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Reigning premiers Mersey were warm favourites to retain the 1905 North Western Football Association premiership when they lined up against Devonport ob Saturday 9th September 1905. Since the inception of the competition in 1894 the club had been easily the most successful witth premiership triumphs in 1898 and 1899, 1901 and 1902 and 1904. Devonport had enjoyed premiership success twice, initially in the NWFA's inaugural year and again three seasons later.


The match took place at  East Devonport Oval in front of a sizeable crowd. Because of the game's importance an umpire from Launceston, Mr Thompson, was hired to officiate. His performance was described as less than perfect, however, and his interpretation of the game's laws seemed very strict by local standards.


Mersey were bedecked in red and white, with Devonport in blue and white. The ground was reasoably firm , the weather was dry, and the wind was negligible - perfect conditions for football. During the first term the Mersey players were consistently first to the ball, and played with much greater precision than their opponents. By the first change they had established what, by the generally low scoring standards of the time, looked likely to be a decisive 5 goal advantage, 5.1 (31) to 0.1 (1).


The second quarter saw both sides cancelling one another out, and play was rugged and congested. By the long break each team had added just a couple of behinds to their respective tallies.


The blue and whites played somewhat better in the third term but failed to make any inroads into the deficit, and indeed the only goal of the quarter went Mersey's way..


Nothing could have prepared either the teams or onlookers for the drama and sheer farce of the final term. With Devonport at last performing with passion and purpose an exciting climax looked possible, but with twelve minutes and fifty-five seconds left an altercation broke out between a couple of rival players and a large number of spectators expressed their anger by pouring onto the oval. Despite the best efforts of club officials and the please most of the spectators refused to be dispersed and further play proved impossible. At the appointed time, with the ground still littered with noisy spectators, the final bell rang out with the scoreboard reading Mersey 7.5 (47); Devonport 2.5 (17). Roughly half an hour later the Association announced that it would be holding a meeting on the following Tuesday in order to decide what action to take.


Most people expected the Association to announce that, given the score at the time, Mersey would be awarded the premiership. However, instead it was decided that the final twelve minutes of the match would be played at the earliest opportunity.  Eventually, it was decided that the conclusion of the game would take place on Saturday 30th September,[1] but rumblings from the Devonport camp suggested they would be unlikely to make an appearnce. Perhaps because of this, only about fifty spectators turned up for the match. Anxious to emphasise their right to the premiership the Mersey players duly arrived at the ground but only nine actually donned football togs. These nine, together with several of their team mates wearing street clothes, then went through the desultory motions of playing out the final twelve minutes of the match, kicking 8 goals in the process. According to "The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times" Devonport protested that Mersey should not be awarded the premiership "on the ground that the Mersey team on Saturday was not identical with that of three weeks ago". Their objection was not upheld, however.


FOOTNOTES


[1] The reason for the long delay was that Mersey had a fixture arranged for the following Saturday against Oatlands, while on 23rd September the NWFA were scheduled to play Beaconsfield.

A Farcical Finale - 1905 North West Football Association Premiership Decider, Saturday 9th September and Saturday 30th September 1905, Mersey versus Devonport