Victoria 1947 Goodall Cup Champions, Sydney Glaciarium. Back row (l to r): Ellis Kelly (Coach), Warwick Harrison, Al Sengotta, Colin "Tiny" Mitchell, Johnny Whyte, Sid Hiort (Mgr). Front row: Dave Cunningham, Rus Jones, Russ Carson, John "Chook" Tuckerman, Ray Sullivan (Egon Winter absent)

[ HOCKEY ] The First All-Stars

Bordering on the Phenomenal

The officials realize that to keep the game going there must be new blood in it... ice hockey players are made, not born.
— Ron Casey AM MBE (1927-2000), Melbourne based Australian rules football administrator, sporting commentator and radio and television pioneer.

Ellis Kelly, Captain of Victoria and Ray Sullivan, Melbourne Glaciarium, 1946. Image courtesy The Age, 30 July 1946.

THE SILVER CUP BRIMMING WITH CHEAP CHAMPAGNE was doing the rounds of the official dinner in a Sydney hotel, no-one noticing the signs of neglect on the old mug, the kicking around, the misuse, just the plain lack of respect, each player raising it high and slopping its foaming contents in the general direction of his gaping mouth, no-one now able to recall it sailing through the hotel window a little earlier doing a demo of the difference in passes for Rugby and Australian Rules, a demo of its sheer genius for survival that would one day make it the world's third oldest national ice hockey trophy still contested, make it a little legendary, much like this victory dinner where Victorians sipped the silverware for the first time in a quarter-century, the first time since 1922 when Jack Goodall, its namesake, last captained Victoria to a defining moment of glory.

A massive hailstorm struck Sydney on the first day of 1947 causing hundreds of injuries and an estimated £1 million damage. It was an early warning shot that ushered in a series of monumental ice events until on Boxing Day, as if to usher them out, Heard Island and McDonald Islands in Antarctica were transferred from British control to Australian territories. Smack bang in the middle, on June 26th, US President Harry S Truman signed the National Security Act unleashing the 40-odd year Cold War, and in Sydney the first test of the 26th Goodall Cup was contested that evening. It was two days after the 25th anniversary of the last Victorian Cup and waiting for them to win it back was like leaving the porch light on for Harold Holt. So much impossible hope had beat inside their bodies it now burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

In 1939, the last Cup before the war interruption, the Vics had forced their arch-rivals to a draw in the first two tests — 2-2, 2-2 — and their manager Ted Molony delivered the national association an ultimatum. Victoria would not play the decider with referee Jack Paton. Molony, an accredited referee and a driving force behind the national game, accused Paton of not enforcing the rules and allowing the second test to be reduced to angry outbursts, charging, frequent falls and fights. He didn't say publicly Victoria could have won had it been refereed properly. What he left unsaid screamed louder.

Paton did not officiate the series decider although the state association president Harold Hoban went out of his way to publicly deny he had deferred to Molony's ultimatum. The job was entrusted to W Moser instead, an Austrian who claimed it as his 506th game. [2] Unfortunately for Victoria, their captain Hughie Lloyd and Cliff Napthine had returned home for "business reasons" and on the night of the decider they played instead for their local clubs. Lloyd's replacement, Johhny Whyte, was prevented from flying by bad weather and the Victorians lost the decider and the 1939 Cup, 1-2. [1]

Their next outing was in Melbourne after the war interruption in 1946 attended by 5,000 fans. Paton was by then the New South Wales team manager and president of the NSW Association. Also keenly fought, this series resulted in a tie, the closest the Vics had come since the only other tied series in 1932. Defenders Dick Bungey and Nigel Graham were not in the 1947 line-up, nor were Bert White, captain and centre Ellis Kelly who had retired, and Pat Nichol, captain of the local Glaciarium Flyers. The only returning players were captain, coach and goalie Russ Carson, the two young guns Dave Cunningham and Rus Jones, and Chook Tuckerman who had been their coach and mentor during their recent development years. Ellis Kelly coached Victoria that year and it was one of the youngest teams the state had ever iced, which was hardly surprising after the 6-year hiatus created by a world at war.

It was a war from which ace defender Spot Lloyd did not return, and so completing the Victoria line-up were centre Ray Sullivan, defenders Johnny Whyte, Warwick Harrison and Colin Mitchell in his last series, along with two overseas forwards, Canadian Al Sengotta and Austrian Egon Winter, who was nicknamed "Frosty". Twenty-six year old Sengotta, who had played with the Vernon Bombers in the British Columbia Junior League, returned to Australia soon after he had first visited during the war with the Mercantile Marines. Thirty-five year old Winter played for the Vienna Athletics Club and was the first top line European to play in Australia. It has been said he represented Austria at the 1936 Winter Olympics and the 1937 World Championships [3] but there is no record he competed in Olympic hockey and Austria cancelled its attendance at the 1937 Worlds.

The New South Wales squad was goalie Scotty Fraser, defenders Bede Moller, Geoff Thorne, Syd Green and Ken Kennedy in his return season after six years with the RAF and pro skating and hockey in England. Jim Brown had retired as a player the previous year. Up forward were captain Jim McLauchlain, Percy Wendt, Mick Cahill, Widdy Johnson and former Victorian, Pat Nichol, who had transferred interstate between seasons.

The first test was rough at times, but Carson was outstanding in net, the local papers reporting the brilliance of the Victorian defence in upsetting the attack of their opponents. [5] In the second match, the Vics opened up a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Sengotta and Jones. Thorn for NSW netted the only goal in the second period after skating the full length of the rink. In the third, Winter scored for Victoria and although it was he who was given most of the credit for finally breaking their opponent's iron grip on the Cup, it was Rus Jones with the game winner in the first and Carson with the magnificent saves in the second. [4] The elusive grail was lugged back to Melbourne legitimately this time, although that was probably a little disappointing for the Vics' manager, Cliff Napthine, who had rather enjoyed the notoriety of stealing it, when winning it was nigh impossible.

A small group of writers for Sports Novels magazine sat in the stands.

I stopped at Flinders and Exhibition to gaze once again at the giant order Ionic pilasters on both of the 5-storey neo-classical street facades, the roof-top neon signs and the twin radio towers. Keith Murdoch's place, father of Rupert, who like most newspaper tycoons, backed conventional conservative stances of his day and lacked the originality to make many useful contributions to public policy. Still, his biographer described him as an able journalist, a brilliant editor in his youth and a remarkable entrepreneur and organizer of his industry. [7] The image of the power and dominance of the print media way back then still emanates from this Beaux-Arts influenced architecture that is now protected.

It was here mid- last century that Stan Gray's weekly column in the Sporting Globe and his news items in the Herald became ice hockey's most authoritative writings. Here back in 1949 that the voice of the commentator on Radio 3DB crackled to life on Tuesdays around 10 pm, snapping to attention the staff and technicians in the studio at the rear who broadcast it through these twin masts to a sports-mad city. It was a style of commentary hard to ignore because it gave the listener an accurate picture of the game's action and tactics in a flowing and readily listenable manner. [6]

Ron Casey was still in his early-twenties and had just overcame a speech impediment to replace Eric Welsh. He became sports editor of 3DB when Welsh retired. Ice hockey had been called on Melbourne radio as far back as the 1920s but "Case" pioneered the post-war broadcasting of the sport in 1949 with his descriptions of League games from the Glaciarium. He continued well into the 1950s, against the grain of the more popular sports, and forged a reputation as "one of the most knowledgeable commentators on the game". [6] His interest in lesser-profile sports like ice hockey came with grassroots development help and reciprocity with the local community.

Casey broadcast local ice hockey action and the VIHA "Lightning Premierships" raised funds for The Sporting Globe-3DB Children's Hospital Appeal which ran all day Good Friday. The Appeal had started in 1931 as a sporting carnival in aid of Melbourne's hospitals and it still runs today, raising over $17 million in 2015. Like Casey, Phil Gibbs on Radio 3KZ broadcast League football with Jack Dyer but he too followed into ice hockey in 1953 and quickly settled down to bright factual descriptions of game play. He drew a big audience by 1954. [6] The media exposure provided in those years by Casey, Gibbs and Gray helped Australian ice hockey hit an all-time peak in popularity in the fifties.

