Explore the History of australian football

Tom Wilson

Pat "Paddy" Shea

Jim "Scotty" Doig

Lou Armstrong

Old Easts on Tour, September and October 1909, Broken Hill and Melbourne

Broken Hill

During the first decade of the twentieth century East Fremantle was by far the most successful club in Western Australia. Besides claiming a total of seven premierships the club lost out in 1905 and 1907 only under highly controversial circumstances. Old Easts also played off for the state title six times and won on every occasion but one.

East Fremantle’s 1909 combination was arguably one of its finest, with only two losses sustained all year. In their semi final Old Easts thrashed East Perth by 60 points setting up a clash with Perth in the final. The match was played at Perth’s home ground, but this mattered little as East Fremantle cantered to a 28 point victory. Less than an hour later the players were aboard the Known which set sail for Adelaide at 6pm. The club had booked an eastern states tour involving matches in both Broken Hill and Melbourne. Had they lost the final against Perth they would have enjoyed the right of challenge but because of the eastern states tour would have reluctantly foregone this, handing Perth the premiership.

Thankfully, the decisive victory over Perth meant that Old Easts headed east as premiers. After a brief stay in Adelaide, they travelled to Broken Hill where three matches had been arranged. Football in Broken Hill was very strong at this time and the local league provided a fair number of talented players to clubs in the SAFL. Having said that, East Fremantle was almost uniformly expected to boast too great a depth of talent for the Barrier men.

The opening match of the tour, played on Saturday 25th September, saw East Fremantle opposed by a combined Broken Hill side, in the first of two scheduled meetings between the teams. Old Easts had trouble adjusting to the gravel playing surface and, perhaps partly in lieu of this, played a game based on long kicking and high marking, in both of which skills they excelled. However, “they were deficient in ground play and combination”,[1] meaning that the Broken Hill team enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession, and as a result got the jump on their opponents and raced to a surprisingly comfortable winner. Both during and after the match Old Easts complained that the Broken Hill players were repeatedly guilty of throwing the ball. They also felt that the local umpire was protective of the Broken Hill team to an unwarranted extent. East Fremantle played the game vigorously, but seldom outside the scope of its laws - or at least so their players argued.

Broken Hill enjoyed the advantage of the wind in the first term, but it was the visitors who began more brightly, with Sharpe and Chas Doig nabbing the first two goals of the game. Thereafter, however, the home side rallied, attacking incessantly to set up a three goal advantage at the first break, 4.6 to Old Easts’ 2.0.

The second term was fairly evenly contested, with East Fremantle impressing the crowd with some excellent high marking, but the locals proving superior at ground. One of the keys to the Barrier team’s supremacy at ground level was their deft and slick use of handball, which Old Easts’ skipper Tom Wilson repeatedly complained - to no avail - was tantamount to throwing. At half time the scores were Broken Hill 6.7 (43) to East Fremantle 4.3 (27).

Confident that they were not going to be penalised, the Broken Hill players centred their whole game plan around their purportedly dubious style of handball in the third quarter, and did so to such good effect that they went a long way towards winning the match. At the final change the home side enjoyed a 30 point advantage, 8.10 (58) to 4.6 (30).

The last quarter was the best of the match, with Old Easts attacking determinedly, and the Broken Hill side applying plenty of defensive pressure to make it hard for them. Indeed, judged on the amount of possession they enjoyed the visitors ought really to have scored more than the 3.1 they managed, and although they were still attacking determinedly when the final bell rang they had long since given up any hope of claiming the match. Final scores were Broken Hill 10.13 (73); East Fremantle 7.7 (49).

On the following Monday East Fremantle played Brokens, the local club side which had finished the 1909 season in second place. It proved to be a thoroughly one-sided match which the visitors won with consummate ease by 64 points, 10.13 (73) to 1.3 (9).

On Wednesday 29th September Old Easts had an opportunity to gain revenge against a Broken Hill combination which was felt, on paper, to be even stronger than that to which they had succumbed a week earlier. East Fremantle meanwhile were missing skipper Tom Wilson who had sustained an injury against Brokens on Monday. Perhaps of greater significance, however, was the fact that the match was umpired by someone whose interpretation of the rules conformed much more closely to that to which the visiting players were accustomed.

The first quarter of the match was extremely evenly contested and ended with scores level at 2.2 (14) apiece. In the second term, however, the Old Easts players showed what fine footballers they were, and most observers would have assumed that they had in effect sealed the game. Dominating in every facet of the match they added 5 goals to 1 to establish a hefty, for the times, 26 point advantage at the long break.

