INTRODUCTION


This is the story of Bervin Woods, a forgotten hero of Collingwood, and one of the most calamitous periods in the history of CFC. In numerous texts and newspaper articles ‘Bervin’ is written as ‘Bervyn.’ For the sake of historical accuracy in research, the spelling of his name in this story is as shown in the original documentation.

EARLY YEARS

Bervin was born on the 9th of January 1910. In the years 1924-30, Bervin may have played football at Koondrook, Moulamein and Canterbury. Unfortunately, there are few newspaper articles regarding the early football career of Bervin Woods. The details of Bervin’s playing history at these clubs are limited and requires further research.

Bevin was 21 years old in 1931 and was on the Richmond and Richmond Seconds lists that year. He did not play a senior game, but remained with the Richmond all year. Woods played for VFA team Brunswick from 1932 to 1933 after a clearance in April 1932. Playing in defence, Wood's strength and judgement were often commented on.

In 1934 Woods again moved clubs and took up a captain/coaching position at Mortlake in the Hampden FL. Mortlake had been a founding member of the Hampden FL in 1930, and won premierships in 1931 and 1936.

Woods took Mortlake to the Grand Final of the Hampton League in 1934. He was Mortlake's best player in their winning semi final against South Warrnambool and then again was Mortlake's best player when a timing error caused the match to be replayed the following week, which Mortlake again won. (Camperdown Chronicle 11-Sep-1934 p6 and 4-Sep-1934 p6). Then in the Grand Final, Mortlake led all day, but Terang with a strong finish found a win in the last minutes of the game, by two points. Woods was again among the best of Mortlake's players on the day. (Camperdown Chronicle 2-Oct-1934 p6)
The ‘Camperdown Chronicle’ (March 1935) reported that…

“Bervin Woods, who was coach of the Mortlake Football Club last season, has again been appointed to the position. There were a large number of applications. The committee made its choice a unanimous one. Woods will arrive at Mortlake during Easter week. From reports to hand from Brunswick, the newly appointed coach has commenced training, so that when he arrives in Mortlake he will be in fine fettle for the season.” 21st March 1935.


Seven days later, ‘The Chronicle’ reported that Bervin had received a permit to play for Collingwood and that Harold Gainger (ex- Terang & St Kilda 1934-36) had accepted the coaching position at Mortlake FC.

“Mortlake Football Club on Monday night appointed Harold Gainger as coach. Last season Gainger played for St. Kilda league club. As his home is within six miles of Mortlake he intends remaining on his father's farm, and will visit Mortlake on training nights. Bervin Woods, who had been appointed coach for this season was given a permit to Collingwood.” 28th March 1935.


In more bad news for Mortlake, Harold Gainger had permit issues and could not accept the position, finally leaving Mortlake without a coach for 1935.

Woods was now aged 25 with solid experience as a player and a leader. Bervin settled in quickly at Victoria Park and ‘The Argus’ told how he had impressed at training…

“Among the recruits who stood out at Collingwood on Saturday were Woods a former Brunswick man …Boag a back pocket man from Canterbury and Fricker from Thornbury (a centre man) also played well…” 8th April 1935.



1935~AT VICTORIA PARK

Bervyn Woods - 1935 Hoadleys Victorian Footballers - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Bervyn Woods - 1935 Hoadleys Victorian Footballers - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards


FIRST GAME

Jock McHale must have seen something promising in Bervin’s pre-season form, as he was selected in defence for the first game of the 1935 season against South Melbourne. The Collingwood team of that era was a tough and skilful combination that included such legendary VFL names as Collier, Coventry, Dibbs, Rumney, Regan and Kyne. It must have been a memorable day in Bervin’s life to play at Victoria Park with such stars of the game.

Bervin was twenty five years of age when he made his senior debut and perhaps his maturity and experience were ‘blessings’ in such a team. A younger recruit Tommy Boag was selected for Collingwood that day. Tommy was 20 years of age but it would be his one and only game for Collingwood.

Collingwood won a thriller by two points. Gordon Coventry and Phonse Kyne each kicked three goals for the Magpies but the undoubted match winner for Collingwood was forward Lou Riley (ex-Melbourne). Lou kicked five goals including the ‘sealer’ in the dying minutes of the game. For South Melbourne the indomitable Laurie Nash kicked five goals.

BERVIN RECEIVES A ‘TICK OF APPROVAL’

The match review in ‘The Argus’ was written by none other than the former Melbourne champion and Brownlow Medallist Ivor Warne-Smith….

“For Collingwood Regan in defence was a great player. Riley was very effective in the forward pocket and Whelan took the honours in the centre position. Kyne centre half forward was another excellent player mid Doherty was a clever and nippy rover. Murphy played magnificently in the first half. The best of the others were Coventry, Froude and Woods (the new ruck man) Boag the other recruit did a few bright things in defence.” ‘The Argus’ 29th April 1935.


