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THE FOOTBALL SEASON.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR. THE CLUBS AND PLAYERS.
SOME POINTS OF INTEREST.
Although the premiership was settled some weeks ago, the season only closed formally on Saturday with three unimportant matches. Lacking a big battle 0r two, the end has been tame, and neither players nor spectators are sorry to see the last of it. In several senses the season was not quite satisfactory, though the system of drawing the clubs against each other for a start and limiting all to eighteen premiership matches was a reform in the right direction, and both ideas have proved worth perpetuating. Geelong suffered most in the chance of the draw, but some club was almost certain to have bad luck at starting. Geelong took theirs philosophically- and such bad luck as a long list of matches away from home to begin which is not likely to fall twice in succession to the same team.
THE POSITIONS OF CLUBS.
In football as in cricket there are no cer- tainties,and finding such a record as St. Kilda beats Port Melbourne, Port Melbourne beats Geelong, Geelong beats Essendon, and Essendon overwhelms St. Kilda, one might suppose that there was a great deal of luck in the game but taking the season through, the best team invariably wins, and so it has been this year.Essendon is simply too strong for its rivals, and though in a couple of instances they pulled through by such a narrow advantage that many people have said that luck alone saved them, I rather look upon these particular instances as illustrating how old, tried, and well- disciplined players can play in a serious emergency. On several occasions during the last two seasons we have seen Essendon apparently labouring hope- lessly in the rear, yet as soon as they began to reduce the lead, the op- posing team invariably went to pieces. Possibly it was that fact carefully noted that induced Geelong to play the game they did last Saturday, instead of beating Essendon on their merits, which with their lead at the third change they must have done had they played even a moderately good game. How- ever, enough has been written on that sub- ject. That Essendon were able to take and keep so strong a lead this year is mainly attributable to the fact that they have been fortunate in keeping an excep- tional team together. And where ex- periments have been made, as with Wright, Byers, and Palmer, they have all turned out well. Take, by way of con- trast, the experiences of Melbourne and Geelong. The former had to begin with the season with many novices, and had really lost its chances of the premiership before the tournament was fairly going. Some of their new men turned out real good ones, and, with an improvement on the very bad luck which has attended them during the last two seasons. Melbourne must play a formidable twenty next year. Their for- wards, however, with which at starting they seemed remarkably strong, have all been failures. Geelong's experiences were of the most disheartening kind, for one good man after another was lost to them as the season advanced, until about half the original twenty were missing, and only the good luck of being able to get hold of players like M'kinley, Singleton, and H. M'Shane to- wards the end of the season enabled them to pull through creditably. Then, too, they had all the worst of the match- making There is a strong impression, how- ever, that a want of esprit de corps lost them points in the earlier part of the season which are on their merits as a team they should have gained. As south Melbourne got over a hundred goals the fact would seem to modify the general impression that their weakness was mainly forward, but they im- proved their score greatly in a few soft matches, and the weakness mentioned alone prevented them making a bigger bid for the premiership. And it will take more than a goal-kicker, presuming they get one next season, to remedy the defect. South Melbourne's defence and ruck,
taken together, were about the strongest held. Fitzroy suffers from very much the same complaint, for the complete failure of Grace as a goal-kicker was a heavy loss to them, and they had in addition their full share of mischances. In speaking of their defence, it is difficult to argue against the fact that they had fewer goals scored against them any other team playing, but the same method would prove North Melbourne and Footscray stronger than Essendon
and in spite of the figures, Fitzroy's weakness was in the places. Footscray and North Mel-
bourne, who on form cannot be separated, are the two bright spots in a season wherein the colour was not particularly pronounced. It will be no injustice to either to say that they had a little luck m getting as high as they did. Collingwood were remarkably strong back, a point in which Richmond were just as lamentably weak, and these two clubs with Williamstown, seem to me the particular three that with a little bracing up might be made first- class twenties .One satisfactory feature at least of the year just closed has been the gradual levelling upward amongst the teams, and though this must naturally be a slow process, it should en- courage the V.F. A to hold firmly by the per- mit system, in spite of club intrigue and individual grievances. Admitting even the necessity to be an evil, it is a choice of two evils, and this by far the least of them.
