1920 - THE ROARING TWENTIES
Chelsea Juniors congregate in front of Dorney's Snooker Hall in readiness for a game.
THE ROARIN’ TWENTIES
The rip roaring, rocking, rootin’, tootin’, twenties and boy did they start with a bang. The war was over and it was time to redirect energies to matters on the home front; important matters like winning football matches and proving ourselves superior to the men folk in other towns in the area. To say that parochialism was alive and well in this era would be a massive understatement. The inhabitants of neighbouring towns were the enemy. A great deal of honour was to be gained from giving them a decent ‘touch up’ on the ground, and there were plenty of loyal supporters around to assist the effort in whatever way they saw fit. A town’s status and self-image was at stake after all.
The opposition and the umpires were all fair game as they stood in the way of victory. Oral abuse from both sides of the fence was generally accepted as part of the game. There are many cases of reports arising out of these games, though one would suggest that umpires were reluctant to submit reports due to a lack of confidence in the system. Despite this, charges of assaulting umpires, abuse and disputing decisions were still quite common compared to now. Although penalties were generally quite severe, the rules were unsophisticated and open to interpretation. As a result, many of those charged got off through technicalities, or by attacking the umpire’s integrity or through blatant lying. There were any number of disputes and appeals as the clubs tested the processes to the limit.
Neighbouring towns during these times were often bitter rivals and ill feelings were easily triggered, often spilling over onto the football ground where aggressive acts were common. There are several examples of games being called off because of the unruly and violent behavior of players and spectators alike.
One instance of dodgy behaviour occurred prior to the commencement of the season with Chelsea to play Mordialloc in a practice match. The Chelsea boys must have liked their chances as supporters put up a whopping 50 pounds as a wager in the week before the match.
Mordialloc became aware that their southern upstarts had engaged three players from the strong Wednesday Industrial League and imported three players with VFL experience into bolster their team. It was enough to give them a five point victory in a physical encounter. Mordialloc players required a police escort to the station at the conclusion of the game to ensure their safety.
After a disappointing first season, Chelsea had ‘gone back to the drawing board’ so to speak and there was some well-founded enthusiasm for the coming 1920 season. This renewed confidence was proving to be well placed as Chelsea won four of the first five games.
Unfortunately Round Six, a trip to Moorabbin, was about to set in motion a series of events that would lead to some serious accusations and repercussions later in the season.
Chelsea were now being taken more seriously and, in Moorabbin, they were to encounter a team that were physically stronger, match hardened and also expecting to play a part in the finals.
The game was hard, very hard, described by some as brutal. The number of injuries sustained by the Chelsea team numbered six, several of which were serious and provided the injured player with more worries than just the physical pain. An incapacitated man who was unable to work had no means of support, and if he happened to have a family, as was the case with Harry Ellis, the problem was magnified. Harry sustained a fractured shoulder and was unemployed for many months—he had a wife and two children. A public subscription was raised to assist in the support of his family.
The Seagulls were beaten by 22 points but it was the physical beating that was hardest to swallow. The club members and their supporters were incensed by their rough treatment at the hands of Moorabbin. With little or no goodwill between the teams at the completion of the game, the return match at Chelsea would be eagerly awaited by the home team and their supporters.