1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Round 21, Saturday 23 August, v North Melbourne, Arden Street Oval

I’m pacing the floor of a stately, shady old house in Brighton, Adelaide.

I’m secluded in an ornate living room where the house’s one radio is located.

The setting is incongruous enough for a football broadcast. The house looks like footy has never before sullied its oh-so-respectable interior. But it’s me who is really out of place, listening to some meaningless SANFL game in the hope of picking up a few flash scores from the VFL, when I should be standing on the Arden Street terraces for this crucial game.

An early cross to the VFL action delivers both good and bad news. Good – at least they’re checking the scores. Bad – the Tigers are a couple of goals down late in the first term. I’ve got no sense of what’s going on. Damn, how I wish I was there!

I was schooled under the old three terms system, in which the holidays at the end of the arduous winter term fell in late August. Our regular family habit was a trip to the Grampians, via Horsham where my aunt and uncle lived. This year was a bit different. A family friend in Adelaide was travelling and we’d offered to skip the Grampians and mind her house instead.

A free week in the City of Churches. What more could a fun-loving 16 year old want?

It’s a good half hour before Victorian football is considered worthy of another 30 seconds of coverage. But this time, the prospects are looking brighter for Richmond. We’ve had a good second quarter and have taken a narrow lead heading for half time.

Footy news (and most other news for that matter) has been put aside over the past week by a bizarre story coming out of the Red Centre. I was in my uncle’s lounge room in Horsham when I first heard the name Azaria Chamberlain. (Three years earlier in the very same room I learned of the death of Elvis Presley). The strange goings-on at Ayers Rock (as it was still known then) dominate the airwaves to the point that the familiar banter of footy on the radio seems mundane, almost disrespectful.

But with typically adolescent self-centredness, I block out such thoughts and nervously await the next update. It comes mid-way through the third quarter. The fleeting reference to the state of the match notes that the Tigers still hold a narrow lead. But the big news out of Arden Street is the bloodied face of Francis Bourke, following a collision. That he’s stayed on the ground, gone to the forward line and actually kicked a goal has the ground reporter in raptures. It’s only later when I see some highlights of the game that I understand what a spectacular sight the Bourke visage provided that day.

The sense I get from this brief vignette is that Richmond have been inspired by their battle-scarred veteran and are getting on top of North. Imagine my shock, then, when the next cross, early in the last quarter comes just as North have kicked four unanswered goals and have regained the lead. Surely with such a thrilling finish to such a big game, we’ll get regular updates from hereon?

Alas, no. South Australia, being half an hour (10 years?) behind Victoria, follows its local match timing and the last quarter of its broadcast game (I can’t even remember who was playing) has only just got underway. I wait a nerve-wracking eternity for this game to conclude and some lengthy post-mortems to run their course before, almost as an afterthought, one final cross to the VFL.

My heart’s pounding.

A deadpan, almost uninterested voice puts me out of my misery. “Yeah thanks – yeah, Richmond have won this one by 11 points, mate”.

!!!!!!!

Back in Melbourne the following week, the first thing my mate, Scott, says to me is “you missed the best fucking game of the year”.

And that’s all that SA radio could give it!

I think it was on that day that I first understood the Victoria-South Australia rivalry.

Eventually, from news reports and a couple of TV highlights, I piece together a gut-busting contest of dramatic ebbs and flows played on a surface that looked like a desert. Daryl Sutton, switched forward as he did regularly this season, performed his customary miracles in orchestrating North’s comeback, but Richmond finally pulled the game from the fire with a couple of wonderful, opportunist Robert Wiley goals.

Back in Horsham, on our return to Melbourne, I eagerly jump on the match report, which focuses as much on the jubilation in the Richmond rooms post-match and the army of fans crowding in to see the wounded warrior, Bourke.

There’s an overwhelming sense that this was the critical game that will finally secure the minor premiership for the Tigers and allow us to enter the Finals in the box seat.

