BEST - Fitzroy: Holden, Cooper, Johnson, McLennan, Parratt, Shaw St Kilda: Eicke, Ellis, Schmidt, Morrissey, Bowden, Millhouse
GOALS - Fitzroy: Shaw 2; Freake, Martin, Norris, Parratt, Toohey St Kilda: Morrissey 2; Baird, Millhouse, Sellars
ATTENDANCE: 59,556 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Percy Parratt (Fitzroy)
Two quick behinds to Fitzroy in the opening minutes of the final term only seemed to confirm the inevitable, and indeed for a time both sides appeared to be merely going through the motions. However, after a magnificent St Kilda burst was crowned by a goal to Sellars, the pace and intensity of the game rose noticeably.
The next score was Fitzroy's, but it was only a behind, and from the kick-in the Tricolours mounted another decisive attack, which ended with Baird marking directly in front of goal on the edge of the goal square. When he kicked truly, the noise from the crowd reached new levels, and as St Kilda surged forward yet again from the ensuing centre bounce sheer pandemonium reigned. Many of the Fitzroy players appeared visibly shaken and they began to play wildly. The normally assured Wally Johnson proved to be the worst culprit, conceding a free kick close to goal when he pulled George Morrissey, who was not in possession of the ball, over, and the former Ballarat player promptly converted.
This made the difference between the teams just 10 points, and all the momentum appeared to be with St Kilda. A combination of desperation and good fortune enabled the Roys to repel the next forward rush from the Tricolours, but the ball came straight back, and as players scrambled desperately for possession in the goal square a Fitzroy defender gratefully rushed the ball through for a behind. With ten minutes or so left to play, Baird added another minor score for St Kilda, and then Morrissey reduced the deficit to just 2 points after marking in a pack, and belying all the tension by nonchalantly goaling.
The play continued to move in one direction, but it was another five minutes before the Tricolours managed to fashion another scoring opportunity. Once again the chance fell to Morrissey, but this time, despite being even nearer to goal than he had been on the previous occasion, he missed badly.
The scoreboard showed Fitzroy 5.14 (44) leading St Kilda 5.13 (43) and, judging by the looks on many of the faces of people in the crowd, the excitement was almost unbearable.
Fitzroy's first attack in a long while culminated in an ineffectual shot from Toohey, but then it was business as usual as the Tricolours advanced en masse on the Roys' citadel, only for Cooper to turn back the tide with a brilliant saving mark.
Somewhat perversely, with just two minutes left on the clock, Fitzroy somehow contrived to produce their first truly purposeful, cohesive football of the term, skillfully maneuvering the ball the length of the ground until it nestled safely in the arms of 'Bull' Martin, thirty yards from goal. Taking his time, Martin carefully carpeted the ball and sent a somewhat ungainly but accurate place kick right through the centre. Perhaps not surprisingly, the goal knocked the stuffing out of St Kilda, and moments before the bell Shaw added another 'big point' for the Tricolours, giving the final score a deceptively comfortable look. However, it had been a tremendously close run thing, and "the defeated team were almost entitled to as much credit as the victors". Final Score: Fitzroy 7.14 (56); St Kilda 5.13 (43)
St Kilda's George Morrissey
The Tricolours moved straight into attack from the opening bounce of the third term, and a frantic goalmouth scrimmage resulted in the ball being scrambled through for a behind. Within a minute, Schmidt had added another minor score, and when Hugh Lenne's ensuing kick-in was grubbed St Kilda had an excellent chance to register their first goal of the afternoon. However, Lenne made amends for his indiscretion by saving on the line, and his long clearing kick initiated a concerted spell of Fitzroy pressure.
Parratt, playing brilliantly at half forward right, found Jim Toohey with a neat pass, but the former East Fremantle forward's place kick struck a goal post, as did Morrissey's shot for St Kilda on the Tricolours' next forward thrust some five minutes later. Another rushed behind to the Saints was followed, at long last, by their first goal of the game, off the boot of Algy Millhouse, who had been the Tricolours' most prominent player this quarter. A minor score to Eicke, who had followed the ball into the forward lines from his half back flank, saw St Kilda maintain the ascendancy, and the crowd duly roared its appreciation.
Just as they had done in the second term, however, the Maroons hit their opponents with a sucker punch. A long clearing kick by Heron was marked by Martin who, despite being a good seventy yards from goal, placed the ball on the turf in order to have a shot. Not surprisingly, his kick fell short, but Parratt had anticipated perfectly, and, after gathering the ball, dodged and weaved to procure some space before kicking truly. Not long afterwards, Shaw added a behind, and at the thirteen minute mark of the term the scoreboard showed the Maroons four goals to the good, despite the fact that, territorially, they had been distinctly second best since quarter time.
