"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

VSF Football - A Team in the Clunes League

And now for something more important than forestry.

The VSF fielded a team (Creswick Forestry) in the Clunes League in the years 1946-1949. In 1946 they reached the Grand Final, but were beaten by Smeaton 10-12-72 to 7-11-53. (Source: The Argus, 2 September, 1946.)  They also reached the Grand Final in 1947 but the outcome has not been found.

Photos below of the team are from 1947, 1948 and 1949.  Does anyone know of a photo from 1946?

Click on the preview to get a large format photo.

Two of the students closely associated with the teams of those years have provided comments.

Alan Eddy, August 2018

"Until 1946 any thought that the School could field a football team in the Clunes League would have been unthinkable. The new intake of trainees in February comprised eight schoolboys and four ex-servicemen, one of whom (Jeff Brisbane) was a keen football player and a leader, who felt confident that from 36 students a competitive team could be formed. The success of the teams over four seasons reflected the calibre of their coaching and the edge provided by the older experienced ex-service members.

In 1944 the intake jumped from the usual fewer than six to 12 (including cadets of APM Ltd), a number sustained until 1948. That level of enrolments continued until 1949, after which it diminished by about one-third.

The group photos show the wholehearted support of the team by the school community. Hammon Park, the town sports ground, was just outside the front gate and players could quickly assemble at its home ground.

Weekly reports of games appeared in the Creswick Advertiser. (See Catalogue No. 1313, VSF team matches 1947, Creswick Campus Historical Collection, University of Melbourne.)

Leon Pederick, June 2019

"I refer to a recent report about the 150th Anniversary Dinner for the Creswick Football Club attended by a group of former VSF students. To my surprise two statements reported to the gathering relating to the years 1948 to 1950 were wrong, so I write now to correct the record, at least for the members of our Association.

Firstly, the VSF Forestry team did NOT win the premiership in 1948. It did not even participate in the finals that year as it finished fifth, out of six teams in the competition. Yes, in 1950 Creswick (half of that team were VSF students) did win the premiership, but the competition was in the Clunes District Football League, not the Central Highlands Football League.

My credentials for challenging the reports are twofold. I played in the teams of 1948 to 1950 and I still clearly remember the events. More importantly, I made a scrap book of cuttings from the 'Creswick Advertiser" with reports of the games played each week. I still have it as a reference.

Many years have passed since those days. I have noted some recent interest in the story of the football teams which VSF entered in the Clunes League, so I have prepared the following summary of the principal events.

The 1946 intake of students contained four ex-servicemen, including some very good footballers. There was also good talent among the 30+ other students that year. It was decided that with the inclusion of these older and tougher players the School could enter a competitive team in the Clunes District League. The team, led by Jeff Brisbane, and known as 'Forestry', did very well, reaching the grand final, but lost to Smeaton. In the following year, 1947, it performed just as well, but again was beaten by Smeaton in the grand final.

1948 began with high hopes for another good year. I remember the intense interest taken in the football skills of each new student on their arrival. It seemed that football was the most important activity at the School. However, hopes were set back when Jeff Brisbane decided he would play elsewhere at a higher level. Ian Hibbins also opted to play in the Ballarat League. One of the new students, John Macdonald, had won the Liston Medal for Best and Fairest with Camberwell in the Victorian Football Association the previous year and obtained approval from the Commission to be absent from the School on Saturdays in order to continue playing with that club. Soon after the season started the captain, Trevor Arthur, became sick and was unable to play for much of the season. The team, then led by Mark Stump, was without its four best players and had a disappointing season, finishing fifth (out of six) with a record of 3 wins and 11 losses.

1949 started with good news. John Macdonald would play with the team and was quickly elected captain. The season started well with some wins but as the fitness of other teams improved some games were lost. At the end of the home and away games Forestry was placed third. It was expected to win its semi-final against Clunes, having beaten it well the previous week. However, the weather was atrocious, Clunes managed it better, winning 7.15 to 5.15, so Forestry finished the year in fourth position, out of seven. John Macdonald won the award for Best and Fairest player in the League and Newlyn won the premiership.

At the beginning of 1950 it was decided that Forestry should combine with the Creswick club (which had previously played in the Ballarat B Grade competition),and that the combined team should play in the Clunes District Football League. The football talent at the School was not expected to bring any better success on its own. John Macdonald was appointed Captain-Coach. The season commenced with much enthusiasm The composition of the team was evenly divided between locals and students. It was a remarkable season because Creswick was undefeated during the 15 home and away games. The semi-final was a surprise defeat by Clunes in conditions similar to those of the semi-final the previous year. However, Creswick followed up with a good win over Newlyn in the final and finished the year with a big victory over Clunes in the grand final at Learmonth to win the premiership 10.4 to 4.10. A deluge of rain and hail drenched the ground during the final five minutes, so the players raced off the ground looking like drowned rats. John Macdonald won the Clunes League Best and Fairest Award again.

Finally, a comment. Bonding among students at VSF has been strong over many years, for reasons of living together for three years, but football team experiences added another dimension to it. This bonding contributed to improved co-operation in later years among staff of the Forests Commission."

The incorrect information about the 1948 season comes from p 57 of A Fraternity of Foresters - there is a correction in the copy of that publication available from this site.