How Many Games Did George Coulthard Play?

It’s a pity that more work hasn’t been done to locate how many games were played by nineteenth century footballers. It seems that the task has been written off, and unfortunately, this has led to the virtual blackout of any information about how many games champions like Albert Thurgood, George Coulthard and Billy Hannaysee played. The task is incredibly difficult – for starters, one has to decide which games to count. Up to 1882 one can safely count all matches. This includes games against other senior clubs, junior and regional clubs, and inter-colonial clubs. However, the process gets complicated after that. In 1883-1884 the VFA began to admit enough teams to have a viable competition between senior clubs alone. Therefore, games against junior teams were considered less significant. And, from 1885-1888 inter-colonial games are less important for premiership contests. During this time however games against Ballarat clubs are usually considered part of the VFA premiership season. From 1889-1896 things get a bit easier as only games between senior clubs are counted towards the premiership so only those games should be counted as part of a players’ career.

That’s the first part of the difficulty. Next, how does one secure reliable reports about who played when? In the early days you often get selected teams that are published in Saturday morning editions like The Age, but this does not guarantee that the selected 20 was indeed the starting 20. The only way to check this is to look at the match reports and add up the names, making sure to cross reference these because occasionally one ends up having 21 players reported! The process can also be complicated when some players use pseudonyms! Fortunately, from 1889 The Melbourne Herald began to publish starting 20s, but not on every occasion, and one needs the 6th edition for the starting 20s (and not all 6th editions are available on microfilm). Also, occasionally the Sportsman (owned by the Herald) would also publish starting 20s. The Sporting Standard sometimes published starting 2os as did a Geelong newspaper in the late 1880s. I have worked through these reports and double-checked them against names actually mentioned in match reports and feel I have a pretty comprehensive record for the period 1889-1896. Before this time I have been working through all newspaper match reports in an attempt to accumulate the best record possible. Sometimes one gets lucky; i.e. a complete games list for Geelong in 1888, but this is rare.

Anyway, without boring you with additional details about reading newspaper account for injuries and players gathered from the crowd for some games I have come up with some totals for great players. Thurgood for instance played 57 games in the VFA for Essendon. Before 1889 things are very tough and one can only get close to an actual figure. In the case of Carlton champion George Coulthard the figures are as follows:

Carlton Imperial

1874 – Unknown (6-10?)


1874 – 1-2

1876 – 17-20

1877 – 13-15

1878 – 24

1879 – 19-20

1880 – 22

1881 – 23-24

1882 – 16

Total: 135-143 (Games with Carlton)

Over time I am hoping to locate one or two more games, but I will never find the exact amount. Despite this, it is still very useful to find an approximate number of games that is backed up by research rather than relying on myths about games played by champions in the past (i.e. H.C.A. Harrison’s laughable 300 game figure).


December 19, 2008 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Player details from the mid-1880s

Between 1875 and 1881 a journal called The Footballer produced stats about Victorian clubs and footballers and included brief accounts of players that referred to their particular skills and playing styles. Once The Footballer folded it is rare to find similar accounts in later times, but when Victorian teams toured Adelaide in the mid-1880s, newspapers like The South Australian Register provided player profiles to acquaint their readers with the visiting teams. I have come across two. The first is the touring Hotham side in 1885, and the second refers to the great Geelong premiership side of 1886. I can provide Christian names and more details for some of these players if anyone is interested.

Hotham players 1885

A. Anderson – A good wing player and a sure mark.
H. Alessio – Also plays on the wing; good kick and mark.
A. Buncle – Splendid back player on the right wing, also follows well.
G. Bailey – Very fast on the wing
J. Cherry – Forward wing player.
B. Flowers – Good follower and pretty sure.
H. Hems – Follows well, always being on the ball.
R. Houston – A good man anywhere. Generally is goal sneak; very sure.
W.A. Johnston – One of the best back players in Victoria.
W.M. Johnston – Wingman, and also good follower.
A. Ley – Can hold his own in any part of the field.
J. Morris – Follower; fastest man in the twenty.
J. McCracken – Very fast; plays half-back.
E. Nairn – Wing player and good follower; splendid kick.
A. Neely – Good mark and kick; plays in the centre or forward.
P. O’Brien – Good anywhere.
H. Perkins – A first rate follower.
D. Peters – Forward player, also good follower.
J. Rae – Best wing player in the team; very fast.
A. Riley – Follower, fair mark and kick.
G. Sykes – Good forward man.
J. Tankard – Best follower in the team.
A. Todd – Splendid kick.
H. Todd – One of the best forward men in Victoria, really good mark, and kicks well.

