This is the sixth or a series of great football dramas, retold by an eye-witness. It describes Geelong's tumultuous welcome home to the League Premiers of 1925 —a welcome fit for Royalty!
This article originally appeared in the Sporting Globe (Melbourne) 3-Jun-1935 p8
Football Dramas — No. 6 Tempestuous Welcome To 1925 PremiersRecord Crowd Of 15,000 At Geelong Station
HERE SHE COMES! Here she comes! The cry. swelling to a tumult swept like wildfire through the unprecedented crowds besieging the Geelong railway station on that never-to-be-forgotten evening on Saturday, October 10, 1925.
With whistle shrieking, the football special was steaming in. amid an inferno of noise. On board, among hundreds of cheering supporters were the Geelong football team - League premiers for 1925 straight from their triumph over Collingwood in the Grand Final on the Melbourne Cricket Ground that after-afternoon; a glorious victory that had brought Geelong their first League premiership after 28 years of earnest striving.
What a welcome home-a welcome fit for Royalty. thundered by 15.000 fervent patriots. Their mighty ovation made mightier still by a brass band. 3000 tooting motor cars, a babel of bells and whistles, and 200 detonators exploding.
Never before or since has a premier team in Australia received such acclamation from its supporters.
It was a more boisterous night than Armistice night. It recalled the fervor aroused by the visit of the Prince of Wales to Geelong in 1920. It ushered in the wildest night in the history of that normally quiet and respectable city to be followed by “Headache Sunday” The “Sleepy Hollow” myth was submerged and drowned in that tidal wave of roaring humanity.
Scores..quarter by quarter, in the I925
Grand Final were:—'
The teams were
Backs: Ferguson, Johns, Smith
Half backs: Hall, Fitzmaurice. Leahy
Centres: Stevenson, Greeves, Williams.
Half-forwards: Rayson, Todd, Chambers
Forwards: Rankin (c), Hagger, Hudd.
Followers: Fleming, Heaghney.
Backs: Beasley, Dibbs, Shanahan.
Half-backs: Tyson (c.), Makeham, Wilson.
Centres: Milburn, Cheswass, Westcott
Half-forwards: Harris, F. Murphy, Lawn.
Forwards: Baker, G. Coventry, L. Murphy
Followers: S. Coventry, L.Murphy
Jack McMurray was umpire.
Goal Kickers were: -
GEELONG – Rankin 5; Hagger, Heagney, Chambers, Hall, Stevenson
COLLINGWOOD: - F.Murphy 2; Stainsby 2; Webb 2; Baker, Cheswass, Tyson
NOT quite class enough to make "the four" the previous season, Geelong, under Cliff Rankin's coaching and captaincy, shot to the front in 1925. Before long they were the leading team. A clever combination, they played virile, match-winning football, and. unlike previous Geelong sides, were almost as powerful away as at home.
12 Straight WinsIn the home and home matches they were defeated only twice—by North Melbourne on the opening day, and later by St.Kilda in an amazing struggle, in which the honors were as much with the losers. In between Geelong won 12 matches on end. Their proudest achievement was to defeat Collingwood twice. In those days, as now, victory over Collingwood somehow seemed sweeter than over any other team. There is a certain hall-mark about it—like a Test batsman scoring a century at Lords.
The 1925 League home and home series ended:—
Collingwood just “pipped" Fitzroy for fourth place on percentage. Football positions were rather topsy-turvy then, compared with now, for St.Kilda finished sixth. Richmond seventh. South Melbourne eighth and Carlton ninth.
In the first semi-final, before 60,065 people on the M.C.G.. Collingwood defeated Essendon 12.6 (78) to 10.8 (68). It was a hard fight. Frank Maher led Essendon, Gordon Coventry kicked five goals for "Wood.
By sheer pace and brilliance, Melbourne unexpectedly downed Geelong in the second semi-final, witnessed by 51.256. The scores were 14-17 (101) to 13-8 (86). Slow to find their feet Geelong were the side that had scintillated throughout the season. This raised doubts whether they would last out a gruelling grand final
Collingwood crushed Melbourne in the preliminary final by 8-15 (63) to 3-8 (26). The result was never in doubt after the firm few minutes. "Bulldogs v Whippets" one critic caustically dubbed it. Gordon Coventry bagged another five goals. The attendance was 49,833
Record CrowdCame the grand final between Geelong and Collingwood. to decide the1925 premiership; 64.288 people flocked to see it—a record football crowd for Victoria up to that point though it has since been exceeded several times. Geelong turned out to a man—and woman; 8000 supporters invaded Melbourne—6000 in five special trains, and 2000 by road. Eager crowds stormed the trains at Geelong station, sweeping away barriers and breaking carriage windows. They were keen, these Geelong Enthusiasts! Geelong was deserted that afternoon. Work was forgotten. Football was all that mattered. Many factories and businesses closed all day.
