Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

Posts Tagged ‘Dick Reynolds

The Opposition – Essendon

leave a comment »

Essendon finished 4th in 1953, losing their semi-final to Footscray by 8 points.The Bombers had many champions in their side, the two most known being Bill Hutchinson and John Coleman. They won the VFL Premiership in 1950 and were runner-up to Geelong in 1951.

Essendon were coached by the legendary Dick Reynolds. He debuted in 1933 and did not retire until the 1951 Grand Final after 320 games. King Richard captained the club between 1939 and 1950 and coached the team between 1940 and 1960. He won their best & fairest award seven times and the Brownlow Medal three times and was brave and brilliant, with tremendous ball skills. He captained/coached the Bombers to 4 premierships and is ranked as the greatest player to pull on the black and red. Off the field, he was a shy and private man, noted for his humility about his footballing achievements.

Bill Hutchison

Bill Hutchison captained Essendon in 1953. He also won the Brownlow Medal and Creighton Medal as Essendon’s best & fairest. His coach Dick Reynolds said that Hutchinson was the best player he ever saw play, while many other observers believe he was one of the greatest rovers to play the game. In 2002 he was voted the 4th greatest Essendon player behind Reynolds, Coleman and James Hird. Hutchison won back to back Brownlow Medals in 1952 & 53, was runner-up in 1955 and third in 1948 and 51. He won the Bombers best & fairest 7 times.He was a tireless player with dazzling pace and a fine stab kick. He was an accurate shot for goal. He played in 10 grand finals. He captained Victoria in 1953 and 1956. He was a fair player who was deadly accurate around goals, Hutchison had great anticipation and tremendous pace.

John Coleman
John Coleman

Many people judge John Coleman as the greatest full-forward of all-time. In just 98 games he kicked 537 goals, averaging over 5 goals a game. In 1953 he kicked 97 goals but started the season brilliantly, scoring 31 goals in the first 3 games of the season. His best haul of the year was 11 in round 2 against South Melbourne, a game that the Bombers lost. He is considered the 2nd greatest player to play at Windy Hill. Injury forced him to retire in 1954. He was a freakish high mark and excellent ground player. He was a deadly accurate shot for goal. He was best & fairest in 1949 and topped the VFL goal kicking in 1949, 50, 52 and 53. He went on to coach Essendon and guided them to the 1962 & 65 premierships.

Norm McDonald

Norm McDonald spent 7 years playing on Essendon’s half-back flank and was the first indigenous player to make it big in the VFL. He was an excellent mark and kick and was known as a big occasion player. He won the 1951 Creighton Medal as Essendon’s best player and was also brilliant in the 1949 & 50 premiership teams. He was also the Bombers’ best player during their 1948 finals series and judged by many as best afield in the 1950 Grand Final. Ben Kerville wrote in the Sporting Globe that…

“…McDonald……is league football’s best half back flanker; a veritable Mandrake at the business of befuddling and bewitching rival half forwards.  Football becomes ballet when interpreted by this fleet-footed will-o’-the-wisp.  There’s the rhythm and grace of the ballerina in his weaving evasive manoeuvres.”

He played 128 games and kicked 3 goals in his distinguished career.

Hugh Mitchell played 224 games between 1953 and 1961 and kicked 301 goals in his career. He was a versatile playing who had few equals as a ruck-rover. Mitchell won Essendon’s
best and fairest award in 1959, a season in which he also finished 3rd in the Brownlow Medal. Mitchell was a prolific kick-winner who headed Essendon’s goal kicking tally three times, he also was chosen to play with Victoria on 6 occasions.

John Gill was an Essendon ruckman between 1951 and 1957 who could dominate with his marking. He was a reasonable kick who finished 3rd in the 1954 Brownlow Medal but won Essendon’s best and fairest.In his 107 games for the Bombers he was known for his fairness. He represented Victoria in 1955 and 1957.

Geoff Leek was one of the VFL’s top ruckmen who played with Essendon between 1951 and 1962. Early in his career he was an atrocious left-footed kick and there were attempts made to change him to a right-footer, which were met with even more disastrous results. Leek worked hard on his game and eventually became a regular player. He was a clever palmer of the ball who was made vice-captain in his final season 1962.

Bob Syme

Jack Clarke played 263 games for the red and black between 1951 and 1967 and was one of the most brilliant footballers to ever pull on an Essendon guernsey. He was named Bomber’s captain in 1958 and remained in that position until 1964, and was captain of the 1962 premiership team. He also coached the team between 1968 and 1970. A superbly balanced and courageous player, he also captained Victoria on 6 occasions and was named in the All-Australian team 3 times.

Jack Jones

Bob Syme was a ruckman with Essendon who played 116 games in two stints from 1944-1945 and 1947-1953. He was a tough and fearless follower with a good leap and plenty of fire. He was one of the Bomber’s best in the 1949 and 1950 premiership sides.

Jack Jones was a fine contributor to the black and red during their glory years of the late 40s. He was fast for a big man who was equally at home in the ruck as he was on a half-forward-flank. He was a fine mark and a long kick and played 133 consecutive games for the Bombers, which is a record for Essendon. He never played in the reserves throughout his 175 game career that began in 1946 and ended in 1954.

Looking back at the 1952 Grand Final & its aftermath

with 2 comments

Sam Wells' preview of the 1952 Grand Final

To really grasp the significance of Collingwood’s 1953 season and their historic, drought breaking Grand Final victory of that year, one has to look back twelve months earlier, when Geelong comfortably defeated the Magpies by 46 points in the 1952 Grand Final. The strength and overall dominance of the Cats’ team of the early 1950s cannot be overemphasised. As they entered the 1952 Grand Final Geelong were not just the reigning premier but were also in the middle of what is still the longest unbeaten streak in VFL/AFL history and had easily defeated Collingwood by 54 points in the Second Semi-Final two weeks prior. The Cats were the undeniable favourites.

Most football observers predicted that the Cats would easily defeat the Magpies in the 1952 decider and whilst the final score of the Grand Final seems to indicate this, what it does not show is that Collingwood did not give up the match without a fight. In the end the courage and determination of the Magpies was simply not enough to even get close to the brilliant Geelong juggernaut, although the Cats clearly did not impress everyone. Writing in the Argus Essendon’s legendary coach Dick Reynolds was clearly underwhelmed by the Geelong effort. He thought that the Cats failed to live up to their stellar reputation and that they failed to turn on the fireworks that everyone had been expecting.(1) Reynolds praised the Magpies whose side was seriously depleted by  injuries, and thought that if they were at full strength they would probably be more than a match for the mighty Geelong team.(2) Reynolds concluded that their performance in the Grand Final proved that the Geelong team, who were starting to be dubbed the ‘Invincibles’ (3) were far from unbeatable.(4) This would perhaps prove to be prophetic twelve months later.

WEG's take on the '52 Grand Final

The Age ‘s Percy Beams said that although “…it was apparent from the start that the Magpies lacked the team balance and skill of their opponents, their sheer determination and concentration worried Geelong into mediocrity…”(5) and that there was a belief among the other sides “…that many Geelong players could be robbed of their confidence to do their best under pressure.”(6) Again these words would prove to be prophetic in 1953 and one wonders whether the Cats’ became too complacent during this time and started to believe that even if they did not play at their best they could still easily beat their nearest opposition.

Collingwood’s biggest problem on the day of the 1952 Grand Final was their inability to kick goals as they were handicapped by what Beams called an inadequate forward division due mainly to the strength of the Cat’s defenders. (7) Collingwood used Harvey Stevens as a makeshift full-forward and whilst he had several opportunities to goal there were many occasions where he dropped marks inside the goal square, with the Argus reckoning he could have kicked six goals if he had been able to hold onto his marks.(8) By the start of the ’53 season Stevens would no longer be a Magpie, having been let go, but he did end up at Footscray and would win their best and fairest award in 1953 and become a member of their only premiership team in 1954.

Cats' skipper Fred Flanagan is chaired from the ground

Collingwood only had two goal scorers for the day in wingman Thorold Merrett and forward pocket Jack Parker, whilst Geelong’s George Goninon kicked five and Neil Trezise kicked four. Things would again be very different in a years time, as prior to the ’53 Grand Final Geelong would drop Goninon for an off-field indiscretion, a move that many Cats’ fans and Goninon believe cost them the 1953 premiership.

