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L'enfant terrible
Apr 24, 2013
inside your head
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Essendon Lawn Bowls Club
The bizarre headcount incident that fuelled the Dons-Roos rivalry

Ben Collins
Jul 13, 2019 8:00AM

North Melbourne and Essendon are bitter rivals - AFL,Essendon Bombers,North Melbourne Kangaroos

The ancient rivalry waged by North Melbourne and Essendon threatens to flare again on Saturday as they fight for a spot in the top eight.

In a similarly crucial encounter many winters ago, the late Kangaroos star John Waddington was a central figure in a controversial episode that further fuelled hostilities between the two clubs. Waddington, who died recently aged 81, inadvertently triggered the second of only three player headcounts in League history. And it was a debacle, but it also made for great theatre.

North Melbourne and Essendon players line up for a headcount. Picture: As depicted by The Age

In the second-last round of 1958, the fourth-placed Bombers hosted the fifth-placed Kangaroos at Windy Hill in a virtual battle for the final berth in the top four. Late in the last quarter the Roos seemed set for a rare finals appearance when they led by 28 points – 11.14 (80) to 7.10 (52) – but those hopes were sensationally put on hold. The catalyst for all the commotion was North big man Bryan 'Skinny' Martyn's heavy landing in the centre. Martyn, the father of club great Mick Martyn, was still receiving treatment in the middle of the ground when Waddington, a 20-year-old first-year player from Bendigo, left the bench and raced onto the field.

This aroused the attention of Bombers officials, who believed North now had an extra player on the field. This conviction was strengthened when they overheard a boundary umpire say: "North has 19 men on the ground." The Dons officials, suddenly sensing an opportunity to win via a Kangas clanger, immediately sent their runner Frank Clark to ask the sole field umpire, Bill Barbour, for a headcount. The experienced Barbour dismissed the Essendon runner, telling him any such request had to be made by Essendon's captain, Jack Clarke. So runner Clark rushed over to captain Clarke and alerted him to the situation, after which the Dons leader approached umpire Barbour to officially request a player count.

As procedure dictated, Barbour stopped the game and informed North's captain John Brady that Essendon had demanded a count, before ordering the Kangaroos players to line up. "We couldn't believe it," North star and future League chief Allen Aylett recalled in his 1986 autobiography My Game: A Life In Football. If the Shinboners were found to have had more than 18 players on the field, they would have had their entire score erased and suddenly they would have been 52 points behind and with no chance of victory or a finals berth.

After what Aylett described as "a strange five-minute-plus delay", Barbour cleared the visitors of any wrongdoing, the decision being greeted with a mix of cheers and jeers from the stunned crowd of 27,500. The Bombers' bewilderment turned to embarrassment when they learned Waddington had legally replaced North's injured vice-captain Albert Mantello, who'd already walked off the field a considerable distance from the Essendon bench. So rather than having 19 players on the ground, as the Bombers alleged, North momentarily had only 16 able-bodied players before Waddington dashed on.

John Waddington played 132 games for North Melbourne between 1958 and 1966. Picture:

Essendon officials were reportedly "disturbed" by the affair, and its coach, the legendary Dick Reynolds, was adamant he hadn't played any part in the blunder.

Meanwhile, the Kangaroos hierarchy insisted they'd been more amused than concerned when the home side demanded the count. It seemed an honest mistake by the Bombers but many North supporters took it as an affront to the integrity of their club. "North supporters wouldn't let their Essendon counterparts forget that incident for years after!" Aylett wrote. And in the meantime, the Roos made the finals while the red-faced Dons missed out by a game.
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Bleeding Blue and White
Sep 23, 2005
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Arsenal, Chicago Bulls
A friend has loaned me a copy of her Great Grandmothers The North Story from 1973. Inside there is a newspaper clipping from The Age dated 4/6/1971. The pic from 1903 has Alf Woodham who was her Great Great Grandfather. Interesting read - some info on The Crutchy Push!

