In 1945, Ron Todd kicked a record 188 goals in a season. This was a remarkable achievement in skill, accuracy, endurance and luck. This article attempts to put this record into a wider context.
Table of contents
- The Existing Records
- Ron Todd
- Todd’s 1945 VFA Season
- Ron Todd in Action
- Boyles Website Newsletter
The Existing RecordsThe 1930's set many goal kicking records across all competitions throughout Australia.
1934For some reason, 1934 was a year of records.
In the VFL, South Melbourne star Bob Pratt kicked a VFL record 150 goals in a season and in the WANFL,East Fremantle's George Doig in the WANFL kicked 152. These were astronomical totals.
Pratt's record 150 goals still stands as an AFL record. The 150 goals easily passed Gordon Coventry's previous record of 124 goals in 1929 and only one player, Hawthorn's Peter Hudson (1970) has equalled the record, but Hudson played in more games. Pratt kicked over 100 goals in a season, with 103 goals in 1935 but did not kick over 100 goals again with the VFL.
Many Victorian's do not know of Doig, but Doig is a W.A team of the century player and AFL hall of famer. Doig kicked over 100 goals in a season 8 times in a row in the WANFL, with 144 in 1937 and 146 in 1941.
In amateur football (MAFA now VAFA) records were even higher. In 1934, Bill Pearson kicked a record 220 for Old Scotch Collegians ‘A Section’, outdoing his 168 in the previous season. Allan La Fontaine is listed in some record books with 247 in 1933 for University Blacks (but this includes 50 in other games) and the VAFA lists Fontaine’s 1933 figure as 168.
In interstate Games, South Melbourne's Laurie Nash kicked 18 goals in game against South Australia. Higher than the Gordon Coventry's 17 for Collingwood against Fitzroy in 1930, the highest in the VFL, but below totals scored in other competitions. (ref)
During the 1930's the VFA continued to play on Saturday's and compete with the VFL for crowds. In the 1920's yet more of the VFA's top clubs had defected to the VFL, and during the 1930s crowds were down. The late 1930s saw a VFA revival and another dispute with the VFL. In an attempt to turn around their fortunes the VFA combined two strategies, recruiting new players and changing their rules.
From around 1938, the VFA heavily recruited VFL players, offering them higher salaries than which the VFL clubs would pay. The VFL’s Coulter Law setting a maximum salary per player per game. Top VFL players who felt they were being under valued now had a new option and a number of stars such as Bob Pratt (South Melbourne, Alby Morrison (Footscray), Len Murphy (Collingwood), Laurie Nash (South Melbourne) , Bill Faul (South Melbourne), Ted Freyer (Essendon) and Gordon Ogden (Melbourne) moved to the VFA.
The second part of the VFA strategy was the introduction of new rules in 1938 to differentiate their game. Firstly the ‘Out of Bounds’rule was modified to reintroduce the boundary throw in and to increase play on the wings. (The VFL and other ANFC competitions followed this change the following year.)
The most critical rule change was the introduction of the controversial rugby style ‘throw pass’ which had the affect of speeding up play and increasing scoring. The new rule called for teams to rethink their tactics and to innovate.
Recruitment of star players, new rules and a faster game brought the crowds back to the VFA as they had a revival. With the fast game, goal kicking records began to tumble.
In 1938 the leading VFA goalkicker Port Melbourne's Ted Freyer (ex Essendon VFL) kicked 86. In 1939 Prahran’s George Hawkins kicked 164, in 1940 Freyer kicked 157 and in 1941 VFL record holder Bob Pratt (now at Coburg) kicked an amazing 183.
The ‘throw pass‘ had sped up the game, reinvigorated the VFA and brought back the crowds. Unfortunately for everyone, in 1939 the Second World War interfered and at by the end of the 1941 season the VFA closed down, just as it had during the First World War.
The 'throw pass' had increased scoring in the VFA to higher levels than the VFL but not to ridiculous levels. Tellingly, the focus on handball in the VFL in the 1970s raised VFL scoring levels to similar levels to the VFA throwpass era.
