Grand Final, 1900
Melbourne vs Fitzroy
Saturday 22 September
Venue: East Melbourne
Melbourne win by 2 points
Goalkickers: Stewart Geddes 1, Jack Leith 1, Tommy Ryan 1, Dick Wardill 1
The VFL's finals system which allowed the sixth placed Melbourne to qualify for a playoff against the minor premiers was widely panned, but the Redlegs had still had to qualify to play Fitzroy the hard way.
As was the custom at the time Fitzroy went straight to the Grand Final, regardless of what happened in the sectional rounds. As it was they finished second to Essendon, while Melbourne won their section on percentage from Collingwood. This pitted the two sides against each other for the right to meet the Maroons in the final. Melbourne triumphed narrowly in the Semi Final to make their first ever VFL decider - and their first chance at a senior premiership since 1876
Despite the farcical nature of the final the match caught the attention of the public who showed up in numbers almost six times larger than the year before. Sherrin made two balls specifically for use on the day, and both held up through the afternoon.
Fitzroy went in favourites, expected to outlast their pacy opponents who had lost Arthur Sowden to injury. They were also without Eric Gardner and Bill Bowe, but scored first through a behind to Dick Wardrill after he had won the toss and elected to kick with a slight breeze. The two sides proceeded to put on a quality game with very little roughness to mar it.
The Maroons got the first goal, and early on the match was played just as you'd expect it to be with such a gap between the two sides throughout the season. Somehow, though, Melbourne took a lead into quarter time with goals from Jack Leith and Tommy Ryan.
Fitzroy got the first goal of the second quarter, while Melbourne were held goalless for the entire term against the wind but they stopped the Maroons from adding any more. The game had tightened up noticeably but was still marred by scrappy disposal.
A two point lead to Fitzroy at half-time seemed like a prelude to them taking over as they had been strong finishes all year, and soon enough the scores were level. Melbourne then pushed ahead when Wardrill got his second goal of the match. Stewart Geddes kicked his first, and despite a mountain of attack Fitzroy couldn't penetrate the Melbourne defence and the unthinkable was on the brink of happening as Melbourne led by 13 at three-quarter time.
The Maroons opened the last quarter with two missed shots, and it looked briefly as if they were going to run over the top. Melbourne's defence again held-firm though, and although they conceded a goal with four minutes to go which reduced the margin to four points it was not the sort of match where another goal was readily in the offing. Melbourne held on and despite two goalless quarters they had won their first premiership.
Fitzroy's carriages - left outside the ground already inscribed with PREMIERS 1900 - returned to a funeral like Brunswick Street oval while Melbourne players celebrated an unlikely but hard fought first VFL premiership victory. It was their first in any competition since before the VFA started. Fitzroy's captain Sloan graciously toasted the winners in the rooms after the match, saying that other than Fitzroy he would prefer Melbourne to win the premiership than any other team
Best were Langley, Wardill and Purse.
B: Maurie Herring, Eddie Sholl, Les Rippon
HB: Harry Parkin, Jack Purse, Bill McClelland
C: Corrie Gardner, Charlie Young, Harold Hay
HF: Austin Lewis, Jack Leith, Frank Langley
F: Dick Wardill (c), Stewart Geddes, Tommy Ryan
FOLL: George Moodie, Vic Cumberland, Fred McGinis
Football Record 1926 claims a crowd of 34,000. Contemporary reports all say approximately 20,000.
Argus - 24/09/1900
Referee - 26/09/1900
1900 Premiership - demons.com.au