Hall of Fame: Harry Dockerty

Harry Dockerty

Henry John Dockerty, better known as Harry, was a pioneer of the game in Victoria and probably the single most influential figure in its history in this state. He was born near Glasgow in 1881, the son of James Dockerty, a farmer, and Grace Hunter. He was trained as a tailor and cutter and set out to make his fortune abroad in his early twenties, arriving in Melbourne via India, New Zealand and Sydney in 1907. He set up operations in Collins Street where he became a successful businessman. In 1908, his advertisements in The Argus and The Age led to the revival of the game in Victoria.

Harry Dockerty
Harry Dockerty at the turn of the 20th century.

He presented a handsome silver cup, which became known as the Dockerty Challenge Cup, first played for in 1909. 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 over a century.

Dockerty was influential in the formation of teams beyond Melbourne including Wonthaggi Rangers. He also helped set up junior competitions to bring on the next generation of players. Harry Dockerty was also involved in the formation of the Commonwealth Football Association in 1912 and subsequent attempts to establish a continuing national body to organise the game. His contribution to Victorian football was recognised as early as 1909 by the presentation to him of a magnificent framed collage of pictures held today by Football Victoria.

St Kilda 1909 League and Dockerty Challenge Cup Runners-up
Harry Dockerty (standing, third from the left) with St Kilda, one of the foundation clubs of the very first league season in 1909, as constituted by the Victorian Amateur British Football Association.

When football resumed after the First World War Dockerty continued to lead the way. The Commonwealth Football Association was reformed in 1921 and he was elected as its first president. After the Second World War, Dockerty was president of the Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association from 1956 until the demise of that body in 1962. Previously he had been vice-president every season since the end of the war.

Harry Dockerty and Sir Stanley Rous
A towering figure, Harry Dockerty with Sir Stanley Rous.

Dockerty also helped mend two of the great splits in the game in Victoria from 1927 to 1929 and again in 1958 to 1962. His was always the voice for reason, compromise and conciliation. He was pleased when the post-war dispute was settled with the Victorian Soccer Federation taking over the running of the game from the predecessor organisation, the Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association. He was nominated unopposed as the president of the new body in 1962, a position he held until his death in 1965, aged 83.

Harry and Mary Dockerty
Happier in domestic life, Harry and Mary Jane Dockerty, with dog Lassie. Source: Laurie Schwab collection. Deakin University.

Despite a period of inactivity in the 1990's and 2000's, the Cup which bears his name is still played to this day, with more clubs and teams competing for the honour of Dockerty Cup champions than ever before.

As part of its inaugural intake in 1999, Dockerty was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Honour of the Football Australia Hall of Fame.