Kew Sub-Districts Team 1939 - V1 (SLV 122_106)

Charles Boyles Collection SLV
Link to Photo at SLV Website
SLV Accession no. H2008.122/106

Team: Kew (VAFA)
Back Row: Harry Stephens, Ray Jenkins, Eddie Griffen, Arthur O'Neill, Alf Perrin (VC), Russ Elliot, Hugh Marshall, Alf Flanagan
Centre Row: Trainer, A. "Bob" Austen, Unknown, Col Austen, Cairo Dixon (C/C), Hugh Tomison, Jimmy Davidson, Charlie Brown, Trainer
Front Row: Unknown, Bob Herbert, Possibly Teddy Sterchi, Unknown

Location: M.C.G.
Date: Circa


Somewhat ironically, the very first Boyles photo also turns out to be the most elusively enigmatic Boyles photo. After initially failing to solve the mystery myself, I have consulted several reputable football historians and thus far none of us can crack the identity of this team. In the first place, the donor (and SLV) are definitely mistaken. This is certainly not a Richmond (VFL) team. Nor is it an Essendon (VFL) team. The players’ jumpers are not dark enough for Richmond or Essendon, and the players are not wearing hooped socks. No VFL players are recognised. The same reasoning applies to the possibility the team is an Essendon (VFL) Seconds team. Essendon were VFL Seconds premiers in 1941. Might this be their 1941 premiership team? Again, the jumper is not dark enough. Also, ex-Collingwood champion Harry Collier was captain-coach of Essendon Seconds 1941 and he is not in the photo.

The most significant and interesting feature of the image is that it has been photographed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a very large crowd in attendance. Terry Keenan, historian of Port Melbourne Football Club, has noted the fundraising matches played at the MCG in the early stages of the Second World War (before the ground was handed over to the U.S Army as ‘Camp Murphy’) attracted big crowds. Keenan doubts however that small children (mascots) would have been associated with any of the makeshift teams that played for the war effort. He also doubts any of the other Melbourne football competitions of the thirties - Saturday Morning and Wednesday leagues - could have managed to have occasional use of the MCG, or, if they did, draw such a big crowd. The crowd size probably cancels the possibility of the match being a competition other than the VFL or VFA. Also, compared to the raggedy appearance of many of the groups in Boyles, this team does seem to have an air of self-importance suggesting VFL or VFA. VFL however seems to be out of the question. The signs point to the Victorian Football Association (VFA).

In 1939, the VFA began again playing Grand Finals at the MCG.

The three VFA Grand Finals played on the MCG (1939-41) attracted large crowds - for example 48,238 saw Williamstown’s 1939 triumph and 36,000 saw Port Melbourne’s 1941 win. Initially I suspected the team in Photo 1 was either the Williamstown team for the 1939 Grand Final or the Coburg team for the 1941 Grand Final - until I noticed ex-VFL drawcards Harry Vallence (Williamstown 1939) and Bob Pratt (Coburg 1941) do not appear in the photo. Terry Keenan has also noticed this team is not wearing Williamstown’s hooped socks and gold collar. He also notes Coburg wore black shorts in the 1941 Grand Final.

I’m putting my money on Coburg (VFA) Seconds. Coburg Seconds played in all three VFA Grand Finals at the MCG - 1939 against Williamstown, 1940 against Brunswick, 1941 versus Williamstown. Coburg Seconds had an unsurpassed record of success in the thirties and it is very possible that Boyles - a resident of South Coburg - had a particular regard for or affiliation with his triumphant local team. Certainly, as Keenan notes, the jumper does not appear to be dark enough for Coburg. Maybe an early version of a ‘clash’ guernsey. Nevertheless there is some circumstantial evidence in favour of Coburg Seconds.

