This article originally appeared in the Sporting Globe (Melbourne) 15-Jun-1935 p8


Great Football Dramas No. 8 - Association Coup which Brought 40,000 to the M.C.G. £1000 Gate for Final



Imagine 40,00 at an Association football final and a £1000 gate. Present-day we’d poop-poop the mere suggestion. Never, Absurd, Impossible

Yet it once… ………….. happening. That was when Footscray and Brunswick played off on the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday, August 31, 1908 – the public holiday during American Fleet Week.


The attendance was 40,000. Of these 33,700 paid £ 1,074/8 for admission – an Association record for both attendance and takings that stands to this day.

Forty thousand spectators! A vivid contrast to the 12,000 at the Association Grand Final in 1933, and the 3,000 at the fiasco at the Showgrounds last season.

American Fleet Week in 1908 threw then staid Melbourne into an unprecedented whir of gaiety and sport. To a tumultuous welcome, Rear-Admiral Sperry’s fleet sailed up Port Phillip Bay on Saturday August 29, 1908. That began a hectic carnival week. Melbourne literally went mad. There was sport galore – races, Royal Show, the Australian Football Carnival, a great fight between Tommy Burns USA and Bill Lang. Aust. in South Melbourne Stadium, which Burns won in six rounds, to mention only a few of the attractions

A Master-Stroke

With imagination and business acumen, the Victorian Football Association with that great secretary Tom Evans at the helm, capitalised the unparalleled sporting fervour sweeping the metropolis by engaging the Melbourne Cricket Ground – hitherto the close preserve of the League – for their final match and playing it on the public holiday when there was no serious counter attraction. It was a master-stroke, which brought the Association a windfall in revenue and raised its prestige, somewhat challenged by the transfer of Richmond to the League at the start of the season.

Sporting Globe 15-Jun-1935 p8 TJ Evans
Sporting Globe 15-Jun-1935 p8 TJ Evans


The Association home and home matches in 1908 finished -

TEAM WDLPTS
Footscray (P)151262
Essendon121550
Williamstown120648
Brunswick120648
Prahran111646
Brighton801032
Port Melbourne611126
Preston411318
North Melbourne401416
Northcote311414


Both semi-finals were played on the same Saturday afternoon Brunswick (5.16) defeated Essendon (5.7) before 10,000 at Carlton and 12,000 saw Footscray (6.9) vanquish Williamstown (4.6) at North Melbourne.

Then on the Monday week when all Melbourne was en fete came the “final”. Footscray as home and home leaders had the double chance but as it happened, did not need it.

Unprecedented Crowds


Melbourne that day was packed as never before in its history. Trains alone carried 400.000 passengers. In the morning American sailors and marines marched through dense masses of cheering humanity to the Exhibition. It was one of Melbourne's unpleasant days, with a choppy Northerly. As a writer at the time feeling observed: "Their throats were parched in a fashion that was torture to a sailor!"

The procession over, vast crowds rushed to amusement. Theatres and picture shows were swamped More than 10,000 went to the Show and thousands swarmed to the Association final, just as Tom Evans and other officials had foreseen.

The teams were –

FOOTSCRAY
Backs: B. Neilsen, Harris, Greenwood
Half-Backs: Servior, Marmo, McCarthy
Centres: Hansen, Clark, Stewart
Half-forward: Launder. Egan, Elliott
Forwards: Hutchinson, Neylon, McKinley (c)
Follower: Gregory
Rover: Cotton.

BRUNSWICK
Backs: H. Balfe, Abbott, Leeds
Half-backs: Fischer, Monahan, McKenzie (c)
Centres: R. Balfe, Chase. S. Balfe
Half-forwards: L. Braid. Clements,
Forwards: Thomas, Everett, Pears.
Follower: Stancliffe
Rover: H Braid.
The umpire was debonair Tim Lane.
He did a fine job

In those days the Association played only 17 men per side ostensibly to avoid congestion in the ruck. There was only one follower – on paper. On the field there were always two, one usually being “stolen” from the forward lines. The idea was abandoned after a thorough trial.

Despite the wind, which tended to force play toward one wing, fine football was shown. The crowd got value for their money and the Association a splendid advertisement.

Fanfare of Bells

When Footscray appeared their supporters waved red white and blue flags, with which they had a few hours previously greeted the Americans. Brunswick barrackers welcomed their team with a fanfare of “clayhole” bells – the popular “music” of the district.

