Port Adelaide's Neville Hayes
Ian Brewer (Collingwood)
Tassie Football On the Crest of a Wave
As the Tasmanian state side proved in Melbourne the standard of football being played in the Apple Isle was arguably at an all time high. Recognising this, spectators continued to flock to matches in near record numbers in all three of the state’s principal competitions, the TANFL, the NTFA and the NWFU. The TANFL finals series was particularly well attended with a total of 49,681 fans going to the four matches.
The first of these games, the first semi final, featured Sandy Bay and North Hobart and attracted a crowd of 9,043. Victory went to the former by just 2 points, 15.9 (99) to 14.13 (97). A record second semi final crowd of 13,176 watched Glenorchy (prior to this year known as New Town) overpower New Norfolk with scores of 13.17 (95) to 10.11 (71). In the preliminary final, watched by 11,818, Sandy Bay easily downed New Norfolk to qualify for their first grand final since 1953. Scores were Sandy Bay 13.18 (96) defeated New Norfolk 8.12 (60). The grand final attracted 15,643 spectators who were treated to an excellent display of pace and teamwork from Glenorchy who comfortably accounted for Sandy Bay to claim a record seventh post-war premiership. Final scores were Glenorchy 15.15 (105) to Sandy Bay 11.11 (77). The Magpies went on to add the state title with wins over NTFA premiers Longford in Hobart and NWFU premiers Burnie in Devonport.
Rex Garwood was this year’s Leitch Medallist. It was his third such win. Garwood began his senior football career with New Town as a 20 year old in 1950. Playing as either a half forward or in the ruck, his talent was evident right from the start, and in 1951 he not only won the first of his Leitch Medals but also landed 'The Mercury' newspaper's Player of the Year Award, played representative football for the first time both the TFL and Tasmania, tied for the Wander Medal for the best player in intrastate matches, was New Town's leading goal kicker with 37 goals, and was close to best afield in his club's 71 point grand final annihilation of North Hobart. So much for second season blues!
Two seasons later, the Magpies appointed Garwood as captain and he promptly led them to their second premiership in three seasons, with Garwood himself best afield in the grand final. Earlier in the year he had represented Tasmania at the 1953 Adelaide carnival.
The 1954 season saw Garwood transfer to New Norfolk, who appointed him as captain-coach. The following year he captained Tasmania on its victorious tour of New South Wales and Canberra, while back at home he secured a second Leitch Medal. In 1956 he was again appointed captain of his state, this time for the interstate carnival in Perth.
Garwood's tenure as New Norfolk coach ended in 1957, but he continued to give excellent service as a player, winning his third and final Leitch Medal in 1958. Somewhat surprisingly, he never won a club best and fairest award. He was, however, selected in both the Glenorchy/New Town, New Norfolk and official Tasmanian Teams of the Century.
Another Tasmanian footballer to make the headlines in 1958 was Arthur Hodgson. Born in Sydney, Hodgson moved to the mining settlement of Queenstown in west Tasmania at the age of nine and quickly acquired a prowess at the ‘foreign’ sport of Australian football. A best on ground performance for the Queenstown Football Association representative side against a TFL second 18 in 1947 earned him a crack at the ‘big time’ as part of the NTFA combination which took on, and lost narrowly to, the TFL in Hobart. His stellar performance at centre half back in that game was rewarded with inclusion in Tasmania’s 1947 carnival team, making him the first QFA player since 1904 to be so honoured.
Hodgson’s meteoric rise continued when his displays in the carnival attracted the attention of recruiting officers from the mainland. In 1948 he began a five season, 76 game association with Carlton which included an appearance in that club’s losing 1949 grand final side, a club best and fairest award in 1950, and VFL representation in the Brisbane carnival of that same year. Returning home in 1953 Hodgson took over as coach of Ulverstone whom he steered to four NWFU premierships in seven seasons in charge, as well as the 1955 state flag (Ulverstone’s first). His prowess as a player had not diminished either as he won a Wander Medal in 1955 and represented Tasmania in 11 more interstate matches, including involvement in the 1953, 1956 and 1958 carnivals. Hodgson’s record of five interstate carnival appearances is matched only by another Sydney-born player in William ‘Nipper’ Truscott of Western Australia, plus South Australia's Fos Williams. Throughout his career Hodgson’s speed, safe ball handling, and exquisite disposal skills made him one of Australia’s finest centreline players.
