By J.W.


Part 1 originally appeared in The Australasian 20-Oct-1923 p. 28

It is not my intention in this article to refer to all of the splendid players who have appeared on the football stage in the last 40 years, hut only to concentrate on those who were in absolutely the first flight. Before my time there were great players of the game that was then the vogue, and there is no reason to doubt but that many of them would have been suited by the modern conditions which have made "pace" the first object, with its consequent and numerous blunders. The actual style of play is much faster now, but the players themselves are not the equal in pace to dozens of those old champions, many of whom have gone, alas! to their long resting-place.

The Changing Game

During the whole of my career the game was played with 20 men a side, and generally of two hours' duration, with only a spell in the middle, and much of the time-with little marks. In my latter playing days the little mark absurdity was altered to allow the ball being kicked at least five yards, a great improvement. Those little marks were a clog on pace, and were greatly abused, much as is the so-called hand-passing of the present day. In course of time 18 men a side became the law-- a distinct advancement, as it was a striking factor in opening up the play.

In the old days there was no bouncing the hall in the centre at the commencement of a match or when a goal was kicked. The players lined up on each side of the centre, hot being allowed in the enemy's territory, and many were the devices to counteract the doubtful advantage of a kick-off from the centre by the captain or some trusted kickist. The ball was generally punted high towards one of the flanks to allow a player of the same side, if possible, to handle the ball before an opponent got hold of it.

The modern style is, therefore, in practically every way a marked improvement on the old; and, while there are many more good players now than was the case 30 and 40 years ago, I have no hesitation in saying that there is not a man among the present-day exponents equal to any one of at least 'a dozen I will mention later in any branch of the game except, perhaps, the long kicking of McNamara, the St. Kilda captain, who has been playing for many years. And there were some wonderfully long kickists in the days that have passed by, men who made it a specialty. What would the present supporters think of an incident that occurred on the East Melbourne Cricket-ground over 30 years ago in a match between Fitzroy and Carlton, when, with a place-kick, Jasper Jones, from the centre, kicked a behind towards the northern end? It did not carry the distance on the full, but bounced high up, just missing a post. Luckily for Fitzroy, only goals counted in those days, points being an innovation that has also been a pronounced success.

Australasian 20 Oct 1923 P28 Jack Baker And Sam Bloomfield
Australasian 20 Oct 1923 P28 Jack Baker And Sam Bloomfield

George Coulthard and "Jimmy" Wilson

From the early days of football the two names that have been handed down as champions are George Coulthard, of Carlton, and "Jimmy" Wilson, of. Geelong, the noted owner and trainer of thorough bred - horses. Coulthard was principally a ruck man, with limbs of steel. He was an accurate goal-kicker. Wilson, who had immense strength, great dash, and wonderful determination, was a defender. Coulthard was a man of parts, and possessed that athletic look in his face that was such a marked, characteristic of "Bill" Beach, the great sculler. He was a cricketer of no mean ability, and when he changed his residence to Sydney became a champion Rugby player.

In one of his matches - I question whether it was not his first—he kicked several goals with running shots from the field, a hitherto unheard-of proceeding, as Rugby men are not good drop-kicks. From a Rugby point of view, however, it was not considered the correct game, but the old Carlton champion knew from experience that the easiest shot on the field was an unimpeded running one. I. have been told on excellent authority that this habit of Coulthard's was responsible for an alteration of the rules, fewer points afterwards being given for a field goal than from one obtained otherwise. But I am not an expert on the Rugby code, and am only repeating what has been said to me. However, be that as it may, there is no denying that his versatility and excellence in all-round athletics made him a Rugby champion.

It will still be remembered by many how his decision in giving “Billy” Murdoch, the old Australian Eleven captain, run out when nearing his century in a Test match In 1878-9 on the Sydney ground caused the area to be rushed by an excited mob. It has become almost a tradition that the Englishmen were mobbed by the mass; but nothing of the sort occurred. It was really the outcome of the old inter-colonial jealousy. The crowd resented a Victorian, who travelled with the Englishmen as their umpire, giving a New South Wales man out in the circumstances. Murdoch was at the time on the threshold of his grand batting career, and the crowd was incensed by the umpire's decision, and not with the Englishman.

Coulthard was then, I believe, a professional on the Melbourne grounds. When a lad I played against him at Maryborough, and only saw Wilson play twice. The first time was at Ballarat, and the other was against Melbourne, on the Melbourne ground. On both occasions he played with great power, pace, and determination. Mr. Wilson is still a great lover of cricket, and can always be located in that portion of the Melbourne reserve under the press-box on all important occasions. When one sees him now, with his powerful physique and that unmistakable look in his face, it does-not require much imagination to picture such a man being a champion.
Many years ago, when Harry Hodges, of Geelong, made me back Mernwee for the Cup, I asked him his opinion about the' merits of the two men as footballers. He said they were both great players, with perhaps Coulthard the more finished of the two, but with Wilson possessing greater strength.

Mentioning the name of Hany Hodges reminds me that the League, in its separation days, acted most unaccountably and ungenerously in not making the Geelong man a life-member —a mistake not too late to rectify, as I am positive that the honour would be appreciated to the full.

