There’s an adage in football that suggests a team has to experience a grand final loss before it can win one. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but in 1939 the Queanbeyan Tigers proved the adage correct when it won its first premiership after being defeated the previous year.
The 1939 premiership began a triple-premiership era for the club and was the culmination of many years of perseverance and determination. After battling through some tough early years, Queanbeyan finally won the flag following several years of fourth and fifth place finishes.
Captain-coach, Floyd Primmer’s 1939 premiership team included players now recognised as legends of the club, including Jack McNamara, Tom Kelly, Merv Strang, Reg Netting and the Williams brothers just to name a few.
The 1939 decider was played between Queanbeyan and Manuka, the two grand finalists from the previous year. Given the growing rivalry, it’s no surprise the match set a crowd record for Manuka Oval. And the large crowd was treated to an extremely tight match. In fact, it was so tight that scores were level at full time and the match was scheduled for a full replay.
The drawn match wasn’t without controversy with local media reports referring to an incident where the ball was deflected on to the posts before being kicked off the ground by a Manuka player who was subsequently awarded a goal. Had this incident been scored as the point that it should have been, Queanbeyan would have won the grand final there and then.
But destiny wasn’t halted; it was merely delayed a little. The grand final replay was played at Queanbeyan’s Park Oval, often referred to nowadays as the Town Park. In those days the Town Park didn’t have change rooms so the two teams changed at Walshe’s Hotel in Queanbeyan’s main street. A specially organised train brought spectators from the Canberra Railway Station to Queanbeyan and another new record crowd was set.
The tightness of the first encounter must have been extremely draining on the players who were asked to do it all again. But in true Tiger spirit, Queanbeyan dug deep and went on to win the replay, recording the widest winning margin in the league’s history - 130 to 73.
The Tigers success continued in the 1940 and 1941 premierships before the world’s focus turned to World War II and football was overshadowed for the duration of the war. In next week’s column we’ll explore the rebuilding of the club after the war years.