Vandendriessche. It's big name in the past of Victorian football, that is largely forgotten today. It's also probably the most misspelt name in local football history. Van den Drishe, van der Drishe, vanderdrische, vandendriske and another dozen permutations when you move around the capitals and spaces a bit, they all got an airing at some stage.
Who am I talking about, you may well ask. Maurice Vandendriessche is the answer, one of the most interesting stories in the annals of Victorian football history, if only we got the full picture.
What we do know, is the Maurice Vandendriessche was born in Lille, France on the 2nd of April 1887. It says that on his French Wikipedia entry. He has a French Wikipedia entry because after winning two national championships with his club Racing Club Roubaix he gained two caps for his country in 1908.
The national championship of France, the USFSA League, had already been won on three occasions by Roubaix prior to the wins achieved in 1905-06 and 1907-08 with Vandendriessche in the side. He first represented France in a game against Switzerland in Geneva on March 8, 1908. The French recorded a 2-1 win at the Stade des Charmilles. His final appearance was less triumphant, a 0-12 defeat at London's Royal Park ground against England Amateurs later in the month. The Amateurs were captained by Tottenham Hotspur star Vivian Woodward, who scored a hat-trick but was upstaged by partner William Jordan who netted six times.
What brought him to Australia I have yet to uncover, but by 1911 he was playing in Melbourne with the St Kilda club. He was in their Dockerty Cup winning side that year, the Final seeing Williamstown defeated 4-2 at Richmond City Reserve.
St Kilda were beaten Dockerty Cup finalists in 1913, though the full-line ups of the teams that day are currently not know and he is not among the few listed in brief match reports. After 1915, the local competition was suspended for the duration of World War I, and when football returned in 1919 St Kilda did not. It was not until 1920 that the club returned to the field, and once again Vandendriessche was with them. The club finished on top of Section A of the Metropolitan League, and then defeated Section B Runner's-Up Spotswood 2-1. Vandendriessche scored St Kilda's goal in the 1-1 draw with Northumberland and Durham United for the League Championship Grand Final. In the Replay it was "N&D" who prevailed 2-0.
In 1923, St Kilda finally captured the elusive Victorian Championship. Finishing level with Footscray Thistle at the end of the season, a Championship Play-Off was used to split the clubs. A 2-2 draw was followed by a goalless Replay before St Kilda emerged victorious 2-1 in the Second Replay. It was a League and Cup double for Vandendriessche and his Saints, as they had earlier defeated Preston 1-0 in the Dockerty Cup Final in August.
The following year St Kilda were Runner's-Up in the League Championship. In 1926 they placed third, and were beaten 4-3 by Naval Depot in the Dockerty Cup Final with Vandendriessche still a mainstay of the side. He did not feature in their next Dockerty Cup Final defeat, 2-3 at at the hands of Footscray Thistle in 1929.
Towards the and of his career he once again gained representative honours, playing for Victoria in games against New South Wales, South Maitland, South Coast and a touring Chinese XI in 1923. When his career came to a close is hard to determine. In a great blog by Mark Gojszyk on shootfarken.com.au it mentions he played in Sydney, whilst almost getting Australia into the 1930 World Cup due to his friendships with French football pioneers Robert Guerin and Gabriel Hanot.
Flight listings in Lismore newspapers having him regularly flying across the country in the 1930's, by which time he was based in Sydney as a wool buyer. In the late 1940's he was a Director of Hollins Mills Australia Limited, living in the affluent Eastern suburb of Vaucluse.
His wife, Simone, had passed away in 1942. His French Wikipedia entry has no date of his passing, and a football database that may have drawn on that entry has him listed as 127 years of age, and not surprisingly, retired. He died on November 18, 1959 at the age of 72.
The modern equivalent of his career in Europe would place him above most A-League imports, if not quite as a marquee signing, though he left home at an early stage in his career. His success in business may have validated his decision to emigrate, given top level football in France did not turn professional until the 1930's. Still, it seems strange to picture someone going from French Championships and Internationals to playing in an open field at Middle Park within a couple of years.
It was certainly a most interesting career, and we may not even know half of the tale.