In June 2004, Arthur Hodgson was selected as a wingman in the official Tasmanian Team of the Century, and two years later he was inducted as a legend into Tasmanian Football's official Hall of Fame.
WANFL: Royals Bounce Back
After their surprise loss to East Fremantle in the 1957 grand final East Perth bounced back in heart stopping fashion against the same opposition a year later. The Royals finished the minor round in second place with their tally of 16 wins from 21 games being 1 fewer than minor premiers East Fremantle. There were some who felt that Old Easts had the wood on East Perth. After defeating the Royals in the 1957 grand final they had proceeded to win all 3 1958 minor round clashes between the teams. They then crystallised the notion that they had East Perth’s measure by winning the second semi final by 16 points. The Royals bounced back from this disappointment by grinding out a hard fought 6.13 (49) to 4.9 (33) preliminary final win over Perth but some observers were quick to suggest that they would enter the grand final physically denuded as a consequence.
In front of a crowd of 36,668 at Subiaco Oval the two grand finalists produced a stirring, sea-sawing spectacle. It was typical finals football, not pretty, but highly engaging. The Royals, aided by the breeze, were out of the blocks quickly and had they kicked straighter the match could have been as good as over by quarter time. As it was, they led by 21 points, 3.7 (25) to 0.4. The second term brought a revival from East Fremantle who added 5 goals to 2 to go into the half time interval leading by the narrowest of margins. East Perth, in turn, dominated the third term to seize the iniative with a 17 point lead at the last change. This ultimately proved to be just enough, because although Old Easts fought back tenaciously in the final term the Royals were always able to keep their noses in front - just. Scores in the end were East Perth 8.17 (65) to East Fremantle 8.15 (63).
Icing on the cake for East Perth in 1958 came in the shape of Ted Kilmurray’s Sandover Medal win and Bill Mose’s feat in topping the league’s goal kicking list. Dazzlingly skilful and inventive, Kilmurray was a key member of East Perth teams during arguably that club's greatest post-war era. Between 1956 and 1960 the club contested every grand final, and was successful on three occasions. On a personal front, Kilmurray's best year was 1958, when he won both the Sandover Medal and the East Perth fairest and best award, and was on a half forward flank as the Royals beat East Fremantle by 2 points in a thrilling grand final. It is therefore perhaps a little surprising to note that he was not included in the Western Australian party for that season’s Melbourne carnival.
A superb exponent of the flick pass, Kilmurray was one of the main reasons the laws of the game regarding handball were changed to insist on a clenched fist being used to strike the ball. He was also a tremendous one grab mark, characteristically stretching his arms well out in front of himself to prohibit spoiling from behind. Another trait was his penchant for snatching the ball off the hands of a pack while running away from goals, and then screwing the ball back over his right shoulder with his left foot, often for full points. One goal kicked in this way sealed a memorable win over South Fremantle in 1956 on the day the new grandstand at Perth Oval was officially opened.
Kilmurray grew up with Graham Farmer at various orphanages administered by an Anglican nun known as Sister Kate, and after demonstrating great prowess in country football the pair eventually went to East Perth together, with Kilmurray, initially at least, attracting more attention because of the eye-catching flamboyance of his game. All told, he played a total of 257 games for the Royals between 1953 and 1966, and was four times selected for Western Australia. Memorably nicknamed 'Square', owing to his ability to slip unnoticed, often to devastating effect, into the goal square, he was equally at home on a half forward flank or as a ruck-rover, and despite being only 117.5cm in height and weighing just 73kg he could also hold down a key forward position when required. In June 2006 he claimed a berth on a half forward flank in East Perth’s official Team of the Century 1945 to 2005.
