Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday 31 August 2022

England v Scotland, Melbourne Style, 1909

This is a nice report in the Melbourne Herald on Friday 13 August 1909, p3. It gives a picture of a buoyant game ready to progress. It also contains a preview of the first Dockerty Cup final.



Last Saturday was a "red letter" day tor the British Football Association or Victoria. A large crowd of enthusiastic supporters assembled at Middle Park to witness a match between English and Scotch players, members of this association. The selection committees carefully chose their representative elevens, and it was generally voted one of the best games of soccer yet seen in Melbourne. Before the match, the Scotch players and supporters were already proclaiming victory, but, let me here tell you. that England won comparatively easy by three goals to two. 

Scotland kicked off against a strong wind, but the English halves securing, put their forwards on the attack, the English left wing very early in the game giving the Scottish defence a taste of their good quality. Cumming and Baird were defending well, however, and relieved their goal. 

The Scotch forwards then made tracks for the English goal, but did not become dangerous the English halves (Ladkin, Evans, and Bird) holding them fairly easy. Ladkin, playing half-back for England, was feeding the wing cleverly, and the persistent attack of Greves and Hutton had its reward at last, for after nice play by these two, Appleby, at centre, received a pass, and scored first goal for England. This livened up the Scots, and their forwards now became more prominent, but could not beat the English halves. It must not be forgotten that Scotland were playing against the wind, therefore most of the play was in their own half. 

At last the Scotch left wing, playing nicely together, became persistent, and Hall securing near the centre, made a good run. When tackled he passed to Fletcher, who sent in a nice centre, which Hall secured and equalised the scores with a clever shot. The play of the English forwards in this half was very ragged. They indulged in too much passing instead of making for goal when they had a strong wind behind them. 

Half-time arrived with the score one goal each. 

It was thought that the English defence would be in for a hot time during the second half, Scotland having the wind in their favor. Scotland early made an attack on the English goal, and, having awarded a very doubtful penalty, Menzies scored for Scotland with a good shot, The English forwards were now rearranged. Brown going from inside right to centre and Appleby taking Brown's position. From this change England benefited greatly, for Greves, Hutton, and Brown, all club mates, combined nicely, and gave the spec-tators a splendid display ot tip-top football, and it is to these players that England mainly owe their victory. Menzies, at centre-half was working hard for Scotland, feeding his forwards well, of whom Hall was the only one to trouble the English defence, where Elliott was playing a masterful game at back. The attack being again taken up by Eng-land, Greves secured near the half-way line, and running along his wing put in a marvellous centre. The ball, keeping high, just went under the crossbar, giving Baird, the Scots' goalie, no chance. Thus the score was once more equal, being two goals each. 

From this to the end England had most of the game, their halves easily keeping in check the Scottish attack. England attacked strongly, and after a hot scrimmage in front of the Scottish goal, a penalty was given against Menzies, but from the resultant kick Elliott, the English captain, shot wide. Not to be denied, however, the English forwards again attacked, and Brown scored with a nice shot. Time shortly afterwards arrived, with England winners by three goals to two. 

England's team, all round, played consistently and generally seemed to hold the Scots fairly easy. The Scotch team did not play the game that was expected of them, their for-wards, with the exception of Hall, not being able to get the better of the English halves. Mr Palmer refereed the game, and had the assistance of Mr S. H. Thomas (England) and Mr Middleton (Scotland) on the lines. 

To show how soccer football is finding its way over the globe, it is interesting to note that Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur re-cently made a very successful tour of the Argentine. These teams played a match at Buenos Ayres before a crowd of over 20,000 spectators, Aston Villa winning by two goals to one. 

The game has taken such a hold in America that next football season the American association is sending a team to England, and an International match has been arranged. The American team will be composed of American-born players, and fixtures have already been arranged with Notts. Forest, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers, Leeds City and other leading English clubs. The New York "Herald" of May 23 gives a lengthy report of the final for the American Association Cup. between Brooklyn and the Yonkers (New York). The match attracted 15,000 spectators, Brooklyn winning by four goals to one. 

Tomorrow the "Coop" final is to be played (how these words stirs an Englishman's heart). The competing teams are Carlton and St. Kilda. The East Melbourne ground has been engaged, and the match commences at 3 o'clock. Mr Palmer has been appointed referee, and Mr Jackson (Fitzroy) and Mr Fraser (Melbourne) have been chosen as linesmen. This match should prove a great go, an both teams are in good form and have been doing good training work. 

Carlton earned their position in the final by beating Melbourne, four goals to nil, and Fitzroy, eight goals to nil, and with an undefeated certificate in the League games, their chance looks good. St. Kilda worked their way into the final by defeating Williamstown, five goals to two and Prahran. eight goals to two, Also finishing second to Carlton in the League chart. 

It may be said for St. Kilda that their team has become much stronger this last few weeks, owing to finding new blood, so intending visitors to this match should not be disappointed jn witnessing a ding-dong battle. 

St. Kilda team will be selected from Dolan, Fletcher, Cartwright, Dockerty, Evans (capt.), Collins, Greysmith, Vass, Hodgkinson, Brown, Hutton, Greves. 

Carlton will be selected from Baird, Menzies (capt.), Cumming (2), Spence, M'Millan, Williamson, Matthews, Hall, Halley, Terrier, Wardrop, Black, Campbell, Walters and Begg.

Monday 29 August 2022

Soccer in Victoria: English Game Has Rapid Rise

Another Victorian state-of-play piece, this time in the Herald, Saturday 27 May 1922, page 5. Interesting for a number of reasons, especially the elision of 1. the original attempt to establish the game in the 1880s and 2. the Scottish aspect of the contemporary renaissance of the game in Victoria. Other points of note are the rapid expansion of the game and an early consciousness of the problem of enclosed grounds.

Soccer in Victoria

English Game Has Rapid Rise


For the average Victorian there is only one game of football, and that is the great Australian game. In that we are conservative. Nevertheless, soccer, the popular game of the United Kingdom, is establishing itself on a firm footing in this State, though, of course, there is no likelihood of it ever becoming a rival of the Australian game. 

The existence of the imported game in Melbourne rests mainly on the support accorded it by a staunch follow ing of men from England. That following is gradually growing in strength as every liner brings its fresh batch of new Australians.

