1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris
1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris

Four Geelong players and four Footscray players captured at the MCG during the 1956 VFL First Semi Final by visiting New Zealand photographer Raymond Morris. Three of the Geelong four are easily identified - left to right: Noel Rayson (No 27), Fred Wooller (No 3) and Bruce Ferrari (No 18). The Footscray defender sticking close to Noel Rayson is Jim Gallagher, a member of the Footscray/Western Bulldogs Team of the Century.


1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris
1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris

A struggle between Geelong and Footscray players on the MCG members’ wing as captured by visiting New Zealand photographer Raymond Morris during the 1956 VFL First Semi Final.

(For further comment on the above two photos – see below).

The article below provides a more detailed examination of Geelong Football Club’s 1956 season than my article ‘Catapult – On Top and Loving It (1950-1956)’.1 The 1956 season was something of a watershed in the fortunes of the Geelong Football Club. The Cats appeared in the VFL finals for the seventh time in a row but difficult times were ahead. 1956 proved to be their last Finals appearance until 1962. I have examined some of the possible reasons for the club’s on-field decline in my trilogy. Some of the reasons lie just beneath the surface of their seemingly positive performances in 1956. Let us start by reminding ourselves of how the Cats fared in 1955.

Geelong Team - The Argus 1955
Geelong Team - The Argus 1955


After the club’s inglorious finish to the 1954 VFL season, Geelong (under new skipper Bob Davis) roared back into premiership calculations again in 1955.2 The Cats were not expected to thrive in ‘55. They had lost, through retirement, a significantly large number of former premiership stars in the off-season, and the retirement of Fred Flanagan after Round Four of the new season was an unexpected shock.3This was an exceptionally young team – at least seven teenagers played for The Pivot in 1955.4 Yet Geelong occupied second place on the ladder after Rounds Seven and Thirteen and completed the home-and-away season in third place (14-4, 122.8%). To then reach the Preliminary Final, Geelong exceeded all expectations. For most of the season the praise heaped on the team by the press pundits was reminiscent of 1952.5 Further obstacles were encountered as the finals approached. Captain Bob Davis dislocated his shoulder in Round Sixteen and missed the rest of the season. Harry Herbert broke a leg in Round 18.6 The Cats, seemingly depleted but still impressive and speedy, prevailed in the first semi-final against Essendon. Though favoured to win, they then crashed at the penultimate hurdle against a relentless Collingwood.7 Geelong nevertheless had cause to feel proud. Noel Rayson topped the VFL goal-kicking with 80 goals. Geoff Williams won his second Geelong best and fairest award. Ron Hovey and Peter Pianto represented Victoria. Apart from Baumgartner and Flanagan, only four players – Howard Hawking, John McMahon, Russell Middlemiss and Bert Worner – would not play again for the Cats.

1955 Geelong captain Bob Davis - Source:1954 Argus
1955 Geelong captain Bob Davis - Source:1954 Argus
1955 VFL leading goalkicker Noel Rayson Source:1954 Coles Series B
1955 VFL leading goalkicker Noel Rayson Source:1954 Coles Series B
 Geoff Williams Source:1954 Argus
Geoff Williams Source:1954 Argus
Peter Pianto Source:1955 Coles Series
Peter Pianto Source:1955 Coles Series

Geelong Senior Team 1955 - by Charles Boyles - Source: Private Collection 001
Geelong Senior Team 1955 - by Charles Boyles - Source: Private Collection 001

Back row: Bert Worner, Ken Cameron, Bruce Ferrari, John McMahon, Russell Renfrey, Bob Wiltshire, Norm Sharp, Harry Herbert.
Centre row: Ron Hovey, Ken Beardsley, Bernie Smith, Bob Davis, Les Borrack, Noel Rayson, Matt Goggin, Max Sutcliffe.
Front row: Glen Bow, Clive Brown, John O’Neill, Neil Trezise.


Geelong got off to a flying start and won the first four matches in 1956, although this was against relatively easy opposition. They then faced the 1955 Grand Finalists in successive weeks and lost both games (although only narrowly to 1955 premiers Melbourne). The Cats thereafter shifted to a higher gear and won nine of their next ten games. Fine wins against Essendon, North Melbourne and Melbourne suggested the Cats were genuine premiership contenders. After 16 rounds, Geelong, with thirteen wins and a healthy percentage of 132.5%, was second on the VFL ladder (behind only Melbourne, and ahead of Collingwood, Carlton and Footscray). The Cats had continued to enjoy their fabled home-ground advantage and, to that stage of the season, had not been beaten at home. However, two bad late-season losses (to Collingwood at Kardinia Park and Essendon at Windy Hill) meant Geelong handed the ‘double chance’ in the finals to arch-rivals Collingwood. Both finished with thirteen wins but Collingwood’s percentage was superior (125.9% to 121.9%). The Cats encountered a tough Footscray team in the first semi-final. The match was truly extraordinary. Only one single goal (Footscray’s) was scored after half-time. Geelong managed a mere three behinds! In a torrid last quarter, the Dogs just prevailed. The nasty third-quarter (accidental) collision between team-mates Bob Davis and Norm Sharp seemed to sum up the Cats’ horrible day. Bernie Smith was 1956 best and fairest. John O'Neill and Peter Pianto represented Victoria. Veteran Russell Renfrey retired after Round Fourteen. He had played 201 games and kicked 165 goals. Other players to bow out after 1956 were Ken Beardsley (25 games), Max Sutcliffe (24), Ken Cameron (22), Jim Roberts (21), Glen Bow (14) and Geoff Umbers (7).

Argus 14 Apr 1956 P11 JackMcMurray
Argus 14 Apr 1956 P11 JackMcMurray

Geelong Players 1956

Matches Name
19 Neil Trezise, John O'Connell, Ron Hovey, Bob Gazzard, Bruce Ferrari, Bob Davis (captain).
18 Les Borrack, Bernie Smith, Geoff Williams
17 John O'Neill, Peter Pianto, Norm Sharp
16 Noel Rayson
14 Russell Renfrey (vice-captain), Bob Wiltshire
13 Bruce Bartle (recruit, East Geelong).
12 Fred Wooller (recruit, Bacchus Marsh).
11 Roger Bullen.
9 Max Sutcliffe
8 John Haygarth
7 Clive Brown, Matt Goggin
6 John Goldsmith (recruit, Hamilton), Fred Le Deux (recruit, Goroke), George McGrath (recruit, Warrnambool), Geoff Umbers.
5 Ken Beardsley, Glen Bow
4 Les May (recruit, Seconds), Bernie Ryan (recruit, Yarrawonga).
2 Ken Cameron, John Helmer, Harry Herbert
1 Eric Nicholls (recruit, East Geelong), Jim Roberts.8

Eric Nicholls started his career with Geelong as a sixteen year old. (Note that this card is a 1962 Coca-Cola card.)
Eric Nicholls started his career with Geelong as a sixteen year old. (Note that this card is a 1962 Coca-Cola card.)

Geelong - Most Goals 1956
Rayson 41, O'Connell 29, Trezise 27, Pianto 21, Ferrari 21, Davis 17, Bullen 13, Wooller 10.

Played In Premiership Matches (second column refers to consecutive matches)
Played In Premiership Matches (second column refers to consecutive matches)


Round One – Won against South Melbourne by 27 points (away) 11-11 to 7-8

Selected team:

B: Ron HoveyBob GazzardRussell Renfrey
HB: Bernie SmithGeorge McGrathGeoff Williams
C: Clive Brown Les BorrackJohn O'Neill
HF: Bob Davis Fred WoollerKen Beardsley
For:John O'ConnellNoel RaysonNeil Trezise
Foll: Norm SharpBob WiltshirePeter Pianto
19/20Max SutcliffeBruce Ferrari

Emerg – Ken Cameron.

Best – Pianto, Wooller, Borrack, Sharp, Trezise, Hovey.
Goals - Wooller 4, Ferrari 2, O'Connell 2, Trezise 2, Rayson 1.

Round Two – Won against North Melbourne by 88 points (home) 16-14 to 2-10
Selection: In – May, Umbers. Out – Brown, Rayson.
Best – Wiltshire, Williams, Hovey, Renfrey, Borrack, Trezise.
Goals - Wiltshire 4, Trezise 3, Ferrari 3, O'Connell 2, Davis 2, Beardsley 1, Wooller 1.

Round Three – Won against Hawthorn by 12 points (away) 16-16 to 15-10
Selection: In – Bartle, Cameron, Goldsmith. Out – McGrath, May, Sutcliffe.
Best – Trezise, O'Neill, Pianto, Sharp, Smith, Hovey
Goals - Pianto 3, O'Connell 3, Ferrari 3, Wooller 2, Davis 2, Sharp 1, Trezise 1, Umbers 1.

Round Four – Won against Richmond by 32 points (home) 15-13 to 10-11
Selection: In – Rayson. Out – Beardsley.
Best – Williams, Borrack, Rayson, Pianto, Hovey, Trezise.
Goals - Rayson 4, Pianto 2, Ferrari 2, Borrack 1, Davis 1, O'Connell 1. Renfrey 1, Trezise 1, Umbers 1, Wiltshire 1.

Round Five – Lost to Melbourne by 8 points (away) 6-12 to 6-20
Selection: In – Haygarth, McGrath. Out – Bartle, Cameron.
Best – Pianto, Davis, Wiltshire, Sharp, Hovey, Gazzard.
Goals - Rayson 2, Pianto 2, Davis 2.

Round Six – Lost to Collingwood by 41 points (away) 2-14 to 10-7
Selection: In – Beardsley, Le Deux, May, Roberts, Sutcliffe. Out – Pianto, Sharp, Wooller, McGrath, Umbers.
Best – Smith, O'Connell, Renfrey, Williams, Hovey, Davis.
Goals - Davis 1, O'Connell 1.

Round Seven – Won against Essendon by 50 points (home) 15-17 to 8-9
Selection: In – Pianto, Sharp, Wooller, McGrath, Bartle, Brown, Helmer. Out – Beardsley, Goldsmith, Haygarth, Le Deux, May, Roberts, Sutcliffe.
Best – Pianto, Ferrari, O'Connell, Davis, Bartle, Hovey.
Goals - Trezise 3, O'Connell 3, Rayson 2, Ferrari 2, Bartle 2, Davis 1, Pianto 1, Wooller 1.

Round Eight – Won against Fitzroy by 22 points (home) 11-12 to 8-8
Selection: In – Umbers. Out – Borrack.
Best – Smith, Gazzard, Renfrey, Sharp, Williams, Pianto (first half), Trezise (first half).
Goals - Rayson 3, O'Connell 3, Davis 1, Pianto 1, Renfrey 1, Sharp 1, Trezise 1.

Round Nine – Won against Carlton by 1 point (away) 12-8 to 11-13
Selection: In – Borrack, Bullen, Goldsmith. Out – Helmer, Umbers, Wooller.
Best – Trezise, Sharp, Smith, Ferrari, O'Neill, Pianto, Hovey.
Goals - Trezise 3, Sharp 2, Rayson 2, O'Neill 2, Ferrari 2, Borrack 1.

Round Ten – Lost to Footscray by 22 points (away) 10-8 to 13-12
Selection: In – Beardsley, Goggin, Haygarth, Nicholls. Out – O'Neill (interstate rep.), Pianto (interstate rep.), Brown, McGrath.
Best – Williams, Sharp, Smith, Goggin, Hovey, Trezise. (O'Neill, Pianto – interstate).
Goals -Rayson 4, Trezise 3, Borrack 1, Bullen 1, Ferrari 1.

Round Eleven – Won against St.Kilda by 5 points (home) 9-8 to 8-9
Selection: In – O'Neill, Pianto, Wooller, LeDeux. Out – Beardsley, Goldsmith, Nicholls, Wiltshire.
Best – Sharp, Smith, Pianto, O'Neill, Williams, Rayson, O'Connell, Hovey.
Goals - Rayson 4, Bullen 2, Bartle 1, O'Connell 1, Trezise 1.

Round Twelve – Won against South Melbourne by 41 points (home) 10-7 to 3-8
Selection: In – Bow, May. Out – Wooller, Haygarth.
Best – Williams, Smith, O'Neill, Trezise, Renfrey, Pianto.
Goals - Bullen 2, Rayson 2, Trezise 2, Davis 1, Ferrari 1, O'Connell 1, Pianto 1.

Round Thirteen – Won against North Melbourne by 82 points (away) 19-15 to 7-5
Selection: NO CHANGE.
Quarter by Quarter: Geelong 2.2, 6.8, 10.13, 19.15. North 3.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5.
Best – Bullen, Rayson, Pianto, O'Neill, Williams, Trezise, Davis.
Goals - Rayson 9, Davis 3, Pianto 2, Trezise 2, Bullen 1, O'Connell 1, Sharp 1.

Round Fourteen – Won against Hawthorn by 11 points (home) 12-13 to 10-14
Selection: In – Ryan, Sutcliffe. Out – Bartle, May.
Best – O'Connell, Hovey, Sharp, Rayson, Smith, Pianto.
Goals - Rayson 5, Trezise 2, Bow 1, Davis 1, Ferrari 1, O'Connell 1, Pianto 1.

Round Fifteen – Won against Richmond by 14 points (away) 11-13 to 9-11
Selection: In – Wiltshire, Wooller, Bartle, Haygarth. Out – Renfrey (retired), O'Neill, Bow, LeDeux.
Best – Pianto, Sharp, Smith, Hovey, O'Connell, Davis.
Goals - O'Connell 4, Trezise 2, Pianto 2, Bullen 1, Ferrari 1, Ryan 1.

Round Sixteen – Won against Melbourne by 2 points (home) 8-10 to 8-8
Selection: In – Herbert, O'Neill. Out – Rayson, Goggin.
Best – Smith, Gazzard, Borrack, Davis, O'Neill, Sharp.
Goals - Herbert 2, Ferrari 2, Bullen 1, Davis 1, O'Connell 1, Pianto 1.

Round Seventeen – Lost to Collingwood by 32 points (home) 10-9 to 15-11
Selection: In – Rayson, Bow, Brown. Out – Wooller, Sharp, Haygarth.
Best – Williams, Borrack, Trezise, O'Neill, Bullen, Pianto (first half).
Goals - Bullen 2, O'Connell 2, Pianto 2, Davis 1, Rayson 1, Sutcliffe 1, Trezise 1.