A feature of the individual play of the sea- son is the lasting power of the veterans. Many men who had years ago, it was assumed, passed their best day keep on play-
ing finely, and appear to compensate for any loss in physical activity by a gain in method. Burns, Strickland, Forbes, Christy, and M'Knight may be mentioned in illustration. Making any comparison between men who hold different positions in the field is, of course, difficult, and in such com- parisons it seems to me the rovers
have always a distinct advantage, while the followers naturally get many more oppor- tunities than place men. Taking the men in their positions the question as to superiority amongst the forwards is a matter of figures, not of opinion, but even without the figures there can hardly be two opinions on the point for Thurgood, of Essendon has simply distanced all opponents. His 63 goals, though one short of last year's record, is a better performance, for Essendon played two matches less this season.. Grace, his old rival, has fallen away completely, and though Burns of South Melbourne stands second on the list, and kicked some very clever goals, he was by comparison with men like Smith of Collingwood, and Alsop of Richmond, given exceptional opportunities. No colt of this season, however, gave anything like the same promise as Simpson of St. Kilda, who kicked some some remarkable goals, and, with a strong twenty behind him, would take a
great deal of watching. Christy of Mel-
bourne is entitled to honourable mention, for he gets goals while doing his ordi- nary work in the ruck, and Warren of Williamstown and Cornelius of Port Melbourne, have the same valuable quality.
Centre men have really become central rovers, and, they, too, get special opportunities. Backhouse of Richmond, Strickland of Collingwood, Finlay of Essendon, and W.
Windley of South Melbourne, have all done splendidly in this position, and taking the season through I fancy Strickland has had no superior. On the wings we have had some
very fine football from O'Dea of Mel-
bourne, Evans of Footscray, Grecian of Essendon, M' Callum of Geelong, How- son of South Melbourne, Simes of Collingwood, and Hannah of Carlton, but taking pace and cleverness into considera- tion I have seen no one to beat Grecian, who rarely makes a mistake. Defenders are of two types- the dashers and the clever ones- and amongst the best of of the straight-ahead division were O'Halloran of Melbourne, Monaghan and Proudfoot of Collingwood, Charrett and Doran of South Melbourne, Officer and Stuckey of Essendon, M Michael and Banks of Fitzroy, Harold Wilson of Geelong, Ramaden of St. Kilda, Morgan of Footscray, Wills of Port Melbourne,
Rolfe of Carlton,and Sparrow of Richmond - the two last- named, considering the neces-
sity compelled them to take positions of which they had little previous experience, and where they were not too strongly sup- ported playing a remarkably fine game. It is very difficult to make a choice here, but coupling dash with sureness in high-marking O'Halloran of Melbourne is perhaps the pick of a very fine lot. In high-marking pure and simple Graham and Port Melbourne has beaten everyone. There is so little difference be-
tween the work of rovers and followers that they are hardly worth separating, and here
again we have two classes of players, the little men who were clever on the ground, like Sicily
of North Melbourne, Dowdell and M'Inerney of Collingwood, Irving of South Melbourne, Kearney of Essendon, and Maynard of Foots- cary, and bigger ones such as Vautin,
Watson, and Forbes of Essendon, Christy and Dea of Melbourne, Cleary and Melling of
Fitzroy, Burns of Geelong, M'Knight and Gibson of South Melbourne, Parker of Rich- mond, Ashton of Collingwood, Lemon of Footscray, M'Cubbin and James of Williams- town, Cornelius of Port Melbourne, Cox of St. Kilda, Aitken of Carlton and H.Launder of North Melbourne. In picking the man I con sider to have been actually the champion of the season I am swayed by such considerations as his splendid drop- kicking pertinacity in redeeming a mistake, determination in getting the ball, and coolness and quickness in pass ing. In all those qualities M' Gninness, of Melbourne, has no rival, and I would place the best six on this season's form thus -
1 M 'Guineess 4. Christy 3. Thurgood 5. Sicily 3 M ' Knight 6. Cleary
Interest in the premiership was early destroyed by the continuous success of Essendon; consequently the clubs who have had the largest revenues hitherto find their purses comparatively empty. That I fancy, will do little harm to football. On the other hand, clubs like North Melbourne, Footscray, and Collingwood begin to find a new interest in life, and that is a good thing for the game. For those lower down it gives point to the policy "Never Despair". The experiences of North Melbourne especially illustrate the fact that the turning point in a long lane of bad luck may come when least expected.
Last season they were an absolute last, this season, they tie for fourth place. Last year, their gate for the season amounted to about £45, this year it has increased to about £180, and the club has been enabled to pay off about £150 of old liabilities. And the change has been brought about by legitimate methods. Fourteen of their present twenty played last year, and with one exception the others were either juniors or players whom other senior teams had rejected.