But there’s still one round to go…

The Wrap
North Melbourne 4.5 6.7 10.11 14.14 (98)
Richmond 2.3 8.10 12.16 15.19 (109)
Goals
Rich: Wiley 4, Roach, Bartlett 3, Jess 2, Scrimshaw, Bourke, Raines
Nth Melb: Sutton 3, Blight, McCann, Dempsey 2, Tanner, Good, Boyse, Smith, Byrne

Major Stats
Hot on the heels of Stephen Mount’s best afield effort last week, another unheralded Tiger, Ian Scrimshaw, in just one of six senior games he managed this season, produced a stunning, career-best 32-possession game that was bettered on the day only by Wayne Schimmelbusch with 34. For Scrimshaw, a fringe player at both Richmond and Hawthorn through the mid to late 1970s (59 games in eight seasons), the timing of this patch of form was impeccable with finals just a fortnight away.

Raines, Weightman, Mount (again) and Wiley were again prominent for the winners, and, in an interesting positional move, Jimmy Jess played forward and contributed two goals.

Mark Lee lowered his colours to the indefatigable Gary Dempsey, and with plenty of drive from Blight, Byrne, Glendinning and McCann, the home team won all the key stats – except on the scoreboard.

Attendance
23,682 at Arden Street Oval

In other games…
Hawthorn 16.17 (113) v South Melbourne 12.11 (83) at VFL Park
Fitzroy 16.21 (117) v Geelong 20.12 (132) at Junction Oval
Collingwood 19.16 (130) v Footscray 13.14 (92) at Victoria Park
St Kilda 13.9 (87) v Carlton 20.16 (136) at Moorabbin Oval
Melbourne 14.17 (101) v Essendon 18.14 (122) at the MCG

The final five was settled with South Melbourne’s disappointing loss to Hawthorn at Waverley and Collingwood’s regulation win over Footscray. For South, it had been their lack of consistency – outstanding at home but flaky elsewhere – that finally brought them undone. Today was no exception as they allowed Hawthorn’s runners – Goad, Goss and Eade – a mountain of possession.

Geelong and Carlton kept the pressure on Richmond, both securing wins against bottom four teams but at tricky venues. The Cats, in particular, faced another potential embarrassing loss when they trailed at the last change, but Fitzroy continued their demoralising pattern of honourable losses, with yet another final term fadeout. Terry Bright bagged seven for the visitors.

Melbourne and Essendon went through the motions in the one inconsequential game of the round at the MCG.

The Ladder
Team           W     L     D     PF     PA     %     Points
Richmond  16     4     1     2701 1883 143.4   66
Geelong       16     5     0     2272 1848 122.9  64
Carlton       16     5     0     2430 1986 122.4  64
Nth Melb    14     7     0     2262 1811  124.9  56
Collingwood 13  7     1     2367 2112    112.1  54
Sth Melb        12    9     0      2104  2121    99.2     48
Hawthorn     10   11     0     2187   2279    96.0    40
Essendon        9    12    0      2166  2089   103.7   36
Melbourne      5    16    0     2074  2585    80.2    20
Footscray        5    16    0     2016   2647   76.2    20
Fitzroy            4    16    1      2256   2642   85.4    18
St Kilda           4    16    1      1789    2621   68.3    18

Next Week – Round 22

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. You know what Stainless, I was trekking in the Himalayas that September. I heard about Azaria Chamberlain being taken by a dingo from the locals, but no one could tell me who won the VFL Grand Final. So does that put Adelaide a bit ahead of Srinagar? You can’t drink the water in either place, but you can get some sort of Victorian footy coverage in Adelaide, so I guess Adelaide comes out in front on that score, eh?

  2. Chris Weaver says:

    Great stuff, once again.

    Two questions:

    1. Did Victorian stations of the time ever bother with SANFL scores?

    2. Do you have any recollections of Arden Street?

  3. Basso Divor says:

    Thanks Stainless. I’m reminded of when I worked in Singapore for a couple of months in 1986 and had to wait for Monday’s ‘The Australian’ to arrive at the newstand at the local hawkers’ village on Tuesday afternoon to get the four line wrap of the WAFL results. Nothing but the final scores, but a belated lifeline to my beloved Subiaco Lions. The Lions went on to beat East Freo for the premiership that season. From memory, Subi/WCE/Brisbane/Fitzroy journeyman Mark Zanotti won the Simpson medal.

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