Early in the third quarter Lee goaled for the visitors to stretch the margin to 32 points, and when Chas Doig added a 9th major the match seemed as good as over. Broken Hill, however, had other ideas, and proceeded to produce their best football of the match. “The game was now fast and willing. Barriers attacked determinedly, and, outplaying their opponents, piled on the points. The visitors seemed to tire under the persistent attack and the fastness of the game.”[2]  As a result, at three quarter time East Fremantle’s lead had been trimmed to just 14 points, 10.6 (66) to 8.4 (52).

With the crowd making more noise than at any previous stage in the match the home side continued to attack relentlessly and within ten minutes of the resumption of they had added 2.1 without reply to reduce their deficit to a solitary behind. “Then followed the most exciting struggle ever seen at the Barrier. For fully 15 minutes neither side scored, the play being rough and exciting, but even. Free kicks were numerous on both sides, and dazzling play was shown by both teams. “Charley” Doig, who played the best forward game ever seen at Broken Hill, at last found an opening, and placed the Westerners seven points in the lead.”[3] Thereafter, Old Easts defended stoutly, and at the close the margin between the teams remained unchanged. Final scores were East Fremantle 11.7 (73) defeated Broken Hill 10.6 (66).

Next, the WA premiers were scheduled to play local premiers North Broken Hill, but the latter team declined to go ahead with the match as several of their best players were unavailable. East Fremantle therefore journeyed to Melbourne for the climax - and undoubted highlight - of their tour.


On Saturday 2nd October the Melbourne Cricket Ground played host to what was described as a match for the championship of Australia. The contestants were South Melbourne, premiers of the VFL, and their South Australian counterparts, and reigning Commonwealth champions, West Adelaide. If East Fremantle felt slighted by their exclusion from the party they had at least been offered what by any standards was a fine consolation prize - a match against a team representative of every club in the VFL apart from South Melbourne. While the VFL side was by no means the strongest that could have been fielded it nevertheless contained some highly noteworthy names, such as Lee, McGregor, Shea and Lee. Despite the tantalising prospect of seeing some of the very best footballers in the land locking horns on a warm, sunny afternoon a miserly attendance of just 8,000 patrons turned up. Victorians then, as now, preferred their football “home-grown”.

Victoria dominated the opening exchanges. They seemed quicker than the visitors, and were also marking strongly and well. Goals to Melbourne’s Harry Brereton and Pat Shea of Essendon gave the home side a comfortable cushion, but at that point Old Easts began to play, and during the final ten minutes they were much the better of the two teams. Goals to Smith and Sweetman emphasised this superiority, and at the quarter time break the VFL combination led by just a solitary point, 2.3 (15) to 2.2 (14).

East Fremantle began the second term brightly, and a behind to Sweetman levelled the scores. The visitors continued to attack and both Shea and Doig squandered easy scoring opportunities. Then the Victorians seemed to find another gear, and in quick succession they piled on no fewer than 5 goals. Old Easts’ only six pointer for the term came just before half time, courtesy of Christy, leaving the VFL team with a comfortable 20 point advantage as they led 7.3 (45) to 3.7 (25).

Soon after the resumption Lee goaled with an excellent drop kick, reducing East Fremantle’s deficit to 14 points. However, through the agency of Essendon’s Jim “Bull” Martin the Vics responded with a fine goal of their own. The next goal went the way of the visitors, and what an idiosyncratic goal it was! VFL skipper Jim Sharp was running with the ball across the face of goal, pursued by Dick Sweetman. Sharp then decided to take a bounce, whereupon Sweetman poked his toe at the ball as it was rising and watched with delight as it tumbled across the goal line for full points.

Victoria responded with their best football of the match, capped by goals to Brereton and Lou Armstrong of Essendon. Towards the end of the quarter Old Easts carved out two excellent scoring opportunities, both of which fell to “Chas” Doig, who missed the first, but made no mistake with the second. The three quarter time scoreboard therefore read VFL 10.4 (64); East Fremantle 7.11 (53).

East Fremantle were kept on the defensive for much of the final term but even so only ended up being outscored by 2 points. The Vics failed to assert their dominance thanks to a mixture of waywardness in front of goal and stout defence from the visitors. Given that they were playing such redoubtable opposition Old Easts gave an excellent account of themselves and proved that the standard of football in Western Australia was only marginally inferior to that in Victoria. The final scores were VFL 12.8 (80) defeated East Fremantle 8.13 (61).


[1]  “Kalgoorlie Miner”, 27/9/09, page 8.

[2]  “Kalgoorlie Miner”, 30/9/09, page 8.

[3]  op cit., page 8.