The day was September 22nd, 1906. It was, by all reports, a surprisingly clear afternoon with not a drop of rain after 1pm and typical of that year’s emerging spring. But in at least one other way, it was anything but typical. It was a day in which a Legend would be born. It was a day in which the world saw the emergence of its first football juggernaut; its first triple consecutive Premiers. The Carlton Football Club, invited to join the VFL at formation only 10 years beforehand, would win their first VFL / AFL Premiership, in what was to become ‘The First of Many’.

At the time, Carlton fans may have been in quiet anticipation as to our emergence but were perhaps tempered by disappointment from the previous decade. After all, Carlton had spent several years anchored to the bottom of the ladder, winning just 2 games in 1897 and 1901, and only first playing finals in 1903. A Club-wide review led to a League-first; the appointment of a Specialist Head non-playing Coach in the form of Jack Worrall (who had previously umpired test cricket) in 1902, and coupled with some fine recruiting, Carlton was soon to become a power team of the competition.

On-field, leading Carlton on Grand Final Day was Jim Flynn, in his second season as Captain for the Blues. Worrall sat in the Coach’s Chair, perhaps full of the day’s plans but not yet aware of a career that would see him deliver 5 VFL Premierships to 2 different Clubs. Also in the team were great names of the day such as Rod ‘Wee’ McGregor, Norman ‘Hackenschmidt’ Clark and Alex Lang (our youngest player on the day at 18 years, 193 days old, and later to be suspended for 5 years), plus a forward line comprising Leading Goalkicker Mick Grace, two-time Club Leading Goalkicker Frank ‘Silver’ Caine (nicknamed after the colour of his hair) and the fiery George Topping, who later would be suspended for the entire 1911 season. Grace and Caine would alternate as Carlton’s top goalkicker in this era, with Grace leading the team in 1904 and 1906, and Caine in 1905 and 1907.

Carlton would enter the Grand Final in good shape, although during the week we lost Martin Gotz to injury. To complicate matters, his intended replacement, Bert Parke, was injured at training. Eventually, he would be replaced by Les Beck. Although young Parke was to miss out on the day, “owing to his having ricked one of his ankles at practice on Thursday” according to the Australasian, he was to later go down in history as the first Blue to leave the Club, play senior football elsewhere (Melbourne) yet return to play seniors for Carlton. Justin Murphy was only the second Blue to do this some 90+ years later. Parke was also interesting for another reason – he had played every game for Carlton in 1905, and even represented Victoria, yet did not run out for Carlton in our 1906 Premiership year.

The crowd of 44,437 was the largest ever at the time, although it must be noted that it was only the 21st league game ever where they had recorded the crowd details. Said the Argus: ‘How impossible it would have been to play such a game anywhere else, and give the same number of people a chance of seeing the game. The new stand was open to members, and from its upper story gave a lofty bird’s eye view of the play. The pressure upon the arena fence was so great at one point that finally the stout iron structure gave way, bent in, and part of the crowd spilled over it on to the turf, and formed a ring inside the boundary. A crowbar was brought to brace it up against the assault, and as it was hammered into position, the crowd chimed in tune to the strokes of the hammer, suggesting the ‘Anvil Chorus’. Everything else but football was forgotten as soon as a sudden burst of cheers told that the players were coming out – that Carlton and Fitzroy were ready for the great game of the season.”

After only 3 losses all season, the Blues must have been confident. The near-misses of 1904 – in which we played in our first ever Grand Final, and 1905, in which we couldn’t knock off second placed Fitzroy in the Preliminary despite overpowering the dominant Pies in the Semi, would only spur Carlton on to greater things in 1906. Further, the Blues were going into the 1906 Grand Final with only 1 premiership player, Mick Grace, who had earlier won premierships in 1898 and 1899 with Fitzroy – and now he was facing his old side. The scene was set; Carlton v Fitzroy; history was about to be made.

The first score of the game was from Topping, who would hit the post to commence the contest. One wonders whether fans of the day yelled out the 1906 version of ‘Blow the Siren’; most probably being ‘Hit the Bell’ given that sirens came in after World War 2. Fitzroy responded with a poster of their own, and then another behind from a place kick. Jim Marchbank, to become a 115 game player for Carlton, scored the first major of the game to set the Blues on their way. Further goals to Topping and Fred Jinks saw Carlton up by 8 points at the first break.

A dominant second quarter, including the 48th and 49th of Mick Grace’s season, saw the Blues rollick to a 33 point margin at the main break. One from a mark, and the other from play, Grace would top the League’s goal-kicking in 1906 – the first Blue to top the table at season’s end. Said the Age of this second quarter: ‘This splendid burst of superiority by Carlton gave them a lead of 33 points at half time, and in consideration of the importance of the occasion and the severity of the play, the interval was made longer than usual’.

Despite the 33-point margin at half time, the Maroons (they were not officially the Lions until 1957) were not to be out-shone, and in the third they mounted a mighty comeback. Trotter, Walker, Brosnan, Millis and Sheehan all scored majors, broken only by ‘Silver’ Caine’s first and second goal for the game, to reduce the margin to 14 points. Said the ‘Argus’: ‘The sense of growing disappointment when Carlton took so strong a lead had changed again to keenest anticipation. Those whose sympathy was with Carlton only because the old Club had been so long out of premierships were asking each other ‘Will the Fitzroy – Collingwood charm never be broken?” Fitzroy fans may still have been disappointed at this stage, as their 6.8.44 involved more scoring shots than Carlton’s 9.4.58, yet they were still behind. It seems the old adage of ‘Bad Kicking is Bad Football’ was never truer than in the first decade of the 1900’s.

With the resurgent Fitzroy at their throats, the pressure was on. Carlton’s dominant forward line of Topping, Caine and Grace were key players, having kicked 6 of our 9 majors to that point. Worrall, perhaps with the 1906 equivalent of a whiteboard at his disposal, ordered the boys to look out for our forwards. For the Maroons, said the ‘Argus’: “Fitzroy’s plan was to take all risks … They had nothing to gain by the safe game, so they gradually thinned out their defence lines and threw extra men forward to the attack, until the sturdy Moriarty was alone on the goal front, with Walker, playing splendidly, the only other effective barrier between the goal and the centre line. It was the policy of desperation – all or nothing. Once Carlton had reached the halfback line, they were almost certain to score. The end soon came. The goals went up to Carlton with convincing succession”.

Caine’s third goal started the scoring in the last quarter to re-establish the 20-point margin. Fred ‘Pompey’ Elliott, later to play 197 games for the Blues (209 overall) and become both a Captain and Coach of Carlton, scored the next goal as the Blues threatened to run away with the game. Grace scored his third to continue the theme, managing to become the first player in VFL / AFL history to kick 50 goals in a season. A Fitzroy behind broke the trend, but three magnificent Carlton goals to end the last quarter saw the Blues run away by a massive 49 points. The three goals were scored by Topping (in some scribes of the day this goal is often attributed to Elliott), Les Beck and Ike Little, in his 8th and last game for Carlton. Like many Blues on the day, Beck also has an interesting little niche in Carlton’s history – he would play 60 games for Carlton and have the highest winning ratio of any Blue who played more than 50 games at 88.3% (53 wins). What some of today’s Blues would give to even split the difference!

Amazingly, Carlton’s last 11 scoring shots were goals, as the Blues not only reacted to the challenge offered by Fitzroy but moved up a gear to smash them. Said the ‘Age’: ‘Except in the third quarter, when Fitzroy made a magnificent recovery of 19 points after starting that quarter with a leeway of 33 points to make up, Carlton showed superiority all round, but the feature of the match was their remarkable accuracy in kicking, their19 scoring shots producing 15 goals, the last 11 of which were kicked without a behind – a record which I cannot remember being equalled.” The Australasian added: “…and their total of 15 goals and only four behinds was worthy of detachment of King’s prize winners on the range at Williamstown.”

At the end of the day, the Blues had earned their first VFL Premiership, the First of Many. Congratulations were offered from all quarters. Said the ‘Age’: ‘”Jack” Worrall was the special recipient of congratulations, and deservedly so, as the success achieved may fairly be attributed to his Coaching. In his playing Worrall was one of the finest footballers in Victoria, and his aptitude for imparting knowledge of the game to others has been attended by phenomenal success.”

On our glorious success, the ‘Australasian’ summarised it as follows: “All doubts that may have existed as to which was the better league team for the year, Carlton or Fitzroy, were set completely at rest on Saturday last, when Carlton unequivocally established their supremacy in every department of play.” Further, the author, Markwell, advised “There was no player in the team but rendered valuable and consistent aid. Payne, Clarke, Beck and Gillespie did splendid service as fixed members of the garrison; Bruce, McGregor and Kennedy again demonstrated their fitness for the title of best centre-line of the year; Grace, Caine, Topping, Marchbank and Little provide very successful forwards; and the remaining half-dozen, Jinks, Johnson, Elliott, Hammond, Flynn and Lang, were remarkably brilliant.”

One final scribe of the time, ‘Center’ in the Melbourne Punch, advised “Everybody was decorated with blue and white ribbons. Their talk was blue. Everybody wanted to get into the blue tram and have a ride. At the finish they were drinking blue beer…it tasted blue anyhow. The pubs dispensed free beer. Free Beer. Think of it, free beer in Carlton.”

History will record that the Blues went on to win the 1907 and 1908 VFL Premierships, largely on the back of key players in this team. Some would go on to Coach, some would go on to be a feature of our 1914-1915 Premiership Teams as well, others would find new homes at other Clubs in the VFL. Carlton had broken through with their first VFL Premiership, and now, almost 100 years ago to the day, we should all be thankful for the team that set us on our very merry way.

There’s something about success that endures; something about the words of joy that tell the reader of the happiness of the writer at the time. There is no greater example than the early 20th century exuberance of the Forty Second Annual Report of the Carlton Football Club, written in the wash-up to Carlton’s first VFL Premiership in 1906.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your committee has the honour to present to you their Annual Report and Balance Sheet for Season 1906, together with a record of the team’s performances.

After a lapse of nineteen years, the Club has once again attained the highest possible honours in the football world, by winning the League Premiership in the most strenuous and brilliant season in the annuals of the game. Nineteen matches were played, sixteen of which were won and three lost. The record is an excellent one, especially considering the great sustained pace of modern football – for “it’s the pace that kills” – and the unavoidable accidents incidental to the game. It is almost an impossibility for a side under existing conditions to go through a season without sustaining a defeat.

Carlton’s win was an extremely popular one, congratulatory messages being received from all parts of Victoria, from every State in the Commonwealth, and from New Zealand and South Africa. There was a record attendance at the final match, the enormous attendance of 44,437 being the greatest concourse of people at any football match in Australasia. And the play was worthy of the occasion, the salient and intricate points of the game being up to the highest standard, the accurate kicking of your representatives being quite the feature of the play.

Fitzroy, our doughty and worthy opponents, took their defeat like true sportsmen. The captain (Mr. E. Jenkins) and the Secretary (Mr. C. M. Hickey), while, naturally, lamenting the fact that the honours of the season did not fall to their lot, warmly congratulated Carlton upon their success, stating that, upon the season’s form, the best team had undoubted won the Premiership.

The players are deserving of the warmest thanks of the members for their magnificent and brilliantly sustained efforts throughout the season. They were splendidly led by their deservedly popular commander, Mr. J. Flynn, able assistance being also rendered by the Vice-Captain, Mr. G. Bruce. In the opinion of many experts, no finer or fitter team ever contested the State’s Premiership. It is worthy of note to record that fact that the Club was not displaced from the first position on the honour list during the season.

Naturally, the prospects of the coming season are of a most encouraging nature, all last season’s players being available. As the great majority of the team have all their football in front of them – in fact, four first season colts participated in the final match, and all of them under 21 years of age – there is every reason to look hopefully forward to the coming season. For now that the sweets of victory have been enjoyed, every legitimate effort will be made so that the Club will maintain its present proud position.

Owing to the dashing play of the team, and to the successful management, the membership has, as a natural corollary, increased greatly, numbering, all told, the satisfactory total of 2811, an increase of 316 from the previous season. The list is as follows: Members 2447, Ladies and Boys, 364. The membership is an easy record so far as the Club is concerned, the increase during the last five years being simply extraordinary, amounting to no less a number than 2339. There’s nothing succeeds like success.

The finances of the Club are in a highly satisfactory condition, especially when it is taken into consideration that the Ground Committee received the large amount of £729, and the players were given a trip to Sydney, besides numerous social entertainments. There is a credit balance of £34 7s. 8d.”

And now, 100 years later, nothing remains truer than the continuation of the sustained pace of the modern game and that nothing succeeds, like success. On behalf of the Blueseum Contributors, we would like to think that our next century contains as much Blue Success, and Blue Beer, as existed in 1906.