Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What I Learned Last Week...

from my visit to the State Library of Victoria. Firstly, maybe I was a bit optimistic in thinking a decent chunk of the senior league tables can be obtained. Second Division results in the 1920's a very sporadic, and sources are limited as The Sun and The Sporting Globe didn't kick-off until 1922 and 1923. Not getting very far in finding out more about the 1919 Dockerty Cup Final either.

Better luck with 1929. Worked out the complete Second Division table. With a 14 game season, I have the full results of half of the teams in Division Three, with only Richmond (12), Pascoe Vale (12), Coburg (13) and Camberwell (13) having results missing. Still more work to do on Division Four, where I have one team with the full 14 games, one with 13 accounted for, 5 on the dozen and one on eleven. Found announcements for the winners of the First and Third Division Reserves competitions, but tallying up the known results of the Second Division Reserves does not get close enough to resolving that issue.

Back to The Winner. It's first came out on July 29, 1914. It was done and dusted during 1918. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Victorian soccer battled though a season in 1915 before dwindling numbers saw competitive football come to an end in 1916. That year, soccer correspondent J.W.Harrison covered the minor Aussie Rules competition that was the Victorian Junior Football Association (which competed for the John Wren Shield). A football man to the core, he'd still squeeze in some soccer news if it was available, namely the results of friendly games between the Army and Navy or other scratch matched played at Middle Park.

I haven't mastered (actually even attempted) taking hard copies of what I come across on the microfilms yet, planning on learning that after I have completed as much result gathering as I can. So without being able to produce samples, here are some interesting things I found:

August 12, 1914 edition, page 7 - a picture of the original Victorian soccer committee from 1907.

October 7, 1914 edition, page 7 - a picture of the St Kilda team, played 18, won 9 lost 5 drawn 4.

October 21, 1914 edition - 597 registered players in the VABFA, and during the year H.L.Dockerty was presented with a Life Member's Badge, probably the first such honour in our history.

November 11, 1914 edition, page 7 - pictures of the Northumberland and Durham United and Melbourne Thistle teams.

April 28, 1915 edition, page 8 - a list of "players who responded to countries call".

May 19, 1915 edition, page 7 - individual pictures of the brothers T.E., A.H. and H.M.Lowe.

June 23, 1915 edition - news that H.M. (Hughie) Lowe was killed in action in the Dardanelles.

August 11, 1915 edition, page 7 - pictures of the England and Scotland teams from the Local International.

September 15, 1915 edition, page 6 - early picture of the Dockerty Challenge Cup.

Finally, can you imagine 20's-30's Moonee Ponds playing games at Moonee Valley Racecourse? They'd be able to have night games there nowadays.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Highs and Lows of History Research

After two successive Sunday's at the State Library of Victoria looking through on newspapers on microfilms, more steady progress has been made on the epic (it's up to 200 pages now) journal. The latest draft can be viewed here:

The usual frustrations remain. How hard is it to publish a league table at the end of the season? No table, okay, I'll get the results and compile my own. Not all the results published, okay this is hopeless.

Just when you feel like packing it in, along comes something to lift the spirits. This week it was The Winner. A weekly sports newspaper that the was around during the years of the First World War. It was late in the day when I decided to give one of the six microfilm rolls a go, and I will be back to have a further look.

Now "sports" newspapers in those days could be pretty varied. For some the only sport was horse racing, not much more than form guides. Some were about eighty per cent horse racing, ten per cent Australian Rules Football and ten per cent other sports. The Winner seems to have adopted more of a 60-20-20 split.

The football writer for The Winner was J.W.Harrison. I have not seen his name in any subsequent publications, which was a shame for he was rather good. He also occasionally was able to get photos to accompany his pieces, including one of the Dockerty Cup as well as team shots of the leading clubs.

Returning to the things doing your head in angle, 1923 has been a big source of that. Strange doings were afoot in the First Division that season. It was a time before goal difference had been accepted as the means of splitting teams level on points. With St Kilda and Footscray Thistle heading the table together, a Play-Off was undertaken to determine the League Champion. After a second replay, it was the Saints who took the honours.

The drama came with the two teams to be relegated. Northumberland and Durham United were gone, adrift at the foot of the table, but above them Windsor and Melbourne Thistle finished level on points, so a Play-Off was also required to determine the second relegated side. Come match day, the appointed referee failed to turn up. After discussions an acceptable fill-in referee was agreed to, but when it came time to go out and play Thistle now refused to accept the substitute ref. Windsor went out, the ref blew the whistle, Windsor took the ball up the park and put it into the empty net, but you didn't need someone from TAB Sportsbet to tell you to "hold all tickets". Obviously there was a protest during the week, and they all went back to have another crack a week later, with Windsor emerging 2-1 winners.

So the bit that does the head in? The next year Melbourne Thistle was still in the First Division and Windsor were in Division Two? Why? Where is the explanation? Was there another protest? No evidence of another replay. The papers tell us nothing. Chances of finding closure look slim. Another low.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Back to Business

Progress on "The Victorian Football Statistical History" remains steady. The new draft has the titled amended, with the 1909-1979 removed. Even put in a cover, well, wrote THE VICTORIAN FOOTBALL STATISTICAL HISTORY in a massive font on the first page with a view to putting a few pictures around it.

1911, 1912, 1926, 1932, 1941, 1976, 1977, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Those are the seasons which I have all the information I need to complete their pages. That's means there are still 92 years incomplete. A lot of them in modern times where such information should be readily available at the click of a mouse.

What information do I want to consider a season complete? Obviously final league tables for the senior leagues. I have something for each year of what is now the Victorian Premier League. There are some years where lower league tables are lacking, but I still believe enough information can be found to complete the task. 

The full details of all the Dockerty Cup Finals is the next aim. Date played, venue, referee's name, result and scorers and both team line-ups are what that entails. Though gaps have narrowed, I fear there will be a year or two where the team line-ups cannot be found. Probably the referee's names as well, but I won't cry about that. But if I get down to just one or two years with no team line-ups, it will burn.

After that come the Reserves (later Harry Armstrong) Cups and the other senior Cup Final scores and scorers. This is still very sketchy, especially in the Cup crazy 1970's, when there was the Ampol Cup, State League Cup, Federation Cup, Cumberland Cup, Provisional League Cup and District League Cup at times. The results for the last four frustratingly come and go.

I'm not including tables for the District/Amateur League, but would like to list the champions of each division along with the champions of the various reserves leagues. Again this information is still somewhat patchy.

A few breakthroughs were made recently. In previously looking at the results from 1923, the lower league picture was very murky. Complications faced including the usual issue of not all the results being published in a paper, let alone regular league tables. In some cases there was mention of a Third Division, but more often it was called the Reserves League. Now back then reserves teams were not compulsory, and often clubs with a reserves team fielded them as an "A" teams playing in a league against standalone senior clubs. So there may be still some debate as to whether this was a Third Division or a Reserves League. Either way, tallying up the results produced an unwieldy mess, more teams than made sense all having played too varying numbers of games to persist in trying to work it out. The breakthrough? Finding out that it was actually divided into an A and B section, therefore two different leagues. Why the fuck this couldn't have been mentioned in the results section every week I do not know.

Once I've narrowed down a season to a vital result or two, some of the suburban newspapers on Trove have come in handy. The Footscray papers gave good coverage in the initial years, even after the club changed it's name to Northumberland and Durham United. When Footscray Thistle came along both clubs had coverage, as did Sunshine United and Sandringham at times.

Trove and it's online newspaper archive is about to add The Australasian to it's collection, there may be something there. Then it will be a winter of visits to the State Library.