Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Bastardisation of the Bill Fleming Medal

In 1954, The Argus newspaper awarded a medal for the best and fairest player in the V.A.S.F.A. First Division. Votes were issued on a 3-2-1 basis for each match, coordinated by football writer Bill Fleming. Though the paper ceased in 1957, the medal survived and was presented each year, re-named in honour of it's originator, Bill Fleming.

It was not until 1971 that the V.S.F. introduced it's own award for the best and fairest player in the Victorian State League each season, the Rothman's Medal, which eventually became the Gold Medal. Even then the Bill Fleming Medal survived, though no longer using the 3-2-1 system on every game format but instead taking a poll of the various members of the football media. The referees were used to implement the 3-2-1 system to determine the Rothman's Medal.

The point of difference for the Bill Fleming Medal then became that it allowed the more brilliant players to triumph over those that were simply more consistent. It also allowed for a mark of true greatness when a player was able to win the double of both medals.

For sixty years the Bill Fleming Medal was awarded to the best players in the top division of senior men's football in Victoria. The tradition spanned the First Division, Victorian State League, Victorian Premier League and National Premier League Victoria eras. It was older than the Gold Medal, and most clubs in the state. It was older than the VSF, the NSL or the FFA. This, in a sport that does not necessarily treasure it's own history, was quite remarkable.

This tradition was ended this year, when at the Gold Medal night it was announced the Bill Fleming Award would go to the player voted on by the FFV's match reporters (in lieu of independent media) as the best from the NPLV and WVPL. Not separate awards for each, but one for both. With the winner being Amy Jackson of Boroondara Eagles in the WVPL, the linage of winners of the Medal in the VSL/VPL/NPLV every year since 1954 has come to an end.

It is clear that the FFV has little respect for it's own history. Earlier this year it removed lies from it's own website when caught out attempting to re-write history on it. It drifts between being ashamed of most club's ethnic pasts and then appearing to embrace them as the need fits. We don't like your names or symbols, but look how tolerant we are munching down some souvlakis.

It's sad that a grand tradition (check out the honour roll) needs to be altered to make a political statement or push an agenda. Sadder still that lamenting the loss of such a tradition would see you labelled a misogynist.

Would I be a misogynist if I decried the Melbourne Cup being altered from the traditional 3200m into a 1200m sprint? If someone were to protest about men's grand slam tennis being reduced to best of three sets, are they being misogynistic? Are the AFL misogynists for not opening up their Brownlow Medal to women?

Tokenism is not true equality. If the change to the Bill Fleming Medal was initiated so the FFV could pat itself on the back for being so inclusive, it is a token act to my eye. It could have inaugurated a similar award for the WVPL and chosen to perhaps honour a female pioneer of football journalism (it's not like Bill Fleming himself ever wrote a single word about the women's game), but instead being able to tweet that "for the first time a @wplvictoria player has won the Bill Fleming Award" was the more politically beneficial gesture. Whoever decided that is truly the bastard who bastardised the Bill Fleming Medal.

Friday, 18 September 2015

The WTF League Division Four 1930

On first looks, finding a final table for the Fourth Division of the Metropolitan League doesn't not appear to be too much of a drama.

The Age gives us a late table in early September. Eight teams. 7 times 2 makes for 14 home and away games. Most teams have played all 14. Four haven't, so surely it's just a case of working out which two results are missing, finding out when they should have been played and trying a few other sources to find the results. If nothing can be found, assume this is the final table and just worry about the blurry nature of Spotswood's goals for figure.

But it's not that easy. It rarely is. Here's the first problem. Why are Spotswood playing Malvern in a League game when they've already finished their 14 game season? Gathering known results into a wordpad file, I then get the pen and paper out and list each club's results. More anomalies. Why did Pascoe Vale play Malvern three times? Why did Bentleigh play Kingsville three times?

Using the tables published in The Age on Fridays, and the published fixtures, it was possible to figure out some missing results. But still the anomalies remain. It's a note alongside a Third Division result from Saturday August 9 that provides a breakthrough. "Replayed game after protest". It was the only Third Division game that day, no full programme because of a Dockerty Cup semi-final. So were the two Fourth Division games that day also replays after protests? It starts to make sense.

So why did Spotswood play Malvern again on October 4? It seems their August 16 clash may have been included in the table published by The Age on September 9. It was abandoned due to players fighting, with Spotswood 3-0 up. Maybe it was assumed the score would stand, before a ruling came through for the October 4 replay?

This leaves the two missing games as September 6 clashes between Malvern United and Kingsville, and Nobels v Croydon. As well as trying to figure why goals scored for and against don't seem to tally....

Would it have killed them to have have published the tables again on October 6? And does Dr Ian Syson place the blame for that at the feet of Michael Lynch?

Friday, 11 September 2015

Soccer Week 1974-1975

Last Sunday I visited the State Library of Victoria to examine their collection of Soccer Week newspapers from the 1970's. The collection, all bound into the one book, is available to SLV members (it's free) but you need to call and arrange for it to be brought from offsite storage to the Heritage Reading Room. The collection starts with the June 19, 1974 issue and ends at August 6, 1975.

Unlike Soccer News, Soccer Week was an independent production. Les Shrrock, who would go on to write for Soccer Action and publish Soccer Star, covered the Metropolitan League. The colourful State League keeper Mike O'Hara had a weekly column.

Covers usually featured a single photo, with some gems shown below:

(Click on images to enlarge)

Throughout the paper, there are plenty of great pictures. A photographer was sent to a Metropolitan League game each week, so it wasn't just the State League being covered. A few pages each week would feature these snaps.

Sadly, the facts and figures sections were a disappointment. I would consider listing the line-ups and scorers of all the State League games a bare minimum, and it's a minimum standard Soccer Week failed to meet. The Metropolitan and Industrial Amateur Leagues had all their results and tables published, though lacking goalscorers names. Some could be found in the few pages of match reports each week, which relied on the clubs to supply info which again often falls short of expectations. Some clubs had people on the ball, and for those clubs the coverage is excellent.

The paper did give a great insight into the Cumberland Cup, which began in 1975 and ceased in 1978. At the start it was referred to as the Twilight Cup. It was competed for by the Metropolitan League (Divisions One to Four) clubs in the pre-season. Games were played midweek, in an era where lights were not commonplace or at training only standard, so 6.00pm kick-offs during daylight savings were required. The Cumberland name came from the local newspaper group which sponsored it, and the inaugural winners were Preston Makedonia who defeated Mooroolbark United 1-0 in the Final with a goal from Vlade Kotevski.

June 1975 saw controversy flare up following a column by Prahran Slavia defender Frank Campbell. It had a subheading of "WILL THE WOGS COME BACK?" in relation to fans returning now Juventus had found form. This, of course sparked some outrage, with Vito Cilauro leading the charge. Cilauro was on the Juventus committee and would go on to hold several roles within the VSF. Here editor Jack Pacholli argues his case:

A few weeks later Pacholli followed that up with an editorial headed FOREIGN NAMES MUST BE DROPPED. The support he had can be gauged by the death of the paper within a couple of months, and the way in which the more inclusive Soccer Action would flourish in the following years.