Play for the remainder of the quarter was scrappy and uncoordinated, as players from both sides seemed to tire. When the lemon time bell rang there had only been one addition to the score, a behind to the Roys. Three Quarter Time: Fitzroy 5.11 (41); St Kilda 1.10 (16)
The Roys' "Lal" McLennan
The wind, which now favoured Fitzroy, had freshened considerably by the time the second term commenced, but it was the Tricolours who were first into attack, as Cumberland, Lynch and Morrissey combined well to eke out another scoring opportunity for Sellars. Once again, however, Sellars' shot was off-line, and when he missed gain shortly afterwards there were groans of dismay from the hugely pro-St Kilda crowd.
A fierce body clash between opposing rovers Millhouse (St Kilda) and Shaw (Fitzroy) left the latter spread-eagled, and requiring attention, but his team mates swept up the ball and launched a swift counter-offensive. However, only a point resulted as Heaney's shot from close in struck a post. Moments later, Baird did the same for the Tricolours, who for the first time appeared to be warming to their task, an impression reinforced when they attacked again, only for Morrissey to miss badly.
Making a nonsense of the scores, St Kilda were displaying some of the best football of the game so far, but Fitzroy's defence, with Johnson and Cooper particularly prominent, stood firm. Midway through the term the Roys attacked with purpose for the first time in several minutes, and Shaw, having seemingly recovered from his earlier knock, ran onto Heaney's cross-field kick near the boundary at half forward right and kicked a fine goal. St Kilda's dominance notwithstanding, the Maroons had extended their lead to 26 points.
The remainder of the quarter was fiercely contested, with the Fitzroy players in particular sometimes transcending the boundaries of fairness in their desperation to maintain a grip on the game. One cowardly assault by Walker on Woodcock in particular raised the crowd's ire, but in the context of the eventual result of the game the Roys' approach has to be regarded as effective, for they kept St Kilda scoreless for the remainder of the quarter, whilst adding a behind themselves to leave the half time scoreboard showing Fitzroy 4.8 (32); St Kilda 0.5 (5)
William Schmidt (St Kilda)
George Holden (Fitzroy)
The match got underway in perfect conditions, with St Kilda kicking with the aid of a modest breeze. Fitzroy rover "Yorky" Shaw, with the first kick of the game, sent his side deep into attack, only for Wells Eicke to gather the ball for the Tricolours and send it back towards the centre of the ground. The Maroons were soon back on the offensive, however, courtesy of Wally Johnson, who found George Holden in space at left centre wing, and the former West Melbourne player quickly relayed it to Percy Parratt, who had time to look up and hit centre half forward Thomas Heaney on the chest with a beautifully executed stab pass. From a mere thirty yards out, straight in front, Heaney had no difficulty in registering the first goal of the afternoon.
Fitzroy moved into attack once again from the ensuing centre bounce, but Eicke again relieved the pressure. Holden was in exhilarating form for the Roys early, and, after outpacing his direct opponent Eddie Collins, he scooped up the ball, and passed neatly to Jimmy Freake who, from more or less the same position as Heaney minutes earlier, coolly added a second six pointer for the Maroons.
Although a mere four minutes had elapsed, it was already noticeable that the Fitzroy players were steadfastly adhering to the laws of the game, unlike in the previous week's final when they had all too often fallen into the trap of playing the man instead of the ball. Their modified approach continued to work to a tee as they again won the ball out of the centre, only for Reg Ellis to intercept for the Saints and clear. Relief was only temporary, though, as "Bull" Martin returned the ball with interest, and it was marked well within scoring range by Freake. Surprisingly, however, the VFL's top goal kicker for 1913 conspired to miss everything, and the Tricolours were once more able to clear the danger.
Fitzroy's next forward thrust culminated in Holden failing to hold a comparatively easy chest mark close to goal, and the Tricolours must have felt that God was smiling on them. The Roys persisted, however, and as play grew willing Shaw, having been freed at half forward right found Parratt deep in the right forward pocket, less than twenty yards from goal. Instead of trying to score, however, the Roys' coach punted the ball across the face of goal where it was gathered by former Collingwood follower Charlie Norris, who snapped truly to give his side their third straight goal of the encounter at the twelve minute mark of the term.
Following a superb dash down his wing, Holden found Heaney whose overhead snapshot went within a whisker of adding another major for the Roys, who at this stage of the game were repeatedly leaving their opponents looking flat-footed. Centre half forward Heaney was roaming far and wide in search of kicks, presumably as per instructions, "and Lever's Cerberus-like defence was considerably discounted" as a result.
Another Fitzroy rush culminated in "Lal" McLennan's clever handpass floating into the path of swift-moving wingman Holden, but his kick for goal missed narrowly.
St Kilda continued to face intense pressure as Roys rover Percy Heron rounded off a spectacular dash through the centre of the ground with a long, probing kick deep into the forward lines, but on this occasion Tricolours veteran 'Vic' Cumberland managed to turn the tide after marking strongly. Fitzroy were back on the attack moments later, but Martin's seemingly goal-bound shot was saved almost on the line by "Harry" Hattam.
A soaring leap by Roys centre half forward Tom Heaney at centre half forward saw him fumble and then drop the ball, but the umpire controversially paid the mark. Justice was arguably done when he failed to make the distance with his shot, and St Kilda managed to get the ball out of danger.