Bill Mose is best remembered for his performances this season during which his 115 goals from full forward made a significant contribution to East Perth's eventual premiership win. Mose had also played at full forward in the premiership team of 1956. Between 1952 and 1959 he played 123 senior games for the Royals, kicking 205 goals. He also represented Western Australia 4 times, including a couple of games at the 1958 Melbourne carnival.
As far as East Fremantle were concerned the 1958 season could scarcely have been improved on - until that heart-rending loss in the grand final. During the year no fewer than five Old Easts players went to Melbourne with Western Australia’s carnival team. These were Jack Clarke (captain), Alan Preen, Norm Rogers, Ray Sorrell and Percy Johnson, with the first four all gaining selection in the All Australian team chosen at the conclusion of the carnival. No club before or since has ever provided four members of the same All Australian team.
East Fremantle’s form during the minor round and indeed in their second semi final clash with East Perth was consistentlyu superb. Their only losses in 21 outings were at the hands of South Fremantle in round seven, West Perth in round nine, Swan Districts in round twelve and Perth in round fifteen. Some of the team’s wins were by exorbitant margins: 83 points against Swan Districts in round five and 121 points versus Claremont in round eleven, for instance. The side could also tough it out though, with almost half their victories coming in matches which could be defined as close (3 goal margin at most).
Sadly for East Fremantle, however, premierships are won on grand final day, and in 1958 the grabd final was won, perhaps somewhat luckily, and certainly very narrowly, by East Perth.
Perth were again a force in the competition, contesting their fifth straight finals series and their tenth since the war. The Redlegs came good after a sluggish start against West Perth in the first semi final, ultimately emergin victorious by a couple of straight kicks, 14.16 (100) to 13.10 (88). In the preliminary final against East Perth they did well for three quarters, and went into the last interval a point to the good. However, the Royals added 3.5 to 1.0 in the final term to win relatively comfortably.
West Perth won 3 more minor round games than Perth but only managed to win 1 out of 3 against the Redlegs. Perth’s victory in the first semi final could therefore not really be termed a surprise. The Cardinals had some handy players but were still some way - a couple of seasons, as it emerged - short of being the finished article.
For the first time since 1946 Subiaco finished outside the bottom three. Indeed, they might even be adjudged unfortunate not to qualify for the finals as they finished just a win and a minuscule amount of percentage adrift of fourth spot. The Maroons were definitely a team with promise, some of which would be fulfilled in 1959.
By 1958 South Fremantle’s time in the sun was well and truly over. Between 1945 and 1957 the team contested every finals series and reached a total of nine grand finals, winning six. In 1957 they slumped to fifth, and the decline continued in 1958 with their tally of 8 wins consigning them to a distant sixth position. There would be no real improvement in the immediate future either.
Swan Districts won 6 games to finish seventh while Claremont ended up in bottom place with just 2 wins. The last time either side reached the finals was 1952 when Claremont finished third.
A Review of the 1958 Football Season
Ted Kilmurray (East Perth)
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SANFL: So Close but So Far for West
In 1958, West Adelaide played their first League match at their new home ground of Richmond Oval. The result was a 10 point win over West Torrens, and West went on to record victories in all but one of their home fixtures for the season. They were almost as impressive away from Richmond, winning 15 out of 18 home and away matches all told to secure the minor premiership for only the second ever time. A comfortable 26 point defeat of North Adelaide in the second semi final followed, but the grand final was to produce yet another agonising twist in the ongoing West Adelaide-Port Adelaide saga.
