320. Harold ‘Vic’ Cumberland

Player Inductee

Melbourne/St. Kilda/Sturt, Ruckman/Forward, 1892-1920
50 games, 15 goals for Melbourne, 1898-1901
126 games, 72 goals for St. Kilda, 1903-04; 1907-08; 1912-15; 1920
37 games, 33 goals for Sturt, 1909-11
Melbourne VFL premiership, 1900
Magarey Medal, 1911 (SANFL Best & Fairest)
Sturt Leading Goalkicker, 1911 (13)
South Australian National Carnival representative, 1911 (Adelaide)
9 state games for South Australia
3 state games for Victoria
Sturt Team of the Century (Interchange)
Inaugural Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee, 1996

A brilliant ruckman and a universally popular champion, Harry ‘Vic’ Cumberland was born in Melbourne in 1877 before moving to Tasmania as a child, and first played senior football around Brighton aged only 15. Although
contemporary accounts of his career in Tasmania are limited, he made quite an impression during his time in the state, and when he returned to Victoria in 1898 he joined VFL club Melbourne.

Cumberland’s impact in VFL football was immediate, forming a famous ruck division alongside George Moodie and star Tasmanian Fred McGinis who were instrumental in Melbourne securing the 1900 VFL premiership. A somewhat nomadic player, Cumberland subsequently spent two brief periods at St. Kilda either side of an 18-month period playing and promoting the game in New Zealand and Broken Hill.

Cumberland’s best football arguably came during his three seasons with Sturt in South Australia
from 1909-11, winning the 1911 Magarey Medal and representing the state with distinction at that season’s Adelaide Carnival. He then returned for a third stint with St. Kilda and was a member of the club’s first Grand Final team in 1913.

Cumberland was a master of all crafts as a player. Standing 5’11”, he possessed a great leap, very strong hands and excellent judgement in the air, and was said to have “few, if any equals” in regards to his tap work. Renowned as a superb exponent of the place kick, he was regarded as a very safe shot for goal, while he was also deceptively quick for a big man, though as one observer noted “his movements gave the suggestion of being laboured.”

After enlisting during WWI and returning home despite being wounded twice, no-one expected Cumberland to play football again. However, sought out by his former club, he pulled on the boots for one final season with St. Kilda in 1920 aged 43, becoming the oldest VFL/AFL player of all time and the only player aged 40+ until Dustin Fletcher in 2015. Unfortunately, it is for this that he is nowadays almost singularly remembered, however an inaugural induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and selection in the Sturt Team of the Century in 2000 (after only 37 games) were appropriate testaments to his brilliance.

Tragically, Cumberland died aged just 50 in 1927, several months after a serious motorcycle accident.