Round Eighteen – Lost to Essendon by 28 points (away) 9-15 to 14-13
Selection: In – Sharp, Wooller, Haygarth, Le Deux, Umbers. Out – Smith, Herbert, Ryan, Bartle, Bow.
Best – Pianto, Sharp, Rayson, Davis, Haygarth, O'Neill.
Goals - Pianto 3, O'Connell 2, Bullen 2, Ferrari 1, Rayson 1.

Geelong thus made the VFL Finals for the seventh year in a row. The Cats finished in third place on the home-and-away ladder with thirteen wins, two more wins than fourth-placed Footscray. Geelong faced the Bulldogs in the First Semi Final at the MCG on Saturday August 25. (The VFL finals series started earlier in 1956 to allow the MCG to be upgraded in time for the Olympics). For an examination of Geelong’s First Semi Final tussle with Footscray, see below.

Collingwood's Mick Twomey marking against Geelong's Norm Sharp and Bruce Morrison in 1953 VFL Grand Final. - Source:Cover of The Footy Story (Argus 1956)
Collingwood's Mick Twomey marking against Geelong's Norm Sharp and Bruce Morrison in 1953 VFL Grand Final. - Source:Cover of The Footy Story (Argus 1956)

Geelong’s Best Players 1956 (unofficial).

The players named as Geelong’s ‘best’ in the match results above were those chosen by The Argus football writers.

I have calculated the eighteen-match aggregate (six ‘votes’ for first named down to one ‘vote’ for sixth-named) as follows:

Pianto 50, Smith 44, Sharp 43, Williams 39, Trezise 26, Hovey 25, O'Neill 24, Borrack 20, Rayson 18, O'Connell 18, Davis 17, Renfrey 13, Gazzard 11, Wiltshire 10, Ferrari 8, Bullen 8, Wooller 5, Matt Goggin 3, Bartle 2, Haygarth 2.


Why did Geelong’s 1956 premiership campaign falter? A closer examination of two of the most interesting matches of 1956 might offer some clues.



After losing the Round Five match against Melbourne and the Round Six match against Collingwood, the Geelong team performed like a well-oiled machine for the next ten Rounds, losing only once (to Footscray). Even allowing for Geelong’s home ground advantage, the club’s victory at home against 1955 premiers Melbourne in Round Sixteen must have been particularly gratifying. After this match Geelong seemed credible contenders for the 1956 flag. The Cats were second on the ladder and had just beaten the top team. Then the wheels fell off. The Cats lost the last two matches of the season and surrendered the double chance in the Finals to Collingwood.

The win against Melbourne concealed some essential weaknesses. One of the team’s key problems was revealed at selection. Full-forward Noel Rayson had topped the VFL goalkicking in 1955 with 80 goals. Since then most Cats supporters would have just assumed Rayson was an indispensable player and an integral part of the team. Though not nearly as devastating in 1956, Rayson had nevertheless been in good form, kicking nine goals against North Melbourne in Round Thirteen and five goals against Hawthorn in Round Fourteen. After fifteen Rounds of the season he was second on the VFL goalkicking list with 38 goals (to St. Kilda’s Bill Young with 45). Many were therefore shocked to wake up on the day before the Melbourne match and discover he had been dropped.9

As Percy Taylor reported in The Argus:

‘Geelong sprang one of the season’s biggest selection shocks last night when Noel Rayson was dropped and ruckman Harry Herbert came in for his first senior game of the year…….as FULL FORWARD. Herbert has not played in a League game since he broke his leg against Carlton last year. This is the second time Rayson has been dropped this year although he is second on the goal-kicking list to Bill Young of St.Kilda’.10

The omission of Rayson was a shock, and it was soon followed by another – the shock of his resignation.

Percy Taylor again:

‘Annoyed at being omitted from the Geelong team to meet Melbourne today, Noel Rayson, full forward, has resigned from the club. In his letter of resignation he said only that he wished to resign as a playing member. But he told me last night he considered the club had been unfair to him. ‘I know I ‘went bad’ in the first games this season and have no kick at being out for the next two games. But I have done reasonably well since. After all, I’m second on the League list of goalkickers. Other players in the team are not doing very well, but are still there. I’m very concerned at the attitude of the selectors, and I’ve ‘had it’. Rayson would like to play with another League club next season. ‘After all’, he said, ‘I’m only 23’. 11

Bob Muntz, a life-long passionate Geelong supporter who still travels from Melbourne to attend Geelong’s home games at Kardinia Park, was an eight-year-old boy growing up in Colac when he attended his first match at Kardinia Park in 1956. Here he recalls how he felt after learning of Rayson’s omission:

It was 1956, three weeks before the finals. Geelong, second on the ladder, was about to play Melbourne, ladder leaders and reigning premiers. I was an eight year old on my way to see my first game at Kardinia Park; I could barely contain my excitement. I had spent the whole season just listening each Saturday to Ivor Grundy and Leo O’Halloran call the games on 3GL. At last I was going to see a real game.

The discussion among the adults during our car trip from Colac was pessimistic – how could Geelong win without full forward Noel Rayson, Geelong’s leading goal kicker for the past two seasons. The selectors had stunned everyone by dropping Rayson on Thursday night, and then he stunned us even more by resigning from the club next day.12 This internal dissent did not bode well for the finals campaign. His replacement, Harry Herbert, was a ruckman, not a key forward. They should have placed full back Bob Gazzard at full forward, and put Herbert in the backline, someone said. But hope springs eternal in most football supporters, especially an eight year old boy to whom all the players are champions, whatever their pedigree. I knew we could win.13

The match

The Geelong team to play Melbourne (as selected):

B:Ron Hovey Bob GazzardBob Wiltshire
HB:Bernie Smith Bruce BartleGeoff Williams
C:John O'NeillLes Borrack Bernie Ryan
HF:Bruce FerrariRoger BullenBob Davis
For:John O'ConnellHarry HerbertNeil Trezise
Foll:Norm SharpMax SutcliffePeter Pianto
19/20:Fred WoollerJohn Haygarth

Emerg: Eric Nicholls
In: Harry Herbert, John O'Neill
Out: Matt Goggin, Noel Rayson

Bob Muntz remembers some of the highlights from an exciting match:

We found our spot on the Moorabool Street wing; three young boys perched on a wooden box in front of our fathers, atop the earthen mound which was all we had for a stand in the 1950’s. The winter sun shone, but not too hot, and there was not a breath of wind – a perfect day for football. Most adult spectators smoked in those days, and as the afternoon wore on a blue haze built up over the spectators on the western side of the ground, highlighted by the afternoon sun.

The players, particularly those in blue and white, all seemed like champions to a young boy like me. But I have vivid memories of Denis Cordner, the Melbourne ruckman, who often thumped the ball from centre bounces forty yards or more to the half forward line. Geelong, with a patched up side containing only eight players from its premiership teams of the early 1950’s, still seemed able to hold out the premiers. That is until a five goal last quarter burst from Melbourne began to look like an inevitable Demon victory. But Geelong had established a lead earlier in the game and was determined to hold on. The tension grew as Melbourne stormed forward yet one more time. Men pulled ancient fob pocket watches from their coats to check the remaining time. No scoreboard clocks then. The siren sounded with the ball in the air sailing towards the Melbourne goal square at the Barwon river end, with Geelong two points in front – 8.10.58 to 8.8.56. I went home filled with a warm inner glow that victory over formidable opposition always brings, and the prospect of an enthralling finals series to come. Maybe even another premiership.