Geelong Players 1886

S. Boyd – A recruit from the juniors, and one of the best in the team either back or forward; splendid kick.
A. Boyd – From the Geelong College. Very cool, fine mark, and wonderful kick.
C. Blunt – One of the second twenty. Plays a safe back game; very sure.
J. Eldridge – Follower, strong and determined, always on the ball.
W. Foote – Very unassuming player, but the most useful; plays equally well back or following.
J. Galbraith – A follower, with plenty of weight and dash; fine mark and kick.
F. Goddard – Plays on the wing, has a very pretty style, and runs fast.
D. Hickinbotham – (Captain) As a centre player is unequalled, running and dodging well; possesses the confidence of the team, which he handles very successfully.
J. Julien – A very fast and pretty player, handles the ball well, and kicks some wonderful goals.
J.F. Kerley – Has lost none of his brilliancy; runs, marks, and kicks in fine style, and always plays for the ball.
T. Kearney – A useful player, runs well, and can play either back or forward; fine mark and kick.
T. Mullens – Very fast, plays on the wing; a young player who gives great promise of being a clinker
J. McShane – A fine player who does an immense amount of work roving; plays with great judgment and always gets rid of the ball to advantage
P. McShane – The best goalsneak in Victoria, shows wonderful judgment; has kicked 25 goals already this season.
T. McShane – Another of the football family and a fine young player; marks and kicks excellently.
H. McLean – Well known to South Australian footballers. Dodges, kicks, and marks as well as ever.
E. & N. McArthur – Geelong College boys, who play in fine style. Very fast and wonderful kicks.
A. Robertson – The safest little player in the team; gets through a crowd in a wonderful manner, and always has his kick.
M. Ross – Captain of the second twenty, very fast, and good kick; with more weight would be unsurpassed.
A. Scrivenger – A fine strong back player, splendid mark and kick, and keeps cool.
R. Talbot (Vice Captain) – The most popular player in the team; plays a very hard game, very plucky; has met with accidents this season, which has prevented his playing every match.

June 15, 2008 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

More on Williamstown’s Jasper Jones

Kim also asked:

I find it odd that Jasper Jones only played one season with Carlton and then went back to Williamstown.  Was he perhaps not up to standard for Carlton?

My reply:

I don’t think he wasn’t up to it at Carlton at all. They would have retained him for sure as he was a fine player. It looks like Williamstown probably offered him the captaincy to return. The fact that he was also married in 1887 is significant. Many players retired after marriage at this time, but perhaps in Jasper’s case Williamstown also offered some additional financial security (perhaps he got a promotion in the Railways around this time, or secured a better job in that company, or indeed may have purchased a house with some help of the club). 1888 was an important year for Williamstown because a local rival South Williamstown, after 2 years in the VFA, folded and many of its better players went to Williamstown.

1888 was probably one of the few times in its early history that Williamstown FC had a bit of money to throw around. The captaincy was a highly regarded position as the captain was virtually the coach (before coaches officially emerged). Jasper would have directed his men on the field. Likely after 1889 Williamstown went into financial decline and could not continue to maintain Jasper Jones in a style he was accustomed to. But clearly he was always a ‘Williamstown man’ and stuck with the club. I think, like other players from lowly clubs he wanted to play for a big club like Carlton, but probably only to ‘taste’ what it was like. The offer of the captaincy and some other inducement(s) helped him return to the blue and yellow. If he had to pick a club and year to go he couldn’t have done better than joining Carlton. The 1887 Carlton premiership side was a great outfit with some superb players. I don’t think Jasper was a bit player in this success and he well and truly earned a place in football history by being a member of that team. After 1887 Carlton didn’t win another premiership for 20 years! Jasper also played a game for Victoria, which was certainly a feather in his cap. I would put Jasper Jones in Williamstown’s all time greatest 20 but 19th century players are not as highly regarded as they should be these days because so little is known about most of them.