A near record crowd of 54,282 witnessed the 1958 grand final in which West seemed in control for long periods only for the Magpies to repeatedly fight back and keep themselves within striking distance. With nine minutes to go Port hit the front and, despite being under pressure for most of the remainder of the game, managed to hold onto their lead until the end. As if to rub salt into the wound, with ninety seconds remaining a shot from West ruckman Jack Richardson hit the goal post, leaving the Blood 'n Tars just 2 points in arrears. Even then West had another chance to recapture the lead, a set shot from Colin Brown failing to make the distance from just forty metres out in the final few seconds. The final scoreboard read Port Adelaide 14.10 (94) to West Adelaide 14.8 (92), with the victors best served by Neville Hayes, Lloyd Zucker, Geof Motley and Fos Williams, and the losers by Jeff Bray, Ken McGregor, Jim Wright, Ken Eglinton and Bert Johnson.
A piece of football folklore was created in the aftermath of the 1958 grand final as a group of West Adelaide players and supporters returned to Adelaide Oval late the same night and made off with the “infamous” goal post which had got in the way of Jack Richardson's late shot.
It was the Magpies’ fifth consecutive premiership, and by some measure the hardest fought of them all. For a start, Port only finished the minor round in third place, and had therefore to begin their finals campaign from the first semi final. Opposed by Norwood, the Magpies proved consummately superior, leading at every change by 10, 32 and 22 points on route to a 16.25 (121) to 10.16 (76) triumph. Next up were minor premiers North Adelaide in the preliminary final, and this proved a much sterner test. At half time the Roosters led by 22 points, a margin that would have been much greater had their kicking for goal been straighter. After half time the Magpies dug deep and managed to produce arguably their best quarter of football of the season. Whilst holding North scoreless they added 7.9 and this effectively finished the match as a contest. Final scores were Port 12.15 (87) to North 7.18 (60).
Then came that tense, absorbing and memorable grand final.
Port’s Rex Johns topped the SANFL’s goal kicking list in 1958. He booted 55 goals. A profile of Johns can be read in the review of the 1956 season.
West Adelaide won 15 and lost 3 minor round matches to qualify for the finals in second place, behind minor premiers North Adelaide on percentage. West’s only defeats came at the hands of North in round four, Glenelg in round five and Norwood in round eleven. They accounted for Port Adelaide on all three occasions that the teams met with their only reversal against the Magpies coming when it mattered most.
North Adelaide claimed the minor premiership in 1958 but disappointed during the finals. This was particularly the case in their preliminary final clash with Port when they led 5.15 (45) to 3.5 (23) at the main break only to wilt when the Magpies raised the intensity of the contest in the third term.
Norwood fell into, rather than qualified for, the 1958 finals. The Redlegs finished with a 7-10-1 record and a percentage that was marginally superior to that of fifth placed West Torrens who had an identical win/loss record. An unexpected round seventeen loss to South Adelaide effectively derailed the Eagles’ finals prospects. In the last minor round series they narrowly beat Sturt but Norwood outclassed Glenelg to secure the percentage boost necessary to overhaul the Tigers.
West Torrens centreman Lindsay Head was the 1958 Magarey Medallist. The sublimely skilled Head had also claimed the award in 1955 and he is profiled in the review for that season.
Sixth placed South Adelaide won 6 and drew 1 of their 18 minor round games. Arguably their most noteworthy success came at the expense of Norwood at the Parade in round thirteen. The Panthers won convincingly by 64 points, 16.17 (113) to 7.7 (49).
Glenelg, who finished seventh, managed just 5 wins but one of these was quite noteworthy. In round thirteen at Glenelg Oval the Bays scored a fighting, come from behind triumph over Port Adelaide, ultimately scraping home by a single point, 8.9 (57) to 8.8 (56).
Last placed Sturt only managed to defeat Glenelg in round ten and South Addelaide in round eleven. The Double Blues also tied with Norwood in round nine. They had last obtained the wooden spoon two seasons before, and it was the fourth time since the war that they had had to endure the indignity. Only South (bottom eight times) had a worse record.