On the other hand, soccer is a serious rival to that other great English game, Rugby football. Many persons are convinced that Rugby football is a dying sport. Evidence of this, it is claimed, has become apparent in New South Wales, and to a greater extent in Queensland, where soccer is speedily ousting its rival. New South Wales alone boasts a playing personnel of 6000 soccer footballers, while in the United Kingdom in 1914 there were 16,000 soccer teams, as compare!! with only 1100 Rugby teams, and the contrast is even greater today. In Victoria Rugby football has had little or no success, while soccer has managed to cling on for 14 years, and is stronger today than ever it was. Its history is interesting.


In 1908 a small group of English enthusiasts, among whom were Messrs. H. J. Dockerty, W. E. Cumraings. E. Harvey, and E. C. Crawford, held a conference. These men could never reconcile themselves to our form of football, and they launched the ambitious but seemingly hopeless project of establishing soccer in Victoria. How they succeeded may be gauged from the fact that a small band of 60 followers has grown into 14 metropolitan clubs with a playing personnel of 600 and 2000 supporters. The com bination is known as the Victorian Amateur British Football Association, of which Dockerty is now president, Cummings secretary, and Harvey treasurer. Crawford was a former secretary, and he worked strenuously in the effort to raise soccer to its present status.

Though the standard is not as high, the conditions under which soccer is played in Victoria are similar to those influencing the game in. Great Britain. Even an international flavor is introduced by a yearly match between English and Scottish players, while this season will, in addition, wit ness the innovation of an all-Australian team playing a match against a combination composed of Welsh players.

From this it will be gathered that the game has managed to lure a sprinkling of Victorians. To further intensify the interest in soccer there are the usual cup ties, which bear the name of Dockerty, in honor of the president, and the trophies consist of cups for senior, second grade, and junior divisions, and a handsome shield for the premier team of the Association.


Mr Dockerty has been resident in Victoria for a number of years, and, being an ardent lover of football in any shape or form, he did not neglect to study our own game. He admires it, but prefers soccer, because he says it is more easily followed, there being only eleven men to a side. Furthermore, he claims that soccer is fast and opon, and leaves nothing to be desired from an onlooker's point of view when good players are seen In action in a "passing rush" and exercising that attractive head and foot work which is so distinctive from the Australian hand system. 

An English team may visit Australia in 1923. That is the accomplishment which Mr Dockerty and his soccer colleagues all over Australia are aiming at, and they are confident that it will be realised. The matter is in the hands of a Commonwealth council, of which Mr Dockerty is also president, and which is representative of soccer players in all States. The most im portant factor — finance — has been thrashed out, and Victoria's contribution to the general fund is a minimum of £750. This sum it is proposed to raise by the debenture system.


The lack of enclosed grounds is a sore point with the Soccer Association, for the "gate" means much to the success of any sport. However, during the proposed English visit it is likely that one of the metropolitan cricket grounds will be secured. The itinerary of the English team will have to be so arranged that the matches do not clash with our own games.

Saturday 27 August 2022

The Real Game of Football

This is an extensive piece written by leading Melbourne player, George Raitt (Sporting Globe, Saturday 23 June 1923, page 6). It has a number of features/claims, including: the brief suggestion that soccer's first Melbourne collapse was due to internal problems; his recollections of pre-war football and the English/Scottish nexus; Carlton effectively a Scots team in 1909; his own personal biography; the snapshot of P. Hamilton (born in Australia but who learned the game in Scotland); and a terrific sequence of photos of George playing the game.

Specially Written for "The Sporting Globe" by George Raitt

Do you wonder that I should be still enthusiastic about the game of soccer when I was born and bred in the home of the game. I have been playing all my life and I will go on playing the great game of pure football until I am not physically able to take any further active part. 

Soccer is claimed—and in my opinion rightly so—as the game of football. After having played it for many years and having seen the other codes of football played, I am still as keen as ever on my chosen code. With its open and fast exchanges it stands out as a game of skill and as scoring is difficult compared with other codes, it tends to keep the contest even throughout. 

Starting in the Old Land many years ago soccer has spread to many parts of the globe. And now it is played in every country and is increasing in popularity. 


In Victoria the game was played in the 80s but owing to internal trouble was allowed to lapse. In 1907 a few gentlemen headed by H. J. Dockerty again set the ball rolling. For that season practice games were played and during the summer months arrangements were made to start a competition. A strong committee was formed to carry out arrangements including H. J. Dockerty, L. Harvey, J. Holland, L. Fifer, H. Miller, T. Evans, A. Philips, E. Fraser and W. A. Cumming. 

The season opened with six clubs — Carlton, St. Kilda, Prahran, Melbourne, Fitzroy and Williamstown and after a good seasons play Carlton carried off all the trophies — a feat they repeated the following year, when South Melbourne had joined up with the association. In 1910 the season opened with nine clubs — Burns, Melbourne, Thistle, Yarraville and in addition four junior clubs were formed. The number of clubs has increased since then until now there are 18 clubs in Melbourne and districts, who place 28 teams in the field each Saturday. 

In addition to these, four clubs from the schools competed for the Navy Cup. In the country there are four clubs at Alexandra, three in Bendigo and district, and teams at Wonthaggi and club Point. To provide for these clubs, the association runs the following competitions — The Dockerty Cup competition which is open to all clubs in Victoria and is played on the knock-out principle. The four League Trophies are competed for by clubs in Melbourne and districts. The Reserve Cup is open to all reserve teams. Alexandra District Cup competed for by clubs in that district. The Navy Cup is confined to Technical schools. 

The management of these competitions is in the hands of a committee of delegates from the clubs, while the general management of the association is carried on by an elected council over which H. J. Dockerty, the president of the association presides, F. Harvey, treasurer and W. A. Cumming hon secretary are also among the officials of the game and to the work of these officials the game owes much of its success. 


Among the players who have helped to place the game on its present footing are P. Hamilton at present is a member of the Footscray team. Australian-born this player went to Scotland and reached the first class in football. Returning to Australia he has since both taken part in matches with credit to himself and his club. Another player who has left his mark on the game here is "Dave'" M. Millar. In my opinion he is the finest player we have had here. During seasons 1909-13 he delighted the followers of the game with his clever play. 

