The Melbourne Rules : An Esoteric History compiled by Brian Membrey
1938 : A Rules Revolution
Faced with dwindling attendances and with no assistance from the League (with many of its own clubs struggling to meet their obligations and only being saved from serious financial trouble by record gates at finals matches, the Victorian Football Association announced in early September, 1937 a potentially major overhaul of the rules under which its clubs played.
The plan came several weeks after the Association's board of management invited umpires to submit proposals that in their opinion would make the game more attractive.
Commentators immediately suggested that the Association would have to break away from the Australian National Football Council rules and abandon its agreement with the V.F.L., a loose arrangement undertaking that each body should work in the interest of the other, but with an undertaking that players could not move from one body to the other without a clearance from their original club..
On 15 October, 1937, the Association formally ended the agreement, claiming that in the previous two years the Association had shown no improvement in attendances or finances and had received no assistance from the League.
(In turn, it was said that many league clubs were struggling to meet their obligations,especially in terms of player payments, and were only saved from serious financial problems by the dividends received from record finals attendances).
The Association invited the League to enter discussions with a view to striking consensus on alternatives more amenable to the Association, but no such talks eventuated.
The dropping of the agreement saw the Association banned from membership of the A.N.F.C. and meant that players could cross from one body to the other without a clearance from their previous club, although with disqualification for three years as a result.
At one meeting of the V.F.A., s delegate claimed that with no agreement in place, Association clubs would be able to 'filch' players from the League as frequently as League clubs currently did with Association players, but a senior official put the situation in perspective ...:
"We should not be afraid that half our players will transfer to the League." he said. "Only five or six Association players each year are capable of making the League grade. The agreement has always been detrimental to the interest of the Association."
The Association met on 14 February of the following year to consider the new rules, the most revolutionary being the introduction of the “throw-
Central to other changes was a plan to reduce the number of players to 16 by effectively eliminating two followers, a.k.a. ruckmen, in order to open up play which was becoming more and more congested. In conjunction with the removal of the followers came a plan to eliminate the centre bounce, instead replacing it with a “kick-
Under the Association proposal, the captain winning the toss had first option of choosing which end to kick to, or alternatively relinquishing that right and instead opting to have his centreman commence play by kicking off from a line drawn 20 yards on the defensive side of the centre. The right to kick-
As it turned out, only six clubs voted in favour of team reductions and six opposed it.
With this motion thus lapsing, "the kick-
The introduction of the throw-
The rejection of the move to reduce the number of players also impacted the re-
Originally, the field umpire was to have the power to order away all players other than the nearest "set position" player and the rover of either side, leaving just four players to contest the throw-
Following a particularly violent 1937 season, there were calls for the field umpire to be given the power to order players from the field for a nominated “cooling off” period -
The original proposal was that if a player was interfered with after being awarded a mark of free kick, the opposition would be penalized with the kick being taken up-
Nothing was ever documented on another proposal awarding of three points for a "poster" (obviously not introduced as the concept still bobs up today); nor was the original suggestion of an “order-
The following night saw an angry meeting of the V.F.A. Seconds delegates with complaints that they had never been consulted over the new rules and that they had been in a "Catch 22" situation -
There was some discussion that they would break their alliance with the V.F.A., but a cooler head pointed out that Association clubs effectively controlled the grounds on which they played and a breakaway would almost certainly leave them in a worse position than if they broke from the A.N.F.C. They adopted the new Association rules at their next meeting, as did the Association Sub-
There were hopes up until a couple of weeks prior to the season that a compromise between the League and Association could still be reached, but it was obvious by now that Association clubs had approached many League men -
Any hopes of a reconciliation clear were dashed when Essendon's Ted Freyer lodged an application to play with Port Melbourne without a clearance on 7 April (Freyer had in fact joined the ‘Dons from Port in 1929 and appeared in 124 League games and his 372 goals included the club’s leading tallies in five seasons -
The V.F.A. Permit Committee deferred his application for a week "as a matter of courtesy" to give Essendon further time to consider his situation. Nothing resulted and a week later, Freyer became the first League player to be granted a permit without a clearance. The same Thursday evening meeting also extended the same courtesy to South Melbourne by deferring Laurie Nash's application to join Camberwell to a special meeting on the Saturday morning, the day of the opening round.
During the 1938 and 1939 seasons, many Association clubs volunteered to play exhibition matches in country centres before both local administrators interested in perhaps introducing the code and week-
Late in the 1939 season, the Sporting Globe noted the rapid spread of the new rules, by then adopted by the Catholic Schools and the Public Schools Associations, as well as many country competitions -
It had also been wholeheartedly taken up by the North Western Football Association in Tasmania which jumped from five to nine teams with clubs eager to play under the new rules (to the extent that another unnamed competition ceased to exist). The Globe also reported many new enquiries from the country for rule books including requests from the Goulburn Valley Association, Border Districts, Mitiamo, the Tatura and Kaniva districts, Daylesford. Wonthapgi, Ouyen and Waitdiie and Mananagatang.
Delegates from South Australia had visited Melbourne in July to observe the new rules and were said to be impressed with the way the throw-
It was said that the rules would be trialled in post-
South Australia did, however, legislate to remove the "flick pass" which had remained legal locally for three or four seasons after effectively being banned under A.N.F.C. rules at a conference in Hobart in August, 1924 which determined the ball had to be held in one hand and clearly punched with a clenched fist.. Its acceptance in Adelaide had long annoyed the Victorian Football League as their players used it adeptly in interstate matches without penalty -
The A.N.F.C. annual conference, sans the Victorian Football Association was held in Brisbane in November, and with the exception of the throw-
The holding the ball rule was altered to eliminate the provision for a player to drop the ball when tackled, meaning that a player was forced to either kick or hand-
The measures to protect players after a mark, free kick or disposing of the ball were passed without much discussion; although the provision for the nearest teammate to take the free kick if a man was incapacitated through the interference raised issues as to some players over-
Instead of a free kick being awarded against the last player to touch the ball, as had been the case since 1925, the boundary throw-
The previous free-
The introduction after being agreed to in 1924 was controversial -
Officials, coaches and player’s opinions were divided on the change. The manager of the Victorian team at the Hobart carnival claimed he had spoken to every player in his team and they were all opposed to the change, and other club delegates were incensed both by Copeland’s unilateral action and the fact that the minor states of Queensland and New South Wales were seen to be dictating how the game should be played.
The major reason for the change was to eliminate shepherding and jostling in ruck contests -
Sadly, nobody asked the boundary umpires, whose role was reduced to marking the spot where the ball crossed the boundary line and then retrieving the ball!
|1938 : Early Declaration of War|
|1938 : A Rules Revolution|
|1938 : The Throw-pass|
|1939 : Vote NO Today!|
|1939 : 48,000 at the V.F.A.|
|1939 : Rules Chaos|
|1940 : Marching In Step|
|1941 : Minimum Impact|
|1942 : The War Bites|
|1942 : The War Services Cup|
|1942 : V.F.A. Into Recess|
|1943 : The League Hiatus|
|1943 : Welcome to AUSTUS!|
|1944 : A Revival (of sorts)|
|1944 : The Player's "Club"|
|1944 : VFL - VFA : A Non-Merger|
|1945 : A Touch of Normality|
|1942-45 : In South Australia|
|1942-45 : In Western Australia|
|1942-45 : ... and in Tassie|