View attachment 674159
A podcast has just been released about the Crutchy Push gang

The article from early this year.

The Crutchy Push, led by Valentine Keating, terrorised Melbourne in the early 20th century.
When a gang of amputee thugs terrorised Melbourne
Jamie Duncan, Herald Sun
January 15, 2019 7:30am
Subscriber only
In an age when people with disabilities were pitied, the Crutchy Push — a gang of men with missing limbs — struck fear into the people of Melbourne.
“Push” is an old slang word for a gang. Like footy teams, Melbourne’s larrikin pushes were suburban and tribal in nature.
Carlton had the Bouveroos, named after Bouverie Street. The Flying Angels hailed from South Melbourne. There was the Fitzroy Forties, the Freeman Street Push from North Fitzroy and the Irishtown mob from Richmond.

The Crutchy Push from North Melbourne menaced Melbourne’s streets between 1895 and 1905.

In a 1953 report on pushes, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Bill Beatty said these pushes were populated by young larrikins who grew up in the slums with a bitter resentment about their circumstances.

Crutchy Push leader Valentine Keating’s 1904 prison mugshot. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria
Crutchy Push leader Valentine Keating’s 1904 prison mugshot. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria

Of the Crutchies, he wrote: “The Crutchy Push, with one exception, consisted of one-legged men. The exception was a one-armed man who kept half a brick in his sewn-up empty sleeve.

“He led his followers into battle swinging his weighted sleeve around his head.

“Behind him came the men on crutches — each one expert at balancing on one leg.

The tip of the crutch was used to jab an opponent in the midriff. With the enemy gasping for breath, the crutch would be reversed and the metal-shod armrest would be used as a club.”
Members required a missing limb and a taste for grog and violence.

The sweetly-named Valentine Keating, who lived with his mother and father in Arden Street, was a leader of the Crutchies.

His father was a drunkard and once, after he was picked up off the street by authorities, was sent to a boys’ home. Keating’s criminal record started at age 12 with an assault conviction.

By March 1898, as the Crutchy Push gathered strength, Valentine had earned his first conviction for assaulting police — two policemen, in fact. He was resisting arrest after fleeing an earlier scuffle with police involving gang mates William Walsh and Peter Sullivan in Queensberry Street, North Melbourne.

Senior Constable Healy told the Carlton Court that he initially could not catch Keating as he raced away “like a flying kangaroo” on his crutch.
The following year the gang — all North Melbourne Football Club supporters — was refused entry to a VFA game between the Shinboners and Footscray at the Western Oval.
They caused a near-riot as the paraded outside the ground, fighting and abusing patrons before police swarmed.

In 1899, William Walsh and Keating appeared before the North Melbourne Court on charges of insulting behaviour towards two policeman.
Valentine Keating’s prison mugshot in 1919. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria
Valentine Keating’s prison mugshot in 1919. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria
This February 17, 1902 article from the Herald report’s Keatings assault on Constables McSweeney and Noone. Picture: National Library of Australia Trove collection

This February 17, 1902 article from the Herald report’s Keatings assault on Constables McSweeney and Noone. Picture: National Library of Australia Trove collection
In remanding the pair for a further hearing, the chairman of the three-man judicial panel, Dr Lloyd, remarked: “This Crutchy Push wants breaking up, or any other push that is causing a nuisance”.

Over the years, Keating and members of the push were charged with offences including assault, unlawful wounding, assaulting police, obscene language, insulting behaviour and theft. They took food, drink and entertainment whenever they felt like it.

But it was the murder of the Crutchy Push kingpin, George Reginald Hill in 1901 that brought the Crutchies to national prominence.
Hill — Reggie to his mates — suffered three separate skull fractures, bashed as he slept in the squalid North Melbourne shed he shared with gang mate James Walsh.

Reggie walked to a cousin’s house and was taken to hospital.

