|Date of birth||26 February 1900|
|Place of birth||Romsey|
|Date of death||August 1984 (84 years)|
|Debut||Round 1, 1921, Carlton
v. Richmond, at Punt Road
|Height/Weight||188cm, 87 kg|
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 1936 season.
George Robert Alexander "Alex" Duncan (25 February 1900 — August 1984) was an Australian rules footballer who played for Carlton in the Victorian Football League, for Stratford in the Gippsland Football League, for Coburg Football Club in the Victorian Football Association, and for Havelock in the Industrial Football League (at the age of 36).
Duncan made his debut for Carlton in Round 1 of the 1921 season. He retired from VFL football in 1930, having played 141 senior games for Carlton, and four interstate games for Victoria.
He is especially remembered for his performance in "Duncan's match".
He made his debut for Carlton on 7 May 1921, playing on the half-forward flank, against Richmond, at the Punt Road ground. A crowd of 32,000 saw Carlton defeat Richmond by 9 points, 7.11 (53) to 8.14 (62).
He played 15 senior matches in 1924; and, with 27 goals, he was Carlton's top goalkicker.
Apparently for the sake of his wife's health, he decided to leave the city, and Carlton; and, in January 1925, a public meeting at Stratford, Victoria appointed Duncan the captain-coach of the Stratford Football Club. He was given a house, rent-free, a job, and was also to be paid an additional salary of ₤8 a week as captain-coach.
On 2 May 1925, "Alex. Duncan (Stratford's coach and captain) marked his first appearance in Gippsland football… by winning the toss, playing a good game, kicking five goals and leading his side to victory [over Rosedale, 13.14 (92) to 9.7 (61)]".
The Stratford team, which had not won a single match in 1924, and only two in 1923, won a number of matches under Duncan, despite problems with an ever-increasing absence of stronger players as the season went on, and were still potential finalists until they were soundly beaten by Maffra, 7.11 (53) to 2.4 (16), in the last match of the home-and-away season on 19 September 1925 (the match was marred by a very strong wind blowing across the ground for the entire match).
At the end of the 1925 season, he returned to Melbourne, ready to resume his career with Carlton the following season.
Return to Carlton
Moved from the forward line to centre half-back, he played his first return game for Carlton, against Melbourne at Princes Park on 8 May 1926 (round two). There was an influenza epidemic in Melbourne at the time, and Duncan was bedridden on the day of the first match of the season.
The encounter between Carlton and Collingwood Football Club at Victoria Park on Saturday, 25 June 1927, in which a strong Carlton team out muscled, outplayed, and (coming from behind) beat a champion Collingwood team playing at its peak, is one of the most famous encounters in the game's history; and is remembered as "Duncan's Match".
Playing at centre-halfback, the "impassable" and "unbeatable" Duncan dominated the game as, perhaps, no other player has done before or since.
According to The Age, "Duncan's meteoric marking and wonderfully dashing defence was the most sparkling individual performance of the season".
According to The Argus, "Duncan his played many fine games for Carlton, and has also been a tower of strength in interstate teams, but he has never been seen to better advantage. His marking was superb, his judgment faultless, and his kicking splendid, while his dash turned many attacks."
He took at least 33 marks (some claim he had taken as many as 45); and his beautiful drop-kicks on that day were as flawless as his marking.
Carlton won the match 14.11 (95) to Collingwood's 13.5 (83).
Collingwood, a football club not generally known for magnanimous gestures towards its opponents, were so impressed with Duncan's outstanding performance (perhaps, even, a best of all time performance) that they had the match ball suitably mounted and inscribed and presented the trophy to Duncan.
In his first match for Coburg, against Preston, on 2 May 1931, playing against Preston's Roy Cazaly, "Duncan was a tower of tremendous strength at centre half-back"; however, he sustained several internal injuries, including bruised kidneys, in the match, and he was forced to miss the next matck because his doctor had confined him to bed.
His first senior match in 1936 for Coburg was on 13 June 1936 (round nine), when he played at centre half-back against Preston ("Alex Duncan gave a creditable performance at centre half-back in the first game for the season"), and Coburg won by 33 points. He also played for Coburg on 18 July 1936, despite having been cleared to play for Havelock.
In 1936, aged 36, he was granted a permit to play for the Havelock Football Club, representing the Havelock tobacco factory of W.D. & H.O. Wills, in the "Saturday Morning League" competition, conducted by the Industrial Football League. He played in Havelock's Grand Final 6.16 (52) to 4.12 (36) loss to Victoria Brewery on 22 August 1936. The Havelock club withdrew from the competition before the start of the 1937 season, due to its difficulty in attracting sufficient suitable players. It returned to the competition in 1939.
Despite coming a close equal second with Melbourne's Dick Taylor to Colingwood's Syd Coventry in the 1927 Brownlow Medal, having been declared best on the ground in six matches, compared with Coventry's seven (at that stage only one vote was given to one player in each game), Duncan had quite a history of rough play.
During the particularly torrid match against Collingwood at Princes Park on 29 July 1922, which Carlton won, Duncan scored three goals despite being knocked out on two separate occasions. Eric Cock was found guilty of punching Duncan (he claimed that Duncan had kicked him in the ankle and verbally abused him), and was suspended for six matches. Duncan was found guilty of having elbowed Harry Saunders, and was suspended for three matches. Saunders pleaded guilty to punching Duncan, pleading provocation; he was suspended for six matches and was fined £5 by the police for his assault on Duncan.
In a torrid, low-scoring match at a windswept Princes Park on 21 June 1924, against Richmond, which Richmond won 5.8 (38) to 3.10 (38), Duncan was reported three times: for elbowing Reuben Reid, for kicking George Rudolph whilst he was on the ground, and for making an offensive gesture towards Boundary Umpire Johnson. Duncan was acquitted of all three charges due to lack of corroborating evidence; whilst Richmond's Reid, cited for "charging" Horrie Clover, was suspended for three matches, and Donald Don of Richmond, cited for "charging" Newton Chandler from behind, was suspended for eleven matches.
In his second match as captain-coach of Stratford, Duncan was reported, by the Sale Football Club, for using obscene language on the playing arena, directed at Wilson, a member of the Sale team during the match against Sale Football Club on 9 May 1925. In the tribunal hearing it was revealed that Duncan had been awarded a mark, and had been kicked on the leg by Wilson; and, as Duncan went back to take his kick, he called Wood a "mongrel — " (the newspaper did not print the word), Wood told him that if he said such things again, he would punch him, and still walking back to take his kick, Duncan swore at him "You dirty — ", and Wood, striking from behind, felled Duncan, and Duncan was unconscious for at least five minutes. Duncan protested that Sale had only complained to retaliate for Wood having been reported by the field umpire. After much discussion Wood was suspended for four matches and Duncan two.
Duncan was reported for charging a Bairnsdale player, during the Stratford-Bairnsdale match on 12 September 1925. He was also reported for threatening Umpire Rowe, the field umpire. Eventually, due to a technicality (the case had not been submitted to the tribunal within seven days of the match) the case was not heard, and the charges against Duncan were consequently dismissed.
During the round three match against Geelong, at Geelong on 15 May 1926, Duncan was reported for the "unseemly conduct" of throwing the football into the face of Lloyd Hagger, the Geelong forward who had been the VFL's leading goal-kicker in the preceding season (1925). Duncan was, perhaps, the best player for Carlton on the day. Hagger had been awarded a free kick, against Duncan, in the second quarter, because Duncan had pushed him in the back; as Hagger began to raise himself from the ground, and prepare to take his kick, Duncan spitefully threw the ball into his face. Duncan was found guilty and was suspended for four matches.
In the VFA Grand Final match between Northcote and Coburg, Duncan was playing full-forward, and kicked eight of Coburg's ten goals — Coburg lost the match 19.16 (130) to 10.9 (69). Two Northcote players were each charged with kicking Duncan during the match. Both were found guilty; one (Haskett) was suspended for four matches, the other (Ackland) was reprimanded.
During the 1935 VF first semi-final played on 17 August 1935, between Coburg and Camberwell, Duncan (Coburg's captain-coach) was charged with deliberately pushing E. Dyball of Camberwell after a free kick had been awarded in the last quarter of the match. Duncan pleaded guilty; but argued in his own defence that he had not heard the umpire's whistle blow, and had pushed Dyball to delay the play. Given Duncan's defence, the tribunal considered that there was reasonable doubt whether Duncan had, indeed, deliberately pushed Dyball in the full knowledge that Dyball had been awarded a free kick, and dismissed the charge.
Duncan served in the Australian Army from 3 November 1941 to 6 October 1945. At the time of his enlistment he was married to Olive Duncan.