Queues were outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground as early as 10 o'clock, i The first patron arrived at nine!
The great moment arrived. Out bounded the teams. There was no mistaking which the crowd wanted to win. Collingwood were applauded; but a tremendous ovation greeted Geelong. Then McMurray bounced the ball and the last grim fight of the 1925 pennant was on.
There had been a fear in the Geelong camp that Cliff Rankin who had injured his knee against Melbourne might not play. But the knee had responded to electrical treatment. He won the toss from Charlie Tyson; and Geelong had first use of the breeze/
The game opened brilliantly, with Collingwood just a trifle more confident but not so deadly forward as Geelong. Gordon Coventry was off the target. Already it was strenuous with Geelong standing right up to the ‘Woodsmen and meeting force with force. Early it was evident that this Geelong side would not falter. Nor did they.
Applying the pressure relentlessly, Geelong really won the game in the second quarter, when they rattled the Magpies with devastating drives. Geelong were the stronger side all round. A master stroke in strategy this term was Rankin's shitting Hagger out to half-forward, and getting goals himself. Many aver that this move sounded Collingwood's doom. Still no goal from Gordon Coventry-a catastrophe for the Magpies! And so it went on. Geelong always the masters, until, near the end. Collingwood, in a typical fighting rally crept to within eight points of Geelong, who at the final change had led by 25 points.
Thrilling RecoveryThe thrilling recovery electrified the crowd. But Geelong, with the game in the balance, fought back, and added two precious points. Then, staking all on a last desperate onslaught, Collingwood crashed forward. From the wing Frank Murphy kicked the ball towards goal. Straight to three Collingwood men it sped. It looked a certain goal. Ferguson. the only Geelong defender near. dashed to intercept the ball. As he ran he fell, and took a sensational mark Iaying on his back, a few seconds before the final bell announced Geelong 1925! League premiers.
Geelong that day had every man at his top. but Chambers, Johns. Rankin, Rayson, Leahy, Warren, Hudd and Greeves excelled.
Hard battlers for Collingwood were Syd. Coventry. Webb. Stainsby, Chesswas, Dibbs and F. Murphy. Gordon Coventry did well except in shooting; he never got a goal!
Delirious with joy supporters carried victorious Geelong players in shoulder high. For a long time, their dressing room shook with sounds of wild rejoicing. The Collingwood captain's tribute was “The better side won." Dave Hickinbotham, captain of the previous Geelong team to win the premiership – in the old Association in 1886 – said “I’ve waited nearly 30 years for this”, “I must be a lucky mascot” said Tom Fitzmaurice who had also played in the 1923 and 1924 Essendon premiership sides. Tom is still playing with North Melbourne. His prospects in another premiership side are not bright.
Finally Cliff Rankin tired but happy emerged from the dressing room wearing a ‘bell-topper” with blue and white streamers flowing from it. He had to make a speech to admirers.
Whistles and BellsThe riotous welcome to the special train carrying the premiers began as soon as it reached North Geelong. There was a chorus or engine whistles and fire-bells. The moment the train reached Geelong. the famous St Augustine Orphanage Band struck up. "The Conquering Hero’s” Half Geelong seemed to be there. Players were literally dragged from carriages and whisked away in cars through cheering crowds to the City Hall for a civic reception.
There in a rousing speech. Cliff Rankin said: “I am captain of a great side, in which every man was captain in his own part”.
Then followed hectic celebrations at the Geelong Football Ground. They lasted nearly all night The next morning Geelong chemists did unprecedented business in headache cures. That morning a pally of Collingwood officials, headed by Ernie Copeland, motored to the Geelong ground to join in the fun. They offered further congratulations. Then came a great sporting gesture. Ernie Copeland took from his finger a ring bearing the emblem of a miniature magpie. In a mock burial, the magpie was interred as a symbol of defeat. The rejoicing continued for more than a week until the Geelong team left for a holiday to Sydney and the Blue Mountains/
Lloyd Hagger. with 77 goals, topped the League goal-kicking that season. Gordon Coventry (68) and Jack Moriarty (64) following.
It was Ivan More’s second season as secretary.
Since 1925 Geelong have been out of'-the four only three times-in 1928. 1929 and 1932. They were premiers again in 1931