The Melbourne Rules : An Esoteric History compiled by Brian Membrey


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Preston Y.C.W  

PRESTON Y.C.W>With the Preston Football Club in recess during the war, many locals may not have been aware that both 1942 and 1943 brought premierships to the Preston area via the Preston Y.C.W. Club. (A correspondent suggests that third from left in the front row is Mick Smith)

The Preston Y.C.W. team was formerly known as the Sacred Heart Football Club and played in an earlier competition called the Catholic Boy's Legion which was disbanded in favour of the new Y.C.W. scheme in 1941.

Both teams played in an Essendon-style jumper, initially black with a red V, Later changed to a sash, on one of the grounds at Haxby Park in Bell Street, East Preston, renamed in later years as Oulton Reserve; somewhat paradoxically for a church-based competition, Y.C.W. matches were played on Sunday.

By the end of 1943, the Y.C.W. competition had 32 clubs and 2,000 players and was claiming to be the largest football association in Australia.

The Y.C.W. under-18 competition was divided into four sections, "A" through "D", but these were based on geography rather than merit – Preston played in "C" section against teams from Clifton Hill, Northcote, Coburg, East Brunswick, Thornbury, North Brunswick, Moreland, Alphington and Brunswick.  

Little is recorded in 1941 of the Preston Y.C.W. team, or in fact the competition in general.  Scores for such a moderate competition are extremely difficult to trace seventy-odd years later and almost entirely confined to a couple of column inches in one of the two Catholic weekly newspapers of the time - the Catholic Tribune or the Advocate.

The Senior (Under-18) winners were "A" Section, Newport; "B", North Melbourne; "C", Moreland; and "D", Elsternwick, and the Juniors - an eight team Under-16 competition - Port Melbourne.  A report of the Presentation Night noted best and fairest winners as senior grade : W. Morris (St. Patrick's); and under 16, V. Cahir of Preston, possibly a son of Royston Cahir, the prominent High Street solicitor.

With the Victorian Football Association going into recess following the 1941 season, the local Y.C.W. club was fortunate to gain the services of one of Preston's most experienced players, Bill "Socks" Maslen as coach.

Maslen, renowned for socks always around his ankles and a forelock of hair which seemed to perpetually have covered his LEFT eye, joined Preston in 1934 from an unknown local team and played around 60 games before being recruited by St. Kilda in 1939 where he became an instant success in the back pocket.

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With a somewhat toxic atmosphere around the St. Kilda club at the time, Maslen was unhappy and wanted to return to Preston after the first couple of games of 1940 - he was refused a clearance, but with the permit agreement with the V.F.L. no longer recognised by the Association, he returned anyway, resuming in the third round.

Under his coaching, Preston won the "C" section title in 1942, finishing on top of the ladder and beating Moreland in the Second Semi-final and Grand Final, 5.5 to 4.9, and then 6.6 to 4.9.

Much the same structure applied in 1943, although the junior section had expanded to 13 teams.

In 1943, it is known Preston defeated Fairfield 11.8 to 7.16 to again take the "C" section title.

There does not appear to have an inter-sectional play-off in 1942, but in 1943, Preston defeated Don Bosco ("B" section premiers and still existing in Sydney Road, Brunswick) in an inter-divisional semi-final and were drawn to play Kensington, the "A" premiers at Fairbairn Park in Maribyrnong on 23 September for what was termed "the championship or the Young Christian Workers' football competition".

Unfortunately, no results were ever published for posterity, but it was noted prior to the match that Fitzroy were to supply trainers for Preston and North Melbourne for Kensington; the western team was coached by former Collingwood player Norm Busbridge and including up-and-coming North Melbourne star, Keith Dynon.

Maslen was married at All Saint's in Preston on 21 March, 1942 to Jean Deacon, sister of Bert Deacon, then in the A.I.F., but after his discharge cleared to Carlton where he became the 1947 Brownlow Medal winner. "Socks" was also a fine cricket, prominent in the Jika competition and then during his enforced break from senior football, a regular senior player with the Sub-District Preston Cricket Club during the 1942-43 and 1943-44 seasons.

What is not clear is whether he took to the field during his time with Preston Y.C.W. - the rules of the competition remain unknown, but several under-age competitions allowed a senior player to act as a captain-coach with many of the open-age teams in recess (the image above suggests not .

The V.F.A. conducted a Seconds competition in 1944 as a prelude to the resumption of senior football the following year and Maslen was initially noted as appointed captain-coach of the Preston Second XVIII, although a later team photo has an unknown “T. Ellis” as captain-coach..

He continued with Preston until the end of 1949 when he took up the captain-coaching position at Kerang after a career with Preston spanning 16 years.

1944 saw a restructure of the competition with many new teams noted, a total of 72 across the two age divisions.

Rather than the "A" to "D" sections which always carried a connotation of "class", there six  divisions (with premiers) : North-West (Don Bosco); North (Fairfield premiers, Coburg, Preston, Northcote, North Fitzroy and Thornbury; East (Malvern); South (South Melbourne); West (Flemington) and Central (Richmond), all with eight teams except East (six).

Very few results were published, but a report of the Presentation Night in October left us with the premiership winners and an extensive list of Best and Fairest votes

The Best and fairest for the under 18 group was won by Norman Rayner (Ascot Vale( with 25 votes; Preston's leading votegetter the junior winner from 1942, V Cahir with 18 and later champion Collingwood wingman Des Healey with 8 ½ (also a regular with the Preston Cricket Club.  The Junior award was taken out by Len Walker from Thornbury (later 51 games with Preston)

“Socks” Maslen, 1944 Preston Seconds photo, and right; “Bill Maslen, defender for Preston”

"V.F.A.Stars of 1946"

Pictured by Noel Counihan in "The Sun"


Both images courtesy of Facebook postings by John Keenan (aka “Nodge”) on the Preston In History page, April and December 2017.  John’s father coached Preston YCW in the early 1950s.

The coach, Claude Heath was later secretary at Preston for three or four years in the late 1970s and I think also had a senior administrative position at Fitzroy in later years.  The trainer, Jimmy Chapman who I knew from Preston Tech later took up umpiring and for quite a few years from around 1975 was Umpire’s Advisor for the V.F.A.

The posting doesn’t show names of the front row - I can’t place any of the other players, but undoubtedly many will be remembered as local identities. FEEDBACK if you can help!