Explore the History of australian football

Seagulls Soar in Apple Isle

In the TANFL Clarence, who had entered the competition in 1947, qualified for the finals for the first time. However, they were quickly bundled out of the flag race by Sandy Bay in the first semi final. The Seagulls won by 30 points, 13.11 (89) to 8.11 (59). The second semi final featured Hobart and New Town with victory going to the former by a margin of 35 points, 15.11 (101) to 9.12 (66). Sandy Bay surprised New Town in the preliminary final as they surged to victory by 44 points. Scores were Sandy Bay 13.6 (84) defeated New Town 5.10 (40).

The 1952 TANFL grand final attracted a bumper crowd of 11,086 to North Hobart Oval and they were witness to an excellent exhibition of fast, tough finals football. Maintaining the excellent form of their first two finals matches Sandy Bay eased to victory by 3 goals. Final scores were Sandy Bay 14.9 (93); Hobart 11.9 (75). Champion rover Terry Cashion was a key member of the victorious Seagulls’ side. A much travelled footballer, Cashion seems destined to remain the only Tasmanian ever to win interstate football's most noteworthy individual prize, the Tassie Medal. After preferring soccer as a youngster, Cashion saw the light as a thirteen year old when he began playing under age football with Buckingham. After four seasons there he exploded onto the big league scene with New Town in 1939 when he finished runner up in the TFL's best and fairest award, the George Watt Memorial Medal, a feat he duplicated the following year. During the war he spent some time stationed in Victoria with the army, and played a handful of VFL games with South Melbourne before being sidelined with a knee injury.  Cashion's next major port of call following his discharge from the army and recovery from his injured knee was Clarence, where he played for a couple of seasons, including the 'Roos' first ever TFL season in 1947.  That year also saw Cashion donning a Tasmanian jumper for the first time, and his performances during the Hobart carnival were sufficiently meritorious for him to be awarded the Stancombe Trophy as Tasmania's most noteworthy performer of the series.

Three years later at the Brisbane carnival the by this stage seasoned performer, now with Longford, played even better, securing not only a second Stancombe Trophy, but the coveted Tassie Medal itself as well.  In a series marred by atrocious weather conditions, the Tasmanians as a whole performed with a considerable amount of credit, comfortably beating the VFA, and giving a respectable account of themselves against all three of the major football states.  Much of the credit for this belonged to Cashion, who positively revelled in the conditions, matching or outplaying all of his supposedly more illustrious opponents in every game.

Cashion again represented Tasmania at the Adelaide carnival of 1953 in what proved to be his interstate swansong. Back in the TFL by this stage, with Sandy Bay, he retired from top level football at season's end with a total of 193 senior games under his belt. An excellent indication of his consistency is his achievement in winning a total of seven club champion awards in only ten full seasons of senior football.

The immensity of Terry Cashion's reputation in Tasmanian football circles was emphasised in June 2004 with his selection as first rover in the state's official 'Team of the Century'. Two years later he was inducted as a legend in the official Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.

In 1952 the Tasmanian state club championship was not held. However, NTFA premiers City met and defeated TANFL top side Sandy Bay by 4 points.

Other Football

Premiers of the NSWANFL were North Shore who accounted for Western Suburbs by 9 points in the grand final. Scores were North Shore 11.9 (75) defeated Western Suburbs 9.12 (66). It was North Shore’s first senior grade flag since 1921. Newtown and Sydney were the other teams to qualify for the finals.

In Brisbane, Mayne won the QAFL grand final by a solitary point from Western Districts. Final scores were Mayne 12.9 (81); Western Districts 11.14 (80). It was the Tigers’ first premiership in a decade.

Ainslie cruised past all opposition in 1952 en route to an emphatic premiership. Their grand final defeat of the newly formed Queanbeyan-Acton combine saw them complete the season with a 100% winning record: played 17, won 17. Manuka and Eastlake were the other finalists.

The NTFL premiership went to Buffaloes for the fourth successive time. Opposed in the grand final by Wanderers they won quite comfortably in the end. Scores were Buffaloes 13.16 (94); Wanderers 12.8 (80).

