Like many others out there we’re sure, over the last week your two historians from the centre square have been on road trips around Victoria and NSW. And of course, the humble road trip is both a much-loved (or much-hated, depending on the make-up of the car’s passengers!) holiday pursuit, as well as a requirement of footy playing.
If we cast our minds back to 1936, we can remember that it was reported by The Mercury on August 20 that a trip to Queenstown was “to proceed despite road blockage.” What was the blockage? Well, they reported that “When news of the landslide on the Mt Arrowsmith Pass section of the West Coast Rd was made known yesterday, the Chairman (Mr. A. C. Parsons) and the secretary (Mr. J. F. Mitty) of the Huon Football Association decided to postpone the proposed trip to Queenstown on Saturday, and it was decided to resume roster matches in the Huon.” But in the end the road was “restored” and “it was unanimously agreed that the trip should be proceeded with.” A match “between the Huon second senior eighteen and the Esperance Association at Dover” was played, as was “the game at Franklin, between Franklin and Old Virgillians” (p. 7).
People venturing to see football matches have also faced difficulty it seems. Later that year, on October 3 1936, it was reported in The Mail that “two Port Elliot boys, Ken Clarke and Bob Boston, who set out to ride bicycles to Adelaide to see the football final, had an unfortunate trip. Leaving early, they reached Willunga Hill as day was breaking.” So far, so good. But then trouble struck: “Going fast down the hill, Clarke hit a stick, which kicked up into his front wheel and threw him against the bank of the side of the road. He grazed his leg and had the pedal knocked off his machine. Repairing the damage in Willunga,” the article continues to tell us, “the boys set off again. When they were entering Reynelle, a parcel which Boston was carrying slipped into the front wheel and threw him to the road. His head was severely cut, and his right arm grazed.” Two stitches were needed. Unsurprisingly, at this point “the lads returned to their homes on a service car, giving up all idea of seeing the football” (p. 14).
So that’s what was happening in Tasmania and South Australia, but what about Victoria? In the Football Record for Round 17 of 1936, the 40th season of the Victorian Football League, Chatterer informed their readers that “with only two more matches to complete the home and home series” – which we assume to be a typo! – “interest is more than ever intensified. Even at this stage only two clubs – Collingwood and South Melbourne – can be regarded as certain to compete in the final games” (p. 3). This would, Chatterer asserted, ensure that “these last two rounds are going to be packed so full of thrills and surprises that we are all going to vote this one of the most sensational and entertaining seasons ever staged” (p. 9).
In the end, as we know, in front of 74,091 spectators, for the second year in a row Collingwood would go on to defeat South Melbourne in the Grand Final. On this occasion it was by 11 points, 11.23 (89) to 10.18 (78). That’s the kind of kicking accuracy that is flourishing in our present season!
In other parts of the Record it was reported that “the ‘Record’ [score]boards, which are one of the many services rendered to the football public by the proprietors, have provided some interesting scenes at the various grounds this year. At the M.C.G. last week,” apparently, “there was great excitement at the posting of scores each quarter, especially when it was clear that Footscray and Hawthorn were forcing Carlton and Richmond to a close fight. At three-quarter time, when it was seen that the Tricolours [Footscray] were 29 points and Hawthorn 15 points to the good, the excitement reached fever heat. At the final bell the big majority of onlookers remained seated in the stands, waiting for the final figures, and when the news of Richmond’s defeat was posted – was there a cheer from the Melbourne stand? You’re asking me! And a corresponding sigh of disappointment at Footscray’s gallant failure” (p.12). These “Football Record” score boards were spruiked throughout the Record – they were obviously pleased with their sponsorship deal!
And across the season, it was noted, “It has been the misfortune of the football public that this season, which has been more interesting than for some years, should have encountered so many Saturdays on which cold winds and threatening skies have made conditions most unpleasant for spectators.” But spectators were in luck, for there had of late been “a succession of fine days [which would] now enable record crowds to watch the concluding stages of this wonderful season” (p.20).
While the weather isn’t looking too warm for matches in Melbourne this week, at least there is projected to be some sun. And with the round kicking off in Adelaide tonight, it should be cloudy with only a slight chance of rain. Fingers crossed for good spectating weather for all!