Still, I frequently meet men who give the palm to Wilson in the days of old. It was only the other day that I had the pleasure of meeting Merri Plant, a light but brilliant Melbourne player when the two champions were in their prime, and now a justice of the peace at Northcote,who, while recognising the great qualities of both players, unhesitatingly gave the honour to "Jimmy" Wilson.

Development and growth of the game

The-development and growth of the game is a most fascinating subject, and I will dwell slightly upon some of the great changes. Although the Melbourne club was formed so far back as 1858, the nucleus of the present game was laid in 1860, when laws formulated by Mr. H. C. A. Harrison, the father of the game, were adopted at 'a meeting of delegates, and are incorporated in those of the present time.

In those far-off days the match went to the side that kicked two goals first, the teams changing ends after a goal had been obtained. Sometimes, as one would naturally suppose, the game would be won in a few minutes, though goals those days were hard to get, while in other engagements play would proceed all the afternoon without any team kicking a goal, the match being drawn.

When it is taken into consideration that in those good old days there were no field umpires, the inevitable conclusion is that those pioneers must have been better.Sportsmen than those of the present day. The respective captains decided the penalties, and, as in cricket, if they disagreed the actual state of things continued. Mr. Harrison tells many good stories of those far-off times, the fact of an obese opposing captain stopping the game and demanding a penalty for being called-a "lump of blubber" appealing irresistibly to the veteran, who tells the story with great gusto.

The two-goal method was superseded by play of two hours' duration—60 minutes each way—with but one stoppage. -That made it extremely severe on the side that lost the toss against a strong wind, as it took such a lot out of the men that frequently they were unable to take advantage of -the breeze in the second half. That scheme was followed by the more equitable division into quarters, each one of 25 minutes' duration.

At one time goal-posts were painted in the club's colours, with the club emblem proudly waving on top. The white posts are much simpler and better for the goal umpires, besides putting a stop, to the disputes that occasionally arose in consequence of the ball striking a flag when going through and being deflected on to a post.

Little marks have disappeared for the general good, and in the old days, when the ball was thrown in from out of bounds, it had to touch the ground before being in play. Hence little nuggetty men in the ruck, like Melling of Fitzroy, Purdy of South Melbourne, Stedman of Geelong, and Whelan of Carlton, were veritable tigers in ground work.

Pushing a player from behind was also in vogue in my time. As a matter of fact, it was not nearly so dangerous as pushing a man in the cheat, but as it savoured of unmanliness it was rightly cut out. Some noted players of the time bad made their reputation by that objection able and unsportsmanlike method, and when it was made unlawful their powers as players were rendered nugatory.

It is remarkable how old names stick. In the days of old a free-kick was just a free kick and nothing more. It did not possess the same value as a mark, as the recipient could not run with the ball, but had per force to kick, hence it was aptly and correctly termed a free-kick. Now when a player receives a penalty it is in reality a free mark, as it has all the privileges appertaining to a mark. But it is always termed a ' free-kick" by the crowd, and apparently always will be.

Those who were present on the Melbourne ground on August 18. when Victoria met South Australia, could pot but notice that the teams cheered each other before the commencement of the game It was an action that appealed to the crowd, and a revival of an old custom that distinguished every match. Boundary umpires are also practically a modern innovation, which has certainly popularised and improved the game.

In passing it appears to me remarkable that a body like the League, with a paid secretary, has not a history of the game, or the alterations tabulated for purposes of reference. It is a great want that should be filled. The game has assumed such importance that it should be kept up to date from an historical point of view.

Other alterations have been enumerated. But, just to demonstrate how, in the old days, we were weighed down by precedent, it is only necessary' to mention that in Adelaide in 1876 the goalposts were 16ft high and 18ft. apart, and at a distance of 8ft from the ground a bar was fixed, and across the top of the posts a rope parallel with the bar. To obtain a goal-the ball had to be kicked between the bar and the rope, which certainly required a great deal of accuracy.

Most alterations have been for the betterment of the game, yet it is an undisputed fact that at the present time the play is not maintaining its high standard. We have never recovered since the war, and seem to be getting worse. It has always appeared to me an anomaly that the ball should be bounced in the centre, or any other part of the field, instead of being thrown in the air. When the out of bounds alteration took place in order to prevent scrimmaging, why the innovation was not extended to cover the whole area of operations is difficult indeed to understand, as its adoption would prevent mud unseemly scrambling and bullocking.

Pioneer clubs

As there is a good deal of doubt as to which are the pioneer clubs, the following dates from old books in my possession should set the matter at rest. To Melbourne belongs the honour so far as seniority is concerned, though at the Church of England Grammar School football was introduced in the same year, viz., 1858. The dates of the clubs, and the uniforms that they wore in the We are as follow:—

  • Melbourne; 1858, blue knickerbockers and jersey, red cap and hose;
  • Church of England Grammar School, 1858, white knickerbockers, dark blue jersey, hose and cap;
  • Geelong, 1850. blue knickerbockers, dark blue and white striped jersey, hose, and cap;
  • Carlton, 1864, dark blue knickerbockers, jersey, and cap, white and blue striped hose;
  • Albert Park, 1864, blue knickerbockers, scarlet-and white striped jersey, hose, and cap,;
  • St. Kilda, 1873, blue knickerbockers, scarlet and black striped jersey, hose, and cap;
  • Essendon, 1873 .. dark blue jersey and knickerbockers, red and black hose and cap, and red sash;
  • Hotham; 1877 (North Melbourne at the pre sent time), blue knickers,'blue and white quartered rap, blue and white striped jer sey and hose;
  • South Melbourne; (amalgamation of Albert Park and South Melbourne), blue knickers, scarlet and white striped jersey, hose, and cap.