Pratt’s 183 goals was scored in a period of heavy VFL recruiting. Many opponents had VFL experience. But, as the VFA was not part of the National Conference, there were now sets of two records, an ANFC record and a VFA rules record.
Ron Todd was born in 23 October 1916 and began his senior career at Collingwood in 1935 age 19. Todd was a professional runner, he was tall, lithe, had explosive pace and a great leaping mark. Originally playing centre half forward with Gordon Coventry in goal, Todd took over as Collingwood’s leading full forward in 1938 and became the League's leading goal kicker in 1938 and 1939.
|1938||Collingwood||120||VFL Leading Goal Kicker|
|1939||Collingwood||121||VFL Leading Goal Kicker|
At the time Todd was seen as one of the great full forwards of the time. The Argus football writer Percy Taylor wrote in 1950 that Todd "was one of the fastest movers in the game. He used his speed and anticipation for long leads, and was a glorious mark - orthodox rather than brilliant - topping off his work with long punt kicks." Taylor played Todd as the third greatest full forward in history behind Bob Pratt and John Coleman (but above Gordon Coventry). (Argus 13Jul1950 p13).
1939 would be Todd's last year at Collingwood.
Early Williamstown Years
Todd’s transfer from Collingwood to Williamstown in 1940 was a hard and bitter event which created sensation in the newspapers. The League was used to losing older players, close to retiring to the VFA, ending their days for a bit of extra money But from 1938 the Association had taken a more aggressive approach to recruitment with stars like Pratt, Nash and Vallence making the shift, but the League's leading goal kicker... who was then 23 was something different and could not be forgotten or forgiven.
Regardless of the politics, Todd became a huge drawcard for Williamstown. In 1940 in combination with full forward Harry Vallence (ex Carlton), Todd (90) and Vallance (111) lead their team as far as the preliminary final, before being ousted by Coburg.
In 1941 Williamstown did not make the finals and Todd spent much of the middle of the season injured and unable to play. In the last few games of the season Todd played with two broken fingers and a broken bone in his foot. (Argus 17Sep1941 p10). Vallence again dominated Williamstown's kicking with 92 for the season. From 1939-41 Vallence kicked 336 goals in 61 games for Williamstown at 5.5 goals per game. Todd was a great support, but as with Collingwood's Gordon Coventry, it would not be until an existing star was gone that Todd would get his chance to shine.
Collingwood again had a chance to curse Williamstown as young Des Fothergill, the 1940 Brownlow medallist signed with Williamstown for 1941. Fothergill did not disappoint and won the 1941 recorder cup, the VFA equivalent of the Brownlow.
At the end of the 1941 season the VFA closed for the war duration of the war. In mid 1942, Todd joined the RAAF. Many other VFA footballers joined the VFL, allowed by a handshake agreement between the League and Association that the players would return to the Association when the war was over, this option was not available to Todd.
For Todd, one of the consequences of joining the RAAF was access to organised football. Todd played as part of the strong RAAF inter-services team in 1942 beside Eric Glass and Cliff Johnson, both from Williamstown, as well as with Alby Pannam (Collingwood), Bob Pratt (Coburg, South Melbourne) and Frank Curcio (Fitzroy). From 1943-45 Todd played in the RAAF intra-service competition.
Todd’s 1945 VFA Season
Rejection by CollingwoodThe handshake agreement before the close down of the VFA became an issue in 1945 when the VFA restarted.(Argus 10-Apr-1945 p.13) as the two associations again fought for players. The two ex-Collingwood players at Williamstown (Fothergill and Todd) attempted to return to Collingwood. Fothergill was forgiven and had a great season at Collingwood, being their leading scorer for the season. Todd's transfer in 1940 was just too public and too symbolic to be forgiven.
In 1945 Collingwood were defeated in the preliminary final and were without a leading goalkicker. In retrospect, with Todd at full forward, 1945 could well have been Collingwood's year. Todd had to regroup and make the most of it at Williamstown.