It is interesting to note that Bervin was referred to as a ruck man. Bervin was not a giant and would best be described as a ‘Collingwood six-footer.’ The important thing for Bervin was that he had played well enough, in a close encounter, and had ‘caught the eye’ of one of the icons of Australian football.

In Round: 3 against Essendon, Bervin kicked his first goal for the Magpies. It was one of only six that he would score in his entire VFL career.

1935 Collingwood Team - Bevin Woods (2nd Row from top, 2nd from right) - Source:Collingwood 1892-1948
1935 Collingwood Team - Bevin Woods (2nd Row from top, 2nd from right) - Source:Collingwood 1892-1948


FINALS AND A TRIBUNAL HEARING

In what could only be termed as an ‘outstanding introduction’ to VFL football, Bervin Woods played in twenty games including the VFL Grand Final in 1935. Records show that he missed only one game and that was in Round:10. Bervin played in three finals that season including the Grand Final against South Melbourne.

In 1935 South Melbourne had finished on top of the ladder at the end of the home and away series. Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond made up the final four.

Although Collingwood lost the Second Semi-Final against South Melbourne; a fighting win over Richmond in the Preliminary Final allowed the Magpies take on South in the ‘return bout’ to decide the flag.

Bervin would have been more than a little nervous after the Magpies victory against Richmond because he had to ‘front’ the VFL tribunal on a charge of ‘retaliation.’ He had clashed with Richmond’s tough follower Fred Heifner. At the hearing, Bervin was found ‘not guilty’ and consequently was ‘cleared’ to play in the Grand Final.

THE 1935 GRAND FINAL

Bervin was selected on the half back flank for the Grand Final. His co-defenders included the Victorian representatives Harold Rumney and Charlie Dibbs. South Melbourne led at the first break. The Collingwood defence then braced itself and was ‘nothing short of magnificent’ as it restricted the South forwards* to only four goals in the remaining three quarters.

  • Note: South Melbourne’s star Bob Pratt did not play in the game as he had been injured in a road accident on the eve of the match.

With the Collier brothers in scintillating form and Gordon Coventry dangerous in front goals, Collingwood won its first premiership since 1930 and the club’s seventh under Jock McHale.The final scores were:

Collingwood 11.12. (78) defeated South Melbourne 7.16. (58)

Magpie stalwart Charlie Dibbs played his last game for CFC that triumphant day. He had probably ‘done enough’ in his 216 games for the Magpies during its ‘Golden Era.’ Charlie had been a member of five premiership teams and had also been a ‘main cog’ in Jock McHale’s ‘Machine’ which won four flags in a row (1927-30).It is known that Charlie briefly coached Geelong in 1936.

A £5 NOTE AND A SILVER TROPHY


‘The Argus’ (7th October) reported that each Collingwood player received a gift of £5.0.0 (pounds) for their endeavours in taking out the 1935 premiership…

“Delighted with the premiership win Councillor J. Ryan is presenting the players with £100—£5 each—and he will entertain them later. B. Makeham, the former centre half-forward and ruck man, who played in the 1930 premiership side, was among the many old players of the club who were present to convey their congratulations.”


Not only did Bervin win a cash reward for his sterling efforts in the Grand Final but he was also presented with the trophy for ‘Best First Year Player’ that year. The award (now named in honour of Harry Collier) underscores Bervin’s consistency in the CFC defence that season.

Things were going well indeed for Bervin! In six ‘short’ months, since his arrival at Victoria Park, he had won his spurs in fine style and the approval of the redoubtable Jock McHale. Not only that… he had performed well and avoided the selector’s axe which ensured he had a reasonable financial income. It should be remembered that life in Australia was particularly grim during those dark years of economic depression…

“The competition was tough when players had to stay in the side to eat.” ‘Up Where Cazaly?’ Sandercock & Turner P.112.


A NORTHERN EXCURSION

An interesting aspect of Bervin’s first season at Collingwood was the tour that CFC undertook with South Melbourne to play in three exhibition football matches. Games were scheduled in the northern cities of Newcastle, Sydney and Brisbane. Premiership points were not awarded to the victors of the games but they were serious contests.

The ‘Collingwood Forever’ website reveals that the Magpies won two of the fixtures but the price each team paid, in terms of injury, was indeed costly….

“The Collingwood and South Melbourne football teams returned to Melbourne from their visit to the northern capitals. The tour was successful according to officials and expenses were cleared satisfactorily but 10 of South Melbourne’s men were badly injured and Carter of Collingwood was on crutches.” ‘The Argus’ 7th August 1935.


One could imagine the outcry and tumult nowadays if ten club players were injured while playing in exhibition matches.

