A SPOILED GAME.
NOTES BY OBSERVER.
The league had one of its rare patches of bad luck for this season when the first of the semi-finals between Collingwood and Essendon was played on the Melbourne Cricket-ground on Saturday.
For two hours before the match there was heavy rain, and the league had to decide quite early in the day whether they should take the risks and play. They determined to do so, and fortunately the rain cleared just about the time the match was begun. In the circumstances, however, there was no hope of skilful football, and the match was robbed of much of its interest. That Collingwood could play a good game under any circumstances was realised from their recent form. But they were hardly thought capable of scoring so emphatic a victory as they did against Essendon on Saturday.
It was remarkable testimony to the popularity of football that the attendance numbered 24,000, although a great many must have stayed away feeling that the match was certain to be postponed. That in fact was the general belief. A sum of £686 was taken at the gate. Fortunately the Melbourne ground gives good cover, so much of the seating space being under roofing.
One may describe the match briefly by saying that Essendon were never in it. They may consider themselves unfortunate in having had to play on such a day – any losing club would naturally do so – but those who watched the match must have had a feeling that Collingwood were the better side under any circumstances. On Satur-day there was never a comparison between them. In the opening rallies Collingwood, with a slight wind for a long time, had a little the better of the play, but their luck in goal-shooting, which was bad then, improved considerably afterwards, when from all sorts of positions they got goals with the utmost regularity, and their score was a highly creditable one for a bad day.
Collingwood seemed considerably less hampered by the conditions than the other side. Quite early in the first quarter Gilchrist very nearly succeeded in storing for them. Following upon this, some bright play by Oliver, Lee and Gilchrist ended with another shot that almost got the distance, and was touched just on the goal-line.
At that stage the free-kicks were all in favour of Essendon, and properly so, for the Collingwood men had not settled down, and from over anxiety probably were breaking the rules. In this way, and for a long time, they hampered themselves considerably. Keeping up the attack, they had Essendon generally on the defence, Busbridge, Martin, and L. Armstrong in turn having to play their best to keep the side out of danger, and twice free-kicks came opportunely for the red and black. The first time they crossed the centre Ryan stopped them for a moment.
Coming to the attack again, Essendon, through the efforts of Busbridge and Baring, were in a good position, when the useful Ryan once more came to the rescue of Collingwood. Then a fine dash of the magpies, in which Seadden. McHale, Baxter, and Angus were all conspicuous, ended in anotherchance to Gilchrist, and another lost goal.
Essendon continued to defend, Smith and White in turn doing sound service for them. Then for the first time, and by perhaps the best bit of concerted play which they showed during the day, they got fairly within the danger zone. In a fierce struggle close up to goal Shea was slung, got a free kick, an easy shot, and Essendon’s first goal. They came again to the attack smartly, Martin, Prout, and White showing up well. Prout with a running shot got a behind, and this ended Essendon’s score for the first quarter. Thence on they were wholly on the defensive. Some pretty play between Baxter and Angus, in which the concert of the Collingwood men was shown to good advantage on a bad day, ended only in another behind, and there was a feeling that Collingwood’s opportunities were slipping away. None theless, Martin, Bowe, Belcher, and L. Armstrong had to do their very best for the other side.
In the ruck Essendon were always strong and vigorous, that was the only point of the field where they really excelled. Everywhere else Collingwood were the faster, and the more skilful side. Twice Bant served Essendon well during this critical time, but once he missed the ball, and Lee coming in smartly scored first goal for Collingwood. They went on attacking strongly. McHale and Vernon dashed in, but found an Essendon back in the way, and were repelled for the moment, but a minute afterwards McHale, playing beautiful football, took a mark which seemed too far from goal. A fine place kick, however, scored Collingwood’s second. The strain was telling upon Essendon’s ruck. Belcher came out before the end of the term, and sent Busbridge in in his stead; but it made little difference. Good work by little Wilson and McHale again put Collingwood within distance, and Gilchrist with a handy screw kick scored their third goal. At quarter-time Collingwood wore leading by 15 points, and the general impression was that Essendon were already a beaten team.
Commencing the second quarter Essendon were for a moment active, but A. Armstrong missed a very easy mark right in front of Collingwood’s goal, and that seemed to be really the turning point of the game, because Essendon were making many mistakes, and Collingwood singularly few. McLeod had an easy chance for the Red and Black, and again it was only a behind. For a time the battle was very even, if not particularly exhilarating.
On one side McHale, Wilson, and McIver all played well. An event on the other side was Shea beating three Collingwood men in a struggle near the wing, but this was rare. During this spell Lee missed one of the easiest of chances and generally speaking, Collingwood wore always superior in open play, the accuracy of their passing under the conditions being really remarkable. The now familiar combination of McHale and Gilchrist brought nothing more profitable than a behind. But Daykin and Lee did better, for the last named scored Collingwood’s fourth goal rather easily. Just afterwards he was slung right in front of goal, a bad mistake for Essendon, as he easily scored fifth goal, and at that stage interesting the match practically ceased. It was quite clear that Essendon were beaten. Many of their men were failing them, while Collingwood had not a weak player on the side, their singular evenness as a team being their very best recommendation. There was not a “passenger” in the eighteen. Essendon’s passing was really bad. At long intervals there was a dazzling patch, which showed what they could do if at their best, but it was never long maintained. A. Armstrong had a shot towards the end of the quarter, which got the distance, but it was not straight. At half-time Collingwood were 27 points ahead, and their barrackers were asking, satirically, “Where is this Essendon team?”
