Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

Posts Tagged ‘Geelong Football Club

The Opposition – South Melbourne

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Ron Clegg

1953 was an OK year for South Melbourne with the Swans finishing the season in 8th place on the VFL ladder. They would have 9 wins and 9 loses for the season, with their biggest scalp being a 43 point victory over Geelong in round 17 at the Lake Oval. They also defeated Footscray in round 9 at the Western Oval by 29 points and Essendon by 10 points at the Lake Oval in round 2. The only finalist that they did not beat in 1953 was Collingwood who easily defeated South both times that they met.

in 1953 South were coached by Laurie Nash. Nash who was a member of the Swans’ 1933 premiership team and captained the club in 1937, was appointed coach for the 1953 season. Nash also played test cricket matches for Australia in the 1930s. In 1954 he would be replaced by former team-mate and captain Herbie Matthews.

The Swans best player of the early 1950s was Ron ‘Smokey’ Clegg. He was a brilliant key position player at either centre half-forward or centre half-back who won the Brownlow Medal in 1949. He also won South Melbourne’s best and fairest award three times in 1948, 49 & 51. Clegg played 231 games for the Swans between 1945 & 1960 and was considered one of the greatest players to put on a Swans guernsey. He was a superb mark and a driving kick.

In 1953 the Swans’ best and fairest award went to Jim Taylor. Taylor played for South between 1949 and 1954, before going to South Australia to play with Norwood. He returned to the Lake Oval in 1956 and again won the Swans’ best and fairest award. He was also fourth in the Brownlow Medal count of that year. He was a very versatile footballer who play as a dashing ruckman or centre-half-back. He won a second best & fairest award in 1957. He also worked part-time as a male model who helped promote cigarettes.

Stringly built ruckman Ian Gillett was South Melbourne’s leading goalkicker in 1953, scoring 34 goals for the season. He played 135 games for South between 1951 & 58 and won their best and fairest award in 1955. His best haul of goals was 5 in a losing side against Collingwood at the Lake Oval. He was a great protector of South’s rovers and captained the team in 1956.

Fred Goldsmith played his third VFL season in 1953. He only played 8 matches for the 53 season and could not really cement his spot in the team. In 1954 South moved him from the half-forward-flank to full-back which turned his career around. In 1955 he won the Brownlow Medal by 1 vote to Essendon’s Bill Hutchison. He was a spectacular mark and a long drop kick, in 1956 he won the Simpson Medal as Victoria’s best player.

Bill Gunn was a brilliant forward who played 104 games for South Melbourne between 1952 and 1959. He was a fast and clever footballer with good instincts who represented Victoria in 1952, 1954, 1956 and 1959. He was selected to play in the 1953 ANFC carnival in Adelaide but had to withdraw due to work commitments. Gunn was a quick and active centre-half-forward who kicked 101 goals in his career; he captained the Swans in 1955.

Keith Schaefer was a consistent centreman who played 102 games for the Swans between 1947 and 1953. He had a fine turn of speed, was an excellent mark and an accurate stab pass. He won South’s best and fairest award in 1953.

Mick Sibum who kicked 4 goals in the opening round against Collingwood ended up kicking 20 goals for the season, with those 4 goals being his best haul for the year. He played 111 games for South in 6 seasons from 1950, kicking 88 goals throughout his career. He was a dashing rover who was appointed vice captain in 1955.

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Round 1 – Collingwood Vs South Melbourne

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Bill Twomey kicked nine goals against the Swans

April 18, 1953

Collingwood played South Melbourne in the opening round of the 1953 VFL season at Victoria Park, and won convincingly by 41 points, with Bill Twomey kicking 9 of the teams’ 17 goals.

