Sunday, 23 June 2013

In Search of... 1909

Back when I first went to research Victorian football history at the Newspaper Reading Room of the State Library of Victoria (SLV), I was aiming to one day get at least the final table of the top division each year since league football began in 1909.

I was a little lazy in my approach to this task. I went through the microfilm reels looking for the easy answers which I soon realised were not there. Head to July/August/September to find the tables did not work when the final table wasn't always published. Sometimes, just the points tally was published. It was becoming apparent that in some years, it would require recording all the results, and compiling the table myself. Then, more sadly, it was clear that for many seasons finding a record of all the results would not be happening.

So for the 1909 season, won by Carlton United, things didn't pan out. Adding up the results I'd written down made for a ridiculous ladder. So it was put on the back-burner for a few years, hoping that John Punshon at OzFootball would put something up.

Recently I began re-checking the results on the online archives of The Age and The Argus. A discovery then clarified one problem, which was having teams having played more than the 10 game season a 6 team competition should produce. The season started on Saturday May 8, and any results before that were from friendlies. So that took away the teams over 10 games, but still there were a few short, so I set off for the SLV today looking to fill the gaps.

Now we need to understand the times were different then. For the result of a Saturday sporting contest, you would need Monday's newspaper, as there were no papers published on Sundays in that time (right up until the late 1960's or early 1970's I think). The Herald was an evening paper, and did have Saturday's results in it for footy and racing, but not always for the "British Association" or "Soccer". By Monday those results were old news and often not carried.

I made a breakthrough when I discovered the day for soccer news in The Herald was actually the Friday edition. The previous week's results were often found there, gradually growing in column inches with the author's nom-de-plume, "Jackaroo" even getting a byline late in the year. On July 23rd there was even a final table, of sorts. It's not a real final table because Goals For and Goals Against are not included. It also takes the format of Wins Losses Draws rather than the modern Wins Draws Losses. I guess this was due to perhaps following along with Aussie Rules lines. After finding a few more results, I'm only two matches short (and one blurry number) from compiling a proper final table.

CARLTON UNITED 10 9 1 0 32-4 19
The goal difference is still not final, missing the scores for their wins over Fitzroy
ST KILDA 10 7 0 3 40-17 14
This is complete
MELBOURNE UNITED 10 4 0 6 16-32 8
Goal difference not final, missing the score for their win over Prahran on June 12
WILLIAMSTOWN 10 3 1 6 22-32 7
This is complete
FITZROY 10 3 1 6 14-25 7
Goal difference not final, missing the scores for their defeats by Carlton
PRAHRAN 10 2 1 7 9-22 5
Goal difference not final, missing the score for their loss to Melbourne United on June 12

So just three issues remain. A hard to read score for Carlton against Fitzroy on July 17, which is either 5 or 9 to nil. And the June 12 game between those sides as well as Melbourne United v Prahran. The Herald did give a score of  Melbourne 7 Prahran 2 but the report stated it was played as a practise game for some reason the reporter did not agree with. Perhaps the result stood, but I have failed to find any mention of that. The Age and The Argus and The Leader all only have the St Kilda 10 Williamstown 0 scoreline from that day and nothing else.

All games in 1909 were played at grounds in Middle Park, except for Williamstown home games. I'm not sure if there were actual change-rooms at Middle Park, or if a room at the Middle Park Hotel was all that was used. Harry Dockerty, who donated the Cup which would eventually be named after him (called the Challenge Cup initially) was a back for runner's-up St Kilda. He also captained the Scotland side which lost 2-3 to England in the local "International" game, an annual fixture that would continue up until the 1938 contest set for July 23rd was abandoned due to lack of interest.

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