Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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FOOTBALL (Centenary History)

FOOTBALL (Centenary History)

See Also FOOTBALL (Sport)

The following text is an excerpt from the Centenary History of the Geelong College published in 1961:

Chapter twelve

'FROM THE FOUNDATION of the College in 1861 there was a first "Twenty", but for a while the absence of opponents set limits to its ambitions. As a result the boarders, when numerically strong enough, issued challenges to the day-boys, and matches between the two sections became an institution. Geelong Grammar School, which had re-opened in 1863 after its temporary failure, soon provided new opportunities for trials of strength.

Australian Football in the early years possessed several features which made it very different from the game played today. It was not till 1897 that the number of players was reduced from 20 to 18, the ten-yard minimum for a mark was introduced, and points were given for behinds, which before that were merely an indication of erratic kicking. (Under the old system a draw was a frequent result; it is on record that a team once won a match by 1.0 to 20 behinds.)

In the matter of "togs", College players at first consulted only their individual tastes, and often presented a most motley appearance. Photographs reveal teams of most unbusinesslike aspect in long white trousers, blue and white guernsies and caps. (Some players have well-developed moustaches and incipient beards.) But the game then was no less strenuous than is required nowadays; in fact, play lasted for two hours-four quarters of half an hour each, with no more time between them than was actually needed to change ends. However, rules in general were not then given the meticulous attention which they receive today.

The College's home matches were played at first on a piece of open ground, part of a large common in South Geelong. After 1870, however, they took place on the old Argyle ground, a paddock at the corner of Aberdeen and Pakington Streets, near the position of the Argyle Hotel in Aberdeen Street. This was the College football ground until 1885.

It is recorded that on one occasion the owner took offence at something that had occurred, and when the boys reached the ground they were horrified to find that it had been hurriedly ploughed up to prevent their using it. From 1885 important matches were played on the Corio Oval.

A vivid impression of school football almost a century ago is given in the following report, by "The Geelong Advertiser", of a match played on August 29, 1868:

The football match between the Geelong and Melbourne Scotch Colleges was played on the Zoological Grounds near the Yarra, on Saturday afternoon. it ended in a draw—1 goal each.

The Geelong team had to wait for some time outside Scotch College while their opponents were taking their lunch, and, on reaching the ground, a mile distant, it was found that Scotch had left the football behind. After some delay it was brought, but it turned out to be in such poor state that a few kicks put it completely "hors de combat".

After about an hour, another ball was brought, with which, after one hour of play, a goal was kicked by the Melbourne team. The equalising goal was kicked by Anderson of Geelong College a few minutes later, and while the decisive goal was being sought by either team, the Scotch players cried "time" and refused to continue to play despite the College team's protests.

Stopping the game when there was another hour of daylight can only be accounted for by the Scotch team being afraid of being beaten by a team who had the best of the game throughout. The latter laboured under the disadvantage of having had nothing to eat from the time they left Geelong in the morning till six in the evening, when their opponents sumptuously regaled them with bread and butter! So much for Melbourne hospitality and politeness!!

(It must be added that diplomatic relations were happily restored a few days later.)

* * * *

The first match between the two Geelong schools, of which history records any result, also was played in 1868. The College won, but there are no details. Very soon these matches developed the interest for the local population which endures to this day. From about 1876 two or three Were played each year, and the keenest rivalry was guaranteed for years to come, when, in 1877-8, there occurred a remarkable series of four drawn games. The feeling of the townspeople became so thoroughly aroused that it was felt the question of supremacy must be decided. The authorities were accordingly asked to arrange an additional match in 1878 and, as a special favour, permission was granted to play on the Corio ground. The match attracted an enormous crowd, but, at the end of a stern yet brilliant struggle, another draw was the result, neither side scoring a goal.

There are several gaps in the continuity of the annual matches with the Geelong Grammar School. These mark periods during which disagreements existed, generally through doubt being cast, rightly or wrongly, on the eligibility of players to be regarded as schoolboys. With Scotch no disputes seem to have arisen, although they were having their own troubles with other Melbourne schools. In those days, regulations were conspicuous by their absence; "boys" were often at school until well into their twenties; sometimes senior pupils were taking subjects for University degrees.

