Maryborough’s footy history goes right back to 1872

By Richard Jones

Maryborough and its footy club have long held a special place in my heart.

My maternal grandfather played with Maryborough in the early 1900s and later was a valued club sponsor right up to World War 2.

There’s been an established footy club in the town since 1872 and there was even an attempt to start a club in June 1869. But it was unsuccessful, and another three seasons passed until the formation got underway.

Thirty men gathered at the big Bull and Mouth Hotel, diagonally opposite my grandpa’s McIvor pub in 1872, and adopted rules for the playing group and for their club management’s officials.

The new club played its first competitive match against Avoca after Maryborough’s new committee had issued challenges to their counterparts in adjacent towns.

Maryborough players wore a scarlet cap, a white guernsey and white knickerbockers (today’s shorts) and red socks.

Club membership cost was two shillings and sixpence (2/6) while the players forked out one shilling (1/-) a month to cover expenses.

Remember in pre-decimal days there were 12 pence to one shilling and 20 shillings to a pound. A guinea was one pound, one shilling.

In that very first clash against Avoca there wasn’t a goal scored until an hour’s play had passed. Maryborough landed it.

Avoca scored a late goal to leave the match tied at one major apiece.

A week later in the return match at Avoca, a three-hour fixture with a 20-minute interval, a draw was again the result.

No goals to either club. Remember in the early days of Aussie Rules (or Victorian Rules as it was more widely known) behinds didn’t count in a final score.

The decider was played at Princes Park on 26 August 1872. Avoca booted the opening goal in under an hour --- and then the heavens opened.

Forty-five minutes passed and when play resumed large parts of the oval were three inches (7.6 cm) deep in water.

Avoca scored two more goals to win comfortably.

I’d often visited Maryborough in school holidays and in the long university vacation during my first year at Uni I worked as a chippie’s labourer on a dam construction.

Now I think back and taking into account the length of travel each morning, I reckon we were working on the Cairn Curran dam.

The lads from my gang were always keen to drop me off at the McIvor Hotel after work and join me for a few cooling ales.

My maternal grandmother, Minnie, would hand me a jug of beer and a few glasses (pots) as soon as we arrived.

For no cost, of course. The jug’s contents lasted just a few minutes and off I’d go for a refill. And another one after that.

All free.

But summer in Maryborough can be stifling. Many’s the time I’ve taken my mattress and pillow and gone to sleep out on the hotel balcony.

My maternal grandfather was Alf Outtrim ---- his full name was Alfred Richard Outtrim junior ---- so wasn’t I glad I didn’t get handed ‘Alfred’, shortened to ‘Alf’, as a Christian name.

Alf was a sportsman of some note.

He’d rowed in the first APS Head of the River eight-oared final on the Yarra River in 1899, captained Maryborough footy team in the 1902-03 seasons and continued as a player in 1904 and 1905.

We found his old hand-written notes when packing up and downsizing houses in 2016.

And there in Alf’s handwriting we read that “in all fours years I played Maryborough won the premiership even when the new association had been formed in my latter two years.”

The association Alf Outtrim was referring to originally comprised just four clubs: Maryborough, Bowenvale, Royal Park and Carisbrook.

By 1904 the league had expanded to six clubs. The ‘newbies’ were Havelock and Bristol Hill.

And well after his playing career had ended Alf was still associated with Marborough F.C. Right through the Twenties and into the Thirties Alf used to contribute 15 pounds a month, sometimes 20, to the Maryborough F.C.

That’s quite a handy sum in today’s dollars. The main way players --- apart from coaches or playing coaches --- were paid back then was if they looked in their bags after a game they find a few pound or 10-shilling notes stashed alogside the socks.

Of course, the players would make their way from Princes Park to the McIvor Hotel to celebrate a win after a home game or drown their sorrows if they’d lost.

It wasn’t until 1924 that the club was admitted, along with Ararat, into the powerful Ballarat F.L. bringing the number of club in that goldfields’ league up to six.

Maryborough soon had the local footy followers and newspaper scribes watching carefully.

With nine wins and a draw from their allotted 14 home-and-away fixtures, the Maryborough Magpies as they were known qualified for the 1924 finals in second place.

And those astonished footy followers and scribes were amazed to see Maryborough beat South Ballarat and minor premiers Ballarat (twice) to claim the 1924 premiership.

The arrival of Ararat, and more importantly Maryborough, attracted record Ballarat crowds in that 1924 season.

Especially for the finals.

And the Magpies’ 1924 success was no flash in the pan.

Maryborough finished top again in 1925, fourth in 1926, claimed the flag once more in 1927 and had a fourth-placed finish again in 1928.

And yet not long before the 1929 season got underway the Magpies were hit with a bewildering ruling.

The Maryborough Council decided that Princes Park, the Magpies long-time home ground, would be allocated solely to the Maryborough District Football Association.

And so the Pies were forced into temporary recess. They did not resume playing in the Ballarat Footy League until 1931.

That enforced break hadn’t broken down Maryborough’s enthusiasm or skills. There they were again come finals time to claim their fourth Ballarat F.L. flag with a 29-point victory over Ballarat Imperials.

And they won in what was technically the league’s first true grand final. The league had instituted the Page-McIntyre system (still used today) of playing finals for that 1931 season.



To come: Maryborough (as Maryborough United) in the 1930s in the Bendigo F.L. and their post-World War 2 situation

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