VFA: Seagulls Soar Once More
Williamstown won their fourth premiership in five seasons but they needed a grand final replay to shake off a plucky and determined Moorabbin. In the first match, Moorabbin got the jump on the Seagulls with a 4.5 to 0.1 opening term but thereafter Williamstown looked the better side. However, thanks to a mixture of slipshod kicking for goal and stern defence by the Panthers they failed to get their noses in front. Final scores were Moorabbin 7.9 (51) tied with Williamstown 6.15 (51).
The Seagulls dominated from the start almost to the finish of the grand final replay. Only when the match was won did they relax somewhat and allow the Panthers to make the scoreline a little more respectable. Best afield in Williamstown’s eventual 13.18 (96) to 8.16 (64) win was centreman John Martin who had won the Liston Trophy two years earlier.
For the sixth time in a row the premiers of the NSWANFL were Eastern Suburbs who accounted for Western Suburbs in the grand final by 7 goals. Newtown came third and St George fourth.
Mayne won their first QANFL premiership since 1952 with a 33 point grand final defeat of Kedron.
Premiers in Canberra were Ainslie who trounced Eastlake in the grand final by 71 points. Their triumph was noteworthy in that most players in the team were young locals.
Wanderers won the NTFL flag for the first time in thirty-four years. They beat reigning premiers Works and Housing in the grand final by 9 points.
 Between 1945 and 1952 VFL representative sides were arguably less dominant than at any time in their history with an overall success rate of just 66% against their two main rivals, South Australia and Western Australia. Starting at the Adelaide carnival of 1953, however, the Big white V embarked on an era of unsurpassed supremacy: in 9 meetings with the croweaters between 1953 and 1959 the VFL was successful every time with an average winning margin of 70 points; against the sandgropers it was a similar story - 9 successive wins at an average margin of 57 points. Throw in an average margin of 77 points over 5 meetings with arguably the strongest Tasmanian combinations in that state's football history and the pre-eminence of the Victorians is indisputable. All told, in the seven seasons between 1953 and 1959 the VFL was successful in all 25 representative fixtures contested, with an average winning margin of almost 70 points. Only the immediate pre-state of origin sides (1966 to 1976) approached this level of dominance.
 Large as the crowd was, it was not the biggest for the season. In round 10 an all time record home and away crowd of 99,346 had attended the Queen's Birthday clash between the same two clubs, in which Melbourne had triumphed by 11 points.
 The Complete Book of VFL Finals by Graeme Atkinson, page 190.
Grand final results - VFL: Collingwood 12.10 (82) d. Melbourne 9.10 (64); SANFL: Port Adelaide 14.10 (94) d. West Adelaide 14.8 (92); WANFL: East Perth 8.17 (65) d. East Fremantle 8.15 (63); VFA: Moorabbin 7.9 (51) drew with Williamstown 6.15 (51); Replay: Williamstown 13.18 (96) d. Moorabbin 8.16 (64); TANFL: Glenorchy 15.15 105) d. Sandy Bay 11.11 (77); NTFA: Longford 14.12 (96) d. North Launceston 12.18 (90); NSWANFL: Eastern Suburbs 15.11 (101) d. Western Suburbs 8.11 (59); NTFL: Wanderers 17.9 (111) d. Works and Housing 14.18 (102); QANFL: Mayne 13.9 (87) d. Kedron 7.12 (54); NWFU: Burnie 19.15 (129) d. East Devonport 13.13 (91); CANFL: Ainslie 20.12 (132) d. Eastlake 9.7 (61); TSP: Glenorchy 7.11 (53) d. Burnie 6.11 (47).