Former Magpie great Harold Rumney summed up the game for the Sun by saying the Magpie’s won through an aggressive ‘battering-ram‘ attack, supported by a tough and resilient defence. (1) He went on to say that Collingwood had splendid teamwork and outstanding defence with the teams’ fleet of rucks and rovers in command throughout the day. (2) Ron Richards caught Rumney’s eye as he singled captain Lou Richards‘ brother out as being particularly impressive with his crumbing of the ball and breaking the packs which kept the South Melbourne forwards starved of opportunities. (3) In the Argus Hugh Buggy said that Collingwood’s smooth, calculated, and relentless football totally bewildered the hapless Swans. (4)

Rumney thought that Collingwood had improved in its’ overall strength since 1952. (5) He was impressed by Bill Twomey’s tenacious and clever ball-handling in front of goal and even apologised for his previous criticism of Twomey’s perceived lack of efficiency. (6) Hugh Buggy called Twomey the ‘dashing D’Artagnan’ of league football, who could enable the Magpies to be a shattering force in 1953. (7) In fact Buggy said that everything that Twomey did was touched by an elegance and artistry that made the game a delight to watch. (8) Buggy was also impressed with Twomey’s ‘panther-like’ leads and classic marking. (9)

Collingwood’s small men were confident and aggressive (10) and baffled the opposition with their uncanny handball which continually disorganised the South defence. (11)

Buggy also praised Collingwood’s tactics, saying they were the masters of cool, high quality, ‘chessboard’ football (12) and played with a common purpose and determination that would have worn any opposition down. (13

) The Magpie ‘machine’ was fully geared up and in devastating form. (14)

 

Teams

1st Quarter

2nd Quarter

3rd Quarter

Final Score

Collingwood

5.5.35

10.8.68

16.14.110

17.16.118

South Melbourne

1.1.7

5.4.34

8.6.54

11.11.77

The Magpies outnumber the Swans here 5-1

Goals

Collingwood – B. Twomey 9, L. Richards 3, R. Richards 2, B. Rose 2, Batchelor

South Melbourne – Sibun 4, McPherson 3, Lane, Gunn, Deagan, Gillett

Best

Collingwood – Hams, Mann, Hamilton, Fincke, Lucas, B Twomey, Tuck, R. Richards, Healey, P Twomey

South Melbourne – Dorgan, Clegg

In Other Magpie News

Collingwood sold 3300 memberships at the game on Saturday and is confident that they will break the 10,000 member mark for the first time in their history. (15)

In Other Games

Geelong defeated Hawthorn by 49 points, Essendon beat Fitzroy by 23 points with Coleman kicking 10 goals. Footscray scraped home over Carlton by just 5 points.

Ladder after round 1

Team

Win

Draw

Lose

Points For

Points Against

Percentage

Premiership Points

Geelong

1

0

0

87

38

228.9

4

North Melbourne

1

0

0 105

57

184.1

4

Collingwood

1

0

0 118

77

153.2

4

Essendon

1

0

0

111

88 126.1

4

Richmond

1

0

0 73 67 108.9 4

Footscray

1

0

0 65

60

108.3 4

Carlton

0

0

1

60

65

92.3 0

Melbourne

0

0

1

67

73

91.7

0

Fitzroy

0

0

1

88

111

79.2

0

South Melbourne

0

0

1

77

118

65.2

0

St Kilda

0

0

1

57

105

54.2

0

Hawthorn

0

0

1

38

87

43.6

0

1953 Leading Goal Kickers

J. Coleman (Essendon) – 10
B. Twomey (Collingwood) – 9
G. Sibun (South Melbourne) – 4
G. Goninon (Geelong) – 4
N. Trezise (Geelong) – 4
A. Aylett (North Melbourne) – 4

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Footnotes

  1. Rumney. H – The Sun, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 28
  2. Rumney. H – The Sun, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 28
  3. Rumney. H – The Sun, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 28
  4. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  5. Rumney, H – The Sun, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 28
  6. Rumney, H – The Sun, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 28
  7. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  8. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  9. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  10. The Age – Monday April 20, 1953 – page 8
  11. The Age – Monday April 20, 1953 – page 8
  12. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  13. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  14. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday April 20, 1953 – page 10
  15. The Sun – Monday April 20, 1953 – page 29

Looking back at the 1952 Grand Final & its aftermath

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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