Flat in the Thirties: wins were few and far between

benflKANGAROO Flat didn’t a field a team for most of the mid-1930s with a gap in their footy participation from the end of 1931 until the start of 1936.

The Roos were affiliated with the old Bendigo Football Association in 1931 but a club submission to the BFA at season’s end requested that the club change its name to Golden Square and play at Wade Street.
Major reason outlined was that just three players on the list lived in Kangaroo Flat.
But the signature green and gold jumper wasn’t going to be used so it wasn’t until 1936 that the Roos ran out onto the Kangaroo Flat Recreation Reserve in their old colours.
Coach was Jim Daffey and they were again affiliated with the Bendigo Football Association although one of their old adversaries in St Kilians had disbanded.
Daffey and co-recruiters had been hard at work over summer getting a playing list together.
Yet first up the new Roos were thrashed by South Bendigo by 59 points. The South team known then as South Juniors was what we’d term today the Twos, or the Bloods’ Reserve grade side.
And even on the following Saturdays when they struggled to notch a win it seemed the Flat’s supporters were delighted just to see the jumpers with a kangaroo on the front back out on the playing field.
Poor kicking when just 3.11 was recorded cost them victory against Goornong. And then a fierce wind blasted across their home ground for the Roos’ match against CYMS with Daffey adjudged best afield.
Finally after eight, bleak weeks the Roos celebrated their first 1936 victory with a three-point triumph over Goornong at the Kangaroo Flat Recreation Reserve.
The northern side jumped out to an early lead but with Oliver controlling the centre the Flat won: 7.14 (56) to 6.17 (53).

AS WE’RE in a year ending with a ‘7’ let’s look in more detail about how 1937 panned out for the Roos.
Eighty years ago the BFA had to cope with some pre-season ups and downs. Goornong moved to another league while California Gully and Bendigo East disbanded.
The season was saved somewhat when new club Bendigo City was formed and their officials decided to contest BFA matches. So there were four clubs ready to go.
Flat supporters were feeling confident especially when BFL star Richie Lee was signed as coach.
However with such a small playing contingent --- as just the four clubs were involved --- the BFA decided the season wouldn’t start until May 2nd.
And to add another hurdle to an already difficult footy situation (par for the course in the 30s and 40s) Kennington replaced Bendigo City.
Kennington club officials decided to adopt the old St Kilians strip. City hit the scrapheap – again.
In the 1937 season’s opening fixture South jumped the Flat, booting two goals in the first five minutes.
The Green and Whites battled back and in a dour struggle for the remainder of play Flat managed to hold off the Bloods.
Final scores: K. Flat 7.15 (57) def. South Bendigo 8.5 (53).
Even though reigning BFA premiers CYMS downed the Roos they bounced back to defeat Kennington by 10 points to round out the opening group of matches on three wins from four games.
In the return game against South atrocious kicking --- 2.21 --- robbed the Flat of any semblance of victory. They were then belted by CYMS for the second time before Lee stepped up for Kangaroo Flat.
The playing coach was the dominant player afield in the match against Kennington and his high marking was the standout feature of the return clash.
Remember the South Bendigo sides playing in the BFA 80 years back were known as South’s Juniors. They weren’t under-age players. It was just a quirk of language.
“Juniors” refers to what we’d list today as Reserves --- the Twos or the Magoos!

WITH only four clubs the 1937 home-and-away season lasted just a short nine rounds.
After each club had everyone else the Flat sat in third spot, percentage behind South Bendigo.
Still, confidence was high in the Flat camp if they had to play South as the Roos had downed the Bloods in two of their three home-and-away matches.
First there was the minor semi-final to win with the Flat matched up against Kennington.
The first quarter proved decisive. Kangaroo Flat raced out to a 25-point lead by the first change before Kennington fought back.
The Roos had coach Lee and Longhurst dominating in midfield, Ted Wingrave was excellent at full-back while Taylor was a focal point up forward.
Kangaroo Flat maintained their pressure after half-time and ended up winning 10.13 (73) to Kennington’s 8.11 (59).
“A burst of fast open play in the first quarter and greater steadiness at critical periods contributed significantly to the success of Kangaroo Flat over Kennington in the first association semi-final at Kennington ground,” the Advertiser scribe reported.
That story was filed on Monday July 26, 1937 so it shows how early the Roos’ season was coming to a conclusion eight decades back.
The semi-final victory set up a clash against South Bendigo in the final with the winner to play CYMS in the grand final.
Unlike their earlier clashes it was all South Bendigo in the big game.
The Bloods were far too good and thrashed an insipid Flat by 85 points: 22.12 (144) to 8.11 (59).
Still Roos players, officials and supporters wound up the season with a huge social event at the Oddfellows’ Hall on August 18th: a very early end to what we’re accustomed to these days in the 21st century with the grand final scheduled close to the end of September.

KANGAROO Flat sank right down the ladder in the 1938 season.
With an eight-club BFA the Roos managed just the one win from 14 home-and-away matches and took out the wooden spoon.
Into the BFA for its second last season before World War 2 gobbled up the nation’s young men came four new clubs: Strathfieldsaye, Huntly, Long Gully and Railways.
The Green and Whites’ only win came six weeks into the season. With W. Taylor booting six goals the Flat beat Long Gully by 47 points.
But things plummeted after that.
In the return match Long Gully trounced the Roos by 217 points: 31.38 (224) to 1.1 (7). The Flat created BFA history the next week when they failed to score against CYMS.
No club wants a result like that in its history --- a 0.0 (0) scoreline --- so the club re-appointed Richie Lee for 1939 hoping he’d be able to turn its fortunes around.
He had an able deputy in key forward Bill Bailey and when Lee was badly injured mid-season in 1939 he stepped down as coach.
Bailey took over as coach and continued on in the role even when Lee resumed. But just as a player Lee almost lifted them to a finals berth with an outstanding display against second-placed Long Gully.
Meanwhile in the BFL Reg Ford had made it a double with Golden Square coaching them to the 1938-39 premiership flags.
Grand final scores BFL 1939: G. Square 14.8 (92) def. Maryborough 12.12 (84).

FORD’S old club Sandhurst had plunged to sixth spot in the BFL with just a six win-nine loss record in 1939.
It was the first time since 1925 that the Maroons’ players had been forced to watch on as spectators with the BFL grand final unfolding.
Back across town at the Flat and nine seasons later with Richie Lee as captain-coach and brother Ron Lee vice-captain the Flat went on to win the 1948 premiership by 26 points over YCW: 12.12 to 8.10.
But that’s towards the end of a separate decade and a story for Reflections on another day.
With thanks to Roo identity and Hall of Famer Gary Place and author Darren Lewis: We Are The Kangaroos (published 2014). And Flat’s mid-30s playing coach Jim Daffey was the paternal grandfather of current country footy historian and author Paul Daffey, whose latest book Behind the Goals (published May 2017) details the history of the VCFL from its very early foundation way back in 1927.
Tips for Round 17: Strath Storm (v South), Sandhurst, Golden Square (v Kyneton), Eaglehawk and Gisborne.

By Richard Jones