Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Thompson

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.

The Opposition – Footscray

leave a comment »

Footscray in 1953 were on the cusp of premiership success. This was the year they won their first ever final, when they defeated Essendon in the semi-final by 8 points. They reached the preliminary final which they lost to Geelong by 26 points. It would be another year before the Bulldogs would finally taste premiership glory by winning their only Grand Final.

Footscray were captained and coached by Charlie Sutton. He debuted with the club in 1942 and played 173 games in a career that lasted 12 years. (He did not play between 1943-1945) He became captain/coach of the Bulldogs in 1951, a year after he won the best & fairest award which would subsequently be named after him. He would remain captain until his retirement as a player in 1955 and stay as coach until he was unceremoniously dumped midway through the 1957 season, when Ted Whitten took over. He is also a member of Footscray’s team of the century. He is a legend of the Footscray Football Club.

Ruckman Harvey Stevens won Footscrays’ best & fairest award in 1953. Two weeks prior to the start of the 1953 season Stevens was dumped by Collingwood and was fortunately picked up by the Bulldogs just prior to round 3. Stevens played VFL footy for 10 years, with 5 seasons at Collingwood where he played 55 games, and 5 at Footscray where he played 72 games. He played in Collingwood’s losing 1952 Grand Final side, where he was tried without success at full-forward, even though he had never played in that position before. Many feel that he was made the scapegoat for that loss and despite performing well in the 1953 preseason he was dumped from the team before the start of the new season. Stevens became a  member of the Bulldogs’ 1954 premiership side and captained Footscray in 1957.

The most famous Bulldog of all was a member of the 1953 side. 1953 was the 3rd VFL season for the legendary Ted Whitten. ‘E.J’ had played just 29 games prior to 1953. To many people he was the embodiment of everything Footscray, he captained the club from 1957 until his retirement as a player in 1970. Teddy also coached the club from July 1957 until 1966, when his predecessor Charlie Sutton took over the helm, and again from 1969 until 1972, when Collingwood’s greatest ever player Bob Rose took over the coaching role. Whitten won the Bulldogs’ best and fairest in 1954, 57, 58, 59 and 61 and was their leading goal kicker in 1961, 62, 64 and 68. He is the captain of both the Western Bulldogs‘ team of the century and AFL team of the century. Like Sutton he is a legend of the Western Bulldogs Football Club.

In 1953 the leading goal kicker for Footscray was Jack Collins who kicked 50 goals for the season. Collins won the best & fairest award for the Bulldogs in 1951 and 52. His 1953 season is perhaps remembered mostly for the controversy that occurred in the final round of the home & away season when he and Collingwood’s Frank Tuck clashed which caused both players to be suspended for the finals series. Collins played 154 games for Footscray over 9 seasons and kicked 385 career goals.

Peter Box was another of Footscray’s top players of the 1950s. He debuted in 1951 but missed the entire 1952 season through injury. In 1956 he won the Brownlow Medal after winning Footscray’s best & fairest in 1955. Don Ross the 1956 Footscray best & fairest was playing his second season in 1953.

The Footscray backline of 1953 also featured some of their all-time great players including Wally Donald and Herb Henderson. The Bulldogs conceded only 959 points for the season, the lowest in the VFL history to that date.

Round 3 – Collingwood Vs Geelong

with one comment

May 9, 1953

Round 3 Action

Round 3 was the match that everyone wanted to see, the Grand Final rematch between Collingwood and Geelong at the Magpies‘ home ground Victoria Park. Collingwood however was reeling from injuries to several key players. Full-forward Bill Twomey who kicked nine goals in round 1 and wingman Des Healey both were injured in the Exhibition Match at the Showgrounds two weeks earlier, while Lou Richards, Mick Twomey, Peter Lucas and ‘Moccha’ Dunstan all suffered injuries in round 2 against North Melbourne. (1) George Hams and Dave Little were both dropped. (2) First gamers Tom Tarrant, Kevin Flint, Kevin Clarke and Neville Waller were selected, with Tarrant given the job of trying to stop Trezise and Pianto when they rested in the Cats’ forward pocket (3), whilst Waller was given the Herculean task of trying to curb Geelong skipper and centre-half-forward Fred Flanagan. (4)

Geelong fans celebrate at Victoria Park

Before the match Percy Beames said that the odds were stacked so high against Collingwood that if they won the match it would be a victory to overshadow all of the Magpies greatest triumphs (5), while H.A de Lacy from the Sporting Globe predicted that the Cats would simply ‘murder’ the Magpies. (6)

Unfortunately for the Magpies the Cats notched up yet another victory at their expense, this time by a margin of 25 points. Surprisinglyit was  a spirited Collingwood who were just one point down at three-quarter time, after leading by as much as 28 points at half-time, before the under-strength and exhausted Magpies finally bowed to Geelong’s superior stamina. (7)

