THE 1945 BFL season opened on Saturday 19 May just 11 days after the Allies World War 2 victory in Europe over Germany had been celebrated on VE Day: 8 May.
The Pacific war against Japan was still raging and wouldn’t end until mid-August but locally players, supporters and administrators were ready for another footy season.
The Advertiser report on the 1945 opening round of matches – tucked away in a few little columns buried deep inside the Monday paper – quoted a great opening to the season “with two fine matches.”
Golden Square sprang a surprise on Sandhurst and scored a reasonably easy win. Eaglehawk led throughout and won comfortably over South Bendigo, restricting the Bloods to just three goals.
The Mayors of Bendigo and Eaglehawk bounced the balls at the Upper Reserve and Canterbury Park respectively after addressing the players. They’d formed Victory V’s and observed a minute’s silence in memory of fallen comrades.
“The play was equal to, if not better, than in many opening matches from the pre-war period and clubs will build up combinations worthy of the fine reputation the Bendigo league holds,” the lead paragraph read.
“The gate receipts of £45 in the Upper Reserve and £26 at Canterbury Park shows that public support was strong and the league was fully justified in reviving the sport.”
A side-bar in bold type featured Golden Square full-back Jack McNamee.
“A few years away from kicking a football made no difference to McNamee,” the reporter noted.
“He was a match-winner against Sandhurst and won the honour of being named the best man on the ground.
“Jack was one of the five old players who donned Golden Square colours and his defence work was an inspiration to his young side which should do well in the league this season,” the sports reporter wrote.
McNamee had no easy task in coming back to the game against an astute player like Sandy Herbert, the Maroons’ coach.
Herbert had scored five goals from his forward pocket before McNamee was moved onto him and he held Herbert to just one more goal for the day.
“The vigor and experience of Jack McNamee had Herbert worrying, it was plain (to see),” the reporter said.
BEATEN for pace in the first quarter, Golden Square’s prospects did not appear bright.
But a complete change came over the game after half-time as the Maroons were “outplayed and outstayed,” the match report noted.
As a side Golden Square is not yet completely co-ordinated but has sufficient individual talent to make that possible in the long term, it read.
“The Maroons showed some glimpses of bright, cohesive play reminiscent of the McCaskill era, but could not round off their efforts.”
Herbert booted the first of his six goals early on, with a reply coming from Square rover and captain, Bonnie Hargreaves.
Golden Square was stronger in the ruck contests pushing home its attacks. Lapsley (4 goals for the day) booted two majors in the first quarter.
“The accurate kicking was remarkable for so early in the season,” the match report read,
“The first eight scoring shots resulted in seven goals. Hellwege continued to feed Herbert as the Maroons’ forward was able to make position perfectly.”
“Herbert had booted five goals by quarter-time – his team’s
total goal score – and the Maroons led by fifteen points.”
Golden Square fought hard in the second and third quarters and by the last change had snatched a one-point lead.
“Sandhurst’s weakness in the following department was most apparent. Herbert remained in the forward pocket but all his work was nullified by the brilliant McNamee who played the best game on the ground,” the report read.
Golden Square ‘packed’ the game and foiled all attempts by Sandhurst to open up the play. Even though Herbert landed his sixth goal from six shots in the third quarter, bad passing from the Maroons led to Golden Square going straight down the centre for “scoring assaults”.
Sandhurst was “ragged” in the final quarter and showed little stamina as Golden Square took over and had full control of the match for the final 10 minutes.
SOUTH Bendigo did a lot of the early attacking at Canterbury Park but found it difficult to pass Two Blue defenders Dumble and home captain Ken Grose.
When the ball was raced to the other end of the ground Eaglehawk forwards Turner (4 goals for the match) and Richards (2) were their targets.
The two key forwards were also noticeable “in the handball exchanges” the reporter at the game noted.
South’s only real productive forward was Walsh who landed two goals for the match, but he was also offline with his shots on a number of occasions. Ashcroft was South’s other goal-kicker.
After half-time Eaglehawk raced away with the four, premiership points. Crawford and Taylor were involved in moves which saw Turner boot two of his four majors for the day.
South’s rover O’Dwyer was noticeable for his work at the base of the packs and was named in the Monday Addy as the Bloods’ best.
Because of manpower shortages seven decades ago as the war drew to a close, just one reserve was listed. There was only a 19th man — no 20th – and South’s reserve Landy came on in the last quarter to replace an injured teammate.
Eaglehawk 19th man Paynter replaced Richards, also in the final term.
Golden Square 3.3 5.8 7.10 11.11
Sandhurst 5.6 6.6 7.9 8.10
Eaglehawk 4.4 4.7 8.7 9.14
South Bendigo 0.4 1.7 3.7 3.15
VFL scores from Melbourne from the round played May 19th, 1945: South Melbourne 15.10 def. Footscray 12.11; Essendon 12.16 def. Collingwood 11.21 (by a single point); Melbourne 18.12 def. Geelong 13.16; North Melbourne 13.14 def. Fitzroy 11.18; Richmond 20.11 def. Hawthorn 15.7 and Carlton 12.18 def. St Kilda 11.13.
The VFL, with its 12 clubs, played right through the WW2 years unlike the BFL which went into recess during 1942-43-44. Those were the years when the threat of a Japanese invasion of our north was very real and threatening.
In the VFA matches of May 19th, Coburg 23.22 def. Sandringham 6.6, Prahran 15.18 def. Oakleigh 6.10, Yarraville 15.13 def. Camberwell 11.21, Preston 20.10 def. Brighton 9.8, Williamstown 19.10 def. Brunswick 10.7 and Port Melbourne 16.17 def. Northcote 7.14.
Seventy years on and Williamstown and Port Melbourne remain alive and are thriving under their old, traditional names. Coburg is still there, but only just.
BY early June in the BFL 70 seasons ago Eaglehawk held a handy gap at the top of the ladder. Three rounds had been played.
The Two Blues, with 12 of their players under the age of 21, defeated Golden Square in Rd. 3 played on neutral territory: the Upper Reserve.
Gate receipts were £74 — a 1945 gate takings record to that stage.
Alan Daly at age 16 was the “baby” of the Two Blues combination. “He showed skill in roving while Russell Robinson, not yet 18, defended with judgment equal to many men with years and years of experience behind them,” the Addy report noted.
The centreline of Rice, Hocking and Crawford are all members of the young brigade, too. They started many attacking moves.
“And the Two Blues have many more promising players besides the men who played on Saturday,” the story said.
Interestingly, the Advertiser stated that arrangements were in hand for an Eaglehawk second eighteen to play a similar side from the Sandhurst Football Club as a Canterbury Park curtain-raiser the following Saturday.
Final scores: Eaglehawk (captained by Ken Grose) 6.9 def. Golden Square 2.13.
Golden Square failed to score a goal after half-time mainly due to the splendid spoiling tactics of the Eaglehawk defenders.
Richard’s selections for Good Friday’s Round 1, 2015: Maryborough by 13 (v C’maine); Square by 31 (v Flat); Gisborne by 20 (v Kyneton); Eaglehawk by 52 (v South) and Storm by 36 (v Hurst, night fixture).
2014 season total: 81 (including six out of six, 2014 finals series).
Tips for Top Five: Storm, Square, Sandhurst, Eaglehawk and Gisborne. Grand final: Strathfieldsaye v Golden Square. Premiers: S’saye Storm. Spoon: South Bendigo. Michelsen medal: Brodie Filo (Eaglehawk). Ron Best goalkicking medal: Ryan Herring (Golden Square).