The Melbourne Rules
Oz Sports History
University Football Club
The foundation stone was laid in July 1854, and the first four professors in the faculties of Mathematics, Classics and Ancient History, Natural Sciences, and Modern History and Literature arrived early in 1855.
Construction was still incomplete, so classes commenced in April, 1855 in the then Exhibition Building in William Street. The University building was occupied later in the year. ()
Control of the playing area was in the first instance the responsibility of the cricket club.
Later, the control was vested in the University Athletic Association (dating back to 1872), but with a variety of sports clamouring for use of the ground, management was then placed in the hands of an independent University Recreation Grounds Committee – three members of the University Council, the heads of the colleges, the Registrar of the University, the president and secretary of the Sports Union, two members of the cricket club, and one from each of the clubs enrolled with the Sports Union with perhaps the obvious exception of the rowing club.
In the early days, there were very few students – various histories put the numbers
in the early years as somewhere between 11 and 16 and a report in The Age in 1933
suggested that in 1859, when Bell’s Life on May 28 carried a correspondent’s report
on a game between St. Kilda and the University, (described as “long-
After several false starts in the nineteenth century where the University tried to establish both football and cricket teams in the contemporary senior ranks of the day, the "senior" University club in 1905 joined the Metropolitan Football Association, from 1909, the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association, and then from 1932 to its current title of the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
The club immediately became a major force in amateur ranks, winning the 1906 premiership with just one loss to Hawthorn Amateurs, one of the clubs that ultimately merged to become the Association and later League club from the district.
The University club repeated the feat in 1907, losing one game to Brighton, one of the their rival applicants to be the League's tenth team, but destined to confine their ambitions to the Victorian Football Association after Richmond were invited in preference.
Given the club's success, a meeting was held in the Biology School at the University on September 12, when there were about 100 undergraduates present.
The president, Professor Baldwin Spencer took the chair and suggested that with the current number of students and a sound infrastructure, an effort should be made to return the University to senior ranks, i.e. the V.F.L. who had made in known that they were keen to introduce two new clubs.
Spencer's idea was the University should continue to run their second team in the Metropolitan Association (hence the later concept of University Blacks and University Blues).
The team captain, Henry "Harry" Cordner suggested that the University's win over the Essendon Association team showed them to be up to senior ranks, a status that the tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and rowing teams all shared, and he ultimately moved a motion “that this meeting is of the opinion that it is desirable for the University Football Club to apply to enter the Victorian Football League.”
Mr. John Lang, the secretary of the University Sports Union, seconded the motion which was carried unanimously and an application to join League ranks was duly submitted with a delegation comprising Spencer, Cordner and the secretary, Mr. J. N. Allen meeting with League officials on September 25.
The delegation admitted that the University ground was "not in a condition to play league football", but they were willing to use the East Melbourne ground in the interim while their own oval was brought up to scratch.
Allen claimed that there were 28 men who had played league football that season that were eligible to play for the University, and that 12 or 13 were willing to switch to the new club along with 15 of their regular players.
The University's application was discussed at a meeting of the League on October 4.
The motion to admit "the students" was moved by the Carlton delegate, Mr. J. Urquhart and seconded by Mr. M. Wilson of Essendon, but unfortunately the motion included an additional clause that the League should also admit a second club to expand the competition to ten teams.
The inclusion of the University was unanimous, but the second half of Urquhart's motion caused rather more discussion with both Richmond and Brighton in the running. Collingwood were pushing the case for their neighbour Richmond, and with support from South Melbourne were strongly in favour of their admittance, Geelong and Essendon rather less so.
The attitudes of other clubs were not recorded, but Mr. Henry Skinner, one of the South Melbourne delegates perhaps revealed a hidden agenda when he suggested "… League clubs should have metropolitan grounds and let the Association look after the suburbs … if we take in University and Richmond, we'll have two good central grounds".
Skinner's ambition of a "good central ground" fell apart almost immediately.
The Sports Union of the University were rather less than impressed with Spencer's movement of their football club to the somewhat dubious "amateur" Victorian Football League and refused permission for the team to use the University Oval regardless of condition.
The new team accepted the shared use of the East Melbourne Cricket Ground with Essendon for the 1908, 1909 and 1910 seasons, then switching to share the M.C.G. with Melbourne, the latter switch leading some historians to incorrectly suggest that the two clubs officially merged with the demise of the alma mater in September, 1914.
