Sport early days memories

Fond Memories of Football at Marcellin in the early 50s by Ray Walsh

My earliest memories of football at Marcellin in the 50's was the kick to kick in the school yard before school, at lunch time and sometimes after school.This activity became an institution at the Camberwell campus right up to the Junior school's closure many years later.

This was a very popular activity enjoyed by a good percentage of students each day durIng the football season. It must have been an amazing sight for those visiting the school for the first time to witness in excess of 100 students kicking and marking numerous footballs  "whistling " across the playground from every conceivable angle.

I have often thought that the time spent doing kick to kick certainly enhanced our skills and provided a very solid grounding in all facets of the game. Drop kicks, punt kicks and torpedoes were used as well as the occasional stab pass. (The drop punt, allegedly invented by Jack Dyer in 1948, was not known at that time but came into it's own in the 60s). The marking took place under very trying conditions caused by the number of people contesting the mark. Most of the time the balls were flying in different directions and students were attempting to mark from every conceivable angle without any regard for their safety. In the first couple of years we had to contend with  a gravel surface so it was very important to land on your feet otherwise you would stand a good chance of obtaining a nasty case of gravel rash or something more serious. After a couple of years bitumen replaced the gravel and we were told it would be safer . This proved to be incorrect as it was harder than gravel and you still received a nasty graze if you happened to fall. Despite all of these dangers I can remember very few serious injuries occurring during those years.

My first memory of any organised football was the inter house matches held at Myrtle Park (Now known as Macleay park) in Balwyn. The Brother who was sports master selected the captains of each team and then the captains had alternate selections until all available players had a team. I did not like this system as some captains picked their mate ahead of a better footballer and I thought it unfair on those with less ability waiting for their name to be called. I always felt sorry for them as you could see that they were embarrassed. On the other hand if your captain was a better judge of a footballer than his opponent and did not necessarily pick his mate you had a good chance of winning. I remember those matches as being quite competitive and enjoyable to participate in and provided us with our first taste of competitive sport.

In the early years, inter school matches were arranged by the sports master. As we were not in the A.G.S in those days matches had to be arranged with other schools individually. I can remember matches against St Pats East Melbourne played on the Old Scotch ground on a bitterly cold Saturday morning, matches against Xavier College both at Burke Hall and later at the senior school and matches against C.B.C. St Kilda and C.B.C. Nth Melb (at the Nth Melbourne Football ground) as well as St Bedes  at Mentone. We Seemed to play more away games than home possibly because of the lack of grounds available at the time or perhaps we were required to 'earn our stripes' as the new kid on the block.

The weather in the 50s was not like it is now with climate change and 'global warming' now happening. I vividly remember playing those Saturday morning matches when the weather was bitterly cold with the grounds being either waterlogged or covered in frost (or both). It did take some effort to get up on those mornings at such an early hour to be ready to start the match at approximately 10:00am. It should be remembered that the other sports, now readily available to students, did not exist in a competitive sense in those days and V.F.L football dominated the scene. So it was natural for us to turn up at the matches in order to emulate our V.F.L. Heroes irrespective of the weather conditions.

Talking about cold weather reminds me of the annual trip to Kilmore to take on the Assumption boys. Being such a young (and small) school we always played Assumptions 2nd 18s and although being competitive we could never seem to win a match up there. I now realise that in 1950 there were only 117 students enrolled in the school that year the bulk of them being in the lower grades. The most senior grade in that year was proficiency (year 9) and that grade only had three students. There were about 12 students in year 8 and about 15 in year 7. So this meant we only had a total of 30 students available for the first 18 as everyone else was only 12 years of age or younger. So is it any wonder that we were not successful in that period? The lower grades had much larger numbers (between 40 and 50). So it would only be a matter of time before we would be much more competitive.

One vivid memory I have of the bus trip to Kilmore was the day Bro Evangelist was in charge of the bus and as it proceeded along Royal Pde Parkville he suddenly ordered everyone to bow their heads and raise their caps. Needless to say most of the kids obeyed his order not realising that we were passing the Carlton Football Club which was the team Bro Evangelist barracked for. This brought about much hilarity and camaraderie on the bus but unfortunately that was not enough to improve our chances of winning the match. We did, however regain our sense of humour and camaraderie whilst having our cold pies and stale bread in the boarder's dining room after the match.

The appointment of Bro. Stanislaus as sports master during this period was to prove most beneficial to all students who loved their sport. Stan was in his early twenties when he came to Marcellin. He was enthusiastic and energetic and quickly set about organising matches and gaining access to sporting grounds in the area. As coach of the 1st 18 he instituted training after school at the Rathmines Rd oval which had never been done before and was able to secure the use of the Camberwell Football ground for home matches. Stan had a good knowledge of the game and the knack of getting the best from his players

Stan is now retired from teaching and was living in Brunswick when I last  saw him (at the last Canterbury Rd luncheon). Some time ago he reverted to his Christian name and is now known as Bro. Bill Dillon. 

One of the matches Stan arranged was against St Joseph's East Brunswick , a school Also run by the Marist Brothers. It so happened that Stan's younger brother "Pottsy" Dillon, who was a skilful rover was captain of that team. It was evident early on that Stan was 'hell bent' on beating his brother's  team. Leading up to the game the number of training sessions increased as did the intensity of training. Stan even provided us with inside information on the opposition. He told us that their best ruckman who was at least 19 yrs old and built like a man mountain was all bluff and would expect opposing ruckmen to be fearful of him but if we stood up to him he would "drop his bundle". He told us that his brother was a dangerous player and being a left footer would always turn on to his left foot. He also said that some of their players were overweight and we should chase them down as much as possible. Tactics were formed to counteract their strengths.

The match was played on the Camberwell Football Ground and did not disappoint. It was a very close encounter all day but somehow or other our stamina told and we were able to win the game after hitting the front with 2 minutes to go and held on to win the game by a few points. Stan was so excited I am sure, if he had been allowed,  he would have taken us up to the Palace to buy us all a beer. I have come across Stan on a number of occasions over the years and he always mentions that match and how proud he was of the players. This is high praise when you consider Stan left Marcellin in the next year or so and coached unbeaten Assumption teams for some years but he still finds a place in his memory for our very young developing team and how we won that game.

That match was also my most enjoyable experience and the proudest I ever felt in all my time at Marcellin.