1 CFC Games Played
1 CFC Goals
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that brothers Vivian and Harrie Cross just might have benefited from the tiniest bit of nepotism in their unusual Collingwood careers.
Their father, after all, was one of Collingwood’s founding fathers, Alfred Cross. Although his name is not widely remembered today, he was a huge figure in the club’s first 40 years – one year as President, 28 as vice-president, important early benefactor (his brother Joe provided the gold medals to celebrate the 1896 Premiership), and one of the primary driving forces behind the club’s formation. So significant were his early contributions that he was the first person to receive an honorary Life Membership when they were introduced in 1901.
In short, Alfred Cross was a seriously big deal in and around Collingwood in the early 1900s. He had four children, three of whom were boys. In 1905, one of those boys – the eldest, Vivian – accompanied the club on its mid-season trip to Adelaide and Broken Hill. And suddenly there he was, posing in a Magpie jumper as part of the team that played Broken Hill!
It’s not known if, or where, Vivian played footy before that trip, but he certainly managed to sneak in a game while with the touring Magpies.
Twelve years later, and in vastly different circumstances, another of Alfred Cross’s boys got an unexpected chance to wear the black-and-white jumper. By this stage Vivian had moved into football administration, and his second son, Charles, had won fame as one of the best competitive rifle shots in the world (he’d got his start with the Collingwood Rifle Club), winning numerous titles, representing Australia and setting international records.
But it was the youngest of the clan, Harrie, who would come under notice late in the 1917 season. The Magpies were struggling for numbers for their Rd 13 clash against Fitzroy at Brunswick Street, and at the last minute Harrie found himself making up the shortfall. Again, it’s not known if or where he’d been playing football beforehand: AFL records say Collingwood District but we’ve not been able to find confirmation of that (it’s unlikely, given that the Districts were in recess for 1916 and 1917).
Either way, he was part of the senior Collingwood starting line-up, at half-forward. And he did well too, kicking a goal from close range after a free kick and setting up one other. A tall, lean left-footer, he did not seem out of place. As the Football Record reported the following week:
“Son of Mr A Cross, long-serving committeeman, Vice President and President, Harrie was taken into the Magpie team at the last moment on Saturday. The boy made a creditable debut, and showed gameness and self-reliance. They put him half-forward, and he did very well. He helped Dicky Lee to goal, and later in the day shot one down for himself. He is a brother of Cross, the famous Australian rifle shot.”
But there was to be no late-season miracle for Harrie Cross. That was his one and only senior game, though he seems to have played with Collingwood Districts when they resumed playing in 1918.
There was a final note to add. Collingwood, of course, would go on to win the 1917 Premiership a couple of months after that Fitzroy match. And Harrie’s solitary game was deemed enough to get him a spot in the club’s official Premiership photo – perhaps one more fringe benefit of being the son of one of the club’s most loved figures.
– Michael Roberts