Keith Connolly, football writer for The Argus, resorted to the most extreme hyperbole in his praise for the ‘noble deeds’ of Geelong defender Bernie Smith. Smith, he wrote, ‘WAS the two point margin’. The ‘stocky fair-haired bombshell’ was ‘at his greatest, gloriously reliving his Brownlow-winning heyday’. Connolly used up half his article space describing Smith’s ‘glorious last quarter’ and one particular spectacular mark to turn a Demon advance. He also singled out Geelong’s Bob Gazzard for ‘steel fingered marking and gigantic leaps to turn Demon drives’. Next to Smith the best player on the ground was Melbourne’s Denis Cordner whose ‘shattering ruck power’ and ‘blazing ruck work’ was responsible for his team’s ‘fierce’ last-quarter comeback. Connolly also mentioned Les Borrack (‘held sway in the centre’), John O'Neill (‘won on a wing’), half forwards Bob Davis and Bruce Ferrari (‘had moments of unquenchable superiority’) and the Geelong defence (‘in command for most of the game’). Presumably it was also Connolly who wrote the little piece about Bob Davis – ‘In one electrifying solo effort Davis swerved his way past five Demons, finished in the extreme forward pocket ‘corner’ and slammed through a goal with the deadpan efficiency of a gambler pumping coins into a slot machine’. 14

Connolly pointed to ‘an inexplicable reshuffle by Geelong’:

‘The Cats staggered supporters in the last quarter by switching Wiltshire – who had done more than any other ruckman to contain Cordner - to full forward and bringing Harry Herbert on to the ball. Herbert had been a moderately successful forward, getting two goals’.15

Clearly Herbert was seen as a stop-gap only at full forward. Geelong still needed to decide whether Noel Rayson was the answer at full-forward. They only had three weeks to find out.

Geelong 0.5, 3.9, 5.9, 8.10 defeated Melbourne 2.3, 3.5, 3.8, 8.8.
Scorers – Ferrari 2-2, Herbert 2-0, O'Connell 1-4, Davis 1-2, Pianto 1-1, Bullen 1-0.
Best (The Argus) – Smith, Gazzard, Borrack, Davis, O'Neill, Sharp.
Umpire – Nash.

Injuries - Pianto (knee) replaced by Haygarth in the last quarter, Ferrari (concussion) replaced by Wooller in the last quarter. Borrack (cork leg), Sharp (back), Sutcliffe (knee).

Melbourne full back Peter Marquis marking at Kardinia Park and landing on top of team mate Denis Cordner. John Beckwith (Melbourne) and Bob Wiltshire (Geelong) look on - Argus 6-Aug-1956 p19
Melbourne full back Peter Marquis marking at Kardinia Park and landing on top of team mate Denis Cordner. John Beckwith (Melbourne) and Bob Wiltshire (Geelong) look on - Argus 6-Aug-1956 p19

Match review

Round: 16 Venue: Kardinia Park Date: Sat, 4-Aug-1956 2:15 Attendance: 29,687 Takings: £3313

ME by 10 GE by 4GE by 13GE by 2


The Geelong team to play Footscray (as selected):

B:Ron HoveyBob GazzardMax Sutcliffe
HB:Bernie SmithBob DavisJohn Haygarth
C:Clive BrownLes BorrackJohn O'Neill
HF:Noel RaysonRoger BullenBruce Ferrari
For:John O'ConnellFred WoollerNeil Trezise
Foll:Norm Sharp Bruce BartlePeter Pianto
19/20:Matt GogginGlen Bow

Emerg: Bob Wiltshire, Eric Nicholls
In – Bernie Smith, Matt Goggin, Bruce Bartle, Glen Bow
Out – Geoff Williams (broken hand), Fred Le Deux, Geoff Umbers, Bob Wiltshire.

Argus 24 Aug 1956 P22 Teams 1st Semi Final (Modified Layout)
Argus 24 Aug 1956 P22 Teams 1st Semi Final (Modified Layout)

Roger Bullen, Geelong Centre Half Forward in the 1956 First Semi Final - Source: Tom Carey, Symmetry of Souls - Mooroopna Football Netball Club 1877 - 2002
Roger Bullen, Geelong Centre Half Forward in the 1956 First Semi Final - Source: Tom Carey, Symmetry of Souls - Mooroopna Football Netball Club 1877 - 2002

1956 1st Sf Record
1956 1st Sf Record

1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf
1956 1st Sf

Footscray 1.3, 4.6, 5.8, 5.13 (43) defeated Geelong 4.2, 6.2, 6.4, 6.5 (41).

Best players for Geelong – The Argus experts:

Percy Taylor – Pianto, Davis, Smith, Haygarth, O'Neill, Trezise, Sharp (until hurt).
Peter Golding – Davis, Pianto, Sharp (until hurt), Smith, O'Neill, Gazzard.
Cam Halliday – Pianto, Smith, Davis, Sharp, Borrack, O'Neill.
Jack Cannon – Pianto (best on ground), Smith, Sharp, Davis, Haygarth, O'Neill.
Keith Connolly – Smith, Davis, Sharp, Pianto, O'Neill, Borrack.
Dick Reynolds – Smith, Davis, Sharp, O'Neill, Pianto.

Scorers – Wooller 2-2, Sutcliffe 1-0, Rayson 1-1, O'Connell 1-0, Bullen 1-0, Ferrari 0-1.

One behind rushed. Trezise two misses.16

Goal scorers for Footscray were Max Cross (4) and Jack Collins (1).
Cold weather. Attendance: 79,402 Takings: £11,315.
Injured – Sharp (concussion) replaced by Bow in third quarter.


Percy Taylor, chief Football writer for The Argus, was much more critical of Geelong than he was of Footscray. This is reflected in the first sentence of his Monday morning match report:

‘Geelong crumbled under the solid battering Footscray had given it for three quarters and had no strength left to break through in that torrid last quarter of the first semi final at the MCG on Saturday’.

‘And so Geelong lost a game in which it pitted its greater pace against the physically stronger Footscray’, he wrote.

Geelong’s inferior strength was only one reason for their defeat, according to Taylor. He also drew attention to skill errors:

‘Geelong’s half forwards had many chances which they ‘mulled’ by spilling chest marks, by weak kicking, and by timorous play generally’. There were ‘too many blind kicks that went direct to an opponent’ and ‘handball was used in the wrong places’, he observed.

More disturbing however was Taylor’s suggestion that ‘often several players lacked spirit and fight’.

There were some positives for Geelong, according to Taylor. Geelong’s half-backs were ‘an almost impassable barrier’ - Bernie Smith was ‘cool and clever’, Bob Davis was ‘strong with great dash’, and John Haygarth was ‘tenacious and steady’. Young players Bruce Bartle, Max Sutcliffe and Glen Bow tried to make up for the loss of Sharp and never gave up. Peter Pianto, who often sharked the Footscray ruck hit outs, was never entirely subdued.

