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Opinion

AFL top 100: Geelong vs Richmond and the 1931 grand final

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Roar Rookie
18th October, 2020
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One of the most intriguing facts of the 20-point 1931 premiership win by Geelong over Richmond is that Cats coach Charlie Clymo coached for only that one season before returning to Ballarat and his job at the brickworks from which he had taken six months off to coach the side.

But the build-up to the premiership had started in 1929 when Arthur Coghlan was appointed captain-coach. Coghlan and the committee had realised that to be a contender the club needed to ramp up its goal-kicking prowess and so over the next three years recruited ten new players who would become part of the premiership side in 1931.

Seven of these new recruits went on to kick 100 or more goals for the club and even today, 89 years later, are still members of Geelong’s top 100 goalscorers of all time. Another member of that elite group was 1931 captain Edward Baker, who had joined the Cats in 1927 after brief stints at both Collingwood and Carlton.

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Coughlan – who had started at the club in 1922 along with the teams best player, tight-checking fullback George ‘Jocka’ Todd – was the only remaining player from that year and in his two years of coaching set about producing a team capable of snaring the big prize: the premiership cup.

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He was so successful that not only do the Geelong top 100 lists today include the eight goal kickers but also eight players, and only three of them appear on both lists.

Rupe McDonald from Winchelsea is the only 1929 recruit no longer represented on either list, but he gave the club great service in his 111 games on the back line. Two 1930 recruits, Jack Walker and Jack Carney (two of the five Jacks in the team), are also not on either top 100 list, but in Carney’s case that’s only because he left Geelong after five years to play his last six years at Carlton.

Richmond, on the other hand, had been knocking on the door for some time. The Tigers had finished second on the ladder in 1927 and 1928 before losing these two grand finals to a rampant Collingwood on their way to a record four premierships in a row. In 1929 the Tigers had slipped to third on the ladder but managed to overcome Carlton to again reach the grand final only to again be the bridesmaid.

In 1930, however, the developing Cats were on the way up. Richmond, Geelong and Melbourne all finished the year on 11 wins, with the Cats sneaking into fourth place on percentage and from there going on to reach the grand final and gain the dubious honour of being the club against whom the Magpies set their record.

With one fewer ‘Jack’ in the 19-man team than their opponents, the Tigers nonetheless boasted two of the greatest Jacks of all time who still figure prominently in top ten positions on both Richmond top 100 game and goals lists today: Jack Titus and the legendary Jack Dyer. In fact ten players from this 1931 grand final team still are members of the elite players list today.

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Titus, who fell only 30 goals short of being a 1000-goal scorer, still remains the greatest goalscorer at the club. Five of his grand final teammates were also centurions during their careers and remain in the top 100 goalscorers of all time at Richmond.

One of those teammates was Doug Strang from East Albury, who scored 180 goals in his 64 games for the Tigers. Move forward to 1967, and his son Geoff Strang played one of his 88 games for the club in the next grand final between the Cats and the Tigers. The big difference is that, unlike his dad, who remains the 27th greatest goalscorer of all time at the Tigers, Geoff never kicked a goal in his whole VFL career.