In this, the ninth of a series of great football dramas, is described the first League-Association clash — St. Kilda v North Melbourne, in 1915. It was a hectic, grisly affair, reeking with spite and roughness, and with only occasional flashes of real football.
This article originally appeared in the Sporting Globe (Melbourne) 22-Jun-1935 p8
First League And Association Clash Was A "Grisly" AffairTHE first match between-a League and an Association team was particularly biter and fiery, with roughness and spite throughout. It was between St Kilda (League) and North Melbourne (Association) on the St Kilda Cricket Ground on Saturday, August 14, 1915 in aid of Lady Stanley’s fund for wounded soldiers. Ten thousand saw it and £254 was raised. Leading throughout, North won comfortably by 8.9 (57) to 4.7 (31) but as will be shown there was little real merit in their victory.
Each side boasted some famous footballers. The teams were:-
Backs: Cubbins, Ellis . Hattam.
Half-B.: Dangerfield, Eicke, Balme.
Centres: Bowden, Cazaly. Collins.
Half F: Maloney, McNamara, Gravenall
Forwards: Crudden, Moyes, Horsenall.
Backs: Gardiner. Speakman. Shechan.
Half-B.: Hart, Franks, Alley
Centres: Cave, Jones, Cornall
Half F: Conden, Miles, Dodemaide
Forwards: Hawkins, Hoare, Walton.
Followers: Barker, Rawle.
Boyle (League) and Hurley (Association) umpired in alternate quarters
For years the Association, conscious of its growing power and importance had been trying to engage the mighty League on the field. And now the great day had arrived.
Boomed as a patriotic match, the game possessed a double attraction. Although the war had been raging for a year, sport, particularly football, was being fostered in order to keep up the morale of the people.
North Melbourne were arrogantly confident of beating St Kilda. North had just won the 1915 premiership with absurd ease. Undefeated for the season they were undisputed champions of the Association. St Kilda had the bye that day, as there were nine teams in the League then. St Kilda were sixth with five wins and ten defeats. Nevertheless, they were smugly optimistic before the game. They had never seen North play. They never dreamed that an Association team could even extend them. They were in for a rude shock.
The North team traveled in state to the ground in a procession of all sorts of vehicles that passed through the city, their supporters cheering and waving blue and white flags and streamers. Later they cheered their favourites on right through the game.
Then began the first rumblings of strife. Short of reserves through enlistment and illness North - rather foolishly it might appear — rushed three champions from other Association clubs into their side. They were Ted Alley (Williamstown), Jack Hoare (Essendon) and Bill Walton (Port Melbourne). That made North almost a combined Association side. St Kilda were angry and protested to North officials unavailingly. Saints pointed out that they too were short of a couple of leading players, but had included reserves.
A Famous RuckBoth teams took the field in a sour mood, eager and ready to.get.to grips, and get to grips they did! It was a conflict, not a contest; just a fierce, prolonged brawl – a lively rough and tumble from start to finish. The ball was neglected. The man was the objective. Little real football was shown, Caveman tactics were the order. Punching was rife.
In the crowd was Val Quirk, the well-known boxing referee. At times he must have wondered whether he was at a football match or the stadium.
The team that North fielded won comfortably. They were undoubtedly the masters on the day For one thing, their famous ruck—Barker, Rawle and Hardy – completely surprised St Kilda. But there was nothing extraordinary in that. The trio formed the greatest ruck ever seen in Association football even to this day. It is a moot point indeed whether in the whole history of football in Melbourne, there has ever been a better ruck.
BILL CUBB1NS, snapped when coach of Footscray last season. In 1915 he defended for St. Kilda at the age of 16
For North. Charlie Hardy gave a bright and plucky display of roving; Sid Barker followed vigorously but fairly, and had many manly tussles with that wonder footballer. Vic. Cumberland, who , later on returning from the war; played with St Kilda till he was 42. Cornall was speedy, Collins, Rawle, Condon and Alley also played grandly. There was a star in St Kilda’s defence – Bill Cubbins, then a 16-year-old schoolboy. James roved cleverly. Others who battled hard were Balme, Hattam, Ellis, Eike and Dangerfield.
Goalkickers were:- North Melbourne Walton (2), Dodemaide, Franks, Hawkins, Barker, Rawle, Hardy. St Kilda: James, Moyes, Horsenail.
Glamor TarnishedIn North’s dressing room after the match there was great rejoicing. Jubilant speeches were made by Mr J.H. Dennis, chairman of the permit and umpire committee; Mr T.J. Evans, secretary of the Association; Sid Barker, captain and Charlie Hardy, vice-captain. One speaker said that North that day had given the Association a great advertisement. It was doubtful however whether it was an advertisement of the right kind. It was certainly not a display on which the standard of either League or Association could fairly be judged.
The glamor of North’s victory, moreover, was tarnished by the inclusion of the three “imported” players. The result of the encounter caused heartburnings at St Kilda – and in the League – for a long time afterwards. It was a serious obstacle to another game between the two bodies.
Nine years elapsed before the next League-Association encounter – the now famous Essendon v Footscray charity match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1924.
After that combined League and Association teams have met three or four times – always with victory for the League, although on the Carlton Cricket Ground a couple of years ago, the Association eighteen almost snatched a victory.
This season all the old enmity between the two bodies has died out, and there were several practice matches between League and Association clubs, in addition to a friendly interchange of players. Players.
After all, the game is the thing! Both bodies have come to realise that.
Editor's noteThis article originally appeared in the Sporting Globe (Melbourne) 22-Jun-1935 p8 In many ways this article is a re-write of Reginald Wilmot, "Old Boy"'s match review "Patriotic Match" in the Argus 16-Aug-1915 p11.
The post game write ups by Pivot in the Age (16-Aug-1915) and Raggles writing in Punch Magazine (19-Aug-1915) were much more pro North Melbourne, noting that the game was under League, not Association rules, and that there were outbreaks of violence but nothing in the nature of "Sustained altercations". Raggles noted that "Those fortunate enough: to be there saw a fine display -of football—by no means an exhibition game, but both teams playing as if some, special honour depended."
One should also note that North's imported 'Stars' would not have known the team's system. "Old Boy also noted that "North Melbourne explained that the absence of Wells, Dick, Clarke (ill or injured), Carpenter (disqualified), and Hopkins and Smith (detained at camp), had exhausted their reserves." So North were down six players.