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IT WAS ONLY ... 1919


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The Melbourne Football Club is doing it tough in 2012 and it was only a fortnight ago that a win against Essendon at the MCG averted the possibility of a ten game losing streak to start the season. Whispering Jack has been doing some research and discovered a year when things were much worse so Demonlanders can relax and ponder about a time when ...

IT WAS ONLY ... 1919

The VFL competition was less than two decades old when it was partially interrupted by the First World War. The competition, which had expanded to ten teams in 1908 with the introduction of Richmond and University, was reduced to only four in 1916 when the war was at its height but grew back to eight by 1918. Still missing were Melbourne and University.

With the end of hostilities in November, 1918 things started to slowly return to normality. Melbourne was re-admitted but the students, whose pre war record in the VFL had been poor, never returned to the senior competition. Feelers were put out for new clubs and applicants included the Ballarat League, Brunswick, Footscray, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Prahran and Port Melbourne. For the time being, none of the applicants were accepted. A "second XVIII" competition was introduced with the clubs represented by district teams.

Melbourne's last appearance in the competition had realised a long-awaited finals appearance in 1915 (it’s first since 1902) but the club had lost players, casualties of war and retirement, while others had lost their prowess after the long break. The club introduced many new players but 1919 was to prove fruitless and Melbourne went through the season finishing last without a win. The shining light was the debut of Ivor Warne Smith who would go on to win two Brownlow Medals and play in the club's second premiership team in 1926.

The club appointed George Haines, a champion rover from Geelong, as its playing coach. He made his debut in round 1 against St. Kilda at the Junction Oval, along with seven others who were playing their first VFL games. Haines, who had changed his name from Heinz because of the anti-German feeling of the day, captain-coached the side in 1919 and remained as a player in the following season.

Among those from the club who joined the ranks of the fallen during wartime were respected defender Arthur Mueller "Joe" Pearce who was killed during the landing at Gallipoli. Others who lost their lives were Clifford Burge, Jack Doubleday, Desmond McDonald, Fenley McDonald, Ralph Robertson, Percy Rodriguez and Alfred Williamson.

The club was left with an inexperienced line up  that was hardly a match for the opposition clubs and, despite some gallant efforts, the Redlegs had to wait until the following season to record the first post war victory after returning to the fold in May of 1919.

Round 1, 1919 - St. Kilda v Melbourne

Saturday, 3 May, 1919 at Junction Oval, St. Kilda.

St. Kilda 3.5.23 7.8.50 9.12.66 12.14.86

Melbourne 2.0.12 3.1.19 4.2.26 9.4.58

Goal kickers George Haines 3, Jack Huntington 2, Gordon Coulter 1, Teddy Johnston 1, Herb Matthews 1, Eric Tonkin 1

St. Kilda took the lead early and by half time led by 31 points. The Saints stretched the lead to 40 points at the last break but Melbourne reduced the deficit by two goals in a final term in which it more than doubled its score.

Making their debuts along with Haines who suffered a shoulder injury were Gordon Coulter, Jack House, Con Kenney, Bob Love, Percy Love, John McMahon and Eric Tonkin. Bill McKenzie completed a long wait to play his 100th game and ruckman Bill Allan was Melbourne's best.

Round 2, 1919 - Melbourne v South Melbourne

Saturday, 10 May, 1919 at MCG

Melbourne 0.2.2 2.5.17 3.7.25 3.10.28

South Melbourne 3.7.25 5.10.40 7.13.55 10.19.79

Goal kickers George Haines 1, Percy Love 1, Eric Tonkin 1

Melbourne's return to the MCG was greeted by a crowd of 6,237 in its game against reigning premier South Melbourne who the Fuschias had nudged out of a finals place four years earlier. They had to wait until the second quarter before they would kick their first goal of the new era at their home ground and were soundly thrashed.

Still hampered  by his shoulder injury, Haines barely made a contribution after the first term. His team's disposal skills were poor, it overused its handball and scored only one goal after half time in a 51 point loss. Allan, McKenzie and Percy Love were the best in a game in which the club introduced another debutant in Cyril Hall.

