1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Round 3, Saturday 12 April v St Kilda, MCG

The bombshell from the Easter weekend exploded at St Kilda.

The bubble of expectation at Moorabbin from the arrival of Jezza had been rapidly deflated by two sizeable losses. The story I heard was that the Saints’ President, Lindsay Fox, was so irate as he watched two St Kilda players collide in their bungling pursuit of the ball during the Easter loss to Hawthorn, that he decided then and there that coach, Mike Paterson, had to go.

Of course he had a ready-made replacement right there. Jezza – fresh from the 1979 Premiership triumph at Carlton as captain-coach – was immediately put in the same role at St Kilda. Didn’t that make the footy world buzz?

As fate would have it, the Saints’ first game under their new coach was against Richmond at the “G”. Suddenly, a “pencil-in” win against last year’s wooden-spooners looms as a tough test. It’s another picture perfect day and the crowd is again swelling. This week, I leave nothing to chance, teaming up with my mates before the game and taking our place directly behind the Cheer Squad.

The Cheer Squad

Today was the first time I sat directly behind the Richmond Cheer Squad and experienced the unique “behind the goals” perspective on the game. In those days the Cheer Squad sat in the front few rows of the upper deck of the old Southern Stand (their designated rows of seats were painted yellow and black). This distanced them a bit from the play (most Cheer Squads sit right at the fence-line), but it was a great vantage point.

Whilst there was a core group of ORCS (Official Richmond Cheer Squad) members, this part of the ground was a magnet for hundreds of Tiger devotees, young and old, sporting an array of scarves, beanies and duffel coats adorned with yellow numbers, badges and player names. There was none of the forced demarcation of reserved seating that goes on these days. Everyone just mingled together. Though my mates and I never “officially” joined the Cheer Squad, we were quite happy to part with an outrageous $2 for an ORCS badge, and the Cheer Squad were quite happy to sell them to all comers.

Watching (and joining in) the Cheer Squad antics was entertainment in itself. We quickly learned their series of cheesy chants. They sound truly awful when recited, but, like the well-worn phrases of church liturgy, they were an essential part of the proceedings. (It’s been years since I’ve frequented this part of the ground at Richmond games, but I think many of the chants are still the same).

We also started to recognise colourful and eccentric characters that populated this area. Whilst the ORCS tended to sit or stand with their backs to the arena until the main game started, plenty of these other barrackers took the “ressies” as seriously as the senior game, sometimes more so, given the opportunities provided by the curtain-raiser to make themselves heard.
We experienced some extremely crude but hilarious sledgings during 1980. In short, it gave me a sense of “belonging” that you just don’t experience these days.

The Saints are clearly on today. Although Jezza himself isn’t playing a stellar game, New Coach Syndrome is spurring the Saints to some great individual and team efforts, as are the raucous contingent of the 37,000 crowd wearing red, black and white. Just like last week, Richmond is playing good, attacking footy, but St Kilda is more than matching us every step of the way, leading at every change.

Befitting the “party club” image that the Saints had at that time, there are blond heads bobbing up everywhere. The late, great Trevor Barker was, as ever, central to St Kilda’s fortunes, and he is being ably supported by Greg Burns in the centre and Michael Roberts, bobbing around the forward line. Garry Sidebottom, recovered from his encounter last week with a flying beer can is a strong physical presence around the ground. Up forward, another big blond, the unheralded Dean Herbert, is causing our defence major problems.

Amidst the goal-for-goal excitement, Richmond discovers a rock in defence. Wearing No.46, first-gamer Terry Smith is playing a blinder across half-back. Without him, we’d be history.

For the third week running, hearts are in mouths as the game reaches its climax. Surely we’re not going to have another one pinched from us? Even in our position right behind the Richmond Cheer Squad, the Southern Stand is pulsating with the noise of opposition fans. I’m learning that whilst Richmond attracts plenty of support at its home games, an away game at the “G” is also a pretty attractive prospect for visiting supporters and they turn up in big numbers.

I don’t know how many lead changes there were but there were ever more than a couple of goals in it all day. Several times in a desperate last quarter, the Saints, willed on by a veritable tidal wave of support, edge to a narrow lead. Several times, Richmond claws it back, generally through a wispy-haired crumber pouncing on the scraps offered up by a wayward St Kilda defence. In the last frantic minutes, the indefatigable Kevin Bartlett toe-pokes his third goal for the quarter to level the scores. We attack again and Francis Bourke bombs a long shot right on the siren that fails to make the distance. It’s punched over the goal line but seconds too late to register a score.

A draw. The first time I’ve experienced that weird mix of relief tinged with frustration. There’s no doubt St Kilda are the moral victors today, playing with gallantry and panache that were lacking in their first two outings. The Tigers have now taken just two points from their first two home games. We could be three-zip, but instead we’re 1-1-1 and we’re anchored in mid-table, with a trip to Victoria Park ahead.

The Wrap
Richmond 4.5  7.10 12.15  18.20 (128)
St Kilda      5.3  9.6   14.9   19.14 (128)

Goals
Rich: Weightman 4, Bartlett, Roach, Lee 3, Cloke, Monteath, Rowlings, Sarah, Wiley
St.K: Herbert 5, Barker, Burns, O’Dea, Sarau, Sidebottom, Stone 2, Roberts, Sartori
Major Stats
Dean Herbert doesn’t figure prominently in VFL annals, but this was probably the most memorable of the big, blond forward-ruckman’s 22 games, with a game high five goals almost taking St Kilda to victory. Greg Burns with 29 possessions topped the stats sheet, with only Trevor Barker and Russell Greene managing above 20 otherwise for the Saints. Interestingly, Greene was to be traded to Hawthorn later this season, whilst the Saints’ team also boasted ex-Richmond winger Graeme Bond and Ian Sartori, who two years later was part of the Tigers’1982 Grand Final lineup.

