Explore the History of australian football

“The revival of inter-State football in Melbourne on Saturday, when Victoria played the return match against South Australia, was marked by all the pleasing features that characterised the games in pre-war days. The attendance was 31,000, and the takings £1,632 - figures which dispel any doubt as to whether football would retain its drawing power after the war. The enthusiasm was just as great, the excitement quite as keen, and the football equally as good as in the stirring times before hostilities broke out. When the game ceased the cheering for both teams was as generous as it was genuine. That wholesome impartiality which is reflected in popular demonstrations to both victors and losers was again manifested, and not one incident occurred to earn the displeasure of the crowd or to mar the afternoon’s sport.”[1]

South Australian teams were usually pacy and heavily reliant on long drop kicking. If allowed to run unfettered they could overwhelm the opposition, but they tended to react badly to the sort of fierce tackling in which Victorian teams specialised. In this match, however, they opted to dispense with their trademark drop kicking and instead favoured the punt kick, a choice as baffling as it was misguided. It was left to the Victorians to demonstrate how accurate and effective the drop kick could be. Somewhat more sensibly, however, the South Australians opted to fight fire with fire, and their attack on the ball or opponent was vigorous but measured throughout. The effectiveness of their tackling and general body work was perhaps enhanced by the fact that, man for man, they were a bigger, heavier side than the Vics.

Conditions for the match were ideal: cool and fine, with a moderate southerly breeze favouring the Richmond end. Victorian captain Vic Belcher won the toss and chose to kick with the aide of the wind in the first quarter. Play in the first term was extremely fast and vigorous, but it was also disappointingly one-sided. The Victorians handled the ball superbly, passed well using low, skimming drop kicks, and seemed to have a much better team understanding than South Australia, who repeatedly fumbled the ball and kicked waywardly. The South Australians also placed a heavy emphasis on handball, and although this did enable them to produce a few passages of fluent, attractive play, more often than not they came unstuck. By the first change onlookers could have been forgiven for imagining the match was as good as over with Victoria leading by 27 points, 5.3 (33) to 1.0 (6). Vic forwards “Dick” Lee and Gordon Rattray had been particularly conspicuous, and it was difficult to see how the visitors could hope to turn things to their advantage.

South Australia improved somewhat in the second term although they failed fully to capitalise on their use of the breeze. The pace of the play slowed discernibly in this quarter with the Vics perhaps marking time prior to raising their intensity and vim after half time.  Defender Jack Tredrea was South Australia’s best player at this stage. Ruckman Tom Leahy was also to the fore as he outpointed both Fred Baring and Tom O’Halloran during the second term and repeatedly gave his rovers first use of the ball. For the home side Bert Rankin, Paddy O’Brien, “Max” Hislop, Robert Carew, Rattray and Lee were all performing brilliantly. At the long break Victoria’s lead had been reduced, but only marginally. The margin was now 22 points, with Victoria on 6.6 (42) leading South Australia 3.2 (20).

“J.Woods, the old Norwood crack and great centre man, made a stunning speech to the Adelaide men in their dressing room before re-entering the field. He advised them to cut out the silly hand passing, to keep in front of their men, and to play quickly and unselfishly. The advice was taken to heart, and the combined and individual play of the team in the second half was as sound, brilliant, and determined as any Adelaide team has ever registered in this city.”[2]

Several South Australian players who had been virtually unnoticed in the first half came into prominence this term. Dan Moriarty at centre half back was fleet of foot and provided excellent rebound; Jack Hamilton was moved from a half back flank to a wing where he comprehensively outpointed Carew; “Shine” Hosking on the other wing was beating Mark Tandy; Frank Golding was marking and kicking well on the forward lines; and Angelo Congear was benefiting from the increasing dominance of ruckman Leahy and roving superbly.

Despite these marked improvements South Australia did not achieve the level of dominance they would manage in the final. The home side continued to play with pace and purpose and, aided by the breeze, marginally outscored the visitors in this term, extending their lead to 27 points. At “lemons” the scores were Victoria 10.7 (67); South Australia 6.4 (40).

The final quarter saw South Australia mounting a determined comeback which only fell narrowly short. 

“It soon became evident that Victoria were up against it, for Leahy, the good-tempered giant, and a mighty follower, dominated the ruck, in spite of the fact that the home followers were repeatedly changed. He was hitting out to Congear on almost every occasion, not a Victorian ruck man being able to live with him, and was by far the freshest man in the pack, in spite of his previous efforts.”[3]

The opening ten minutes of the last quarter saw South Australia add 2.2 whilst producing their best sustained burst of football of the match. South Australia’s deficit was now just 13 points and the Victorian crowd actually began to cheer for the visitors rather than their own heroes. Victorian full forward “Dick” Lee was then awarded a free close to goal and he made no mistake, In general play, however, the South Australians continued to dominate, and the next two goals of the afternoon were theirs. With five minutes remaining Victoria’s lead was a single straight kick, just as it had been in Adelaide a month earlier. 

“The crowd was unmistakably with South Australia, who were playing gallantly. Time and again O’Brien and Hislop turned them back, with Tredrea, Richardson and Moriarty fighting just as spiritedly in the visitors’ defence. The play was up and down, and across the ground, the home team’s centre and defence work saving the day. Leahy, aided by Curnow, had taken possession of the ruck, and time alone saved Victoria …..”[4]



FOOTNOTES

[1] “Pivot” in “The Age”, 4/8/19, page 11.

[2] John Worrall in “The Australasian”, 9/8/19, page 30.

[3] Ibid, page 30.

[4] Ibid, page 30.

​Jack Tredrea (South Adelaide and SA)

​Paddy O'Brien (Carlton and VFL)

Tom Leahy (North Adelaide and SA)

​Bert Rankin (Geelong and VFL)

​Vics Hold On - Interstate Match, Saturday 2nd August: VFL versus South Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground