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6 CFC Games Played
4 CFC Goals
It’s fair to say that Joe Rouse didn’t enjoy the happiest of years in 1904.
The former Collingwood rover who had kicked three goals on debut in 1900 was by then a Northcote player. In August of 1904 he was suspended for two years for striking the captain of the delightfully named Rose of Northcote team. That prompted an angry outburst from Rouse, during which he “used the most insulting language to the chairman and delegates”, according to one newspaper. The result? His suspension was extended to 10 years. (in an even crueller twist, his brother William was rubbed out the same night for four weeks for striking an opponent).
But remarkably, that wasn’t the worst thing to happen to Joe Rouse in 1904. By the end of the year he had been charged with murder and was facing a long stint in prison.
The victim, William Carey, had been found outside a hotel with a fractured skull and subsequently died. Rouse admitted he had given Carey a ‘slap’ during an altercation inside the hotel, after which the victim left. Rouse and his friends then found him lying outside when they left the hotel soon afterwards and he seemed very drunk, so they propped him up against a trough. He was later discovered with severe damage to his ear and skull and Rouse was charged with his murder.
After further investigations police withdrew the charge a month or so later, and the coroner ended up ruling the victim had died at the hands of a person or persons unknown.
It was all a far cry from the promise and optimism that had greeted Rouse’s arrival as a Collingwood footballer a few years before. He was part of the Collingwood Juniors team in 1900, and had done well enough to be included in the senior Magpie touring party that travelled to Wangaratta and Bright in July. He played against Wangaratta and kicked a couple of goals.
That trip had come at an important time for the club. In the last game before the break, skipper Dick Condon and new forward Artie Robson had come to blows on the field at three-quarter time, and there were rumblings of internal discontent. The country sojourn was seen as a circuit-breaker.
The week after the players returned to Melbourne, Rouse was named at half-forward against Carlton. And the agile small forward couldn’t have asked for a better start, kicking three of the team’s 14 goals that day and being named among the team’s best players.
Rouse kept his spot for the next four weeks, and was twice more named among the best players, but could only add one more goal (at least partly down to him spending a couple of games in defence). He played a further game in 1900 before being cleared back to Collingwood Juniors in 1901. He joined Northcote in 1902, and did well enough there to be chosen in a combined VJFA team to play VFA Premiers Richmond before the 1903 season. He did eventually manage to return to football with Northcote, having his 10-year suspension reduced, but in 1907 was back in more trouble for ‘rough play’.
The off-field dramas didn’t stop either. By 1928 he was working as a bookmaker’s clerk. One night he was walking home to Fairfield from the city when he was attacked and strangled, his attackers “choking him into insensibility” and robbing him of 33 pounds. Remarkably, he survived.
Joe Rouse certainly experienced more than his fair share of dramatic incidents off the field. We can only hope that they were counterbalanced to some extent by the thrill of kicking three goals on his VFL debut, in a game he surely never forgot.
– Michael Roberts
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