The TeamWilliamstown had a strong side in 1945, winning the VFA premiership. A number of players had or would have strong VFL careers. Captain/Coached by ex Fitzroy player Maurie Hearn, the grand final team is listed below:
The table below lists the VFL careers of the players in Williamstown's Grand Final team.
|George Archibald||Melbourne||1941-1945||47 Games, 5 Goals|
|Norm Chishom||Footscray||1942-1943||29 Games, 2 Goals|
|Doug Dowling||South Melbourne||1946||4 Games, 1 Goals|
|Eric Glass||Melbourne||1933-1938||78 Games, 135 Goals|
|Reg Harley||South Melbourne||1948-1952||61 Games, 12 Goals|
|Dick Harris||Richmond||1934-1944||196 Games, 548 Goals|
|Maurie Hearn||South Melbourne||1932-1934||8 Games, 4 Goals|
|Fitzroy||1934-1937, 1939-1944||128 Games, 87 Goals|
|Reg Ryan||North Melbourne 1939-1940, 1946-1950 - 66 Games|
|Geoff Spring||Richmond||1948–1957||147 games, 69 goals|
|Ron Todd||Collingwood||1935-1939||76 Games, 327 Goals|
Style of playLong punts by Eric Glass and Norm Chisholm aimed at Todd were commented on and appear to have been the main tactic. Todd's was known for spectacular marks and long punts and was the main target up forward.
The Williamstown Chronicle followed Todd's progress through 1945 and a few excerpts from the Chronicle give some flavour to the play.
"Todd's fingers (done against Brighton) are still painful, though on the mend. A stone thrown by some irate spectator (allegedly at Todd) struck. Hugh Torney in the chest. (Williamstown Chronicle 18May1945 p3)
"Just the same, the football was entertaining and clean with always the interest of how many goals Ron Todd could score....Todd kept up the average necessary for, him to beat Pratt's record and kicked extra well to get 11 goals.. He took several superb marks and finished with plenty of skin missing from his knees and thighs from being knocked .to the ground in the packs (not altogether unfairly but often unnecessarily) - (Williamstown Chronicle 8Jun1945 p2)
"Ron Todd gave a marvellous exhibition of forward play.. His ten goals nearly all came from long shots, and he kicked the first nine straight.. As usual he was heavily. grassed after taking marks and he invariably also received a free kick as well as the mark. League supporters present will have probably changed their minds now about goals being easy to get' in the V.F.A." - (Williamstown Chronicle 15Jun1945 p2)
"Ron Todd with 9 goals 4 behinds was well on the target and gave a brilliant display of how to get the hard ones. He, with Colin Wilcox, one of the best back men in the game, were about 'Town's best afield. A couple of goals kicked over the shoulder were gems, and evoked praise even from the opposition barrackers." - (Williamstown Chronicle 31Aug1945 p2)
"Tuesday night's training was strenuous, with most players out including the injured Wilcox. Long sprinting was engaged in, and Harris and Todd practised co-operation and goalkicking for over an hour. " (Williamstown Chronicle 21Sep1945 p2)
"On Sunday afternoon a combined Association side played a match against a combined Broken Hill side under League rules and our boys gave a great display, proving their worth under any rule. Todd was in great form and had the public thrilled with his high marking and accurate kicking, especially with his 60 and 65 yar4s punts from the boundary. He sure was an ideal; as a matter of' fact, they were calling Todd expecting him almost to do the impossible. Ron notched 8 goals 2 behinds in the first quarter and 2 goals in the second.. At the half-time change the scores were: Association 13-4 to 4-9. Then the side was changed to allow some of the other players to have. a run." (Williamstown Chronicle 16Nov1945 p3)
Dick Harris Joins mid-season as another forward optionLater in the 1945 season Dick Harris, was recruited from Richmond to provide more options up front. (Argus 6Jul1945 p13). Harris had been Richmond's leading goal kicker in 1944 and his presence reduced Williamstown's dependence on Todd as a finisher.
