Alf Finlay was a dashing wingman for Norwood and an entertaining centreman for two Western Australian clubs, West Perth and Rovers.
A prominent footballer with Strathalbyn, he played for the Norwood seconds in 1891 and switched to Medindie for one game at the end of that season. Cleared back to Norwood in 1892, he showed great promise and according to one scribe "shone more brightly than the rest" in a losing encounter with the formidable South Adelaide side.
He was the leading wingman in the SA Football Association in 1893. 'Onlooker' commented in The Express and Telegraph: "Finlay has been the most consistent wing man of the season, and is at all times reliable. He is quick and tricky, and has always been able to hold his own with his opponents." He was conspicuous as Norwood succumbed to Victoria by four goals at Adelaide Oval.
Finlay and newcomer Charlie Atkins were on opposite wings for much of the 1894 season. Finlay was in the best players as Norwood lost to the visiting Essendon team in July and to South Adelaide in August. Then, just as Norwood was mounting a serious premiership challenge, he moved to WA, where he played out the season at centre for West Perth and was much admired by supporters. While Atkins waited another season before moving to WA with the 1894 premiership under his belt and the 1897 premiership with West Perth to come, Finlay would finish empty-handed.
In 1895, according to a typical report, "Finlay delighted everyone by his clever dodging play in the centre." At the St Patrick's Day sports that year he won the 130-yard hurdles race from the five-yard mark. In 1896 he switched from West Perth to Rovers. His good form earned him selection in the combined Perth team which defeated a combined Fremantle team, 4.13 to 3.6.
In 1897 he returned to Norwood, which was embarking on a troubled season. After an embarrassing loss to South in June, The Evening Journal said: "Finlay was late coming out, and the spectators at the finish wondered why he had come out." He was named at centre nine days later when Norwood beat Collingwood by one point, 7.9 to 7.8, at Adelaide Oval. He fell seriously ill in August. His football career was over.
Alf worked as a compositor at the Register newspaper. He was born on Yorke Peninsula on 26 March 1870 to Howard Finlay and his wife Charlotte, née Robinson. They had three younger children, Francis, Ellen and Montague (who became the organist at Maughan Methodist Church). Alf was 88 when he died at Northfield on 10 October 1958. His Yorkshire-born mother was SA’s oldest woman when she died at 104 in 1948.
P Robins August 2017, October 2023