1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Qualifying Final, Saturday 6 September, v Carlton, VFL Park

“…and may the best teams win tomorrow, as long as they’re Collingwood and Richmond…”.

I do a sharp double-take as I hear the throwaway line from Geoff Raymond, the principal newsreader on ABC TV at the time. From a man with an inscrutable “ABC” persona and no apparent interest in football whatever, Raymond’s sign-off remark from his evening bulletin on Friday 5 September is as unexpected as me leaping up in my Year 11 Latin class and unleashing

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT ‘EM ALIVE, TIGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!”

If nothing else, it confirms that finals fever has gripped Melbourne. Raymond’s understated wish also ignites a small beacon of hope in me. All week, Richmond’s injuries and late-season slump have been talked up to the point where a Carlton win seems inevitable. It’s nice to know we’ve got some neutrals on our side.

Of course, the cold harsh reality of team selections suggests that Raymond doesn’t know what he’s talking about. No Cloke, no Monteath, no Rowlings for starters. A few young ring-ins like Ian Scrimshaw and Peter Welsh don’t inspire much confidence either. Many of the Richmond side will be playing in their first final against a Carlton side which, last week’s hiccup aside, seems to be gearing up for a repeat of its 1979 campaign.

For all the negative vibes, I’m still bouncing through my last week of school holidays, eagerly anticipating the game. Richmond in a final against its arch-enemy! Sure, we’ll probably get done, but what an occasion.

It’s KB’s big day too. The games record broken for the second time in the one season. John Rantall retired two weeks after breaking Kevin Murray’s milestone of 333 games, finishing on 336. Kevin Bartlett plays his 337th on Saturday. We’ve got to lift a little bit for “Hungry”, surely?

Saturday finally comes around and it’s a beauty. All those clichés about finals – bright sunshine, new-mown grass, blah, blah – are spot-on today. Waverley’s vast green surface looks a picture after the dustbowls and mudheaps we’ve been playing on in the last three months, and, in welcome contrast to last week’s Albert Park Mistral, the day is dead calm.

Our seats[1] are pretty good too – halfway between the fence and the concourse, scoreboard forward-flank. The respectable mix of supporters – Richmond, Carlton and plenty of neutrals – is in dramatic contrast to the feral Tiger enclave behind the goals.

Glancing through the Record (a whopping 80 cents, if ya don’t mind, umpire), I’m taken by the advertisement from Edward Beale’s salon for the “Xanadu Look”, a flagrant attempt to cash in on the execrable movie of that name that was dying at the box office at the time. Pretty awful hairdo too, even by 80s standards!

But the time for such fripperies is soon over. North Melbourne’s knocked off Essendon in the Reserves game and the banners are out for the main event.

The banner acknowledging Bartlett’s record is absolutely massive. It’s almost comic seeing the wispy-haired little Tiger trying to break through it. He looks so frail. Ah, how appearances can deceive!

It’s only minutes into the game before KB starts to weave his magic, wrong-footing Carlton defenders and slotting goals. One from 50 out on the boundary line, after evading two opponents, sticks in my memory vividly. Coming as early as it does in such a huge game, it signals that we’re in for something special today. After the mediocrity of July and August, it sets the standard that will characterise Richmond’s September.

By quarter time, we’ve got six on the board, a great start. But Bartlett’s antics aside, it’s in defence where the Tigers’ commitment is most evident, repelling Carlton’s swarming mosquito pack. I’ve learned quickly to detest the little bastards and I scream with pleasure as Ken Sheldon, one of the leading mozzies, cops a full spray of Aerogard right in the mouth, in the form of Graeme Landy’s forearm. It ends Sheldon’s day and will later end Landy’s finals series as he cops four weeks for his efforts. But for all its brutality, Landy’s coathanger is typical of the ruthless, selfless Richmond’s defence, which is signalling loud and clear that actions, rather than names and reputations, are what will win this day.

Richmond has unleashed a blast of wild treachery, straight from the Neil Balme School of Gentlemanly Conduct. Carlton, the hot favourite, is four goals down at the quarter-time break and lost for an answer. Fans of both sides are gasping for breath and even the conventional five-minute break in hostilities provides no respite. A roar goes up through the crowd as they witness the two coaches, Jones and Jewell, engaging in some Gentlemanly Conduct of their own. This bizarre altercation stops short of actual punches only through the interventions of offsiders.

There’s no let-up from Richmond after the break. Despite our absent stars and Michael Roach being well-held by Geoff Southby, a make-shift forward line is terrorising the normally assured Carlton defence. In a risky strategy, Jewell has moved Jimmy Jess from centre half back to cover the huge loss of David Cloke at centre half forward. He’s playing a ripper game and even bags a couple of goals. Young Dale Weightman, in his first Final, is showing up many of the older, more experienced on-ballers and is running forward to contribute vital midfield goals.

In Jess’s absence, our defence is unfazed. Carlton’s match-winners from a month ago are being chopped up by the likes of Strachan, Tempany, Malthouse, Smith and Landy.

But again, it’s from the centre where we’re getting our impetus. Lee is at best breaking even with Fitzpatrick, but Raines, ably supported by Wiley and Weightman, is winning the clearances in style.