20 Goals in 1 gameIn 1924 George Gough kicked a record 25 goals in a VFL game. By 1945 four players had kicked 20+ goals in a VFA game. Playing against Oakleigh, one of the weaker teams, Todd became the fifth player in the VFA to reach 20 goals in a game.
|25||George Gough||VFA||Northcote||v Prahran||1924|
|22||Bob Pratt||VFA||Coburg||v Sandringham||1941|
|20||Harold Jones||VFA||Brunswick||v Oakleigh||1939|
|20||H 'Soapy' Vallence||VFA||Williamstown||v Sandringham||1941|
|20||Ron Todd||VFA||Williamstown||v Oakleigh||1945|
The Williamstown Chronicle reported on the match:
"Todd kicked seven goals in the first term with scarcely a miss and continued to score heavily on the change over. Thereafter the match resolved itself into how many he could kick. and the Williamstown players gave him every opportunity of breaking the V.F.A. record.
The forwards worked unselfishly together like clockwork, and towards the end the 18 goals kicked by Harry Vallence on the same ground in 1939 was left behind. A bad period when he kicked five behinds in a row robbed him of the chance of beating Bob Pratt's, 22 for Coburg against Sandringham in 1941 and George Gough's 25 against Prahran for Northcote in 1924. However, just on time he raised his twentieth to draw level with the club record held by Vallence, kicked against Sandringham in 1940 (on a wet day) (Williamstown Chronicle 18May1945 p3)
Season SummaryThe following table provides a week by week breakdown of Todd's goals. Many players would be happy to score 10 goals in a game once in their careers. Todd kicked 10+ goals eight times in the season and had an average over nine goals a game for nearly the entire season.
|Date||Team||G||P||T||Opposition||G||P||T||Todd's Goals||Cumulative||Av Goals|
|Home and Away|
Note - No Williamstown Games 04-Aug-1945 and 01-Sep-1945
The Williamstown Chronicle adds that it could well have been 189 for the season but “The bell rang with Todd in possession of the ball. He ‘Souvenired” it in preference to adding another goal to his tally.” – (Williamstown Chronicle 12Oct 1945 p2) adding that “Mr Bill Faulkiner has stated that he will have two of the balls used in the match polished, autographed by the players and suitably mounted for presentation to Ron Todd and the club."
Other GamesTodd continued to play for the RAAF during 1945, mainly for 'No1 Training', his RAAF competition team, but also for the combined RAAF side. Williamstown must have held their breath in the first week of the VFA finals when they had a bye but Todd risked injury and kicked eight goals in the RAAF final.
The RAAF teams were more than respectable sides, the combined RAAF team included many VFL and VFA players. As an example, Todd kicked seven goals for the combined RAAF team that defeated the combined League team at Victoria Park in June. (Argus 23Jul1945 p12) Todd also kicked 10 goals as the combined RAAF team defeated a combined Northern Tasmanian team in October.
A Few examples of Todd's kicking outside the regular season include:
|20-Jun-1945||Vic RAAF||Vic Army||at Princess Park||9|
|22-Jul-1945||Vic RAAF||Combined League||at Victoria Park||7|
|09-Sep-1945||RAAF HQ No1 TG||RAAF Pt Cook||at York Park||8|
|16-Sep-1945||Vic RAAF||Combined SA/WA RAAF||11|
|14-Oct-1945||RAAF HQ No1||Combined Northern Tasmanian Team||at Jubilee Oval||10|
|21-Oct-1945||Combined Williamstown/Coburg||Combined Broken Hill||at Victoria Park||11|
Todd ended his career in 1949 with 672 goals from 141 games for Williamstown. This is still a record for a Williamstown player.
His combined career total of 999 goals in League and Association Matches ignores his 28 goals in interstate games for the VFL and all the goals in his RAAF games but still ranks highly in the all time leading goal kickers and in percentages of goals per game.
The 188 goals in 1945 were a memorable effort by one of the games great full forwards. With 20 goals in one game, 8 games kicking 10+ goals in a match and with 82 goals in other games (including another further instances of kicking 10 or more goals per game),
In 1945 Ron Todd had a year matching that of any player in any competition in Australia ever.