Collingwood simply ran out of legs at the end of the match, although Bob Rose always battled tirelessly. (9) Collingwood’s skipper Lou Richards also ended up injured in the trainers hands with an injured head and bleeding arm (10). Geelong were simply the quicker team and player with much greater teamwork than the Magpies (11), although Collingwood’s bustling had the Cats worried on occasions. (12) The Magpies also suffered from great inaccuracy in front of goal kicking seven behinds in the final quarter, showing their generally haphazard approach to goal. (13)

Scores

Team

1st Quarter

2nd Quarter

3rd Quarter

4th Quarter

Geelong

4.2.26

5.3.33

11.6.72

13.8.86

Collingwood

1.1.7

3.3.21

5.3.33

5.10.40

Attendance – 82,890

 

Goalkickers

Geelong – Goninon 6, Trezise 4, Davis 1, Flanagan 1, McMaster 1, Worner 1

Collingwood – Parker 3, Merrett 2

Best

Geelong – Williams, Trezise, Morrison, Goninon, Davis, B. Smith, Flanagan

Collingwood – B. Rose, Merrett, Dunstan, W. Twomey, Parker, M. Twomey, Mann

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

WEG shows the extent of Collingwood's injuries prior to the '52 Grand Final

AFTERMATH

Was the reason Geelong lost the 1953 Grand Final because they became too arrogant? Did they believe that they were so far ahead of their nearest rivals that they could beat anyone even when they were not playing to the best of their considerable ability? There is one story that I think sums up the arrogance of the Geelong team of the early 1950s which I thought was apocryphal when I first heard it but as all the major Melbourne newspapers reported it I guess that it is in fact true. According to the Sun the evening after the ’52 Grand Final the president of Geelong, Cr. J. Jennings, accompanied by players and officials, tried to bury a dead (or as the Age put it, stuffed) magpie, in front of the celebratory crowd at Kardinia Park. (14) The players carried the magpie in a coffin but the ceremony had to be cut short as the crowd surged forward and women and children were in danger of being trampled. (15) Nowadays football teams control to an extent what they say and do off the field in relations to other teams so as not to give the opposition ammunition to use in future matches, but this did not seem to worry the Cats in 1952. I could not imagine what they would have done if they had beaten Richmond or Fitzroy in the Grand Final. Also could it have been this arrogance as well as morality that led them to drop their leading goal kicker twelve months later? Did Geelong really think they could beat Collingwood without one of the best players in the side? I guess that we will never know.

As for Collingwood they put up a gallant effort but just were not good enough on the day. They did have a lot of injuries during the 1952 season and their stocks were depleted going into the 1952 decider, missing Peter Lucas and Pat Twomey, but they battled hard and exposed a few chinks in the Cats’ armour.  Nobody expected Collingwood to win going into the big match with even two of the Magpie’s former heroes in Dan Minogue and Harold Rumney tipping against their old club. (16) Rarely do players ever make their AFL/VFL debuts in a Grand Final but 22-year-old Magpie Keith Batchelor did in 1952, named as full-back on Geelong’s champion forward George Goninon. The game looked lost before the teams took the field. Surely things would go better for the Magpies in 1953?

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Footnotes

  1. Reynolds, R & Dunn, J – The Argus newspaper, Monday September 29, 1952, page 9
  2. Reynolds, R & Dunn, J – The Argus newspaper, Monday September 29, 1952, page 9
  3. Ryan. P – The Unbeatables – from We Are Geelong, The Story of the Geelong Football Club – John Murray – The Slattery Media Group, page 74
  4. Reynolds, R & Dunn, J – The Argus newspaper, Monday September 29, 1952, page 9
  5. Beams, P – The Age – Monday September 29, 1952, page 14
  6. Beams, P – The Age – Monday September 29, 1952, page 14
  7. Beams, P – The Age – Monday September 29, 1952, page 14
  8. Dunn, J & Johnson, I – The Argus – Monday September 29, 1952, page 10
  9. Brown, A – The Herald – Saturday September 27, 1952, page 19
  10. Brown, A – The Herald – Saturday September 27, 1952, page 19
  11. Brown, A – The Herald – Saturday September 27, 1952, page 19
  12. Brown, A – The Herald – Saturday September 27, 1952, page 19
  13. Brown, A – The Herald – Saturday September 27, 1952, page 19
  14. The Sun – Monday September 29, 1952 – page 1
  15. The Sun – Monday September 29, 1952 – page 1
  16. The Sun – Saturday September 27, 1952