Round 3, 1919 - Melbourne v Richmond

Saturday, 17 May, 1919 at MCG

Melbourne 2.1.13 4.4.28 4.6.30 7.7.49

Richmond 3.4.22 4.9.33 9.10.64 11.14.80

Goal kickers Eric Tonkin 2, Jack Connole 1, George Haines 1, Jack Huntington 1, Con Kenney 1, Percy Love 1

There were signs of improvement as Melbourne trailed by a mere five points at half time. At that stage, most players were holding their own around the ground but the usually reliable Allan was well beaten in the ruck. The third quarter was a disaster with Richmond piling on 5.1 to 0.2 which was virtually the difference between the teams on the day. McKenzie, Hall and midfielder House were the team's best. Haines returned to form in his roving role and there was some respite ahead for the team with a bye scheduled for the coming weekend.

Round 4, 1919 - bye

Round 5, 1919 - Carlton v Melbourne

Saturday, 31 May at Princes Park, Parkville

Carlton 2.2.14 9.4.58 14.8.92 18.15.123

Melbourne 1.3.9 2.4.16 3.4.22 5.4.34

Goal kickers Eric Tonkin 2, Jack Huntington 1, Bob Love 1, Bill McKenzie 1

The week's break proved to be of little value to the team which was thrashed by Carlton after a competitive first quarter. The Blues were relentless for the remainder of the game and it was only due to their forwards failing to hit the target in the final term that the Redlegs managed to avoid a defeat in excess of 100 points.

Tonkin was Melbourne's best, and both Haines and McLean won praise in a disappointing performance. Elsewhere that day, Geelong finished goalless, kicking 18 points against St. Kilda.

Round 6, 1919 - Collingwood v Melbourne

Saturday, 7 June, 1919 at Victoria Park, Abbotsford 

Collingwood 3.5.23 8.12.60 11.14.80 16.20.116

Melbourne 2.0.12 3.1.19 7.6.48 8.7.55

Goal kickers Eric Tonkin 2, Bill Allen 1, Jack Connole 1, George Haines 1, Jack House 1, Percy Love 1, Alex Salvado 1

The comeback kids were quickly becoming the whipping boys of the competition although one might have thought otherwise when the players received notice in the rooms at Victoria Park for their game against Collingwood that said "The secretary respectfully requests the players to kick as many goals as possible, but those kicking more than six goals will be ordered off the field for selfishness".

Needless to say there was no "selfishness" and the team went down by ten goals. There were however, some signs of improvement but there was little  teamwork and Collingwood was simply a much stronger outfit.

George Walker was Melbourne's best and Gray was applauded for his kick-ins which often cleared his side out of danger. McKenzie and House were also among the best.

Round 7, 1919 - Melbourne v Fitzroy

Saturday, 14 June, 1919 at  MCG

Melbourne 3.2.20 3.5.23 4.6.30 6.6.42

Fitzroy 5.2.32 6.8.44 9.11.65 11.12.78

Goal kickers George Haines 3, Bill Allen 1, Stan Huntington 1, Con Kenney 1

The desperate Redlegs introduced three new players for the game against Fitzroy (one of who just lasted the one game) but it made little difference as the onslaught continued in front of 4,085 fans at the MCG. The Melbourne forward line struggled to score goals while the Maroons' focal point, Bob Merrick kicked eight of their 11 goals.

The indefatigable Bill Allen was back to his best in the ruck in his 100th game. Other good players were Baquie, Matthews, Haines, Walker and Lilley.

Round 8, 1919 - Melbourne v Geelong

Saturday, 21 June at MCG

Melbourne 3.2.20 3.3.21 7.6.48 7.10.52

Geelong 1.1.7  6.7.43 8.10.58 10.12.72

Goal kickers Eric Tonkin 2, Bill Allen 1, Stan Huntington 1, Percy Love 1, Herb Matthews 1, Bill McKenzie 1

A truly paltry crowd (even by the standards of the day) of 1,327 came to the MCG to watch the competition's cellar dwellers as eight fought for the right to claim their first premiership points of the season. The Redlegs started the campaign well with the aid of the breeze but were swamped in the second term and eventually lost a lacklustre game by 20 points. Eric Tonkin arrived early in the afternoon after catching a train overnight from Sydney and he had a good game kicking two goals. Debutant Leo Little who had previously played VFL football for the now disbanded University team in 1915 was promising. 