In July 1948, Casey was first to select and publish an All-Australian Ice Hockey Team which he based on the 1947 Goodall Cup series he attended and the advice he sought "from keen students of the game". Its subtext was not winning but the importance of intensive coaching schemes in junior skill development for players with aptitude, and acknowledgement of the best player performance in each position, each season. "All-Australian teams in other sports are annual affairs" he said, "but we believe this is the first time that effort has been made to choose an ice hockey team". [4] Sporting Life magazine is usually credited with pioneering the concept of the "All-Australian Team" in 1947. An all-star team of Australian rules footballers was selected from players in various leagues in October each year by a panel chosen by the magazine. [8]

Russ Carson making a save during practice at St Moritz St Kilda for the 1939 Goodall Cup. Image courtesy The Age, 3 August 1939.

First in the All-Australian defense was Russ Carson in goal chosen with difficulty over New South's Bill Fraser because of his "overseas experience and wonderful match temperament". Casey considered some of Carson's saves in the second game of the Goodall series "bordered on the phenomenal". The "stinging body checks" of the "heady, cool and elusive" Ken Kennedy earned him the number one rear guard spot opposite Victorian Johhny Whyte who was selected for his "devastating checking and lead-outs to forwards". Victorian Warwick Harrison, who also played interstate lacrosse, was chosen as alternate defensemen for his youthful speed and his aptitude to play with Whyte. [4]

At first line centre was "Australia's greatest forward", Percy Wendt, "cool, calculating and a smooth stick-handler with a fiery shot". His wingers were Victoria's Al Sengotta and Jimmy McLauchlain of New South Wales. Sengotta on the left was deemed an ideal partner for Wendt because he possessed the most accurate shot in the game, he had a high hockey IQ, he back-checked and played position to a tee. The powerfully built McLauchlain was chosen on the right for his hard shot and fast 2-way skating.

At second line centre was Geoff Thorne of New South Wales because of his height and "marvelous poke check" and because of his "judgement in front of net and better backhand drive". The wingers were 19-year old Rus Jones and Dave Cunningham because they were "brilliant skaters and real opportunists". [4] Casey's 1948 All-Stars turned out to be six Victorians and four players from New South Wales.

Percy Wendt became captain of New South Wales that season and won back the Goodall Cup with Kennedy, Thorne, and McLauchlain, then repeated the performance in 1950. Statistically, Wendt was the most successful goalscorer of the first half century of the Australian game and the seventeen Cup victories New South Wales achieved between the wars were broken only once by a tie. But once Victoria regained the Cup in 1947, they dominated losing only eight of the next twenty-eight series until only two victories separated the rival states by 1979. Cunningham and Jones were the only players from Casey's first All-Stars to become ice hockey Olympians in 1960.

In 1948, over one hundred new players were being coached in Melbourne alone. [4] The war years had produced the first intensive coaching programs in both States and the first corporate sponsorships for local teams. Carson's Rhodes Topliners were sponsored by the Rhodes Motorcycle Company (formerly the Indian Motorcycle Co) and The Flyers by the Foy & Gibson department store chain. They competed during the war at least until the end of the 1941 season.

When Ron Casey retired as Managing Director of Channel 7, it ended forty-four years of broadcasting with the station and 3DB. The TV show World of Sport that he hosted ran for a record twenty-nine years and is still the longest-running sports show in the world. In 1984 he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sports journalism, and in 1989 he was made a Member Of The Order of Australia (AM) for services to sport. He was inducted to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1991. The Ron Casey Media Centre at Melbourne Cricket Ground is named in his honour.


[1] The Argus, Melbourne, 2 Aug 1939, p 27.

[2] The Sydney Morning Herald 3 Aug 1939 p 13. NSW Beats Victoria and President's Statement.

[3] Goodall Cup Centenary Publication (1909-2009), Ice Hockey Australia, p 13.

[4] Sports Novels magazine, July 1948 p 7. "All-Australian Ice Hockey Team Chosen: intensive coaching schemes improve already high standard of play" by Ron Casey.

[5] Truth, Melbourne, 27 July 1947 p 18.

[6] Goodall Cup Series Program, 1954.

[7] Australian Dictionary of Biography, 'Murdoch, Sir Keith Arthur (1885–1952)' by Geoffrey Serle, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 4 March 2016.

[8] Boyles Football Photos, 'Sporting Life Magazine Team of the Year 1947 - 1955', Online

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