March 13, 2008 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Some recent research on South Australian Clubs

I have recently investigated the names of players in the South Australian Football Association and came up with the following lists of players from Kensington during the period 1877-1880.


Formed: 1870
1877 SAFA foundation member
1881 Amalgamated with Adelaide
1882 Dropped out of SAFA

Colours: Red & white (until 1884?)
1878: Red
1879: Red & white jersey with similarly colored hose, & white
1885: Red, black & blue

Uniform: Red & white striped jersey & cap, white trousers

Ground: Kensington Park Oval

Captains Vice Captains

1877 P. Wood C. Moulden
1878 A. Crooks/A. Harrison A. Harrison
1879 A. Harrison P. Wood
1880 G. Milne W. Osborne


T. Burton, A. Clarke, F. Day, W. Day, Archie Frew, Alex Frew, F. Frew, H. Goode, William Gwynne, R.W. Hall, A. Hamson, A.M. Hargrave, C.T. Hargrave (is this T. jun.?), H.W. Hargrave, A. Harrison, L.H. Herbert, Marshall, George Milne, Bay A. Moulden, H. Muirhead, C.A. Patterson, Dudley E. Phillips, Thomas Pope, F.G. Stanton, H. Stanton, J. Trimmer, Peter Wood, E.T. Woods, Julian E. Woods

Emerg: R. Clarke, W. Dunstan, T. James, J. Thomas


R. Bagot, Bodinner, Ainsley Caterer, A. Crooks, G.H. Dean, W. Dunstan, Frew, Hall, A. Harrison, Charles W. Hughes, H. Meyer, George Milne, C.W. Mudie, Dudley E. Phillips, Pirrie, P? Smith, Sparks, F.G. Stanton, Peter Wood


R. Bagot, Burmeister, Burton, Edgar Caterer, Clark, Hales, A.T Harrison, C.E. Herbert, L.H. Herbert, Liddell, Lloyd, H. Meyer, George Milne, C.W. Mudie, F. Phillips, Sparks, F.G. Stanton, Peter Wood


A. Attridge, W. Binney, Ainsley Caterer, Clark, Colan, Colbey, J. Coward, (James T?) Darwent, Davis, Frew, E. Greenwood, Hall, A.T. Harrison, F.S. Henry, C.E. Herbert, L.H. Herbert, H. Hewer, Lloyd, Lukey, MacDougall, H. Meyer, J.D. Miller, George Milne, W.H. Osborne, Pappin, F. Phillips, Roberts, A.E.L. Smythe, F.G. Stanton, J.D. Stephens, W.E. “Billy” Stiffe, H.W. Varley, Peter Wood

New: Colbey (Norw. or Sth. Adel?), J. Coward (Norw?), W.H. Osborne (Vicn), W. Stiffe (Geel., Vic.), H. Varley (Adel.)
Off: R. Bagot (Adel.)

March 13, 2008 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

Williamstown’s Jasper Jones

A query from Kim about a relative called William Fagg “Jasper” Jones.

“I am currently researching my family history. There is one gentleman by the name of William Fagg Jones, otherwise known as Jasper Jones, who played with the Williamstown Football Club in the 1880’s and 1890’s. He was captain in 1888/89. He also received a medal during his time with Williamstown, though I do not know what it was for.

I was wondering, during your research, if you have come across Jasper Jones and any information relating to him and his playing days. Any information or tid-bits would be greatly appreciated.”


Dear Kim,

Jasper Jones was arguably Williamstown’s greatest player in the nineteenth century. He was captain in 1888-1889 and vice captain in 1886 & 1891. He kicked 27 goals for Williamstown and one (famous) goal for Carlton when he played for the Blues during the 1887 season and became part of a very good premiership side.

Jaspers Jones’ famous long goal was a 60-yard drop-kick that was scored against Fitzroy on August 13, 1887 while he was playing with Carlton.

Jasper Jones represented Williamstown in its first year as a club in the VFA. I have not come across his name playing for Williamstown before this time (when the club was a Junior team).

This is the best record I have on Jasper’s games record:

1885 14-16
1886 20-22
1887 16-18 (with Carlton) + 1 game for Victoria.
1888 19
1889 20
1890 12
1891 15
1892 –
1893 15

Total 131-137 games.