Gradually, however, the matter was being taken more seriously. Sport, which had probably been regarded as nothing more than a safety valve, came eventually to be an important part of a two-sided education. Football was first mentioned in a College report in 1877, and in the following year came the proud boast that "the performances of the Geelong College First Twenty stamp them as one of the best school teams ever seen in the colony". This claim was justified by almost unbroken successes in the following years against teams from a great variety of schools.

Being a private school, the Geelong College could play matches only by arrangement. Scotch, Xavier and Hawthom Grammar School were frequent opponents. A glance through the records reveals that College teams were quite superior to those of Scotch College till about 1890; from then on, till the College became a Public School in 1908, the results were much more even. The College was highly regarded even in senior sport, and usually some of the good players found a place in the Geelong First Twenty.

In 1888 there began an age of football that must stir the heart of every College enthusiast. Geelong Grammar had defeated all Melbourne Public Schools, and, when the College was victorious against Scotch (once) and the Grammar Champions (twice), one newspaper commented:—"These performances, of the Geelong College team give them the honour of first position amongst our school football champions for the year".

But Collegians of the Morrison era always regarded the 1889 team as "the best ever". It played five matches, defeating Scotch College 5-2, a combined team from Camberwell Grammar School and Toorak College 15-1, and Xavier 9-1. Geelong Grammar School-who had again defeated all Melbourne Schools, except Scotch, with whom they played a draw—were twice soundly defeated, 6-3 and 11-1. This great College side included seven men who were playing with Geelong: R. E. Reid (Captain of the College team), A. D. Kearney (vice-captain), M. J. Kearney, M. Armstrong, V. O'Farrell, H. G. Waugh and A. B. ("Shacko") Timms. The teams of 1890 and 1891 were little, if anything, below this standard.

The many squabbles as to the status of schoolboys ended in the drawing up of the Public Schools' athletic regulations, which were adopted in 1891, the Geelong College, a private school, being excluded from the programme so arranged. A smart reply was forthcoming by the formation in 1892 of the Victorian Schools' Association, which included all the leading private schools of the State.
From then on till 1907, College football teams dominated their competition with a monotonous succession of easy victories. In no fewer than thirteen of these sixteen years, College teams were champions or premiers. Among the greatest players were the three McFarlands, E. G. Greeves (i), G. B. Kearney, A. H. Campbell and T. Kerr. In 1905 T. E. Doughton scored a total of 65 goals, and in 1906 A. T. Tait kicked 16 goals in one match.

Clearly the College was above the class of the rest of the V.S.A. In the same years it continued regular games against Geelong Grammar School and Scotch, with much more even results, an indication of what could be expected when it joined the Associated Public Schools.

* * * *

In 1908, the College's first year in the new company, its team was third among those of the six schools, with wins against Melbourne Grammar School, Geelong Grammar School and Xavier - a beginning which seemed highly satisfactory. In 1909, it was a more modest fourth.

Coaching was in the hands of "Teddy" Rankin, an experienced league player, but despite his efforts and those of the organizing masters, Messrs. A. H. Harry, G. A. Cameron and A. R. Orton, successively, football suffered from the same depression which afflicted the rest of the school in the next ten years.

A further hazard appeared in 1914, one of the better years in the lean period, when the outbreak of war suddenly removed several players a few hours before the Wesley match, leaving the team hopelessly weak. A fortnight later, on the day of the Geelong Grammar match, players of both schools were just as unexpectedly released from the Queenscliff camp and brought to Geelong by car. Cars and roads being what they then were, this proved a major problem in logistics; play was held up till half-past three, but some players still arrived late. In the end the College won easily.

In the four years 1917-1920 the only win recorded in the twenty matches played was against Geelong Grammar School in 1918; this was in fact the only sports victory of any kind in three years. The College was at its lowest ebb. Football training as known today did not exist, the principal feature then being continual practice games among the "first thirty-six".

