1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Second Semi Final, Saturday 13 September, v Geelong, VFL Park

(For Geelong fans still licking their wounds from Saturday night…sorry, folks, I can’t help the timing of this piece…)

A roar goes up as umpire John Sutcliffe signals a free kick in the Richmond forward line.

In the tense early moments of a big semi-final, it’s pretty typical of the men in white to assert their authority, but this is within scoring range and it’s against Gary Malarkey, Geelong’s defensive rock. His battle against Michael Roach will be pivotal in determining the first team into the Grand Final. Such is his strength, Malarkey’s trademark grappling with his opponent is usually highly effective, if barely within the rules. For an umpire to ping him so early in a game bodes well for the Richmond forwards.

It’s a big call and I instinctively react to it. “Suck this, Malarkey”, I yell in a flurry of adrenalin-fuelled excitement, complete with requisite hand gesture. Not one of my finest barracking moments.

Even as Roach is lining up the shot, I’m copping the equivalent of Sutcliffe’s early call on Malarkey. From three seats down the row, the father of a Geelong-supporting family jumps up and is laying into me about my language. He’s threatening to call the cops, but looks as though he’d prefer to administer some justice of his own. From his comments, I gather he’s sat through last week’s game as a neutral and endured plenty of fruity remarks from me and my mates. Now that his own team is playing, the gloves are off!

In the space of these few seconds, I’m reduced from arrogant loudmouth to quivering mute. I’ve come from a season in the potty-mouth heaven that is the Richmond stronghold at the Punt Road end, into the family-friendly confines of the VFL’s showpiece stadium. With typically adolescent lack of awareness, I haven’t registered the change of environment until it’s too late.

I sink into my seat, desperately hoping that this altercation isn’t an omen. I endure the first quarter in sullen silence. Geelong quickly put the Malarkey decision behind them and gain the upper hand in a high quality opening. My disquiet about the trend of the match is only surpassed by my frustration of not being able to say anything about it.

For the second week running, Richmond has taken a patched-up side into a major final. Last week, adrenalin acted like a nuclear bomb and we had Carlton beaten by quarter time. Not so today. Up against a settled, rested team, the Tigers are going to have to win this one by hand-to-hand combat.

The game becomes grittier after the break. Goals are at a premium and neither sides’ playmakers are being allowed much freedom. It’s the perfect opportunity for some lesser lights to seize the moments and two of them are prominent for Richmond. Peter Welsh, a chunky wingman from Hawthorn, was playing interchange in the reserves a month ago. Now he’s tagging Geelong’s latter-day flyer, Michael Turner, and doing a number on him. When he runs Turner down after a dogged chase down the members’ wing, the game takes a distinct psychological shift.

The other is Ian Scrimshaw, an unheralded utility player, who’s getting plenty of the footy in the absence of more experienced ball-getters like Rowlings and Wood. By half-time, we’re a point down, but the feeling is we’re getting the upper hand in the arm-wrestle.

Although goals remain at a premium, the second half is all about the respective forward lines. Geelong is attacking the way my mum buys groceries – just enough to get us by. As a result, the longer the game goes, the more their forwards are (like mum) feeding off scraps.

Spindly forward -flanker types like Peter Johnston and Terry Bright scrounge goals here and there.  Midfielders like Peter Featherby push up to snare a couple more.  Even defenders like Bos and Nankervis pinch a couple.  But there’s no sense of an avalanche. Not even a really threatening target.

The Cats score a couple early in the third term but the longer it goes, the more threadbare that forward line’s looking. Tentative short passing on the huge ground isn’t helping.

Richmond, it has to be said, isn’t oozing forward potency either. David Cloke’s still injured. Malarkey again has Michael Roach’s measure, keeping him to just two for the day. Bruce Monteath is back in the side this week and although he gets enough of the ball, he’s not hitting the scoreboard regularly.

But then, as ever in this wonderful season, when things start to get tough, there’s KB. Always lurking, always poised to pounce. Our dear, frail, balding little firecracker.

Twenty-five goals are scored at Waverley on this grey afternoon. Richmond – 14, Geelong – 11, Bartlett – 8! When we’re struggling early, he chips in with an important one. When we start to assert ourselves during the middle of the game, Hungry’s the man on the end of the forward moves. Now, in the last quarter, with Geelong’s resistance almost shot, it’s Bartlett who lands the killer blows.