Five interstate matches took place in 1952. In Adelaide, South Australia defeated Western Australia 16.6 (102) to 12.10 (82) and the VFL 12.8 (80) to 8.15 (63). Western Australia travelled to Melbourne to face the Big V and produced a fine performance to get within 9 points at the death. Final scores were VFL 13.13 (91) defeated Western Australia 13.4 (82). Finally, there were two matches between Western Australia and South Australia in Perth, with the home state triumphing in both, by margins of 60 and 2 points.


[1] The Clubs by John Ross and Garrie Hutchinson, page 193.

[2] “The Geelong Advertiser”, 27th September 1952. 

[3] Woofa by Bob Davis (with Jim Main), page 67.  

[4] Ibid, pages 66-7. 

[5] Cited in The Great John Coleman by Wayne Miller and Vikki Petraitis, with Victor Jeremiah, page 76.

[6] Ibid, page 52.

Grand final results - VFL: Geelong 13.8 (86) d. Collingwood 5.10 (40); SANFL: North Adelaide 23.15 (153) d. Norwood 6.9 (45); WANFL: South Fremantle 12.19 (91) d. West Perth 10.10 (70); VFA: Oakleigh 11.18 (84) d. Port Melbourne 8.15 (63); TANFL: Sandy Bay 14.9 (93) d. Hobart 11.9 (75); NTFA: City 12.11 (83) d. Scottsdale 9.9 (63); NSWANFL: North Shore 11.7 (73) d. Western Suburbs9.12 (66); NTFL: Buffaloes 13.16 (94) d. Wanderers 12.8 (80); QANFL: Mayne 12.9 (81) d. Western Districts 11.14 (80); NWFU: Wynyard 9.12 (66) d. Ulverstone 7.14 (56); CANFL: Ainslie 13.20 (98) d. Queanbeyan-Acton 13.12 (90).

A Review of the 1952 Football Season

Sturt's Len Fitzgerald

That Ian McKay screammer

BACK TO:   Season Reviews

VFL: Cats Go Back to Back In Style

An extra round was added to the VFL’s match programme this season. It was played at interstate and country venues, namely the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, North Hobart Oval, Albury, Euroa and Yallourn.

With more or less the same group of players as in 1951 Geelong continued to dominate, and indeed to improve, the following year. Only 2 home and away matches were lost this time around, compared to 4 the previous season, and with the defence in particular displaying extraordinary impenetrability, many of the wins were achieved with redoubtable conviction. Only twice, against Carlton in round seven and Essendon at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground in round 8, did the Cats have tallies in excess of 100 points kicked against them. They tuned up for the finals with a 10.17 (77) to 3.14 (32) strangulation of Carlton in front of a Kardinia Park record crowd of 49,109, and thereafter 'did it on the bit' with 54 and 46 point finals wins over Collingwood. In the grand final, watched by a crowd of 82,890, "the Magpies pitted their courage and determination against Geelong's superior speed, skill and system, but it wasn't enough.  Geelong established an early lead, and the result was a foregone conclusion”.[1]

An incident which epitomised Geelong's superiority, as well as exemplifying the team's style of play under Hickey, occurred early in the third quarter after the Magpies had started to show signs of getting back into the game:

Highlight of the match was a third quarter dash of 100 yards around the outer wing by Davis (Geelong).  Starting on the half back flank, Davis raced around the wing, bouncing the ball as he went at top speed, and leaving Collingwood players far behind.

Tackled near the half forward flank, he handpassed to Worner, who passed back to Davis, and the ball eventually finished in the teeth of goal.

Davis later gave his own version of the incident:

Ah, I remember it well! I had seven or eight bounces in that run and then let fly with a running drop kick - my favourite form of disposal.  As a boy I had always dreamed of playing in a grand final at the MCG and of launching myself on an extended run downfield.  The funny thing is that I recalled this dream as I was bouncing the ball and dodging my Collingwood opponents. [3]

Following this incident, Geelong went on to add 6 goals for the term to Collingwood's 2, effectively laying to rest any doubts as to where the 1952 VFL pennant was heading.  The last quarter was a cakewalk as the Cats kept Collingwood goalless as they careered to a 46 point win, 13.8 (86) to 5.10 (40). Geelong's fair headed half back flanker Geoff Williams was best afield, with rover Neil Trezise, change ruckman Norm Sharp, back pocket Bernie Smith, and 5 goal full forward George Goninon also prominent.

