By Phil Skeggs.
The seeds for Ivanhoe’s success in the 1921 season were sown the year before when the club re-joined the Heidelberg District Football Association after being in recess during World War I.
There were healthy rivalries with neighbouring clubs Alphington and Heidelberg. And the Hoes had a couple of handy players who would later go on to play at VFL club Collingwood – Laurie Murphy and Len Ludbrooke.
Murphy played as an onballer for Ivanhoe in 1920-21. He played 79 games for Collingwood between 1921-26, 15 games for North Melbourne in 1928-29, and played for Victoria three times.
Ludbrooke had been awarded a Military Medal for bravery in France in December 1917. He was 25 when he was playing for Ivanhoe in 1920 and later got four games for Collingwood.
The club had a great start to the 1920 season, beating reigning premiers Alphington by five points.
About 800 spectators turned out for the big local derby against top side Heidelberg at Heidelberg Park on July 31. The Bergers won by two points.
In the grand final on August 21, in front of a record crowd of about 2000 people, Heidelberg defeated Ivanhoe by 32 points, 6.14 to 2.6.
Fast forward 12 months and Ivanhoe turned the tables on their local rivals to win the 1921 premiership by 64 points.
Within months, the HDFA was disbanded and Ivanhoe had joined a new league. It left a lot of unanswered questions when I was researching the club’s early history 20 years ago. All I had was the final scores from the grand final, which were printed in The Argus.
The State Library of Victoria refused to give me access to a bound volume of the Heidelberg News for that pivotal year.
The News was my primary source of information about the club’s earliest seasons. But I was told by a senior librarian that the 1921 newspapers were too fragile to retrieve from cold storage.
With encouragement from Collingwood Forever website archivist Peter Marshall, who has helped identify many early Ivanhoe footballers who were recruited to the Magpies, I recently emailed a renewed plea to the SLV about wishing to fill this gap in the club’s early history. I pointed out that we also had the 1921 team photo on the clubroom wall but no idea who the players were.
I got approval. The club’s history was deemed a worthy community project to allow supervised access in a secured reading room. Here are the highlights of that topsy-turvy season.
In pre-season, league delegates weren’t happy with the Fairfield club because of incidents during the 1920 and 1919 seasons. Fairfield was excluded from the 1921 HDFA season and Hurstbridge was admitted from the Bourke Evelyn Football Association.
This provoked a bitter debate, which exposed a growing rift between what were dubbed “down the line clubs” such as Ivanhoe and Alphington, and the country clubs in the association’s outer districts. One letter writer to the Heidelberg News warned that Ivanhoe and Alphington would be the next to go and queried why the HDFA hadn’t already taken action to limit the association to clubs in the shire’s upper boundaries.
There was also a pre-season push to allow the club to charge an entrance fee to home games. An application went to the then Heidelberg Council and debate followed in the local paper. One letter writer argued that any funds raised at the gate could be used to improve the poor condition of the Ivanhoe ground, which had “great tufts of grass, in many places as big as a football” and “little hollows to make water holes for players to flop into”. The proposal lapsed but the council later sourced substantial government funds to improve Ivanhoe Park in 1922.
The club had a solid pre-season, attracting several new players and winning two games. The prize recruits included ace goalkicker Jim Martin, who was appointed captain, and centreman T.Chesswas, who was made vice-captain, and former Alphington forward G.Youren.
Martin was top goalkicker for Ivanhoe over three seasons in 1921-22-23. He topped the goalkicking with 65 goals in 1921, including a record 13-goal haul against Templestowe in Round 2 on May 14.
T.Chesswas is believed to be related to George Chesswas, who was the only member of Ivanhoe’s 1913 premiership team still playing in the 1921 season.They had a cousin Harry Chesswas who was playing at Collingwood.
Ivanhoe dropped just three games in 1921. Their biggest threat wasn’t reigning premiers Heidelberg, it was Diamond Creek. The Hoes just held off Diamo in the Round 1 game on May 7, the Hoes 9.9 to 8.7. The formidable Coventry Brothers weren’t playing for Diamo that day – Gordon Coventry was at Collingwood by 1920 and brother Syd joined him in 1922.
Syd Coventry was a ruckman who captained the Magpies from 1927-34, won two B&Fs, the 1927 Brownlow, and four flags. His brother Gordon, aka ’’Nuts’’, was a full-forward who topped the Magpies goalkicking from 1922-37, scoring 1299 goals, won a B&F, and five flags.
Ivanhoe demolished Heidelberg in Round 3 by 67 points, 11.13 to 12 behinds. Heidelberg were missing six players from their 1920 premiership side. The Hoes had replaced four including Len Ludbrooke who had debuted for Collingwood in Round 18, 1920.
Ludbrooke was back for the Round 4 game against Alphington, which may have contributed to a bit of over-confidence. Injuries to a few Ivanhoe players didn’t help. Alphington won by 10 points, 5.4 to 3.6.
Umpiring was a major issue during the 1921 season, with HDFA umpires failing to turn up to Ivanhoe’s games on three occasions in the first eight games.