So far as the country was concerned, omitting Geelong, Kyneton takes pride of place, a club being formed there in 1888, followed by Ballarat and Belfast in 1860 (Belfast not known now), Colac 1870, Castlemaine 1871, and Maryborough 1872. Geelong Grammar school had a club in 1860, Scotch College formed about the same date, Geelong College in 1861, and Wesley College in 1866.

It will thus be seen that the three oldest senior clubs in existence are Melbourne, Geelong, and Carlton in the order named. It was well and generally known that Melbourne and Carlton were pioneers, but many among us were not aware that Geelong is an older club than Carlton. Albert Park was formed in the same year as Carlton, and as an amalgamation with South Melbourne ultimately ensued, it may be admitted that South Melbourne are as old as Carlton, the difference being in name only.

It is pleasing to be able to record that the grand old man of the game, Mr. H. C. A. Harrison, is still amongst us. He is Australian born, 86 years of age, and is a constant visitor at all the matches on the M.C.C. ground, He is still an enthusiast, and it may be well to remind present day followers of the game that he led Melbourne on to many a victory over 50 years ago. It is always a pleasure to meet and shake hands with the charming old man and remember, as the chronicler of his day put it—

When Harrison, swift as a bunted deer,
Led Melbourne on with a ringing cheer.

14th Regiment

No reference to the early times would be complete without mention of the famous 14th Regiment -all Irishmen—which was quartered in Melbourne. It is indisputable, I understand, that years before our game evolved a somewhat-similar class of football was played in Ireland, though with fundamental differences. Evidently that was the reason Why the Irish soldiers of those older days—and they were typical of-their country in every respect—could compete on even terms against Melbourne, Carlton, and the police in those early times- The -soldiers were veritable terrors on the field, for hacking and kicking they held, quite fair.' When led on by Lieutenant Noyes. Who had emblazoned on his belt, "Neck or nothing," they considered themselves invincible.

But there was a merry twinkling and a glistening of the eyes When Mr. Harrison told of a collision that took place between Charlie Forester, of Melbourne, and the Irish leader, when “Neck or nothing” was carried off the ground unconscious. Another old - timer who saw the 14th play is Mr. George Bell, an old Carlton player, and now publisher of "The Argus, * He tells of a match between the 14th Regiment and the police —a case of Greek meeting Greek—on the South Yarra ground. After the game members of both teams adjourned to the nearby church ground, took off their boots and socks, and put their legs under the water tap to wash away die blood and ease: the bruises. There was no bad feeling in the matter, both sides recognising that hacking was all in the Irish game, hence the name of "splinter shins".

Mr. Bell also relates the story of an extraordinary occurrence that took place in Geelong about the year 1880, when Carlton were meeting Geelong for the championship. ,A local celebrity named Mr Silas Harding had loaned some land, called the Argyle Green, to the local club, whereon all matches were played. Owing to some little disagreement with the home authorities the owner of the land put several teams on the ground on the morning of the match and ploughed it up. When the men of Carlton arrived football on that reserve was entirely out of the question, the match taking place on the Corio oval. But whether that game was the first that was ever played there between Geelong and a Melbourne team historians must settle between themselves.

Before dismissing the Irish Regiment, we'll quote a few lines about them from a poet of the day.

I've watched the I4th at football play,
In foraging caps and singlets grey,
When Lieutenant Noyes
With his broths of boys.
Charged fierce along with a wild 'hurrah!”
'Twas 'Go it, Larry, fetch him a lick!
'Bravo, Tim Dooley, hit him a kick!'
Then Larry licked
And Dooley kicked;
None dare their fiery zeal restrict."

Great Footballers

One can only speak with authority of those players who have come under his purview during his connection and interest in the game. There were many grand players whom I personally never saw in action, and, therefore, their particular points of play cannot Ire recorded here. But of the great number who have appeared three stand out in my memory, as I had the pleasure of seeing them perform on several occasions.

Early Days

Harry Downes and Murdock McKenzie played with Ballarat, and were old Melbourne identities, while the other, W. Lacey, brought country football to a high standard in the old town of Maryborough. Dowries was a beautiful back player, dashing, safe, and sound. McKenzie a fine follower and grand high mark, and Lacey a champion—some of the old-timers pulling him in Coulthard's class. He married and settled in Maryborough, where he established a high school, and taught the local footballers, as well as the growing youth of the district the value of concentration, organisation, and assiduity,

The town has been rather famed in the football and cricket lines, in which two old school teachers in C. Perrin and W. Lacey played n notable part. As Lacey is still in the land of living, a reminder that they bred men in the days of old, the following lines by Jack Blackham's father, published in 1877, may not be out of place:—

I've watched young Lacey follow the ball,
With teeth firm clenched, and a smile withal,
Out of a scrimmage without a cap, -
A most reliable, sturdy .chap.
And wherever lie went there were cries of pals
Shall we ever look on his like again?



