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50 year anniversary of the final VFL game played at BSO

24-Aug-2016

The following is a history of the Brunswick Street Oval by Danny Wilson and presented at the Fitzroy past player reunion held on 20 August 2016 at the Fitzroy Victoria Bowling and Sports Club.

The Victorian Football Association (VFA) was the premier football competition in Victoria from 1877-1896. The Fitzroy Football Club was formed at a meeting in 1883 at what was then called the Brunswick Family Hotel at 127 Brunswick Street Fitzroy. The first recorded game in a senior competition was played at BSO on 1 September 1883 somewhat incongruously between Melbourne and Carlton in front of an estimated crowd of 6,500. Melbourne won by a goal.

Fitzroy played their first game there the next year on 31 May 1884. They defeated Melbourne by 3 goals. Apparently back then behinds didn’t count as the score in front of a crowd of 2,500 was 4.9 to 1.20. Looking back at some of the records, you could actually score what would today be a higher total score in goals and behinds, but still lose as only goals counted!! Fitzroy won their first and only VFA Premiership in 1895. 131 VFA matches were played at BSO between 1883 and 1896.

In 1897 a breakaway of 8 clubs including Fitzroy formed the Victorian Football League (VFL). Fitzroy won their first VFL game at BSO on 8 May 1897. The score was 6.13 to 2.4. The following year in 1898 they won the first of 8 premierships defeating Essendon 5.8 to 3.5 and in 1899 won back to back premierships by defeating South Melbourne by a point.

Fitzroy Football Club’s iconic Brunswick Street Oval has witnessed the magic and exploits of past Fitzroy legends such as arguably the greatest Aussie rules player ever Haydn Bunton, fellow Brownlow medallists Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn, Dinny Ryan and Alan Ruthven (“the Baron”), Frank Curcio, Fred Hughson, Bill Stephen, 1969 Brownlow winner Kevin “Bulldog” Murray, “Butch” Gale, Don Furness, Norm Brown and many other champs and of course Tony Ongarello, the Italian/Australian matinee idol also known as “Onga” who in those days was a real crowd puller with his spectacular high leaping marks!! I’d also like to mention the late Eddie Hart, a true gentleman and a driving force behind the past players association who kicked over 300 goals in a career savagely interrupted by war service in the 40’s and early 50’s.

The Fitzroy goal kicking record at BSO is held by Bob Merrick (great uncle of Bob Merrick who is a regular attendee at current Fitzroy matches). Bob Merrick senior booted 12 goals straight against Melbourne on 30 august 1919 in a 125 point thrashing of Melbourne. The record crowd at BSO is 36,000 against Collingwood on 6 May 1935….incidentally a 14.9.93 draw in a year that Collingwood won the premiership and Fitzroy finished 7th!!

Fitzroy can also boast 7 Brownlow medallists who pulled on a guernsey at BSO including Haydn Bunton’s 3 Brownlows, Bill Stephen won his first best and fairest in 1950, Tony Ongarello was the last VFL player to score a goal from a place kick, kicking 2 in a narrow loss to Geelong in 1955, the same year that the Fitzroy Past Players Association was formed with one of its founders being Kevin’s father Danny Murray, a premiership player in 1944.

Kevin became the youngest ever winner of the best and fairest aged 18 in 1956, the first of a remarkable nine. Kevin Murray and Owen Abrahams became the first Fitzroy players named in the All Australian side after the 1958 Australian championships.

The early 60’s were fairly bleak for the Roys and, following a long running and acrimonious dispute with the Fitzroy City Council, the last game at BSO was held exactly 50 years ago today on 20 August 1966 after another 612 VFL games played here between 1897 and 1966.

The fantastic thing though folks is that the tradition is continuing through the Fitzroy Football Club in the Victorian Amateur Football Association competition here at Fitzroy’s spiritual home. I would especially like to thank the Fitzroy board, players, members and supporters for giving us the opportunity to have this celebration and I urge you all to get on board here at BSO for the best in local community football.

Additionally there are membership forms here for the past players and officials association…please join to help us keep the past players association alive.

…. And so here we are now 50 years later to the very day!!

 


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