Melbourne Carnival results - SECTION ONE: VFA 15.12 (102) d. Tasmania 13.16 (94); Western Australia 11.12 (78) d. South Australia 7.18 (60); VFL 25.17 (167) d. South Australia 7.7 (49); Tasmania 13.16 (94) d. Western Australia 11.12 (78); VFL 13.23 (101) d. VFA 7.10 (52); Tasmania 11.18 (84) d. South Australia 11.16 (82); Western Australia 21.16 (142) d. VFA 11.8; VFL 25.14 (164) d. Tasmania 8.14 (62); South Australia 16.15 (111) d. VFA 5.13 (43); VFL 15.13 (103) d. Western Australia 11.12 (78) SECTION TWO: Queensland 11.18 (84) d. New South Wales 11.13 (79); Australian Amateurs 18.15 (123) d. Canberra 9.15 (69); Canberra 12.10 (82) d. New South Wales 9.13 (67); Australian Amateurs 22.11 (143) d. Queensland 8.8 (56); Australian Amateurs 10.16 (76) d. New South Wales 9.12 (66); Canberra 18.15 (123) d. Queensland 4.5 (29).
VFL: Collingwood’s Finest Hour
On 20th September 1958, in a scenario that no Hollywood script writer could have wished to surpass, the only team standing between Melbourne and the immortality of four successive VFL flags was - Collingwood, the only team to have so far achieved that feat. Regarded by most as an ordinary team fuelled more by old-fashioned 'G and D' than by any innate football talent, embarrassingly thrashed by Melbourne in the second semi final, missing both their skipper Frank Tuck and arguably their most talented player in Bill Twomey, the Magpies entered the 1958 grand final as the longest odds outsiders for years. The Demons, thought the experts, would be too quick, too skilled and much too cohesive for Collingwood, whose only potential trump card lay in the almost fanatical determination of its players, who ‘Phonse Kyne had ensured were imbued to the brim with awareness of and heartfelt devotion to the club's unique tradition, as well as an understanding of the damage to that tradition which would result from Melbourne emulating - and hence, inevitably, de-valuing - one of its chief cornerstones, the winning of an unprecedented four VFL flags in succession.
Grand final day was cool and very wet, but this did not prevent a large crowd of 97,956 turning up to see Melbourne explode out of the blocks in typical, vibrant, assured fashion. With 'big guns' Barassi, Mithen, Beckwith and Johnson firing, the Demons totally dominated the opening term, and when they entered the first change with a 5.1 to 2.2 lead the only question on most observers' minds - Collingwood supporters excepted - was “how much Melbourne?”
During the second term, however, a change came over the game. As the ground got heavier, so the pace slowed, and the normally elusive Melbourne players were at the wrong end of some fierce body clashes. Moreover, they reacted in such a way that Collingwood's 'enforcers', Murray Weideman and Barry “Hooker” Harrison, sensing a weakness, "systematically roughed up the potential Melbourne match-winners, notably Barassi and Mithen, who seemed to be involved in almost every flare-up”. Slowly but surely, as Melbourne players concentrated on avoiding danger, or on 'evening up' with Harrison and Weideman, the Magpies began to make inroads into the deficit, adding 5.4 to 2.3 for the quarter to end up 2 points to the good at the long break.
The third quarter brought more fiery incidents, but in between it was the Magpies who were playing nearly all the football, rattling on 5.3 to the Demons' 2 solitary behinds to more or less seal the game. Although Melbourne attacked relentlessly for most of the final term, the Collingwood backline, notably full back Harry Sullivan and back pocket Ron Reeves, reigned supreme, and when the final siren sounded the scoreboard confirmed what was arguably the biggest grand final boil-over in the VFL since Melbourne's triumph over Essendon precisely a decade earlier: Collingwood 12.10 (82); Melbourne 9.10 (64).
The Magpies' victory had been achieved by means of a quintessential team performance in which every player carried his weight. Even so, some individuals inevitably stood out, notably diminutive rover Thorold Merrett, who was credited with 25 kicks, ruckmen Graeme Fellowes and Ray Gabelich, half forward Bill Serong, wingman Ken Turner (21 kicks and 11 marks) - plus, of course, the aforementioned “strong man” duo of Weideman and Harrison and, particularly in the final term, the last line defenders Reeves and Sullivan.