Two other interesting aspects that were revealed in this research were…
(i) that the teams travelled north by steamship.
and
(ii) that each club received in excess of £475.0.0 from the tour.

1936~ANOTHER VFL FLAG

Bervin was part of another memorable pennant victory in 1936 when Collingwood defeated South Melbourne before a crowd of 74,091 eager fans. The Collingwood forward line’s bad kicking almost ‘returned to haunt’ them that day; but the Magpies held their nerve and went on to win the club’s eleventh premiership since 1897.

The final scores were: Collingwood 11.23. ( 89) defeated South Melbourne 10.18. (78).

That day Bervin was selected in the back pocket and was part of a tough and effective back six (the others being Jim Crowe, Jack Regan, Keith Fraser, Jack Ross and Fred Froude). South Melbourne’s acclaimed forward line buckled under Collingwood’s applied pressure and could manage only ten goals. Bob Pratt kicked three goals and Laurie Nash scored a solitary major.

Bevin Woods Marks in the Grand Final - Australasian 10 Oct 1936 P56
Bevin Woods Marks in the Grand Final - Australasian 10 Oct 1936 P56


Alby Pannam was a pivotal figure in the victory with five goals while the enigmatic Ron Todd (who had replaced the suspended Gordon Coventry) kicked four goals. Marcus Whelan, Jack Carmody and Phonse Kyne also played well for the winners.

South Melbourne’s centre man that day was Len Thomas. Len played 187 games with SMFC and 16 games with Hawthorn. In the book ‘Fallen’ by Main & Allen, Len was said to be…

“…one of the most respected footballers of his era and awards followed him like swallows follow the sun.”


Sadly, Len died on active service in New Guinea in World War :II.

Bervin polled five votes in the Brownlow Medal that year. Fellow defender Jack Regan won the E.W. Copeland Trophy. It seems true that ‘great teams are built around strong defence.’

1936 Collingwood Team - Bevin Woods (2nd row from front, 2nd from Right) - Source:Collingwood 1892-1948
1936 Collingwood Team - Bevin Woods (2nd row from front, 2nd from Right) - Source:Collingwood 1892-1948


1937~


BERVIN MEETS PERCY BEAMES

Bervin faced a most serious charge of ‘kicking’ in a match against Melbourne in 1937 and the incident put Bervin’s name in the headlines of ‘The Argus.’ The detailed account of the case, involving brilliant rover Percy Beames, included…

“Football Incident Investigated…A charge of unseemly conduct against B. Woods, of Collingwood, was sustained by the tribunal of the Victorian Football League last night, but he was given the benefit of an element of doubt and no penalty was imposed. Woods was reported by boundary umpire (L.L. Baker), who alleged that he attempted to kick Beames, of Melbourne, in the second quarter of the match between Melbourne and Collingwood on Saturday.” ‘The Argus’ 26th May 1937.


As explained above, Bervin was granted the ‘benefit of doubt’ and consequently was eligible to play in the next round against Carlton on the 29th May.

BERVIN STARS IN FRONT OF THE PRIME MINISTER


Research uncovered a rare article regarding an occasion when the Magpies played in a special fixture against Geelong in Devonport in August 1937.

The exhibition match was sponsored by the Devonport Sporting & Athletic Club and was attended by the-then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Joseph Lyons*.

Ron Todd and Bervin received accolades in the preview of the match as published in ‘The Examiner’….

“Ron Todd, prominent centre forward, astounds with his spectacular and mighty leaps for the ball. His snap shots for goal are generally deadly. Bervin Woods, dashing follower and defender, is a rugged but scrupulously fair player.” 7th August 1937.


Premiership points were not awarded to the winners. However, the people of Devonport were nonetheless highly excited about the arrival of two of the finest teams in national football that weekend.

Thousands packed the Devonport Oval and the crowd was said to be an all-time record. Collingwood 15.7. (97) defeated Geelong 12.14.( 86). Gordon Coventry booted five goals for the Magpies.

Bervin, Marcus Boyall and Phone Kyne were presented with special trophies for their fine performances in the match.

  • Note : Joseph Lyons died suddenly while in office in April 1939.

GORDON COVENTRY STEPS DOWN


Bervin Woods had an imposing record in VFL football and played in five Grand Finals in his first five VFL seasons.

In 1937 Geelong defeated Collingwood in the Grand Final by 32 points in one of the most dazzling contests ever witnessed in VFL history. Bervin played in the back pocket that day. ‘The Australasian’ on the 2nd October 1937 was glowing in its praise of the high standards that the game reached…

“AUSTRALIA'S GREATEST CROWD, 88,540 people, saw Geelong defeat Collingwood in the Victorian football grand final on the Melbourne Cricket-ground on Saturday. The receipts were £5,960. The match is regarded as the greatest grand final in history and was not marred by one questionable incident.” 2nd October 1937.


