Explore the History of australian football

The first recorded reference to a West Torrens Football Club dates back to 1879 when a team bearing that name participated in a number of scratch matches. The team wore red and white playing uniforms and, appropriately enough, tended to be referred to as the Butchers, owing to the large number of team members who worked at the local West Park slaughterhouse. Indeed, the team had its home ground adjacent to the slaughterhouse, and just behind the Adelaide Gaol.

The origins of the team which went on to carry the name of West Torrens into the SAFA and SANFL date back to 1894, however, when a group of Port Adelaide players, unable to get a regular game, elected to form a breakaway side known as Port Natives. This team, which wore red and white playing uniforms, was affiliated with the Adelaide and Suburban Association in 1894 and the following year was admitted to the SAFA, when it changed its colours to black and gold. After two seasons under the Port Natives moniker during which it finished last and second to last the club members unanimously agreed a name change to West Torrens in 1897 to coincide with the inception of district football.  By this time, the club had also adopted the blue and gold colours with which it would become identified.

Until 1922 the side played most of its home matches at the well appointed but misleadingly named Hindmarsh Oval - mistaken because it was anything other than oval in shape - before moving to a new and permanent home base, Thebarton Oval, which it was to retain until its final ever league season in 1990, when it relocated to Football Park.

During the club’s first decade success proved elusive. Torrens’ highest finishing position during that time was third, which it managed in 1900. It also came fourth twice. A trifle more impressively, it completely avoided the indignity of the wooden spoon. Indeed, West Torrens would not finish last until 1930, and all told would accumulate just five wooden spoons.

In 1907 the club was among the SAFL’s pace setters, but most observers felt that the race for the premiership realistically involved just two clubs: Norwood and Port Adelaide. West Torrens played Port Adelaide in round four at Alberton, losing by 6 goals, and round nine at Hindmarsh when the deficit was 2 points greater. The first meeting of the season with Norwood took place at the Parade in round seven, with the home side securing victory by 55 points. The teams’ second clash was scheduled for Hindmarsh Oval in round thirteen, with the result of greater importance to Norwood rather than Torrens. This was because the Redlegs needed a win in order to retain any hope of finishing the minor round at the head of the ladder, this being of course the time when winning the minor premiership brought with it the right of challenge in the finals. As far as West Torrens were concerned the result of the match might be said to be of no significance as win, lose or draw the side would qualify for the finals in third place.

The crowd which assembled at Hindmarsh on Saturday 24th August 1907 was described as the largest of the season up to that point, and they would be treated to a fine game. Seizing the initiative from the outset Norwood, through the agency of John “Alby” Bahr and Stan Hill, brought the ball to within scoring range only for Nolan of the blue and golds to make a timely interception. Play went from end to end for a while before “Libby” Waye, from a free kick, registered the game’s, and Torrens’, opening goal. Norwood’s first score was a behind and then Alf Godson, for the blue and golds, had the misfortune to see his shot strike a goal post. Another behind to Torrens followed before Chamberlain registered the Redlegs’ first six pointer. At the end of the term the scoreboard read West Torrens 1.2 (8); Norwood 1.1 (7).

Torrens began the second term brightly but initially at least could only translate their superiority into a succession of behinds. Finally, centreman Lionel Wells found James Beales who kicked truly to give the blue and golds a little breathing space. "Norwood looked like turning the tables but the blue-and-golds' defenders were equal to the occasion, and once again the Norwood citadel was besieged."[1] Ultimately, however, the Redlegs' persistence paid of as Stan Hill registered full points from a free. This had the effect of heightening Norwood's endeavour and shortly afterwards a goal to Chamberlain, following a splendid mark, gave them the lead. Another fine mark by Charles Gwynne shortly afterwards led to the Redlegs' fourth goal and now it was they who enjoyed a modicum of breathing space in terms of the score.

"Godson, Angwin, and MacGavish headed a Torrens rally, and the lastnamed passed to Beales just as the half-time bell rang. Silence prevailed while he placed the ball at an angle, and was broken by a deafening yell as the ball soared high and true between the uprights."[2]  This made the scores at the long interval Norwood 4.4 (28) to West Torrens 3.3 (21).