In 1892 Jones played for juniors North Williamstown (this may have had something to do with the appointment of “Barkley” Jones as Williamstown captain in that year. This suggests Jasper was not very happy about it – nor was the rest of the team!).

All the best.

March 4, 2008 at 11:57 am Leave a comment

Dons Challenge the Champs, Queen’s Birthday, 1891

Match for the Premiership 1891 - La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of VictoriaThere was phenomenal public interest in the clash between undefeated teams Essendon and South Melbourne on the Queen’s Birthday. A record crowd of 36,185 saw one of the fastest and most entertaining contests ever seen at the EMCG. As in most big games umpire J.J. Trait officiated. South started brilliantly and with systematic and ruthless efficiency had the Dons on the ropes. Essendon was completely overwhelmed and its players’ nervous fumbling of the ball betrayed a lack of confidence. South peppered the goals and Peter Burns was leading the charges, but he missed three or four good chances to put the visitors ahead. This was a real let-off for the Same Old who recovered sufficiently for ace Colin Campbell to secure its first goal from a place-kick. However, it was South’s quarter and its superiority was eventually translated into “Jockey” Fitzpatrick’s goal. Burns then made up for his early profligacy with a prodigious place-kick to give the red and white the lead at the first break. South still looked a million dollars at the beginning of the next term and Archie McMurray and Billy Windley (who was having a ding dong battle with opponent Billy Crebbin in the centre) gave the Dons the run around. This time the champs made the most of it as Edgar Barrett kicked a third goal, and a minute later, ex-northerner Harry Todd made it four-one! Essendon was going nowhere, but out of a near hopeless situation the game began to turn its way. Chas. Pearson goaled from a free kick, Colin Campbell grabbed another a minute later, and when Jim Julien kicked truly with a magnificent long goal the Same Old had somehow put themselves back in the contest and was on equal terms when the half time bell rang! The second half was even better than the first! Both sides produced superb football and went at it hammer and tongs. The massive crowd cheered as the game’s tempo lifted to new heights. There was nothing between the sides in a pulsating contest and they were locked at five-all at three quarter time. Great play continued in the last and through some fine work by Jack Mouritz the Dons took the lead, only to have South quickly restore parity. Scores were still level when Todd marked within range just before the final bell. Unfortunately, he could not convert and an exhilarating game ended in a seven-all draw. Essendon had pushed South on previous occasions and once again demonstrated it could mix it with best. The challenge for the Dons was maintaining that quality.

October 31, 2007 at 3:55 am Leave a comment

1881: A fine match between Melbourne v. Geelong

In what was described as the “finest exhibition of football in Melbourne this season” (Age 13/6) on June 11, Melbourne repeated its heroic effort of 1880 by drawing with the Pivots at the MCG in front of a massive crowd of 13-16,000. The full strength Reds were in tiptop shape for the game and they began in superb fashion. Teaming together magnificently they showed the sort of form reminiscent of the very best Melbourne teams. Their great play brought Charles Rosser an early chance, but he failed to fully convert. Despite the pressure Geelong remained steady and using its marking game to advantage got the ball to Percy Douglass who was 50 yards out on a difficult angle. The experienced champ made no mistake with his place kick, and the Pivots were in front.

Shortly afterwards Geelong moved forward again and snaffled another goal. Melbourne’s poor kicking brought behinds before Power finally obtained the home side’s first major. Follower Murdoch McKenzie was playing great footy for the Reds, and with the assistance of Aitken and Adams, the ball was sent on to Baker who equalised. Melbourne kept up the attack, but was too enthusiastic and wasted opportunities. Just before half time, the Pivot’s Dan Curdie got a lucky goal out of a scrimmage and so the half ended with Geelong leading 3.1 to Melbourne’s wasteful 2.11! Geelong (without Wilson and Watson) was frequently overwhelmed by Melbourne’s running game in the first half, but showed considerable coolness and the ability to make the most of its chances against the run of play – something great sides do.

Thus, despite the fact that it had been outplayed, Geelong was ahead at the break. In the second half the game was very even. The Pivots pushed Melbourne hard at times and forced the locals into some desperate defensive measures, but finally things went the Red’s way when Booth kicked a magnificent goal from 50 yards. The three-all draw ended in the misty twilight.

September 25, 2007 at 3:47 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Recent Posts