Taylor implied that luck was against Geelong on the day. He mentioned the pre-game loss of Geoff Williams with a broken hand. Geelong as a result decided to cover for Williams by playing Bob Davis at centre-half-back. The absence of the ‘dynamic’ Davis from attack, Taylor wrote, was ‘fatal’. Without him the Geelong forward line was ‘woefully weak and never once got on top’. (Taylor pointed out that Footscray also had its injury concerns – Jack Collins, Roger Duffy and Ted Whitten were apparently not 100% fit). Taylor also inferred the weather and the condition of the ground were not in favour of the speedier Cats. Oddly however Taylor overlooked the worst source of Geelong’s bad luck – the third quarter collision between two of its best and biggest players: Bob Davis and Norm Sharp. A concussed Sharp was replaced and no doubt Davis was also in worse condition. Taylor wrote that ‘the height and strength of Harvey Stevens and Brian Gilmour turned the tide in Footscray’s favour at the finish’. This would not necessarily have been the case if Sharp had still been on the field.

Reading Taylor’s article, one can still almost feel - even after the passing of sixty years - some of the unbearable, nail-biting tension of the gripping last quarter. For the first three quarters the wet ground and slippery ball ‘made good football impossible’. Both defences were on top and the match had become a ‘grim, unyielding battle’. In the fourth quarter the hectic intensity reached an even higher level.

It took Footscray only minutes to score the two behinds that levelled the score. Then for a whole twenty minutes there was no further score. Players from both sides tore in and the crowd reached fever pitch. ‘Geelong did most of the attacking in those torrid twenty minutes’, Taylor wrote. Footscray’s defence neverthless held firm. Then Footscray scored three behinds (from Max Cross, Doug Reynolds, and Doug Rawson). Taylor’s last sentence summed up a forgettable afternoon for Geelong:

‘But it was not yet over, as Geelong tore forward, the ball went to Noel Rayson on an acute angle and a great try just missed the goal that would have clinched a win for Geelong’.17

The Argus Mon 27-Aug-1956

Read the Argus Match Report - Page 18
View the Argus Match Snapshots - Page 19


The first semi final of 1956 was one of the three Geelong matches I can definitely remember attending that year. I attended the Round One match against South at the Lake Oval, watching from the Members Stand in the company of my grandparents who were long-standing South Melbourne members. That was the day first-gamer Fred Wooller turned it on by kicking four goals for the Cats. I also attended the Round Seventeen match against Collingwood at Kardinia Park, which Geelong lost. We went with friends of the family, the Everetts. I can remember taking note of Roger Bullen for some reason, possibly because on this day he was one of our better players. I might in fact have attended other Geelong matches that season but I cannot remember them.

And so on to the catastrophic semi final. We were seated somewhere in Bay 13 of the outer grandstand. I was only ten years old but I do have one or two vague memories of the clash. I can remember how incredibly exciting the match turned out to be – especially in the last quarter – and that we were devastated by the nasty third quarter collision involving Norm Sharp and Bob Davis. I can still see, in my mind’s eye, little John Haygarth dashing forward off half back. Haygarth had already become, or maybe was still to become, my favourite Geelong player. I would have gone away from the MCG that afternoon thinking we had been unlucky but without any obvious reason to believe we would miss the finals five years running. Nor would I have been able to predict the wooden spoon of 1957.18

1957 Geelong Coca Cola Norm Sharp
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Norm Sharp
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Bob Davis
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Bob Davis
John Haygarth - 1958 Coca Cola Geelong Footballers - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
John Haygarth - 1958 Coca Cola Geelong Footballers - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
Roger Bullen - 1957 Coca Cola Geelong League Football Stars Card - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards
Roger Bullen - 1957 Coca Cola Geelong League Football Stars Card - Source:Australian Rules Football Cards

1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris
1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris
1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris
1956 Geelong-Footscray semi-final at the MCG - Copyright Raymond Morris


Four Geelong players and four Footscray players captured at the MCG during the 1956 VFL First Semi Final by visiting New Zealand photographer Raymond Morris. Three of the Geelong four are easily identified - left to right: Noel Rayson (No 27), Fred Wooller (No 3) and Bruce Ferrari (No 18). The Footscray defender sticking close to Noel Rayson is Jim Gallagher, a member of the Footscray/Western Bulldogs Team of the Century. The other Geelong player shown (facing the camera) is a mystery to me. The Footscray player seen facing left could be Wally Donald.


A struggle between Geelong and Footscray players on the MCG members’ wing as captured by visiting New Zealand photographer Raymond Morris during the 1956 VFL First Semi Final.


The quality of these colour football photos is remarkable for 1956. They seem to have an immediacy that is missing from the run-of-the-mill football photos (even the colourised photos published by The Argus in the fifties).

Three things strike me as odd however.

Firstly, the photos have been taken from two different vantage points. One would imagine in a crowd of 80,000 it would be difficult to move from one position in the crowd to another but Morris has somehow managed it, no doubt with his camera in tow. Photo One is a short-range shot that has been taken from just behind the goals at the Punt Road end of the ground, whereas Photo Two is a long-range shot that seems to have been taken from a decidedly higher position, probably from the grandstand (at the same end of the ground but not directly above his position just behind the goals). I believe Photo Two must have been taken first because, in so far as I can discern the outline of figures on the scoreboard, Footscray has yet to score a goal whereas the scoreboard in Photo One appears to show a higher Footscray score. This would suggest Morris has come down from his higher vantage point to take a closer shot later in the game.

The second odd feature of the two photos is the apparent weather outlook. Contemporary newspaper reports of the match emphasized the fact that it was played in cold, wet and slippery conditions. Certainly the spectators seen seated behind the goals are rugged up in thick winter overcoats and the sky above them is glowering and sombre, yet there is no sign at all of rain. There is just the slightest hint of some blue sky and some evidence that the sun was breaking through the grey clouds - a Footscray defender and a spectator both appear to be shielding their eyes as they gaze to the west. This however might have been glare, not sunshine. Despite the very large mud patch in the centre of the MCG the ground appears to be in reasonable condition. The mud on the players’ jumpers suggests it was not in fact as reasonable as it appears. It is interesting to observe that only one of the players seen in Photo One – the Footscray player shielding his eyes – wears a sleeveless guernsey (a standard outfit for AFL footballers these days). Given the wet condition of the ground, one can only assume there had been rain, either during the game or not very long before the match started.

The third odd feature, belonging to Photo One, is the strange ‘body language’ of the players. There are eight players seen in the photo. Only two of them (both Footscray players) appear to be looking in the direction of where (one assumes) the play is taking place – the pocket, half forward flank, or wing on the MCC members’ side of the ground. Noel Rayson and his close minder Jim Gallagher, seen walking away from the behind post, are looking slightly in the ‘wrong’ direction. Geelong players Fred Wooller and Bruce Ferrari appear to be looking down, possible dejected. One Footscray defender has his back completely turned to the play. Three of the Geelong players, unlike Rayson, are not being closely guarded. All this circumstantial evidence suggests to me either that the ball is a long way away (perhaps over the fence), or there has been a hold up in play of some kind, or the players have just returned to their positions at the start of a quarter (perhaps after half time).19 My guess is that Photo One has been taken at the start of the third quarter. The long break would have allowed Morris to descend from the grandstand and find a vantage point behind the goals. I have almost gone blind trying to read the scoreboard. I think I can make out the figure ‘6’ after the word Geelong. This was Geelong’s tally of goals at half-time and (sadly) remained their tally for the rest of the game.

