The Archive | With South Bendigo’s 125th celebrations winding down as 2018 comes to a close let’s look back at one of the Bloods’ most important victories.
It came when Alan ‘The Fox’ McDonald led the Bloods to their 1950 grand final win over Echuca --- their first flag in a quarter of a century.
Yes, there had been 25 years between drinks for the parched South fans, but what a playing coach McDonald turned out to be.
After 1950, South won grand finals in 1951, 1954, 1955 and Melbourne’s Olympic year: 1956.
So there were five premierships from five grand finals in seven years, a great achievement from McDonald and his Bloods. The Fox had taken over as South coach in 1947.
With a young list the 1950 Bloods had to work really hard at the tail-end of the season. They needed a win over Kyneton in Round 18 and they managed to do that to sneak back into the Top Four.
South Bendigo won the second semi-final against Castlemaine 15.20 to 11.12 and when Echuca downed the Magpies in the final the Maine was gone in straight sets.
It set up a highly anticipated grand final. Echuca hadn’t won the BFL flag since 1928 while South’s last success had come in 1925, under the astute leadership of Arthur Hando.
And even though torrential rain swept the Upper Reserve 30 minutes from grand final start time in 1950 an enormous crowd was present.
The gate receipts of £1065 set a new record for the BFL. The Monday Advertiser reported that pre-WW2 the best gate was a little more than £700.
“A steady procession of motor vehicles of all kinds started to come into the city shortly after midday,” the Addy stated.
McDonald won the toss but elected to kick to the Barnard Street end, against the wind.
“It was an unorthodox move as the wind favoured the goals at the other end,” the Advertiser match report stated.
Echuca broke away to snatch a 13-point lead in the first quarter with Toomey in their backline proving to be a big hurdle for South.
Hill in South’s defence was equally as effective but his teammate Connaughton went to the turf from a nasty knock to the head.
The injury seemed to affect Connaughton greatly and his kicking for the rest of the grand final was erratic. Today the team medic and trainers would probably have diagnosed concussion.
Anyway, after receiving attention from club trainers Connaughton took the penalty free kick but his shot for goal sent the ball wide.
But as an Echuca opponent had encroached over the mark Connaughton was given another kick. Only a single resulted.
Robertson got South’s first goal from a clever kick deep in a Barnard Street end pocket.
It took Echuca 15 minutes to score after their big men had thrown their weight around early.
Christie got a single with a snap shot. Yet often the Barnard Street end of the ground was deserted.
Finally the Murray Bombers broke away and landed three majors to take a 13-point lead in the initial term.
Heavy rain during the second term and again later caused deterioration in general play.
Players found the greasy ball extremely difficult to handle and at times there were wild bursts of indiscriminate kicking.
Despite this at no stage in the latter part of the game did South look in danger of defeat.
Following a nice pass from McDonald Robertson got the ball but he could manage only a single.
Captain McDonald fared better with his try and his goal placed South five points in front.
Echuca backman Toomey, who had hardly made a mistake, allowed the ball to go through his arms with the result South’s Walsh snapped it up and landed a maximum score.
Fast exchanges between McLean, Lenaghan and Elvey forced the ball to Robertson who scored the fifth goal.
At half-time South led by 17 points.
When South’s Connaughton re-appeared he was heavily bandaged on the head.
The sun shone brilliantly for the resumption of play but after the heavy showers the turf was slippery and treacherous.
Hicks of Echuca passed the ball to F. Kenna and he had the chance to pop up his team’s stocks. But the kick was a feeble effort.
Eluding three South opponents M. Kenna clinched his good play with a goal, leaving Echuca only nine points in arrears and its prospects brightened considerably.
Hicks and J. Kenna worked nicely together for the Murray Bombers, but their colleagues closer to goal often nullified their great efforts with unreliable marking and wretched kicking.
The situation became desperate for Echuca when Connaughton and Robertson got two more goals for South, securing the Bloods a 21-point lead.
Pushed while attempting a mark forward J. Kenna made no mistake from the free kick. It was Echuca’s fifth goal.
Still, it was South in front by 13 points at the last change.
South took charge in the last quarter adding three goals to one.
While not as spectacular as some of Echuca’s other defenders Hicks scored his side’s only goal when he was moved forward.
South’s final goal came from Connaughton who had recovered from his earlier knock.
Robertson, who had only recently stepped up from South’s seconds, was the best of the forwards with four goals.
Echuca managed to reduce its opponent’s lead in the second half but the northern side lacked the driving force to collect the goals necessary to gain the ascendancy.
Echuca’s forward line was never impressive although generally the work of the forwards from both clubs was weak. The low scores were indicative of the defenders’ superiority.
“Echuca had several players whose efforts were disappointing and consequently there was not the co-ordination shown by South.
“The greatest compliment which can be paid to the Bloods is to say the team’s objective was achieved by all players doing their part in convincing style,” the Addy sports writer concluded.
South Bendigo 1.2 5.9 7.10 10.12
Echuca 3.3 3.4 5.9 6.10
Goals – South Bendigo: Robertson 4, Connaughton 2, Walsh 2, McDonald, Elvey. Echuca: J. Kenna 2, M. Kenna 2, Hicks, Barrow.
Best – South Bendigo: Elvey, Robertson, Lenaghan, Walsh, Hill, Swatton, Bull, McLean. Echuca: J. Kenna, Toomey, Hicks, Barrow, K. Kenna, Riley, Randall.
Interestingly looking at the ages/heights/weights charts of 68 years ago there were very few big men at any of the clubs.
Swatton, Connaughton and Comerford were the tallest of South’s contingent, but they were only 184 cm (6 ft. 1 inch).
Key defender Jim Elvey was just 180 cm (5 ft. 11 ins.) although he weighed in at 84 kg (13 stone).
Second semi-finalist Castlemaine had Pattison and Jack Jefferies at 183 cm (6 feet) with Tenn the giant of the team [and maybe the entire BFL] at 190 cm (6 ft. 3 ins).
The Fox wasn’t so successful when he took over as senior coach at VFL club Richmond in 1957.
He lasted four seasons, but the Tigers had such a poor list they ended up with the wooden spoon in 1960 and McDonald was shown the door.
He was in charge at Punt Road from 1957 till 1960 before packing up with his family and returning to Bendigo.
Before taking on the Richmond coaching job, it must be remembered McDonald had played 49 games for the Tigers between 1939-43, kicking eight goals.
Born in 1918 The Fox was 42 when he once more moved back to central Victoria.
Of course he’d been a fair age at 38 when he led the Bloods to their fifth Fifties flag: the 1956 BFL premiership.
By Richard JOnes