Inflated cowhide to Mother Earth

From about age 11 and all through my teenage years I engaged in my hometown (Melbourne) religion and played footy every Saturday afternoon. The top level of competition was the Victorian Football League (VFL) followed by the Victorian Football Association (VFA) and a level further down was our suburban Federal League. I played mainly at full forward, with 2 Federal League Junior sides: Oakleigh Districts and later McKinnon. I distinctly remember a McKinnon flag winning season in which we didn’t lose a single game and won several by 30 goals.

In 1914, a great, great uncle of mine; Clarrie Judd was the first President of a pioneering new Junior level Federal League team – Ellindale. They won a single game in their first season.

The Federal League began in 1909 with Cheltenham, Ellindale, Mordialloc, Elsternwick, Moorabbin, Mentone and Glen Huntly as the founding members. Many clubs featured in the Federal League including some well known in today’s suburban football – Noble Park, Springvale, Clayton, Oakleigh Districts, Chelsea, Parkdale and Black Rock. Others, however, have no traces today such as Camden, Dandenong, Doveton, East Malvern, East Caulfield and South Caulfield.

The local newspaper commentary on games in 1914 was delightfully colourful, as can be seen in the following report….


The first mentioned, and a few supporters journeyed to Moorabbin, last Saturday, with the hope of adding another quartet of points to their meagre total on the premiership list to date. They were successful. The bearers of the Royal blue colour were not equal to upholding the regal spirit of the day, Empire Day, but the vice-regal colours (Blue and Gold) conquered the foe, even although they only ruled over two “C’s”. As behoves the true backbone of the Empire, the tubular agriculturalists were ready for the fray on time, eager and anxious to engage in combat. Their allies, who hail from the village by the sea, where many people dwelleth (in summer) assisted greatly in the victory. Moorabbin Park may be likened to the luscious vegetables which grow in their district; scarce and late. It was with difficulty they got a team together, that fact causing great delay in getting the game going. Umpire Rust waited patiently for the Royal blues and at last the inflated cowhide was sent to mother earth and, on the rebound, the spud growing specialists grabbed and sent it to their half forwards at the school end. The “Schoolboy”, then dropped his chocolate bag swallowed his chewing gum, grabbed the ball and sent it sailing gaily between the sticks. If there had been 127,000 persons present, loud and continuous cheers would have certainly rent the air for miles around, but the fact being there was not 27 looking on, that tumultuous scene did not take place for this particular piece of work. Parks got nettled and attacked viciously, but could only kick across the goals….

Had the weather conditions been of a boisterous or unpleasant nature our sympathies would have been with the visitors for their prolonged delay at the tournament and later another tedious wait for a train returning.

Moorabbin News (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), Saturday 30 May 1914, page 8

The rule that all players must wear registered colors and be numbered during the coming season, is a good one, and the governing authorities should see that the rule is strictly carried out. The crowd, except those who know the respective players intimately, hardly know who’s who; and it’s not quite fair to the public either, for in a sense, footballers are entertainers and the onlooker generally likes to know who the players really are.

Frankston and Somerville Standard (Vic. : 1921 – 1939), Friday 6 May 1921, page 3


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *