Footscray's Unrealized History

Footscray Lacrosse Club
Footscray Lacrosse Club  

At an after-game chat following a Camberwell v Footscray State League game earlier this year, Greg Mollison asked me about the early history of the Footscray Lacrosse Club.  Someone had mentioned to Greg that they had seen a newspaper cutting about Footscray from around 1915.

Greg was curious as his understanding was that the club had been formed as one of the group of clubs initiated in the 1960’s by Williamstown’s stalwart promoter, Mal Taylor.  I confirmed from my knowledge that Footscray certainly had existed before the first World War and that I would follow up and give him further information.

Here is what has emerged.

An exhibition lacrosse match was played as a curtain-raiser to the Footscray v Essendon VFL football game at the East Melbourne Oval in 1894.  The game created public interest but no immediate outcome for lacrosse. In 1898 there was talk of lacrosse clubs being formed at both Footscray and Williamstown.  The Williamstown effort succeeded but nothing came to fruition at Footscray at that time.

It was not until 1914 that the Footscray club was formed.  

On May 9th, 1914, the Footscray Advertiser reported…..

“ During the last few months there has been a movement on foot to introduce the game of Lacrosse to Footscray.  The movement was taken up by a number of local residents, who, during recent years have been compelled to journey to Williamstown in order to take part in lacrosse matches.

At a meeting held recently it was decided to form a local club, thereupon an application was made to the VictorianLlacrosse Association for registration as a club.  This application was granted and the local club was entered to play in “C” section.

The uniform of the Footscray Club is purple jersey with white collar and cuffs and the ground is situate on the east side of the Maribyrnong River between the Hopetoun and Swing bridges.

On Saturday last the Lacrosse premiership matches commenced, when the local club met Coburg at Coburg.  After a strenuous fight the game resulted in a win for Footscray. The scores were Footscray 5, Coburg 3 goals. Goalthrowers for Footscray were Leonard 2, Critchley, Scott and Brown. This was considered most satisfactory for a new club”.

One week later the Footscray Independent reported that the club had suffered its first defeat at the hands of Carlton, going down by 10 goals to 1. The Footscray team comprised Shepherd (Capt), Burton, Critchley, Miller, Scott, Pitt, Drew, Mason, Davis, Leonard, Stewart and Booth.

The first Annual General Meeting of the club was held in the clubrooms at the Maribyrnong Street ground on Wednesday 10th March, 1915 with a good muster of members. The Secretary, Mr T. Drew reported on a successful first year and sound financial balance sheet.  The club had won five of its sixteen matches and had shown great improvement as the year progressed. 

Office Bearers were elected as follows:

President  -                         Mr W.J. McCann

Vice-Presidents –             Cr Shillager, Messrs Secomb, T. Gough, W.C Scott, A. Doherty, H.E Caldecott,

J.S Anderson, W.H Birch, and G. Forge

Treasurer:                           Mr C. Critchley

Secretary:                           Mr T. Drew

Press Correspondent:    Mr J. Swartz

Committee:                        Messrs. Miller, Mason and Lindow

 It was noted that some of last year’s players were now with the Australian Expeditionary Forces in Egypt but that several promising colts would be available for selection.  Training was already in full swing on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Enthusiasm was high for the 1915 season.  Footscray’s team remained in “C” Section where it won 11 of its 12 matches and took out its first premiership.  The 1915 season also included an unexpected highlight during the weekend of June 5-6 when the club responded to a VLA request for teams to travel to play games in Kyneton where efforts were being made to consolidate a club.  Footscray obliged and played two matches, one against a Kyneton team and one against a team from Kew Lacrosse Club. The visitors were entertained at an evening dinner and with a Sunday picnic trip after the games. 

As for many clubs, the World War was devastating for Footscray.   Twelve Footscray players were listed in the VLA Honour Roll as enlisted for active war service in the VLA Annual Report for 1918:

Harry Brown       Roy Stewart       W.K Scott            H. Parnum           H. Booth              C. Critchley

T. Drew                F. Drew                G. Miller               J. Masen              W. Williams         J. Delahey

 

The club ceased playing in 1916 and did not enter teams after the war.

It was not until the 1935 season that the Footscray name re-appeared.  The VLA Annual Report noted that Footscray Technical School Old Boys had been admitted as a “new club”. A team was entered in the junior “E” section competition and entries continued each year until 1939 when World War came again to cause a cessation of lacrosse.

In 1961 the promotional efforts in schools of Mal Taylor bore fruit and the Footscray club was re-formed with teams entered in the VLA “C’ and “E” sections and a team entered in the VWLA Women’s competition.  Detailed accounts of the history of the club since 1935 are contained on the club’s website.

The club has continued to operate continuously since that time and has expanded and strengthened over recent years to become a premier club in both men’s and women’s lacrosse.  In 2013 Footscray achieved the outstanding double, winning both the Women’s and Men’s Senior premierships. The club could deservedly celebrate these great successes but the celebrations would have been even better if the club had realized that it was the 100th year since their original formation. 

FOOTNOTE:   Doug Fox is currently compiling information on the formative years of lacrosse in Australia. He would be pleased to receive contact from clubs which have records, memorabilia, photographs, minutes and reports from their early years.  Doug can be contacted  via email: dougwfox@bigpond.com.au

 

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