Introduction

with one comment

Collingwood Football Club logo

Image via Wikipedia

1953 was such an incredibly long time ago. This may seem like quite an obvious and redundant statement but one that I think is warranted to show just how much heartbreak we poor Collingwood supporters have gone through in the intervening 57 years. Since that drought-breaking 12th Magpie premiership Collingwood have won just a further three flags, whilst also enduring 12 bitter Grand Final loses and 2 draws, proving that the premiership is not such a cakewalk for the black and white army. However back in ’53 no Collingwood fan would ever have imagined that another premiership drought, almost twice as long as the 17 years between the 1936 and 1953 flags, was just around the corner, or that we would soon become the butt of football humour thanks to a word coined by our captain of that 1953 premiership season,  Lou Richards, who in 1970 invented the term ‘Collywobbles’. (Thanks Lou!)

Even for Lou’s team in 1953 the premiership was not that easy. The Magpies of 1953 had not won a premiership since 1936 and had endured some extremely bleak times in the 1940s. Since 1939 the Magpies had played in just one Grand Final, 1952, which they lost by 46 points to a rampant Geelong team. In the intervening 12 years they also played in two heartbreaking preliminary finals losses, succumbing to eventual premiers Carlton in 1945 by 10 points after leading all day, whilst in 1951 they were defeated by Essendon by 2 points after the Bombers’ Jack Jones kicked what would be the winning goal with just a couple of minutes to go. In 1948 they also lost another prelim’, this time to eventual premier Melbourne by a margin of 65 points, whilst in 1949 there was a first semi-final defeat by eventual premiers Essendon to the tune of  84 points. This is the full extent of Collingwood’s success from 1940 leading up to that 1953 victory.

Geelong was the form side of the early 50s, boasting one of the most impressive records from 1951-1953 in all of AFL/VFL history. In 1953 they went on to achieve the longest unbeaten run of all time. Essendon too were a great side boasting the greatest of all full-forwards in John Coleman and coached by ‘King Richard’ Dick Reynolds, whilst a young Footscray team would go on to win the Bulldogs’ only flag twelve months later. In 1953 Melbourne finished 11th on the VFL ladder, in front of only Hawthorn, but the Demons would go on to be the dominant side of the decade with many of their all time greats such as Ron Barassi making their debuts in ’53.

In 1953 there was also a special ANZAC exhibition match between Collingwood and Fitzroy, played under lights at the Melbourne Showgrounds and the mid-season interstate carnival where the VFL and VFA took on the other Australian football leagues in Adelaide in late June, which don’t usually get talked about.

1953 was significant in other ways too, which I guess helps to put into context just how long ago it was. It was the year in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died, as well as the year in which Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne of England. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, Ian Fleming published the first James Bond novel Casino Royale, while Hugh Hefner also published the first edition of Playboy magazine.

One of the things that I have found frustrating is the lack of information on Collingwood’s 1953 Grand Final victory. Unlike other Collingwood premiership teams I believe that its’ success has been somewhat underplayed or even overlooked. Other premiership teams such as those in 1958 and 1990 seem to get a lot more credit than the team from 1953 does. Even in The Official Collingwood Illustrated Encyclopaedia by Michael Roberts and Glenn McFarlane the 1953 premiership only warrants a few paragraphs. I guess that this could be because of the fact that television did not come into Australia until 1956, although this does not explain the plethora of information on Collingwood’s ‘Machine Team’ of the 1920s and 30s. Hopefully this blog can play a small part in making this information a little more accessible and give the team the acknowledgement that they deserve. Over the next year I hope to provide an insight into what I believe is an underappreciated Magpie premiership team.