Firstly the evidence of Photo 17 Version 12 (H2008.122/65). This shows a team having four of the same players (Photo 17/12, top row, numbers 4, 5, 7, 9 reading from the left) as appear in H2008.122/106. Photo 17/12 is likely to have been taken circa 1935-36 and the four players appear about three or four years younger than they appear in Photo 1. The grandstand in the background is the Northcote (VFA) grandstand at Westgarth Street. The same gutter seen here appears in the photo of Northcote’s 1939 team (Photo 10 version 3, H2008.122/117). Also at right one can just discern the old Northcote cricket club pavilion. So the team in Photo 17/12 is likely to be a VFA team playing ‘away’ in white shorts at Northcote. The jumper worn could easily be Coburg’s dark blue and red strip. The team is likely to be Coburg Seconds. It is also almost certainly the same club (as distinct from ‘team’) photographed at the MCG (Photo No. 1).
Secondly, and perhaps even more significantly, the player at the centre (fourth from left in middle row) of Photo 1 (H2008.122/106) is also present (second from right in the top row) in the photo of the Coburg (VFA) Senior Team photographed at the Coburg City Oval, circa 1938-39 (Photo 6 Version 7, H2008.122/43). Incidentally he can also be seen at extreme right of front row in the 1932 Williamstown team (Photo 66, H2008.122/208; Photo 68 version 1, H2008.122/243) below.

An almost identical photo in the collection is Photo No 71 Version 1 (H2008.122/149) which has also been incorrectly labelled by the SLV - ‘Essendon’ this time, not ‘Richmond’. The photo has presumably been snapped before the start of play: it is strange that a crowd (even 1939) could be so large before the start of a curtain-raiser. Half-time perhaps, but unlikely.

Emulsion is damaged on right-hand side, with other scratches elsewhere
Original Ref (Photo 71 Version 1)

The second photo is the same group scene (the same players) as in Photo No. 1 (H2008.122/106). The image is ever so slightly different to No. 1 and is more damaged. Some blurring occurs where there is movement in the crowd. Bad emulsion damage on right-hand side and at bottom but no persons in the group are obscured.


1. Confirmation by Trevor Ruddell, Melbourne Cricket Club and Richmond Football Club.
2. For a photo of the 1941 Coburg Grand Final team, see Coburg Football Club, 1891-1990 Centenary Year Book, 1990.
3. Coburg won the VFA Seconds premiership every year from 1934-40. However Coburg were beaten by Williamstown in the 1941 Grand Final at the MCG. See The Argus, October 6, 1941.
4. This photo has been labelled ‘Possibly Essendon’ by SLV.
5. See S.Caruso, M.Fiddian and J.Main, Football Grounds of Melbourne, Pennon, 2002, p. 108.

Further Work Needed

The Football Record 1939 Week 2 finals provides a team list

Jimmy Davidson is proably the Melbourne player of the same name.
Compare the Photo here to a 1932 Football card.
A link can be found in the Argus in the list of players attending a dance. One player mentioned is Jim Davidson (Melbourne and Kew). see http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5873216

Five Players in this team were in the Kew 1935 Team. See comparison below:
See 122_065 - Probably Kew Sub-Districts Team - 1935 for Kew Photo.

The probable captain is ex Williamstown and Coburg. He appears in image 122_43. It could be that he is ending his career captain/coaching a sub-district team.

There are a few clues that Kew may have played at the MCG as a final's curtain raiser.

Sunshine Advocate 17 Sep 1937 p.3 Sunshines Big Day reports that the 1937 VAFA Grand final between Sunshire and South Melbourne was to be held as a curtain raiser for a final at the MCG.

The Argus 11 Jul 1939 p15 Extentions Unlikely "The action of the secretary in writing in the trustees of the Melbourne Cricket Gound seeking the use of that ground for the grand final on September 3O was endorsed."

1938 - Kew Defeated in 2nd Semi at Northcote - http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page612322

1939 South Melbourne District defeated Kew in Grand Final at a curtain raiser to a league semi final (Melbourne Collingwood). - http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11230251
  • This is a likely candidate for the match

The player third from the right in the top row appears in a number of Boyles Hawthorn photos. The Argus 28-Aug 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11259931 reports that a player by the name of 'Elliot', was permitted to play for Kew in the Grand Final. This could be Russ Elliot, a full forward. In the Sub District final, Elliot kicked 5 goals for Kew. See H2008.122/96 Hawthorn 2nd Photo from 1938/39. (%th from left in top row of players.

Initial duscussion identified one players in this Kew photo as Viv Randell

Viv Randall in other photos

In this photo the player is Russ Elliot. This can be confirmed by comparing Elliot to other known photos where there is a distinct match.

Col Austen

Duplicates - Near Identical Photos

122_106 - Kew Sub-Districts Team 1939 - V1 - This Image
122_129 - Kew Sub-Districts Team 1939 - V2

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