Great Football Dramas.—No. 12. (1935, July 13). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 - 1954), p. 8 (Edition1). Retrieved October 22, 2016, from

Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 Banner
Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 Banner

If ever fate cruelly deprived a football, club of a premiership it did Prahran in 1909. It was a football tragedy. The most accomplished side, ever to wear the clubs colors , brilliantly outstanding in their season, regarded as a certainty for the Association premiership . and yet. for all that unexpectedly defeated in the first semi-final by Brunswick – whom they had beaten in both home and home matches.

The surprise result was swiftly followed by a football sensation of the first magnitude. That night the Prahran committee hurriedly met and dramatically dropped four of their leading players from the training list. They never played with Prahran again. Whether justified or not, the committee's action was undoubtedly courageous, for it meant that Prahran would have to contest the grand final three weeks later with a patched-up team, which would include three or four juniors. That actually happened.

With Crippled

Prahran, with their combination crippled, played off with Brunswick for the premiership, and, as was only to be expected. lost, being runners-up. That is the nearest Prahran have ever got to the Association premiership. After just missing "the four" in 1908, Prahran leapt into the limelight the following season, largely because of the enterprising team-building of secretary Fred Harvey, who had defeated Joe Stenson. retiring secretary, at the 1909 meeting. As secretary, Fred was of the greatest live-wires that ever signed-up a footballer. Like other able secretaries in the history of the game, he was more than a secretary; he was manager — a virtual dictator.

Harvey ran the team on business lines. He paid the players from £3 a week each downwards. That season it cost Prahran nearly £1000 altogether maintain their team — a big sum those days. Prahran announced straight-out that they were paying players, created a stir at the time.

Of course, other senior teams had paid players before that, but always clandestinely. Prahran claim that they were the first senior club to pay players openly.

Energetic, astute and determined, Fred Harvey seldom failed to secure, any player he sought He went after champions only, and picked them for positions. His most spectacular coup was to secure "Pbonso" Wood, South Melbourne's champion centre half-hack, who had just returned to Melbourne, after a season with Norwood, in Adelaide. Harvey actually signed up Wood and got his permit from the Association, while Henry Skinner, South's famous president, was waiting to put him through the League the same night. South were dumbfounded and incensed when they discovered that Prahran had been a move ahead of them.

On the opening day of the 1909 season Prahran startled the football world. They defeated Footscray, 1908 premiers, at Footscray, by 6.13 (49) to 6.4 (42), after being only four behinds to 4.4 at halftime! To defeat Footscray in their own stronghold, where they were seldom even extended, was an achievement: to do it after being four goals down at half-time in a low-scoring match was a veritable triumph.

That put Prahran on the football map. They instantly bees me the "boom team" of the season. Beautifully balanced, they played fluent football, in which speed, system and handball were all skilfully blended. They became even stronger when "Ginger" Stewart, that wonderful footballer and a glorious mark and kick who could play anywhere, was secured from St Kilda, just about the time that Essendon (Assn.) snapped up big Dave McNamara from the Seasiders. Each of these two players was an absolute star—a match-winner in himself—and a powerful attraction to the public.

Could Not Beat 'Dons

The 1909 Prahran team swept through the season, all conquering, except that Essendon, who seemed to have the Indian sign on them, beat them in both; home and home games. Prahran's inability to master Essendon, by no means a stronger side on form or paper, was extraordinary. Mick Madden, with his with irresistible marking had a lot to do with it. His repeated success against the blues tended to rattle their forwards, though in the second home and home game, Dave McNamara, as in countless other matches was Essendon’s hero.

Could the 26 intervening years be magically effaced, and the 1909 Prahran team fielded again at its top. it would, I think, vanquish any present-day Association side. It would not be as vigorous as Northcote. nor as speedy as, say. Yarraville. but for artistry and position play would be invincible. Indeed, the team was called "The Invincibles" just as Essendon were "The Dreadnoughts"

Prahran's chief goal-kicker in those days was Sid ("Sucker") Sykes. He had to be "fed," and was not a high mark, But had the uncanny knack of making position, and was a deadly shot. A doctor once warned him not to play because of a supposed weak heart "Sucker." however, went on playing blithely, and kicked many more goals, Nowadays, he is an enthusiastic "barracker" for South Melbourne.

The 1909 Association home and home matches ended with the premiership list = the premiership

Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 Ladder
Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 Ladder

Came that tragic first semi final. It was played before more than 10.000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. September 4, 1909.

Prahran. who failed to reproduce their devastating form of the season, never seemed to get going properly. To the general surprise they were beaten by 8.6 (54) to 5.6 (36).

The result created consternation in the Prahran camp. The committee took a serious view of it. As stated before, they met promptly, and took drastic action, dropping four men because they were not satisfied with their form. These players protested that they had done their best and one of them, in a letter to The Herald, blamed faulty forward work for the reverse. All four were subsequently given clearances to other clubs.

Just on 15,000 people saw Essendon (11.12) trounce Footscray (5.7) in the second semi-final at North Melbourne.

The preliminary final, a strenuous affair, played before 25,000 at North Melbourne, was won by Brunswick, with 7.12 to Essendon's 6.8. In that encounter 'Dookie" McKenzie, Brunswick’s captain, was felled by a blow on the jaw. He was only partly conscious for the rest of the game. He had to stay in the dressing room. Once he wandered out in a effort to lead his side, but was quickly brought back.

The grand final, between Prahran and Brunswick. drew 20,000. who paid £300. to the North Melbourne ground on Saturday. September 25. 1909.

Teams were:—

Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 Teams
Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 Teams

To fill the four vacancies in their broken ranks Prahran rushed in, in addition to Clarrie Hall, three juniors from Leopold; Collison, Ryan and Kirchner. Ryan proved a "find."

"Phonso" Wood—Hero

Brunswick were handicapped by the absence of "Dookie" McKenzie. not recovered from his injury. Pluckily though Prahran fought they were worn down at the finish. Brunswick winning the game and the premiership by 10.12 (72) to 8.7 (55) Prahran were leading by 8.4 to 5.10 at the final change, but had the wind against them in the last quarter.

"Phonso"' Wood was Prahran's hero that black day, leading his side, and playing as though his life depended on it. He was not the regular captain, but had suddenly been rushed into the position.

As soon as the final bell rang. hundreds of pigeons were released carrying the scores. Brunswick supporters chimed clayhole bells in jubilation.

A peculiar feature of these finals was that at half time Brunswick were revitalised with oxygen, and Prahran with beef-tca.

Fred Harvey was again secretary of Prahran in 1910. and also later, for a short term. He was Mayor of Prahran a few years ago. and is still a member of the Prahran Council.

Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 C Harvey
Sporting Globe 13 Jul 1935 P8 C Harvey


Editors Note

See the relevant page at Reference_ 1909 VFA Grand Final

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