Explore the History of australian football

​George Oakley (Subiaco and WAFL combined side)

Port's Jack Mack

Sydney Parsons (East Fremantle and WAFL combined side)

League footballers during the early years of the twentieth century were not well paid, if indeed they were paid at all, but that does not mean that involvement in football at its highest level was devoid of perks.  Of these, perhaps the most prized was the opportunity to travel interstate, and to see at first hand parts of Australia that might have otherwise forever remained inaccessible.  In 1910, for example, at least ten league clubs from the three main football states embarked on interstate or country tours involving a combination of sight-seeing and challenge or exhibition matches.[1]

Port Adelaide, which by the end of the 1910 season would be able to proclaim itself both premiers of the state, and champions of Australia, commenced its tour of Western Australia with a visit to the Kalgoorlie/Boulder region, a bona fide hotbed of football which provided fifty per cent of the players for the state's 1908 and 1911 carnival teams.  There can be little doubt that Port were well aware of the high quality of goldfields football, but for some reason they elected to field a team that was some way below full strength for their match with a GFL combination.  Nevertheless, the two sides produced a wonderful exhibition of football, widely regarded as the finest seen on the goldfields up to that point, with the GFL side scoring a superb and wholly meritorious 17 point victory, 12.12 (84) to 9.13 (67).

As far as Port were concerned, however, it was the games on the coast that really mattered.  In 1909, East Fremantle had visited Adelaide as part of an eastern states tour, and, on the Jubilee Oval, consigned the Magpies to an embarrassing 21 point defeat, a result which everyone connected with Port was anxious to avenge.  They would get the chance to do so in the first of two matches to be played during the coastal phase of their trip.

​​Not that this would be easy, for Old Easts were themselves a formidable combination who, in 1910, would secure their eighth premiership in eleven seasons.  Smaller and lighter in the main than Port, they were arguably pacier, and their undoubted all-round football talent was amplified by finely honed aggression and excellent teamwork.

The second coastal match would provide Port with an opportunity to serve as ambassadors for the entire state of South Australia, for it would see the Magpies facing a combination comprised of players from all eight WAFL clubs - in other words, a virtual state team.  This was clearly the pinnacle of the trip, and the only match in which Port elected to field a full strength side.  It was a match which lived up to expectations in every sense, but the fact that it was not played in Victoria and did not involve VFL clubs has meant that it has been almost completely forgotten.

Game One: East Fremantle vs. Port Adelaide, Wednesday 3rd August 1910

“......it is safe to say that such high marking and so much of it have not been seen here for many a day.  When Harvey Kelly, Dolph Heinrichs and Goddard were playing on the coast football enthusiasts were treated to something of the same kind of thing, but we never had six or eight of those champions in the one team as the Ports have now.”  ('The West Australian', Saturday 6th August 1910)

The match took place at the WACA ground, in splendid, dry weather, with experienced umpire Ivo Crapp in charge.  The attendance was undoubtedly adversely affected by a tram strike, but was nevertheless quite satisfactory for a Wednesday afternoon game, and raised receipts of £80.  Heavy overnight rain had left the cricket wicket area somewhat slippery, but the rest of the playing surface was dry and firm.

The Teams

Old Easts were minus only Dave Christy from what might be adjudged their first choice eighteen, while Port were without just two key players in 'Shine' Hosking and Horrie Pope.

EAST FREMANTLE:  Beswick, Bailey, S.Doig, Jas Doig (captain), Chas Doig, Clive Doig, Craig, Sharpe, Parsons, Spence, N.Wrightson, C.Wrightson, Corkhill, Curran, Riley, Robinson, Sweetman, Strang 

PORT ADELAIDE:  Callinan, Curnow, Cavanagh, Congear, Dewar, Dempster, Mason, Manson, Magor, McEwen, McFarlane, Mack, Oliver, Middleton, Rose, Woollard (captain), Hansen, Stidston

1st Quarter

​"The visitors were a fine, strapping set of athletes with height, weight and reach to back up a thorough knowledge of football."  They played a hard, physical game involving prolific use of handball, and aerially they were much superior to the locals.  When the ball was on the ground, however, Old Easts displayed superior pace and considerable cleverness, factors which more or less compensated for Port's supremacy in other areas.

The opening term provided a see-saw struggle, with the ball moving rapidly from one end of the ground to the other.  On balance, the home side probably enjoyed slightly more of the play, both territorially and in terms of possession, but when the quarter time bell rang there was nothing separating the teams on the scoreboard.  Quarter Time: East Fremantle 2.1 (13); Port Adelaide 2.1 (13)

2nd Quarter

The second quarter was a vastly different affair, with the visitors dominating all over the ground - "as one spectator observed, it wasn't a match at all, it was a procession, in which the local men took the part of onlookers".  With Port's players, on average, almost a stone heavier than their opponents, some members of the Old Easts team were made to look like schoolboys.  Only twice during the term did the blue and whites manage to convey the ball into their attacking zone, and both times "it was returned with a rapidity that was electrifying".