Writing in “The Argus”, Hugh Buggy summarised the reasons behind Geelong's supremacy thus:

Geelong, the team whose blistering pace has given football a new meaning in the last two years, romped away from Collingwood in the League grand final on Saturday to win its second successive pennant.

To achieve this new club record, Geelong had to wear down a tenacious and aggressive Magpie side that battled on, yard by yard, with the desperation of despair.

It was a triumph richly deserved by a sternly disciplined Geelong 'machine', which plays a clean exhilarating game, entirely free from dirt, spite, and the murky reprisal.

It was a fitting reward, too, for a team which has been a model of consistency, and one which stepped up the tempo of the game to a pitch no rival could either excel or equal. 

Geelong, if the saying can be stomached, appeared to “have the wood” on the Magpies, having emerged victorious from each of the last five meetings between the sides. 

The most positive thing which could be said about the grand final froma Collingwood perspective was that the players would prove to have learnt a valuable lesson. All that was in the future, however, and the mood at Victoria Park following the match was predictably gloomy. The Magpies were believed by many to be the only side with sufficient pace to challenge Geelong but in both finals the Cats found an extra gear that made Collingwood appear turgid by comparison. In between their two clashes with Geelong the Magpies faced Fitzroy in the preliminary final and won with something to spare by 19 points. The victory was all the more meritorious in that they finished the match with just sixteen fit players. Fitzroy erred in putting the emphasis on physicality which had the effect of bottling up the play but the Magpies were past masters at coping with such situations. Had the Maroons opened up the play they would arguably have fared better given that Collingwood were effectively two men short.

Fitzroy won 13 and lost 6 matches during the minor round to qualify for the finals in third place. During the first quarter and a half of their first semi final encounter with Carlton they dominated largely on the strength of winning rucks, forging out a 6.2 to 0.8 lead. Then the Blues came alive and by three quarter time they had established a 4 point lead, which were it not for some atrocious kicking for goal would have been considerably greater.  The last quarter was a battle royale, with the Maroons’ ferocity and determination coming up against the Blues’ dash and skill, and neither side able to break clear. With just a minute left to play scores were deadlocked, and Fitzroy launched one last desperate forward foray which culminated in skipper Alan Ruthven snapping a behind. Moments after the resumption the siren sounded with the scoreboard showing Fitzroy 10.9 (69) to Carlton 8.20 (68).

A fortnight later in the preliminary final clash with Collingwood the Maroons, perhaps understandably, resorted to the same bustling, close checking approach that had seen them over the line against Carlton, but as noted above this effectively played into the Magpies’ hands. Collingwood ended up winning 11.15 (81) to 9.8 (62).

Carlton were left ruing their profligacy in front of goal in the first semi final. Had they achieved the win their territorial dominance probably warranted they would have had no fear whatsoever about facing either Collingwood or Geelong, both of whom they had downed during the home and away series.

In coming fifth, and only narrowly failing to qualify for the finals, South Melbourne had their best season since 1945, when they had contested the grand final. Their form raised hopes that might be capable of mounting a viable premiership challenge within a season or two, but sadly this would not prove to be the case. As late as round seventeen in 1952 the Swans were in the four but they then proceeded to throw everything away in losing first to Fitzroy by 7 points, and then to lowly Footscray by 5 goals. A win in either of these fixtures would have secured finals participation.

Melbourne improved greatly on their 1951 wooden spoon to finish sixth. On their day, the Demons were a match for almost any team, but they also had a frustrating tendency to shoot themselves in the foot when opposed by lower ranking sides.

North Melbourne, who reached the grand final in 1950, suffered a dramatic slump in fortunes a year later when they finished ninth. In 1952 there was a modicum of improvement with a tally of 9 wins from 19 matches securing sixth spot on the premiership ladder. The highlight of the season arguably came in round nine when they defeated Collingwood at Victoria Park by 16 points. It would prove to be the Magpies’ only reversal on home turf for the year.