Geelong, a team that prior to the game Essendon coach Dick Reynolds said played class football all the time (8), had their system torn to tatters by Collingwood’s vigor and tenacity. (9) The Magpies clearly resolved to make the Cats fight for every kick. (10) Dick Reynolds was so impressed by Collingwood’s effort that he declared that a full-strength Magpie side could beat Geelong (11)

Neil Mann

Stand-in skipper Neil Mann provided the inspiration for the Magpies in the ruck (12) and with his high marking. (13) Bob Rose was never beaten whether he was roving to Mann or playing on the wing (14), while Thorold Merrett was another dangerous player. (15) Des Healey outclassed the Geelong centreline with his sheer artistry (16) and magnificent ball handling (17), while Jack Parker was solid (18) and John Hickey showed great heart and worked tirelessly. (19) Ron Richards also fought gallantly. (20)

More action at Victoria Park

Geelong got back into the game in the second half after coach Reg Hickey made the tactical change of shifting Bob Davis into the centre, which dragged his opponent Frank Tuck away from defence. (21) Noel Raysun at centre-half-forward was rarely beaten and was responsible for several Geelong goals. (22) Bernie Smith was another stumbling block for the Magpies with his full-blooded dashes that got the Cats out of trouble time and time again. (23) George Goninon eclipsed Jack Hamilton, kicking four goals, resulting in Hamilton being shifted to the ruck in the last quarter. (24) Both Peter Pianto and Neil Trezise had quiet first halves but were effective in Geelong’s comeback. (25) In the end the Magpies’ courage was not sufficient against Geelong’s great strength. (26)

Scores

Team

1st Quarter

2nd Quarter

3rd Quarter

Final Score

Geelong

2.1.13 4.4.28 9.9.63 14.14.98

Collingwood

3.5.23 8.8.56 8.14.62 9.19.73

Best

Geelong – Smith, Flanagan, Sharpe, Swarbrick, Raysun, Morrison, McMaster

Collingwood -Mann, Healey, B. Rose, Hickey, Merrett, Tuck, R. Richards

Goals

Geelong – Goninon 4, Flanagan 3, Trezise 2, Swarbrick 2, Raysun, Pianto, Sharpe

Collingwood – B. Rose 3, Healey 2, Mann, Merrett, Tuck

In other news

Footscray and Essendon both had great victories, with the Bombers John Coleman again kicking 10 goals. North Melbourne retained second spot on the ladder with a lucky 1 point victory over bottom of the table Melbourne, while Fitzroy and Carlton both enjoyed wins.

The Sporting Globe’s Alan Fitcher must have been watching a different game to the one described by the other scribes of the day. He claimed that Geelong had the game well and truly wrapped up at three quarter time despite only being a point up. (27) The Sporting Globe also claimed that the Magpies had been ‘thrashed’. (28)

Ladder after round 3

Team Win Draw Lose Premiership Points
Geelong 3 0 0 12
North Melbourne 3 0 0 12
Essendon 2 0 1 8
Footscray 2 0 1 8
Carlton 2 0 1 8
Fitzroy 2 0 1 8
Richmond 

 

1 0 2 4
Collingwood 1 0 2 4
South Melbourne 1 0 2 4
St Kilda 

 

1 0 2 4
Melbourne 0 0 3 0
Hawthorn 0 0 3 0

.

Leading Goalkickers

Player Team Goals in Round Goals For Season
J. Coleman Essendon 10 31
N. Trezise Geelong 2 14
J. Hickey Fitzroy 5 14
A. Aylett North Melbourne 3 11
G. Goninon Geelong 4 11
G. Marchesi North Melbourne 4 10
A. Walsh Carlton 6 10
P. Bennett St Kilda 4 9
B. Twomey Collingwood 0 9

__________________________________________________________________

Footnotes

  1. Buggy. H – The Argus – Friday May 8 1953 – page 8
  2. Beames. P – The Age – Friday May 8, 1953 – page 9
  3. Buggy. H – The Argus – Friday May 8 1953 – page 8
  4. Buggy. H – The Argus – Friday May 8 1953 – page 8
  5. Beames. P – The Age – Saturday May 9, 1953 – page 7
  6. de Lacy. H. A. – The Sporting Globe – Wednesday May 6 – page 2
  7. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  8. Reynolds. D & Buggy. H – The Argus, Saturday May 9, 1953 – page 13
  9. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  10. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  11. Reynolds. D & Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 10
  12. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  13. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  14. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  15. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  16. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  17. The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  18. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  19. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  20. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  21. Buggy. H – The Argus, Monday May 11, 1953 – page 11
  22. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  23. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  24. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  25. Beames. P – The Age – Monday May 11, 1953 – page 7
  26. Fitcher. A – The Sporting Globe – Saturday May 9, 1953 – page 11
  27. Fitcher. A – The Sporting Globe – Wednesday May 13, 1953 – page 2
  28. The Sporting Globe – Saturday May 9, 1953 – page 11

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