Hurst dominates late Forties footy in Bendigo

By Richard Jones

Sandhurst was the dominant force in Bendigo footy right through the Thirties and then into the 1940s when play resumed after World War 2.

The Maroons had won flags from 1930 to 1934 inclusive and then again in 1937 and 1940, and it didn’t take them long when life returned to normal to re-assert their dominance.

Under BFNL Legend and outstanding coach Reg Ford the Hurst won the 1947-48-49 premierships to stamp their BFL dominance for all to see –- and marvel at.

It must have looked ominous for opposing clubs when footy resumed in 1946. The Hurst won 11 games, drew two and lost four games on their way to the preliminary final.

Perhaps they should have won in 1946, too, because the top-of-the-ladder Maroons led the Square by 22 points at half-time in the second semi-final.

Golden Square recovered lost ground in the third quarter and then stormed home in the last adding 7.1

Ford trained his Maroons really hard –- perhaps too brutally hard –- in the run-up to the preliminary final and it turned out to be a straight sets exit for the Hurst.

Eaglehawk took full control over the lethargic Hurst and sent Ford’s boys home with a two-losses-out-of-two record for the 1946 finals.

Grand final scores, 1946: Eaglehawk 14.10 (94) def. G. Square 13.12 (90).

But then came three-on-the-trot for the Ford-led side.

In 1947 they ended up with a home-and-away record of 15 wins-two losses, the next season it was 17-3 and in the concluding year of the decade the Maroons had a tally of 17 wins and six losses for 1949.

So let’s have a look at those late Forties seasons.

The Hurst looked to be sailing effortlessly towards the premiership late in the 1947 season.

But Kyneton, who’d thrashed the Maroons by nine goals back in Rd. 1, had the return match all tied up with 70 seconds left to play.

The Tigers made it two-out-of-two when Ritchie kicked accurately with the last scoring shot of the day.

It was the Hurst’s only loss for close on three months after the first downer to the Tigers, but Ford kept them focussed and his team finished on top for the second, consecutive season.

But what about the finals where they’d performed so ordinarily in 1946, a year earlier?

Well, the Maroons turned around their home-and-away form against the Tigers in the second semi-final.

With Frank Scholes booting seven goals the Hurst reversed their regular season form by downing Kyneton by 40 points.

And something then happened which I don’t believe I’ve seen in four decades of covering BFNL footy.

Kyneton coach Albert Collier went into the Hurst rooms and showered some great praise on the opposition Maroons’ players and coach.

A much more chivalrous time the 1940s compared with the 2020s.

Things looked promising for Sandhurst before the ball was bounced to start the 1947 grand final.

Skipper Bill White, along with three other players from opposition clubs, received his T.R. Davies medal as BFL fairest and best. There’d been a four-way tie in that season’s count.

When play eventually got underway Golden Square bounced out early with the Maroons haphazard and offline in their forward moves.

But Ford had his players re-group and with their three main forwards firing Sandhurst ran right away with the big game.

Scholes was again a big threat and he booted six goals. Vern Hussey (5 majors) and Alan Stewart (4) were also huge threats to the Square backmen as the Hurst careered away to a comprehensive grand final victory.

Final scores: Sandhurst 18.19 (127) to G.S. 11.8 (74).

So how did 1948 pan out?

Bendigo Football League president J.A. Moran presented the ’47 premiership flag to Hurst president Bill Donohue and with the flag fluttering in the breeze above the QEO grandstand Bendigo City Mayor Cr. George Pethard bounced the ball to start the 1948 season.

And the old timber clubroom which had stood at the Barnard Street end of the QEO, then known as the Upper Reserve, weren’t there any longer.

It had been moved to the Wade Street oval in the summer of 1946-47.

So off went the Maroons again with their away game at Rochester looking off-line midway through the match.

They managed just five goals from 17 scoring shots and were behind the home side with one quarter to go.

However, Ford rallied his side and Sandhurst ended up winning.

Two more victories followed –- a narrow one-point cliffhanger over the Square after scoring a big 6.7 in the first quarter -- and then centreman Bill White led the Hurst to victory over Eaglehawk.

But Ford’s boys went down to South Bendigo leaving the Bloods atop the BFL ladder after eight rounds, albeit by percentage only over Sandhurst.

Scholes torched Rochester in the return home-and-away fixture landing 10 of the Hurst’s 17 majors with the Hurst romping home by 49 points.

An even bigger thumping awaited the Square who went down to the flag favourites by 86 points.

The margin could have been even bigger had the Maroons been switched on early. They booted 1.10 in a wasteful first term.

However, the return fixture was quite different. The Square downed the Maroons by 12 points in the concluding home-and-away match.

Scholes went off the gound in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and big follower Heinz Tonn dominated for the Square, not only in the ruck contests but also with his marking prowess in the back half.

This season Ford had his men cherry ripe for the second semi-final against South.

They were in front by 36 points at three-quarter time before South held the Maroons goal-less in the final term and slashed the final margin to just 11 points.

But it wasn’t to be South’s year. They lost to Eaglehawk in the prelim. final, to finish with a carbon-copy of the Hurst’s straight sets demise in 1946.

Onto the ’48 grannie and it was a disappointing day for the huge crowd in attendance.

Scholes’ shoulder was fine and he had another day out notching seven six-pointers in the Hurst’s runaway 63-point victory.

The Two Blues were never in the hunt and their grand final score was identical to their paltry 8.9 (57) posted in their 1945 loss to Golden Square.

It wasn’t the worst grand final score of that era, though.

In 1950 Echuca managed just 6.10 (46) as South roared home by 26 points.

Final scores in 1948: Sandhurst 16.24 (120) def. Eaglehawk 8.9 (57).

Sandy McPherson club best and fairest winners – 1946: Charlie King (full-back). 1947: Ray Shearer (centre half-back). 1948: Bill White (ruckman or centreman).

Interestingly in the first year of the next decade, 1950, winner of the club’s senior best and fairest award was Leo Hartney, father of Dragons’ stalwarts Brendan and Shane.

Frank Scholes topped the BFL goalkicking list in 1950 with 63 majors.

And after the 1949 season was over, Heinz Tonn left Golden Square and signed with Castlemaine for 1950.

Acknowledgments to: Darren Lewis ”From Cardinals to Dragons” (2013) and Sandhurst 150 years committee chairman Shane Hartney.

[More on the now Dragons’ premiership successes to come --- 1949 and then a long way in the distance, 24 years exactly to be precise, in 1973]

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