Despite Essendon’s frankly mediocre season full forward John Coleman headed the league goal kicking list for the third time. He booted 103 goals.

In a post-war world hungry for heroes, Essendon’s John Coleman fitted the bill impeccably.  Prolific full forwards had always attracted attention and a certain amount of adulation before but never in quite such a personal way as Coleman, whose film star good looks only served to enhance the superstar image.

In pure footballing terms he wasn't all that bad either.  Indeed, from the time he burst onto the VFL scene with 12 goals on debut against Hawthorn in 1949 it was obvious that the Dons had hit the jackpot.  Coleman combined freakish aerial ability with superb ground skills, and was a deadly accurate kick for goal, but his greatness was much more than the sum of these parts.  Truly great champions often possess an elusive magnetism deriving as much from bearing and overall approach as from actual achievements; such was very much the case with Coleman - very few footballers have possessed such an arresting and impressive on field presence.  Moreover, at a time when full forwards were traditionally greedy for goals, John Coleman broke the mould by being quintessentially team-orientated.  As Jack Dyer tautly observed, "As long as Essendon get the goals Coleman doesn't worry who kicks them”.[5]

Of course, no matter how team-orientated a full forward is, he will still tend to be judged primarily on the number of goals he kicks, and in this respect Coleman was the most prolific player in the VFL for a decade.  When a badly dislocated knee prematurely ended his career in June 1954 he had topped Essendon's goal kicking list every season since 1949 (and would again in 1954, despite missing the last half of the season); he had led the league list on four occasions too, which included three tallies of 100 or more goals.  A premiership player in 1949 and 1950, many people remain convinced that his controversial suspension for the 1951 grand final cost the Dons that year's flag.

Needless to say, Coleman was often on the receiving end of some pretty rugged treatment from opponents, and although fundamentally disposed to 'play the ball', he was not averse to retaliating if he felt the occasion demanded it.  Sadly, the fact that umpires then, as now, habitually interpreted the laws of the game differently when the ball was in scoring range meant that Coleman's direct opponents often got away with near murder, making retaliation frequently seem like the only, or at any rate the most immediately rewarding, option.  Every camel's back has its breaking point, and Coleman's suspension for 4 matches, which included the 1951 grand final, came after Carlton, courtesy of Harry Caspar, applied just one straw too many during the last home and away match of the season.

Eloquently summarising Coleman's unique appeal to football fans of virtually all persuasions, Herald journalist Hec De Lacy observed:

To me the greatest delight in the Coleman technique is to see him one split second as the polesitter, the disinterested spectator of the hustle and bustle; the next to rise with the crowd's excitement as he comes from nowhere, throws himself into the air and drags down the seemingly impossible mark.  

Coleman is football's personality player - the greatest player in the game's greatest era. 

Coleman was later a highly successful coach, steering the Bombers to the 1962 and 1965 flags.  His premature death in 1973 aged just forty-four was a tragic loss for football.

Essendon rover Bill Hutchison finished second on a countback in the voting for the Brownlow. He would later be awarded a restrospective Medal.

 The highlight of the Bombers’ season was arguably their 23.17 (155) to 12.14 (86) defeat of eventual premiers Geelong in round eight at the Brisbane Exhibition  Ground.

After finishing sixth for three successive seasons Richmond dropped three places on the premiership ladder in 1952. Ruckman Roy Wright gave the club’s supporters something to enthuse about though when he won the Brownlow Medal. Despite managing just 21 senior games in his first four seasons with the Tigers, Wright ultimately developed into one of the all time greats of the game, with two Brownlow Medals, and numerous other awards and accolades, to his credit. He always used his formidable 102kg weight with consummate fairness, but with ever increasing effectiveness as well.  When Jack Dyer retired at the end of the 1949 season Wright shouldered his mantle as number one Tiger ruckman with considerable aplomb, winning club best and fairest awards in 1951 (jointly with Des Rowe), 1952, 1954 and 1957 in addition to his two Brownlows. Eighteen times selected to represent the VFL in interstate matches, he earned All Australian selection at the 1956 Perth carnival. He sustained numerous injuries during his 195 game VFL career, which began in 1946 and ended in 1959, including debilitating leg and lower back complaints. He also broke his nose on no fewer than nine separate occasions. It came as a surprise to few people when Roy Wright was selected as first ruckman in Richmond’s official Team of the Twentieth Century.

