Explore the History of australian football

Clarrie Hall (Richmond)

Ernie Jamieson of Carlton

Barney Herbert (Richmond)

Carlton's Willy Dick

In 1916 Essendon, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne withdrew from the VFL which meant that the premiership would be contested by just the four inner city clubs: Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond.(1) Each club would meet the other four times in the minor round, following which all four sides would contest the finals. The team heading the ladder at the end of the minor round would be granted a double chance, but other than that the teams would be treated equally during the major round, meaning that, in theory, the side finishing fourth would have just as good a chance of claiming the premiership as the team which finished second. It was a ludicrous system, a fact which events would serve to emphasise, because fourth placed Fitzroy would end up defeating minor premier Carlton in both the final and challenge final to take out the flag. 

Given how preposterous the league’s schedule for 1916 was it might be argued that all 24 minor round matches were virtually irrelevant. However, football has never been merely about premierships; first and foremost it is about entertainment, and seldom has this truth been more evident than during the bleakest year of the first world war, 1916.

In years to come, Carlton and Richmond would develop one of the fiercest rivalries in the VFL, but in 1916 Richmond - the Wasps, as they were known at the time - were the competition’s Cinderella side, having so far failed to contest a single finals series. Carlton meanwhile were one of the league’s heavyweights, with a total of five VFL flags to their name. In 1916 the Dark Navy Blues were chasing a third consecutive premiership and they were warmly favoured to do so.

Punt Road Oval was the setting for Richmond’s round three clash with Carlton in 1916. Richmond had opened the season with two straight losses against Collingwood and Fitzroy, while the Blues had lost their opening round engagement to Fitzroy before overcoming Collingwood in round two. After two completed round Fitzroy was the only team to have won both matches but the ‘Roys would not win again until the finals.

Carlton attacked from the off and looked likely to score “but forward arrangements were not quite adequate to the occasion”.[2] Richmond then took the ball to the other end of the ground but Percy Martini and Alex Eason, both of whom were on loan from Geelong, squandered relatively easy scoring chances. Carlton finally got the first score of the match - a behind - but thereafter it was the Wasps who held sway. However, the scoreboard failed to reflect the extent of their dominance, and despite managing eight scoring shots to three their lead at the first change was a mere 10 points, 1.7 (13) to 0.3 (3).

The early part of the second quarter saw Richmond still on top but their kicking for goal was woeful. As the term wore on the Blues began to attack more and they finished quarter with a flurry of goals to lead at the main interval by 9 points, 3.7 (25) to 1.10 (16). The quarter had been fairly evenly contested, but Richmond had failed to capitalise on a number of good scoring opportunities whereas Carlton’s forwards had been impressive in front of goal.

Carlton opened the scoring in the third term with a goal after a superb mark to Joe Shortill. Thereafter, however, Richmond took charge, and this time their shooting for goal was accurate, with Clarrie Hall and Frank Harley twice eliciting two flags from the goal umpire. At this stage, Richmond had a lead of 8 points, and this was quickly increased thanks to goals from Percy Maybury and Martini. Carlton’s only response was a behind, meaning that at three quarter time the Wasps had eked out a handy 19 point lead, 6.14 (50) to 4.7 (31). Their waywardness in front of goal would come back to haunt them, however.

Not long after the resumption Martini again goaled for Richmond and it seemed the match was as good as over, an impression reinforced when the ensuing quarter of an hour saw no additions to either teams’ scores. The deadlock was finally broken by Viv Valentine for the Blues who snapped truly despite having his back to goal. Shortly afterwards Charlie Fisher added another major score to an upsurge in volume from the small crowd. Carlton were playing with formidable purpose and the Richmond backline battled in vain to contain them. There was an air of inevitability about the dying moments of the game with George Topping, Vin Gardiner and Perce Daykin goaling in rapid succession to give the Blues a 5 point victory. The Wasps could only look back and bemoan their woeful inaccuracy in front of goal, a failing which would again blight them the next time they confronted Carlton.[3]

Carlton’s was an even team performance with no exceptionally prominent performers. Perhaps their best player was half forward flanker Perce Daykin, while others to do well included Dayton’s fellow forward Charlie Fisher, plus defenders Ernie Jamieson and Billy Dick. Best for the losers included counterman Percy Maybury, rover Harry Alessio and follower Barney Herbert.


FOOTNOTES

[1] These four clubs boasted strong working class identities, and generally speaking members of the working classes tended to be much more likely to oppose Australia’s involvement in the war than those of the middle and upper classes. 

[2] “Weekly Times”, 27/5/15, page 19.

[3] In round six at Princes Park Richmond booted 3.13 (31) to Carlton’s 14.8 (92).

​Wasteful Wasps - VFL round 3, Saturday 20th May 1916: Richmond versus Carlton at Punt Road