Part 2 originally appeared in The Australasian 27-Oct-1923 p. 26

So now l have finished with the days before my metropolitan experiences, and will write of what I saw.

Great placemen

The question naturally arises what-attributes must a man possess to be classed as a champion footballer? We all know there have been many great placemen, absolute champions in their respective spheres, yet not of outstanding ability in other parts of the field.

Back men

Names that come readily to mind in that capacity are K. Officer, Hughie Gavin, D. Sebire, Mick Madden, W. Fleming. Leu Bowe, George McShane, and W. Busbridge, of Essendon: Tom Banks, Paddy Hickey, J. Sharp, E. Jenkins, and A. Sloan, of Fitzroy; S. Bloomfield, Gib Currie, W. Strick land, T. Leydin., W. Dick, and W. Payne, of Carlton; J. . Marmo, of Geelong: p. Kelly, of Richmond; H. Ehns, of South Melbourne; E. Fox, of Melbourne; J, Hogan, of St. Hilda; and J. Monohan, of Collingwood, just to. mention a few, As back men they were unsurpassed, all possessors of Judgment, weight, dash, marking, and kicking powers, with the exception of Busbridge, who, but for the fact that he was not a good kick, would have been the pick of the bunch.

Centre men

There have also been some wonderful centre men, but just ordinary players anywhere else. All of the present generation can remember the deeds of S. McGregor, of Carlton, and J. McHale, of Collingwood, and are liable to conclude their form was the acme of centre play; but splendid exponent as was McHale, Collingwood possessed a much better player in F. Leach, the men whom he superseded. Leach would have made a rare defender, as those who saw him play against Thurgood in a final many years ago can testify, even though one was in the heydey of his career and the other slightly on the decline. Personally I class Leach as one of the great players, but in as much as his activities were in the main confined to the centre he can not be considered. H. Cordner, who played in the centre for University, was as fine an artist amidfield as ever wore a jersey. He was a wonderful mark and kick, with pace, power, and resolution of an exceptionally high order. W. Crebbin, of Ballarat and Essendon fame, was also a fine centre man, being the first to make the position practically a roving one. Other star performers in the circle were L. McLennan, "Tammy" Beacham, and G. Moriarty, of Fitzroy; W. Schmidt, of Richmond and St. Kilda: W. Sewart, and C. Finlay, of Essendon, Firth, McCallum. and Jack Conway, of Geelong; W. Windley of South Melbourne; and Young, of Melbourne. But 40 years ago Geelong possessed a centre man in Dave Higinbotham whose deeds and fame have never been surpassed. McGregor might have been more skilful in picking out his man, but in no other department was he the equal of the man with the squeaky voice—the weakest part of his anatomy. In later days Geelong also possessed a great player in J. Slater, who, like many another athlete, paid the utmost sacrifice in the call of duty.

Wing men

Then we have had some splendid wing men, such as C. Pannam and — Saddler, of Collingwood; "Tich" Bailes, of Fitzroy; E. Drohan, of Fitzroy and Colling wood; B, Grecian, "Stew" Angwin, and H. Prout, of Essendon; G. Bruce and E. Kennedy, of Carlton; — Wheatland, of. Geelong; and "Mick" Londerigan of North Melbourne and Essendon. Yet, taking into consideration all the qualities necessary in a flanker, I would place none as Pannam's equal, a player who knew all the points, and was such a beautiful pass; though it must be conceded that Bailee was a little champion, and O'Shea a great player in finals.

Goal kickers

Others have made .their marks as goal kickers, the greatest half dozen being. A. J. Thurgood, W. H. Lee; Frank Caine, E. Rowell, J. Grace and Gerald Broanan. Thurgood played with Essendon, Lee and Rowell with Cotlingwood, Grace and Brosnan with Fitsroy. and Caine with Carlton. Every member of the sextet except Brosnan and Lee; making their marks also in other .positions. Caine played finely in a final on one occasion against South. Melbourne, when placed as a defender; Thurgood was a champion anywhere; while Rowell as a goal minder and Grace as a back man, were of the beat,

Ruck men

There have been many great ruck men, veritable giants in physique and skill, brawn being a very valuable adjunct to super-excellence. Henry Young, Joe and Jack McShane, W. Walker, "Dinny" McKay, Mallee Johnson, J. Flynn, V. Cumberland, C. Hammond, "Boxer" Milne, Alan Belcher, J. Wells. G. Moodie, — Seward; Herb Fry. J. Kerley, Alf. George, J. Monritz, J. Blake. C. Forbes, A. Franke, J. Marchbank, H. Wilson, J. Tankard, and many others were wonderful men of-substance and ability.


While some excelled in one particular, and some in others, they were all splendid resourceful players. The game has been rich in rovers of ability and class, chief among them being P Trotter, J. Baker, W. Hannaysee, Peter Buns, Ernie Cameron, R. Cpndon, M. Grace, W. Mahony, A. Lang, Les Millis, Colin Campbell, G. Vautin, W. Carroll, R- Houston. Alf. Smith, W. Cleary, Joe Johnson, W. Batters. F. Elliott, P. Ogden, — Valentine, W. McSpeerin, and W. Griffiths. . Many clubs are represented in the above names, and there are some rare old-timers among them.