Footscray suffered a disappointing slump in 1952 dropping five places on the premiership ladder from their 1951 finishing position of fourth. The Bulldogs often appeared to be outclassed and few poeple could have seriously imagined that they were just a couple of seasons away from their inaugural VFL premiership.

Eleventh placed Hawthorn, like Footscray, managed just 5 wins for the season, and they too frequently seemed to be out of their depth, while bottom side St Kilda only managed to defeat Footscray at Yallourn and, somewhat more notably, Fitzroy at the Junction Oval.

VFA: Devils Strike Form at Right Time

Third after the home and away rounds Oakleigh produced their best football of the season in the finals en route to their second senior grade VFA premiership in three years, and the fourth in total. Grand final opponents Port Melbourne were widely favoured to win but the Devils produced a pacy and olccasionally brilliant display to upset the odds. They won 11.18 (84) to 8.15 (63) in front of a huge crowd estimated to be just short of the 40,000 mark at the Junction Oval. Oakleigh led at every change and always seemed to be in control with full back Bill Vains, centre half back Norm Tindal, centreman Vic Hill and centre half forward Max Wenn the main driving forces behind their win.

Steve Marsh (South Fremantle)

SANFL: Roosters Rule the Roost

North Adelaide's valiant effort in 1951, when they lost a stirring grand final to Port Adelaide, had a discernible effect off the field as club membership rose to a record 1,700 in 1952. On the field, too, there was progress, with the side winning 14 out of 17 matches to secure the minor premiership, followed by a stirring 3 point victory over Port Adelaide in the second semi final.

The grand final record crowd of 50,105 spectators who turned up expecting to see a closely fought tussle between North and Norwood were not disappointed in the first term as the red and whites edged their way to a 3.1 to 2.0 lead. However, thereafter the game developed into something of a rout, North adding 20.14 to 4.9 over the remaining three quarters to win by a SANFL grand final record margin of 108 points. A photo of Ian McKay perched on the shoulders of Norwood’s Pat Hall to take a soaring mark was published in several countries across the world.The mark was described by Harry Kneebone in “The Advertiser” thus:

McKay, while on the ball, provided the thrill of the match with the highest mark in the memory of most who saw it. A perfectly judged approach behind the Norwood ruckman Hall enabled the North captain to get the utmost height from his leap. At the top of his bound, with his knees in the region of Hall's shoulder blades, McKay obtained another jet-propelled upward surge and he clamped the ball above the head of the 6' 3" (191cm) opponent. To cap a brilliant effort McKay, from a long way out on the left half forward flank, sent a perfect screw punt through the goal.

Runners up Norwood qualified for the finals in fourth spot, 4 wins ahead of fifth placed Glenelg. The Redlegs then produced some of their best football of the season in downing West Torrens in the first semi final and Port Adelaide in the preliminary final. Both matches were won by the same margin - 11 points. Then came that inexplicably one-sided grand final. Norwood were competitive during the opening quarter before completely falling apart making the afternoon of Saturday 4th October 1952 one of the bleakest and blackest in the club’s history.

Reigning premiers Port Adelaide did little wrong during the minor round, winning 13 and losing 4 matches to qualify for the finals in second place. The Magpies conceded just 957 points during those 17 games to emerge with the best percentage in the competition. However, after dominating the first half of their second semi final encounter with North Adelaide the wheels mysteriously fell off the Magpie waggon and they ended up being overhauled, albeit only just. Most people expected them to recover against the Redlegs in the preliminary final but the results of Norwood-Port clashes are notoriously difficult to predict. The Magpies battled hard, but never wholly hit their straps, and it was the Redlegs who proceeded to the grand final. A promising season therefore lay in tatters.

