SAAFL History – 1925

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Team Gms W L Pts
Semaphore Central 12 11 1 22
Kenilworth 12 10 2 20
University 12 8 4 16
Kingswood 12 7 5 14
Teachers Training Coll 11 2 9 4
Y.M.C.A. 12 2 10 4
Goodwood 11 1 10 2


1925 is notable in the history of the SAAFL as the year of the first interstate match. The SAAFL had previously played matches against country associations, but the standard of play and difficulties in organising these matches had led the SAAFL Secretary Hugh Millard to open negotiations with the amateurs in Victoria, which ultimately proved most successful.

The SAAFL began 1925 in a healthy financial state with a credit balance of £7, assisted by Kenilworth who had paid its outstanding debt from 1915. Concern was expressed about the quality of umpires however, and so the fees for umpiring were raised to 35/- per match.

Up until 1925, charges against players had been heard by the full Delegates’ Meetings, but in 1925 a three-man tribunal was formed. They didn’t take long to show they meant business, because after a rough match between YMCA and Goodwood, three players were suspended at a meeting of the SAAFL held at the YMCA. Chairman F. C. McArtney warned that any further incidents of this kind would be severely dealt with.

A minor controversy erupted when the WAFL advised the SANFL that a player McGuinness, who had been disqualified in WA for three years, was playing with Semaphore Central. The SANFL then approached the SAAFL for agreement between the two bodies not to play disqualified players. Apparently, McGuinness had broken an agreement in 1923 to do the eastern tour with East Fremantle and then finish the season with that club. At a meeting of the SAAFL McGuinness gave his explanation of events and various letters were read. The delegates decided that the player had been harshly dealt with, and because the SAAFL was not affiliated with the SANFL, McGuinness was granted a permit to play with Semaphore. The discussions at the meeting highlighted the deficiencies of the SAAFL constitution with respect to reinstatement of players from professional sport.

With eight clubs already in the SAAFL, an application from Croydon was rejected. However, Dulwich must have withdrawn before the season commenced because only seven teams finally competed.

The last minor round game saw Semaphore Central lose its first game in three seasons. Its most recent loss had been back in 1922 when it went down in the Final to University. It then went through the 1923 season as undefeated premier (14 matches) and repeated the performance in 1924 (16 matches). It then enjoyed another 11 straight wins in 1925 before losing to University in round 12. This gave the club 41 successive wins in A1, a record which still stands at the time of writing.

A scheduled match between Teachers and Goodwood does not appear to have been played, possibly because of the College’s vacation. In the Semi Finals, Semaphore beat University 11.11 to 9.10 and Kenilworth beat Kingswood 12.19 to 7.7. Then Kenilworth caused a real surprise by easily defeating Semaphore in the Final at Norwood Oval under umpire S. A. D. Hill 10.14 to 5.13, this being only the second loss suffered by Semaphore in 44 matches. However, seven days later Semaphore emerged victorious in the Challenge Final at the same venue 9.16 to 7.6, after trailing 3.8 to 5.6 at half time. A report in the Advertiser on September 25 said that

“after the long adjournment the Centrals took charge, and by clever combination, high marking, and long kicking overwhelmed Kenilworth, who were unable to score, while the Centrals added 6 goals 5 behinds. After ‘lemons’ the game was never in doubt, and the seasiders won the 1925 premiership. For his part in the game the Semaphore captain (B. Donnell, centre) was carried off the ground on the shoulders of his men.”

With 3 successive premierships, Semaphore equalled the feat by University set only in the previous triennium, and only to be repeated by Exeter immediately before the intermission for the Second World War, and University at the beginning of the ’60s. The article in the Advertiser went on to point out that since the First World War, no less than 39 Semaphore players had been promoted to the SANFL, and that during the last five seasons the Club had lost only seven matches. The opinion had been expressed that “if the team was left intact for a couple of seasons it could place an eighteen on the field that would not disgrace itself in play with some league sides.


Kenilworth received some consolation for its loss in the Challenge Final by having the leading goalkicker Michael Hanna (52 goals), while W. McRae of YMCA was the Naylor Medallist.


The big event of the season was the inaugural interstate match against Victoria. The Metropolitan Amateur Football Association had accepted the offer instigated by Hugh Millard, and the match was set for the King’s Birthday holiday, Monday June 8th, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Bob Booker of Teachers Training College was selected as captain of the SA team but had to withdraw because he could not get leave from the Education Department. The respective guernsey colours were chocolate and blue for SA (borrowed from the Kingswood club) and dark blue with a white ‘V’ for Victoria.

The South Australian team was managed by Hugh Millard, and the players were billeted out with players and officials of the Victorian team. The S.A. team included future SAAFL treasurer Corie Treloar, and was as follows:

  • Cornelius, Tom (first ruck) Y.M.C.A.
  • Cowell, Arthur (ff) Semaphore Central
  • Donnell, Bert (vice cpt. chb) Semaphore Central
  • Fitzgerald, Dennis (hf) Semaphore Central
  • Gotts, Sam (rover) Goodwood
  • Griffiths, Roy (wing) Kenilworth
  • Gunning, Norm (bp) University
  • Jay, Jack (captain centre) Kingswood
  • Keam, Charlie (fp) Kenilworth
  • Koerner, Jack (chf) Kingswood
  • Krome, Harry (follower) Kenilworth
  • Mayfield, Len (hb) Kingswood
  • Oliver, Arthur (bp) Goodwood
  • Robertson, Alex (hf) Semaphore Central
  • Stacey, Jack (fb) Kingswood
  • Treloar, Corie (rover) Kenilworth
  • Wadham, Jack (wing) Kenilworth
  • Walsh, Laurie (hb) University

Teams were allowed only eighteen players without replacement. Reserves in case of withdrawals were Cliff Grundel of Semaphore Central, Jock McGregor of Kingswood and Bill Phillips of Kenilworth. According to a report in the Register on June 9th, 26,000 people attended the match and saw the Victorians demolish S.A. by 90 points.

The contest was played at a great pace, but the South Australians were no match for their more experienced opponents, and suffered by the difference in methods. South Australians for years prohibited kicking in the ruck, and although the embargo has been removed, the old idea still prevails. The South Australians hesitated about kicking at a ball on the ground in anything approaching a crush.

The final scores were as follows:

Team 1Q 2Q 3Q Final
Victoria 5.11 10.14 12.18 21.22 (148)
S.A. 2.1 5.4 7.8 8.10 (58)
  • Goalkickers: Cowell 3, Robertson 2, Gotts, Griffiths, Treloar
  • Best Players: Fitzgerald, Gotts, Treloar, Gunning, *Stacey, Oliver

That evening the team was given a reception at Wesley College. This must have been a fairly sedate affair as the school chorus sang several songs (including¬†The Temple of the Winds and When from this Land’s Unbroken Peace) and a short one-act play (Uncle’s Will) was performed. Without doubt, times have since changed with respect to the entertainment provided at football socials!

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