This article originally appeared in the Sporting Globe (Melbourne) 29-May-1935 p8


SportingGlobe 29 May1937 P8 Banner
SportingGlobe 29 May1937 P8 Banner


Great Football Dramas—No.5 Vital Kick to Decide Honors


The roar of the crowd sank to a hush, eerie and tense, as the gallant Fitzroy captain—the deadliest kick in his side—walked back with calm deliberation to take his fateful shot that would decide the League premiership.

Less than a minute of time remained. The final of 1903 hung in the balance. Gerald Brosnan, the Maroons' leader, had marked within easy range, almost straight in front of goal.

A goal . . . and Fitzroy would be premiers! A miss or a behind . . . and the pennant would be Collingwood's! And the timekeepers' watches were relentlessly ticking off the last few remaining seconds.


SUCH was the intensely thrilling climax to the most gruelling football struggle ever waged in Melbourne — a veritable battle of giants in every way!

More than 32.000 spectators, and the whole of the 36 players, gazed spellbound as the ball, propelled by a beautiful left-foot drop-kick, sped gracefully for the dead middle of the goal, and then, caught by a gust of wind, deviated to the left, to pass so close to the goal post as almost to touch it!

What was it? Goal or behind? Fitzroy's or Collingwood's premiership? In an agony of suspense onlookers and players strained their eyes on the goal umpire. He picked up one flag.
would he reach for the other?
No! A behind: Then the final bell. The Magpies had won by two points. They were PREMIERS! ~

Instantly, detonations of cheering shook the ground as. in a frenzy at joy. Collingwood’s supporters released their pent up emotions, while Fitzroy's disappointed followers turned sadly homeward

The last shot that memorable day has gone down in football history as "Brosnan's Famous Kick."


Implacable Rivals

In those days - and for years afterwards until the Maroons' post-war decline - Fitzroy and Collingwood were not only two of the greatest football powers in the land, but also implacable rivals, whose clashing always produced inspired football, stirring and strenuous, with a desperately close finish.

When the Magpies, with then startling new system, were flashing meteorically through the 1802 season -in a dazzling sequence of victories, it looked as if no team could live against them—not even their proud neighborly foes — the dashing Maroons.

It was though Collingwood were practicing witchcraft with the ball. Their smooth yet highly devastating system. which was revolutionising the game and paralysing powerful opponents, there seemed to be no effective counter—until Fitzroy devised one, and performed what at the time, had the appearance of a football miracle.

In one of the semi-finals of 1902 came the thunderbolt Collingwood the supposedly invincible team, met their Waterloo at the hands of Fitzroy – only then a less formidable side on paper and performances.

With superb tenacity the Maroons won the semi-final by 9-10 to 6-12 by the absurdly simple process of sticking to the Magpies man for man, like glue all day. That broke up the much vaunted system.


Not that the victory carried Fitzroy in 1902. They went under to Essendon is the preliminary final. But they had a ___ enduring fame as the first to vanquish the new Collingwood.

The superlative football combination Collingwood their confidence quickly restored crushed Essendon in the grand final, and won the 1902 flag.

And so in 1903 Collingwood, although a crack team and perfecting their system and able to overcome most opposition were never Fitzroy’s masters


Evenly Matched!

Indeed, of such equal strength were Collingwood. the systematic, and Fitzroy the dashing dare-devils, that the slightest bit of luck could sway the result when they clashed. In the home and home competition each beat the other once— Fitzroy winning at Sydney by 7.20 to 6.9 and Collingwood at Victoria Park by 8.8 to 5.6.

When the "final four" was decided, the 1903 League Ladder was:—

SportingGlobe 29 May1937 P8
SportingGlobe 29 May1937 P8


The two 1903 League semi-finals were played on the one afternoon. Fitzroy drubbed by 11-15 (81) to 4-5 (29) at the M.C.G. but Collingwood hard pressed by Carlton in a low scoring game at Fitzroy scraped home by only four points 4-3 (27) to 3-5 (23).