1937 Grand Final - Todd and Hardiman clash - Australasian 2 Oct 1937 P35
1937 Grand Final - Todd and Hardiman clash - Australasian 2 Oct 1937 P35


The disappointment of the 32 point loss was compounded for the Collingwood ‘faithful’ because it was Gordon Coventry’s last appearance for the Magpies. After 306 games and 1299 goals, Gordon left the game he had so greatly cherished…

“It is possible to say that Gordon Coventry has played his last game. On Saturday he attained his 36th year, kicked his 71st goal for the season, placed himself at the head of the V.F.L. goal-kicking list, played his 306th game for Collingwood - and then packed away his togs for good and all.” ‘The Referee’ 30th September 1937.


Gordon would be difficult to replace in many ways. During the Great Depression, Gordon was the game’s most heroic sporting figure and he inspired young and old alike. Football was an important ‘distraction’ for thousands of unemployed people and his amazing deeds, each winter’s weekend, lifted the hearts of weary and needy souls.

1938~BERVIN PLAYS BEFORE A CROWD OF 96,000 FANS

Bervyn Woods - 1938 Hoadleys League Footballers - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards
Bervyn Woods - 1938 Hoadleys League Footballers - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards

Early in 1938, Bervin was back before the tribunal for the third time in his career and once again he was cleared of any wrong doing. It would be the last appearance that he would make before the VFL tribunal.

Note: Football was a physical and uncompromising game in that era. Tribunal members spent many exacting nights adjudicating the wide (and often complicated) range of reports submitted by the umpires. For example in 1938, there were twenty seven serious reports brought before the Tribunal. Without the benefit of video replays, that exist today, many tribunal hearings lasted for hours.

In 1938 Collingwood won its way through to the Grand Final with convincing victories over Footscray (41 points) and Geelong by 37 points. Bervin was listed among the Magpies’ best against Geelong while Ron Todd gave a masterly display and booted eleven goals.

The Grand Final on the following Saturday was a ‘sell out.’ 96,834 people crammed into the MCG to witness Carlton go ‘head to head’ against Collingwood.

1938 Grand Final Crowd - Australasian 1 Oct 1938 P19
1938 Grand Final Crowd - Australasian 1 Oct 1938 P19


The Magpies backline comprising Bervin, Jack Regan and teenager Don Balfour worked ‘overtime’ to negate the Blues’ talented forward line of Jack Wrout, Harry ‘Soapy’ Vallence and Ken Baxter. It was a titanic struggle. The game was ‘in the balance’ late into the last quarter until Ken Baxter delivered the ‘death blow’ to Collingwood with his third major of the game.

Youngster Don Balfour, who had filled the gap left by the retirement of Magpie champion defender Harold Rumney, was mentioned in the best players for the Magpies.

Note: Carlton’s ‘Gentleman Jim’ Park who ‘shadowed’ Ron Todd so effectively that day was to later die in the ‘Battle at Wau’ in New Guinea in February 1943.

RESILIENCE COUNTS IN FOOTBALL


Bervin Woods played 21 games for Collingwood in 1938 and he had rarely missed a match in his time at Collingwood. Bervin was resilient, fit and fortunate in football.

Although Bervin’s name does not feature prominently in match reports, there is little doubt that he was playing his role perfectly for the Magpies in those years. It appears that Jock McHale viewed Bervin in a favourable light; because no one could survive at Collingwood unless Jock’s rules were adhered to in the strictest fashion. Bervin seems to have fully appreciated Jock’s McHale’s ‘mantra’ of being a Collingwood player …

“Football is all combination work, and a player has to fit into his team’s work and style.” (Jock Mc Hale. 1925)


It was well known that Bervin was a fine mark but his unheralded qualities of reliability, courage and unselfishness were nothing less than Jock expected. Jock demanded that his defenders were to play ‘fearlessly with dash’…

“Reputation and talent meant little to him (Jock); players were selected on the basis of form and willingness to 'run through walls for Collingwood'. Richard Stremski. ‘ADB’ ~ 1986.


Bervin survived the rigours of Jock’s stringent regime at Victoria Park because he never ‘fell short’ of the benchmarks set by Jock McHale.

1939~BRIDESMAIDS AGAIN


Bervin played in his fourth Grand Final in 1939 and was named in the first ruck against Melbourne that day. He had played impressively in the backline for Collingwood in the game against Melbourne in the Second Semi-Final. It seems that Bervin was ‘thrown’ into the ruck at certain times and was effective.

Bevin Woods at practice - Argus 10 Apr 1939 P5 Football Practice At Collingwood
Bevin Woods at practice - Argus 10 Apr 1939 P5 Football Practice At Collingwood


In the Grand Final, the Magpies started brilliantly but slowly and surely Melbourne ‘chipped away’ at the Collingwood defence. By half time, Melbourne held a slender lead. In the last term Melbourne attacked relentlessly and piled on six goals to secure a commendable victory.