Despite the intensely physical nature of the contest, the umpires made only two reports: Melbourne's Ron Barassi was charged with striking Murray Weideman, and Barry Harrison was alleged to have charged Barassi. Both players were exonerated at the tribunal.
After what was arguably the Collingwood Football Club's finest hour, few could have imagined that it would be thirty-two long years before the club again achieved premiership success, but such would indeed prove to be the case.
Collingwood provided the leading goal kicker dfor 1958 in the shape of Ian Brewer. Key position forward Brewer had the rare distinction of enjoying top level success in the three main football states. At Collingwood he impressed as a full forward, kicking 164 goals in 84 VFL games between 1956 and 1961, topping the league list with 73 goals in 1958. He topped the Magpies' goal kicking ladder twice, and was at full forward in the 1958 grand final when the Woods upset firm flag favourites Melbourne by 3 goals. Earlier that season, on the Queen's Birthday holiday, he had produced arguably his most memorable performance for Collingwood in booting 6 of the side's 10 goals in an 11 point loss to Melbourne in front of an all time record VFL home and away crowd of 99,346.
In 1962 he crossed to St Kilda, but proved unable to break into the senior side. As a result, he seems to have decided that a change of scenery might suit him, and travelled to Western Australia. He spent the next couple of seasons with Claremont where, playing mainly as a centre half forward, he booted 55 goals to top the club's list in 1963, and was a member of its sensational “rags to riches” premiership team the following year.
The next stop was the SANFL where Brewer lined up with Norwood. In 1965 he was the competition's outstanding forward, missing the elusive ton by just 4 goals. He also topped Norwood's list with 76 goals the following year. After three years spent captain-coaching Wangaratta Rovers in the Ovens and Murray Football League he made a somewhat faltering return with the Redlegs in 1970, when his 3 appearances for the season gave him a career total of 171 league games comprised of 84 with Collingwood, 43 with Claremont, and 44 for Norwood.
Melbourne's desire to retain its title in 1958 could scarcely have been more intense. Not only would such an achievement match Collingwood's all time record of four consecutive VFL pennants between 1927 and 1930, it would, if anything, be amplified almost beyond measure by virtue of coinciding with the centenaries of both the Melbourne Football Club and - by popular consent, at any rate - the code of Australian football itself. Alas, although the Demons did everything that could possibly be expected of them right up until the day of the grand final itself, winning the minor premiership yet again, and thrashing Collingwood by 45 points in a low scoring second semi final, ultimately it was not to be. In the grand final, as described above, Collingwood comprehensively outplayed Melbourne in the second and third quarters to win a torrid, feisty encounter by 18 points. Sometimes, when the stakes are perceived as being particularly high, it is possible to try just that bit too hard, and perhaps that was the Demons' problem in 1958.
Despite boasting a percentage of just 92.7 North Melbourne won 11 of their 18 minor round matches to qualify for the finals in fourth spot. Opposed in the first semi final by a Fitzroy team which had convincingly won both home and away encounters between the teams North showed great resilience in snatching victory by 4 points. The winning goal was scored by Noel Teasdale with the very last kick of the match.
The Kangaroos had beaten preliminary final opponents Collingwood at Victoria Park in the final home and away match of the season. However, on this occasion the Magpies proved too dynamic and resourceful, with the Kangas not aiding their own cause by some slipshod kicking for goal, particularly in the second term. Collingwood ultimately won by 20 points, 14.12 (96) to 10.16 (76).
Fitzroy qualified for the finals in third place with a 12-6 record which included wins in all 9 of their home fixtures, behind Collingwood only on percentage, and some observers rated them a realistic premiership prospect. However, on only the second wet Saturday of the entire 1958 season they were well contained by North Melbourne, who deservedly won 10.10 (70) to 9.12 (66). Unfazed, the ‘Roys would regroup and continue among the league’s leading sides for another few seasons.