Thus Collingwood and Fitzroy, outstanding teams of the season appropriately met in the final match at the Melbourne cricket ground on Saturday, September 12, 1903.


It was to be a final in actual fact, for the playing-off system was different to what it is now. There was only a “grand final” when a team defeated in a “final” still had more points for the season than their conquerors’ every win whether in home and home matches or the finals counting four points. This peculiar old method gave rise to the so-called “right of Challenge”

Mystery Player

The team in the 1903 final, as published in The Herald that night, were:—

COLLINGWOOD
Backs: G Lockwood. "Wilson," A E. Dummett
Half'-backs: Fell, J. Monohan, . R. Rush
Centres: C Pannam, McCorrmack. E.Drohan.
Half-forwards: E. RowelL E. Lockwood, L. Tulloch (c)
Forwards: A Leach, Addison. Pears.
Followers: J. Incoll, G. Angus
Rover: Dick Condon

FITZROY
Backs: AIf Sharp. Naismith. Barker
Half-backs: Jenkins. Jim Sharp. Fontaine.
Centres- Millis. Clarke. Beecham.
Half-forwards: C Kiernan. Bert Sharpe. G. Brosnan (c)
Forwards: McSpearin. Brophy Wilkinson
Followers: Milne. Walker.
Rover: Trotter.

Umpire:Gibson.

"Wilson." the mystery player in -Collingwood’s team was none other than Bill Proudfoot, their famous full-back. He was a policeman at the time and it is believed that the question of leave from the force had something to do with his nom-de-plume in the published team.


At such a pitch of fever heat was the public interest in the play-off between the two champion teams that the turnstiles broke down under the press of the then enormous crowd of 32,363, who paid £838. Admission was 6d to the outer – where many engulfed in a solid morass of humanity, saw nothing of the game – and 1/6 to the stand. Football was cheaper then. For one thing, it was before the era of that modern vexation, the entertainment tag.

What a titanic struggle that unforgettable final was: With a premiership at stake, every one of the 36 thoroughbred footballers was stirred to noble endeavour. Every minute was hard and fast, and vivid with life and action – and rousing football. Running through it all , like a blood-red streak, was that stern note of grimness, engendered by the importance of the occasion.



Like two powerful wrestlers of equal strength and cleverness locked together with neither able to gain an advantage, the two sides fought on resolutely with rare courage and skill.

Slender Lead

Securing a lead of one point in the first quarter. Collingwood thereafter remained in front until the final bell but never at any stage were they more than five points ahead. All along the Maroons hung on with bulldog tenacity and a stroke of luck at any time would have given them ascendency.

Then with less than 60 seconds to go Gerald Brosnan, 35 yards away in front of the railway end goal took that famous mark from Wilkinson.

Brosnan and Chris Kiernan, two Fitzroy half-forwards were close together when the ball came. Had they had time to think, they might have decided that it would be more profitable for Kiernan to shepherd while Brosnan ran in toward goal for a close kick. Proudfoot was back in goal and there was only one other Collingwood defender between them and that precious goal, which meant victory and the premiership. But they knew that time was almost up and could not take the risk. If the whole of the 17 other Fitzroy players could have nominated the player to have that shot, it is safe to say they would have unanimously chosen Gerald Brosnan for he was a wonderful accurate kick.

In those days, when goals were mostly kicked from centre half-forward he was Fitzroy’s recognised goalkicker, enjoying the left-foot drop-kick.

For His Captaincy!

Still suffering from a shoulder injury - which had kept him out of some previous games — he played in the semi-final and final only, at the wish of the selectors and his team who all valued his leadership/ He went on the half-forward flank both times.
When Brosnan took his shot on what he must depend, he could feel a breeze where he stood. He was almost in front of goal, in line with the post on his right.

