Myra (“Marcie”) Kawulak (nee MacKenzie), who died three days after Christmas at the age of 98, always took comfort in the knowledge that she blazed a trail for women’s football.
For it was Myra who some 82 years ago was amongst the select few to don the dark Navy Blue guernsey for a Carlton women’s XVIII, in a Royal Melbourne Hospital charity match with Richmond before more than 10,000 onlookers at Princes Park.
The game took place on the afternoon of Saturday, August 12, 1933, with details of the historic encounter were reported years later in the 2009 Carlton publication Out Of The Blue, with a follow-up penned by The Age’s Gary Tippet the following year.
In both instances, Myra was sought for her precious first-hand recollections of what is understood to be the first VFL/AFL club fixture involving members of the fairer sex.
MacKenzie, then 91 when she spoke to this reporter, remembered that an advertisement was placed in the long-gone The Argus newspaper seeking expressions of interest from budding female footballers in the lead-up to the historic encounter.
Carlton Ladies FC, 1933. Myra is seen in the front row on the left. (Photo: Carlton Media)
She who was but a girl of 16 living in nearby Garton Street when she took to the field in the famous dark Navy Blue strip. She remembered that the successful applicants “came from everywhere” including the old Bryant & May matchstick factory.
“The captain, Merlene, was head of a cycling club, the rest were basketballers and the like, and the man in the team photo is (former Carlton footballer) ‘Micky’ Crisp,” Myra said at the time.
“The whole point was to raise money for the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Someone thought ‘What if we get two girls’ teams to play?’, so one team wore Carlton colours, the other Richmond.”
Myra said she was alerted to the charity fixture by her dear old Dad.
“My father saw the ad and said ‘You better get over and show them what you can do’, so I went to training and about 70 or 80 women turned up,” Myra said.
“We had to train so many days a week. Micky and (former Carlton captain) Ray Brew, a solicitor, both coached us at the time and eventually they picked a couple of teams to play one another. This was the Monday of the King’s birthday holiday weekend of 1933.
The Carlton-Richmond match of ’33, organised by the home team, formed part of the club’s gymkhana that day. A past players match was also staged, while members of the Young Chinese Football Club also contributed to the cause.
“We played two 20-minute halves, it was very low-scoring and we won the game,” Myra said. “One paper reported that we’d raised 10,000 pounds, but we raised more than that. It was a very enjoyable experience.”
Myra in 2009. She spoke to Tony De Bolfo for the publication 'Out of the Blue'. (Photo: Carlton Media)
Page 13 of The Argus of Monday, August 14, carried the following report;
A girls football match between teams representing Carlton and Richmond aroused much interest. Carlton, which had apparently had much practice with its coach, M. Crisp, knew more of the game and marked and kicked better than Richmond. Their marking was remarkably good. Probably in fun one Carlton girl slapped an opponent’s face when she was held. One girl lay on the ground after a solid bump for more than a minute, and another hobbled about after receiving a knock on the ankle. Carlton, which kept the play constantly in front of Richmond’s goal, led by 1-0 at half-time, and by 1-4 to nil. The goalkicker was Miss Parbour, and the best players were – Carlton – Misses Kelly, Bullock, McLaughlin, Barry and Lane. Richmond – Misses Willis, Stronach, Campbell, Nott and Bruce.
Prizes won at the carnival will be presented at a picture night in the Palace Theatre, Nicholson Street, North Fitzroy, on August 21.
At the Palace, footage of the match, then captured by the international Pathe news cameras, appeared on the big screen. In the film, Myra can be seen thumping the football to the Heatley Stand end, in a contest headlined as follows;
“Soccer . . . cricket . . . perhaps! But Rugby . . . well girls . . . really!!
Melbourne Amazons - before big and highly amused crowd – play first all-women’s Rugby Match.
Myra’s prowess as a sportsperson was borne out in the tribute paid to her by her daughter Beverley Chatfield, who acknowledged that Myra played A grade cricket at 14 and basketball twice a week.
As Beverley wrote in a Facebook posting: “My Mum was certainly out of the Blue - there will be no RIP in Blue Heaven for Mum – toooooooo busy coaching and catching up”.
A much loved mother and mother-in-law of Bev and Ian, Barbara and Eddie, Bruce and Marilyn (both deceased), and an adored grandmother and great grandmother also, Myra died peacefully - her unswerving loyalty to Carlton and the great Australian game complete.