Original Source http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/142141493
The Australasian Sat 20 Jul 1940 Page 14

Charlie Hardy   Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14
Charlie Hardy Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14
Ted Kinnear   Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14
Ted Kinnear Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14

Tod Collins   Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14
Tod Collins Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14
Alex Dick   Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14
Alex Dick Australasian 20 Jul 1940 P14

By OLD BOY (Reginald Wilmot)

ESSENDON perhaps more than any other club has been associated with the romance of the game. Isolation seemed destined to cripple its activities in its early days, until a bold step was taken, and the club moved into Jolimont in 1883, and played on the East Melbourne ground, but retained its name. There for nearly 40 years the club prospered, though for years it lived in continual fear of being dispossessed. There were, however, stout hearts and strong influences behind the club, and as long as possible they staved off the evil day, which would eventually send them back whence they came or cause the disbandment of the club altogether. As the day drew near there were suggestions of amalgamation with North Melbourne, but that would have meant extinction. Meanwhile, the flame of Essendon football had been kept alight by the club playing in the Victorian Football Association, with headquarters at the Essendon Cricket-ground, under the name Essendon (Association). Finally, after the season of 1922, the East Melbourne Cricket ground was resumed by the Railways Department. The prodigal returned home, and was received with open arms. To the delight of the residents of Essendon, and especially those who had worked so hard to., re-establish the club in its own home town, the premiership was regained and held for two years, but since then the club has lagged behind.

ESSENDON owes its foundation to the McCracken family, far it was on the McCracken property at Moonee Ponds that the team originally played. The first record is in 1871. and from then until now the uniform has never changed. The black jersey with the red on the shoulder has stood all the vicissitudes of time, but still pertains. Alex. McCracken, the first secretary, later became president of Essendon and president of the Victorian Football Association and of the League. Collier McCracken was vice captain, and there were two other brothers in the early teams. Archie Graham was captain in 1876, and was described as "a plucky player and works hard, is a good runner with the ball, but rather impulsive." I knew him in later years, and can vouch for his impulsiveness. Others in the lead as long ago as 1876 were Charlie Heath, who was at the old Essendonians' reunion last year, and Tom Chadwick, a splendid athlete, who later became a noted coursing official. Then there were Billy Martin, who later wrote most interesting football notes for "The Australasian" under the title "Markwell"; George Miller, ho was also a very fine horseman; William Rafter, who succeeded Alex. McCracken as president, and Phil. O'Neill. In the following year came Ernest and Tom Lethbridge, and Ned Powell, who later became captain; Fred Peake, Alex. Crow, and Jack Amess. The team was then ranked among the juniors.

SENIORITY was conferred on Essendon in 1878 when Tim Ryan was captain and Fred Peake was his first lieutenant. George McShane came in from Keilor and at once established himself as one of the leading players, and Jim and Charlie Watt, Fred James, Arthur Goding, Willie Cox, M. Feehan, and Jimmy Robertson were noted players, and all were locals. Tom Bloomfield was captain of the second twenty, with Harry Lyon as vice-captain, and one recognises real Essendon names in A. Lipscombe, Charlie Locke, and Sam Bloomfield, who later went to Carlton. In 1879 the team was reinforced by players from St. Kilda, where there had been one of the periodical upsets. Among these were Fred Hughes, later captain, who, after his football days were done, became major, colonel, and general in the greater game. "Jumbo" Carter, Herbert Bryant, Billy Rogers, one of the fastest runners who ever played. Alf Walker, another dasher, Billy Sims, Stewart McArthur, afterwards His Honour Sir Stewart, and Jim ("Tiger") Gardiner, from North Melbourne, who, for just one season, let his loyalty to Hotham waver.

THOSE were the days when the school boys measured strides with the seniors. At Geelong we have read of half the team being from the College or the Grammar, and here at Essendon. in 1881. were Wilfred Hughes, Harry ("Snowy") Griffiths, Fred and Harry Osborne, Cecil Gaunt, Lex Pearson, Jack McKenzie, Clem Shuter, and Alf Teale, from Melbourne Grammar, and Dan Marshall, Colin McCulloch, and Frank Robertson, from Scotch. I had a letter from Fred Osborne from London recently. and was glad to hear that he was fit and well. He was a great all-rounder at Melbourne Grammar School. In 1883. he was captain of the cricket and football teams, stroke of the crew which, by the way, was Head of the River, and captain of the boats, and champion athlete. Not a bad record, you will agree. Now, in his home on the Thames, he still reads "The Australasian" and takes extreme pride in the athletic prowess of his young grandson.

