The Melbourne Rules : An Esoteric History compiled by Brian Membrey


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1912 - The Association - Take Three!

Prior to the 2017 season, the A.F.L. announced the end of the possibility of a draw and subsequent replay of the Grand Final by declaring extra time would be played to achieve a result .

Extra time in lead-up finals matches had been a fact of life for over a decade, the final step of 2017 coming over concerns that requiring an interstate club to travel to Melbourne in consecutive weeks and go through the “hoop-la” associated with the Grand Final lead-up was an unfair burden.

We greatly doubt that those making the decision were aware of the history behind the 1912 Victorian Football Association finals, but certainly if they had been, it would have alleviated any doubts in their minds.

The finals were played at North, the participants Footscray, Essendon (Association), North Melbourne and Brunswick  (the Essendon Association club was based at the Essendon ground and was the local club - the League club had played at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground just west of the M.C.G. since the early 1880’ s after a dispute with the cricket club over admission charges and typically drew most of their players from public schools and the Civil Service).

The V.F.A. always ended their season a couple of weeks ahead of the League to avoid clashes of finals … aahhh! The best laid plans on mice and men!  

North Melbourne and Brunswick played off in the first semi-final on 25 August, the bell sounding with the scoreboard showing the teams 9.12 (66) apiece, The Age suggested that the draw "had complicated matters”, as it eventuated, perhaps an early candidate for the understatement of the year!

The second semi-final between Essendon and Footscray had already been scheduled for the following Saturday, and the Association set the date for the replay a fortnight after the original draw.

Amazingly, the pair proceeded to draw again on 7 September, again with an identical score 6.12 (48)!  

As well as causing a degree of chaos in fixturing, it was noted that both clubs were feeling the financial strain as receipts from finals matches were pooled and then shared amongst all 12 clubs. Competing teams in the finals received £7/7/- to cover expenses, but it was estimated that it cost the clubs £25 to field a team each week.

One unnamed North official was quoted as saying :

"This is ruining us. We just got out of debt, and now we are getting in arrears again. something will have to be done; I would prefer letting Essendon and Footscray play off and us drop out all together".

Hardly a sentiment that the football side of the club would have agreed with, but North and Brunswick were given a special grant of £20 during the week, and on the following Saturday, North finally broke the impasse 12.11 (83) to 9.14 (68) despite not scoring in the last quarter.

Twin draws (pardon the pun) has never happened at the V.F.L/A.F.L level, but a similar scenario occurred in the Association in 1927, although not with the same remarkable coincidences.

Preston and Brighton played each other in the last round at the Motordrome in Swan Street, the site of the later Olympic Park.. Brighton won that encounter by three goals, and the pair faced off again in the first semi-final which finished in a draw, Preston 7.20 (62) to Brighton’s 8.14 (62).

Again, the V.F.A. scheduled the replay for the week following the second semi-final between the Port Melbourne and the unbeaten Coburg which also finished in a draw , 15.10 apiece.

The dual draws again raised the issue of the financial pressure on the competing clubs, the weekly cost of fielding a team now put at £46.

Preston’s inaccuracy again cost it dearly in the first of the re-matches, Brighton winning 12-13-85 v Preston 9-17-71.  14.13   7.6

A check of the Association ladder at the end of the home-and-away season reveals the V.F.A. Finals system operated differently from the League.

The top four teams in order were Coburg, Brighton. Port Melbourne and Preston.  The first semi-final rather than a knockout between third and fourth was actually second versus fourth; the second semi was first versus third.

Preston were ultimately eliminated, the winners of the two semi-finals playing in the preliminary for the right to play Coburg, whose top position guaranteed them a Grand Final spot even after being defeated in the semi-final. They ultimately beat an injury-riddled Brighton easily to become premiers for the second year in a row, the match played on 15 October, the latest date at the League or Association level

A check on both League and Association end-of-season ladders also reveals a surprise in the way percentages were calculated.

As mentioned, Coburg were undefeated, but the ladder shows them with a percentage of just 52.4%!  

This is because percentages at this time were calculated as the reverse of what we know today, i.e. the ladder expressed ‘points against’ as a percentage as ‘points for’, thus top teams had lower percentages.  Coburg in today’s terms would have finished with a remarkable 190.7%..

The South Australian Football League used the same system up until 1990 when it fell into line with the “Melbourne Rules” after the creation of the Australian Football League in 1990.