Written by Roy Hay
The doyen of football in Victoria, Harry Dockerty, not content with playing the game and organizing its revival in 1908, presented a trophy for competition between the clubs which were formed around that time.
Dockerty played with the St Kilda club when competition got under way. The handsome silver cup, which became known as the Dockerty Challenge Cup, was first played for in 1909 and won by Carlton which defeated St Kilda by two goals to one on August 15.
That trophy was to become the Victorian equivalent of the FA Cup involving all the senior clubs in the state in knock-out competition for nearly a century.
It was last won by Green Gully in 2004 and has now been returned to Football Federation Victoria. It was not the oldest cup competition in Australia but it has one of the longest histories, with only two short breaks.
Before the competition was suspended in1915 during the First World War, Carlton United, Williamstown and Melbourne Thistle had each won the trophy twice. The Dockerty Cup was revived in 1919 and won by Footscray Thistle. The Argus reported:
Mention of the English 'cup ties' and 'finals' were revived on Saturday, when Footscray Thistle played Windsor in the final of the Dockerty Cup at Middle Park, in the presence of a large crowd. Footscray, aided by a strong wind, led at half-time by 1 goal to nil. In the second half, with the wind windsor attacked, but Footscray broke away, and in an endeavour to clear, Tunn kicked the ball through his own goal, adding another to the Footscray lead. From this on, although Windsor had all the advantages, they failed to give the Footscray goalkeeper anything difficult to handle. When the whistle blew the score remained unchanged, and Footscray won, 1 goal to nil.
The score should, of course, have been two-nil!
A new record attendance was established in a second-round Dockerty Cup match between Northumberland & Durhams and Melbourne Thistle at Middle Park on July 3, 1920. The final that year between Albert Park and N & D was abandoned.
By 1927 the Dockerty Cup was attracting teams from Wonthaggi, Bendigo and Geelong. It had become the state-wide competition and the final was the culmination of the football year, drawing large attendances and providing great excitement. Nobels, later ICI, had a hat-trick of win from 1938 to 1940. The competition continued throughout the Second World War.
Hakoahwas the cup champion of the 1950s, annexing the Dockerty Cup in every year from 1953 to 1956. The competition produced many stories of upsets and exciting cup runs over the years.
As well as pursuing the Metropolitan First Division North title in 1959, Croatia, then based in Geelong, had a dream run in the Dockerty Cup, defeating Fairfield by ten-nil, Maccabi, Sandringham City (Sandringham's first defeat of the season) and South Melbourne in the first four rounds. After beating Brunswick Latvia 29-1 in the league, probably the highest round score ever recorded in an official league match in Victoria, Croatia played the Dutch-backed club Wilhelmina in the Dockerty Cup and came back to earth in a defeat by 12 goals to four.
The list of winners of the trophy highlights the arrival of the different groups of migrants after the Second World Wat as teams representing these communities had their name engraved on the cup, including Juventus, Slavia, JUST, Wilhelmina, Croatia and George Cross.
Juventus again dominated the early 1970s with a hat trick of wins in 1970 to 1972m while Green Gully recorded back to back wins in 1981 and 1982.
Rivalry between Melbourne Croatia and South Melbourne Hellas was a feature of the late 1980s and 1990s as the two National Soccer League teams won the competition seven times in nine years. It was probably this domination which led to a reduction in public interest and support for the tournament.
The competition was not played in 1997 and so a great competition came to an end. In the late 1990s the Dockerty Cup model was being mooted as at the basis for an all-Australian competition, but nothing became of this. Victoria briefly revived the idea in 2004 but the need for sponsorship resulted in the competition being known as the Crazy John's Cup/Dockerty Cup and the link with the earlier tradition was attenuated. Green Gully won the cup thus remains the last club to hold the trophy.
In 2011, the Football Federation Victoria launched the Mirabella Cup as a successor to the Dockerty Cup in the form of a seeded statewide club knock-out competition.