1944: The SANFL wartime competition

By Barry Dolman (North Adelaide Football Club History Committee)


Norwood-North Adelaide managed only three wins from 12 matches during the 1944 season, but with the finals system in place still qualified to play off in September.

Norwood-North showed great form during the early stages of the major round, annihilating West-Glenelg by 87 points in the first semi-final, and then beating a more highly fancied Sturt-South side in the preliminary final by 16 points. For the second year in a row their opponents for the Grand Final would be Port-Torrens. But unlike 1943, Norwood-North had not beaten Port-Torrens during the home and away season, with the Magpies taking the honours in all four meetings. Their last encounter of the season had seen a convincing 71 point victory to Port-Torrens in Round 10 at Alberton Oval.

Port-Torrens were red hot favourites going into the Grand Final (despite losing their champion rover Bob Quinn to injury from the 2nd semi-final) and Norwood-North had lost their rover Jack Oatey to an injury sustained in the previous week’s Preliminary final. Good timing came to bear for Norwood-North however with Hancock, Hogan, Pash and Solomon all being free to take their place in their side.

Forward : N. Way W. Isaac H. Searle
Half-forward : A. Sawley J. Reilly K. LePage
Centre : S. Hancock J. Pash P. Bice
Half-back : I. Halliday D. McFarlane F. Harby
Back : G. Hogan O. Martin H. Holmesby
Followers : R. Hoskins T. Price O. Arbon
Reserves : M. Solomon
(Coach : A. Smith ; Captain : O. Martin)

Against the odds again
Port-Torrens began the game strongly, seemingly determined not to allow Norwood-North to get off to one of its customary “fast starts” - Norwood-North had won 10 1st quarters during the year despite winning only three of these games – and kicked two goals very quickly. Norwood-North fought back hard to kick four goals before the quarter ended to grab a 13 point lead at the first change.

The second quarter was a see-sawing affair with both sides scoring four goals. It was also a very intense quarter with many physical incidents breaking out, and both sides had to make use of their 19th men due to this. Norwood-North held their break over Port-Torrens during this period and went into half-time with a 10 point lead.

By the third quarter the intermittent rain was taking its toll on the conditions and the ball was becoming increasingly greasy and hard to handle. Port-Torrens adapted to the conditions quicker and better and scored 1 goal and three behinds whilst keeping Norwood-North scoreless, and went to lemon time only one point in arrears.

Soon after the bell sounded to start the last quarter, Port-Torrens scored a behind that saw the scores locked away. The last quarter of the 1944 season was now set to be a thrilling arm wrestle. Unlike the 3rd quarter Norwood-North adapted to the deteriorating conditions better than their opponents and outscored Port-Torrens by a goal during this time. When the final bell rang it found Norwood-North six points up, and the worthy winners of a very hard fought match.

Despite wartime austerity the team held a celebratory dinner later that night which included an ice cream cake kindly donated by the (now defunct) Amscol Ice Cream Factory.

In winning the premiership Norwood-North achieved a remarkable record that is all but impossible to equal (let alone break). At the end of the finals it had scored fewer points for (1,425) than it had against it (1,538). It also won the same number (3) of matches in the finals series as it did during the entire home and away round.

Goals : W. Isaac 3.0, J. Reilly, 2.1, A. Sawley, N. Way 1.2, M. Arbon , H.Searle 1.0, R. Hoskins 0.1, G.Hogan 0.1;

   First   Second   Third   Final
 Norwood-North  4.4 (28)  8.5 (53)   8.5 (53)  9.7 (61)
 Port-Torrens  2.3 (15)  6.7 (43)  7.10 (52)  7.13 (55)
Attendance : 22,428


Back row, L to R : D. Larner (Trainer), L.R. Bensch (Manager “C” Team), L.Rankin (Sprigger), A.J. Claughton )Committee), W.K. Potts (Head Trainer). A.J.Shard, M.P. (Committee), K.F. Tite (Committee)
Second row, L to R : H. Welfare (Auditor), Cr. A.R. Moir (Committee), C.Bird (Trainer), L. Pedersen, R. Kendle, K.J. Duke, R. Hoskins, I. Holliday, D.McFarlane, W.S. Malcolm (Steward), J. McDermott (Trainer), C. Moritz (Doorkeeper), L.R. Hill (Committee)
Third row, L to R : C.J. Barnfield (Committee), C.L. Martin (Joint Secretary), R.Lommon (Trainer), L.B. Blackmore, K. LePage, R. Taylor, W. Isaacs, A.G.Sawley, J. Reilly, H.R. Searle, V. Mattingly (Steward), Cr. F.J. McCallum (Committee), T. James (Steward), H.G. Stock (Joint Secretary), J. Halliday (Timekeeper)
Fourth row, L to R : F.T. Heidenreich (Vice-Chairman), M. Solomon, N.J. Way, T.A. Price (Vice-Captain), A.J. Smith (Coach), O. Martin (Captain), J. Bell, L.R.Lush, J.F. Bennett (Chairman)
Front row, L to R : F. Sampson (Steward), M. Gallagher (Trainer), H.R.Holmesby, O.M. Arbon, D. Olds, M. Walker, F.L. Harby, W.G. Ellis (Trainer), W.Barr (Trainer)
Inset, L to R : J.D. Cearns, J.H. Pash, J. Oatey, G. Hogan, S.G. Hancock


The combined competition lasted for three seasons (1942-1944) and with improvement on the war front and life starting to return to normal the SANFL reverted back to an 8 team, 17 round competition in 1945. The Magarey Medal was also awarded again. In a nice piece of programming by the SANFL the previous merger partners all faced off against each other in the opening round on their old shared home grounds (West played Glenelg at Adelaide, Port played Torrens at Alberton, Sturt played South at Unley and Norwood played North at Norwood).

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