Whereas Port handled the ball smoothly and with great assurance, the Old Easts players often seemed overwhelmed by the sheer physicality of the opposition, and were prone to much fumbling and hesitancy.  Nevertheless, they defended with a certain degree of conviction and no small amount of skill, and the Magpies' tally of 2.5 for the quarter was scant reward for their superiority.  As the home side's skipper Jas Doig would no doubt have emphasised to his players in the changing rooms during the half time interval, the game was far from over.  Half Time: Port Adelaide 4.6 (30); East Fremantle 2.1 (13)

3rd Quarter

If Port's dominance during the second term had perhaps led many onlookers to assume that the match was over bar the shouting, the ferocity and passion with which Old Easts hurled themselves into the fray during the third quarter made it clear that this was very far from being the case.  Although the visitors continued to exhibit football of the highest order, they did so only intermittently; in between, they had their hands full trying to contain an exuberant and extremely pacy local combination who were as buoyant and cocksure in this term as they had been tentative and cowed in the previous.  By kicking 2.3 to 1.2 in this quarter Old Easts left the game beautifully poised at the final change.  Three Quarter Time: Port Adelaide 5.8 (38); East Fremantle 4.4 (28)

4th Quarter

The final term provided spectators with some of the finest football seen in Perth for many years, with both sides contributing to the spectacle.  Old Easts were out of the blocks faster, and for the first fifteen minutes of the quarter were much the better team.  Port, however, showed just as much skill defending as they had demonstrated earlier in attack, and with ten minutes remaining all the blue and whites had managed to add to their score was a single goal, leaving them still 5 points adrift.  Old Easts continued to press forward, however, and when Riley marked well within range of goal it elicited the noisiest response of the afternoon from the sparse but enthusiastic crowd.  After prudently selecting a dry patch of turf, Riley placed the ball, carefully measured his run up, and focused his eyes on the two central uprights.  The crowd held its collective breath as he trotted up to the ball - then groaned with disbelief as he failed to connect properly and sent the ball straight into the waiting arms of a Port Adelaide defender.  The Magpies gratefully spirited the ball away, and minutes later posted their sixth, and match-sealing, goal.  The final few minutes were dominated by the visitors, and when the bell rang the scoreboard showed Port Adelaide 6.10 (46); East Fremantle 5.4 (34).

BEST - Port Adelaide: Oliver, Curnow, Congear, Dewar, Hansen, Magor, Dempster    East Fremantle:  Sharpe, Chas Doig, Parsons, Sweetman, Clive Doig, Craig, C.Wrightson

GOALS - Port Adelaide:  Hansen, Woollard 2; Callinan, Cavanagh   East Fremantle:  Chas Doig 2; Bailey, Robinson, Sweetman

Game Two: WAFL vs. Port Adelaide, Saturday 6th August 1910

“The local combination is by no means, on paper at any rate, as strong as it could be made, but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the opposing side represents only one South Australian club, and it is a big thing to pit it against an eighteen picked from eight strong clubs in Western Australia.  Nevertheless, the Ports are a stalwart lot of footballers, and in their match against the old Easts on the WACA ground last Wednesday, they gave an exhibition of that strong, vigorous, telling play that marks them as champions.  There are some wonderful aerial explorers amongst them, and the beauty of it is that they can all hold the ball and kick with some purpose.  They did not shine out in ground play on Wednesday, but the greasiness of the arena may not have suited them so well as it did the light Easts.  Today they will be on a turf on which they can be absolutely sure of their footing, no matter what the weather is like, and they should be able to improve considerably upon the fine exhibition they gave three days ago.” ('The West Australian', Saturday 6th August 1910)

The match, played at Fremantle Oval, took place in sunny, dry, mild weather, with the playing surface in superb condition.  The attendance of approximately 6,000 was a record for a match on the coast, as were the receipts of £273 13s 6d.[2]  The contest which ensued was worthy of both the fine weather and the superb crowd, “for it was full of incident, and it fairly sparkled from end to end with flashes of brilliant play” – “one of the best games ever seen on the coast”. 

As intimated above, according to the writer in ‘The West Australian’, the League combination was not the strongest available, with at least five players arguably being included on the basis of past reputations rather than current form.  However, “such men as strip for Port Adelaide at present might........ with confidence tackle the best team this state could put in the field”.

The Port Adelaide combination was stronger than that which had defeated East Fremantle in that their champion centreman, Sampson ‘Shine’ Hosking, was fit to take his place in the side; Stidston was the player to make way. 