With the Victorian team in Sydney in 1914 he was the stand-out of a great side and even to this day his play is the talk of soccer people in New South Wales. 

Among some of the other players who have stood out from the general men are Menzies, a great "back" ; Ruddiman, centre half. The Carlton team was, in my opinion, the best we have had here and in regard to this?? an interesting story is told. 


One of the players just, arrived from Scotland happened to be chatting about the game. Hearing a voice from over the Border holding forth on Soccer, he challenged him to meet a team he would pick to play in the Carlton Gardens. 

The Scot was told it could not be arranged but if he had any players they could get games with the Carlton Club to which the other belonged. A meeting was called, and Scotty gathered his clan of 16 members to attend. When the meeting ended it was found that the Scots had taken charge of everything except the secretary's office which had been given to the Englishman to keep him quiet. 

On the field they carried out their policy, and took charge to such an extent that for two seasons they went undefeated, and remained so until the Burns Club, led by the same Scot who had gathered them for Carlton, defeated them in the opening game of the third season. 


Soccer as a game of football is one in which you play football or ball with the foot only. Unlike other codes the hands are not used to any extent Only two players the goalkeepers are allowed to handle the ball while in play. It is a game in which brute force is not allowed. With its eleven players a side, and a referee in complete charge of the game. It is clean, open and fast, and as the rules are definite on all points of the game, it is easily followed, and understood. 

It has also the advantage of being a game in which the small man has nearly as good a chance as the tall man. There being no ruck or scrum, in Soccer, the crowding which takes place in other codes is not present and the opportunity for sly or dirty play is not given. Then again, it is the international code. 


If Australia is ever to be represented in football at the Olympic games, it must be in Soccer, which is the football game played in connection with them. That will take place before many years as in most of the Soccer is going ahead very rapidly. In Victoria there are now teams composed entirely of Australian players. The game here is entirely amateur, and as long it is played as Soccer should be played, it will continue to grow in numbers and become a favorite with the Australian public, just as it has done in other parts of the world. 

Certainly there are many good points in Rugby and the Australian game. The only spoiling feature of Rugby is, I think, the scrum. When I have nothing to do on Saturday I enjoy looking at the Australian game and I must say that there are some spectacular incidents in it. What appealed to me most in the game was the high marking and the pace at which the men travel with a ball which they must bounce. Still I would rather play Soccer. 


One point which the average spectator does not understand is the one of "hands off the ball." Unlike the Australian game, the ball must not not be touched by the hands or arms. therefore when it is in the air we use our heads. Every player with the exception of the goal keeper must be able to head the ball and when this is perfected the average player can use his head as readily as his feet. Dribbling the ball is left almost entirely to the forwards, principally to the inside forwards, who have to take the ball within the danger zone and make the opening for the center forward to go through and score. 

One of the most spectacular points of the game is the shooting for goal. The center forward excels in this department and to be a good center forward one must be a good shot and be able to shoot from any position. This is a position which sometimes is very hard to fill, and which causes the club manager endless worry. He is always on the lookout for a prolific goal-scorer. Though difficult to perform well, punting is left to the backs. They constitute the defence and must be able to punt well to clear their lines and relieve the pressure on the goal. 


My first club of any note was Cambuslang Rangers. I spent two seasons with them. In the second season with them we had a great side and carried everything before us. The trophies we won that year were the Glasgow League, Glasgow Cup, Glasgow Charity Cup and North-Eastern Cup. With one exception the whole of this team played as professionals and some are still playing in first class football, notably Kenny Campbell, who has defended Scotland goal for several seasons in International football. Bob Robertson is still with Bo'ness. John McNaughton with Kilmarnock and my brother Willie is still going strong with King's Park. 

From Cambuslang I went to Huddersfield Town, but after a season and a half there I came to Melbourne in 1913. I thought I had said goodbye to the old game, not knowing that the game was being played here. I soon found out and being Scotch I was soon attached to Melbourne Thistle with which club I have played since. In 1914 we won the League Premiership and shared the Dockerty Cup with N and D United after two draw games. The following season we went one better and won both League and Cup. Our game closed down in 1915, and most of our players enlisted. Five paid the supreme sacrifice — J. Traynor, A. Goodson, J. Ross, J. Hogg and W. Brodie. This season we are not doing so well. I think the side can do better before the season closes. 

The fact that the game in Victoria is "not up to much" cannot be denied but when soccer is played well it is "the" game of football. All good things start from small beginnings and I have no doubt that soccer — now one of the least of footy codes in Victoria — will win a worthy place in the years to come.


GEORGE RAITT IN ACTION (1) Passing (2) Heading the ball. 3) Shooting for Goal. (4) Punting

Tuesday 23 August 2022

Northumberland and Durham Smoke Night 1922

The Emerald Hill Record (7 October 1922, p2) reported the annual smoke night of Northumberland and Durham United. Some interesting points: 

  1. It's a spotted history of the club's 10 years. 
  2. The recent death of the inaugural chairman Sam Hartley;
  3. We learn that Ben Stevens captained the team for the first 9 years;  
  4. J Lamb was the general dogsbody for the club and a number of others were important to its activities; 
  5. Portable goalposts! I need a description.
  6. Has the epicentre of N. and D. moved away from Footscray (intimated by the function being held in South Melbourne and reported in a local paper)?


Hold Annual Social.

The Northumberland and Durham United British Association Football Club (Soccer) held their annual smoke night on Saturday last in the Concordia Hall, South Melbourne. Mr. Albert N. Gay was the chairman, and referred to the position of the club and hoped that all present would have an enjoyable evening. Musical items were rendered by Messrs. Bristow, Craig, Davidson, Grieves, Jones, Lamb, and Thornton. The singing of Mr. Bob Davidson was particularly fine, and brought forth numerous encores. The chairman spoke feelingly on the sad loss the club had sustained owing to the death of Mr. Sam Hartley, who had been the chairman of the club since its formation. He felt sure the club as a body would do all in its power to assist Mrs. Hartley in every, possible way.

