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.
ADVANTAGES OF SOCCER
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.
POINTS IN THE GAME
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.
HANDS OFF AND HEAD OR FEET ON