0 (pounds) upon the club.
Note: Vern Rae was taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore during World War:II and was incarcerated in a P.O.W camp in Borneo. In an amazing tale of courage, following the war, Vern returned to the football field and was later selected to play for Tasmania in the ANFC Carnival of 1950 in Brisbane. Vern was inducted into the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame in 2005. (See later).
ANOTHER GRAND FINAL APPEARANCE
Records show that Eric played 21 games for Sandy Bay FC in 1946. Sandy Bay FC was not formed until 1944 and became an affiliate in the Tasmanian Football League in 1945.
Eric was a member of the club’s inaugural premiership team in 1946…
“… E.Pilkington , Sandy Bay's star wingman, who has been outstanding throughout the season in both club and representative games, has been awarded the club's trophy for the best and fairest player. E. Zschech, veteran centre man, who has shown out to advantage in recent matches, was runner up and gained the trophy for being the most consistent.” ‘The Hobart Mercury’ September 30th 1946.
SNUG FCIn 1947, Eric was cleared from Sandy Bay to Snug FC when he was appointed coach…
“Two members of Sandy Bay's premier side last year have accepted coaching positions in the country. They are H. Ayers, who will go to Huonville, and E. Zschech, who will coach Snug. It is likely that both players will be given clearances. Zschech has been a leading League footballer for years, and was a member of Richmond before he came to Tasmania to coach Lefroy. He has twice won the League's best and fairest award-1936 and 1939-and was only a vote behind the winner in another year.” ‘The Hobart Mercury’ 31st March 1949
There is a press report that lists ‘Zschech’ among the best players for Snug against Woodbridge in a fixture of the Kingborough Football League in July 1949. Presumably it is Eric (born June 1909) which would make him 40 years of age at that juncture.
Eric was a bit like a ‘Grandfather’ clock…still ticking and going strongly...the only difference being, that Eric never stood in one place for very long.
Note: The Snug FC is now defunct. The Margate, Kettering, Woodbridge and Snug clubs amalgamated in 1967 to form one new club known as the ‘Channel FC.’
THE TASMANIAN HALL OF FAMEIn 2005, the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame was established and it is not surprising that Eric was made a member in the same year. Eric’s name sits with some of the greatest players in the history of VFL-AFL football.
The list of famous footballers includes Verdun Howell, John Leedham, Peter Hudson, Darrell Baldock, Roy Cazaly, Noel Clarke, Laurie Nash, Royce Hart, Matthew Richardson, Stuart Spencer, Ian Stewart , Ivor Warne-Smith and Athol Webb. Eric’s former team mate Vern Rae (see above) is also a member of the Hall of Fame.
It was always well known that Tasmania produced delicious apples and brilliant footballers…it must be something in the water!
PART:IV WAR SERVICE AND OTHER MATTERS
WARTIME SERVICEThe World War: II Nominal Roll shows that Eric enlisted in the RAAF in 1942 at Hobart and served until January 1946. Eric rose to the rank of Sergeant and his posting at the time of his discharge was given as 3 RAAF Postal Unit.
For a while at least, Eric was based in Northern Australia. In 1944 he captained a services team including Les Foote (North Melbourne) and a host of senior footballers.
It appears that Eric took leave from the RAAF sometime in June-July in 1945 and attended a training session at Coburg (VFA).The enduring friendship between Eric and Jack Titus may have explained his training run at Coburg…
“Eric Zschech, former Richmond star centre player, who is on leave, trained well at Coburg last night. He is interested in the club, perhaps because of the presence of Jack Titus.” ‘The Argus’ June 13th 1945
Jack Titus, who had kicked 970 goals for Richmond, was cleared to play for Coburg in 1945. In that season he kicked 119 goals. Jack played on for part of 1946 and kicked a further 20 goals.
Note: Former Collingwood ruckman Percy Rowe was the coach of Coburg FC in those years.
Perhaps it wasn’t just football on Eric’s mind during that furlough. A fortnight later, Eric married Dorothy Anderson from Clifton Hill. Eric’s brother Sydney, who had also enlisted in the RAAF during the war, was his best man…
“St John's Lutheran Church, City Rd, South Melbourne, was the scene on Saturday of the marriage of Dorothy Jesmond, daughter of Mrs M. Anderson, Spensley St, Clifton Hill, and of the late Mr J. H. Anderson, to Sgt Eric Leslie Zschech, RAAF, second son of Mr and Mrs P. B. Zschech, of Minyip… Cpl Sydney Zschech, RAAF, was best man…” ‘The Argus July 2nd 1945.
Note: Dorothy died in Melbourne in 1955. ‘The Peucker Family History Book’ gives greater details of Eric’s marriages(s) and children.
1945- ERIC RETURNS TO RICHMONDIt is difficult to get the timeline exactly right; but sometime in July-August in 1945, Eric played with Richmond Seconds. Jack Dyer was the captain and coach of Richmond and in a brief news article, Eric is mentioned among a group of players…
“Dyer gave himself a spell at Richmond last night and Bawden (who is fit again) took charge, giving the players much fast work. Most impressive were Mooney, Broadstock, Perkins, Waldron, and Maguire. Murray, Merrett, and Edwards were rested. Eric Zschech played well for the seconds, as did Barry, whose leg has recovered.” ‘The Argus’ August 1st 1945.
Eric was about thirty six years of age when he last played for Richmond Seconds. By the time Eric departed Richmond FC to return to Tasmania in 1946 (and resume playing with Sandy Bay...see above) he had played 102 senior games and a total of 33 seconds matches for RFC between the years 1929 -1945.
A FINAL WORD ABOUT ERIC ZSCHECHAccording to information forwarded by the Zschech family, Eric died on the 4th October 1981 and was buried at the Fawkner Cemetery in Melbourne. He was aged 72 years at the time of his death.
From what has been gleaned in this research, there was a great deal to admire about this modest champion who rose from humble beginnings in Minyip to become a member of a prestigious Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.
Finally, Eric Zschech was a disciplined, skilled and dedicated footballer who ‘loved the game beyond the prize.’
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & THANKS1. Sincere thanks to Lawrence and Cheryl Zschech of Hamilton for their kind assistance in clarifying certain aspects of the earlier years of the Zschech family of Minyip.
2. Thanks to Natasha Eilola (Minyip/ Warracknabeal Lutheran Parish), Shirley Smith (Minyip Historical Society) and Roslyn Ryan (Wimmera Regional Library) for their interest and advice in writing this story.
3. Paul Hogan- ‘The Tigers of Old.’
4. Brian Hansen- ‘Tigerland.’
5. The staff at National Library Of Australia for certain information about Eric’s time in Tasmania for this story.
6. Ron Hunter (Snr) of Dromana FC -an avid Richmond supporter.
7. ‘A Little Leaven-The Peucker History’