1957 Geelong Coca Cola Noel Rayson
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Noel Rayson
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Fred Wooller
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Fred Wooller
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Bruce Ferrari
1957 Geelong Coca Cola Bruce Ferrari
Wally Donald 1954 Argus Card
Wally Donald 1954 Argus Card

(From left to right) – Noel Rayson, Fred Wooller, Bruce Ferrari (Geelong) and Wally Donald (Footscray).


The Sporting Globe

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, August 29, 1956 p. 3.

Name Free kicks to free kicks against marks kicks handpasses shots for goal
Hovey 1 1 2 14 4 0
Gazzard 3 0 5 22 1 0
Sutcliffe 1 2 3 9 2 1
Smith 4 2 6 21 6 0
Davis 3 0 7 23 3 0
Haygarth 3 1 4 14 3 0
O'Neill 1 2 3 15 2 0
Borrack 1 2 4 15 1 0
Brown 2 2 1 11 3 1
Rayson 2 2 3 9 0 2
Ferrari 1 2 3 10 1 1
Bullen 3 0 2 8 1 1
Trezise 2 1 2 16 1 1
Wooller 1 1 3 9 0 4
O'Connell 1 1 2 8 2 1
Sharp 3 1 5 14 2 0
Bartle 1 2 3 8 1 0
Pianto 1 1 1 30 5 0
Bow 0 1 0 5 0 0
GEELONG 34 24 59 261 38 12
FOOTSCRAY 24 34 69 242 38 25

The Argus

The Argus provided the following definitions – ‘Completed passes are passes – both hand and foot – directed to and taken by a team mate. Incompleted passes were those intercepted by opposing players’. (The Argus, Monday August 27, 1956, p. 17)

Name Kicks Marks Frees to Frees against Passes completed Passes not completed
Hovey 15 2 2 1 3 0
Gazzard 20 3 3 0 0 0
Sutcliffe 8 2 1 2 1 0
Smith 22 3 5 2 6 3
Davis 25 6 2 0 4 2
Haygarth 15 3 2 1 3 2
Brown 11 3 2 2 3 1
Borrack 13 3 1 2 2 1
O'Neill 15 3 2 2 3 2
Rayson 9 1 1 2 2 1
Bullen 9 1 3 1 1 0
Ferrari 7 2 0 1 2 0
O'Connell 11 2 1 0 2 0
Wooller 9 2 1 1 2 1
Trezise 17 1 2 1 1 3
Sharp 15 5 4 1 3 1
Bartle 8 2 1 2 1 2
Pianto 30 3 1 1 4 5
Bow 5 0 0 1 0 0
FOOTSCRAY 244 59 23 34 40 21
GEELONG 264 47 34 23 43 24

The top three Footscray kick gatherers (according to The Argus) were John Kerr (26), Ted Whitten (21) and Peter Box (20).

Match Report 1st Semi Final. Argus 27 Aug 1956 P17 (layout)
Match Report 1st Semi Final. Argus 27 Aug 1956 P17 (layout)


The author celebrating his 12th birthday with another Geelong barracker. A little over one month earlier Geelong had won the 1957 VFL wooden spoon but that did not deter the enthusiasm of Gus and myself for the blue and white hoops.
The author celebrating his 12th birthday with another Geelong barracker. A little over one month earlier Geelong had won the 1957 VFL wooden spoon but that did not deter the enthusiasm of Gus and myself for the blue and white hoops.

Because we lived in Camberwell and Burwood in the fifties, I attended few Geelong games. Consequently I formed the habit as early as 1954 of listening to 3GL’s broadcasts of Geelong games. Geelong supporters (unlike those of all other VFL clubs) were guaranteed a broadcast of their game every week.

3GL, the Geelong radio station, started broadcasting Geelong’s VFL matches in April 1932, although in the thirties the station only broadcast about half of them. The two commentators I first heard were Reg Gray and Ivor Grundy. Gray was a true veteran who had been calling Geelong games since 1932. Grundy too had been around for a long time, since 1939. Gray retired at the end of the 1955 season and was replaced by Leo O’Halloran, a former Geelong VFL footballer from the early fifties and winner of the 1952 Gardiner Medal (VFL Seconds). The older Grundy and the younger O’Halloran, often criticized by opposition fans for being obviously one-eyed, became very familiar voices. There were frequent advertisements for Heaths Motors, lots of homely ‘cheerios’ sent out at half-time, and praise for the brass band from Saint Augustine’s Orphanage.

Most Saturday afternoons in the 1956 season, I lay on my bedroom floor beside the wireless and switched the dial to 3GL. The wireless was a black Bakelite model with an art deco design. It had possibly been in our home even before I was born. The yellow dial had a host of stations on it – not just Melbourne stations but many others as well.20 At the conclusion of the broadcast I wrote down the names of the players I believed were Geelong’s ‘best’. I awarded them ‘votes’ – and the ‘votes’ from each game were added up to determine Geelong’s ‘best player’ for the whole season. This habit of ‘voting’ was maintained in the 1957 season.21 In 1957, however, I went a good deal further in my efforts to record the games. I kept a detailed record of Geelong’s on-field performances. In an appropriately-ruled exercise book I recorded the ‘kicks’ and ‘marks’ as called by Grundy and O’Halloran and transformed myself into a statistician - a football statistician extraordinaire.

If I were to try to pick the single most important source of inspiration for my 1957 decision to record ‘kicks’ and ‘marks’ I would have to nominate the statistical tables that appeared in The Argus during the 1956 VFL finals series. I can imagine myself thinking – ‘if they can do it why can’t I’. Certainly statistical tables had appeared in The Sporting Globe over a number of finals series in the fifties but I may not have been aware of them. I would certainly have seen, and been influenced by, the stats in The Argus.22


For the 1956 football season The Argus produced a board game called ‘Fireside Football’. There were twenty-four postage stamp-sized player cards for each of the twelve VFL clubs. Apart from laying out the cards of two teams in their respective positions on the ‘field’ and throwing the dice I cannot recall exactly how the game was played. I do remember lying on the floor on cold winter nights with the cards laid out on the board and willing the dice to roll Geelong’s way. The strangest thing about these cards was that ten of them survived (in my 1959 Geelong statistics exercise book) when every other card in my sizeable fifties collection was thrown away.

The ten Fireside cards that somehow survived the passing of sixty years – albeit somewhat damaged by juvenile (sticky tape) delinquency.


C1956 Argus Fireside Football Geelong
C1956 Argus Fireside Football Geelong

C1956 Argus Fireside Football Game  Carters
C1956 Argus Fireside Football Game Carters

Player Signatures:

Signatures 1957 Practice Match
Signatures 1957 Practice Match

Senior players: Les Borrack, Clive Brown, Ken Cameron, Max Hetherington, Peter Barran, Harry Herbert, Max Sutcliffe.

Signatures  1957 Practice Match
Signatures 1957 Practice Match

Senior players: Ray Harrip, Bob Gazzard, Ron Hovey, Ken Beardsley, Reg Fisher, John Haygarth, Eric Nicholls.

Signatures  1956
Signatures 1956

Senior players: Bruce Ferrari, Norm Sharp, Brian McGrath, Ron Hovey, Bob Gazzard, Neil Trezise, Bernie Smith, Ken Beardsley, Harry Herbert, Fred Wooller, Max Sutcliffe, Les Borrack, Russell Renfrey, Bob Wiltshire.