Round 9, 1919 - Essendon v Melbourne

Saturday, 28 June at East Melbourne

Essendon 4.3.27 7.10.52 11.14.80 16.17.113

Melbourne 2.2.14 3.3.21 5.6.36 6.8.44

Goal kickers George Haines 1, Jack Huntington 1, Gordon Landy 1, Herb Matthews 1, Alex Salvado 1, Eric Tonkin 1

Essendon's home ground was at nearby East Melbourne and Melbourne, with three more newcomers in the team suffered their biggest defeat at the venue. Ex-Carlton recruit Bill Hore was among the best along with Gray and Haines but the hapless Redlegs were never in the hunt  after the first quarter.

Round 10, 1919 – Melbourne v St. Kilda

Saturday 12 July, 1919 at MCG

Melbourne 3.2.20 5.3.33 5.4.34 5.7.37

St. Kilda 2.2.14 3.6.24 5.11.41 6.11.47

Goal kickers Eric Tonkin 2, Jack Baquie 1, George Haines 1, Ivor Warne-Smith 1

The round 10 fixture against St. Kilda was played before a small crowd of 3,483 but was significant on two counts. The home side came closer than ever before of winning it's first game since 1915 and, more significantly, the game marked the debut of Ivor Warne-Smith, arguably one of the greatest Demons ever to grace the football fields. 

The twenty-one year old Warne-Smith joined Melbourne for eight games and two goals in 1919 but moved to Tasmania in the following year. The true all round sportsman returned to the club in 1925 and had a stellar season in 1926 playing in a premiership and winning the Brownlow Medal, a feat he repeated in 1928. He retired at the end of 1932 by which time he had captain coached the team. Warne-Smith played 146 games for 110  goals. Later in life, he was Chairman of Selectors, helping Norm Smith to create the revived Demons as they began their golden era of the 1950s and 60s.

Warne-Smith's debut game was played in blinding rain with strong winds that made play difficult. The conditions helped the home side which found itself in unfamiliar territory when it led by 9 points at half time. However, the Saints dominated the third term to take a seven point lead into the last, and while Melbourne had its opportunities to snatch victory kicking with the wind in the final quarter, it couldn't add to it's half time tally of goals while the visitors goalled at one of their few forward forays to win by 10 points.  

According to a report in the Football Record, it was so cold that the St Kilda players could not untie their bootlaces or take off their uniforms unaided after the match. 

For Melbourne, Gray and Armstrong were best while Haines and debutant Warne-Smith impressed.

Round 11, 1919 - South Melbourne v Melbourne

Saturday, 19 July, 1919 at Lake Oval, Albert Park

South Melbourne 2.3.15 6.7.43 9.10.64 13.16.94

Melbourne 0.1.1 1.7.13 1.9.15 2.15.27

Goal kickers Herb Matthews 1, Lou Salvana 1

Harry Brereton was a Melbourne champion who kicked 187 goals in his 85 games between 1909 and 1915  and was the VFL's top goal kicket in 1912 but in his first game since the start of World War 1, he lined up against his former teammates and destroyed them with a six goal haul for South Melbourne. The Swans were dominant all day, leading by five goals at the main break and stretching that out to a 67 point win.

Little, McKenzie, Walker and Matthews were best for the Fuschias who had now lost all 10 matches of what was turning into a horror season.

Round 12, 1919  - Richmond v Melbourne

Saturday, 26 July, 1919 at Punt Road, Richmond

Richmond 2.6.18 2.10.22 5.15.45 9.18.72

Melbourne 2.0.12 5.3.33 6.3.39 7.6.48

Goal kickers Alec Farrow 2, Archie Grigg 1, George Haines 1, Charlie Lilley 1, Bill Shelton 1, Ivor Warne-Smith 1

The club was desperate to turn things around and added four more first gamers into the mix for their round 12 clash against the neighbouring Tigers. The move seemed to be an inspired one when the team led by eleven points at half time but Richmond turned things around with 3.3.21 to 0.4.4 for the third term and ran away with the game in the last to record a comfortable victory.  The following week's bye could not come quickly enough.

