Essendon win by 54 points
First Game as Coach
With league clubs playing stocks thinned even further by World War II, the Grand Final rematch was played in the shadow of the Demons voting to suspend the season. When the motion was unsuccessful they opted to keep playing, but were forced to field four first gamers in Round 1. They also had to contend with a lack of match practise, with stars Allan La Fontaine (army service) and Jack Mueller both entering the game without training.
All four newcomers were defenders, and Essendon took full advantage by racking up a massive score. Melbourne relied on their talls up front to kick the opening two goals, while the home side wasted opportunities with misdirected short passing. Once Essendon found their feet they quickly took control, booting five goals in five minutes and seven straight before a belated Mueller reply before quarter time.
A five goal to four second quarter extended the lead, and Essendon then added 13 in the second half to set the highest opening day score in league history to that point. Tactical changes at the start of the third quarter delivered the opening goal, but it was not only quickly cancelled out but another three followed in close succession. The Demons played the game out, but by the last quarter Essendon were barely challenged in extending the margin by a further two goals.
Three times in a row Melbourne had lost the first game and gone on to win the premiership, but the glaring deficiencies in their backline showed that they would have a tough time mounting another premiership defence.
Best were Beames, Baggott and Gibb. Despite Melbourne's defensive woes Deayton, Hewson and Walsh impressed. First gamer Shearer replaced Wartman in the last quarter when he suffered an ankle injury. Norm Smith was reported for jostling but found not guilty.
South Melbourne 17.16.118 d. Melbourne 9.4.58