Another gripe was punctuality. In Round 5, the game didn’t start until 3.45pm because the Eltham team was late taking the field despite being at their home ground Eltham Park. The official start time was 3pm. (The Eltham boys were a no-show at Alphington in Round 7)
Ivanhoe onballer Laurie Murphy was best-on in Round 5 when Eltham was beaten by 43 points. He got his first senior game at Collingwood the following Saturday.
Round 7 found the Hoes making the long trip out to Hurstbridge. There was a “motor car mishap” on the way and the Hoes started with just 13 players. The five missing players arrived just before half-time, sparking loud cheers from supporters. Down by four goals at half-time on a ground that was later described as “unfit to play on”, the Hoes set about reeling in the margin. They got five goals to two in the third term and the margin was five points in the home side’s favour at the final change. The Hoes got four goals in the final quarter to win by 12 points, 10.8 to 8.7.
The local paper reported that many Hurstbridge lads were barracking for an Ivanhoe player named Reed, whom they knew. The umpire was considered unsatisfactory by both sides and copped threats from “vindictive Ivanhoe supporters”. “It would be better for the game of football if supporters would keep their blocks and also keep off the ground,” a reporter for the Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser and Diamond Creek Valley Advocate wrote.
Ivanhoe were knocked off top spot after losing to Diamond Creek in Round 8. The game was at Diamond Creek and the field umpire failed to turn up. The home club appointed a scratch umpire who, according to the Heidelberg News correspondent, “completely ignored every rule and regulation governing the game”.
The heavier Diamo side took full advantage and smashed the Hoes at every opportunity. The umpire was replaced by another volunteer at half-time who wasn’t much better. The Hoes lost by 18 points and had several players injured, including one (McArthur) who suffered a fractured bone in his shoulder.
Ivanhoe formed a ladies committee mid-season, which helped raise funds through the sale of afternoon tea. After the Round 9 game at Ivanhoe Park against bottom-side Templestowe, the ladies sold afternoon tea and refreshments for sixpence. They raised two pounds and five shillings – a fair amount in those days.
It was a refreshing change to match-day fundraising compared with the previous season. According to the Heidelberg Historian newsletter, local nightman Fred Steel collected money from spectators without bothering to change out of his stinking work clothes. (In the days before sewerage, nightmen emptied toilet cans from homes during the night.)
Ivanhoe lost its third game in Round 10 to Heidelberg by 13 points at Heidelberg. The Bergers jumped the Hoes in the first quarter and opened up a handy lead. In perfect weather conditions, the game was played at the fastest pace seen all season. The Hoes let themselves down with poor disposal in the forward line and didn’t make enough of the opportunities for goals. Finals scores were 7.11 to 4.16. It was a valuable lesson, and the Hoes didn’t lose another game after that.
Both clubs lodged formal protests after the game. Ivanhoe complained that Heidelberg had played unregistered players, which was later withdrawn. Heidelberg complained that Ivanhoe’s Reed and Benson were from outside the district. The protest was dismissed. In the same hearing, Diamond Creek’s protest against Greensborough playing an unregistered player was upheld and Diamo was given the four points.
The Hoes scraped home by a goal against Alphington on a wet and sloppy Ivanhoe Park in Round 11, reclaiming top spot. At some stage, two Alphington players walked off, incurring the wrath of their teammates who preferred to play two men short than play with the pair again in their next game against Heidelberg.
Hoe Park was in better knick when Ivanhoe downed Eltham by 60 points in Round 12, but the game was again marred by more poor umpiring.
In Round 13, the only complaints were about the worst wet and windy weather of the season. Greensborough could only muster 16 men to begin with and were defeated by 50 points
Hurstbridge proved to be fair-weather footballers as well. Almost half of their regular players failed to make themselves available for the last game of the home-and-away season in the wet at Ivanhoe Park. The ground was in terrible condition after a week of rain. The visitors had 16 players and several were total novices. Martin kicked 10 goals in Ivanhoe’s 117-point win, 20.23 to 4.2.
Ivanhoe finished minor premiers with 11 wins and three losses. The other finalists were Alphington (10 and 3), Diamond Creek (10 and 4), and Heidelberg (8 and 6).
Alphington and Heidelberg met in the first semi-final at Diamond Creek. The Bergers got home by three points in a hard-fought encounter, 6.7 to 5.10. There were complaints about over- umpiring – 18 frees were awarded to each side in the first quarter. And there was a formal protest by Alphington alleging that Heidelberg had played three ineligible players. The protest was subsequently dismissed.
Ivanhoe played Diamond Creek in the second semi-final at Greensborough on Saturday September 3. It was cold and showery and Diamo had Syd Coventry in their ranks.
It was tight, crowded and scrambly in the first half, with the Hoes up by 8 points at the long interval, 3.6 to 2.4. The Hoes broke open the game in the third term, booting six goals to Diamo’s one behind. The final margin was 42 points, 11.13 to 5.7. Martin topscored with six goals, Millsom and Reed got two each, and Wall one.