Mr. J. Lamb proposed the toast of The Captain and Players, and referred to the pleasure he got, through being connected with the club, every week, although he did have to carry the goal posts and nets and very often had to mark off the ground. However, it was more than pleasing to see 'N. and D. receiving such prominence each year. 

Mr. Ben Stevens (captain) rose to respond amid cries of "Good old Ben!" "Ben the evergreen!" etc., and stated how pleased he was to have the pleasure of responding on behalf of a team which he had captained for the past 10 years with the exception of last season. During those years they had won the League several times and the Dockerty cup twice. Of course, he knew from his long experience that secret of the success of N. and D. was the unanimity between the players and their committee. He could remember when the club first started. He had gone onto the ground with seven or eight men; and often had finished the game with a victory to their credit. (Laughter.) He thanked the committee for their staunch support in the past, and hoped for their continued good service in the future.

The toast of the committee was proposed by Mr. Grieves, and responded to by Mr. Bentley. Mr M. D. Cunningham, the genial and hard-working honorary secretary, spoke of the progress the club had made. During the three years he had been their secretary they had won the League premiership twice, and the Dockerty cup once, which was by no means a por record. He hoped the club would continue along the track of prosperity, and that next year both the cup and the shield would be on the table at their annual smoke night. (Loud cheers.) —'The Vigilante.'

Melbourne Herald (Wednesday 5 July 1922, page 18)

HARTLEY. — On the 4th July. 1922, at his residence. 160 Little Buckley street, Footscray (suddenly). Samuel Hartley. (late president of Northumberland and Durham Football Club), dearly loved husband of Elizabeth Hartley, loving brother-in-law of Mrs. Fletcher, William, Isabel, and the late David Jeffrey, aged 54 years. Deeply mourned and sadly missed. 

This obituary in the Age (18 May 1936, page 1) references some N and D figures.

DARBYSHIRE.—On the 16th May, Henry William, dearly beloved eldest son of William Henry and the late Rebecca Darbyshire, of 23 Garden Vale-road, Caulfield, loving brother of Ernest, Nellie, Marjory, Tina, Stanley, Edith and Rachel. DARBYSHIRE, H. W.— On the 16th May. From him sweet rest, For us just memories. Inserted by his loving father and brother, Stan, DARBYSHIRE.—On the 16th May, Harry, the dearly loved brother of Tina and Wilfred; also loving uncle of Olive, Edna, Lorna, Norman and Jack. Loved ones united. DARBYSHIRE. H. W.-On the 16th May. In silence we remember. —Inserted by living brother, Ern, and Vera. DARBYSHIRE, H. W.— On the 16th May. He giveth his beloved sleep. His tired, weary frame Has found sweet rest at last. —Inserted by his loving sisters, Edie and Rachel. DARBYSHIRE. —On the 16th May, H. W. In mind a silent thought, In heart a secret sorrow. —Marjory and Percy. —Inserted by his loving sister, Marjory, and Percy. DARBYSHIRE, H. W.-On the 16th May. Years fly pas, but his life to us Will always be the sweetest memories. —Inserted by his loving sister, Nellie, and Sid. DARBYSHIRE, H. W.—On the 16th May. in remembrance of my dear brother-in-law Edward Soames; Joyce Soames, Edward Henry Soames. At rest. DARBYSHIRE, H. W.—On the 16th May, in remembrance on behalf of the Northumberland and Durham Soccer Football team, Footscray. A good friend and a great sport.  

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Robert Walter Pickersgill, Geordie Joiner.

This is the way it goes sometimes:

1. Up early to watch EPL.

2. Notice a text from Mav alerting me to a comment on facebook from Alan Pickersgill, to which he had attached this gorgeous photo of a Northumberland and Durham team in 1914. His grandfather Robert Walter Pickersgill is third from the right on the second back row.

Robert Pickersgill

3. Respond to Alan, who immediately proceeds to video call from his home in Gateshead, England. We have a long chat in which (after getting rid of the Mackem/Mag banter/formalities) he reveals the bones of a fantastic story.

4. Go to Footscray Market (past the car park that once was the site of the Bay View Hotel, which functioned as a dressing room for Northumberland and Durham and most likely in which Robert had prepared for games at Footscray Park), through the market, to take a photo of 13 Paisley St, the site of H.C. Lloyd's Alma Studio, the company that took the team shot.

13 Paisley St, Footscray Presently aTobacco franchise,
the recent tenancy 
history of this address is indicated
by the 
different signage upstairs and down.
5. Have that coffee.

Sunday 14 August 2022

More Fibs for Footy

The Melbourne Sporting Globe (28 February 1953, page 11) published the following letter from George Cathie (the former editor of the Footy Record and serial liar about soccer). In it he claims that there was no sign of soccer in Albert Park in the 1880s and that because the FA had been formed as recently as the 1880s, soccer couldn't have been played here so soon after. (Still mulling over the logic of that one.)

In fact, after sporadic organised games and practice matches in 1883 and 1884 in Middle/Albert Park, 1885 sees the game firmly established at Middle Park.

Rather than saying "I just hate the stupid game," Cathie's practice is more pernicious. He makes up facts to suit his argument and even more egregiously denies the actual presence of the game in Melbourne. In the pantheon of Melbourne soccer haters this chap is a stand out.

Soccer in Albert Park

G J. Cathie Hawthorn writes:— An article in last Wednesday's "Sporting Globe" by J O Wilshaw headed Soccer in Albert Park, is very much astray in the statement that soccer had its home in Albert Park 70 years ago. 

I can well remember that in the 1880's, when the Australian game consisted of 20 players aside it was most difficult for all the local Junior clubs to obtain sufficient grounds for their requirements, and many arguments took place every Saturday afternoon because of the encroachment by older players in planting their small out of bounds flags on areas allotted to their younger rival clubs. 

At that period there was not a sign of a soccer club in Albert Park. As a matter of fact it was only a trifle over 70 years ago that the Soccer Football Association was formed in England though games had been played by amateur clubs prior to its formation, so it's hardly likely soccer was played here until many years later. 

Incidentally, what has become of all the Junior clubs which had their home grounds in Albert Park 50 years ago? There were no dressing room accommodation in those days—we hung our clothes on the fence along the St. Kilda railway line.