Led by that peerless playing coach and master tactician Dookie McKenzie, Brunswick Speedy and scientific were proceeding to give their doughty opponents a football lesson when, in a dash H. Balfe fell and broke his arm. That left Brunswick with only 16 men for there was no replacement then. Against such a strong combination as Footscray, the handicap was too great, and though they fought it out heroically, Brunswick were gradually worn down. Footscray won the memorable match, and with it the 1908 Association premiership. Final scores were 9.10 (64) to 6.4 (40)

Amusement was provided when Gregory (F), the biggest man on the ground and Thomas (B) the smallest, were at loggerheads.

Goal-Kicker’s Blank

The sensation of the match was that Jack Hutchinson, champion goal-kicker of Footscray and the Association, never got a goal and indeed hardly had a kick so well was he watched by Leo Leeds. Hutchinson was stationed in a forward pocket, just as Bob Pratt (Sth. Melb.) was last Saturday, but for once at any rate, the dodge did not work.

Hutchinson’s tally for the season was 68 – some 20 ahead of the 1908 total of Dick Lee (Collingwood), the League champion goal-getter of that and other great seasons.
For Footscray, Neilson, Tom Sevior and Joe Marmo, were staunch defenders; Clarke shone in the centre; Launder and Elliott excelled forward; Neylon was effective in the ruck: Roy Cotton, as usual, roved smartly; and “Chinga” Harris, wearing his famous cap was a safe full-back.

Dookie McKenzie, cool and clever, led his side superbly against the odds; Henry Chase, “the flying machine.” Was speedy and elusive in the centre; Stancliffe, Thomas, Pears, H. Brand, the Balfes, Fischer, Leeds and Monahan all distinguished themselves.

“Least We Forget”

Brunswick Football Club have not forgotten the 18 years’ wonderful service which Harry Chase gave them until he retired in 1919. He was recently in hospital with a serious illness. Brunswick are raising a testimonial for him. He deserves it.

On the Saturday after the 1908 Association final, the Australasian Football Carnival ended on the MCG ground with Victoria champions, Tasmania second, Western Australia third, New Zealand fourth, South Australia fifth, New south Wales sixth, and Queensland seventh. Bus as the weaker states did not meet Victoria, the list does not reflect merit accurately.

The following Saturday the League final, in which Carlton 5.5. (35) defeated Essendon 3.8 (26) for the 1908 premiership, attracted 50,000, who contributed £1791 – both records for a football match in Victoria up to that time. The then Australian record however was 55,000, at a Rugby match in Sydney.


END

Editors Note


Association Grand Final crowd of 47,098 in 1939 exceeded that of the 1908 Final.

Read more about the American Fleet's tour of the World in 1908 on wikipedia


Leader Melbourne 04 Jul 1908 P28 Brunswick
Leader Melbourne 04 Jul 1908 P28 Brunswick


Leader Melbourne 20 Jun 1908 P27 Footscray
Leader Melbourne 20 Jun 1908 P27 Footscray


Leader 5 Sep 1908 Supplement
Leader 5 Sep 1908 Supplement


Age 1 Sep 1908 P7
Age 1 Sep 1908 P7
Age 31 Aug 1908 P7
Age 31 Aug 1908 P7
Argus 1 Sep 1908 P7
Argus 1 Sep 1908 P7
Argus 31 Aug 1908 P13
Argus 31 Aug 1908 P13
Australasian 5 Sep 1908 P34 Arrival
Australasian 5 Sep 1908 P34 Arrival
Australasian 5 Sep 1908 P36 Arrival
Australasian 5 Sep 1908 P36 Arrival
Australasian 5 Sep 1908 P38 Arrival
Australasian 5 Sep 1908 P38 Arrival
Chinese Times Melbourne 12 Sep 1908 P13 American Fleet
Chinese Times Melbourne 12 Sep 1908 P13 American Fleet
Leader 19 Sep 1908 P27 Governor Generals Arrival
Leader 19 Sep 1908 P27 Governor Generals Arrival
Leader 19 Sep 1908 P28 Baseball At The MCG American Fleet V Australia
Leader 19 Sep 1908 P28 Baseball At The MCG American Fleet V Australia
Leader 30 May 1908 P26 Visit Of The American Fleet
Leader 30 May 1908 P26 Visit Of The American Fleet
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P23 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P23 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P24 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P24 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P25 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P25 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P26 27 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P26 27 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P28 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P28 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P29 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P29 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P30 Welcome
Leader 5 Sep 1908 P30 Welcome
Punch 22 Sep 1908 P7
Punch 22 Sep 1908 P7
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P1
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P1
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P29
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P29
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P30
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P30
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P31
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P31
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P33
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P33
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P34
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P34
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P37
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P37
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P38
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P38
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P39
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P39
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P41
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P41
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P5
Punch 3 Sep 1908 P5


Punch Melbourne 29 Aug 1908 P30
Punch Melbourne 29 Aug 1908 P30



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