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Is Scotch the greatest VFL/AFL nursery?

Can Scotch claim the mantle of Australia’s greatest and most prolific Australian Football nursery, just as it is for Test cricketers?

WORDS: MR PAUL MISHURA – SCOTCH COLLEGE ARCHIVES

Members of the Scotch College 2008 First XVII with Principal Tom Batty and Hawthorn Football Club President Jeff Kennett and Old Boys who have played VFL/AFL football

In 2009 Old Melburnian Peter Beaumont forwarded Scotch a list of Melbourne Grammar School boys who have played VFL/AFL football. It contained 136 names. Xavier forwarded a list of 112 names. Assumption College’s legendary Ray Carroll advises 148 Assumption boys have played in the VFL/AFL, while St Patrick’s College, Ballarat claims 92. It raises the question: how many Old Scotch Boys have played VFL/AFL football?

Scotch had three lists of VFL/AFL players. Some names were common to all lists. Reconciling these lists gave a total well below those of Grammar and Xavier. Checking the names against the Mishura Scotch College database of all boys who have attended Scotch revealed several were not even Old Scotch Boys!

For more than 10 years Steve Rodgers (MGS 1971; father of Philip, SC 1997 1st XVIII) has been researching the details of all VFL/AFL players. Liaising with the AFL, and using the Spartan information kept in the early years, he has turned initials and surnames into full names, dates of birth and dates of death. The 1897–1999 list has almost 11,000 names and dates, which Peter Beaumont checked against every MGS boy. The 2000–09 list provided by Col Hutchinson of the AFL names 793 debutants.

Spending more than half the Christmas holidays comparing names and dates of birth and death on Steve’s list against the Mishura Scotch database, I found many Scotchies whose VFL careers were unknown to Scotch. The following list names the first 66 players in order of debut, with statistics gleaned from afl.allthestats.com

VFL (now AFL) football began with round one on Saturday 8 May 1897. Eight Old Scotch boys played in that first round. One – William Thomas Ahern – was also an MGS boy. Four played for St Kilda against Collingwood, three for Melbourne against South Melbourne, and one for Carlton against Fitzroy. Almost none were known to Scotch until my Christmas holiday research. There were many near misses which explained why some names had erroneously appeared on earlier lists. Some names matched, but not birth dates. Some Scotch boys’ brothers played but did not attend Scotch. One further name may yet be added to the list: Edward Edwards.

On 14 July 1906 Ted Edwards, a Surrey Hills FC player, played his only game for St Kilda. St Kilda was so wracked by injury that it seemed anyone who could walk was asked to play. There is almost no information about this player, other than his name probably being Edward Edwards and being in his early 20s, if not 22.

Scotch’s candidate for this player is Edward Edwards, born on 24 September 1883, who attended Scotch in 1900. In 1906 he lived in Malakoff Street, Caulfield, and was the only young Edward Edwards east of Melbourne on the 1906 electoral roll. Caulfield, however, seems a long way from Surrey Hills, and the player may have had additional given names. The Scotch boy’s descendants knew he played lacrosse but not football. The question may never be answered satisfactorily.

The first 66 Old Scotch Boys to play VFL football confirm that school football talent does not always develop. Some, such as William Walter Lyon, were heroes of school football, with several years in the 1st XVIII, including captaincy and premierships, but failed to make a significant mark on the VFL, whether due to injury or lack of development. Some left Scotch at an early age, or were not good enough to make the 1st XVIII, yet made an impact in the VFL.

War cut short some careers, and some lives, with Stanley Spencer Reid dying in the Boer War and Alexander Thomas Ogilvie, Frederick Richard McIntosh and Stanley Walter Neale dying in World War I. Fred Phillips was killed by his Hawthorn football jumper ... The remainder of this list will appear in the December 2010 Great Scot. Will Scotch’s tally top that of Xavier? Will it beat Grammar’s? Is Scotch Australia’s greatest and most prolific school football nursery, just as it is for Test cricketers? All will be revealed … GS

Updated: Monday 24 June 2013