100 years ago: Round 1 in 1919
By Richard Jones
A century ago there were just four clubs in the reborn Bendigo Football League, back in business after going into recess from 1915 to 1918.
Clubs had contested season 1914 in the BFL --- re-named from the Bendigo Football Association only a year earlier, in 1913 --- with South taking home the flag.
A Trades competition had existed through the World War 1 years, but it wasn’t the same as a properly structured league although it allowed the remaining fit, young men “to have a kick” after work.
Wearing the time-honoured Collingwood colours, Bendigo East was the new club in the BFL competition and joined Eaglehawk, South Bendigo and the re-formed Sandhurst who’d gone into recess in 1901.
Hurst was known as the Tricolours as their new guernsey featured red, white and blue stripes.
Each club played the others three times with Sandhurst sitting atop the ladder early on before being forced to take the field against Eaglehawk with only 17 men in the second round of fixtures.
That ended their early, unbeaten run and even though the Tricolours were to go down in four more clashes before the finals began they still managed to cling onto top ladder spot.
Finishing top provided a bonus in the old days. If a club finishing atop the ladder went down in a semi-final they still had the right to a challenge and thus a grand final was assured.
But let’s return to that historic day in early May a hundred years back when the BFL was re-born.
Sandhurst was drawn to play Eaglehawk at Canterbury Park in the opening round of 1919, but in the way of sports events back then the dignitaries took the early limelight with an array of speeches.
South ran onto the Upper Reserve (now the QEO) a little late wearing black crepe armbands in memory of Captain H.H. Hunter, the former league president, and also to honour past South teammates who had “given their lives playing the greater game” as the Advertiser report noted.
East’s half-forward line was well on top early and with Bentley snaring two goals the Magpies led 3.2 to 0.3 at the first break.
South’s first major came not long after the start of the second term but as the Addy report noted: “They hammered away within scoring distance for some time without raising a flag.
“After some desultory play the Southerners’ Green found the big opening with a quick snap but Muir dribbled the ball through for East not long before the interval.”
At half-time Bendigo East led 5.4 to 2.1.
South’s O’Dea punted home South’s third goal before East “livened up the play with their superiority in the air having a telling effect.”
“Muir was conspicuous for clever play and a quick snap yielded the full bunch of points.”
“Onlookers were enjoying the form being displayed by the Magpies when two singles were registered before Coulson made supporters jubilant by obtaining East’s sixth goal.”
Three-quarter time scores: East 6.6, South 3.5.
The 19-point advantage seemed to augur well for East yet the Southerners had other ideas.
“L’Huillier was responsible for a neat mark and his long kick sent the ball between the big posts. South was now marking better and from opportunites given to their forwards Green snapped an easy goal from in front.”
The Addy reporter was waxing lyrical as the scores tightened up and he noted “East was constantly on the defence, with Watts twice saving the situation.”
“But Green, marking within easy scoring distance, failed before South’s O’Dea made amends by raising both flags.”
“East had only a single point to the advantage but they transferred play into their attack just before the final bell to win the exciting match.”
Final scores: Bendigo East 6.6 (42) def. South Bendigo 6.5 (41).
Out at Canterbury Park a whole host of dignitaries assembled to exchange greetings.
They included Borough Mayor Cr. J.H. Webster, Mr. A. Hicks MLC, Mr. M.E. O’Brien president of the Bendigo league along with Messrs. E.L. Bright, president of the Eaglehawk club and S.V. Leggo and W.C. Bender president and vice-president of the Sandhurst Football Club.
Following all the speeches and remembrances it was down to action on the footy field.
After an even first quarter with the Tricolours ahead 2.2 to 2.0 Eaglehawk fought back to snatch the lead by halftime: 4 goals 3 behinds to 3 goals 3 behinds.
“Vance, playing forward, marked close in to goal and kicked the third goal for Sandhurst.
“On resuming the ball was placed well forward by Eaglehawk and Metcalf was awarded a free kick and scored a goal.
“Soon afterwards Mitchinson secured the ball out of a scrimmage and kicked abother Eaglehawk goal.”
Half-time: Eaglehawk 4.3, Sandhurst 3.3.
“In the third quarter after some centre play Hargraves put in some smart work along the wing and Petrie, from a free kick, scored a Sandhurst goal.
“The play was certainly rougher although there was too much crowding before Gambetta of Sandhurst secured the ball and from a difficult kick passed the ball between the goal posts,” the Addy writer reported.
Three-quarter time scores: Sandhurst 5.4, Eaglehawk 4.4.
Within a few minutes of the start of the final quarter Sandhurst scored another goal.
“Sandhurst were showing to advantage in the open play and the Tricolour backs asserted themselves and frustrated Eaglehawk attempts to score.
“There was much scrimmaging in front of goal but Eaglehawk could not score before, with a minute to go, Wynd scored another goal for Sandhurst: their seventh.”
Final scores: Sandhurst 7.4 (46) def. Eaglehawk 5.6 (36).
Sandhurst’s best were vice-captain Hargraves, skipper Nadort, the Dumble brothers, Compte, Castle and Burns while for Eaglehawk Matthews, Cummings, Mitchinson, Woods, Finch, Lindsay and Pianta were most prominent.
Bendigo East lasted for just six seasons. By the end of 1924 --- their final year --- the league was keen on introducing country club Castlemaine whose players also sported East’s black and white colours, albeit in a different configuration.
The Maine entered the BFL in 1925 and apart from a brief retreat during the WW2 years when it played in Melbourne’s blue and red colours in the Castlemaine and District League has been a member club ever since.
I’ll always remember the big portrait-sized picture of two Bendigo East teams with passport-sized pics of leading officials, plus team captains and vice-captains, around the margins of the main photographs.
It hung above the fireplace in the main meeting room of the old BFL HQ (the ex-curator’s house at the QEO) behind the city end goals.
I hope the league still has that historic framed picture.
There can’t be too many other copies still in existence.
And a couple of interesting sidelights from the Addy of May 5th, 1919 apart from the footy match reports (no pictures, though).
Transport ships were still returning to Port Melbourne from Europe six moths after the end of WW1 carrying troops back home.
In the next column to the footy write-ups there was a list headed: Returning troops, Transport Movements.
And in the VFA, six years before they were promoted to the VFL, North Melbourne, Footscray and Hawthorn were competing.
Scores there were: North Melb. 19.13 def. Port Melbourne 4.4, Northcote 11.19 def. Hawthorn 9.12, Footscray 14.16 def. Prahran 2.7, Brunswick 5.22 def. Essendon 3.8 and Williamstown 17.23 def. Brighton 5.3.
Essendon clearly had a Reserves side as well as their VFL Ones running around 100 years back.
Richard’s tips for 2019, Final Five: Eaglehawk, Strathfieldsaye, Gisborne, Golden Square, Sandhurst.
Big slider: Kyneton. Wooden Spoon: Maryborough
Grand final: Hawks vs. Storm. Premiers: Eaglehawk.
Michelsen medal: Kallen Geary (Storm). Ron Best Medal: Lachlan Sharp (Storm).
2019 headline I’d like to see: Maine Wins Sixth Game Of Season.