Friday 5 August 2022

1914 Dockerty Cup Final

The 1914 Dockerty Cup between Northumberland and Durham United and Melbourne Thistle played at Middle Park was a scoreless draw. The replay at the same venue had a similar scoreline even after extra time. A goalless 210 minutes was enough and the decision was made to share the trophy. Harrison in The Winner was not impressed with the games (see below) but I have seen reports that were more glowing. The Argus for example.

The following is the report from The Winner, Wednesday 14 October 1914, page 6



... THE CONTEST Only a few items occurred in the whole course of the two hours' play to send anyone into ecstasies. I had looked forward to far more scientific play than proved to be the case, and was disappointed. True, cup finals as a rule do not produce the best class of football; the players are far too keen and excited, and Saturday last proved no exception to the general rule. There was one thing, however, that was par ticularly noticeable, and that was that the respective goalkeepers — Robison and Russell-— were in great trim, and in that goal-keeping mood which meant that there would be some difficulty in breaking down their defences. And the two hours' play saw the respective goals intact In fact, if anything averted the defeat of the men of Northumber land and Durham it was the superb defence of Robison, who really effected some wonderful saves. Robison was indeed the hero of the hour, and I have seen players of greater pretensions in English League teams who could not have improved upon his display. There is little further to comment upon. The best of the N. and D. side were Robison and Ben. Stevens. Others I liked were Helas, Longthorne. and C. Weston. On the Thistle side, Russell, in goal, did all that was required of him, and Raitt, Guthrie, Bottomley, Brodie and Ackurof [Acquroff] were always prominent. 

A month later, the following images and text were published in the Winner, Wednesday 11 November 1914, page 7



Northumberland and Durham United are a team which will have seriously to be reckoned with, in next season's competitions. The players registered in the ranks of the North of England representatives showed brilliant form in the latter part of the season, and in the final tie of the Dockerty Cup held their own with the Thistle Club, the League premiers. Northumberland and Durham United played 18 games in the League Competition, of which they won seven, lost nine, and two were drawn games. Their best form, however, was shown in the Cup competition, and the players appearing in the: above photograph in the final tie of the Dockerty Cup. are — Robinson, Helas,  Longthorpe, Thompson, Stevens, Jefferies, H. Weston, Laycock, C. Weston, Millar, and Marsden.

Mark Boric's more reliable Victorian Football Statistical History gives: Northumberland and Durham United: J.Robison, E.Helas, R.Longthorpe, J.Thompson, B.Stevens, D.Jefferey, H.Weston, Laycock, C.Weston, R.Millar, H.Marsden.



The Melbourne Thistle Club has a record to be proud of. To win the League Premiership and become joint possessors with Northumberland and Durham United of the Dockerty Challenge Cup in the same season is a great 'honor indeed. The Scots' Club, has only been in existence three seasons, and has in its ranks many players of exceptional merit.In the League season just closed, Thistle played 18 matches, won 11, lost two, and five were drawn. The team scored 34 goals against 12 obtained by their opponents. Thistle headed the League table with 27 points, to their credit, their nearest opponents being the Birmingham team with 24 points. The Scots' representatives figuring in the final the for the Dockerty Challenge Cup, is given in the above photograph, are— Russell, Thompson, Raitt, Noble, Goodson, Benn, Bottomley, Clulow, Guthrie, Sandy, and Brodie. 

Boric gives: Melbourne Thistle: J.Russell, J.Thompson, G.Raitt, G.Noble, A.Goodson, H.Benn, A.Bottomley, Clulow, J.Guthrie, Sandy, J.Brodie.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Formation of Footscray Soccer Clubs

The first Footscray British Football Club (FFC) was founded in 1912. It survived for two years until the emergence of two new (and legendary) clubs: Footscray Thistle (FT) and Northumberland and Durham United (N&D). The connections are between the two new clubs and the now defunct FFC remain to be discovered. Also, to what extent did FT dilute the player pool at Melbourne Thistle (MT)? My hypothesis is that N&D (by virtue of their inclusion as a 1st Division team in 1914) was something of a continuation of FFC and that FT (as a 2nd division team) represented something of an A team for MT. I'll need to check the team lists. Let's see how that works out.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Five Problems with Australian Rules Football

Last year John Weldon and I created a podcast called Behind the Play. He was the straight guy and I was (something he had called me for years) 'The most hated man in (AR) Football'. We produced some thoughtful discussion I think. My rationale for wanting to undercut the mytholgies of Australian Rules was laid out in the document below, for want of a better title, The Five Problems of Australia Rules Football.

Australian rules is lumbered with five contradictions at its heart. They are so profound and historical that they are obscured from the plain view of aficionados and fans.

First the game is a syncretism of two incompatible modes of football. While the rest of the football word world was busy codifying and arguing between soccer-ish and rugby-ish impulses, Melbourne football decided to amalgamate the two and create an insoluble 160 year old ongoing argument about the holding the ball rule.

Secondly, Australian rules developed and found its basis during a period of Victorian optimism and expansionism. Many Victorians, at this point in its history seemed to believe they were on the road to nationhood. The Victorian Navy, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian National Flag were products of this period. Footy also represented a cultural product of this nascent Victorian nation and so induced and rapidly cemented commitment at political, cultural and ideological levels. It came to represent an expression of Victorian manifest destiny. Its adherents constructed a frontier over which they needed to carry the game to the uncivilised regions of Australia. This frontier still exists in the form of the Barassi line.

Thirdly, and this point relates closely to the previous one, the rhetoric of Australian rules shifted from being a Melbourne game to a Victorian game to a National game over the first 50 years. The game’s imperialist urge was submerged in arguments that came to see the game as always having been representative of Australia in its entirety. This desire to capture Australia and in some instances the world stands in contradiction to the fact that even at its highest level the game is still centred emotionally in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. This region is its powerhouse and for many supporters it remains the heart of the game. Interstate teams are welcome to join the Victorian game but they must do so paying respect to the origins. The clash between Collingwood and Port Adelaide over the right to wear black and white illustrates this perfectly. At the heart of the game is the denigration of not only other codes of football but also other places of Australian rules, including the Victorian football Association which represented an outer suburban ring of Melbourne clubs.

Fourthly, and this point is more recent, the game is saddled with the myth of indigenous origins. While the idea that Australian rules sprung out of Marngrook is sustained, it will forever miss vital points of its own development. Certainly indigenous players have influenced the game tremendously. However, they were absent at its origins. The nature of colonial Society at that point forbade their inclusion. If a story is to be told of Aboriginal influence on Australian rules then it is about their initial exclusion through racist attitudes and laws, their parallel development of their own teams and competitions outside of the mainstream and eventual inclusion in the history of Australian rules when they worked, perhaps better, forced their way in. This is much later than the signal dates of 1858 or 1866 or 1877. This argument, it should be noted, does not actually rule out the influence of marngrook, it simply does not recognise it at any purported moment of origin.

Finally, it is not a particularly good game. Though that is merely my opinion. I don't think it's possible to premise football narratives on how good or how bad a particular game is. Yet, many footy supporters and footy historians start their arguments using the idea that football, their football, is the greatest of games. I do not doubt they believe this and are being honest in their assessments. Around the world games have developed in regions which all seem to think that theirs is the greatest of games. Whether it be Manchester, Wigan, Brisbane, Boston, Auckland, Montreal or indeed Melbourne, passion arising from the tremendous support these cultures give to their local game leads supporters to make greatness claims for them. This belief distorts the reality of a game’s values and problems. Australian rules supporters can be left thinking something like “Hey, this is such a great game, why doesn't the rest of Australia or, indeed, the world take it up?” That's a kind of noble ambition I guess. But the bigger problem might be that supporters can be influenced into thinking something like “Hey this is such a great game, why is the game I'm watching right now a bit shit?” Supporters of footy (and all games for that matter) need to realise that the greatness of a game is not so much because of its intrinsic or aesthetic qualities, but is rather generated by the strength of a culture's commitment to it. We all have a game that we look at and think “Well that's boring as batshit,” while supporters of that game obviously believe the opposite. Who is right? Melbourne, despite all my best attempts, is profoundly committed to Australian rules football. The culture highlights the game’s spectacular and beautiful moments as representative; it tries to dismiss the dreary and drab and problematic aspects of the game as other, problems that have been introduced over time because of the failure of someone, somewhere to stay true to the spirit of the game, whatever that means.

Weston Tragedies: Daisy and John James

Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder, Tuesday 22 October 1935, page 3

Terrible Sequel to Pathetic Tragedy.


After Wife's Dead Body Recovered. Five Little Orphans.

ONE OF THE most awful tragedies in the history of the Coalfields occurred yesterday. Following the discovery of the body of poor Mrs. James, three hours later her husband shot himself dead at his father's home in Abermain. The father of John Gwyllian James, like the Christian he is, endeavoured to give his bereaved son spiritual comfort, but apparently the heart broken husband had been thrown off his mental balance owing to the tragic death of his wife, to whom he was greatly attached. A further tragedy is that five young children, whose ages range from 18 months to 8 years, are bereft of the love and care of their parents. The whole hearted sympathy of the Coalfields goes out to the two stricken families in their great hour of trial. 

On Monday morning, following appeals by the police, the miners of Hebburn No. 1 and 2 and Pelaw Main colliery decided at the pit top to lose a shift, and make a great effort to discover the whereabouts of Mrs. James. Relief workers also joined in, and about 2000 searchers offered their services. A more intense search was conducted from Weston, and at 9.30 a.m. Thomas Street, a relief worker, and Douglas Parker, a Council employee, discovered the missing woman in the bush within fifty yards of a number of houses close to the Weston Soccer ground.

John Gwyllian James (32), husband of Daisey James (28) had participated in the search since his wife was reported missing on Friday morning. Charles James, father of the dead woman, was at the hospital on Monday morning, and was making an appeal by 'phone to Mr. Baddeley to request the Premier to make a 'plane available to assist in the search. 'I am unemployed,' said Mr. James, and spent all the money I had in chartering a 'plane on Saturday for four hours. I considered my daughter, the mother of five children, was just a great an asset to Australia as some of the other un fortunate missing people in whose search the Government spent large sums of money.' 

Before he could receive a reply, the ambulance had arrived with the body of his daughter. 'She is dead,' said Mr. James. 'I can tell that. Otherwise those men would be running over to congratulate me.' Inspector Noble identified the body. Having heard that his son-in-law had threatened to take his life, in the event of his wife being found dead, Mr. C James hastened to Abermain, and collected the five little children— Margaret, Beatrice, John, Bryn, and Allan. They were taken to his home, and instructions were given that they were not to be allowed out of sight, and on no account to be left alone. 

The husband of the dead woman went to his father's house at Abermain. Both family names are James, and the deceased couple were cousins. The police had been informed that John James had threatened to take his life, and was in possession of a revolver. Sergeant Whitechurch went to the residence, and whilst extending sympathy to the bereaved husband, surreptitiously placed his hands over his body in a search for a possible hidden weapon. It was apparent that James was not carrying a weapon on him. The father of John James was endeavouring to comfort his son, and to point out to him what a wrong it would be to take his own life. When Sergeant Whitechurch (said to James, 'I have heard you are threatening to take your life, Jack?' he replied, 'If I had wished to do that, there is lysol in the house, and I could have taken that.' His attitude partly allayed the fears of those present. James then made a cigarette, and asked what time it was. Sergeant Whitechurch told him it was a quarter to one. James then walked behind a partition, and the Sergeant decided to follow him. Just as the Sergeant got within six paces of him, James, with one movement, pulled a revolver from under a cushion, and shot himself in the forehead, dying shortly after. The spring forward of Sergeant Whitechurch was just too late to prevent the second tragedy in the family.

Whilst their parents were being prepared for burial, the little sons of the deceased couple were playing, unconscious of the terrible tragedy that had entered their young lives. There is a tremendous wave of sympathy for both families of the deceased, who are highly respected throughout the Coalfields. 

The mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Daisy James from the Kurri Hospital in the early hours of Friday morning gave an opportunity for the residents of the Coalfields to show their splendid spirit of sympathy. Hundreds of citizens gave up their pay week-end holiday in an effort to find the missing woman. At three o'clock on Friday morning the night sister discovered that Mrs. James, aged 28, was missing from her bed, and after it was ascertained that she was not in the building, the alarm was at once raised, and a search commenced. 