Forgotten Men

It is remarkable how the deeds, and even the names, of certain great players of other times are now scarcely if ever mentioned. How many among us. I wonder, can remember J. Rolls, who played with Fitzroy, then went to Tasmania, and afterwards stripped for Melbourne. He was a great footballer, short and broad, with immense strength and pace, and fine kicking ability. I remember on one occasion, when Fitzroy were playing Carlton on the Melbourne ground. Rolls obtaining possession near the back lines, running almost the length of the ground, and having a shot for goal His temperament, however, was peculiar, and he would sulk and not play at times if decisions were given against him. It was his one fault, for otherwise there was never a better player.

Another man whose deeds are apparently forgotten is — Collins, of Geelong, who played many years ago. There was nothing of the gentle Annie about Collins, but he was a footballer all right. An absolute champion follower in Harry Wilson, of Carlton, who was just finishing his career when mine was commencing, one never hears extolled. He was a wonderful mark and player, and was the dark blue champion after Coulthard.

Who now ever talks of deeds of Jack Kerley. the first man to exploit the running and springing high mark? At least he was the first within my recollection. Except that he was not an expert goal gutter, he was one of the best exponents that ever donned a jersey.
And a player in W. Moore, of Ballarat, who was never seen in Melbourne, was one of the greatest footballers who ever kicked a ball, and absolutely the cleverest, not excepting even Cleary and Hannaysee. Moore was a wonderful goal kicker, could thread his way through opponents like water, and had a long stride.

Another man in the highest class at times was T. Heaney, of Richmond, and Fitzroy. On his best day he was an absolute champion, the pity being that his good days were so few and far between. He was both a match winner and a match loser.' Nobody had a greater spring, and nobody marked like him. with hands far apart in the upward movement, and then dosing like a vice on each side of the ball. But be was too erratic to be classed with the select few. A live wire and a match winner one day, with everybody acclaiming him, while on the next occasion he would just walkabout the field, with no apparent interest in the proceedings, and in danger of getting a chill. His disposition spoilt what would otherwise have been a grand player.

Nor is the name of Charlie Pearson of Essendon fame ever heard in the land. He was always called "Commotion" Pearson, as his uncle was the owner of the famous old racehorse, who found the right handed style of running at Randwick not to his liking. Pearson has been for many years on a ranch somewhere in one of the Southern States of America; and was one of the games champions—big, strong, fast, and a wonderful high mark.

The best team

Frequently one hears the question, "Which was the best team, that ever stepped on a football field?' It is on record that, Essendon is the only club that has won the premiership in four successive years, and that Essendon and Geelong have gone through a season without suffering a defeat, but of all; the combinations that have' pranced on to the arena during my -many years’ experience commend me to the Carlton team that swept all before them in the '90's as absolutely the best and most proficient band of footballers this State has ever seen.

Greatest players

And now I come to the question "What constitutes a champion?" A player to deserve the distinction must be a fine mark, capable of taking the ball in any direction —forward, backward, and sideways— should be a grand kick, and. capable of getting goals when wanted, must be able to handle the ball well, have rare dash and judgment, be quick oil the turn, must go for the ball, excel in any position on the field, and be at his best when a special effort is necessary for success. In other words, must be a finished footballer, able to use both feet in kicking the ball with equal facility, and never admit defeat. Yet of the names published below—our greatest players—not one of them, Jim Flynn excepted, was a two-footer. It is simply astonishing how few have considered it necessary to be able to use either foot. The absence of such an essential is almost unforgiveable for it prevents a man from turning and running in any direction and getting out of difficulties.

Going through all the names I consider worthy of inclusion in the championship list in the last 40 years I will place the following:—Jack Baker, Hughie McLean, Albert Thurgood, Percy Trotter, W. Hannaysee, Charles Pearson, Peter Bums,. F. McGinie, R. Condon. Mick Grace, Ernie Cameron, "Dookie" McKenzie, J. Flynn, A. Franks, Colin Campbell, A. Lang, and George McKenzie, of Ballarat.



Part 3 originally appeared in The Australasian 3-Nov-1923 p. 29


It is customary with a section of modern experts to unhesitatingly give the palm to Thurgood as the best player ever seen. It is a big thing to say. He might have been the most brilliant player in their ken, but there are many others. Players of whom I have an abiding admiration are Jack Baker, Hughie McLean, and "Billy" Hannaysee. Baker, a native of Gheringhap and a Geelong College boy played in his prime for Carlton, McLean for Geelong, and Hannaysee for Port Melbourne.

Jack Baker

In what degree was Thurgood a greater player than Baker? Thurgood was an infinitely better high mark, had more physical strength (though Baker was no weakling), and could kick a longer distance. Not that he was a straighter kick, but that he could cover more ground. He could not handle the ball with the same ease, dexterity, and certainty as Baker, or turn in his stride like him, or play what I consider a more finished game, even though a more forceful one. But skill, not force, was always the old Carlton champion's method, his manliness and freedom from foulness stamping him as one of the most lovable characters who adorned the game or ever kicked a ball. On the field he was the cynosure of all eyes, as he possessed a magnetic personality. Magnificent player as undoubtedly was Thurgood, a champion in all branches, and a match winner, in my humble opinion Baker was at least his equal.

