The 1955 Tasmanian state grand final between the Ulverstone Robins and the Longford Tigers at York Park (Aurora Stadium) is famous for being the first time a team from the north-west coastal region of Tasmania was able to lift the state title. It was also the first time that a north-western team was to compete, the first instance where a southern team would not compete, and a game in which both clubs—Ulverstone and Longford—were aiming for their first state title. A large Tasmanian state grand final crowd of more than 10,000 travelled to Launceston’s York Park to watch the game and see the Ulverstone Robins withstand a third quarter onslaught from the Longford Tigers before finally winning the game.
State Grand Final Date: 1 October
Ulverstone: 5.4 9.6 14.9 19.12 (126)
Longford: 3.3 5.5 12.7 12.13 (85)
Venue: York Park
Umpire: Nunn (VFL)
Gate: £1,741 Record
Ulverstone: D. Crocker, M. Smith, B. Vanderfeen, G.B. Martin, P. Smith, J. Heathcote
Longford: F. Davies (BOG), G. Frier, G. Scott, T. Courto, T. Barwick, G. O’Brien
Ulverstone: G.B. Martin (5), R. Brown (3), D. Crocker (3), K. Yaxley (3), J. French (3), G. Smith (2).
Longford: F. Davies (5), B. Brain (3), M. Bird (2), L. Jacobs, J. Barnes.
B: B. Vanderfeen, B. Pearson, K. George
HB: K. Cook, L. Pearce, G. Wynwood
C: F. Smith, M. Smith, A. Hodgson
HF: D. Crocker, G.B. Martin, B. Burke
F: J. French, G. Smith, R. Brown
Ruck: D. Smith, K. Yaxley, J. Heathcote
Res. G. Foster, I. Thompson, Walters
Coach: Arthur Hodgson
B: T. Barwick, D. Brooks, G. Mahar
HB: B. Cartwright, C. Dennis, G. Scott
C: A. Chugg, B. Richardson, G. O’Brien
HF: E. Bricknell, L. Pitt, J. Barnes
F: L. Jacobs, M. Bird, T. Courto
Ruck: F. Davies, G. Frier, W. Brain
Res. J. Mahar, G. Blake
Coach: Fred Davies
Tasmanian State Grand Final, 1955 – Ulverstone vs. Longford: Game Description
The coming of age of football in the north-west region of Tasmania had been a long time coming, with the game played in the area from before the end of the 19th Century. Although the North West Football Union (NWFU) had invitational intrastate games against the NTFA and TFL they had not been formally accepted into that series until the 1950s. Similarly, the state premiership series had been conducted between the NTFA and TFL premiership teams for 50 years until 1954 when the NWFU premier was invited to make it a triangular race for the title of state premiership team of Tasmania.
1955 was the year the North West Football Union solidly entrenched itself as the state’s leading football body. The region contributed eight Tasmanian representatives. The NWFU won the intrastate series against the NTFA and TFL with a clean sweep of all games. For the first time a club from the region not only competed in the Tasmanian state grand final, but also took away the title of premiers of Tasmania. That club was Ulverstone, one of the powerhouse clubs of Tasmania in the 1950s.
Ulverstone were captain-coached by former Queenstown boy Arthur Hodgson who had returned from a highly successful stint in the VFL with Carlton. The Robins had found their way into the state final by virtue of a resounding victory against the powerful southern club New Town.
The reward for winning the state preliminary final was a trip to Launceston to confront the Longford Tigers, who were coincidentally also coached by an ex-Carlton champion in ruckman Fred Davies. The Longford Tigers had tasted premiership success for the first time in the NTFA and were confident without being favourites to take out the state title.
The 1955 Tasmanian state premiership thus became the first time that a north-west team was to compete in a state grand final, the first instance where a southern team would not compete, and a game in which both competing clubs were aiming for their first state title.
