It is August 1925 and you are sitting in a 10,000 strong crowd at the old Erskineville Oval (photo below), watching the second match of a bi-annual series between a NSW combination and a team representing the VFL. This is the only surviving image taken in the game.
Only weeks before, 12,500 saw Victoria thump NSW at the MCG by over 40 points, which was pretty much the norm since the beginning of these matches in 1903. In that period, NSW had been victorious in only one of their twelve encounters that win was in Sydney.
After WWI the VFL and NSWAFL reached an agreement to play two representative games a year; one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney.
The only issue with this was that the VFL also played other representative games on the same day, normally against South Australia but on occasions against areas like Ballarat and Bendigo. Accordingly, their strongest team was chosen for the major interstate clash with South Australia. This was the situation with this game.
The side playing NSW included three players from St Kilda, two each from the then new clubs of Hawthorn (last), Footscray (second last), North Melbourne (third last), South Melbourne and Richmond together with one each from Geelong (eventually premiers), Essendon (runner-up) , Collingwood (fourth), Carlton, Fitzroy. So the level of talent was less than the best.
Nevertheless the game you watched was keenly fought with the lead changing over the course of the afternoon. You recognize the umpire as a former Richmond and Collingwood player, Len Gibb.
Excitement as the Vics go into the last quarter holding a narrow nine point lead then with six minutes to go, and with Victoria still in front 13-8 to 11-10 there was a sudden burst by NSW — and a successful one, too. Eventually South Sydney player, ‘Flop’ Flynn kicked a beautiful goal. This reduced the VFL’s lead to four points with just three minutes to go.
You hear the crowd’s teeth chatter in delight. Up, up, went the ball towards Victoria’s goal. Free kick! Cheers. It was NSW wingman Bill McKoy’s chance. He took it. Cheers again. He was within the distance. It was almost time for the bell. The crowd was frantic with excitement. A hush enveloped the ground; McKoy took aim. He kicked. Would it reach the distance? In a flash it seemed as nothing would get near to impede its flight but it dropped in elevation and looked as if the ball did not go through the posts. In fact it appeared to be touched. Then, a huge cheer as the umpire’s two flags went up and NSW were in front.
But there were still two minutes to go. Victoria dashed into their stride as the ball was bounced and before time was called, had a shot for goal, which brought only a point. The bell rang, leaving New South Wales victors of a great game by a bare point, 13-10 (88) to Victoria’s 13 9 (87).
But there were questions asked –
Was it a Goal?
The last goal by McKoy, a dual Phelan Medalist, was view with a good degree of conjecture. It was said that a Victorian player marked the ball fully a foot (300mm) inside the playing arena and that if recognized would have saved victory for the visiting side but for (as another said) “the undoubted mistake the goal umpire made just on time by awarding New South Wales a goal …”
Another commentator said:
“One point I wish to make. That last goal. No, it wasn’t, certainly it wasn’t. A Victorian player marked it a foot within the placing space. But it was such a lowly drop-kick, and it sailed so beautifully in the air that one could almost forgive the umpire’s indiscretion in making the wish father to the thought. McKoy is to be congratulated for his coolness during those few seconds when everything depended on the kick.”
However the result is on the board and today we look back 90 years to view a view result with as much pleasure as those who were there.
A final comment was made: “A thousand pities. The incident robbed the game of that little bit of glimmer that adds polish to a most delectable feast. For feast it was. Here were our boys not only holding their own with a picked team from the champion State of Australasia, but also whipping them. Congratulations to New South Wales.” (it doesn’t happen much)
||Flynn 6, McKoy 2, Vockler 2, Keane, Little, Knott 1 ea
||Shelton 5, Hayes 3, Hopkins 3, Brushfield, McCashney 1 ea.
||Vockler, London, Keane, Little, Davies, Flynn, Cooper
||Splatt, Carr, Lewis, Murphy, Scanlon, Hayes, Hopkins