Melbourne's best were McKenzie, Shelton, Walker and Matthews. 

Round 13, 1919 - bye

Round 14, 1919  - Melbourne v Carlton

Saturday, 16 August, 1919 at  MCG

Melbourne 0.3.3  0.3.3 3.6.24 5.6.36

Carlton  2.2.14 9.6.60 12.10.82 13.18.96

Goal kickers Lou Salvana 2, Gordon Coulter 1, Con Kenney 1, Herb Matthews 1

Only 3,825 fans were in attendance at the MCG to witness another drubbing, this time at the hands of the Blues who kept the Fuschias goalless for the first half to lead by 57 points at the main interval. With the game decided, the second half was an even tussle with Melbourne going down by 10 goals. 

Jack Baquie was his team's best along with McKenzie, Boddington and Shelton while McWhinney, Matthews and Warne-Smith also won praise.

Round 15, 1919 - Melbourne v Collingwood

Saturday, 23 August, 1919 at MCG

Melbourne 2.0.12 2.1.13 3.3.21 5.6.36

Collingwood 4.4.28 9.12.66  12.24.96 20.25.145

Goal kickers Con Kenney 2, Percy Love 1, Herb Matthews 1, Eric Tonkin 1

The Magpies were in form and heading towards a top of the ladder finish while the Redlegs were winless. The resulting thrashing was inevitable although few would have predicted how badly things would go for Melbourne. In front of a crowd of 3,885, the team crashed to a 109 point defeat which flattered the team because of Collingwood's inaccuracy in front of goal. Nevertheless, the Magpies' score of 20.25.145 was their highest score ever.

Unfortunately for Melbourne, the team had yet to reach rock bottom.

Round 16, 1919 - Fitzroy v Melbourne

Saturday, 30 August at Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Fitzroy 6.5.41 14.7.91 19.12.126 21.16.142

Melbourne 1.2.8 1.2.8 2.3.15 2.5.17

Goal kickers Eric Chisholm 1, George Haines 1

Melbourne suffered it's biggest loss ever at Brunswick Street in a non-competitive display that yielded it a mere two goals for the day. The Maroons, with Bob Merrick kicking 12 goals (at that stage, the second biggest goal haul in VFL history) finished 125 point winners while the hapless Fuschias booted their lowest score since they kicked 0.8 against South Melbourne in 1912.

Round 17, 1919 - Geelong vs Melbourne

Saturday, 6 September, 1919 at  Corio Oval, Geelong    

Geelong 5.3.33 5.4.34 9.12.66 14.12.96

Melbourne 0.3.3 1.10.16 2.10.22  6.15.51

Goal kickers Harry Selover 2, Bill Allen 1, George Haines 1, Stan Huntington 1, Leo Little 1

George Haines celebrated his 100th game with an improved performance after a poor opening quarter at Corio Oval against the Pivotonians. Indeed, the half time deficit of three goals could have been much closer had the visitors kicked better than 1.7 to 0.1 in the second term. 

Geelong proved too strong in the second half to run out 45 point winners.

Tonkin, Haines, Allen and Selover were Melbourne's best.

Round 18, 1919 - Melbourne vs Essendon

Saturday, 13 September, 1919 at MCG

Melbourne 1.4.10 1.4.10 2.5.17 4.9.33

Essendon 0.3.3 5.5.35 8.5.53 10.7.67

Goal kickers Eric Chisholm 1, George Haines 1, Jack Huntington 1, Percy Love 1

Melbourne's hopes of ending the season with victory was boosted when it held Essendon goalless in the opening term of their final game. However, the Redlegs failed to score in the second quarter and were four goals in arrears by half time on the way to a 34 point defeat.

After a long an arduous season, it was clear that some of the players were already in end of season mode even before the game had started.

Legend had it that three of them went for a "long lunch" before the match. One broke a window in a cab on the way to the ground and the three were locked inside until suitable compensation was offered. They did manage to make it in time for the game and be named amongst the best three players!