The response of Noel Rayson to his omission on two separate occasions during the 1956 season was not the first time, nor would it be the last time, a Geelong player entered into dispute with the club. The famous case involving Bob Davis and South Adelaide in 1952 was followed not long afterwards by the unsettling George Goninon affair of 1953-54. Ivan Baumgartner’s departure in 1955 was also acerbic. John Haygarth’s departure during the 1959 season was yet another example.23 These unfortunate ‘misunderstandings’ (no doubt a more polite and sanitized way of putting it) are very rarely mentioned in official club histories because they tend to throw doubt on the competence of football club administrators, even when (and sometimes especially if) the club administrators are competent and fair.

Normally these sorts of matters are dealt with as quickly as possible – the boil is lanced and everything returns to ‘normal’. In 1956 it did seem like things had been sorted out and patched up because the twice-omitted Rayson returned to the side for the remainder of the season (including the First Semi Final). In retrospect however it seems the Rayson ‘case’ may have dragged on. In 1957 the form of second-year player Fred Wooller in the key forward role further undermined Rayson’s standing and he played only eight senior games (kicking a mere fifteen goals). Rayson played in Rounds Three and Four of the 1958 season (kicking one goal in each) and was then dropped to the Seconds. He appears to have played in the Round Six Seconds match against Footscray in 1958 before resigning from Geelong and transferring to South Melbourne (1958-59). He had played 95 games for the Cats and kicked 210 goals. 24

A full forward is the spearhead of a football team. Chopping and changing players in this position inevitably unsettles the whole forward line and, as a consequence, the rest of the team also. Geelong discovered this truth to their cost in 1953 when George Goninon, admittedly not in top form, was dropped on the eve of the Grand Final against Collingwood. Rayson’s 1956 form was nowhere near his 1955 level (and he failed to kick a goal in Round Fifteen against Richmond) but his omission (albeit only for one match) on the eve of the finals series must have had an unsettling effect on the Geelong side, particularly when no ready-made replacement was available, apart from the inexperienced Fred Wooller. Rayson kicked only three more goals for the remainder of the season and was picked on a half forward flank for the semi final, replaced at full forward by Fred Wooller. It is impossible to know for sure whether the Geelong selection committee was justified in dropping Rayson, but in my mind something does not add up.

Fred Wooller 1956 - Private Collection
Fred Wooller 1956 - Private Collection
Fred Wooller - 1958 Atlantic Card
Fred Wooller - 1958 Atlantic Card


Bob Muntz has also reflected on the outcome of the 1956 season:

I did not realise it then, but this match marked the end of an era for Geelong. The team had beaten the reigning premiers and consolidated second position with only two rounds to go before the finals. The immortal Reg Hickey as coach reigned supreme. But Geelong failed to win another match that year, and was knocked out of the finals in the first week. The Cats won only 15 of the 57 matches they played in the remaining years of the 1950’s, and collected wooden spoons in each of the next two years. Only two of this conquering side of August 1956 – John O'Neill and Fred Wooller – remained when Geelong next played finals in 1962. Others like Bernie Smith, Norm Sharp, Peter Pianto and Geoff Williams succumbed to injury or went into decline and retired, sometimes far too young. Some, like Bruce Bartle, Roger Bullen and Max Sutcliffe proved to be lesser mortals and were discarded as new heroes of the 1960’s joined the ranks.25 But no matter what the performances on the field, I was hooked on football and Geelong. Through bitter defeat and years of mediocrity I remained loyal to the blue and white, until the next champion team emerged in the early 1960’s under Bob Davis.

The game is now almost unrecognisable from the style played in the 1950’s. Kardinia Park under lights in 2013 is more than half a century and a world away from the muddy patch of grass surrounded by earthen mounds, with its one small stand and tin roof which I embraced in 1956. But my passion for Geelong Football club remains undiluted.26

The Star Geelong 14 Dec 1956 P12
The Star Geelong 14 Dec 1956 P12
The Star Geelong 14 Dec 1956 P1 Pianto
The Star Geelong 14 Dec 1956 P1 Pianto

Let the Geelong Football Club have the very last word.

Six pages from the 1956 Geelong FC Annual Report:
1956 Geelong Annual Report - Cover
1956 Geelong Annual Report - Cover
Bob Davis
Bob Davis
O'Neill and Pianto
O'Neill and Pianto
Played In Premiership Matches
Played In Premiership Matches
Bernie Smith
Bernie Smith
Geelong Adelaide Oval 1956
Geelong Adelaide Oval 1956

Geelong At Adelaide Oval 1956 By Frank Boase
Geelong At Adelaide Oval 1956 By Frank Boase

Back row – Roger Bullen, Fred Le Deux, Bruce Bartle, John O'Connell, Glen Bow, Fred Wooller, Max Sutcliffe, Geoff Williams.
Second back row – Len Metherall (Match Committee), Eric Nicholls, Ken Beardsley, Geoff Umbers, Bernie Ryan, John Goldsmith, Matt Goggin, John Haygarth, Cliff Rankin (Match Committee).
Second front row – Bruce Ferrari, Brian McGrath, Jack Jennings (President), Bob Davis (Captain), Bernie Smith, David Pescott (Secretary), John Helmer, Ron Hovey.
Front row – Les May, Bob Gazzard, Norm Sharp, Noel Rayson, Les Borrack, Neil Trezise.


Addendum - by Rob Everett

23 January 2017

Hi Ken

Thanks for the link to your latest article. It makes very enjoyable and nostalgic reading.

Further to our phone conversation yesterday, my forensic photographic analysis of the Raymond Morris photos has revealed the following:

* Photo Two has definitely been taken before Photo One as you had postulated in your article. The scoreboard in Photo Two reads "Geelong G2 B(blank) Points 12, Footscray G(blank) B2 Points 2" (PDF blow up of scoreboard from Photo Two is attached) proving that the photo was taken in the First Quarter as the Quarter Time score was Geelong G4 B2 Points 26, Footscray G1 B3 Points 9. Photo One must have been taken some time into the Third Quarter as the scoreboard appears to read "Geelong G6 B3 Points 39, Footscray G4 B8 Points 32" (I'm not as certain about this score as I can't get as good an image as with Photo Two, however, this is my best guess from the evidence available). It must be taken in the Third Quarter because the Cats forwards are at the Richmond end, the direction to which they were kicking in the First Quarter. I don't think Photo One has been taken before the bounce at the start of the Third Quarter because the players and umpire are not assembled in the centre of the ground and also the unconfirmed scoreboard evidence suggests there has already been some scores added after Half Time. I agree with your theory that "... either
that the ball is a long way away (perhaps over the fence), or there has been a hold up in play of some kind...".

* I have attached a PDF of Photo One with all of the players identified. I'm making an educated guess on McRae as his number appears to be 20 and John O'Connell, where I'm relying on my recall of how he looked! Also, it's possible that McRae (picked in the Ruck) was resting in the Back Pocket at the time (as was the practice in those days) and O'Connell was picked as the Forward Pocket Ruckman.

* I've also attached a PDF of Photo Two with a number of players identified. It may be possible to identify more if I spent more time on it and it was considered useful.

I hope you find all this useful.

Keep in touch.



