Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Henry John Dockerty, 1882–1965

by Roy Hay

Henry John Dockerty, better known as Harry, was a pioneer of the game in Victoria and probably the single most influential figure in its history in this state. He was most likely born near Glasgow, probably in 1882, the son of James Dockerty, a farmer, and Grace Hunter. [1]. However, a search of the birth registers of Scotland’s People reveals only onemale Dockerty born in Scotland between 1870 and 1900, and that person was born in 1870. None of the Henry Dochertys born between 1878 and 1885 fit the information contained on his death certificate. [2]

He was trained (apprenticed?) as a tailor and cutter and set out to make his fortune abroad in his early twenties, arriving in Melbourne via India, New Zealand and Sydney in 1907. He set up business in Collins Street where he became a successful businessman, later moving to Flinders Lane, where he had all the doctors on his books for their bespoke suits. [3]

On 21 July 1908 he put a small item in the Argus, ‘All those interested in the formation of a British Association Football League in Melbourne are asked tosend in their names to H. Dockerty, 259 Collins Street.' [4] A subsequent report in the Argus on 30 July noted the success of this appeal.

During the pastweek some lovers of this game who reside in Melbourne have had practice matches and formed a league, the full title being the British Association Football League of Victoria. In answer to Mr. H. Dockerty’s (one of the organisers) invitation, several players assembled at Middle Park last Saturday, and indulged in practice, and judging from the attendance the game should make rapid strides. An enthusiastic and largely-attended meeting was held at the Orient Hotel on Tuesday night, with the result that the league was formed. Several matters were discussed, and office bearers elected. There will be practice matches every Saturday, until the executive committee form clubs.[5]

Dockerty played with the St Kilda club when competition got under way. Not content with forming a league, he presented a handsome silver cup, which became known as the Dockerty Challenge Cup, first played for in 1909 and won by Carlton which defeated St Kilda by two goals to one on 15 August. That trophy was to become the Victorian equivalent of the FA Cup involving all the senior clubs in the state in knock-out competition for nearly a century. It was last won by Green Gully in 2004 and has now been returned to the Football Federation of Victoria.[6] Let’s hope the competition can be revived in future.[7]

Dockerty was influential in the formation of teams beyond Melbourne including Wonthaggi Rangers. As president of theVictorian association he led a Melbourne select to Powlett River to take on the new team in June 1910.[8] He also helped set up junior competitions to bring on the next generation of players. Harry Dockerty was also involved in the formation of the Commonwealth Football Association in 1912 and subsequent attempts to establish a continuing national body to organise the game. His contribution to Victorian football was recognised as early as 1909 by the presentation to him of a magnificent framed collage of pictures of the six league teams, the executive committee, an immaculately turned out Harry Dockerty himself and the trophy he had instigated.

Framed picture presented to Mr Harry Dockerty on 23 September 1909, showing the Dockerty Cup, the six teams taking part in the competition and the executive committee of the British Football Association of Victoria in 1909. The picture now hangs in the FFV boardroom. Photo: Roy Hay. The teams are from top left anti-clockwise: Melbourne United, Williamstown FC, Carlton United, St Kilda FC, Prahran FC, Fitzroy District.

Harry Dockerty married Mary Jane Hastings in Sydney in 1919. They had one son John Denison Dockerty who was born in Melbourne in 1926.

When football resumed after the First World War Dockerty continued to lead the way, and the Dockerty Cup went from strength to strength. The Commonwealth Football Association was reformed in 1921 and Harry Dockerty was elected as its first president.[9] He tried hard to get Victorians to support the visit of an English touring team and when this was finally achieved in 1925 he was there as president to greet the tourists.[10]

Source:Argus, Tuesday 19 May 1925,p. 9.

After the Second World War, Harry Dockerty was president of the Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association from 1956 until the demise of that body in 1962. Previously he had been vice-president every season since the end of the war.
Dockertyat a game, probably in the 1960s.
Photo: Laurie Schwab collection, Deakin University Library.
Dockerty also helped mend two of the great splits in the game in Victoria from 1927 to 1929 and again in 1958 to 1962.[11] While factions were at loggerheads his was always the voice for reason, compromise and conciliation. He was pleased when the post-war dispute was settled with the Victorian Soccer Federation taking over the running of the game from the predecessor organisation, the Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association. He was nominated unopposed as the president of the new body in 1962, a position he held until his death in 1965. The honorary position reflected the esteem in which he was held by all involved in the game. He had worked tirelessly to try to bring about an amicable resolution of the split between the amateur body and the new semi-professional federation.

So he was able to greet Sir Stanley Rous, then president of FIFA, when he visited Australia in the 1960s, and provide backing for the move to rejoin the world game which was finally achieved in mid-1963.

VSF President, Harry Dockerty (left), with FIFA officebearers on their visit to Australia in 1963,
Dr Helmut Käser, Secretary, SirStanley Rous, President and Dr Ottorino Barassi,
Vice-President. Photo: LaurieSchwab collection, Deakin University Library. [12]
The next year Harry Dockerty commended the formation of a players’ association saying, ‘I am pleased to be here and wish your association good luck for the future. I think the move will improve Soccer in Victoria.'[13] By then Dockerty had only a year to live but he had overseen the development of the code from a tiny participant game into a significant semi-professional spectator sport and a major part of Australian life, for the domestic population and for successive generations of migrants like himself.

 Harry Dockerty spent the latter part of his life at 43 The Ridge in Canterbury and died on 26 May 1965. He was cremated at Springvale.

Harry Dockerty was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Honour of the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1999. This is the highest award available for a contribution to the development of the game in Australia, and is given for eminent service or contributions to football in Australia, whether at state/territory level, nationally or internationally. In 2010 he was an inaugural inductee into the Football Federation Victoria Hall of Fame.

Never comfortable in front of a microphone, Harry Dockerty was always
impeccably dressed. Photo: Laurie Schwab collection. Deakin University Library.

Harry Dockerty was much happier in domestic life. Here with his wife Mary Jane and Lassie.
Photo:Laurie Schwab collection. Deakin University.


  1. Henry John Dockerty, death certificate, Victoria, 10435/65.
  2. There were two Henry Dochertys born illegitimately in 1882. Inneither case was the mother’s name Grace.
  3. Information from his daughter in law, Joan Marguerite Dockerty(née Ferguson) by telephone, 28 May 2010.
  4. Argus, 21 July 1908, p.7.
  5. Argus, 30 July 1908, p.7.
  6. In that revival it was known as the Crazy John’s Dockerty Cup. Inthe final Green Gully beat Fawkner one-nil. Ozfootball website,
  7. Roy Hay and Ian Syson, Thestory of football in Victoria, Football Federation Victoria, Melbourne,2010, pp. 6–8.
  8. Argus, 2 June 1910, p. 5.
  9. Minutes of the Meeting of the Commonwealth Football Association,16 August, 1921.
  10. Sydney Morning Herald,30 December 1924, p. 8; Argus, 19 May1925, p. 9.
  11. Roy Hay, ‘Marmaras’s oyster or Seamonds’baby? The formation of the Victorian Soccer Federation, 1956-1964’, Sporting Traditions, 10, No 2, 1994, pp.3-24; Sporting Globe, 20 April 1927.
  12. Caption has picture dated 18 December 1963, but Rous visited in1962 and 1964 as well.
  13. Braham Dabscheck, ‘Early attempts at forming soccer player unionsin Australia,’ SportingTraditions, 10, No 2, 1994, pp. 33-34.

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