Hurst in the Thirties: country Victorian trendsetters

By Richard Jones

Sandhurst was the master club in 1930s Victorian regional football winning five, consecutive flags to add to their success in 1929.

Under the astute leadership of BFNL Legend Bob McCaskill the Hurst had also won the BFL premiership in 1927 and then successively from 1930 to 1934.

So the 1929 to 1934 streak handed the Hurst their six-in-a-row successive flags, a feat not equalled or surpassed in BFNL history.

They were runners-up in 1935 and 1936.

Then the Hurst won again in 1937 and 1940 to cap an astounding dozen years as the leading club in country Victoria.

Not surprisingly, McCaskill is known as the ‘Prince of Coaches’ in BFNL circles, an accolade well earned as he carried on coaching with then VFL clubs North Melbourne (102 games) and Hawthorn (36) in the late 1940s and early Fifties.

He died, quite young, at his beachside Mordialloc home aged only 56. McCaskill had been suffering from Bright’s disease, or nephritis, which attacks the kidneys.

Like South’s Alan McDonald a decade or so later McCaskill was a stickler for discipline and ultra-fitness among his players.

And he assembled a potent forward line which included Creswell ‘Mickey’ Crisp, Frank Ford (1929 BFL leading goalkicker, on 62) and Roy Moore (1931’s BFL top forward with 78 goals and again in 1934 with 90).

Crisp quite often bobbed up with hauls of five or six goals, but by the start of the 1931 season he was on Carlton’s list aged just 22.

He went on to play 183 games with the Blues (1931-1941) and snared 281 goals.

Nevertheless he was a key player for McCaskill in those early Hurst premiership sides.

And Frank Ford was an ultra dangerous key forward. In one home-and-away game in 1933 against Echuca he slotted 11 goals while earlier that season Moore booted six of the Hurst’s 12 majors in the 22-point win over Eaglehawk.

Ford’s brother Reg Ford is, of course one of the first five BFNL Legends, along with McCaskill. Reg (201 games) was a dashing half-back flanker or centreman.

He played in, or was a player-coach or senior coach, in no fewer than 13 premierships with Sandhurst and Golden Square.

His fruitful years span the seasons 1927 to 1949 and include Square’s inaugural flag in 1938 --- just their fourth year in the BFL after their foundation 1935 season.

Before Crisp, Frank Ford and Moore led the Sandhurst attack Percy Forbes had been the Maroons’ spearhead. He topped the BFL list in 1926 with 70 goals before retiring at the end of the 1929 season. He’d racked up 174 games.

Now let’s go back to the closest grand final result in Sandhurst’s string of six.

It was the 1931 decider when the Maroons beat South by two straight kicks: 10.14 to 8.14.

But before that epic clash the Hurst had to work hard just to get to the season’s decider.

South Bendigo had won the second semi-final by restricting the Hurst to just 3.13 at the last change.

The Bloods had adopted the Hurst’s running game and that, coupled with their dominance in the air, was to hand South a 25-point semi-final victory.

Sandhurst then faced Echuca in the preliminary final

A huge crowd, which included a few thousand from Echuca, packed the Upper Reserve and nothing separated the sides right to the final bell.

An Echuca forward missed a set shot from straight in front with only seconds to go as the Hurst hung on to win.

McCaskill had moved his premier defender Sandy McPherson into the centre and he controlled the midfield.

Reg Ford and Noel Turner were also outstanding with their run from defence as the Hurst just managed to snare a spot in the Big Dance.

“The 1931 premiership (played in mid-October) was a perfect summary of a game which left all at the ground awestruck

“It was one of the most exciting since the war and Sandhurst won it in a fashion that will not soon be forgotten.”

That’s how the Advertiser scribe at the game summed it up with South ahead at each quarter break.

At the last break McCaskill implored his side for a big final quarter effort and they responded by kicking 5.4 in their last-ditch rally.

The Maroons’ runners took over with Sid Edwards dominating on his wing and veteran small-man Alf ‘Pixie’ Odgers playing his best game for the 1931 season.

Normally a wingman Odgers was placed into an on-ball role by McCaskill (called a ‘rover’ back in the day) and Hurst’s pace got them home over a tiring South.

Alan ‘Snodger’ Arthur --- father of Hawthorn premiership player Graham Arthur -–was also in the 1931 premiership side.


First up before the Big Six

1927: Sandhurst 9.11 (65) def. Castlemaine 8.14 (62)

Grand final scores 1929-1934: six-in-a-row

1929: S’hurst 18.11 (119) def. Sth Bendigo 11.10 (76)

1930: S’hurst 17.9 (111) def. Eaglehawk 9.9 (63)

1931: S’hurst 10.14 (74) def. Sth. Bendigo 8.14 (62)

1932: S’hurst 16.20 (116) def. Eaglehawk 7.9 (51)

1933: S’hurst 29.15 (189) def. Maryborough 10.12 (72)

1934: S’hurst 11.17 (83) def. Castlemaine 8.4 (52)

And then

1937: S’hurst 16.16 (112) def. Sth. Bendigo 6.15 (51)

1940: S’hurst 13.18 (96) def. Sth. Bendigo 13.13 (91)

The BFL went into World War 2 recess from 1942 to 1944.

With the war over the 1945 premiership was won by Golden Square, but Reg Ford was back at the Upper Reserve with Sandhurst by then.

He led the Maroons to the 1947-48-49 flags.

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