"Teddy" Rankin's long period of coaching ended in 1921 when he retired in favour of a visiting coach, Mr. Dolphin, who was in charge for the next two years. The teams were now scoring one win each year, but also gradually commanding more respect. In 1923 came a startling victory over Wesley, who had been unbeaten for two seasons.

In 1924 there appeared on the scene a young man, Mr. V. H. Profitt, who was to be the dominant force in College sport for more than a quarter of a century. He was a visitor for that first year, and his team scored the College's first win over Scotch since joining the Public Schools in 1908. In 1925 Mr. Profitt joined the staff, and further success came quickly, for College carried off its first Public School sporting premiership, all the more exciting on account of its dramatic last-minute realization. The team, led by D. M. McKenzie (captain) and W. L. Ingpen (vice-captain) had won all of its matches except that against Scotch, and everybody was feeling pleased with the most successful season in eighteen years, when news came that Wesley, who had not so far won a match, had defeated Scotch, leaving the Geelong College as premiers. An Old Collegian, who was then on the resident staff of Scotch College, tells of the gloom in the boardinghouse there at six o'clock, and the joy which supervened at seven when the Geelong result was picked up on a crystal receiver.

The most successful team of all was that of 1927, with A. H. McGregor as captain and A. E. Bumpstead vice-captain, which was undefeated for the season and so won the coveted championship. The record of this side has not been equalled since. In 1928, 1929, and 1931, College was second or shared second place. In 1932, a strong team led by A. L. Hassett and P. R. Barnet shared the premiership with three other schools.

The period 1925-32, when twenty-eight wins were scored in the eight seasons, was the brightest in the story of College football since 1908. Though it was impossible to maintain such a level of performance in after years, the College still remained a force to reckon with. In 1937, when the competition was suspended towards the end of the season because of a serious outbreak of poliomyelitis, the team appeared certain to gain first or second place. In 1945 another strong side finished second.

After Mr. Profitt's retirement from coaching in 1950, the position was filled by Mr. J. R. Hunter (1951-1957) and Mr. F. R. Quick (1958- ). The 1954 team scored two wins and lost the other three games by an aggregate of only eight points. The 1959 team won its section in the re-organized competition and lost the play-off against Wesley in a fast, exciting match.

* * * *

When the College joined the Associated Public Schools in 1908 and neutral grounds were obligatory, the Corio oval was used for all matches in Geelong. Around 1930 the Geelong West oval was regarded as the "home" ground, and at times Kardinia Park was used. For many years now the policy has been to play on school grounds, which also makes it possible to have most games on Saturdays.

In assessing the value of a century's endeavour, it must not be overlooked that, for every boy who reached the first team or became a champion, there were many who merely enjoyed the game and went on doing so in their own club for a few years after leaving school. For those whose ability did not make them contenders for inclusion on the senior training list, the Cow Paddock was for many years the only football field. Neither smooth nor level, it served its purpose in a rough way. In 1936 the completion of a second oval—now known as the Mackie Oval—raised the standard of junior football. At times, in very wet seasons, it was necessary to go to other grounds, particularly Queen's Park. Practices more recently were held at the "new site", now occupied by the Preparatory School. For many years, however, teams at every level have had one of the school ovals for their inter-school matches.

To encourage all teams, Old Collegians in 1952 presented a trophy named in honour of Mr. V. H. Profitt, to be held for the year by the team, of any grade, which attains the highest percentage in its inter-school scores. This competition has stimulated boys to battle it out to the finish, whether winning or losing.

The game has been advanced in other ways by the many Old Collegians, friends and masters—besides the recognized senior coaches and football masters—who have contributed to the organization of teams, coaching, umpiring and transport. Without such help the provision of sport for hundreds of boys each week would not have been possible.

During the past eighty years, men who learned their football at the College have played with distinction in various teams of the Victorian Football League. Of the many who played for Geelong in the early days, a few already have been mentioned. It is still exceptional for the Geelong side not to include one or more former Collegians. Although several have been outstanding members of the team, the greatest honour belongs to E. G. ("Cargi") Greeves, who in 1925 was awarded the first Brownlow Medal as best and fairest player in the V.F.L.'

* * * *

Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith, Chapter 12, pp 92-98.
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