Despite the ‘weight of numbers,’ Ron Todd kicked six majors for the Magpies that day to bring his season total to 120 goals. One text stated that Ron kicked a ‘magnificent seventy yard goal’ in the third quarter of the game.

It may be around this time that Bervin Woods became recognised as a ‘genuine’ ruckman for the Collingwood…

“Under six feet tall his greatest asset is his marking and he (Bervin) has an excellent spring. He also played many good games in the ruck for the Magpies.” ‘Holmesby & Main’ page.639.


Bervin was almost 30 years of age on Grand Final day. To that point, in his VFL career, he had played 96 senior games and had been a member of in 70 winning sides. That calculates to be a ‘win-loss ratio’ of approximately 74%.

Jock McHale, up to that juncture, had coached 526 winning teams for a win- loss ratio 70%. It was remarkable era in Collingwood’s history.

Despite having failed to win any ‘silverware’ that day, Collingwood did not depart the 1939 season ‘empty-handed’ as Ron Todd won the VFL goalkicking. Bervin’s team-mate Marcus Whelan also won the Brownlow Medal. Marcus polled 23 votes from Footscray’s elusive rover Harry Hickey ( 20 votes) and Essendon’s ‘King’ Richard Reynolds was third in the count.

Sporting Globe 20Sep1939 P16 Woods Collingwood Ball Melbourne
Sporting Globe 20Sep1939 P16 Woods Collingwood Ball Melbourne
Sporting Globe 22Apr1939 P4 Helmer Marsham Geelong Woods Collingwood
Sporting Globe 22Apr1939 P4 Helmer Marsham Geelong Woods Collingwood


WAR AND BERVIN TAKES A PAY CUT


On or about September 30th 1939, Hitler’s planes and tanks battered the people of Warsaw into submission. While the events in Poland seemed far away in the minds of those at the MCG that day; it wouldn’t be too long before Australia was put on a war footing.

Football took a ‘back seat’ as the war in Europe escalated and young Australians enlisted and took their chances at the front line. As in World War: I, the debate as to whether football should be played during ‘times of war’ caused widespread rancour.

Prime Minister Robert Menzies was one who believed that football should ‘carry on’ (his words) despite the worsening situation in Europe. The VFL was of that mind also….

“Leaders of public thought have expressed themselves in a way which leaves no room for doubt that they are not in favour of football being stopped.’ The Record.’


By May 1940, Britain was fighting ‘tooth and nail’ and the broadcasts on Australian radio told of the horrors of the German air raids in the towns and cities of France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Footballers were enlisting in the armed forces in ever-increasing numbers.

With the tide of battle running against the allies, football clubs were mindful of the role they should adopt in the nation’s dire struggle. It is known that Collingwood players sought a reduction in their match payments to offset the hardship being experienced by so many of their supporters and families during those years. All paid players at CFC agreed to have their match payments of £3.0.0 per week reduced to £1.0.0.

Sporting Globe 23Sep1939 P4 Hocking Woods Collingwood Fountain Mohr StKilda
Sporting Globe 23Sep1939 P4 Hocking Woods Collingwood Fountain Mohr StKilda



1940~THE ROAD TO RETIREMENT


THE PATRIOTIC CUP

In an attempt to mollify the opponents of the ‘continuance of football’ in wartime, the ANFC cancelled the scheduled Hobart Championships. However, in August (1940) the VFL organized an inter-club Lightning Premiership at the MCG to raise funds for the war effort.

The winner of the round-robin series would receive the Patriotic Cup. The trophy was described as a ‘silver cup in a walnut and glass case.’ Each player who participated that day received a small replica of the cup as a ‘keepsake.’

More than 30,000 people attended the five hour extravaganza and all gate receipts were donated to assist the war effort. The Magpies fared poorly as Footscray 4.2. (26) defeated Collingwood 2.4.16 in Round:1.The only Collingwood players mentioned in the brief newspaper report were ‘Powel’ ( probably Harold who later played with Fitzroy )and ‘K. Williams’ ( probably Ken~ a 22 year old recruit from Yallourn FC).

St Kilda FC ‘won the day’ and the series was deemed a success. It was reported that £3,500.0.0 was raised and forwarded to the appropriate authorities.

Note: In 1941 Collingwood FC won the Patriotic Cup in front of a crowd of 19,572 people. According to Percy Taylor of ‘The Argus’ ( 26th May), a new Collingwood player named Richards (Lou) ‘shaped splendidly.’

THE WINTER OF DISCONTENT

1940 was the worst season that Jock McHale had ever experienced in his coaching career. Never in the club’s history had the team finished lower than sixth on the VFL Ladder. The Magpies plummeted to eighth in 1940 and could only manage eight wins in an eighteen round season.