SportingGlobe 29 May1937 P8 Jim Sharp
SportingGlobe 29 May1937 P8 Jim Sharp

Jim Sharp, champion centre-half back, who played for Fitzroy from 1901 to 1910. and for Collingwood in 1911 and 1912.

So he aimed straight for the middle of the goal. His shot was true. As players in front of goal and people behind it watched the ball in flight, they all though that it was going to be a goal – until the wind higher up caught the ball and swung it a hair’s breadth or so to the outside of the left-hand (south-most) goal post.

Before the behind was signalled players at the other end were convinced that it was a goal. Fitzroy backs danced in joy, while the Magpie forwards looked forlorn. When only one flag went uo however, the dancing Maroons instantly became dejected-looking statues, and the Woodsmen suddenly acquired astonishing animation.

Ever afterwards. Bill Proudfoot, the goal custodian, always vowed that the shot was such a close thing that the lace of the ball actually flicked the goal pist – he heard it! Later Bill ran an hotel at Werribee until his death.


As they were carried in shoulder high |or trudged wearily off. players were utterly worn out after the most gruelling game in the history of the League, made all the more arduous by the heat and the hard turf.

Sun-Stroke!

Jim Sharp. _ Fitzroy's champion centre half-back collapsed from exhaustion as he was leaving the field When he regained consciousness at 9:30 that night he was laying on a stretcher out in the arena at the ground, with Dr. Agnew attending him. "A case of sun-stroke or heat apoplexy" was the doctor's veridict'! This emphasised the state of the weather that day.

Scores quarter by Quarter in the 1903 final were:-

Team 1 2 3 Final
Collingwood 2.3 3.4 3.6 4.7 (31)
Fitzroy 2.2 2.5 2.8 3.11 (29)


Goal-kickers:
Collingwood: Addison (2), Condon (1), E.Lockwood (1)
Fitzroy: Milne (1), McSprerrin (1), Millis (1)
A highlight of the match was that after Millis on the wing, was injured, Percy Trotter, Fitzroy’s incomparable rover was pitted against the great Charlie Pannam there and more than checked him.

Mickey Sharp roving brightly for the Gorillas this season, is a son of Alf Sharp, one of Fitzroy's heroes in, the 1903 final when he played in a back pocket.

^That was Gerald Brosnan's first of four illustrious years as captain of Fitzroy.In the next two seasons be led them to two premierships, and then a runners-up to Carlton in 1906.

Nowadays Gerald retains his interest with the game he played—and loves – so well
by describing the big match each week for The Sun News-Pictorial


END

Editors Note

The players in the team lists in this article are from the newspaper list (as stated above). The actual teams on the day were slightly different. There were some positional changes at Collingwood, but the Fitzroy team included a few different players. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1903_VFL_Grand_Final.

Collingwood Images

1904 VFL Footballers - Series A - Proudfoot - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1904 VFL Footballers - Series A - Proudfoot - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series - Condon - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series - Condon - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series -Pannam - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series -Pannam - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards


Punch Melbourne 21 May 1903 P24 Collingwood
Punch Melbourne 21 May 1903 P24 Collingwood


Fitzroy Images

1904 VFL Footballers - Series A - Sharpe - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1904 VFL Footballers - Series A - Sharpe - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series B - Brosnan - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series B - Brosnan - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series B - Sharp - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
1905 VFL Footballers Series B - Sharp - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards


Punch Melbourne 21 May 1903 P24 Fitzroy
Punch Melbourne 21 May 1903 P24 Fitzroy


Grand Final Images

Leader19 Sep 1903 P35 Grand Final
Leader19 Sep 1903 P35 Grand Final


Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 1
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 1

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 2
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 2

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 3
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 3

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 4
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 4

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 5
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 5

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 6
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 6

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 7
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 7

Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 8
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P14 8


Punch 17 Sep 1903 P15
Punch 17 Sep 1903 P15






Boyles Website Newsletter

Just us sending out an email when we post a new article.
Image


Image