At season's end, this was the ladder:-

Team W D L % Pts

Collingwood 13 0 3 162.3 52

South Melbourne 12 0 4 158.7 48

Carlton 10 0 6 127.6 40

Richmond 10 0 6 118.2 40


Fitzroy 9 1 6 125.3 38

Essendon 7 0 9 94.6 28

St. Kilda  7 0 9 70.6 28

Geelong 3 1 12 73.4 14

Melbourne 0 0 16 43.0 0

Collingwood went on to win the premiership after beating Richmond in the grand final.

Playing List - 1919

Number Player Games  Goals

1    Bill Allen 9 4

2    Eric Tonkin 14 14

3    Percy Love 11 6

4    Bill McKenzie 13 2

5    Bob Love 8 1

6    Herb Matthews 14  6

7    Bill Hore 2 0

7    Reg Gibb 3 0

8    Charlie Lilley 14 1

9    John McMahon  3 0

10    Gordon Coulter 8 2

11    Jack Baquie 14 1

13    Lindsay Nichols 1 0

14    Alec Gray 13 0

15    George Haines 14  15

16    George Walker 10 0

17    Con Kenney 9 5

18    Bob Bodington  4 0

18    Stan Huntington 3 3

19    Eric Chisholm 5 2

19    Allan McLean 5  0

19    Jack Huntington 12 6

20    Art McWhinney 9 0

20    Teddy Johnston 1 1

21    Jack House 15 1

22    Bill Brunier 4 0

23    Alex Salvado 5 2

24    Lou Salvana 6 3

25    Alec Farrow 4 2

25    Howard Richardson 1 0

26    Cyril Hall 9 0

27    Jack Connole 5 2

28    Matt Connors 3 0

28    Jack Evans 1 0

29    Charlie Armstrong 3 0

29    Frank Cummins 1 0

30    Bill Shelton 8 1

31    Leo Little 6 1

32    Archie Grigg 3 1

33    Ivor Warne-Smith 8 2

34    Harry Selover 3 2

35    Dave Elliman 3 0

Unknown Gordon Landy 1 1

Melbourne won its opening round game of 1920 against South Melbourne ending a drought of almost five years going back to round 15 of 1915. Five years later with Warne-Smith back in the fold and a team full of many more new names, the Redlegs were back in the finals. A year later, they won their second premiership against Collingwood. 

FOOTNOTE: In the 45 seasons that followed 1919, the Melbourne Football Club won 11 premierships, a rate of almost one every four years.

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Thanks for that, Demonland

So things aren't quite so bad this year, eh!

Do you have any records of how ferrel the Internet boards were that season?? :-)

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Thanks for that, Demonland

So things aren't quite so bad this year, eh!

Do you have any records of how ferrel the Internet boards were that season?? :-)

Perhaps the Internet boards equivalent back in 1919 was in the Pubs between 5pm and 6pm 'monoccular' . Would have got nice and lively around 10 to 6 in the midst of the swill !

Great post WJ .

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Do you have any records of how ferrel the Internet boards were that season?? :-)

I believe there was a poster about in those days called TYR (the Y standing for "young") who was a big critic of George Haines and was imploring the club's committee to appoint one Ned Kelly Junior as coach instead.

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I should acknowledge that much of my research for the article came from supermercado's excellent site Demon Wiki and Lynda Carroll's book.

I don't think Melbourne supporters are aware of the richness of the history of their club and I say that despite the fact that most of us don't like to dwell in the past.

Hopefully, when we come good on the field then more Demon fans will appreciate this.

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I found your article fascinating, Jack. Thanks.

Also interesting for me was that I think I actually knew one of the players from that 1919 team!

I played cricket at Hawthorn-East Melb in the late 60's and the "practice captain"was a club stalwart by the name of Lou Salvana. He was about 75 at the time, so that fits in with playing in 1919.I think he'd been a good player for HEM in cricket. I don't remember ever discussing footy with him.How I wish I did! He was a great guy, much loved by everyone at the club.

Also, I'd love to know if Stan Huntington was related to Ian, the great MCC and Vic cricketer, VFL ump, and star all round MCC sportsman (also a fantastic bloke).

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I found your article fascinating, Jack. Thanks.

Also interesting for me was that I think I actually knew one of the players from that 1919 team!