(There had been a proposed merger of Melbourne and University in 1889 after Melbourne
had won just four games in the preceding year -
The first meeting of the new League club was held, not surprisingly, at the Biological
School at the University with Baldwin Spencer again in the chair and a committee
elected comprising one delegate from each of the Trinity, Queens and Ormond Colleges,
plus five "extra-
(Dr. Henry “Harry” Cordner was in England when war broke out and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 16 August, 1914 and promoted to Captain on 16 August, 1916, while serving in France).
In the interim, the League refused to endorse the recommendations of their Finance Committee made "in the interest of maintaining the game on an amateur basis". The Committee's three recommendations, in brief, were :
No one to play with a metropolitan club unless residing within 25 miles of the Melbourne G.P.O., (same for Geelong and the local Post Office),
Existing players with League clubs not to be subjected to the above, but expense
to be limited to 10 shillings per day and first-
Players to reside in their present location for three months before becoming eligible under the two previous rules
The rebuttal of the Finance Committee's proposal effectively meant that clubs could
continue paying players as much as they could see fit (and obviously afford), but
the University's meeting confirmed the status of their players -
The League, a few weeks after admitting Richmond and the University, passed a resolution
that each club must advise the League which ground they would play on, and must guarantee
no other team would use that ground. The move was a thinly-
The League was forced almost immediately to rescind its own motion to allow the University
to use the East Melbourne ground -
In the final years of his medical studies, Harry Cordner relinquished his role of
captain (although he continued as a leading player in 1908-
Fogarty retired due to business commitments in 1907, but was convinced to return
to represent the alma mater in their first season of senior football. Vice-
Allen's prediction of the previous year of a number of former and current players willing to switch to the new University club proved true.
In a Gold Coast/GWS style coup, no less than 19 former League players, the majority of who seem to have played with the amateur side of 1907 were granted permits to play.
Only a handful had extensive League experience -
In a marathon sitting of the V.F.L Permit committee Geelong's Ralph Upton (no senior
games), Frank Boynton (14 games and 2 goals) and Dr. Jim Piper, one game); from Melbourne
came Harry Cordner (11/16), his brother Edward (2/-
Tom Fogarty was joined by two brothers; Joe (9/5 with South Melbourne and 2/3 with Essendon) and Chris 10/0 with St. Kilda and 66/20 with South Melbourne.
Many of these recruits had played with the University in 1906 and 1907 in the M.F.A., and stilled required a “clearance” from their brief careers at the League level, but what it is perhaps most surprising was the contribution made by three unheralded players granted permits from Ballarat.
Denby Browning played with the Uni for three years, totalling 38 games and 25 goals, Martin Ratz 42 and 52, but the proverbial “one that got away” was Leo Seward.
Seward had studied at the Ballarat School of Mines while dominating the local football competition and moved to Melbourne to complete a degree in Mining Engineering at the University. At 6 feet 4 and 14 and a half stone (193 cm and 93 kg) Seward was considered by many commentators at the time as being potentially one of the greatest players of the time.
He played just one season with the University in 1908 before moving to Western Australia, where he was tragically killed in a road accident early in 1941.
The First Season
Coincidentally, the University played their co-
The following week saw the students post their first win in League ranks, beating Richmond, the other new team (who the Sporting Judge suggested "suffered from the V.F.A. convention that the ball should not be kicked from a ruck of players, instead moved around by hand until it could be picked up"), kicking 14.10 to 12.4.
Some commentators suggested that despite their lack of experience and, given they were by nature a young team, a lack of weight, “their superior intelligence will win through".
Despite this, "the students" earned a reputation as a vigorous team, willing to give us much as they took.
Perhaps "intelligence" also counted, The Argus a few weeks into the season noting
that “… it was emphatically declared by numerous “know-
The University had a highly respectable season, winning eight of 18 matches to finish
sixth of the ten teams -
To qualify, a player had to be attending the University or have successfully completed the Matriculation Certificate, one estimate a year or so later suggesting that the club had a base of just 670 to select players from.
The uniform adopted for the League team was described a black jersey with blue "V"
and facings -
Ironically, the 1908 season saw a move by the University of Adelaide to join the South Australian Football League, an application eventually not even considered by the League delegates.
