Millers Sunday League Team c1954 (SLV 122_210 v1)

Charles Boyles Collection SLV

Link to Photo at SLV Website
SLV Accession no. H2008.122/210

Team: Miller's Rope Works (Sunday League)
Location: Port Melbourne Oval (Port Melbourne)
Date: c1954

Len Smith - Midle Row - Wearing coat in centre
Wally Clark - Front row, Third from left


Cannot positively identify at this stage. A curious photo. Taken at Port Melbourne ground in front of main grandstand (PMCC). Grandstand is packed tight, including on the stairway. A big crowd indeed. Twenty players, therefore likely to be after 1946. The person wearing a coat in the very centre of the group (middle row) does appear to be the legendary Len Smith, and the player third from the left in the front row does appear to be Wally Clark who roved for Fitzroy in the fifties. I cannot identify team or jumper (not Fitzroy’s).

The photo is slightly blurry which does not help identification. If this is not a Victorian country team, my bet is Fitzroy Seconds, circa mid-fifties.

Further Work Needed

Although the archaic wowser-inspired Sunday Observance Act forbade the playing of sport on Sundays, semi-clandestine Sunday Amateur Football Leagues between hotel and workplace teams were very popular in the second half of the 1940s and through the 1950s in industrial areas such as Port Melbourne football. (Burke, 2008, p.275)

Identification by Bill Liddy

Bill Recognised the team and supplied many references confirming the identification.

This corrects the previous assumption that the team was Montague, another team in the Sunday League. With the connection made to Millers and also now knowing that Miller's was Miller's Ropeworks, Bill's identification is easy to confirm. There is a strong link to Miller's and to Norm and Len Smith.

Note that the team blazer features a logo that is hard to read. The logo reads 'MFC' and is surrounded by rope.

Millers Ropeworks

Miller’s Ropeworks in Brunswick was one of the largest rope manufacturers in Victoria. By the 1930’s it had over 500 Employees The company had many links to the Melbourne Football club and ‘Millers’ fielded a team in the 1950’s Sunday League in Melbourne. 1

Links to Melbourne
At the 2010 Melbourne Best and Fairest Speech Melbourne CEO Cameron Schwab spoke of Melbourne turmoil in the early 1930s when the club faltering. The club turned to Tiger champ and coach Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes who immediately let go many players and started to rebuild the team.Schwab continues....,” all on a promise of a job at Miller’s rope works. The destiny of a football club was forever changed. Soon Checker had plenty to work with, names like La Fontaine, Baggott, Smith, Truscott, Muellar and Beames. His team immediately started to make progress.2
  • Melbourne legend Norm Smith and his wife wife, Marj 3
  • Ron Barassi Senior and his wife 4

Links to Fitzroy
Bill Liddy writing about Millers in the 1950s notes that a number of Fitzroy Seconds and Thirds players were linked with Fitzroy in the 1950’s, possibly due to the influence of Miller’s Coach and Fitzroy Thirds Coach, Len Smith. Names include

  • Len Smith, Norm’s brother coached the football team in the 1950’s.
  • Graham Gotch (Fitzroy 1956-60) who was also coached by Len Smith in the thirds at Fitzroy
  • Wally Clark (Fitzroy)
  • Peter & Possibly Paul Dullard (North Melbourne Thirds/Fitzroy Seconds)5

  • John ‘Sailor’ Harmes, father of Carlton’s Wayne Harmes
  • Ron Cleary, father of Coburg great Phil Cleary 6

Comparing Options

Most Boyles photos outside the VFL and VFA appear to be taken at Grand Finals. This photo is probably of a grand final played at Port Melbourne. This clue should limit the possible options.

Another Photo in the National Sport Museum collection is of the same or very similar group of players) again featuring Len Smith and Wally Clark) in a park with 'Premiers 1954' written on the ball. The '1954 premiers' means that this team must belong to a 1954 premiership. Even if this photo is from 1953 or 1955, both Smith and Clark were in this team in 1954.

Len Smith was Fitzroy thirds coach 1953-57 so would have commitments on a Saturday. So this team is unlikely to play on Saturday uinless it is Fitzroy. This is therefore likely to be a workplace team or a Sunday League team. The large crowd points to a Sunday league team.

So we are looking for a 'MFC' Team probably playing a grand final at Port Melbourne, probably 1954, probably on a Sunday.

In 1954 Len Smith was coach of Fitzroy thirds and Wally Clark would have been 18 years old and would play his first Senior game for Fitzroy in 1955. The Team Jumper is not a Fitzroy Jumper. Fitzroy Seconds and Thirds did not win premierships in 1954. So unlikely to be Fitzroy.

An Article in the Argus 1954 notes that the Sunday League played at Port Melbourne and could attract a big crowd. It also features 'Montague'...a team that could be 'MFC'.
Argus 11-Mar-1954 p18
Argus 11-Mar-1954 p18

Sunday footy on air. (1954, March 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 18. Retrieved August 6, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26595781

Duplicates - Near Identical Photos

122_210 - Unknown, circa mid-fifties v1 - This image
122_211 - Unknown, circa mid-fifties v2


1. BRUNSWICK STRUCTURE PLAN – BACKGROUND AND ISSUES REPORT – HERITAGE ANALYSIS & REVIEW p17 2. Cameron">http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/mccwr/publications/reports/brunswick-major-activity-centre-heritage-report.pdf
2. Cameron Schwab writing as Gameplans 3. Norm">http://gameplans.tumblr.com/post/1062219905/we-should-be-so-honoured
3. Norm Smith - 4. The">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norm_Smith
4. The footy club, like all top clubs, had a strong social fabric. One of my mother's good friends was Marj Smith, wife of Norm Smith - one of my dad's teammates. They were all workmates at Millers Ropeworks. 5. Millers">http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/memories-flood-back/story-e6frf7l6-1225854987634
5. Millers Rope Works – Notes by Bill Liddy – April 1913, Private Email
6. http://www.philcleary.com.au/people_11_RIP_Ron%20Cleary.html

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