After Torrens had opened the scoring in the third term with a behind to Albert Filsell the Redlegs assumed control and it seemed apparent that they were making a concerted bid for victory. Two goals in quick succession to Stan Hill pushed their advantage out to three straight kicks and for the time being the blue and golds seemed all at sea. Gradually, however, with the likes of Ralph Aldersey, Charles McGavisk and Waye to the fore began to mount their share of attacks. Waye it was who gave the first hint that a comeback was in the offing. Gathering the ball in the centre of the ground he dashed forward and sent a perfectly executed punt kick straight through the centre. This had the discernible effect of lifting the spirits of the Torrens players, as was tangibly proven a few minutes later by another goal from Waye. This was followed by a third six pointer in rapid succession, this time courtesy of a lovely torpedo punt from Filsell. This put Torrens a point to the good, but Norwood, thanks to a goal from Stan Robinson, quickly restored the Redlegs' lead. The blue and golds had the final say, however, and by the end of the term they had added both a goal and a behind to their tally, which meant that the scoreboard at "lemons" showed them with an advantage of 2 points.

"For a space the struggle was keen and full of interesting incidents.. Both teams played with the utmost confidence, and stubbornly contested every inch of ground. Repeatedly the backs repelled attacks, and the system and cohesion of each eighteen was delightful to watch."[3] Torrens, however, had an edge in pace, and gradually this began to tell. A soccered goal by Godson extended their lead to 8 points, and this was soon followed by first a behind (a poster) and then a major score, both off the boot of Beales, who had been a thorn in the Redlegs' side all day.

At this point Stan Hill, who had been a prominent performer for Norwood, was forced to leave the field of play after injuring his knee.

Despite their reduction in numbers the Redlegs enjoyed a period of concerted dominance, but unfortunately for them this only resulted in a brace of minor scores. Torrens swiftly made them pay when Godson found Waye who goaled, and in so doing virtually sealed his side's success. A few minutes later the same player added another goal to completely erase any lingering doubts the blue and gold supporters might have entertained. To the surprise of many, but the delight of their fans, West Torrens had completely overrun (and outrun) the Redlegs in the final term to procure a highly meritorious 26 point victory. Final scores were West Torrens 11.10 (76) defeated Norwood 7.8 (50). Best for the victors were Aldersey, McGavisk, Waye (5 goals), William Angwin, Wells and Nolan, while the vanquished visitors were best served by Harold Stoddart - arguably the best man on the ground - Phil Newland, Robinson, Stan Hill and Gwynne.

Unfortunately for the blue and golds, their excellent form in this match was not maintained in their first semi final encounter with Port Adelaide a fortnight later.[4] For some inexplicable reason the West Torrens players chose to take the field wearing sand shoes rather than football boots. If this was in an attempt to bolster their already formidable pace - the blue and golds were universally acknowledged as one of the league's quickest teams - it was almost ridiculously misguided as Port proceeded to outrun, outthink and outplay their opponents, winning by the quite exorbitant margin for the times of 69 points, 12.10 (82) to 2.1 (13).

West Torrens would have to wait until 1924 to claim a breakthrough premiership.[5] Norwood only needed to wait a matter of five weeks as they overcame minor premiers Port Adelaide in the challenge final by 28 points.



FOOTNOTES


[1] "The Register", 26/8/07, page 7.

[2] Ibid, page 7.

[3] Ibid, page 7.

[4] Torrens had the bye in round fourteen.

[5] In the thirteen seasons when league football was played between 1908 and 1923 West Torrens finished third three times, fourth four times, fifth once, and sixth on five occasions. Their 1924 challenge final defeat of Sturt was the first ever time that the club had played off for the premiership.

Torrens Win Against the Odds - SAFL round 13, Saturday 24th August 1907: West Torrens versus Norwood at Hindmarsh Oval

Phil Newland (Norwood)