- Notes by "Full Back": An Extract from The Sporting Globe, The Traralgon Record, (Friday, 11 September 1925), p.2.
- Stratford Football Club: Coach Appointed, The Gippsland Times, (Monday, 12 January 1925), p.2.
- Duncan had "received a very fine certificate, framed in oak, from the Carlton Foot ball Club for the fine services rendered that Club during the last four years" (Stratford, The Gippsland Times, (Thursday, 26 March 1925, p.3).
- League Permits Granted, The Argus, (Thursday, 26 March 1925), p.10.
- Notes by "Full Back", The Traralgon Record , (Friday, 8 May 1925), p.3.
- Popular Footballer farewelled: Mr. Duncan Honored, The Gippsland Times, (Thursday, 1 October 1925), p.4.
- 1927 VFL season#Round 9; Ross, (1996), p.124; Blueseum Game Review of Duncan's Match
- Without in any way denigrating Duncan's performance on that day, it should be remembered that — ostensibly to reduce "the unseemly bullocking in the ruck at boundary throwins" (Ross, 1996, p.114) — the laws of the game had been altered in 1925 so that the last player to have touched the ball before it went out of bounds was penalized by the awarding of a free kick to the opposing team. This meant that, whilst this law was in operation (1925-?1939), much of the play was directed up the centre of the ground along the goal-to-goal line, and very little play was directed along the flanks.
- A Memorable Contest, The Age, (Monday, 27 June 1927), p.8.
- Collingwood Outplayed: Brilliant Win by Carlton: Best Players, (Monday, 27 June 1927), p.6.
- On 23 June 1951, in a drawn match between Fitzroy Football Club 12.13 (85) and South Melbourne 12.13 (85) which, although conducted under different "out of bounds rules", was played at the small, narrow Brunswick Street Oval in North Fitzroy, the 1949 Brownlow Medal winner, South Melbourne's Ron "Smokey" Clegg took 32 marks.
- Duncan's Movements; May Play with Association Club, The Argus, (Thursday, 16 April 1931), p.11.
- Football: League Permits Granted, The Argus, (Thursday, 30 April 1931), p.10.
- Coburg's New Coach, The Argus, (Wednesday, 20 February 1935), p.16.
- Association: Preston Wins Splendid Game, The Argus, (Monday, 4 May 1931), p.12.
- High Scoring Game: Preston Without Hyde, The Argus, (Monday, 15 June 1936), p.15.
- Runaway Victory, The Argus, (Monday, 20 July 1936), p.15.
- Too Old at 36?, The Argus, (Saturday, 13 June 1936), p.18.
- Morning League, The Argus, (Thursday, 20 August 1936), p.15; Victoria Brewery Retains Pennant, , The Argus, (Monday, 24 August 1936), p.15.
- Morning League: Havelock Withdraws, The Argus, (Wednesday, 17 March 1937), p.11.
- Havelock Returns, (Wednesday, 8 March 1939), p.24.
- Brownlow Medal: Won by S. Coventry, The Argus, (15 September 1927), p.5. It is interesting to note that, in the only match that Carlton played against Collingwood that year (round nine), Duncan was far, far better than anyone else on the ground, including Coventry (it was "Duncan's match").
- Blows During Football: Three League Players Disqualified, The Argus, (Saturday, 5 August 1922), p.22.
- Football: Players Suspended, The Age, (Friday, 27 June, 1924), p.7.
- Charges of Rough Play; Two Players Disqualified, The Argus, (Friday, 27 June 1924), p.5.
- Football Tribunal: Wilson and Duncan, The Gippsland Times, (Thursday, 21 May 1925), p.3.
- Gippsland Football League: Duncan's Case Sent to Tribunal, The Gippsland Times, (Thursday, 24 September 1925), p.5.
- Objection Upheld, The Argus, (Friday, 2 October 1925), p.6.
- Football: LeagueTribunal: Two Players Suspended, The Argus, (Friday, 21 May 1926), p.5.
- Haskett Suspended, The Argus, (Thursday, 18 October 1934), p.17.
- Charges Dismissed, The Argus, (Thursday, 22 August 1935), p.13.
- World War II Nominal Roll: George Robert Alexander Duncan (V143551).
- Ross, J. (ed), 100 Years of Australian Football 1897-1996: The Complete Story of the AFL, All the Big Stories, All the Great Pictures, All the Champions, Every AFL Season Reported, Viking, (Ringwood), 1996. ISBN 0-670-86814-0