Even today, Princes Park remains an island of greenery immediately to the north of Melbourne’s inner city, separated from it only by the sprawl of the University of Melbourne. It was on these wide and verdant fields that the new settlers of Melbourne (then still struggling to settle on a name) first met to constitute a formal cricket competition.

Oh, there had been plenty of cricket played in the township before this point. Indeed, the game was so popular that it nearly gave a name to Melbourne: the city-to-be was nearly called Batville (because no one in it much wanted to bowl; Batmania was the name favoured by those who wished to honour John Batman), so constant was the sound of balls hitting bats. This phenomenon largely came to an end once the Gold Rush broke out, for two reasons: many of the gold miners were the lower class oiks who had been playing the game (in the street! The street! These people have no sense of decorum!), and the rest of the miners were Americans and Chinese who didn’t care for cricket.

So it was that the game could be restored to being the sport of gentlemen that God, nature, the Queen and Parliament intended it to be. Except for one small problem: early Melbourne boasted too few gentlemen to put together an entire team, let alone the two of them required for a proper match. Gritting their teeth and muttering about needs must and driving devils, the gentlemen of Melbourne ordered their servants to play alongside them, and when that still did not reach the magic number of 22 (one of the gentleman, after all, would have to be the umpire), to recruit among their friends.

The initial match was marred by several occurrences: the first ever streaking at a cricket match in Melbourne (by a young lady of Kulin peoples, hotly pursued by several men of the same genetic heritage), the theft of the first ball by a passing kangaroo, a lightning strike that destroyed one of the wickets, and the low scores achieved by gentleman more used to the gentle spin balls they used than the devastating fast balls of the Irish immigrants. In fact, only three batsmen even reached double figures: John Batman (13 runs), a cook named Scully (37 runs), and a Swedish labourer named Karl, who was playing cricket for the first time (103 not out).

This would not be the only victory of the lower classes to arise from the events of that day: while the few gentlemen (and their wives and children, as well as their servants – at least in earshot of their employers) continued to call the area Prince’s Park, the lower classes preferred to commemorated their viking batsman and his impressive score, calling the area Karl’s Ton.

Suburbs near Carlton:

1970 – Alex Jesaulenko marks over Graeme Jenkin in the 1970 VFL Grand Final

By half time, it looked like it was all over for Carlton. Another good year for them, but on the day, Collingwood had them outmatched. Minutes before the end of the second quarter, Jesaulenko marked over Jenkin (in what would become one of the game’s most iconic images), but it availed the Blues little. When the second quarter siren sounded, Carlton trailed by 44 points, an all-but insurmountable lead.

The half-time oration by Ron Barassi, with its legendary injunction to handball, has also become legend. Carlton changed their style of play in the game’s second half, to a faster, looser style of play that depended more on handballing than kicking to move the ball forward. Carlton kicked 8 goals to Collingwood’s 3 in the third quarter, and even though they entered the final term trailing by about three goals, the momentum had decisively shifted in their direction. They won the game by only 10 points, but a narrow win is still a win.

Referenced in:

The Back Upon Which Jezza Jumped – This Is Serious Mum

Happy Grand Final Day to my fellow Aussie Rules fans!

And to the rest of you:
honestly, you don’t know what you’re missing out on here 🙂