“When did St Kilda win its first premiership?” is a question where every red, white and black fan instantly knows the answer.
Technically it wasn’t in 1966, but in a long forgotten day back on August 3, 1940.
The Patriotic Premiership was a knockout series of 20 minute games featuring all 12 VFL teams. A total of 30,497 people attended the day-long event at the MCG aimed at raising funds for the wartime effort. In the end, the day raised over 4000 pounds.
St Kilda ended up defeating the much-favoured Richmond team in the Grand Final. The Saints had won only five of their 14 normal games up to this stage of the season, but were described as an “accomplished, but unlucky team”.
They certainly had talent in their ranks and 11 months earlier had knocked Richmond out of the finals race in the 1939 first semi.
And on this day their timing was perfect as they produced the best quality football seen all day. Up until the playoff, Richmond had scored more highly than any other team, but in the end they lost the Grand Final with a score of 0.2 (2) to St Kilda’s 4.2 (26).
Amazingly, there is newsreel film that survives of the day.
It only runs for 60 seconds, but at the 30-second mark we see Richmond’s No. 17, the great Jack Dyer, giving a “don’t argue” fend-off that would have done Dustin Martin proud. The umpire runs in, seemingly ready to penalise Dyer for high contact.
Saints champ Billy Mohr recovered from a recent injury to take part in the tournament, and helped fuel St Kilda victories over Hawthorn, Carlton and Richmond.
In the short film, we see Norm Raines and Mohr kicking the last two St Kilda goals.
The day had a “political” edge to it as the League had been criticised for continuing to play while the War, which had started 11 months earlier, continued to rage. The VFL saw this as an example of its support for the war effort.
The club was awarded a cup and the following week saw replicas presented to each of the players.