Hughie McLean

And what applies to Baker is equally applicable to McLean, who was an absolute champion, and perhaps the most graceful player ever seen on a football field. He was a beautiful marksman and lovely drop kick, and could do anything, and, like Baker, never thought of the man. As a centre half-forward—a position he made his own—he was facile Princeps. He is the only half-forward I have ever known who could go down to the centre without disparagement to his side. Both Clover and McNamara wander too far afield outside kicking distance; but Hughie McLean could get the ball in and about the centre, thread his way through the opposition, and kick goals or feed the other forwards unerringly.

Albert Thurgood

Many of the present day followers remember the mighty Thurgood, the leading player of his day. He comes under the heading of a good big man, being unapproachable in the air, a tremendous long place kick, traits that were coupled with fine dash, and he could play anywhere—a champion in all positions.

Charlie Pearson

The doyen of the party is C. Pearson, who left for South America when in his prime. He was a big man, well over 6ft. in height, and had a truly wonderful spring. It is questionable whether a better high mark ever lived. He had grand pace, his only weakness bring that lie was not an accomplished goal-kicker. His qualities placed him in the front rank, for few could stand up against him.

"Billy" Hannaysee

Hannaysee was a similar class of player In many respects to McLean. He was not by any means a star in the air in a bunch, feeling safer on terra firma, but in dodging, handling the ball, extreme cleverness, and pace, and in eluding the man at his mark, and kicking goals he was a past master. Like Baker, his principal position on the field was roving. Still, I would place Baker, McLean, and Thurgood as match winners in front of him.

’R ‘Dick’ Condon

Condon was also a wonderful player, almost the equal of anybody. His passing was uncanny, his marking a feature, especially considering his build, which was fairly tell and wiry, and his judgment and handling the hall sublime. Yet his unaccountable failure as a goal-kicker detracted from his otherwise inimitable play. I hold that no man is a great footballer who is a poor kick, and while Hannaysee and Baker were not exceptional kickers, so far as length was concerned, they were wonderfully accurate, and could kick goals at 40 yards without any trouble.

Percy Trotter

Trotter must be classed as one of the champions of champions. No man ever possessed greater dash, his ground work was unbeatable, and he was a beautiful long kick, his running drops a marvel of distance and accuracy. His height precluded him from being an aerial artist, yet he was a star of the first magnitude.

Peter Burns

Peter Burns was a grand mark and a beautiful long place kick. In, I think, the season 1888, when a Carlton crowd brought a coffin round the Melbourne ground to bury the foe, who was to be left dead and dying in the field. Burns won the game for South Melbourne with a remarkable effort, Archie McMurray, father of the present. umpire, had a mark just before time about 80 yards out. He carefully placed the ball, and as be went back to apparently take his kick, Burns sauntered from the centre towards the goal. McMurray ran to the ball, picked it up, and passed to Burns, who, from about 70 yards out, kicked a great place kick winning goal. As in the case of Thurgood, kicking a goal from almost any distance, when it meant winning a match, was Burns’s long suit. He was a rover, well over 6 feet in Height, while Purdy, a player to whom he owed much of, his success, was a follower about 6ft. 6in.

Fred McGinis

McGinis was another great all-round artist, practically blessed with all the attributes of a champion, not particularly remarkable in any one branch, but good in all, and deserving of a place in the first dozen. Mick Grace was another exceptional player, and almost as graceful in his movements as Hughie McLean and Jack Baker, his aerial flights bring beautiful to behold. He was also a fine goal-kicker, was an excellent judge of position, and a splendid spiral punt kick. Yet in the finer points of play, such as running, dodging, and handling the ball, he was slightly deficient in comparison with some of the others.

"Dookie" McKenzie

J. McKenzie, always known as "Dookie," was another great player, capable and brainy in all branches. He 'was not as dashing as many others, bat possessed extraordinary judgment, and was the best standing high mark ever seen—purely a case of judging the ball—though Morrissey. a pocket Hercules of Maryborough and St. Kilda ran him closely for the distinction. In kicking, marking, handling the ball, and in super-judgment, McKenzie was one of the best.

Jim Flynn

It is really extraordinary that in the small but select band of the most excellent exponents the game has seen that J. Flynn should be the only tyro-footed artist. It seems almost in conceivable, and for that reason, and also for the fact that he was a great leader, he is entitled to a place among the immortals. No place came amiss to him, and when Carlton won the premiership in 1907 Flynn came down from St. James for the finals when close on 40 years of age. and exhibited all his pristine vigour and judgment, being undoubtedly the best player on the ground, while his handling of the team was wonderful. How many men have been capable of such a feat? Of the chosen names he is the only leader (except that in his later days McKenzie captained Brunswick) — the best captain since the days of Alex Dick—and one of the best and most finished all-rounders the game has produced.