Since 1925 CFC had played in a final series on 14 occasions, including eleven Grand Finals, which had realized six premierships. It was a record that ranked Collingwood as one of the greatest sporting organizations in Australia.

Times were changing and, while the war made things for difficult for all clubs, Collingwood faced internal problems of epic proportions…

Marcus Boyall, a promising youngster of star quality, departed in 1939.
•At the start of the 1940 season, Harry and Albert Collier ‘packed their bags and walked away’ from the club. Harry and Albert were intrepid figures at CFC and had played a combined total of 458 senior games.

The Collier saga deserves greater investigation than can be afforded in this story but, in short, it was a massive ‘body blow’ for the Magpies at that time.

However, it was the defection of Ron Todd to Williamstown (VFA) which completely destroyed club morale and crippled the Collingwood forward line. Rarely in the history of the club had it lacked a sharpshooter of some standing (e.g. Archie Smith, Ted Rowell, Dick Lee, Gordon Coventry and Ron Todd).

The press coverage of Ron Todd’s crossing to the VFA, at that point in the war, was astounding. His decision hit the front page of ‘The Argus’ along with news related to the landing of British troops in Norway, the NSW coalminers strike, the censorship of Communist newspapers, a British steamer that had been torpedoed and an air raid in the Shetland islands.

The reason for Ron’s shock announcement to cross to VFA football, without a signed clearance, is offered by sports writer Ken Piesse as…

“Its club president, bookmaker Bill Dooley, has personally contracted him (Ron) for £500.0.0 exclusive of match payments.”


BERVIN WOODS RETIRES

Along with the loss of such key players as the Collier brothers and Ron Todd; Collingwood was also hamstrung that year by serious injuries to Jack Regan and Marcus Whelan.

Contrary to one source, Bervin Woods did play in 1940 but he was another experienced player sidelined by injury….

“Bervin Woods, recovered from a dislocated shoulder, worked strenuously at Collingwood last night.” ‘The Argus’ 29th May 1940.


Bervin missed rounds four and five that season. For some unknown reason, he was not listed on the team sheet for the final fixture against St Kilda. Bervin played 14 games in 1940 including the match, at Corio Oval, when Geelong thrashed the Magpies by 65 points. It was the worst defeat of the season and the nadir in Jock’s coaching career.

Bervin’s last game for Collingwood was against Essendon at Victoria Park. The Dons won in a canter by 40 points. It was a disappointing farewell for Bervin after 110 games for CFC. On the day of his retirement, from Senior Grade football, Bervin was nearly 31 years of age and the oldest player on the CFC’s team list. The average age of the Collingwood team that day was 23 years.

Collingwood defeated St Kilda in the last round of the season. However, the fact that the club had missed the finals (for the first time since 1933) weighed heavily on the minds of all officials and supporters. The club was at a low ebb and rebuilding its depleted stocks of talent would prove a considerable challenge.

DES FOTHERGILL AND A LEAGUE SECONDS FLAG


Two bright spots lifted the spirits of the supporters in the last month of the 1940 season…

• The win of Des Fothergill in the Brownlow medal. Des was just twenty years of age when he tied with South speedster Herbie Matthews for the medal. Des and Herb each polled 32 votes in the count followed by Essendon’s Hugh Torney with 24 votes. Note: The delight felt by the Collingwood fans’ in Des Fothergill’s win turned to horror when Des left to join Ron Todd at Williamstown at the start of the next season.
• The Collingwood Reserves (known then as Seconds) won the premiership by defeating Carlton. The scores were: Collingwood 6.16. (52) defeated Carlton 3.12.(30). It is believed that Horrie Edmonds, who had played for Collingwood (1929-34), may have been the coach of the Collingwood Seconds XVIII that year.
The CFC Seconds team included the name ‘McHale’ (John who was Jock’s son). John McHale was captain the CFC seconds team that day and, in time, he would make a strong connection with Bervin Woods.

1942-1949~COACHING & LIFE MEMBERSHIP


By 1942 the war had intensified and things at Collingwood were in such a parlous state that the club withdrew its Second XVIII from the VFL competition. Along with Hawthorn and Geelong (which did not field a senior VFL team either), Collingwood Seconds ‘sat out’ the season and waited for ‘better days.’

At the beginning of the 1943 season, the CFC committee took an important step and appointed Bervin Woods as the coach of the Seconds XVIII for the coming season. It is known, that Bervin often played as a ruck man for the team during 1943. Bervin was listed as captain on one team sheet.

