Not one, but two famous George Ogilvies
By Richard Jones
IN the BFNL’s first Hall of Fame created in 1986 Echuca’s famous midfield player George Ogilvie was named as one of the 20 inaugural inductees.
Not surprising really as he’d been a star Echuca centreman right through the late Twenties and up to 1937.
But as a little research has revealed there were two George Colin Ogilvies. Both were bullocking and tough: what we’d call today on-ball players.
Father and son, in fact, with Dad playing in the then Bendigo Football Association from 1895 to 1907.
I’ll come to George junior in next week’s story, but first let’s look back at the original George Colin Ogilvie.
He was born in Bendigo in 1876 and was just a 19-year-old when he joined South Bendigo in 1895.
He played two seasons with the Bloods and then signed up with power club Bendigo --- ones of the early BFA yardsticks ---- and played with them from 1897 to 1899.
He was back at South towards the end of the 1899 season and continued on in 1901-02, and then again from 1904-05.
Amazingly he served as an umpire for a part of the 1902 season and into 1903. It was then onto Long Gully during the early 20th century split with the Bendigo F.A. from 1906 to 1908 with George a player in the Gully teams early in 1899, and then in 1900, 1903 and 1906-1908.
The Gully finished either on top of the ladder (premiers as we’d know them today) or actual final – or grand final -- winners.
Unfortunately for George he was rubbed out for fighting with an Eaglehawk player but was back before the 1907 season’s end.
Ogilvie senior went on to play with Footscray (then a VFA club) from 1909-1912 with the Dogs runners-up in his final season.
He was playing coach at Yarraville’s VFL juniors in the 1913 season with the club finishing runner-up.
The times for football clubs were chaotic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 1895 the then Bendigo Football Association had five clubs. By 1907 there were just two city clubs left (Eaglehawk and South Bendigo) with five of the newcomers over that 12-year time-frame not surviving past 1913 – California Gully, West Bendigo, the original North Bendigo, early powerhouse Bendigo (1882-1906) and Sandhurst (in recess from 1901 onwards).
It wasn’t until after World War 1 when a re-constituted Sandhurst, the ill-fated Bendigo East (1919-1924) and later Rochester (1923), Echuca (1924) and Castlemaine (1925) brought stability, fame and strength to the BFL.
George senior’s footy career reflects this chaos. Back and forth with South Bendigo, he was in the BFA’s 1897 representative team which played against the newly-formed VFL.
As I’ve reported in this column before that game was a fiasco. Just two Eaglehawk players were selected by the BFA for the big game, an inexcusable selection blunder seeing the Two Blues were premiers five times in a row from 1894 to 1898 and were on their way to the fourth of five successive titles in 1897.
George senior, a publican in Long Gully, was a member of the home town’s rep. team but the VFL outfit belted them.
In 1897 George senior was married and by 1899 George junior was born. Unfortunately the older Ogilvie became insolvent in 1903, pursued by creditors, and to keep the family afloat financially took up work as a miner.
Another disaster had hit the Ogilvie family after the insolvency issue. It made two catastrophes in six years.
In early 1909 the family home had burnt down after an accident with a candle with the Ogilvies losing their house and most of their possessions.
The family decided not to rebuild in Bendigo and eventually moved to Yarraville in Melbourne’s west.
However in 1908 Standard cigarettes had produced a range of footy cards, very popular back in the day and still these days with collectors, and Ogilvie senior was one of eight Bendigo players to get the nod.
The card shows George in his red and white striped guernsey of South Bendigo.
Others to have cards included Fred Jinks (Eaglehawk, Carlton, North Melbourne and Port Melbourne) and Joe Canavan (South Melbourne, Melbourne and South Bendigo).
Because of the mine work conditions in Bendigo in the early 20th century local players turned out for their BFA club on the Wednesday half-holiday and then caught the early Saturday trains to Melbourne to play VFL or VFA.
Jinks had moved to California Gully during the breakaway period in 1906 but by the middle of that year was making a name for himself at Carlton.
He was named in Eaglehawk’s Team of the Century (1880-2005) at a gala dinner in mid-2005.
A teammate with George Ogilvie at South Canavan later moved onto VFL club Melbourne.
An extract from the Long Gully Football Club’s annual meeting in early 1909 stated: “Reference was made to the loss the club would sustain by the departure of G. Ogilvie this season.
“He has gone to the metropolis to reside and would be donning the colours of Footscray in the future. He carries with him our club’s best wishes.”
Already a veteran of 14 seasons of tough footy George signed up with the reigning VFA premiers Footscray.
He played there as “a follower” (what we’d call a ruckman today) for four years and featured prominently in the Monday papers’ write-ups.
“Ogilvie was Footscray’s best man” along with “they were largely indebted for their success to the brilliancy of George Ogilvie” or “the veteran showed he was still a power to be reckoned with in the football arena.”
Don’t you love those old footy write-ups of a century and more ago? They’re just words and give no indication of what players actually did.
Occasionally, though, George’s wayward goal-kicking abilities were mentioned.
And then in a June game in 1909 The Argus reported extensively of George Ogilvie’s performance.
“Just before the bell Ogilvie by sheer force and determination broke through the opposition lines and got a behind.
“He deserved more. Ogilvie had dominated the game.
“It was his rush that gave Gregory and Cotton a chance to pass the ball to Knight resulting in Footscray’s second goal.
“After Footscray’s second goal Ogilvie again threw himself into it, neck or nothing, and if ever a man deserved success Ogilvie did.
“He was seen to go down but Ogilvie was not hurt. But no clothes could stand the strain he had been putting his to. In tearing through the crush his garments had given way.”
It seems an opposition player borrowed an overcoat from a nearby police constable thus restoring Ogilvie’s modesty and he left the field to change.
In 1911 aged 35 Ogilvie represented the VFA in both the Victoria versus South Australia games where he was named in Victoria’s best in both clashes.
The second game ended in a victory for Victoria.
The George Ogilvie Trophy is awarded to the winning captain in the annual Echuca v Rochester games these days, of course, now played in the neighbouring Goulburn Valley League.
George senior served in World War 1 in Egypt during 1915-16 and died in Footscray in 1948. He was 72.
Next week we’ll concentrate on George Ogilvie junior’s stellar career.
*A special thanks to researcher and footy historian Michael Riley in the compilation of this article*