Bendigo FNLRichard Jones | Four years after they were formed Golden Square won the 1938 BFL flag with a resounding eight-goal victory over Eaglehawk.

Their success astounded the Advertiser football writers of the time who’d been doubtful back in August that the Square would even make the final four. “Only six weeks ago there was doubt whether it would make the finals with Saturday being the only occasion since August on which the full team could be mustered,” the lead paragraphs read on Monday, October 3, 1938. “Yet Golden Square won the pennant with much credit due to Reg Ford who coached the team. “He and the other players were carried from the ground by ecstatic supporters,” the lead story said.

Ford played on the full-forward line along with Jack Foley (6 goals) with rover Bonnie Hargreaves nailing four. “It was an unprecedented achievement which will go down in Bendigo sporting records,” the footy writer of the time noted. One other highlight emerged from the big game. Eaglehawk’s star forward Mancel Davies, booted six majors to give him exactly 100 goals for the season. “He has won the goal-kicking contest of the Bendigo league for the third time,” a paragraph on the second page of the grand final report noted. And adding on the grand final gate receipts of £441 (£25 more than the 1937 grand final) the total finals takings were £1,070.

Eleven of the match’s 35 majors were booted in the opening term, the most of any of the quarters in the ’38 grand final. It was goal-for-goal as first Jack Foley for the Square and then Mancel Davies for the Borough were on target with set shots. Eaglehawk full-back Richards repelled a number of Square attacks before Davies landed a 70-yard major, followed by ruckman Fred Trewarne’s first of two for the day. Fisher replied for the Square and “after a gruelling 25 minutes” Eaglehawk led at the first break: 6.1 to Square’s 5.2. Even though they went further ahead in the second stanza with a goal to Cairns, Eaglehawk’s tall brigade couldn’t counter Square’s May and Fogarty in the ruck battles.

As the match wore on Fogarty nailed a “beautiful spiral goal” followed by an accurate pass from Jack Foley to May who took a nice mark and landed the first of his three grand final goals for the Square. “Golden Square now seemed faster than their opponents while their systematic exchanges were a treat to witness,” the Addy scribe wrote. May was now in complete control in the air as Bill Foley and Norton found the big man for his second goal, followed soon after “by a powerful punt sending the ball through the goals for May’s third.” Square had wiped off an early 11-point deficit to snatch a 22-point lead with a further major to Jack Foley who had been switched to a forward pocket position – with “ an amazing snap shot over his head” -- taking their lead out to 30 points.

Half-time scores: G. Square 12.8, Eaglehawk 7.2.

Eaglehawk bounced back in the vital third quarter adding three majors to one even though the Addy scribe described Square’s early work as ‘machine like’. Davies goaled for the Hawks following a free for a push-in-the-back. It was his fourth for the grand final. “Then Davies sprinted smartly to race six players and kick the ball through the undefended goal. “ Finally after a string of behinds, the latter from Tupper, Eaglehawk’s consistency was rewarded by Chinn goaling.”

Three-quarter time scores: G. Square 13.9, Eaglehawk 10.7.

With Lee in control in the Square backline and Eaglehawk concentrating on low, short passing the final quarter tactic backfired. When Foley and Rowe goaled for the Square after a string of three Square behinds “suddenly Eaglehawk’s chances were not bright.” “In the last 10 minutes Square literally ran their opponents off their feet allowing Hargreaves and Rowe to score five goals in seven minutes,” the Addy report concluded “This burst proved the physical fitness of the Square players,” the Addy reporter noted in his final sentence. Final scores: Golden Square 21.13 def. Eaglehawk 14.7. Major goalkickers – Golden Square: Jack Foley 6, Hargreaves 4, May 3, Rowe 3. Eaglehawk: Davies 6, Chinn 3, Trewarne 2. In the curtain-raiser for the Beaurepaire Cup Nyah defeated Kamarooka 10.10 to 4.10.

Nyah had won the premiership of the Mid-Murray F.L. and followed up with a win over Lockington in the Cup second semi-final. In the Wycheproof District F.L. grand final Culgoa defeated Nullawil 11.12 to 9.9 while in the Seconds play-off Wooroonooke downed Birchip 8.13 to 8.4. BFL players carrying a bit of excess weight embarked on a spot of hiking around the hills in North Bendigo, it seems. The grand final Guide reported that Jack and Bill Foley had been spotted during their long walks. Hustler’s Hill was one favourite spot: up and down was particularly popular. Michelsen commented that “although Jack had thinned down considerably he still carried a decent-sized waistline.” “Still, he was named Square’s best in the final against Kyneton.” “The Foley brothers were not considered worthy of a game by other Bendigo league clubs,” wrote Michelsen “yet in the final (against Kyneton) they both were in Square’s best half-dozen.”

At half-time on the grand final day Kyneton follower Frank Halloran was presented with the A.F. Wood medal as fairest and best winner for ’38. The Wood Medal was one of the pre-cursors of the Michelsen Medal which was first presented in 1952. The Wood Medal was hung around Halloran’s neck by Mayor of Bendigo Cr. G.D. Garvin. An interesting sidelight to the big day 81 years ago was the curtain-raiser. It wasn’t played between two BFL reserves teams. No, as I’ve mentioned Kamarooka and Nyah played off for what was called the Beaurepaire Cup. And that wasn’t presented at the QEO but at a concert in the Town Hall on Saturday night. Premiership medals were also handed out at the same function.

To get to the QEO play-off Kamarooka had defeated Elmore in the first semi-final while Nyah had a comfortable victory over Lockington in the other. Also on the agenda at the Town Hall that Saturday night, after the concert, were the BFL presentations. The Golden Square players and captain-coach Reg Ford were presented with their medals along with the Nyah players and those from CYMS, the premier side of the Bendigo Football Association. Eaglehawk captain-coach Fred Trewarne was presented with the Snow’s Company trophy as the BFL’s Most Popular Player.

Another interesting feature which I’d never heard of was promoted in the grand final Guide. The 9 o’clock trams into town on Monday morning were to be decorated in the winning club’s colours. Michelsen noted all sorts of topics were usually discussed on the 9 o’clock-ers. “One passenger recounted how his drive off the golf club’s first tee had landed in the creek, film star Shirley Temple is mentioned all the time and the Czecho-Slovakian situation -– whether Hitler will invade or not -- is also popular in conversation. “Would not be surprised if Square is premiers to see the tram decorated on Monday, but of course Eaglehawk has its own “nine o’clock” and as the tram passes the Upper Reserve the supporters have told me they expect to see the Two Blue pennant floating from the stand.

“They don’t believe in mirages,” Michelsen concluded, adding that the Borough supporters “were unrivalled” for their vocal support of their own players. So as it turned out it was the Square 9 o’clock morning tram which carried the colours with a distinctly sad atmosphere on board the Eaglehawk conveyance.