UMPIRES AND PLAYERS.
Save in the last couple of rounds the games have been very fairly played, and I attach less importance to these lapses as a serious menace to the popularity of football in that players always seem to get a bit out of hand in the last games of the season, and their conduct, or misconduct, then is not to be con- sidered the ordinary product of football as played in Victoria. The umpires have
been widely blamed for it, but as a fact the umpiring in our game will never be quite satisfactory until we ask the officials to do much less than at present. In one sense the game is over-umpired, be- cause if the umpire chooses to take a strict interpretation of the law and punish every slight infraction he can very nearly if not quite spoil the game. To expect an umpire to do the absolute manual work required of him, and simultaneously to take the same cool, critical survey of the position as the disinterested onlooker outside the fence, is asking him for too much. On one point players have had reason for complaint - the practice of the different umpires varying so greatly that what one did on the one Saturday was no guide as to what might be expected on the next. Uniformity is of course strongly desirable, and can only be achieved by a more thorough discussion and consideration of the rules at the start of each season. Even the members of the V.F. A. are by no means unanimous as to the inter- pretation of certain rules, and should an umpire apply to them for an official reading he might be seriously misled.
One fault in the supervision of the game is the practice of regarding a blow as a serious offence, and overlooking the persistently rough play which may have provoked it. Not that the penalty for striking the blow should be lessened, for it is very often the match to the magazine in provoking the interference of partisans outside the ground. I have seen certain players through out the season exhibit in almost every match they played a malicious and mischievous spirit with- out coming under the notice of the association. Finally some fair- minded but impulsive player resents the annoyance with a blow and is punished, while the real promoter of the mischief t, goes scot free. Could not some means be devised for a stricter supervision of the game, while at the same time reliving the umpires of what must always be a disagreeable task ? -for it must be remembered that in reporting players for misconduct umpires are incurring the dis- pleasure of the delegates, whose mission it is afterwards to say, without any statement of reasons, whether the same umpires were fit for the position, and shall receive con- tinued employment.
COMMITTEES AND SUPERVISION
Now, as there are only six premiership matches every Saturday, and at least four times that number of delegates on the asso- ciation, would it not be possible to arrange that two members of the association at least should attend every premiership match during the year, and that to them should be allotted the duty of reporting as to the character of the play, and lodging com- plaints where such extreme action is required? Where a player, for example, was guilty of rough play or misconduct without quite merit-
ing a formal trial, it should be possible for such a committee thr0ugh the secretary of the V.F. A. and the club to which the offend- ing player belonged, to warn him that his misconduct had been noted; all such warn- ing to stand against a player if finally brought before the association. In this way rough or spiteful play could be quietly dis- couraged without a player, except in extreme cases, being made a scapegoat. As it is, he can now within certain limits do what he pleases.
It maybe urged that as the delegates of club prefer to follow the fortunes of their own teams they could not be induced to take up this extra duty, and to a certain extent that is true. But it is really those very keen club men who are the least useful dele-
gates, and anything that would induce them to confine themselves exclusively to the manage-
ment of teams, and leave the administration of the game to men of boarder mind, would be a distinct advantage to football. I accuse no member of the association of unfairness - except under certain circumstances. Many years' of experience of the V.F.A. strengthens the view that it has never been stronger than at present. Members can be trusted to take a fair and board view of any matter in which they are not personally interested , just as absolutely as they can not be trusted to deal impartially with any matter affecting the interests of their own club. If delegates were less wrapped up in their own terms it would be much better for football, and some
such arrangements as I have suggested might help to wean them from this perfervid loyalty. During the progress of a match many of the delegates are so busily occupied with business matters that they miss much of the game , yet in council after- wards their impressions are supposed to hold good against onlookers- such as the umpire -whose attention has never wandered from it. A reform that robs the active clubman of some of his importance is however, I fear, too much to expect. Even now a great many delegates use their privileges to see other matches than those in which their club is in- terested, but nothing short of the best satisfies them, and they know something too much, perhaps of Essendon, Melbourne, and South Melbourne, and too little of Carlton, Richmond, or St. Kilda.