The police quickly got into action, and at commenced, under the leadership of daybreak an organised search was Sergeant Wood, of Kurri. When the news became broadcast, many of the relief workers in the district left work, and joined in the search. As the miners left the various collieries, further search parties were organised. Superintendent White, of the North Eastern Division, was notified at Newcastle, and he immediately made arrangements for a black tracker from Bulga to join in the search. The thick scrub was searched for many miles, and was kept up whilst there was a ray of daylight. Appeals were made in all the Coalfields districts for volunteers to assist on Saturday, and many appeared at the various centres to assist the police in their arduous task. 

Two parties left Kearsley on Saturday to search for the missing woman, Mrs. James. One party was in charge of Constable Hollis, and the other party was the 1st Kearsley Scouts, in charge of Scoutmaster G. Whitfield and Mr. G. Jeffery. One party searched from Kearsley through the scrub to Weston, and the ether party searched the scrub from Kearsley to Hebburn No. 2. Another party left Kearsley on Sunday morning, in charge of Forrest Ranger Wilson and Scoutmaster G. Whitfield, and searched the scrub from Kearsley to Tomalpin, and from there through the scrub to Weston, but found no trace of the missing woman. 

Mrs. James had left the institution apparently only clad in her night attire, with one shoe. Owing to the hard nature of the soil, and its dry ness, the trackers were unable to find any footprints. What appeared to be a print was seen at the foot of Tumble Bee. This, it was thought, pointed to the direction of Abermain. The direction was followed for several miles through the thick bush, without result. 

An aeroplane was requisitioned on Saturday, but the thick ti-tree scrub militated against clear observation. Every water-hole in the vicinity was searched, and the colliery dams dragged. Footsore and weary, the splendid band of searchers returned after sundown to their starting points, with not a clue to report. Arrangements were made that in the event of Mrs. James being found, the colliery whistle should be sounded to recall the searchers, who were spread over a wide tract of country. 

Despite heavy rain all day Sunday, the search was maintained, and air though the searchers were soon drenched to the skin, the search was unabated. Dragging operations were again carried out on Sunday, and at sundown the discouraged searchers returned home worn out and with the opinion that little hope could be entertained of finding the missing woman alive. Again on Monday the search was continued with zeal. 

A few months ago Mrs. James was seriously injured in a motor smash. With her father-in-law, Charles James, of Abermain, she was tra velling in a car from Singleton to Abermain. Coming along the Allan dale Road, Cessnock, they suddenly came to a barrier where the bridge was being rebuilt It was too late to stop the car, and it crashed over to the concrete bed below, a distance of about twelve feet. Mrs. James suffered head injuries as a result of this accident, and had been in bad health since.

Weston Tragedies: Rex Stevenson


Weston's 1936 State League Cup
Rex Stevenson. 23, who had been one of the Weston State League Soccer Club's forwards since 1935, was accidentally shot dead at Lemon Tree, Port Stephens, on Saturday. A rabbit shooting party of which Stevenson was a member was returning to its motor launch, and Stevenson at the rear was handing shot guns down a steep slope. A double barrelled gun which, he put down stock first struck a rock and went off, and Stevenson who received the full charge in his chest, died almost immediately. The funeral at Cessnock was attended by representatives of all Northern State League Soccer Clubs., Stevenson, who lived at Church Street, Cessnock, was a miner employed at the Ellington Colliery, In 1936, when Weston, despite the absence of three key players in New Zealand, for an important section of the season, won the New South Wales Soccer double, State premiership and State Cup, nothing in soccer distinction seemed beyond Stevenson's reach. Fast, elusive and an accurate kick, he was an admirable type of forward to finish off the work of a constructive halfback line and with added experience and polish he seemed likely to go far in representative company. 

From Raymond Terrace Examiner and Lower Hunter and Port Stephens Advertiser, Thursday 6 October 1938, page 3

Friday 15 April 2022

Weston Tragedies

This feels like a kind of starting point.

George Kennedy, the Weston Soccer Club's trainer, was killed by a fall of stone in Hebburn Colliery yesterday. The deceased had been a popular member and player of the Weston Club for some years, and took over the duties of trainer upon the death of Hicks. The accident following upon those of W., Lambert, W. Hicks, and Peter Coppock, all of whom have been killed within the past two years, hits the Weston Club hard. In consequence of the fatality, the match which was to have been played at Weston tomorrow between Weston and West Wallsend has been abandoned.

This article in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (Friday 7 September 1923, page 2) underlines the extent to which Weston Bears has its share of tragedy as well as glory in its annals. Sid Grant puts the matter eloquently when he claims the club's "glorious cavalcade of triumphs has been punctuated with tragic occurrences which have struck at intervals to bring the club to its knees."

Every sporting Club has its go-to stories of pain and despair but what is it about Weston that means it has a little more than its fair share? Rotten luck is one answer but perhaps the tragedies and their reporting and memorialisation are a measure of the club's standing in the Coalfields. Grant writes of the death of Bill Lambert in a fall of coal at Hebburn No. 1: 

A pall of sadness spread right across the soccer firmament. The funeral cortege was one of the biggest seen in the North since Les Darcy died and was buried at East Maitland.

Soccer was a big deal in the region at that time and the death of a great club's best player and captain was a major public event.

This also makes me wonder whether the tragic history of Weston has given the club senses of history, importance and belonging not shared by many other Australian soccer clubs. Events that have caused repeated public memorialisation have in effect forced Weston into public historical consciousness in a way that Western United (for example) can only dream of. And while it seems from here (Melbourne) that Weston might be but a memory, I'm not sure that that is the case in its hearth.

I'd be interested in responses to this idea. Feel free to leave a message in the comments.

Thursday 14 April 2022


Herald (Melbourne), Saturday 20 May 1916, page 1


News has been received that Sapper H. Humphreys, well known as a playing member of the St. Kilda and Preston British Association (Soccer) Football Clubs, has been killed in action in France. He was largely responsible for the success of the Preston team in its cup-winning year. When war broke out he went to England, and joined the Yorkshire Engineers.



