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:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ru1oas24op99izx/VictorianFootballStatisticalHistory.5.pub

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.

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