THE PAID PLAYER
All through the season there has been talk
of professionalism-and that footballers are paid directly and indirectly by the score there is no reasonable doubt. Occasionally it has been said, "If this be so, why do not those who say so make a specific charge and prove it." There are many reasons why such a challenge cannot be accepted, and the first and chief is that football executives have not had years of experience is this sort of illicit traffic without finding ways and means to baulk ordinary inquiry. To make such a charge against a player and fall short of proving it in the legal sense would be to risk an action for libel, and Sir Galahads are not too common nowadays, though Don Quixotes may be plentiful enough. Again, so many of the clubs live in glass houses that they cannot afford to throw stones, though after the financial experiences of this season a good many of them, I feel sure, would be glad to exchange their glass roof for a solid and less expensive structure of wood or iron. Indeed, the drain on some of the leading clubs has become so great through the importunities of profes- sional players that the more money they make in a season the more they need. If some of the delegates of the weaker clubs did their duty to the game and their clubs as earnestly in this as in other matters a pretty exposed would follow, but they are probably buoyed by the hope that it may be their turn next to go up, and the disinterested outsider is asked to make a martyr of himself. The fact is and everyone connected with the game knows it, that under such terms as training expenses, travelling expenses, loss of time, and the dozen-and-one phrases which stand for the plain words "paid for playing" the professional aspect of the game is not merely maintained, but grows year by year- and as a rule the paid men of the football field are by no means its social ornaments. In at least one case this season where the proposed transfer of a leading player from one club to another caused much comment and soreness, an official con- nected with one of the clubs said to me,
"Why should he leave us". We made him as liberal an allowance as we could afford every Saturday, so that he need not get up early to work on that day, and could employ a man to work for him." Imagine the footballer so physically fragile that every rising prevents him playing football! It was a very reason
able supposition, too, that the club with which he proposed to ally himself was willing to
limit the inconvenience of early rising for perhaps two days in the week. In another ease a player asked for a lump sum, and the secretary of a senior team informed me that they refused to give the amount asked, but still made what they considered a liberal offer. The offer was declined as not being good enough, and he went elsewhere- to play, so one club will tell you, as an amateur. A score of such instances might be cited, and so many clubs are concerned that reform by any legislation the V F.A. can de- sign is well-nigh impossible. Some day the clubs themselves will so tire of being bled by these leeches that they will form a defensive alliance amongst themselves and say to the blight, " Go elsewhere," with the perfect consciousness that " elsewhere" shall not be a rival club. While I believe that a player should not make money by football neither should he lose by it, and uniform, boots, and that sort of thing all come within the range of what clubs may be reasonably expected to supply; but this suspicious circumstance is that while the " poor but honest" player, whose skill is not above the average, must limit his expenses and his demands, the " poor but honest player" who happens to be the crack of the team can frame them on a much more liberal scale. The worldly wealth of the two may be on a par, their physical needs are the same ; but their capacity for football makes
all the difference.
PREMIERSHIP LIST, 1891
I-«Millón . Melliourno
r-ootseiay , 1itrroy
North Melbourne Gcclonc; ..
Collingwood .. Port Melbourno .. Williamstown .. Rtaliiiiond . fct. Kilda .. Carlton ..
SUCCESSFUL GOAL KICKERS.
The following players scored 20 goals and over during the season in premiership
Thurgood, Essendon .. " .. 63 A. Burns, South Melbourne .. .. 31 Smith,, Collingwood.........23 Grace, Fitzroy .........23 O' Farrell, Geelong ....... 22 AIsop, Richmond............21 Christy, Melbourne .......20 M'Carthy, Melbourne .. ., .. 20
NOTES ON SATURDAY'S
Very little interest was taken in the three matches played on Saturday to wind up the season. A good few were attracted to Port Melbourne by the possibility of something more exciting than football. In this they were fortunately disappointed, for the game was not merely peaceable but even dull. At starting Williamstown had a chance to win the trophies for the best average of goals to behinds, but although there was some specu- lation as to whether they would play for the honour of winning or for the loot which might have rewarded them but they tried for
nothing but certainties, they played the, correct game, and as it was, Port Melbourne,
who averaged well, went much nearer the prize than they did. Essendon, however,
wins not merely the main honours of the season but everything there was
to win in the way of advertisement trophies. At Ricbmond, although the ground was in a very bad state- a commencement having already been made with cricket season work -a first-rate game was played between North Melbourne and Richmond, North Melbourne by winning could tie with Fitzroy and Footscray for fourth place on the list, and they not only did so but scored more goals than in any match they have played this season, five having hitherto been their maximum. This game was played ed in a first- rate spirit, and the play fast and clever. Con- sidering that Richmond were without Sparrow, Price, and Alsop they made a firstrate show, their cleverness in spoiling their opponents' exchanges being particularly noticeable. In the absence of Sparrow, Parker captained the team, and Lefevre, who on Queen's Birthday had his leg badly hurt, was able to take the
field for the last match of the season. At the Victoria park Collingwood had an easy thing with Carlton, Smith improving his goal- kicking record materially during the after- noon. The following are the scores:-
PORT MELBOURNE V. WILLIAMSTOWN.