The case attracted lurid headlines around Australia. The Sydney Truth reported: He could not speak, but made signs for something to write on. A slate and pencil were given him, but the instant he made the attempt to write he collapsed, lost consciousness, and died a few hours afterwards.
“The miserable tenement where he slept was visited. A sofa (dirty and vermin-laden with a rug on it) bore traces not only of a struggle, but it was saturated with blood. In the corner of the room was a piece of granite, weighing several pounds. It also was bloodstained and matted hair was on it.
“A poker, with blood and hair on it, was found in another part of the wretched tenement. Blood tracks were in the room leading to the door.”
Walsh, who slept in an outhouse elsewhere in North Melbourne that night, was arrested and charged with Reggie’s murder — covered in blood, which he said came from another fight.
Police said that shortly before Reggie’s death, he and Walsh quarrelled in a pub when a drunk Walsh said to Reggie: “I wish I had your moustache. I would steal your girl”.
Harriet Adderley’s prison mugshot, 1904. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria
Harriet Adderley’s prison mugshot, 1904. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria
Reggie saw this as a challenge to his leadership, and bashed Walsh. Walsh swore revenge.
Walsh was committed to stand trial following an inquest but was acquitted at trial by the jury and was welcomed back to the push.
In 1901, Premier Alexander Peacock was under pressure to crush the pushes.
Victoria Police set up a squad of 10 special constables with methods that met violence with violence.
Keating, who assumed leadership of the Crutchies, and his mates remained frequent visitors to the courts.
On one occasion in February 1902, the Keating family joined him in the dock.
Keating was being arrested at his home over a fight with a man in a North Melbourne street that attracted 200 onlookers when his mother Bridget, brother Thomas and sister Margaret intervened.
Constables McSweeney and Noone popped around to his house in Arden Street to arrest him when he retreated there. It became an all-in brawl.
Keating smashed Noone’s head with his crutch. One of the policemen tackled Margaret and was set upon by Keating. Keating himself was clouted across his head with a set of handcuffs. The fracas ended when Bridget, aiming to hit McSweeney with a chair, accidentally clobbered her son, knocking him out. All were arrested.
In August 1904, Keating and another man, John Hobson, bashed unconscious publican James Boyle of the Sportsmen’s Club Hotel in Elizabeth Street after Boyle refused them service.
Then, the following month, Keating, his girlfriend Harriet Adderley and several Crutchies were accused of the murderous assault of a policeman, Constable Mulcahy, who sought to arrest them after gatecrashing a party in North Melbourne.
Valentine Keating’s prison record includes details of his imprisonment in 1904 and 1919. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria
Valentine Keating’s prison record includes details of his imprisonment in 1904 and 1919. Picture: Public Records Office of Victoria

Adderley kicked Mulcahy several times in the face as he wrestled with Keating, while accomplice John Collins fractured Mulcahy’s skull by bashing him with his crutch.

Keating and Collins were each sentenced to five years’ jail and Adderley was imprisoned for a year. Keating got a further six months for the attack on Boyle.

By the time Keating was released from jail, the Crutchy Push was gone.

He became an unlicensed publican in Fitzroy, and business was good. He set up sly grog shops in other Melbourne locations, and did time at least twice for the crime.

In the 1920s, he was a second-hand dealer and beat a charge of receiving stolen goods — two saws and a brace and bit — at his shop in Drummond Street, Carlton.

Keating was still a wild man well into middle age, fined 40 shillings for his part in a brawl at a party in Cardigan Street, Carlton.

He last came to the notice of the newspapers in February 1929, jailed for 14 days for being drunk in charge of a motor car.

The Argus reported that Constable Donnelly of the wireless motor patrol found Keating slumped at the wheel of a car.

“He was very drunk, and had abrasions, and his face was covered in blood. I asked him, ‘Where did you get these injuries?’ He said, ‘Jackie did it. I would like to get him’,” he told the Fitzroy Court.
Keating died of tuberculosis on May 20, 1930, aged 52.
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