Today, it’s Mark Bos playing Wile E. Coyote to KB’s Roadrunner. He’s 10 years younger than his opponent but Bos just can’t keep track of him. Eventually, late in the game, Bos gets his man, scything Bartlett down in the goalsquare. Unfortunately for Bos, and Geelong, Bartlett’s crumbed his eighth, match-winning goal just split seconds before the crunching tackle, and his face wears that indefatigable, cheeky grin, even as it hits the Waverley turf.

Along our row, no words are exchanged between me and the Geelong dad. I’m certainly not going to inflame an already tense atmosphere when I’ve got a series ticket and will be back in this spot next week and watch two teams fighting for the right to play Richmond in the Grand Final.

But as I walk up the steps towards the exit with “yellow and black” blaring through the PA, an exultant punch of the air releases a bit of pressure!

The Wrap
Richmond   3.2   7.3   10.6   14.11 (95)
Geelong         5.2   7.4    9.4      11.5 (71)

Goals
Rich: Bartlett 8, Roach 2, Bourke, Jess, Monteath, Scrimshaw
Geel: Bright 3, Johnston 2, Bos, Clarke, Featherby, Matthews, B. Nankervis, Newman

Major Stats
Another even performance from the Tigers, with plenty of contributors across the ground. Wiley (30 touches) and Weightman (25) were the standouts, along with Bartlett, of course, (16 kicks, 1 handball, 8 goals straight!). But it was the solid games from lesser lights like Welsh, Scrimshaw, Tempany, Strachan and Mount (in the side this week for the suspended Landy) that really made the difference.

For Geelong, on-ballers Murray Witcombe (25 possessions) and Tom Floyd (22) led the way, but although they won plenty of the ball, the Cats’ disposal was often wayward. Their short kicking game was reflected in their marking dominance (66-48), but Richmond’s handball superiority (100-64) suggests the way the modern game was evolving.
The ruck duel between Mark Lee and Rod Blake was evenly contested, Blake shading Lee 29-27 in the hitouts. The other pivotal battle between Malarkey and Roach became almost a sideshow, Malarkey restricting Roach to just 11 possessions and two goals, and having just eight touches himself.

Attendance
65,303 at VFL Park

In other games…
1st Semi Final: Collingwood 22.20 (152) def. Carlton 15.12 (102) at the MCG

At the MCG, the rematch of the previous year’s Grand Finallists attracted a crowd of over 94,000, and produced a result in complete contrast with the 1979 season decider.

A high scoring shoot-out went goal-for-goal to the half, whereupon, Collingwood cut loose with 12 goals to four after the interval, running out 50 point winners. Save for beating Carlton in a Grand Final, this could scarcely have been a more satisfying win for the Magpies, who quite clearly played their best footy of the year in eliminating their hated rival. As a result, a showdown with Geelong in the Preliminary Final now loomed for the Magpies – an intriguing battle between the top and bottom-placed teams in this year’s final five.

For Carlton, this finals campaign had been nothing short of a disaster. Two heavy losses against opponents they were favoured to beat caused shockwaves at Princes Park. Percy Jones’ short coaching career came to an abrupt end, with David Parkin switching from Hawthorn in 1981. As Blues’ fans would know only too well, the resulting improvement was immediate and profound.

Next week – Preliminary Final, Collingwood v Geelong

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. Sam.

    my response, via email, to this meanly timed story has been swift and ruthless.

    I hope you are terrified.

  2. KB was brilliant in this match; dodging, weaving, turning opponents inside out.

    I remember the Richmond supporter a few rows ahead of me yelling in the last quarter: “where are you now Geelong?; you just fell on top of the ladder” each time the Tigers goaled. Obviously thought Richmond should have finished on top.

  3. Coming home on the ‘Red Rattler’ (Epping Line) with my brother after beating Carlton was one of the highlights of my footy childhood. The song was sung to Preston constantly and with gusto. Great memory from a brilliant series Sam.

  4. Can hardly wait for the Geelong-Collingwood Prelim final report.

  5. yep, agree with Harmsy, prelim report should be a cracker.

    And then I think you should pull up stumps, Stainless. No point rehashing old war stories, there’s a good man.

    I was on a different red rattler to Lord Bogan two weeks later, and a hell of a lot earlier, I think we passed over Balaclava Road (on route to Elsternwick) as Bartlett slotted number 7.

  6. Hi MOC
    Didn’t they tell you that history is written by the winners?

    And Phantom – consider me suitably terrified. Ivan Maric in 20 years time, perhaps?

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