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1909 VFL Grand Final

The 1909 VFL Grand Final was an Australian rules football game contested between the Carlton Football Club and South Melbourne Football Club, held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne on 2 October 1909. It was the 12th annual Grand Final of the Victorian Football League, staged to determine the premiers for the 1909 VFL season. The match, attended by 37,759 spectators, was won by South Melbourne by two points, marking that club's first premiership victory.

The Season

In round 2, Carlton had beaten South Melbourne by 17 points. A half-time in the round 11 match, South Melbourne leads Carlton 4.4 (28) to 0.11 (11). In the third quarter Carlton score 9.2 (56) to South Melbourne’s single behind, and go on to win the match by 24 points.

During the season, the Carlton Football Club had been split by such a level of discord, infighting and dissatisfaction during the 1909 season that its coach Jack Worrall resigned, for the good of the club, after round 13 (he remained Club Secretary for the remainder of the season).

Carlton champion, captain Fred "Pompey" Elliott — after whom the Australian military hero Brigadier General "Pompey" Elliott would later be given his nickname — took over the coaching duties in round 14. Carlton won its last four home and away matches under "Pompey" Elliott, by 51 points, 40 points, 46 points, and 15 points respectively.

The final series

As premiers in 1906, 1907, and 1908, Carlton was set to win its fourth consecutive premiership; and as an 1897 foundation club, South Melbourne was attempting to win its first.

South Melbourne had finished on top of the end-of-season ladder with 56 points, just ahead of Carlton (56 points) on percentage (168.9% to 146.8%). Under the rules of the amended "Argus system" under which the 1909 Final Series was conducted, South Melbourne had a considerable advantage as the “Minor Premier”. In the event of South Melbourne not winning the match between the winners of the First and Second Semi-Finals, it had the right of “challenge” and could demand a “Grand Final” match against the winner of the Preliminary Final (if it won the Preliminary Final, it would be automatically declared the Premiership Team without any need for a further match).

The First Semi-Final was played between teams (2) and (4); Carlton, 15 points ahead at half-time went on to beat Essendon 14.8 (92) to 9.2 (56). The Second Semi-Final was played between teams (1) and (3); South Melbourne, two points behind at half-time, went on to beat Collingwood 10.8 (68) to 6.11 (47).

The Preliminary Final was played between the Semi-Final Winners; Carlton. 8 points in front at half-time, went on to beat South Melbourne in an acrimonious match, where South Melbourne tried in vain to out muscle and intimidate Carlton, 10.9 (69) to 7.5 (47), giving "Pompey" Elliott six consecutive wins as a coach (51 points, 40 points, 46 points, 15 points, 36 points, and 22 points respectively).

The Grand Final

The South Melbourne side was missing full-back Bill Dolphin, who was injured, and winger Jim Caldwell, who had been suspended for nine matches for striking Carlton’s George Bruce in the Preliminary Final. Norm Clark was available for Carlton.

From the outset it was clear that South Melbourne had learned from the Preliminary Final and was going to play football, rather than “go the knuckle”. The match, played in a rather unsettling wind, was very closely contested, with the teams tied at both quarter- and half-time.

In the first quarter, South Melbourne’s back-flanker Tom Grimshaw was felled, but eventually recovered consciousness, and finished the match standing in the goal-square. In the second quarter, Carlton’s Jack Baquie badly injured his ankle and left the field, but eventually returned in the third quarter to stand in the forward-pocket. In the third quarter, Carlton rover Martin Gotz was knocked out and was carried from the ground on a stretcher, but he returned to the ground in the last quarter and stood in the forward line.

In a powerful third quarter, in which Belcher, Ricketts, Cameron, Mortimer, and Gough in sequence brought the ball from the deep back-line to the forward-line untouched by a single Carlton player, eventuating in Gough’s goal, South Melbourne drew ahead of Carlton, 4.12 (36) to 3.11 (29).

In the last quarter, Carlton had several chances to win, scoring 1.1 to South Melbourne’s two behinds. With five minutes to go, "Mallee" Johnson and Charlie Hammond got the ball to centre half-forward Harvey Kelly, who kicked a goal, bringing Carlton to two points behind. Carlton lost the ensuing centre-bounce at the restart of play. The ball got to South Melbourne's forward Len Mortimer, but his kick did not make the distance. Carlton moved forward, kicking the ball towards the goals, but William Thomas took what turned out to be a match-saving mark for South Melbourne, as the ball was not near either goal for the remainder of the match.

South Melbourne 4.14 (38) defeated Carlton 4.12 (36).


The 1909 Grand Final was filmed by Charles Cozens Spencer's Sydney-based film company, and is the oldest known surviving footage of Australian rules football in action. The near-complete silent film can be viewed on the National Film and Sound Archive's YouTube channel (see external links).


South Melbourne
B: Alan Pentland Jack Scobie Ted Wade
HB: Arthur Hiskins William Thomas Tom Grimshaw
C: Horrie Drane George Bower Billy Moxham
HF: Jim Cameron Bob Deas Dave Barry
F: Alex Kerr Len Mortimer Alf Gough
Foll: Bert Franks Vic Belcher Charlie Ricketts (c)
Coach: Charlie Ricketts
B: Norm Clark Doug Gillespie Jim Marchbank
HB: Martin Gotz Billy Payne Arthur Ford
C: George Bruce Rod McGregor Ted Kennedy
HF: Frank Caine Harvey Kelly Fred Jinks
F: Fred Elliott (c) George Topping Jack Baquie
Foll: George Johnson Charlie Hammond Alex Lang
Coach: Fred Elliot



Team 1 2 3 4 Total
South Melbourne 0.5 2.9 4.12 4.14 4.14 (38)
Carlton 0.5 2.9 3.11 4.12 4.12 (36)

Goal kickers

South Melbourne:

  • Franks 1
  • Gough 1
  • Mortimer 1
  • Ricketts 1


  • Topping 2
  • Baquie 1
  • Kelly 1

See also

External links

  • Full Points Footy Article: 1909 VFL Challenge Final: South Melbourne vs. Carlton
  • Blueseum Article: Grand Final, 1909
  • YouTube
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