West Torrens boasted arguably the best forward line in the competition. They scored more points than any other team and their full forward John Willis was top goal kicker for the season with 85 goals. Strong overhead, and an elegantly accurate kick, Willis was, for a brief time during the early 1950s, without peer as a full forward in South Australian football. He topped West Torrens goal kicking list on three consecutive occasions (once jointly), and was, as mentioned, the SANFL's leading goal kicker in 1952, when he bagged 85 goals. He commuted to and from Port Pirie for much of his 81 game, 266 goal league career, which makes his achievements all the more noteworthy. Willis was a South Australian representative on 4 occasions, kicking 9 goals.  His formidable all round performance at the goal front in a 1952 clash with the Big V in Adelaide was a crucial determining factor in the home state's win.

Glenelg finished fifth, but won just 6 matches and missed the finals by the proverbial country mile. Arguably the bays’ best performance of the season came in round six when they accounted for eventual grand finalists Norwood by 17 points at Glenelg Oval.

West Adelaide, South Adelaide and Sturt who finished sixth, seventh and eighth respectively all tended to be chopping blocks for the teas placed higher than them on the premiership ladder. Sturt at least had one thing to crow about: formidable ex Collingwood utility Len Fitzgerald won the Magarey Medal. 

The Australian football landscape of half a century ago was considerably different to that of today. In particular, there was no equivalent of the Australian Football League. While the AFL has in recent years been systematically manufacturing a “history" for itself which derives from an imaginary contiguity with the old suburban VFL, the truth is that, prior to the re-location of South Melbourne to Sydney in 1982, the VFL was a state competition pure and simple. Granted, it was by some measure the strongest state competition in Australia, and this strength had tended to magnify as more and more elite non-Victorian players entered the league. However, whereas nowadays it would be reasonable to suggest that nigh on 100% of the very best footballers in Australia ply their trade in the AFL, this was very far from being the case in the old, suburban VFL.

A classic case in point is Len Fitzgerald. His move from Victoria Park to Unley in 1951 after 96 games with Collingwood was indicative of the fact that, even to an elite player at what was then Australia's most illustrious sporting club, football was not the prime controlling influence in life. Football players did not depend for their livelihood on the game, and so when Sturt managed to secure more lucrative employment for Fitzgerald than the Magpies had been able to arrange for him in Melbourne, the result was that the balance of football power between South Australia and Victoria shifted ever so slightly in favour of the former.

If Len Fitzgerald had been a prominent player at Collingwood, he soon developed into a veritable champion with the Double Blues. After a relatively slow start to his SANFL career “Fitzie” - who took over the Sturt coaching reins midway through his debut season - gradually went from strength to strength. In 1952 he won every media award going, together with Sturt's club champion award and the first of his three Magarey Medals. The 1953 season brought interstate selection for South Australia at the Adelaide carnival, followed by inclusion in the inaugural All Australian team. The second Magarey Medal followed in 1954 but Fitzgerald declared himself more concerned by Sturt's late season loss to wooden spoon side Glenelg which cost the Double Blues a place in the finals. 

Matters were rectified somewhat in 1955 as Sturt reached the preliminary final but the club's failure to honour a verbal pledge to bestow a £50 bonus upon its coach induced Fitzgerald to start an immediate search for pastures new.

The next three seasons saw Fitzgerald starring for and coaching Benalla in the powerful Ovens and Murray Football League but he returned to Sturt purely as a player in 1959 and won another Magarey as the Double Blues reached the finals for the first time since his departure.

Nagging injuries blighted Fitzgerald's final couple of seasons in league football but nothing should mar the memory of a supremely adaptable footballer with lightning reflexes, excellent ball handling skills and, perhaps above all else, an awesome strength which was exhibited both in body on body clashes with opponents as well as when taking seemingly miraculous marks in pack situations. All told, he played a total of 125 SANFL matches for Sturt, booting 201 goals, and represented South Australia 17 times, kicking 5 goals.

As a league coach, Len Fitzgerald experienced significantly less success, steering Glenelg to fourth, sixth and last places in three seasons in charge during the 1960s.

He retained his passion for the game throughout his life, and news of his death in April 2007 saddened football followers from all over Australia and beyond.