An earlier meeting had promised a hearing of a representation group from the University,
but the League secretary later informed the organizers that a subsequent resolution
had been passed that the delegation not be heard -
The "electorate system" was a scheme adopted several years beforehand in both Adelaide and Sydney to restrict the rights of senior cricket and football clubs to recruit players to within nominated residential districts local to the clubs concerned.
Despite protests from the Melbourne Cricket Club (whose players and member were drawn from all over Melbourne and attracted by the club's influence), the Victorian Cricket Association adopted the principle in 1906, although it wasn't until 1916 that the V.F.L. adopted the idea, following a similar scheme introduced by the V.F.A. in 1912.
Not surprisingly, the turnover of University players given their three or four years
on campus was high -
Bert Hurrey, a quality centre man and 1913 captain with 101 matches was the only one to reach "the century". Many others managed 50 or 60 games, their football mixed with studies while they were enrolled, and then lost to the game after qualifying and pursuing professional careers.
Victorian teams were selected with a minimum of one player included from each club
Some historians have place the demise of the University club as being caused by many of their players enlisting after the start of the Great War, but the real reason appears to have been the "professionalism" that had crept into League football while the University club continued to regard the game as purely as a sport.
The question of payments being made to players had been a thorny problem in the later
years of the Victorian Football Association and continued unabated with the split
of the eight teams to form the Victorian Football League at the end of the 1896 season,
but was finally put to rest prior to the 1911 season when, after an abortive first
move, voted 16-
The University team disbanded early in September, 1914, in fact while the finals were still being played and just four or five weeks after the outbreak of the War and almost certainly before enlistments had any major impact.
Their second side continued for a year in the M.F.A. before it also closed for the duration.
Some historians have suggested that University merged with their co-
The University's withdrawal was a double-
One of the reasons for the delay in introducing the residential qualification scheme had been the lack of a natural district for Melbourne, a similar problem having arisen in 1906 with the introduction of District cricket and the Melbourne Cricket Club being left out of the competition and playing "friendlies"" against the club with the bye.
Players qualifying for the University team were assigned as part of Melbourne's district,
but of course, the V.F.L. were left with a nine-
At the time of University's withdrawal, it was suggested that North Melbourne be
invited to switch from the V.F.A., but with war impacting and many clubs going into
recess at the end of 1915, it wasn't until 1924 that the bye was eliminated when
North and Footscray, the two leading Association teams and the rather modestly performed
Hawthorn joined League ranks and made up the traditional 12-
Melbourne did however reap an immediate benefit of the remains of the playing group after at least six players switched allegiances in 1915.
The influx of new players (albeit in the short term, as all of the six had enlisted with the Expeditionary Forces before the start of the 1916 season) assisted in no small part by the appointment of Essendon Jack "Dookie" McKenzie saw the Melbourne club play in the finals for the first time in thirteen seasons.
The players that moved to Melbourne pre-
Another player, Leo Little (34/20) did not play in 1915, but joined Melbourne post-
A handful of players headed to other clubs, Carl Willis (46/41, 29/18 and incidentally
the only "student" ever to be suspended as well as regular Victorian Sheffield Shield
Rodriguez, Gibbs and Doubleday were later Killed In Action, just three of an astonishing total of 19 servicemen of the 112 players known to have worn the black and blue of the University to pay the supreme sacrifice during the Great War.
Park resigned from Melbourne and then enlisted after being somewhat controversially
suspended during the year and Bryan and Brake re-
No definitive records remain of just what degrees that the players were studying,
but from those that were killed during the Great War (for which National Archive
records remain available), we can identify that around two-
These figures roughly correspond with a 1909 report on University's draw with Collingwood that suggests 13 of 18 of their players on that day were either studying or practicing medicine.
Like a number of University players, Brake (perhaps the club's only "super-
Park in particular was unfortunate.
An immensely popular character and at the peak of his Sheffield Shield form, he was
selected in the Australian team for the second tour of South Africa in the summer
The tour was cancelled after the declaration of war and Park returned for a couple of "farewell" matches with Melbourne before the 1915 season wound up.