Victorian Soccer (British Association amateur football) is paying its toll in this greatest of all wars, writes Mr J. W. Harrison. Some hundreds of players are on the honor roll of the Australian Expeditionary Force. But it is with regret that I have to announce the death on active service of another soldier-footballer — H. Traynor, the well-known Soccerite of the Preston team, and latterly of the Melbourne Thistle Club. It seems to be only the other day that the writer had an interesting conversation with Corporal Traynor on sportsmen and war, in which he spoke earnestly on what he considered to be one's duty to King and country. Traynor was one of the most versatile players in the ranks of the Victorian Amateur British Football Association. 


Sympathy is also being expressed in local football circles at the bereavement of Mr Matt. Welch, the trainer of the Preston Soccer Club, who has lost his son — a mere youth— in the fighting line. 


Another side of ,the picture is the return of Lance-Corporal Bert. Knight (Engineer Corps) to Melbourne. Mr Knight, who prior to enlisting was the chairman of the Management Committee of the Preston F.C, has been invalided after active service in Egypt and France. He called to see me at this office a few days ago, looking bronzed and well, but told me that his fighting days were over owing to a bad leg. Mr Knight, who came from Lancashire on his emigration to Victoria, saw service in the South African War, and may truly claim to have done his due share for King and country.


Another interesting item is that Mr H. C. Dockerty, a well-known Collins street business man and president of the Victorian Amateur British Foot ball Association, has followed the ex ample of his fellow-Soccerites by enlisting, and is now in camp preparatory to joining his fellow field-sportsmen in the danger zone. Truly, there is no lack of patriotism in the ranks of Victorian Soccer, and when the honor roll is finally completed it will be in keeping with the traditions of the especial winter sport.

Winner (Melbourne), Wednesday 15 November 1916, page 8



Gunner William H. Browning resided at 3 Whitehall st., Footscray, until he enlisted in April, 1916, with 120th Howitzer Battery. He reached England in Dec. 1916; France in Feb. 1917, and joined the 50th Battery. On 11th October, 1917, he was killed in action. Gunner Browning was 21 years of age and a Scotchman by birth, having come to Australia 4 years ago. Prior to enlistment he was employed at the Government Dock Yards, Williams town. He was a leading player with the Footscray Thistle Soccer Club and an international player of note.

Advertiser (Footscray), Saturday 3 November 1917, page 3

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Well, it’s in the paper!

Newspaper records of soccer and Rugby League in Newcastle in the 1920s

This research idea is based on the hypothesis that soccer in Australia achieved a level of popularity and growth in the 1920s that is often overlooked. In some areas of Australia, particularly Newcastle, the game may indeed have been the dominant code for well over a decade, if not even longer.

Guided by this assumption, I searched Trove to ascertain the extent to which soccer achieved substantial recognition in a variety of local media. My first search was ‘soccer’ in the Newcastle Morning Herald, which was a present term in over 4500 items (articles, lists and advertising) in the newspaper during the 1920s. During the same period ‘Rugby League’ was present in 2400 items. A similar comparison in the Illawarra mercury revealed 1470 soccer items as against 693 for Rugby League. The Brisbane Telegraph revealed numbers that were roughly equal (over 9000 each) during that decade. Surprisingly, the Ipswich newspaper recorded 4000 Rugby League items to soccer’s 3000–the 1927 split seemingly having a retarding influence on soccer numbers at the end of the decade. Despite the Ipswich result, this data largely aligned with my original assertion that soccer was a dominant code in Newcastle and elsewhere in the 1920s. The Brisbane and Ipswich figures indicate a code that is equally dominant with Rugby League. 

A number of questions arise from these observations. 

  1. How useful are the search terms?

  2. Do the Trove searches find substantial and relevant items?

  3. How reliable is the newspaper content?

  4. What is the correlation between newspaper content and cultural reality?

  1. Are the terms ‘soccer’ and ‘Rugby League’ useful catch-all terms in the newspapers? Are they inclusive enough to capture all relevant items while excluding irrelevancies. Will they capture enough of the data to make the statistics accurate? My sense is that they are adequate; however, I need to pay attention to alternate terms: ‘BA rules’, ‘Association football’ for soccer, and ‘league football’ for Rugby League. Though again, I suspect these factors are not enough to skew the data.

  2. Can I trust that the Trove searches find substantial items? Or do a great proportion of them represent incidental references? A brief perusal of the hits suggests that most items have a direct and substantial reference to the game under search. It seems that in the Newcastle papers, lists and advertising make up approximately one third of the total items. For soccer, the Newcastle Sun includes 3500 articles, 1200 lists, 600 advertisements while for Rugby League the figures are 2100 articles, 520 lists, 330 advertisements. A similar spread exists in the Herald. The Maitland Daily Mercury yields for soccer: 1000 articles, 276 lists, 83 advertisements; and for Rugby League 1350 articles, 241 lists, 153 advertisements. In the Maitland figures, lists and advertising make up approximately a quarter of the total items.

    Sporting representation in three Newcastle region newspapers in the 1920s







Newcastle Morning Herald






Rugby League





Newcastle Sun






Rugby League





The Maitland Daily Mercury






Rugby League





  1. Are the newspapers chosen representative of actual numbers or do their editorial policies hold a distorting bias? For example, the Newcastle Sun during the period had over 5000 items that referred to soccer and 3000 that referred to Rugby League–a similar difference to the Herald. The Maitland Daily Mercury, however, had more references to Rugby League over soccer (1750 to 1350). This latter figure may represent a regional preference for Rugby League or it may itself represent bias towards Rugby League. My sense is that the Newcastle Morning Herald and the Newcastle Sun as the main newspapers of Newcastle at that time are likely representative. Because the Sun contains most items relating to each code I will provisionally establish it as the more significant reporter for the whole region. 

  1. Can a correlation be assumed between representation in the newspaper and 1) what is actually happening in a sports culture and 2) the extent to which a regional culture accepts a game as its own? This is a general/theoretical question that applies to all locales and cultures that are represented by a newspaper.

Notes for later work

  • Cumberland Argus: soccer 2000 Rugby League half that

  • Sydney Morning Herald: rugby combined 9000 soccer 1500

  • Referee newspaper: RL 300