I played cricket at Hawthorn-East Melb in the late 60's and the "practice captain"was a club stalwart by the name of Lou Salvana. He was about 75 at the time, so that fits in with playing in 1919.I think he'd been a good player for HEM in cricket. I don't remember ever discussing footy with him.How I wish I did! He was a great guy, much loved by everyone at the club.

Also, I'd love to know if Stan Huntington was related to Ian, the great MCC and Vic cricketer, VFL ump, and star all round MCC sportsman (also a fantastic bloke).

Thanks Jumping Jack - I think you might have something there. I seem to recall reading a story about Ian Huntington when he played for Victoria and it mentioned the family history had strong connections with both the cricket and football clubs (which were one and and the same thing at the time) so there's a definite possibility that Jack and Stan Huntington were related to Ian who, along with "Froggy" Crompton, was stiff not to represent his country at cricket.

Another interesting family relationship was that of Herb Matthews whose grandson Herb played a few games with the Demons in the early 60s. In between, Herb Senior's son was a South Melbourne champion who won a Brownlow.

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My g/father (Arthur Sowden) joined the club in 1899. He was mentioned in the BOG in the semi final of 1900, He had rolled an ankle in the semi-final & it kept him out of the flag winning game next week. He played his last year as Captain - no coach - in 1906 & the team had a similar run to Jack's unhappiness of 1919. They won 3 games. No numbers were worn then but Arthur was player number 19 in the club listing.

Arthur is a committeeman depicted in the 1926 premiership photo which includes Albert Chadwick as captain.

Laurie Mithen was one of my teachers in the late 50s,

I also caddied as a kid at the Riversdale golf club & took a few ten shilling notes for 18 holes of toil from Percy Beames & Sir Albert Chadwick. Later played golf with George Bickford.

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I should acknowledge that much of my research for the article came from supermercado's excellent site Demon Wiki and Lynda Carroll's book.

I don't think Melbourne supporters are aware of the richness of the history of their club and I say that despite the fact that most of us don't like to dwell in the past.

Hopefully, when we come good on the field then more Demon fans will appreciate this.

just a small thing but she is a stickler for detail "Lynda Carroll", what amazes me is that IW-S had just finished WW1 part of a lung missing and he was 21.

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  • 1 month later...

Surely the time has arrived for the Melbourne Football Club to come right out and admit that, during some games in the 1919 season, it was tanking?

I mean what were they thinking when they allowed players to take part in that round 18 game in an inebriated state?

Where did Eric Tonkin's game go after he came in on the overnight rail from Sydney?

Where were they hiding a champion like Ivor Warne Smith in the first half of the season?

And the whole idea of having an enemy alien whose name was really Heinz coaching the team so soon after the Huns and the Turks were massacring our boys is the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard!

There's little wonder that this side didn't win a game.

They were obviously tanking.

I demand that this matter is fully investigated by the AFL or, if not by them, then the VFL and that Mike Sheahan and the On the Couch panel finds someone who attended one of the games during that season (old Clyde the Cabbie was there as a kid) to take us through all of the experimentation that was tried that year.

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    TICKETS PLEASE by The Oracle

    A lot of water has passed under Princes Bridge in the five years since Melbourne last met Adelaide on the MCG. The Crows were riding high at the time while the Demons were mid-table and scrambling for a win to stay in the race for the finals. The 30,000 fans who had tickets to the game were thoroughly entertained by a close, high scoring affair that ended in tears for fans of the home team. Not even an eight-goal second term could help them.   Times have changed.    In the fi

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    ELECTRIFYING by George On The Outer

    What more can they throw at the Demons of 2021? Covid restrictions, hubs, aircraft circling between airports before landing for games and now a match stopped for 30 minutes to give a flagging opponent its second wind? To date, none of those distractions has swayed the team from their winning objectives. The game against West Coast in Perth can be marked on their report card as another positive outcome after yet another test. There was much at stake for both sides.  Melbourne had t

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    Match Reports

    LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY by Whispering Jack

    When the combatants that are due to face off on Monday night at Optus Stadium last met, it was 11 days after the World Health Organization had declared the Covid19 outbreak a global pandemic. In Australia, the first cases had just come to light, including visiting US actors Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, the toilet paper panic was in full flight and the world was starting to reel in anticipation of impending disaster. Half an hour before this last game of the opening round was due to comme

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