This is joyful stuff. If he’d said it in 1980, I’d be channelling Dennis Cometti’s immortal “rare Gold, the best kind of Gold” call of Kieren Perkins’ famous 1500m win at Atlanta. With every chase, tackle and rebound, Richmond is dismantling a revered opponent with all the intensity they were showing in the early rounds. There are several players out there who’ve been running round in the Twos most of the year but they’re slotting in superbly.

Carlton looks shell-shocked. Perhaps it’s the Sheldon incident, but in truth, no-one is firing for them, anywhere. If there were any hopes that they could mount a comeback from 35 points down at half-time, they’re quickly extinguished by early Richmond goals after the resumption. Carlton are 10 goals down and a beaten unit when Southby, normally a model of reliability, shanks a kick-in that dribbles over the boundary line untouched. It’s that sort of day for the Blues and with that incident, I know we’re home and that our Premiership aspirations are alive and well once more.

The last quarter plays out in the “go through the motions” manner of many one-sided finals, the intensity of the earlier play and the absence of incentives such as percentage causing a noticeable drop in effort. Both sides know they’ll be in action next week and play accordingly. Carlton snares some consolation goals, reducing an absolute spanking to a mere 42 point defeat, much to my displeasure. But what a day for Bartlett. That banner was truly his biggest obstacle today! Six goals for the new games record holder brings rapturous applause from the Tiger faithful.

It’s dark by the time the long, crowded bus ride and the train get me home, but long journeys are always pleasurable when passed in the blissful daze that comes from the treasured wins that happen when you’ve convinced yourself they can’t. Even my football-illiterate parents remark on the size and unexpectedness of the result, but only after Mum remarks on my sunburnt face!

Spring has indeed sprung!

The Wrap
Richmond 6.3 11.4 16.7 18.8 (116)
Carlton 2.1 5.5 5.8 10.14 (74)

Goals
Rich: Bartlett 6, Weightman 4, Wiley, Jess 2, Roach, Wood, Bourke, Scrimshaw
Carl: Catoggio, Klomp 2, Armstrong, Ashman, McConville, Marcou, Harmes, Mackay

Major Stats
In his record-breaking game, Kevin Bartlett’s six goals was the obvious headline-stealer. Only Geoff Raines (31), Robbie Wiley (28) and Barry Armstrong (23) managed to win more of the ball than KB (22).

But the real contrast between the two sides was the prominence of Richmond’s lesser lights in the absence of key men Cloke, Monteath and Rowlings, and Carlton’s stars, who were almost universally subdued. Scrimshaw, Welsh and Strachan, all played prominent roles for the Tigers. Johnston – the finals specialist – 9 touches. Wells – who torched us just a month ago – just 15 possessions.

Mike Fitzpatrick outpointed Lee in the ruck, but any advantage he gave his side was eclipsed by Richmond’s dominant midfield.

Attendance
59,014 at VFL Park

In other games…
Collingwood 14.20 (104) def. North Melbourne 14.12 (96) at the MCG

In the days before Sunday football, the two games played in each of the first two weeks of the finals were played concurrently at the MCG and Waverley.

At the MCG on this day, North Melbourne met Collingwood in the Elimination Final between 4th and 5th in front of 83,000 fans. Although having twice lost to Collingwood during the regular season and having lost and drawn its last two home games, North, with its strong finals experience, was a slight favourite to topple the Pies. However, in a tight contest, the Magpies led narrowly at each break and eventually prevailed by eight points.

For North, this game marked the end of the Barassi era, with the famous coach stepping down and making a celebrated (but unsuccessful) return to Melbourne in 1981. North replaced Barassi with champion forward, Malcolm Blight, who became the last of the VFL’s playing coaches. However, he, too, was unsuccessful in the role, with the Kangaroos missing the finals for the first time in eight years.

Next week – Semi Final Week

[1] Prior to the game going national, finals were regarded by the VFL as games to be played on neutral territory where possible.  Richmond, as a co-tenant of the MCG, was therefore required to play any final other than the Grand Final at Waverley.   This made our task of booking tickets considerably easier as we knew where we’d be playing, unlike other teams.  Ironically, we were unbeaten atWaverleyin 1980, whilst our record at the MCG included two losses and a draw from eleven games.

About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.

Comments

  1. Alovesupreme says:

    Stainless,
    My memory of that dreadful day is only relieved by recalling an observation by my accompanying Richmond-supporting mate. That was the era when there was a feeble attempt to introduce a touch of American dross to the pre-match in the form of cheer-leaders/dance troupes. The Carlton Bluebirds were naturally first in the field (who could trump the Blues for a bad taste idea?)
    However the Tiges responded with their troupe. As Richmond’s sponsor around that time was Tetley, the wags in the outer tagged them with the immortal “the Tetley Tea Bags”.
    My mate was an irregular attendee, but he noted that the attention which the tea bags had been drawing in the brief period between the end of the Reserves game and the players emerging for the big one. As soon as the banners were raised, the fans’ focus switched to the players prompting my mate to opine “Football is more important than sex.”

  2. They were officially known as the Tigerettes.

    They lasted about as long as our 1980 form!

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