The round seventeen clash between Essendon and North Melbourne at Windy can in retrospect be said to have decided which of the teams progressed to the finals. North won by 3 goals leaving the Bombers in fifth place with 10 wins, 1 win shy of the Kangas but with a vastly superior percentage. Having reached the 1957 grand final Essendon had reason to be disappointed. At their best they could compete with anyone, as they proved with a 3 point dfeat of Melbourne in round sixteen. The Bombers also achieved wins against Collingwood (twice) and Fitzroy, but on the reverse side of the ledger they somehow contrived to lower their colours to each of the league’s bottom three sides, clear evidence that they lacked consistency.
After qualifying for the VFL finals for the first ever time in 1957 Hawthorn suffered a disappointing decline a year later, winning precisely half of their matches to finish sixth. Their most noteworthy wins occurred against North Melbourne in rounds five and sixteen, and in round eighteen against Fitzroy.
Seventh placed Carlton had an immensely disappointing year by the club’s high standards. The Blues won just 8 matches and never once looked capable of challenging the competition’s leading sides.
Despite their poor league form - 7 wins and 11 losses - eighth placed St Kilda had a couple of causes for celebration. Statuesque defender Neil Roberts won the 1958 Brownlow Medal, while the Saints were successful in the VFL night competition, overcoming Carlton in the final by 8 points.
St Kilda recruited Roberts from Melbourne High School Old Boys and he made his VFL debut in 1952. After failing to impress as a forward during his first two and a half seasons in league company he was moved to centre half back with stunning success. Tall and boasting an athletic physique, he was excellent overhead, and a superb rebound player. He won St Kilda's best and fairest award in 1955, and again three years later, when he also landed the Brownlow. A regular Big V representative (11 appearances), he was an inspirational player who led from the front. In 1958 he became the first ever St Kilda player to achieve All Australian selection. Appointed St Kilda captain in 1959 he retained the position until he retired, after 169 VFL games and 40 goals, in 1962.
In 2002, Neil Roberts was chosen at centre half back in St Kilda’s official Team of the Century.
Ninth placed South Melbourne and tenth placed Richmond, like St Kilda, won just 7 games. South managed to defeat Fitzroy in round thirteen; other than that, results tended to go to form.
Footscray ended up eleventh, their worst finish since 1939. The club’s first halcyon era, highlighted by the 1954 premiership, was well and truly over.
Last placed Geelong managed just 4 wins. It was the Cats’ second successive wooden spoon.
High Farce in the “Home” of Football
The Melbourne Carnival of 1958, which was specially arranged to celebrate the imagined centenary of Australian football, ended up being less a celebration and more a palpable indictment, emphasising as it did just how little real progress in promoting and developing the sport had been made over the preceding hundred years. With the pre-eminence of the Victorian Football League arguably at an all time zenith, and most Victorian football supporters having been brainwashed into the deluded notion that the sport of Australian football did not meaningfully exist beyond the boundaries of their home state, the Carnival proved to be a disaster from both a financial and sporting perspective. With all of the VFL's results a foregone conclusion the only glimmers of excitement - as in 1956 at Perth - came in matches involving Tasmania, which combined sensational triumphs over both Western Australia and South Australia with a heart-halting loss to the VFA. Just as two years earlier in Perth, the Tasmanians finished a highly creditable third.
In a pathetic attempt to affirm the “Australian-ness'"of Australian football the 1958 Melbourne carnival also played host to section B of the championships, with New South Wales, Queensland, Australian Amateurs and Canberra waging their own private series of meaningless mini wars in front of deserted terraces and stands. As usual, the southern states amateur combination proved comfortably superior to all three of the minor football states and territories.
Allen Aylett of the VFL, who polled 7 votes, was declared the sole winner of the 1958 Tassie Medal; however, in keeping with the spirit of revisionism which began to infest Australian football from the 1980s onwards Ted Whitten, who also claimed 7 votes, was later declared a joint winner. Originally, under the countback system in operation at the time, first preference votes were accorded the greatest weighting, and Aylett received more first preference votes than Whitten.