It’s 80 years ago this August that a Carlton women’s XVIII (and 19th woman) team took to the field, in a match involving Richmond before 10,000 onlookers at Princes Park.
It happened on the afternoon of Saturday, August 12, 1933. The moment seems to have been forgotten given this week’s AFL media release that “for the first time” women will represent League clubs and sport club guernseys - in this instance in a curtain-raiser to the June 29 Melbourne-Western Bulldogs match at the MCG.
Details of this historic Carlton-Richmond encounter were reported 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, Carlton team member Myra McKenzie was sought out for her precious recollections of what is understood to be THE first match involving members of the fairer sex representing VFL/AFL clubs.
McKenzie, then 91, 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.
McKenzie, 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, remembered that the successful applicants “came from everywhere”.
“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 told this reporter 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.”
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.
Follow Tony De Bolfo on Twitter: @CFC_DeBolfo.