With the MCG still requisitioned by the military for the war effort, the 1944 Grand Final was played instead at the Junction Oval. Played in sweltering conditions, with the mercury reaching 31 degrees, it remains one of the hottest premiership deciders ever played.
The third last time the Grand Final has been played away from the MCG, it was the last of three played at the ground Fitzroy would call home from 1970-1984. The match was also notable for the fact that it would ultimately prove to be Fitzroy’s last premiership pre-merger and the final time both team’s on Grand Final day were led by a captain-coach.
Having split their home and away matches, the two teams were separated on the premiership table by just 0.01%. Richmond, the defending premiers had prevailed in the minor premiership but had fallen to the Maroon’s in a tight Second Semi Final by 11-points. They booked a rematch on this day on the back of a nine goal effort from Jack Dyer that saw them eliminate the Bombers by 21-points.
When Fitzroy’s leader Fred Hughson met his opposite number Jack Dyer in the middle of the ground for the coin toss, the ground was heaving at the seams despite a public transport strike causing mayhem on the day. More surprising though than tram drivers walking off the job, was the fact that Hughson upon winning the toss decided to kick against the breeze.
The jury was out on the Fitzroy skipper’s decision at quarter time when they went to the quarter time break six points down. A close, scrambling affair, neither side was able to gain a decisive break but a three goal to one second quarter gave Fitzroy a half-time lead.
With Jack Dyer unable to have the same impact on the contest as he had in his team’s Preliminary Final match against the Bombers, the Tigers struggled to hit the scoreboard. Wastefulness in front of goal from Fitzroy at the other end however, meant that the match was still in the balance at the final break.
When the final siren sounded 30 minutes later, the Maroons had managed to extend their lead to 15-points to claim a famous victory. Bruce Calverley and Norm Hillard were among the best players for Fitzroy while full forward Ken Sier kicked three important goals.
1944 Grand Final
FITZROY 1.2 4.8 6.10 9.12 (66)
RICHMOND 2.2 3.2 5.5 7. 9 (51)
Fitzroy: Sier 3, Stackpole 2, Ruthven, Symons, Calverly, Wright.
Richmond: Wilson 3, Randall 2, Burge, Dyer.
Fitzroy: Calverley, Hillard, Price, Hughson, Hearn, Clay.
Richmond: Waldron, Maguire, Edwards, Oppy, Priestly, Morris.
Official crowd: 43,000 at Junction Oval