Raymond Morris Scoreboard 600thumb
Raymond Morris Scoreboard 600thumb

Raymond Morris Photo One
Raymond Morris Photo One

Raymond Morris Photo Two
Raymond Morris Photo Two


1. ‘Catapult – On Top and Loving It (1950-1956)’ is Part One of my trilogy of articles about Geelong in the 1950’s. (At the time of writing, still forthcoming).
2. Davis was elected by the players. Bernie Smith – skipper in 1954 - took over Fred Flanagan’s role as vice-captain.
3. Flanagan had earlier lost his vice-captaincy position but his decision to retire was due to his purchase of a hotel business. His announcement was the second declaration to rock the club early in 1955. In late April promising utility Ivan Baumgartner also resigned from Geelong, claiming the Secretary (Ivo Gibson) had earlier promised him a clearance to Melbourne once he (Baumgartner) had completed his wool-classing course at Gordon Institute (Geelong).
4. Geelong’s 1955 teenagers included Beardsley (19), McMahon (19), Sutcliffe (19), Ferrari (18), Gazzard (18), Goggin (18), and Barton (18). At least ‘on paper’, the 1955 recruits were the best crop since 1948. The ten new players - Barton, Beardsley, Brown, Bullen, Ferrari, Goggin, Haygarth, O'Connell, Sutcliffe and Umbers all played again after 1955.
5. ‘Geelong struck Melbourne with the force of a thunderbolt’ wrote Hugh Buggy of The Argus after Round Thirteen. Buggy, a brilliant scribe but prone to hyperbole, had actually used the same metaphor after Round Two - ‘Melbourne struck a bewildered Geelong side like a thunderbolt’.
6. John O'Connell (shoulder) and Bob Wiltshire (back) were also unavailable for the semi-final..
7. The Argus suggested Geelong were beaten in the ruck, on the wings, and across half-forward. Hugh Buggy believed the Magpies had blunted Geelong’s pace with ‘the shrewd application of weight to jolt Geelong out of its stride’. He further believed ‘in this Geelong side are several players who do not enjoy the crash of brawn on brawn’. Several unfortunate training mishaps caused (supposedly minor) injuries to Pianto, Sutcliffe, Brown and Beardsley in the week prior to this match.
8. Recruits George Finegan (Sale) and Len Sexton (Geelong Amateurs) were both named on the 1956 Geelong Final List but did not play a senior game. Goldsmith and May did not play after 1956. John Helmer did not play a senior game until 1956 but was named on the 1956 List as an ‘old’ player. ‘Old’ players Howard Hawking and Colin Barton were named on the 1956 List but did not play a senior game in 1956. Players ‘to be considered’ in April 1956 were M.Goggin, J.Roberts, H.Herbert, W.James, K.Malseed, R.Morris, B.Allen and A.Morrow. Players omitted from the (April) 1956 List were N.Robertson, B.Worner, J.Featherstone, J.McMahon and D.O’Hara (retired).
9. Rayson initially incurred the displeasure of the Geelong selectors because of his single goal performance in Round One against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval. He was dropped from the senior side for two matches and returned for the Round Four game against Richmond in which he kicked four goals. I was in attendance at the South Melbourne game but cannot remember how Rayson played nor whether the selectors’ reaction was justified.
10. Percy Taylor, Welcome, Harry, Here’s a Tough Job. The Argus, Friday August 3, 1956.
11. Percy Taylor, League Star Quits! The Argus, Saturday, August 4, p. 1. The article was accompanied by a photograph of Rayson and his wife, taken on the evening of August 3. Taylor’s article has two dots between the ‘But’ and the ‘he’ in the third line – I suspect this could be a ‘typo’.
12. Bob Muntz made the following comment in an email to me, November 2013 – ‘Noel Rayson did have a re-think - he was back playing in the senior side the next week. But he was never a force again for Geelong, he played a few games in 1957 and early 1958, but was then cleared to South Melbourne and played a handful of games for them without success. He was to meet the committee of Geelong a few days after he was dropped, and said he would have plenty to say to them. I have not followed up what happened after that’. In a later email (May 1, 2016) Muntz made the following comment – ‘My understanding of the Noel Rayson affair is that he wanted to play half-forward flank in 1956, at least after his form did not match that of 1955. Hickey insisted that he play full-forward. It is significant perhaps that when he came back to the side after the Melbourne game he played half-forward flank and Fred Wooller went to full-forward.
13. Bob Muntz, Kardinia Park – My first Impressions, 23 November 2013 (correspondence with author).
14. Keith Connolly, ‘Two points (…..and Bernie) Demons didn’t catch, The Argus, Monday, August 6, 1956, p. 19.
15. Ibid
16. The Argus newspaper in its statistics column incorrectly credited Fred Wooller with one goal and Roger Bullen with two goals.
17. See Percy Taylor, Geelong Crumble in Torrid Finish, The Argus, Monday, August 27, 1956, p. 17.
18. Bob Muntz (email, May 1, 2016) remembers Jack Mueller on 3KZ saying Fred Wooller slipped on the wet ground and missed an easy goal from a mark right in front a few yards out early in the game. ‘Mueller said his youth was no excuse and he (Wooller) should have kicked it. That would have course have changed the result’.
19. It is very possible Morris took his photo when play was stopped to allow Geelong trainers to care for Norm Sharp who was concussed after colliding with Bob Davis in the third quarter.
20. The Melbourne radio stations at this time were (in order around the dial – left to right): 3AR, 3LO, 3UZ, 3DB, 3KZ, 3AW, 3AK, and 3XY. 3GL was buried somewhere near 3XY and one had to strain to listen to its relatively weak signal.
21. It would appear that I developed three concurrent ‘voting’ systems for the 1957 season – based on my impressions from listening to 3GL’s broadcasts and with possible input from newspaper reports. It is simply not possible to fathom or explain – from a distance of 59 years – the criteria used to assess player performances in these voting systems. I have no written record of my reasoning.
22. See Ken Mansell, Footy Stats – A Short History (Boylesfootballphotos). See also Ken Mansell, Statistician Extraordinaire 1956-59 (Eat Your Heart Out, Ted Hopkins!) (Boylesfootballphotos).
23. The sudden departure of Geoff Williams to Yarraville in the middle of the 1959 season, as if Geelong did not need him, struck me at the time as very odd. Anecdotally we know that Alistair Lord was not happy when he left the club. Ken Hinkley and Mark Bairstow were two of my favourite players and I still cannot understand why they were moved on. David Clarke’s move to Carlton – and I shall definitely not go where angels fear to tread and comment on his story – might be construed as another variant. For further comment on the 1952 Davis dispute, the 1953-54 Goninon dispute, the 1955 Baumgartner dispute, and the 1959 departures of Haygarth and Williams, see my trilogy of articles on Geelong in the fifties (Boylesfootballphotos).
24. Ironically, Fred Wooller himself was a casualty. Wooller played only seven games in the senior team in 1958. After kicking six goals in the Round Seven home ground win against St.Kilda, Wooller lost form and was dropped to the Seconds.
25. Muntz is possibly correct in saying Roger Bullen was ‘discarded’ by Geelong although I am not convinced. Bullen, then only 23, left at the end of 1957 to play for Mortlake where he could expect greater financial reward.
26. Bob Muntz, op. cit.

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