The first test for Longford was to successfully counter the brilliant running play of Hodgson on the wide expanses of York Park’s wing. They had just the man for the job in Gus O’Brien who nullified the ‘Black Prince’ early with some rigorous contesting and ultimately won the day against his better-credentialed opponent. However, Longford could not curtail the rest of the Ulverstone mosquito fleet who were dominant in the first half of the game. The Robins were led by John Heathcote, another player who would ultimately find his way to a successful career at Carlton.
By half time the Robins had developed a handy lead and were consistently finding the goals with Paddy Martin proving to be the dominant key forward. The Tigers’ spirit showed through in the third term, which proved to be the pivotal period of the game. They threw everything at the Robins and twice drew even on the scoreboard. Their great leader Fred Davies played one of his many great games for the club and contributed five goals. However, the Ulverstone team could not be denied and in the last quarter their fitness and pace prevailed.
Arthur Hodgson, Queenstown/Carlton/Ulverstone
The legendary ‘Black Prince’ of Tasmanian football was born on 8 January 1926 in NSW. He moved to Queenstown in Tasmania at age nine and after taking up Australian football his rise in senior football became inevitable following the end of the Second World War.
After dominating football on the West Coast for two seasons Hodgson was selected to represent Tasmania in the 1947 National Carnival, following a best on ground performance against the Tasmanian Football League in an intrastate game. His selection for Tasmania made him the first Queenstown Football Association player since 1904 to be so honoured.
Hodgson was recruited to play with Carlton following the National Carnival and so began a five-year period in the limelight of the best competition in the land. He did not disappoint winning a club best and fairest, representing the Blues in a grand final and being selected to play for Victoria for the 1950 National Carnival.
Returning home in 1953 Hodgson took over as coach of Ulverstone, steering the club to four NWFU premierships in seven seasons in charge, as well as the 1955 state flag, which was the first by a club from north-west Tasmania. His prowess as a player had not diminished either and he represented Tasmania in 11 more interstate matches, including involvement in the 1953, 1956 and 1958 carnivals. Hodgson’s record of five interstate carnival appearances was only matched by two other players.
In June 2004, Arthur Hodgson was selected as a wingman in the official Tasmanian ‘Team of the Century’ and then in 2005 was an inaugural inductee in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame. He was elevated to ‘Legend’ in the Hall of Fame in 2006 and became the seventh ‘Icon’ in 2008.
> 76 games, seven goals, Carlton, 1948-52, including the 1949 grand final.
> Played in five Australian Carnivals, 1950 for Victoria and 1947, 1953, 1956 and 1958 for Tasmania.
> Represented Tasmania 17 times and Victoria four times.
> Vice-Captain, Tasmania, 1953.
> Coached Ulverstone, 1953-59.
> Premierships, Ulverstone, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957.
> Carlton best and fairest, 1950.
> Ulverstone best and fairest, 1960.
> Wander Medal for North-West Football Union (NWFU) best and fairest, 1955.
> Alstergren Trophy for NWFU best intrastate player, 1954 and 1955.
> Estimated to have played a total of 327 senior games.
> Named Sporting Life All Australian in 1950 and 1951.
Fred Davies, Carlton/Longford
> Fred Davies joined Carlton in 1941 from Seaford in Victoria. He was a ruckman and forward with a lion heart whose VFL career was severely interrupted by service in World War Two.
> In total he played 125 games and kicked 137 goals for the Navy Blues until 1952. Davies played in Carlton’s 1947 flag-winning team and alongside Arthur Hodgson in the Blues’ loss to the Coleman-inspired Essendon team in 1949.
> His time in Tasmania saw him galvanise the small country town of Longford to their one and only golden era in Tasmanian football. The Tigers won their only NTFA premierships under Davies leadership in 1955, 1957 and 1958. The club won the Tasmanian state premiership title in 1957, defeating North Hobart.
> Fred Davies remains the most revered name in the history of the Longford football club. He is coach of their ‘Team of the Century’ and has a grandstand named after him at the Longford football oval.