1943: The SANFL wartime competition

By Barry Dolman (North Adelaide Football Club History Committee)


Despite World War II breaking out in September of 1939, league football in South Australia continued relatively normally during the seasons of 1940 and 1941, with all eight teams still competing and the Magarey Medal still being awarded. By the end of 1941, however, over two-thirds of league footballers had either enlisted in the Australian Armed Forces or registered for them. By 1942 times were getting tougher in Australia and this was reflected in all aspects of life and of course football.

In response to an appeal by the Allied Forces Welfare Co-ordination Committee, the SANFL decided that football would continue during the conflict (unlike during the previous war when it ceased completely from 1916 to 1918) but with a reduced number of teams. Teams were to merge along geographical lines to reduce the 8 team competition to a 4 team competition. As such Norwood merged with North Adelaide, Sturt with South Adelaide, Glenelg with West Adelaide and Port Adelaide with West Torrens. They wore the guernseys of North, Sturt, Glenelg and Port respectively and used Norwood, Unley, Adelaide and Alberton Ovals for their home grounds and matches. In addition, the number of home and away rounds was reduced from 17 (which had been in place since 1927) to only 12. The final four system for finals however remained the same and as such all teams qualified for the finals regardless of how they played during the season.

In that first season in 1942 Norwood-North won only 3 games, finished 4th and lost the first semi-final.

Norwood-North improved slightly in 1943, finishing 3rd at the end of the minor round after winning only 5 of 12 matches. This was due in no small part to the constantly changing line up, with 44 different players being used during the short season. However both Jeff Pash and Jack Oatey returned for the finals after not playing at all during the minor round. Norwood-North swept all before them in the two semi-finals, against Sturt-South by 70 points and West-Glenelg by 42 points.

In the Grand Final, Norwood–North came up against a very strong Port-Torrens combination. Port-Torrens had won 10 out of 12 games during the minor round, and had easily accounted for West-Glenelg in the 2nd Semi-Final. Norwood-North and Port-Torrens had faced off four times during the season with the honours even and Norwood-North having inflicted Port-Torrens’ only two losses for the season. Norwood-North had also won the lightning carnival match between the two played on August 28th as a fundraiser for The Adelaide Children’s Hospital.

Forward : O. Arbon W. Isaac H. Searle
Half-forward : A. Sawley J Reilly K. LePage
Centre : S. Hancock J. Pash J. Bell
Half-back : G. Hogan L. Lush M. Solomon
Back : T. Price O. Martin H. Holmesby
Followers : D. Henderson R. Hoskins J. Oatey
Reserves : L. Dangerfield
(Coach : A.J. Smith; Captain : A.G. Sawley)

Against the odds
Observers predicted a close game given Port-Torrens’ supremacy during the year and Norwood-North’s recent form. Norwood-North also had a more settled line up during the finals and had available for the finals both Jeff Pash and Jack Oatey, after neither had been able to play during the minor round.

Port-Torrens set the pace early and jumped to an early lead of 3-1 to 1-0 in the first quarter, before Norwood-North found their pace and stepped up the pressure to be only 5 points in arrears at the first bell. Then, keeping up a combination of pressure and pace, Norwood-North started to take control of the game in the 2nd quarter. “The Redlegs” scored 3-6 whilst keeping “The Magpies” scoreless, and went into the long break with a 19 point lead.

Port-Torrens came out hard after half-time and kicked four goals to none to grab a 7 point lead late in the third quarter. Then a goal to Norwood-North’s full forward Bill Isaac (his sixth for the game) and a behind to team mate Reilly saw the scores locked away at the three quarter time break.

The last quarter was set to be a titanic struggle and it appeared that every bit of Norwood- North’s much vaunted pace and stamina, which had been talked about pre-game, would be needed. Port-Torrens came out and attacked hard with full-back Owen Martin working overtime repelling advance after advance, before The Magpies drew first blood for the quarter with a major to grab a six point lead. An arm wrestle then ensued between the two teams until successive goals to Bill Isaac (his seventh for the game) and Searle gave The Redlegs back the lead. Port-Torrens attacked again and again but could only manage minor scores. Norwood-North counter attacked, and when Jack Oatey kicked a major the game looked over. Maurie Arbon then “iced the cake” with a late goal giving Norwood- North a well earned 21 point victory.

Goals : Isaac 7.4, Reilly, Searle, Arbon 1.1, Le Page, Oatey 1.0, Hoskins, Pash 0.1, rushed 0.1

   First    Second   Third   Final 
 Norwood-North    3.1 (19)  6.7 (43)  7.9 (51)  12.10 (82)
 Port-Torrens  3.6 (24)  3.6 (24)   7.9 (51)  8.13 (61)
Attendance : 36,400


Back row, L to R : T.A. Price, D. Henderson, G. Hogan, R. Kendle, K.J. Duke, R. Hoskins, L.R. Lush, J. Reilly
Second row, L to R : L. Dangerfield, J. H. Pash, J. Gower, A.G. Sawley (Captain), A.J. Smith (Coach), O. Martin (Vice-Captain), M. Solomon, J.A. Bell, H.R. Searle
Front row, L to R : H.R. Holmesby, R. Foody, J. Oatey, M. Arbon, K. LePage
Inset, L to R : W.E. Isaac , S.G. Hancock

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