Young and old were prominent for Richmond with Dale Weightman’s 25 possession, 4 goal game a standout, and Bartlett’s late heroics being crucial to the Tigers’ fortunes. Wiley, Raines, Monteath and Jess all topped 20 possessions and as remarked above, Terry Smith made an eye-catching debut.

Attendance
37,076 at MCG

In other games…
South Melbourne 14.17 (101) v Essendon 24.12 (156) at VFL Park
Geelong 17.17 (119) v Melbourne 14.9 (93) at Kardinia Park
Footscray 14.10 (94) v Carlton 17.17 (119) at Western Oval
Hawthorn 19.16 (130) v Collingwood 16.23 (119) at Princes Park
Fitzroy 14.18 (102) v North Melbourne 21.22 (148) at Junction Oval

Essendon continued their blistering form from the previous week with 16 goals after half time against South. Hawthorn, nearly 10 goals up in the second quarter, got a huge fright when Collingwood snatched the lead early in the last, but steadied for a narrow win. Carlton, the only unbeaten side, kicked 8.9 in the first term to all but secure the points, whilst North took until the second half to run away from the disappointing Lions. To its relief, after two narrow losses, Geelong finally broke through for a win over Melbourne.

The Ladder
Team   W   L   D   PF   PA   %    Points
Carlton   3   0    0   360  292 123.3    12
Nth Melb 2  1    0   304  250 121.6     8
Essendon 2  1    0   367   318  115.4    8
Hawthorn 2 1   0    352   313 112.5     8
Melbourne 2 1   0   355   335 106.0    8
Sth Melb    2 1   0   290   314   92.4    8
Richmond  1  1  1    356   358   99.4   6
Geelong      1 2   0   308   290 106.2   4
Collingwood 1 2 0   274    318   86. 2 4
Fitzroy         1  2 0   343    401   85.5  4
St Kilda        0 2  1    311    366   85.0  2
Footscray    0 3 0     280   346   80.9  0

(Next week – Round 4)

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. DBalassone says:

    Great work again Stainless, I didn’t realise Richmond (and Geelong for that matter, who finished top) had such lacklustre starts in 1980.

  2. Another fine report.

    Besides the Saints drawing with the eventual premiers, I see the ‘easybeats’ of the day boast percentages of 80+. A far cry from what we’re subjected to now.

  3. Loving reliving this season Sam! Thanks again.

    Jeff, while your point is valid, it’s worth noting that in the 21-year span from 1970 to 1990, the only two years in which NO team had a percentage of under 70 after Round 3, were 1979 and 1980. In all other years, at least one, usually two, and sometimes even three sides had a % of lower than 70 at that stage of the season.

    In eight of those 21 years one or more sides FINISHED the season with a % of 70 or lower.

    Some specific examples:

    – After Round 3, 1987, Collingwood had a % of 58 and Footscray 42. The Pies won a flag three years later and Footscray made the PF in ’92.

    – St Kilda’s % after R3, 1985 was just 35! Admittedly it was another 6 years before they made finals.

    – North’s % after R3 ’84 was 55. They played finals the year after.

    – Dogs’ % after R3, ’82 was 46. Made the PF in ’85.

    That’s not to say that the concerns about GWS and GCS aren’t valid – indeed as a Dogs’ fan I’m looking forward hopefully to Rounds 5 and 8!. But we should see how things unfold over time.

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Great stuff Stainless. Robert Wiley used to kick some beautiful torps in those days, bursting out of the centre. He was a fine player.

  5. Stainless says:

    Damien, Jeff and Gigs

    Thanks for your comments.

    1980 was not a particularly even year over the full season. The early evenness had a fair bit to do with teams of similar standards playing each other in the first few rounds.

    At the time, I regarded Richmond’s start to the year as pretty much par for a side that most thought was middle-ranking. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear we played some top class games early on, albeit against teams that didn’t fulfil their early promise. Geelong was probably in the same boat. They missed the finals in 1979 as well so no-one particularly rated them.

    As I recall, it was Collingwood that copped most of the early criticism, largely because they’d been Grand Finallists the year before.

    But then, I’m getting ahead of my Round 4 report…

  6. Stainless says:

    Hi Phil – I’ve been greatly enjoying the “That was the Season that was” DVDs, in particular 1980! Wonderful to see even short snippets of games I only otherwise recall from memory.

    My kids, raised on a strict diet of modern AFL, have been in fits of giggles at the “biffo” of the old days, particularly the incidents where players were found “not guilty”.

    Robbie Wiley was one of a bunch of running players who kicked the ball beautifully. Seems like Richmond used up its 30 year ration of such players in one season!

  7. Loving these recollections as a lead in to each round. The top deck of the old southern stand, with the yellow and black seats for the cheersquad, just a great atmosphere. Another false dawn for the poor Saints, unsuccessful clubs love the idea of a messianic figure! Looking forward to next week at Vic Park….should make for interesting reading.

    And Gigs, lovely work with the stats!

  8. Great work Phil.

    Looking forward to reading about the retrun bout between Richmond and StKilda later in the season – if memory serves it was a little more one-sided … and held in an unexpected place for the time.

  9. DBalassone says:

    Stainless, You’ve got me curious about the Collingwood v. Richmond clash at Victoria Park in Round 4. I’m tempted to google it now but will resist the urge and wait for your Round 4 report.

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