1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Round 6, Saturday 3 May, v Geelong, VFL Park

Saturday 3 May, 4.30pm, Monash University Music Department. The date, time and place of my clarinet exam.

It had been in the diary for weeks but as the day approached, I felt a growing frustration that I’d be so close yet so far from the event going on a bit further down Wellington Road: Geelong v Richmond at Waverley. After demolishing Fitzroy last week, the Tigers were in all the headlines and coming up against a Geelong side that could, with an ounce of luck, be four wins from five. Were it not for the fact that the unbeaten Blues were playing North at Arden Street, this would unquestionably be the match of the round.

Desperate plans whirled in my brain about going to the game, leaving early and picking up a lift back to Monash – but it was tantalisingly unfeasible. I’d have to make do with snippets of the game from the car radio and the hope that the boys would get by without me.

Despite our 20 goal win over the Lions, I wasn’t over-confident. Geelong was a good team at this time, with a strong, pacey midfield led by ball-magnet, Peter Featherby and dazzling winger, Michael Turner. Experienced stars like Sam Newman and David Clarke were complemented by talented youngsters such as Terry Bright, Mark Bos and John Mossop. Geelong’s greatest strength was in defence, led by full-back Gary Malarkey, (after whom the Almanac’s esteemed publishing house is named), and Jack Hawkins (father of Tom). They would clearly pose much sterner opposition for the Richmond forwards than the fragile Fitzroy backline last week.

Today, however, Geelong’s own forward line is bordering on insipid. It’s early third quarter when I tune into the radio on the way to the exam and the Cats have only scored 4 goals. Richmond is not scoring freely either, but enjoys a comfortable 5 goal lead and seems to be in control.

I was a good clarinettist in those days and usually got high marks for my exams. But today, I’m off my game. Nothing dreadful but I end up getting a B, which is below par, annoying my teacher, my parents and, most importantly, myself. Was it distraction about the footy? Who knows. All I can recall is that in the heat of the moment, I was far more concerned to find out how the Tigers ended up than doing any post mortems about stuffing up a couple of arpeggios.

The radio commentators are well into their own post mortems by the time I reach the car. Usually you can pick up within seconds of tuning in who’s won just from their tone, but today is different. The comments are ambivalent about both sides and a pang of nervousness hits. Have we thrown it away?

Finally they reveal that Richmond was well ahead at the last change but was given a fright in the last quarter as the Cats finally found their targets up forward. It also turns out that Geelong coach, Bill Goggin, made a big tactical blunder by starting the unheralded Richard Murrie on Michael Roach and allowing the Tiger spearhead far more freedom early in the game than would have been granted by Malarkey – he of the boa constrictor arms. The move was eventually made, Roach was subdued and the Cats came motoring home.

But too late. Richmond has managed to hang on to an 11 point win.

I watch the highlights on “The Winners”, the standout ABC package of the best of the week’s action, our staple diet in the days before matches were shown in full. The snippets of action confirm the commentators’ opinions of the game. For a much anticipated contest played in fine conditions, it’s been scrappy, won in the early stages before degenerating into a war of attrition. There’s a strong sense that these two sides will have further and more serious business with one another before the season’s out.

I take a “glass half full” view of missing the game – it wasn’t a memorable one, we didn’t play that well, but we did enough to get the points. A bit like getting a B in a music exam, really.

The Wrap
Geelong 1.5 3.7 4.10 10.17 (77)
Richmond 5.3 6.7 9.13 12.16 (88)

Goals
Geel: Clarke, Featherby, Turner 2, Bruns, Donohue, Lunn, Witcombe
Rich: Roach 4, Bartlett 3, Monteath 2, Sarah, Tempany, Wiley

Major Stats
In a game of defences, Michael Roach’s early dominance over Murrie proved decisive. His three first quarter goals enabled Richmond to pinch a break that they never relinquished. Indeed, the Tigers led by eight goals early in the last quarter before allowing the Cats six unanswered consolations. Malarkey’s subsequent containment of Roach can be seen in the latter’s meagre return of 9 possessions (but 4 goals). Bartlett was also lively up forward with 3.5 but otherwise no player managed more than two goals.

Overall, Geelong shaded Richmond in the stats, except for conversion. For the winners, Wiley 32 possessions and Lee (27 disposals, 10 marks and 24 hitouts) continued their magnificent form. David Clarke played a tremendous game for the Cats, with 31 possessions, 11 marks and two goals, but missed a number of chances, as did Featherby and the ageing full-forward, Larry Donohue. Rod Blake provided stern opposition for Lee, shading him in the hitouts and winning 8 free kicks (the overall count was 39-29 Geelong’s way). Bruns, Featherby, Hawkins, I. Nankervis and Turner also won plenty of the footy during the day.

Attendance
47,625 at VFL Park

In other games…
North Melbourne 18.11 (119) v Carlton 12.15 (87) at Arden Street Oval
Melbourne 15.14 (104) v South Melbourne 19.16 (130) at MCG
Collingwood 26.12 (168) v St Kilda 16.12 (108) at Victoria Park
Fitzroy 16.12 (108) v Essendon 15.23 (113) at Junction Oval
Hawthorn 19.16 (130) v Footscray 18.5 (113) at Princes Park

Richmond’s win was overshadowed by North Melbourne’s decisive victory over Carlton. A six goal burst in eight minutes in the third quarter set the Roos on their way. With all teams having now suffered at least one defeat, Richmond and North were shaping as genuine threats to Carlton’s flag favouritism. Elsewhere, South Melbourne continued its impressive run with a rare win at the MCG over Melbourne, whilst Collingwood showed further signs of a revival with a big win over St Kilda. Hawthorn got home against the winless Bulldogs but their lacklustre display gave their fans no grounds for optimism. At the Junction Oval, inaccuracy was the order of the day. Essendon was a profligate 9.20 at the last change but in yet another close finish, the Bombers prevailed after Wilson and Thompson both missed chances in the dying seconds. Ken Fletcher, father of Dustin, broke his leg in a further blow to the injury-riddled Essendon.

The Ladder
Team            W      L     D      PF      PA      %      Points
Carlton          5      1      0       700   578   121.1     20
Richmond     4      1      1       752    573    131.2    18
Nth Melb       4      2      0      669   498    134.3    16
Hawthorn     4      2      0      656    602    109.0   16
Sth Melb        4      2      0      635    625    101.6    16
Geelong            3      3      0       585     536     109.1     12
Essendon          3      3      0       629     582      108.1    12
Melbourne        3      3      0       662     688       96.2     12
Collingwood     3      3      0       572      603      94.9     12
St Kilda             1      4      1        559      736       76.0     6
Fitzroy              1      5      0        614      798       76.9     4
Footscray         0      6      0        568       782      72.6     0

(Next Week – Round 7)

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. Skip of Skipton says:

    A clarinet exam on a Saturday during footy season! I do recall some of those art/music types to be cruel and unusual.

    The Woods/Saints match at Vic Park that day was the only game I saw that season. I was living in a VFL-less black-hole on the NSW south coast at the time with my parents (the old man had retired early to indulge in fishing etc), and was down staying at my older brothers for the school holidays.

    I remember it was a bright sunny day and that Rene Kink kicked a few, and discovering Jezza playing for the Saints.

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