Ernie Cameron

A later player than those mentioned, and another ornament in every way, was Ernie Cameron, Essendon's rover. He was in a class by himself when there were such rovers in the land as A. Eason. Haines. Ogden, Valentine, Laxton, and others, and could play anywhere. In the centre or on the flanks, back or forward, he was always a star, but only weakness being that he was not a great goal-kicker. But in his manner of playing the game, in his scrupulous fairness and honesty, he deserves bracketing with Jack Baker and Hughie McLean, and was every whit as brilliant.

Bert Franks

Franks, of South Melbourne; was another magnificent all-rounder, though of rather peculiar temperament; but of his ability there is no question. In marking, kicking and running he was the man of his day.

Alex Lang

A. Lang, of Carlton, possessed every attribute except that he was a poor kick comparatively, being the nearest approach to Trotter in dash of late years.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell, a Tasmanian, who threw in his lot with Essendon, was another champion, though a bit inconsistent. He was a beautiful runner, and an extra ordinarily long dropkick. Well do I remember on-one occasion in Adelaide when a Victorian team was engaged against Norwood, on that long Adelaide oval, seeing the two best individual displays of football that it has ever been my fortune to witness. In the first half (an hour each way) Norwood outplayed the Vics., "Bunny" Daly doing everything humanly possible with the ball except picking out his men. His pace, kicking, and marking were simply sublime. He had played himself to a standstill, and in the second half was unsighted. But in that second term Colin Campbell, a beautifully-made specimen of a man, out-did Daly, registering a performance that comes about once in a lifetime, his marvellous brilliancy turning a losing position into a winning one. He became a renowned Rugby player in Edinburgh afterwards, his dash and kicking electrifying the Scotchmen and others at the university, and has long since "gone west." He was certainly the most brilliant representative of the tight little island that made his home for a-time in this city.

George McKenzie

And last, but certainly not least, is George McKenzie, of Ballarat, a type of player somewhat resembling Peter Burns. They both hailed from the golden city and played with the Ballarat Imperial. Standing well over 6ft. in height McKenzie was a grand mark and kick, his long punts only being equalled by those of Frank Caine, and Clover of later days. And he was a fine place shot for goal, standing the ball on end. though not quite so dashing in the field as some of his compatriots.

In Order

I therefore place J. Baker, H. McLean, A. J. Thurgood, and P. Trotter as a quartet possessing superior claims than others, for the proud position of champion, and will include W. Hannaysee and J. Flynn in the first half dozen. Others little inferior are C. Pearson, F. McGinis, R. Condon. P. Burns, E. Cameron, A. Franks, | J. McKenzie, M. Grace and C. Campbell with G. McKenzie and A. Lang as whippers-in.

South Australians

South Australia has produced many great footballers, champions of the past being J. Woods and "Bunny" Daly, of Norwood. Daly was a rover, clean, neat, and dashing in every movement, while Woods, a centre man. had power, pace, and resolution equal to the best. If he had been a Melbourne player his name would have been handed down as a champion.

T. Leahy was a mighty power in the pack, his immense strength and magnificent physique arresting all opponents. I have never seen a more able ruck man, or a fairer. Yet he was a poor kick, bunching and tieing himself in a knot when letting go at the ball.

In Bushby also they had another splendid exponent. His first appearance in this city created an immense sensation. South Melbourne and Geelong were meeting in South Melbourne for the honour of premiership in, I think, 1886, and the South Melbourne committee not having a man in their ranks capable of holding Higinbotham in check, brought Bushby over from Adelaide. There was an animated discussion in the association over the incident, but as there was no rule to prevent his appearance Bushby was included in South's team and stripped against Higinbotham. The discussion over South's action helped to increase the attendance and excitement, and a mighty crowd being present all eyes were focussed on the South Australian. The occasion and circumstances, however, proved too much for him, and he was beaten badly, and so was South Melbourne. But in later games he proved he was a footballer of distinction, with weight, size, pace, and rare kicking powers.


Tasmanians of great merit were George Vautin, Charlie Eady, and — Webb. Vautin, known in Hobart as the nugget, played for Essendon, possessing marvellous dash. Webb stripped for both Essendon and Geelong, had pace, besides being a long kick. Eady, perhaps the best all-round cricketer born in the island, though Windsor must run him closely, was about as fine a defender as I have ever seen. He was a giant, and active, brilliant-in the air, and was a lovely long kick. Of course, there were many others, but these men came under my notice as opponents (except Webb), and were in the first flight.


I trust this article will give as much pleasure to the readers of "The Australasian" as it has given me to write it, for in bringing ray mind back to the memories of the past many pleasant incidents and famous games and players have been recalled. I have played against many of those mentioned, against all the old-timers practically from the days of Lacey to the advent of Thurgood, and my relations on the field with all my opponents were of the happiest, not an unpleasant incident marring a looking backward of just upon 40 years.


This Extra Section originally appeared in The Australasian 10-Nov-1923 p. 28

More on the origin of the North Melbourne Club

In referring, to the dates of the formation of the old clubs in the issue of October 30, under tbc above heading, it was mentioned that Hotham attained senior honours in 1877. A correspondent—and I welcome them all—signing himself from the old suburb, considered that my memory was at fault in this matter. Hotham, he declared, was in existence about the year 1872. I would like to point out to my correspondent that it was not a question of my memory at all, as it was clearly indicated that all tbc data published was obtained from old books in my possession. We are all aware how risky it is to trust to one's memory, and one must rely mainly upon publications.

