An early Grand Final
This photo shows what a football grand final match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground looked like in 1907.
It was a clash between Carlton and South Melbourne. The Carlton players are wearing the early club uniform of mid-blue with beige shoulders. The dark blue guernsey with the white monogram on the front was not adopted by the Carlton club until 1909. The guernseys were made of canvas and laced up at the front. The South Melbourne uniform was a white guernsey with a red diagonal sash and red and white striped socks.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground was not as undeveloped as this photo would indicate. If the camera had been pointed in another direction, it would have shown several large grandstands holding many tens of thousands of people. According to newspaper reports at the time, attendance at this match was around 41,000.
The grand final was a close and hard-fought one in which neither team was able to obtain a commanding lead.
The play was fast, at times desperately hard, and on a few occasions, nasty. At three-quarter time Carlton led by 15 points, and so close were the scores in the final quarter that one straight shot by South Melbourne at any time in the last 10 minutes would have given them a win. But Carlton managed to hold them off to win by just five points.
Shortly after this grand final win, the Carlton team travelled to South Australia to play the local state champions, Norwood, in the Club Championship of Australia. Norwood managed to do what few other teams could do, defeat Carlton 13 goals 12 behinds (90 points) to eight goals 10 behinds (58 points).
The win in 1907 made it two premierships in a row for Carlton, for they had won the flag the previous year. They went on to win the premiership the following year as well, making it three flags in a row, and came close to winning a fourth in 1909. This made Carlton one of the strongest teams in the newly established Victorian Football League (VFL).
The VFL had been formed in 1896 when six clubs broke away from the established Victorian Football Association (VFA) to form a new league. They were six of the strongest clubs – Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne. The following year they invited two more VFA clubs, Carlton and St Kilda, to join the VFL for its inaugural season in 1897.
The VFL introduced several new innovations to the game including having an annual finals tournament and a grand final at the end of a season, instead of awarding the premiership to the team with the best record over the season.
Although the VFL and VFA continued to compete for spectator interest for many years, the VFL soon established itself as the premier competition in Victoria. In those early years, the dominant teams in the League were Fitzroy and Collingwood. But following the arrival of a new coach, Jack Worrall, at Carlton in 1903, the Blues began a period of domination, including their three premierships in a row from 1906 to 1908. •