First Quarter -Port Melbourne, 1 goal 1 behind ; Williamstown, 1 goal 3 behinds
Half Time -Port Melbourne, 3 goals 1 behind , Williamsown, 2 goals 6 behinds.
Third Quarter -Port Melbourne,4 goals 2 behinds; Williamstown, 2 goals 6 behinds.
Final Score -Port Melbourne 4 goals 2 behinds; Williamstown, 2 goals 7 behinds
Goal Kickers- For Port Melbourne- Decis, Doran Crichton, and Johnson. For Williamstown- Kenny
and P. Warren.
NORTH MELBOURNE V. RICHMOND
First Quarter -Richmond, 2 goals 4 behinds; North Melbourne, 1 goal 1 behind.
Half Time - North Melbourne, 6 goal 4 behinds; Richmond, 3 goals 4 behinds.
Third Quarter- North Melbourne, 6 goals 5 behinds; Richmond, 4 goals 6 behinds.
Final Score - North Melbourne,8 goals 12 behinds; Richmond, 5 goals 6 behinds.
Goal kickers For North Melbourne-Graham (2), E. Launder(2), Manton, O'Dea, Sicily and Morrison. For Richmond-Howard(2), Bahen, Gibson, and
COLIINGWOOD V. CARLTON.
First Quarter- Collingwood, 2 goals 3 behinds;
Half time- Collingwood, 4 goals 7 behinds, Carl-
ton, 1 behind.
Third Quarter- Collingwood, 4 goals 8 behinds;
Carlton, 3 goals 1 behind.
Final Score -Collingwood, 8 goals 9 behinds:, Carlton, 3 goals 1 behind.
Goal kickers -For Collingwood- Smith (6) Ashton (2) For Carlton-Hannah, Balharry, and Leith.
VICTORIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
Messrs. Fitzpatrick, Pleasance, C.G. Wilson, Hunter, and Egan have been appointed a committee to inquire into the charge of assault laid by Schaefer, the field umpire, against Tuckwell, of North Mel- bourne. The Inquiry takes place to-night at Young
and Jackson's Hotel at 8'clock.
VICTORIAN JUNIOR FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
The following are the results of matches played on Saturday : - Final Rounds-Austral v. Napier Im- perial- Austral, 11 goals to 4 goals, Fitzroy Juniors v. Albion United-Fitzroy Juniors, 7 goals to 4 goals.
St James's Grammar School v. Hawthorn College -Teams representative of the above schools met on Richmond Cricket ground on Friday afternoon. The
scores were : -St. James Grammar School, 4 goals 4 behinds, Hawthorn College, 2 goals 4 behinds. The goal kickers were: For St. James, Wight(2), Cole, and Barr; for Hawthorn, Morton(2).
FOOTBALL IN THE COUNTRY
ESSENDON V. DISTRICT WANDERERS
The football match between Essendon and the District Wanderers today was rather one- sided. The visitors secured 17 goals to 2. The game was wit- nessed by about 3000 persons, and considerably over £100 was taken at the gates. The Visitors were entertained at the banquet to-night.
At football Geelong defeated Ballarat at the Saxon-
paddock yesterday by 9 goals 4 behinds to 2 goals 4
A match for the district premiership and Embly trophy was played here to-day between the Castle- -maine and Maldon clubs, and resulted in a victory for the latter. The Scores were Maldon, 6 goals 4 behinds; Castlemaine, 2 goals 7 behinds.
THE SOUTH GIPPSLAND PREMIERSHIP.
To day the tie for the premiership of South Gipps- land was played off by the Yarram and Devon clubs on the ground of the former, and resulted in a victory for the Devon. The scores were- Devon, 4 goals 5 behinds ; Yarram, 3 goals 3 behinds. The match was very exciting, and was witnessed by the largest attendance ever at any football match in this
The return football match, Sydney University v.
Boomerang, was played yesterday, and ended in a victory for the latter by 17 points to 11.
The international Rugby football match, New South Wales v. New Zealand, played at Christchurch, was
won by the visitors by 8 points to 6.