Onballer Charles Wall was singled out for special mention as was half-back Youren – “both having a task allotted to them which they carried out creditably”.
The grand final between Ivanhoe and Heidelberg was played at Templestowe on Saturday September 10.
Collingwood’s captain Dick Lee addressed the Ivanhoe players in the changerooms before the final and gave them some “points of advice”.
Ivanhoe’s team was: Jim Martin (captain, centre-half forward), T.Cheswass (vice-captain, centre), George Cheswass (half-back), T.Lorriet (also spelt as Loriot) (forward), R.Hannah (back), W.Baird (back), G.Youren (half-back), J.Benson (forward) W.Reed (ruck-rover), W.Millsom (rover), G.`Chappy’ Coates (wing), Ray Matthews (full-back), D.Chisholm (forward), J.McArthur (back), Len Ludbrook (half-forward), Charles Wall (forward/onball), D.Farr (ruck), C.Hutton (wing).
It proved to be a one-sided affair. Ivanhoe led throughout. At quarter-time, the Hoes were 3.2 to one point, half-time it was 6.4 to 2.4, three-quarter time 12.11 to 3.6, and final scores Ivanhoe13.19 (97) to Heidelberg 4.9 (33). Goals: Chisholm 4, Martin 3, Benson 2, Ludbrook 2, Reed, Millsom.
Best players were not given. “Every man on the side shone with unusual brilliancy,” reported the Heidelberg News. T.Cheswass, W.Millsom and L.Ludbrook received high praise.
Dick Lee returned to the rooms afterwards to heartily congratulate the Hoes on their victory. Lee was so impressed by several players that he invited them to train with Collingwood next season.
(Lee’s cousin Ernest ‘Snowy’ Lumsden, a premiership player and vice-captain at Collingwood, became Ivanhoe’s captain-coach in 1923.)
As for the HDFA, that letter writer was accurate in foretelling that the association’s rural clubs wanted to break away and form a new league.
Ivanhoe convened a delegates meeting in mid-March, 1922, but only Alphington and Fairfield Juniors attended. Given the lack of interest from other HDFA clubs, Ivanhoe and Alphington decided to sound out Northcote, Preston and North Fitzroy football clubs about forming a new league to be called the Jika Jika Association.
Another HDFA delegates meeting was held at Heidelberg on March 29, 1922. Heidelberg, Ivanhoe, Alphington, Diamond Creek and Fairfield Juniors were represented. A letter was read out on behalf of the Templestowe club stating that they had joined the newly-formed Diamond Valley Association “as they considered their team too weak to come down the line”. (Diamond Valley Association was the forerunner of today’s Northern Football League)
The question of carrying on the Heidelberg District competition was further discussed and Ivanhoe’s delegate Mr J. Gough raised the idea of a Jika Jika Association. Mr Gough proposed formal disbandment of HDFA and it was seconded by Alphington’s delegate Mr S.Grenness. It was decided to meet at Ivanhoe the next night to discuss forming a new association. The only delegates to attend were from Ivanhoe, Alphington and Fairfield Juniors – the latter having already decided to join another competition.
Ivanhoe and Alphington decided to try and get their clubs affiliated with the Victorian Junior Association.
On April 22, the Heidelberg News published an open letter to Ivanhoe residents and shopkeepers penned by Ivanhoe president Mr H.H.Olney and secretary Mr J.A.Gough.
They claimed that Ivanhoe was to have been excluded from Heidelberg District Association “owing to their prowess in the football field last season”, and that the association was disbanded. The club would be playing in the Melbourne District Football Association, which would be a higher grade of football.
“The Ivanhoe people may well be proud of their football players. They are a type of men who play the game in a clean, sportsmanlike manner, and the committee expects to retain for ‘Our Own Town’ team the services of the players who so worthily upheld the name of Ivanhoe last season.”
Supporters were urged to stick by the club despite the playing arena being enclosed to collect entrance money.
As it turned out, the club had to play many home games at Heidelberg Park in 1922 while the council worked to improve the playing surface at Ivanhoe Park. Jim Martin was elected club captain, Len Ludbrooke was vice-captain.
Ivanhoe’s second premiership pennant was unfurled by the president’s wife, Mrs Olney, on Saturday May 13 at Heidelberg Park when Ivanhoe hosted Brunswick Juniors in Round 1 of the MDFA. The 1921 pennant’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
Fairfield was the only other neighbouring club to compete in the MDFA that year. Alphington joined in 1923. Heidelberg joined in 1926 when it was re-named as the Sub-District League.
In the summer of 1930, when local clubs were struggling to compete with the weathier clubs in the Sub-District League during the Great Depression, there were calls for Heidelberg District to be re-formed. Ivanhoe, Fairfield and Alphington were prepared to back the plan, which meant players would be amateurs and only coaches could be paid.
Heidelberg had already switched to the DVFL and its decision to stay in that league is believed to be a key reason for the plan’s failure.
In 1934, Ivanhoe and Alphington joined the Victorian Amateur Football Association, along with the newly-formed Parkside club based at Pitcher Park in Fairfield.