Heaney marked again soon afterwards, but from easy range his kick raised only one flag.
St Kilda's first concerted attack of the quarter came unstuck near goal when George Morrissey's fumble allowed Cooper to snatch up the ball and clear. The Tricolours were back on the offensive moments later, however, and some neat interplay involving Ellis, Cumberland and Sellars released Sellars but the diminutive full forward's shot was narrowly off target. The bell rang shortly afterwards, with St Kilda having only advanced the ball ahead of centre twice during the entire term. Fitzroy, by contrast, had been pacy, polished and cohesive, and in livewire wingman George Holden they boasted easily the most effective player on view. Quarter Time: Fitzroy 3.6 (24); St Kilda 0.1 (1)
St Kilda's Edward Collins
The 1913 VFL season saw Essendon's two season premiership reign come to a peremptory end. The Dons managed just 6 wins from 18 home and away matches to finish eighth, thereby proving "the law of nature that, to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". Two other finalists from 1912, Geelong and Carlton, also fell from grace. The Pivotonians (10 wins, 8 losses, 5th) were "practically invincible" at home, but when playing in Melbourne "lacked dash and finishing power", while the Blues' cause was badly undermined by a combination of injuries and suspensions to key players; they finished 6th, with a 9-8-1 record. Richmond (6-12, 7th) and Melbourne (4-14, 9th) both had young sides, which had begun to show signs of promise later in the season, while perhaps the only good thing that could be said of winless University was that, in diminutive goalsneak Roy Park (53 goals for the year), they possessed one of the VFL's most eye-catching and prolific forwards.
The top four comprised Fitzroy (16-2), South Melbourne (14-3-1), Collingwood (13-5) and St Kilda (11-7). The Magpies had been the most impressive team early in the season, winning their first seven games, and producing some exceptional football in the process, but by the time the finals arrived they appeared to be merely ticking over. The general consensus regarding South Melbourne was that the side had "sacrificed quickness for height and weight", and that the raised tempo of finals football would be their undoing. St Kilda, having just squeezed into the finals for the first time since 1908, and only the third time ever, (see 1913 Snippets for details) were not seriously expected to pose much of a threat to anyone, least of all to Percy Parratt's "Magnificent Maroons", who had gone from strength to strength during the home and away season, and seemed capable of consistently producing a standard of football which no other team in the league could hope to emulate. Fitzroy's only two reversals during the home and away rounds had come in week 2 at St Kilda, when poor kicking for goal was the principle reason for a 33 point loss, and by 17 points at Geelong's virtually impregnable fortress of Corio Oval in round 12.
The opening week of the finals produced a shock as St Kilda not only beat South Melbourne, but did so with ease, 12.12 (84) to 6.15 (51), after leading at every change by 16, 14 and 26 points. It was the Tricolours' first ever VFL finals win. The Roys emphasised their pedigree the following week with a crushing 11.14 (80) to 6.7 (43) defeat of Collingwood, but then, to a chorus of allegations of 'squaring', St Kilda pulled away from Fitzroy during the second half of the final to procure arguably the greatest win in the history of the club up to that point, 10.10 (70) to 6.9 (45). Every time a strong favourite lost to an underdog in the final there were accusations of corruption, not least because the necessity for a challenge final guaranteed both clubs an additional, highly lucrative pay-out. However, in 1913 the truth of the matter was almost certainly that St Kilda simply managed to perform better than Fitzroy on the day.
The challenge final thus became an exceedingly mouth-watering prospect, a quintessential case of 'David versus Goliath'. If the Maroons won, they would achieve their fifth flag since the formation of the VFL, making them the competition's most successful club. The Tricolours, by contrast, had, up to this point, been by some measure the league's worst performed combination, with no fewer than nine wooden spoons in sixteen seasons, and a dismal overall success rate, prior to the 1913 season, of 19.2%. This made them, as far as virtually all football lovers other than Fitzroy barrackers were concerned, eminently worthy of support and encouragement, and it was estimated that perhaps ninety per cent of the immense and record-breaking crowd of 59,556 who crammed into the MCG for the decisive encounter had attached their colours firmly to the mast of the underdogs.
"The enormous crowd that thronged the Melbourne cricket ground on Saturday was treated to a grand spectacle of vigorous, manly football. The rush to the ground started soon after noon, and by the time the ball was bounced every coign of vantage had been availed of. The crowd was so thick that in the outer circle the faces appeared to be literally glued together. Since the inception of the League there has never been a more dramatic wind up of the season, and the stirring finals amply redeemed the mediocrity of the earlier matches. Undoubtedly the best teams played off for the premiership of 1913, and both the Maroons and the Tricolours generously gave us their best football in the finals." ("the Age", 29/9/13)
Fifth VFL Flag for Fitzroy - VFL Challenge Final, Saturday 27th September 1913, Fitzroy versus St Kilda at the Melbourne Cricket Ground