​Port Adelaide certainly looked the part; their players, virtually to a man, were magnificent physical specimens, athletic, muscular and imposing.  Moreover, they played game as it should be played – few frills, hard but fair, and almost always straight down the middle from goal to goal.  Outstanding features of their play included exceptional high marking, prodigious kicking, judicious and varied use of handball, terrific pace, and unwaveringly direct methods.

The WAFL combination lined up in all blue, while the visitors were in their usual black and white striped jumpers, with black shorts, and black and white hooped hose.

Play in the opening term was “decidedly even” although “two capital shots” from the Perth pair of Billy Orr and Dave Rogers helped the West secure a narrow quarter time advantage, 2.3 (15) to 1.4 (10).  Port Adelaide appeared to be stronger in the air, and their kicking was superior, but the West Australians were proving generally more effective at ground level.  Moreover, despite the fact that they had never played together before, they were also combining well, and some of their team play was excellent. 

The second quarter saw the home side assume control, and produce some stunning football, to open up a healthy 17 point advantage, 4.8 (32) to 1.9 (15).  For the only time in the match, Port’s players seemed slower than their opponents, who were roared on with rapturous enthusiasm by the parochial, but by no means unsporting, crowd. 

​In the third quarter, just as they had during the second term against Old Easts, Port produced a concerted display of tremendous football to completely turn the tables on their opponents.  Only in kicking for goal was there any noticeable deficiency.  Time after time Oliver, at centre half forward, soared above the packs to take telling, one grab marks, and as the quarter went on his dominance began rubbing off on players like McEwen, Hansen and Congear, who hitherto had scarcely been sighted.  Around the packs, Mack became just as hyperactive and effective as Orr had been for the west earlier.  Seventeen points adrift as the quarter commenced, Port took just fourteen minutes to capture the lead, and had their kicking been straighter they might well have put the game out of the coastal combination’s reach.  As it was, they added 4.7 for the term, while the westerners managed just two serious forward forays, which yielded a solitary point, so that at the final change the scoreboard showed the visitors on 5.16 (46) leading the home side 4.9 (33).

The WAFL combination started the last quarter determinedly, and managed the first score, a behind.  Port, however, hit back in sterling fashion, and soon had their sixth major on the board. 

The remainder of the term saw the West Australians dominate territorially, with Port defending desperately, albeit with considerable skill. Nevertheless, the Western Australian team gradually clawed their way back into the game, and with five minutes left the scoreboard read Port Adelaide 6.17 (53); WAFL 6.10 (46).  A scrambled behind to the west soon followed which left them needing just one straight kick to tie the match.

With three minutes to go, they were presented with a golden opportunity to do so, but Harry Cordner, having marked well within range, and almost straight in front, somehow conspired to kick the ball out on the full a good thirty yards wide of the posts.  The crowd groaned in disgust.  How Cordner responded, or felt, is unrecorded.

Moments later, the west added another scrambled behind, but the final two minutes saw Port cleverly maintaining possession to run out 5 points winners, 6.17 (53) to 6.12 (48). 

The best player afield was Hosking, who “was opposed by Waugh, who has time and again proved his worth in that portion of the field, and as evidence of the wonderful dash and skill of the Port Adelaide man it may be mentioned that the plucky and diminutive Perthite was completely outclassed on the day’s play.  Round about the centre it was Hosking first, last and all the time.” 

BEST - Port Adelaide: Hosking, Oliver, Hansen, Magor, Rose, Dempster, Mason    WAFL:  Parsons, Hesford, Spence, Oakley, Beswick, Willoughby, Orr (1st ½)

GOALS - Port Adelaide:  Hansen, Oliver 2; Callinan, Mack   WAFL:  Morgans 2; McKenzie, Orr, Rogers, Waugh

ATTENDANCE:  6,000 approximately at Fremantle Oval


[1]  Melbourne and Norwood visited Tasmania; Geelong, North Adelaide and Fitzroy went to Sydney; Sturt travelled to Ballarat; Collingwood visited Adelaide; and South Fremantle and East Fremantle both journeyed to Kalgoorlie and Boulder.  Far and away the most extensive travel, however, was undertaken by Port Adelaide, which ventured to Broken Hill, the West Australian goldfields, and Perth.

[2] Record Western Australian receipts – about £36 more than for the combined coast game - had been gleaned at the previous week’s match between a Goldfields combination and Port Adelaide in Boulder. 

"I have no hesitation in naming this Port Adelaide team as the best club 18 that has visited W.A., and I am not forgetting Collingwood's two visits, nor those of Essendon, Fitzroy and St Kilda.  They were the team they looked."  (Dolph Heinrichs, East Fremantle club historian, writing just after world war two.)

​Port in Perth, 3rd-6th August 1910