Right at the commencement of the third quarter Gilchrist gave Lee an easy chance in front of the posts, but it was one of the few mistakes made by Collingwood’s crack goal-kicker on the day. Daykin also missed an opportunity for the Black and White, but Ryan, from a straight deliberate trying front, and the long Hughes, with a tall mark, both scored goals for their side. Collingwood were now simply romping awaywith the match. One nice Essendon burst along the wing ended in A. Armstrong having another try, and again failing. It was quite obvious that Collingwood’s backs were too strong and too fast for Essendon’s attack. Scadden, especially, was playing a very reliable game in that quarter. L. Armstrong worked it through for Essendon, and gave Baring a profitless shot. Before this strain was relieved the Essendon captain (Belcher), by a desperate effort, squeezed through a crush, and got their second goal. It was just tempering the wind to the shorn lamb, for Essendon had no chance, Prout and Shea got another try, missed it, and then the cool, but rather slow, Baring also failed.
For a time Collingwood took almost complete possession of the ball. Lee played with it for seconds before he could really catch hold of it, but, once petting his grip, he quickly scored their ninth goal. Busbridge made a desperate effort to breakthrough by sheer force, but Collingwood were too clever, too fast, for that kind of football to be of much use, and at the last change their lead had further increased to 45 points.
All interest in the game had ceased. No one more fully realised that Essendon were beaten than the Essendon men themselves. A stage in the game had been reached where Collingwood could afford to play exhibition football, to take risks which in the earlier stage were to be avoided, and then some of the prettiest football of the day was witnessed, although all real interest in the issue had ceased. Collingwood’s passing then was very small and clean. Between Wilson, Daykin, and Lee they got their tenth goal, and then the energetic little Angus passed the ball to Gilchrist, who scored the eleventh while between Oliver and Wilson the twelfth was bagged a moment afterwards.
Essendon’s only burst of success came at this stage, but quite too late to have any influence on the game. They changed their dispositions completely, and sent Bant up amongst the forwards, where he was hardly quick enough on a muddy day to be of much service. In quick succession, McLeod, Shea, and Martin scored goals for Essendon, and just towards the end of the last quarter it seemed to me for a time that Collingwood were tiring. Now having command they recovered quickly. Essendon’s defence had been loosened in the ardour of attack, and Lee got the ball closeup to goal, with not an Essendon back within thirty yards of him. He trotted into the posts and tipped it through for the thirteenth goal, while Gilchrist immediately afterwards got the fourteenth. If finished at that stage with the easiest of victories for Collingwood.
Before the game the general impression was “Anybody’s match. The better luck means the better side.” The question of luck, however, never came into it, and the prophecy was all wrong. Essendon must have done better on a dry day, for the simple reason that they could not have done much worse.
The individual honours were nearly all on one side. Evenness, as I have already said, was the merit of Collingwood’s defence, but amongst the half dozen men in that part of the field no one did half so much as Scadden for the colours. His play, as in recentgames, was very fine, though Saddler was always good. Rowell, in goal, was ever in the right place, and there was not a weak man in that half. Ryan did a tremendous lot of work for them in the early stages, while the issue was yet uncertain, but the best man of the day was undoubtedly McHale, whose centre work was really splendid. The goal-kicking was exceptionally good, Lee accounting for six goals and Gilchrist four. Gilchrist is a very smart little player, and has shown a steady improvement in every recent game for Collingwood. Angus and Baxter kept up their reputation as consistent and clever players,while Vernon was also most useful.
It is rather hard to pick Essendon’s best.Perhaps Belcher in the ruck was as useful as anybody, but Busbridge was a good deal hampered by the heavy ground, so the best play was generally seen from the lighter men. Amongst them White and Prout were particularly prominent in the earlier stages. Anderson played well all day, Smith and Bowe made many useful dashes, and were not much to blame for the disaster. Baring, though a bit slow, was always served by his coolness. Cameron failed to recover his form quickly, and Martin, though working hard, made many mistakes. Ogden, I think, is the only other man on the side who caught one’s attention.
The game was well umpired by Elder. At the outset Collingwood’s followers protested loudly when Essendon got all the free kicks, but the umpire was emphatically right then, and they were wrong. In the last half Essendon supporters were grumbling, again without reason, because when a side realise that it is beaten it almost invariably makes mistakes in breaking the rules. The fact that the beaten side has to be frequently penalised perhaps creates some resentment, but the umpire’s duty is not to consider the state of the game, but to regard only therules.
1910 ‘ESSENDON OVERWHELMED.’, The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 12 September, p. 6, viewed 12 August, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10459969