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Headliners No. 21: The Grand Final furore

By Glenn McFarlane of the Herald Sun  April 19, 2017 9:07 AM

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Collingwood claimed its third VFL premiership with victory over Carlton in 1910.

Collingwood is never far from the headlines.

As any decent news editor knows, if you can get the Magpies onto the front or back page, on the TV or as a lead online item, you'll get readers and viewers.

That results in a lot of Collingwood stories being overhyped. But there's also no denying that we've been involved in plenty of genuinely massive news stories down the years – from sackings, injuries and board coups to player revolts and internal squabbling.

So, to help mark Collingwood's 125th anniversary season, we're counting down the 25 biggest, most explosive news stories in Magpie history, as judged by historian Michael Roberts and the Herald Sun's Glenn McFarlane.

We've ignored Premierships and on-field results, and have instead concentrated on the other elements that have so often seen our club making headlines. It's a fascinating way to look back at our often colourful history.

Each of these stories will be published by Collingwood Media on #125Wednesdays, as part of our mid-week celebration of Collingwood's 125th Anniversary.


No. 21
The Grand Final furore of 1910
By Glenn McFarlane of the Herald Sun

Collingwood and Carlton co-existed in a relatively peaceful relationship for almost the first 20 years of competition against each other - to the point where each club helped the other when in need.

That changed utterly, on 1 October 1910.

Australian football's most intense rivalry of the 20th Century was born out of one of the most violent Grand Finals ever staged, and there was no looking back for the Magpies or the Blues.

TICKETS: Book your place at our 125th anniversary dinner dance now.

What happened during that game, and in the aftermath, made plenty of news (little of it good for the VFL image), casting a shadow over the competition and driving a wedge between these two inner-suburban clubs.

Even before the first bell to start the game, there had been controversy. Carlton had two players disqualified for "playing dead" in a match before the finals, and the entire 1910 season had been marred by a series of brawls, betting scandals and bribery allegations. The VFL prayed for a scandal-free finale to the season, but could hardly have envisaged how badly it would all turn out.

HEADLINERS NO. 22: A new star arrives.

One of the VFL's leading umpires, Jack Elder, feared there was going to be trouble when in a visit to both rooms before the match he could sense a "sullen hostility" among the players.

But that hostility lay dormant early, and didn't show out in the first three quarters. The match proceeded without any incident of note until a spark in the final term led to a combustion which one newspaper would describe as "the most disgraceful scene witnessed on a Melbourne football field."

It started in a relatively innocuous passage on the wing between Collingwood's Tom Baxter and Carlton's Jack Bacquie. The Blues player threw an elbow at the Magpie, and when he retaliated, it was on for young and old. Jim Shorten flattened Bacquie, and then Magpie big man Les Hughes was knocked out. Every player became a part of the melee as police edged closer and threatened to restore order by any means.

As chaos ensued, Elder had the good sense to bounce the ball in an effort to end the fight. He would say later: "I feel certain if I failed to get the game going again that day, the crowd would have swarmed onto the ground and rival camps of barrackers would have been at each other's throats."

Collingwood v Carlton
Grand Final 1910

Collingwood 9.7 (61) def. Carlton 6.11 (47)

Goals - Collingwood: Lee 4, Angus, Daykin, Gibb, Gilchrist, Vernon
Carlton: McGregor 2, Baguie, Gardner, Marchbank, Wells

Crowd: 42,790 at the MCG

Fortunately, it worked. The game continued and Collingwood maintained its ascendancy, going on to win the match - and the 1910 premiership - by 14 points. It was the club's first flag in seven years and would stand in history as the only Grand Final success the Magpies would have over the Blues.

Dick Lee kicked four goals for Collingwood, taking his season tally to 58, and was the club’s best player alongside Jock McHale.

However, it was the punch-on, not the premiership success, which became big news after the game. There was condemnation of both sides for their ill-tempered displays, even if the flag meant more to the Collingwood players than the recriminations arising out of the game.

The Sporting Globe described the scenes as "disgraceful ... had the League asserted itself years ago, as it should have done, these blots on the reputation of the football world would not have been seen."

HEADLINERS NO. 23: A pre-season shock.

But the drama did not end there. The tribunal cases that followed made for more headlines the VFL could do without. Baxter and Bacquie each received four weeks suspension, while Shorten and Carlton's Percy Sheehan copped a season and a half each.

Yet the post-script to Baxter's case only added to commentary surrounding what a mess the game had become.

Collingwood's Richard Daykin had decided to retire from and – conveniently - penned a letter to the VFL stating that he, and not Baxter, had been responsible for the fight with Bacquie. The more astonishing fact was that the VFL took the letter seriously, even though Elder was adamant there had been no mistaken identity. Besides, everyone knew that Daykin was nicknamed 'Ginger' for his red hair, while Baxter had dark hair.

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Incredibly, the ruse worked. The VFL overturned Baxter's ban and refrained from imposing a penalty on Daykin for his "confession" as he had been "so manly and courageous" in coming forward with his "admission".

VISIT THE HUB: Get all the information you need as we celebrate our 125th anniversary.

The farce only fuelled more negative headlines concerning the game, ensuring the 1910 season concluded as it had been played out – with more than its share of angst and aggravation, as well as controversy.

Still, Collingwood had triumphed on and off the field, even if Carlton vowed not to forgive its now fierce rival. This animosity only stoked the feelings between the two clubs, sowing the seeds of a great football rivalry.

Headliners - Collingwood's Top 25 News Stories since 1925

No. 25 - McKenna snubbed


No. 24 - Leaving Victoria Park

No. 23 - A pre-season shock

No. 22 - The arrival of a new star