WANFL: South Freo’s Greatest Era

The period 1952-4 ranks as the most illustrious in South Fremantle's history. Bernie Naylor broke George Doig's fifteen year old WANFL record of 144 goals in a season when he booted 147 for the year in 1952 as South bounced back after a losing second semi final against West Perth to win their sixth pennant. A 36 point preliminary final victory over Claremont set up the grand final re-match with the Cardinals which saw South Fremantle trail by 27, 30 and 16 points before getting up to win by 2 goals 9, 12.19 (91) to 10.10 (70). Follower Des Kelly got the Simpson Medal, with rover Steve Marsh (4 goals), wingman Tony Parentich, ruckman Norm Smith, full forward Bernie Naylor (4 goals) and utility Colin Boot also performing well. A crowd of 27,201 watched the game.

South Fremantle’s success came in spite of the loss of six key players from the 1951 side. The club blooded at least that many newcomers, and all proved to be highly effective performers. South’s strength in depth was emphasised when the seconds team thrashed East Fremantle in their grand final.

South were triumphant right across the board in 1952, with rover Steve Marsh claiming the Sandover Medal and full forward Bernie Naylor kicking 147 goals to top the WANFL’s goal kicking list.

During the first decade after the Second World War South Fremantle boasted many exceptional players, but none better than Railways of Kalgoorlie recruit Steve Marsh, who many reputable judges at the time regarded as the finest rover the game had seen up to that point.  Marsh possessed all of the qualities traditionally associated with good rovers in that he was quick, most notably over that vital first two or three metres, elusive, extremely determined, courageous and highly skilled, with his impeccable drop kicking to position being especially noteworthy.  He was also an excellent motivator, capable of inspiring his team mates to give of their best.

Between 1947 and 1954 South Fremantle won no fewer than six grand finals, and Steve Marsh was one of only three men to play in all of them. He won the Walker Medal for South Fremantle's best and fairest player a then record four times (since equalled by Stephen Michael), was an All Australian in 1953, and won a Sandover on Medal in 1952 and a Simpson Medal after the following year's grand final. 

To call Marsh's decision to accept an offer to coach arch rivals East Fremantle in 1957 controversial would represent the grossest of understatements, but from Marsh's point of view it made eminent sense. He was nearing the end of his playing career, South Fremantle's fortunes were clearly on the wane, and the proffered salary of £300 - triple what was on offer anywhere else in the WANFL - must have seemed more than a tad enticing.

Not surprisingly, Marsh proved to be a successful coach. In his first season the blue and whites, with Marsh making telling contributions both on and off the field, broke through for their first flag for eleven years. As far as the East Fremantle committee was concerned, that £300 must have seemed like money well spent.

Steve Marsh's playing career ended in 1960 after a total of 265 games over sixteen seasons.

West Perth entered the 1952 WANFL grand final as marginal favourites on the strength of their 15.7 (97) to 12.10 (82) second semi final defeat of South. The Cardinals had also comfortably won the last home and away clash between the teams in round twenty. However, grand finals are a game apart, and although West Perth performed well, particularly in the first half, they could not withstand South’s withering finishing blast.

Third placed Claremont qualified for the finals for the first time since 1942 when the league was conducted on an under age basis because of the war. The Tigers actually finished the minor round in fourth place before grinding out a 13 point first semi final win over East Perth. South Fremantle in the preliminary final proved comfortably too strong, however, just as they had done in the teams’ two home and away meetings earlier in the year.

East perth performed creditably during the minor round, winning 13 of their 20 matches, but they failed to cope with Claremont’s desperation in the first semi final. At their best the Royals were capable of matching the competition’s top sides, but they were also eminently capable of slumping to defeat in matches they ought to have won handsomely.

East Fremantle managed the same number of wins - 12 - as Claremont, but missed out on finals participation thanks to an inferior percentage. In round eighteen Old Easts lost the Fremantle Derby against South Fremantle by a massive 98 point margin and it was this result which effectively scuppered their chances of playing finals football. 

Perth dropped from third in 1951 to sixth and they suffered some hefty defeats. The Redlegs’ only win against an eventual finals participant came in round eight at the WACA when they downed East Perth by 36 points.

Subiaco (3 wins) and Swan Districts (2) both had eminently forgettable seasons. It was the sixth time in a row that these teams had occupied the league’s bottom two slots.

Essendon's John Coleman flies for a mark