Bervin developed the CFC Seconds into a competitive unit and in 1944 Collingwood played in the VFL Seconds Grand Final against Fitzroy at Victoria Park. Fitzroy 11.12. (78) defeated Collingwood 9.9.(63) before a sizeable crowd of 7,500. Neil McIntosh was named the best player for the Magpies. Collingwood’s rising teenage star at that time Len Fitzgerald was also mentioned in the match report.

As a coach, Bervin tasted success in finals football again during the following season and again in 1948. The team also travelled to Launceston that year…

“In 1948 North Launceston defeated Collingwood Seconds which included seven senior players, by 23 points and North Launceston had five senior players out of its side.’ ‘The Argus.’


SOME FAMOUS NAMES AT VICTORIA PARK


Some very famous Collingwood ‘family’ names lined up with the CFC Seconds during Bervin’s term as coach…Rose (probably Colin), John McHale, Hugh Coventry, Ron Richards, the Twomey brothers, Charlie Utting, Bob Galbally, and a youngster named ‘Copeland.’ Bervin also coached Neil Mann who became captain of the club (1955-56). Neil also coached CFC for three years (1972-74).

In this period, Bervin and Phonse Kyne (still playing) were awarded Life Memberships for their services to the Collingwood Football Club.

The other highlights of Bervin’s term as Second XVIII coach at CFC were the wins of Pat Twomey (1947) and Kevin Coghlan (1949) in the prestigious Gardiner Medal. The medal had been awarded to the Best & Fairest player in the VFL Seconds competition since 1926.

By the end of 1949, Bervin had completed seven years as the coach of Collingwood Seconds; but he had no idea about the events that were to unfold at Collingwood in 1950.


APRIL 1950 ~BERVIN IS APPOINTED SENIOR COACH

After 714 games as the coach of Collingwood, Jock McHale stepped down in the April 1950. The given reasons for his decision revolved around ‘family and work matters.’ The ‘Prince of Coaches’ reign had ended and the CFC committee gathered to consider the successor.

Jock McHale on one his last training nights as coach - Argus 8 Apr 1950 P32
Jock McHale on one his last training nights as coach - Argus 8 Apr 1950 P32


There were two contenders for the position… Bervin and, his former team mate and Magpie champion, Phonse Kyne. In the ballot, taken by the committee members, both secured six votes. Consequently, CFC President Harry Curtis was forced to use his casting vote and…

“Bervin Woods coach of the Collingwood seconds, was last night appointed non-playing coach of Collingwood’s senior team in succession to the veteran "Jock" McHale, who has retired after 40 years as coach. Woods has been associated with Collingwood since 1935. Formerly he played with Brunswick and Richmond, and also had a term as coach of Mortlake…Woods played his last game in 1940, and has been coach of the seconds ever since. Consequently he has been in a position to become imbued with the Collingwood tradition.” ‘The Argus’ 14th April 1950


Argus 14 Apr 1950 P17
Argus 14 Apr 1950 P17


THE ERUPTION AT VICTORIA PARK

What happened in the next five days was hardly a ‘Magpie tradition.’ In fact, it was described by noted Collingwood historian Michael Roberts as… “a fiasco…and all hell broke loose”.

The supporters and some players were swept up in the events that whirled out of control and suddenly turned ugly.….

“Within hours, a special meeting had been called by outraged members. The Committee was hopelessly and bitterly divided. At a practice match the next day Woods was booed and Kyne carried from the field shoulder-high.” Michael Roberts. ‘Clubs’.p.88


Glenn McFarlane (the grandson of Collingwood’s legendary full back Charlie Dibbs) wrote a riveting account of Bervin’s appointment in his book entitled ‘Jock’. In his chapter ‘The Painful Succession,’ Glenn described the unbridled anger felt in various quarters during those dreadful days.

Glenn provided evidence that the rage caused by the issue even resulted in ‘fisticuffs.’ Bervin is said to have been ‘sporting’ a black eye at a training session of the club around that time in April.

All available evidence points to the fact that Phonse Kyne was the most popular choice in the minds of players, supporters and influential backers of CFC such as John Wren.

A SACRIFICE FOR UNITY

Lou Richards, one of Collingwood’s favourite sons, recalled in his book called ‘The Kiss of Death’…

“…the predicament the players were in. We all felt tremendous loyalty to the club and therefore to Woods, the duly appointed coach; but on the other hand, how could you look past Phonse Kyne?”


The rift that developed between the warring parties soon became a ‘chasm’ that could not be bridged. “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”…. Collingwood was in crisis and ‘something had to give’ or the club would implode.

Daily News Perth 15 Apr 1950 P17
Daily News Perth 15 Apr 1950 P17


On Sunday 16th April, Bervin settled the issue ‘for once and for all’. He resigned!

“Collingwood had known only one man as coach. Its next lasted less than a week.” Michael Roberts.

