Through the decades: 1900-1909

Through the decades: 1900-1909

By Johnson#26


At the turn of the 19th century, Collingwood – after three years in the new VFL competition, were flagless, and had only played in four finals. It wasn’t a bad achievement, given the club had only been around since 1892.

Collingwood, the suburb, was a place where you would not want to be. It was in the middle of one of the country’s worst depressions, and the football club was perhaps the only form of relief and happiness. Who would have thought, back then, that the Magpies, by 2004, would be one of the most well known sporting clubs across Australia – and even the world. The mere mention of the word ‘Collingwood’ sends fear, and hatred through so many across Australia. Over 100 years ago, if someone had told you this would be the case – you would not have believed them. The decade of 1900-1909, was the decade where the foundations were laid, for a long and successful future.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Collingwood racked up 119 wins from 172 games, and two Grand Final victories from four attempts. The Pies built a huge reputation for being a fearsome side – despite playing in a depression stricken town. During this period of time, the club had eight skippers, with Lardie Tulloch the longest standing captain of the decade – with three years at the helm.

Collingwood also employed their first ever coach in 1904 – club legend Bill Strickland. In 1906, Collingwood’s first hero emerged. Dick Lee arrived on the scene early in 1906 – his first of 16 seasons at the club. In this time, he played 230 games, and after his retirement in 1922, had finished up with 707 goals – at an impressive average of 3.07 per game. Lee was the winner of the leagues goal scoring record, on a massive ten occasions – a club record. Sadly, Lee was hampered by injury for much of his long career, but ploughed on to play for 16 seasons. He is thought to have had the first knee cartilage operation, and returned from retirement to play in 1913.

The Magpies played off in the Grand Finals of 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1905 – coming out on top in ’02 and ’03. In 1902 – the first official Magpie flag – Collingwood defeated Essendon on the 20 of September by 33 points in front of a crowd of 35, 202 at the MCG. After a close first term where the Dons led by one point, the Magpies pulled away in the third term, to win by just over five goals. Allan, Hailwood and T.Leach were the best for the Pies, while Lockwood and Rowell each scored three goals.

The year 1903 saw Collingwood win their first ever set of back-to-back flags, against neighbouring suburb Fitzroy by only two points in front of 32, 263 spectators at the MCG, on the 12th of September. It was a close match all afternoon, with neither side able to break the shackles. In fact, neither side scored a goal in the third term – as both teams fought tooth and nail for a win. In the final moments of the day, Collingwood led by three points – with back-to-back flags only a few seconds away – but the ball was thrust forward onto the chest of the Lions Gerald Brosnan – the Roy’s skipper and full forward.

Brosnan – the most accurate kick in the league missed the chance of a lifetime – with the ball just hitting the post – for the Pies to hold onto a two point victory. Addison was the Pies only multiple goal scorer with two, while Fell, McCormack and Monohan were the best on the day. If it wasn’t for inaccurate kicking, the Maroons may have won, given the fact that they had 14 scoring shots to eleven.

For the rest of the decade, Collingwood could only manage one more Grand Final, against Fitzroy again, at the MCG. This time however, the Roy’s atoned for their loss only two years earlier, to win by 13 points.

Collingwood only played in four finals in the next four seasons, without winning any of them. They ended the decade with seven finals losses on the trot, with perhaps Dick Condon the player of the decade. Condon – the man who created the stab kick – was one of the most talented players of the early years, but was known to be quiet individualistic and short tempered. Club legend Jock McHale labelled Condon the greatest footballer he had seen – which was quite a wrap.


1902 Grand Final:
Collingwood: 9.6 (60)
Essendon: 3.9 (27)

T.Lockwood 3; Rowell 3; Allan, Angus, Pears.

Allan, Hailwood, T.Leach, McCormack, Pannam, Rush.

©Johnson#26 2004

Roberts, Michael and McFarlane, Glenn. The Official Collingwood Illustrated Encyclopaedia. Geoff Slattery Publishing, 2004.