EVEN in its earliest days, Essendon was cosmopolitan, and men played for it who lived in as far off suburbs as St. Kilda and Brighton, and there was always a sprinkling from Geelong and from Tasmania, of whom I shall speak later. On Saturday, at the Melbourne Cricket-ground, I was talking to Alex Dick, captain of the Essendon teams which held the premiership for four years, 1891-1894, and we foregathered with James Howlett. who told us that he played with North Park and also with Essendon Seconds. As we talked, a giant walked through the reserve in the person of Charlie Eady, the best all-round player Tasmania has produced. I will never forget how Essendon tried to induce him to play, and how very nearly he joined, but his loyalty to Tasmania was too strong. He was one of the great players—a giant in every way. I was glad to meet him again to recall games on the Risdon ground, and to learn that though he had lost his sight, Fred McGinis is still alive and well. What a great player he was! While discussing Tasmanians who played with Essendon, let me just tell you who they were. First Billy Cundy, a strong ruckman; Colin Campbell, the dasher, from Launceston; George Vautin ("The Nugget") ; Len Webb, the giant, all of whom were in the champion class. And as I have mentioned Geelong, Just look at these names—Gus and Mick Kearney, Fred Furnell. Jim Julien, Jos. Adams, Archie Sykes, Barney Grecian, who could take a running mark on his finger tips going full speed, and Jim McShane.

BETWEEN 1877 and 1887, 11 years, Geelong had won the premiership seven times, South Melbourne and Carlton had each won twice, and had monopolised the honours. Three times—1882, 1884, and 1885—Essendon had been runners up, but for the next few years the Dons were well down the list. The names of players of that period will be recalled with pleasure: - Dan. and Alf Sebire, Rupert Nicolson, Ned Powell (the captain), "Taffy" Lawlor, "Ab" Moline, Billy Meader, Percy Stubb, "Dot" Desailly, "Joker" Hall (the original Joker), Dave Aitken, Harry Caldwell, a goal-kicker of merit, who used to wear a pointed toe to his boot, and instead of kicking a ball when he placed it used to seem to flick it with great accuracy up to about 30 yards. Then there were the Routa (Tom and "Silly”), Jim Stafford (a high-class runner and horseman), Fred ("Snowy") Ball, Charlie Alexander, of Calista and Honor fame in the days when trotting was at the height of its prosperity. Then in the year before the premiership team was established came Jack Mouritz, from Brighton, one of the most scientific players who ever lived. It was he who first introduced the "stab kick" and short passing game, long before Collingwood re discovered it. Jack Mouritz was an inspiration to any team.

THEN suddenly Essendon burst into premiership importance. The start of the wonderful run of success which brought Essendon four premierships in succession was the appointment of Alex Dick as captain. Bill Fleming, one of the finest sportsmen and most delightful companions one could imagine, had succeeded Ned Powell as captain; but it was evident that his capacity for leadership was limited. It was felt that unless there was a change of captaincy success was impossible. Bill Fleming, as the sportsman he was, listened to what the committee had to say, and sacrificed himself in the interests of the side. Without any warning he got up in the dressing room before the next match and announced his resignation. "I have resigned," he said, "and nominate Alec Dick as my successor." That motion was seconded and carried almost before the players realised what had happened. Though Bill Fleming ceased to play, his interest in the club never wavered. He supported it in every possible way, and represented it with marked ability on the Victorian Football League and the Australian National Football Council.

THERE were not many changes in the team in the four years, and what a splendid lot they were. Just let us run through their names quickly: - Alec Dick, the captain, was a solid half-back and a born leader, and under him there were some splendid players at various times during the four years. First of all, the famous Tracker Forbes, a player and sportsman of undoubted merit, and a comedian both on and off the field, must be mentioned with Archie Sykes, "Barney" Grecian, Jim Julien, Fred Furnell, Mick and Gus Kearney (from Geelong), Ned Officer, the dashing full back from Warrnambool, who also enlisted, Poss Watson, and "Brusher" McLennan, Bill Crebbin, the little curly-headed centre man from Ballarat; Stewart Angwin, another speedy wing man; Colin Campbell, George Vautin, and Len Webb, from Tasmania; "Joker" Hall, the wiry little rover, now training at South Melbourne; W. J. Schutt (afterwards His Honor of the Supreme Court Bench); Jack Mouritz, and his great friend Bert Hammond, from Brighton, who followed in the footsteps of Charlie ("Commotion") Pearson, Charlie Finlay, Wolfe Parsons, "Spot" Chadwick, "Snowy" Ball', Bill Christian, Tom Anderson, from Flynns Creek; C. H. Zercho, from Camberwell; Arthur Clarke, from Dandenong; and George Stuckey; and last, but not least, the greatest player I ever saw, Albert Thurgood. The writing of these names recalls to me, with infinite pleasure, the memory of many valued comrades, many of whom, alas, have long since passed away.