BERVIN’S LETTER OF RESIGNATION

Bervin’s letter of resignation was published in ‘The Argus’ on 17th of April. The entire letter, headlines and Percy Taylor’s leading comments are shown below….

Another Collingwood sensation
BERVYN WOODS RESIGNS AS NON-PLAYING COACH
'To restore unity'
By PERCY TAYLOR

“…Çollingwood's new non-playing coach, ( Bervin) yesterday handed his resignation to the committee. His resignation follows on earlier weekend sensation caused by the announcement of last year's captain "Phonse" Kyne that he would also resign from the club. Woods and Kyne were the principal contenders for the position of coaching succession to Jock McHale, and Woods won on a casting vote. Woods sent the following letter to the committee:

"In view of the situation which has arisen, I feel, after careful consideration, that I cannot accept the position of non-playing coach of Collingwood. It is quite obvious that I cannot expect the united support of all, which is so necessary for the success of the club. I have taken this action in the hope of restoring the unity and good feeling which has always prevailed at Collingwood. Whatever decision the committee may now make, the coach appointed is assured of my loyalty and support.
"In the best interests of the club, I am yours faithfully,

(Signed) B. Woods. 41 Ryan St., Northcote.


THE AFTERMATH.

Phonse Kyne took control (as non-playing coach) of the team for its first VFL outing against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval the following weekend (Saturday 22nd April). South Melbourne won by 20 points. Kyne remained Collingwood coach until 1963.

Argus 21 Apr 1950 P24
Argus 21 Apr 1950 P24


It is believed, that Bervin coached the Collingwood Seconds on that day also. What strength of character and loyalty if that is the case!

It is known that long serving officials Harry Curtis, Bob Rush and Frank Wraith were voted from office by the CFC members at a heated and rowdy meeting that was held at the Collingwood Town Hall on May 17th.

Unfortunately, most texts seem to take little interest in Bervin Woods’s life and welfare after he had stepped down as coach. The only source that pointed to Bervin’s continuation at Collingwood after the divisive affair was found in a brief article in ‘The Argus’ on 3rd July 1950…

“Collingwood committee expects to appoint the coach of the second 18 tomorrow night. Bervyn Wood, who has held that position for some years, has resigned, the game last Saturday being- his last.”


1951-52 BERVIN TAKES OVER AT BRUNSWICK.

The situation for Bervin at Collingwood was untenable and in 1951 he successfully applied for the position of coach at Brunswick FC…

“Bervyn Woods, former Brunswick and Collingwood footballer, last night was appointed coach of Brunswick Football Club. Woods played his early football with Brunswick, and after playing with Collingwood for several seasons took over the coaching of the second eighteen with that club……Woods, who is aged 40, should be an ideal coach for the V.F.A. club. His great experience with the Magpies will benefit Brunswick.”


Under Bervin’s adroit leadership, Brunswick rose from eighth to fifth rung on the VFA Ladder. Brunswick won 12 games in 1952 and just missed out on ‘finals action.’

1952 Brunswick Team - Bevin Woods (Coach) - Middle of Back Row -  A Fair And Honest Game Brunswick Les Barnes And Laurie Cunningham
1952 Brunswick Team - Bevin Woods (Coach) - Middle of Back Row - A Fair And Honest Game Brunswick Les Barnes And Laurie Cunningham


The last article discovered regarding Bervin’s time at Brunswick was in relation to him leaving to pursue ‘other interests’…

Jim Cleary, non-playing coach last year of Port Melbourne Football Club, may be appointed to a similar position at Brunswick when the committee deals with applications on Tuesday. Bervyn Woods, who held the position last year, is not an applicant. He 'is taking over an hotel.” ‘The Argus’ 17th January 1935.


A FINAL WORD ABOUT BERVIN WOODS.

In January 2002 Bervin Woods went to his final rest. He was 92 years of age when he died.

Bervin should be remembered as a talented player, dedicated coach and loyal clubman of Collingwood FC. His decision to step aside, as coach, was typical of man who put his club ahead of personal interest. It is a pity that his sacrifice and altruistic spirit were not acknowledged in the documentation of that period.

While Jock McHale and Phonse Kyne are iconic figures in the history of Collingwood; Bervin Woods probably deserves greater kudos for his contribution to the club.

Bervin cared more for Collingwood than most will ever know.

THE END


Bervin Wood Career Summary

Player
1931Richmond/Richmond Seconds(0 Senior Games)
1932-1933 Brunswick (VFA)
1934 Mortlake (Hampton League)
1935-1940Collingwood Senior Team110 games 10 goals
1942-1943Collingwood Seconds
Coaching
1950Collingwood Seconds 1943-1950
1951-1952Brunswick (VFA)


Captain Coached Mortlake to the Hampton Heage Grand Final.
Played in five VFL Grand Finals winning two.
Coach of Collingwood's Seconds 1944 Grand Final team.







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