His Test record is remarkably well known for its almost total failure. After rebuilding his cricket career after his repatriation from France in 1919, Park was selected for the Second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Park was wildly applauded on his way to the wicket, but to everyone's horror, he was bowled first ball by the English quick, Howell, and he never faced another ball in Test cricket He bowled just one over for nine runs in the English innings
Over the years a couple of fables have emerged over Jim Park's brief appearance. One suggests his wife sat beaming with pride as he took block, but dropped a ball of wool from her knitting and while picking it up, was mortified to hear a raucous shout and hence missed her husband's entire Test career!
Park's daughter, Lal married Australian captain, Ian Johnson, who nearly sixty years
later revealed another reason for his immensely popular father-
Hartkopk's only Test was rather more spectacular. An all-
Born in North Fitzroy to German parents, Hartkopk served at the Royal Women's Hospital and then the Royal Children's Hospital in Perth during the war years before returning to establish a medical practice in High street, Northcote in 1919.
As well as their one-
After the introduction of the District cricket scheme in 1906-
As part of their drive to attract players, Melbourne introduced an 'exhibition' membership
designed to attract schoolboy cricketers with outstanding potential, Park (Wesley
College) and Hartkopk (Scotch) both induced to the club in the 1908-
University Players Who Fell in The Great War
Jim Main and David Allen's "Fallen -
Many commentators of the time and historians since justified the continuation of football and the defeat of two ballots on compulsory conscription on social differences between what might broadly be termed the "working class" who were expected to volunteer and the privileged few in the professions.
There could be no further rejection of this claim (at least within the football world) than a simple analysis Main and Allen's list. Of the 67, an astonishing 19 played their last game with "the toffs" of the University.
Due to their education, all but one (Corporal Stanley Martin) were commissioned officers,
again perhaps refuting the public belief that "the troops" were regarded as cannon-
Of the other clubs, all suffered at least two fatalities from their ranks : South Melbourne lost 8 playing members, Geelong 7, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Melbourne 6 each, Carlton 5, Essendon and St. Kilda 3, and Richmond 2 (in a handful of cases, those killed had played with more than club, they are categorized under their team at the time of enlistment.
Season By Season
"Percentages" of the time were based on premiership points won or lost, not on points
kicked for and against. The last three columns above have been compiled an added
to the official ladders to give an up-
Jim Park's 53 goals in 1913 perhaps needs to be put into perspective.
In a team that failed to win a game, he actually led the V.F.L. goal kicking, only to be surpassed by Fitzroy's Jim Freake in the final series. Goals kicked in finals at that time were included in determining the leading goal kicker, Freake kicked seven to finish on 56.
Park's 53 goals came from University's 122, a tick over 43% of the team tally -
Perhaps Gerard Brosnan's record as "coach" could also come under some scrutiny.
University won just 2 of 54 games when he was in charge, a winning percentage of 3.7% (the decimal place counts under these circumstances!). Brosnan coached Melbourne Football Club for five wins in 16 matches and later became a leading writer on football.
Before the impact of the war, the Victorian Football League were planning two major
changes to the competition structure -
There was no serious consideration of the University re-
The two teams actually played each other in the initial First Semi-
University "B" moved to the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association (now the Victorian
Amateur Football Association) in 1920, the "A" team again runners-
In 1921, the "A" team also moved to the Amateurs, adopting the name on University Blues, with the "B" team known as University Blacks, although the names were not formally adopted by the club until 1930.
In a strange twist of fate, the pair contested the 1921 M.A.F.A Grand Final, with the Blacks winning what to date is the only grand final the two teams have contested in the M.A.F.A or V.A.F.A.
Bert Hurrey (101, 1908-
Jack Gray (85, 1908-
Jack Brake (81, 1909-
George Elliott (79, 1908-
Jack West (71, 1908-
Stan Martin (65, 1909-
Ted Corner (60, 1908-
Jim Park (111, 1912-
Albert Hartkopk (87, 1908-
Martin Ratz (52, 1908-
Edgar Kneen (45, 1908-
Carl Willis (41, 1912-
An act for the incorporation and endowment of the University of Melbourne was introduced late in 1852 and passed by the Legislative Council of Victoria early the following year, making our local alma mater older than all the universities in England except Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London.
The Crown conveyed forty acres of land to the University for the purposes of the institution. In 1873, another four acres were added for a site for a medical and surgical school, and in subsequent years, and an additional sixteen acres were conveyed to the University for a recreation ground.