One of my books of reference is entitled "The Footballer," an annual record, of football in Victoria, edited by Thomas P. Power, who at the time was honorary treasurer to the Victorian Football Association, and who also officiated in different years as hon. secretary and hon. treasurer of Carlton. My correspondent referred to the amalgamation of Albert Park and Hotham prior to 1877 as proof that Hotham was in existence before the date assigned. After reading my correspondent's letter, I found that the amalgamation referred to is given prominence in one of these old books, but, instead of being with Hotham, it was with the North Melbourne clubs. It may be, of course, that my correspondent is confusing one of the junior clubs in North Melbourne with the senior body, as there were two junior clubs existent in the northern suburb before the senior club was formed, viz., the Hotham United in 1873, and the Hotham Union in 1876. No doubt one or other or both of these clubs formed the nucleus of the seniors, whose date is definitely given as 1877. As the amalgamation took place between Albert Park and northern clubs in 1876, presumably it was the juniors of North Melbourne who formed part of the amalgamation.

Albert Park possessed a penchant for amalgamating with some team or other. At first with the Southern, then a strong desire to unite with South Melbourne (both junior clubs), followed by a coalition with the North Melbourne clubs, afterwards with a portion of the Carlton Imperial, and finally with South Melbourne in 1880. The amalgamation of Albert Park and North Melbourne clubs created a great stir at the time, but after winning five of their first six engagements, successive defeats by Barwon and Carlton checked their onward career, and they were heard of no more. Evidently, Phoenix-like, from the ashes, sprang Hotham in 1877. Many old names are brought to mind. in perusing the ancient history recorded in these early books. It is regrettable that a tabulated history of; the game has not been kept by the League. Changes of great importance have taken place in the laws and customs of the game, out the dates on which such alterations were made are not even considered of sufficient importance to be officially noticed. So far as the history of the game is concerned, the League is neither a controlling nor a helpful body.


This Extra Section originally appeared in The Australasian 11-Oct-1924 p. 21

No doubt it will be within the recollection of most readers of "The Australasian" that in October of last year appeared an article entitled. "Forty Years of Football." In that article much time had been spent, over old records in an endeavour to find out the pioneer clubs and other items of football interest. It was discovered that Melbourne was formed in 1858, likewise the Church of England Grammar School, while the dates of formation of the other senior clubs now existent were given as follow:—Geelong, 1859; Carlton, 1864; Albert Park, 1864; St. Kilda, 1873; Hotham. 1877; and South Melbourne, 1880 (amalgamation of Albert Park and South Melbourne). These were all obtained from old periodicals called the "Footballer," compiled by Thomas P. Power, hon. secretary to the Carlton Football Club, and hon, secretary and treasurer of the Victorian Football Association.

Many complimentary references were received, even from the United States of America and the North of Ireland, as well as from Queensland and other parts of our own land. Among other correspondence several communications were received from "T.M.," a North Melbourne resident, questioning the date attributed to Hotham's formation, viz., 1877, as correct. In his opinion, Hotham was formed about 1872, and he gave his reasons lucidly and in good taste. One of the points brought forward by my correspondent was the fact that Albert Park amalgamated with Hotham in 1876, therefore, the fact was obvious that a senior club must have been in existence prior to 1877. ln the books in my possession it was stated that Albert Park coalesced with the "North Melbourne clubs." causing one to surmise that they must have been junior clubs, as Hotham's birth was distinctly given as 1877. And there the matter rested at the time.

However, always being on the lookout for old history and records in either football or cricket, I have managed to secure an earlier edition of the "Footballer," which should set the disputed matter at rest. And I am pleased to be able to inform my esteemed correspondent, "T.M.." that it is therein recorded that North Melbourne was formed in 1870. I was not a resident in Melbourne in those early days of the 70's, and must confess that it came as news to me that the old Hotham club was known originally as North Melbourne, as I was always led to believe that the first senior club in the district was called Hotham. It was Hotham on my first acquaintance with them, when the names of Dick Houston, Joe Tankard, Harry Todd. "Dutchy" Peters, Ernie Beau. Billy Carroll, Harry Alessio, Jack Morris, the brothers Johnson, and others were household words in the football arena. But why Hotham was substituted for - North Melbourne in 1877 is not stated.

The Footballer 1885 P19 Source:SLV
The Footballer 1885 P19 Source:SLV

Five years after the formation of the club the president was "Mr. Richard Sutcliffe; vice-presidents. Messrs. R. J. Alcock and Alexander Sim; hon secretary, Andrew, Hastings: second 20 secretary, J. Monks, captain. H. Fuhrhop: vice-captain. W McLean; number of members, 120; colours, blue knickerbockers, white and blue striped guernsey, cap. and hose: and the playground Royal Park: It is only a few years since their old captain passed away. while their vice-captain, W. McLean, is still a fine specimen of humanity. It may not be known that Mr. McLean is the father of H. McLean, the old Carlton and North Melbourne bowler, and now of Brunswick. McLean jun played with the colts before the war. and is one of the best length bowlers that ever played the grand old game of cricket. He is still in his prime as a trundler, and should he in pennant company, as his, length and pace, make him an absolute champion on a sticky wicket.


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