GRADUALLY that team, which had held the premiership for four years, dispersed, and it was not until 1897, the first year of the League, that the premiership was regained. In that period of non success a new team was built up and a new generation arrived. Among them were men who did particularly well after they had served their apprentice-ship, for it takes time to build up a team. Just recall their prowess:—"Son" Barry, George Stuckey, "Pimp" Wright, Gus. Officer, Edgar Fortescue Croft, Jim Anderson (captain for a while), George Hastings, Bill Jackson (the cyclist), Ted Kinnear (the first Essendon man to receive a long-service certificate), Arthur Cleghorn ("Tod," captain in 1902), and "Morrie" Collins, Fred. Waugh, and Mat. Wilson, Paddy O’Loghlen, Fred. Hiskens, Mick Peppard, Hugh Gavin (a great half back), Bill Griffith, Ben. Baxter, Ted Kennedy, Hercules Vollugi, Fred, and Bill Robinson, Jack ("Dookie") McKenzie, Mick Madden, Jack Geggie, Dave Smith, Hughie Callan, Jim McDonald (from Warrnambool), Alan Belcher, Len. Bowe, Ramsay Anderson, Arthur Legge, "Silver" Caine, Ernie Cameron, Bill Sewart, Paddy Shea, Bill Busbridge (the brilliant giant, who was not surpassed as a dashing back man), and Billy Davis (the wing player from Willimstown). Oh, what a string of them! I can see them as they pass, not in chronological order, perhaps, but just as they crop up, each recalling some incident, some triumph, or may be some failure.

UNDER the influence of Jack Worrall as coach, Essendon had two glorious years of premiership, 1911-12, and we find new names cropping up: - Fred. Baring, Len. Bowe, T. O'Shca, J. Chalmers (the dashing wing men, with Billy Sewart between them making up a great centre line), "Butcher" Ogden, Paddy Shea, Lou. Armstrong, Les. White, Hanley, Klrby, McLeod, and so on, each in his own way contributing to the success.

AFTER Its premiership of 1911 and 1912 Essendon dropped right out of the picture and it was not until 1922 that it reached the semi-finals again. The Dons stood out of the competition in 1916 and 1917, when play was curtailed owing to the war, and the rebuilding process was slow. In 1921 Essendon was last on the list. Then came the arrival of the North Melbourne contingent —Syd. Barker, Rowley Watt, H. Gregory, Vince Irwin, Tom Jenkins, Charlie Hardy, and George Rawle, who did not come at first, but appeared later. It was a great team, including such dashing men as Clyde Donaldson, Garnet Campbell, Roy Laing, Fred. Baring, Tom Fitzmaurice (one of the best all-rounders of all time), "Chooka" May, Gregory Stockdale (the goal-kicker), and the "mosquito" fleet— Frank Maher, "Tich" Shorten, Jack Garden, Rowley Watt, Jimmy Sullivan, and Charlie Hardy. The premiership team that year was very strong. For instance, it had two complete rucks—Norman Beckton and George Rawle, with Frank Maher as rover, forming one; and Syd. Barker and Justin McCarthy, with Charlie Hardy as rover, forming the other. With all its strength, however, the team fell from its high estate, and was beaten by Footscray for the championship. It was a black day for Essendon, and though in 1925 and 1926 it succeeded in reaching the final four, it has not since played in the finals. There have been many excellent players, and there have been some wonderful team performances, but there has been a lack of dependability, which prevented the side attaining the level standard of which it has been capable. Among those to whom special mention should be made were:— Jack Kidd, Tom Clarke, Tom Walsh, Syd. Carman, Jack Vosti, Bill Hudd (another man from Geelong), Len. Webster (a giant ruck man), A. Rennie, Joe Hammond, Keith Forbes, and Clarrie Hearn (now with Fitzroy), Paddy Walsh (another big follower), Charlie Milburn (a dashing wing man), E. Freyer (the Port Melbourne goal-kicker), and F. Gomez, down to the present time.

TRUE to tradition, the Essendon team of 1940 is full of dash, and on its day is good enough for any side. At its best it is invincible, but for some extra ordinary reason, when most is expected the least seems forthcoming, and vice versa. No team has given its' supporters more thrills, and, it may be added, more headaches. It wins or loses, as the case may be, with good grace, and in all its vicissitudes is " always the same old Essendon."


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