1966 and all that: First Semi-final – Essendon v Geelong




Spring time at the MCG


Saturday 3 September 2.30pm




The teams




B:     Gerlach, Brown, C. Payne
HB:     Epis, Davis, Pryor
C:     Egan, Fraser, Gosper
HF:     I. Payne, Noonan, Somerville
F:     Clarke, Fordham, Williams
Foll:      McKenzie, Shaw
Rover      Birt
Res. Mitchell, Forsyth

Coach: John Coleman



B:     Hosking, West, Ryan
HB:     Devine, Walker, Vinar
C:     Closter, Marshall, Polinelli
HF:     Newland, Sharrock, Eales
F:     Newman, Wade, Lord
Foll.   Rosenow, Farmer
Rover:     Goggin
Res.     Barr, Teasdale

Coach:   Peter Pianto


Weather forecast    Cool and mostly fine, max. 55F (12.7C)


September, Spring and the MCG is a recipe for football followers to savour. You know it is getting serious when the newspapers publish the age, height and weight of players in their Friday editions! Essendon named an unchanged line-up while Geelong brought ‘Polly’ Farmer back at the expense of Alan Barr.


The First Semi-final between Essendon and Geelong was played in front of a record crowd of over 93,000 fans.  It was also St. Kilda centreman Ian Stewart’s day as he was presented with the 1966 Brownlow Medal by VFL President Sir Kenneth Luke. For Stewart it was his second consecutive Brownlow Medal, an achievement that had not been repeated since Essendon’s Dick Reynolds won successive medals in 1937 and 1938.


Essendon bolted out of the blocks against the slow Cats and raced to a potentially match-winning lead of seven goals at half-time. A poor second quarter by Geelong, when they scored a solitary point, added to their woes. But the courageous Cats came back and got within a whisker of stealing the semi-final after Essendon had established a lead of over 50 points mid way through the third quarter. At the finish Essendon won by only 10 points, but their play was judged not up to their high standards of the previous finals series.


Skipper Ken Fraser played a mercurial game for the Dons capped off in the last quarter when he provided the inspirational 65 yard goal that helped get his team over the line in the face of Geelong’s fast finish. Fraser’s opponent Denis Marshall was well down on form and well beaten in the air by the Essendon captain. Marshall sustained a shoulder injury after falling awkwardly early in the first quarter and disappeared from the action. Eventually he came to life in the final term but lacked his usual coolness, wasting several opportunities which could have increased the pressure on the Dons.


It was mothballs for the Cats and for the Bombers preparation for the Preliminary Final.


Meanwhile, Collingwood and St. Kilda players rested before their Second Semi-final clash the following Saturday. Ian Stewart, ill during his Brownlow Medal winning week, had recovered while Daryl Baldock reported no problem with the knee he injured late in the season. For the Magpies, Wayne Richardson’s shoulder injury was on the mend and he looked likely to be available.




Essendon                   6.1 (37)          10.5 (65)        13.6 (84)        15.6 (96)

Geelong                      3.4 (22)          3.5 (23)          7.9 (51)          12.14 (86)




Essendon – Clarke 3, Shaw 3, Birt 2, Fordham 2, I. Payne 2, Somerville, Gosper, Fraser

Geelong – Lord 3, Newman 2, Ryan 2, Wade 2, Newland 2, Sharrock




Essendon – Fraser (best on ground), McKenzie, Clarke, Shaw, C. Payne, Egan, Birt

Geelong – Newman, Walker, Closter, Lord, Ryan, Sharrock, Hosking


Essendon captain Ken Fraser had 32 disposals while for Geelong defender Ron Hosking had 23. ‘Polly’ Farmer had only five handballs for the game which was equal to his lowest tally in the 1966 season.


Injuries:     Essendon – B. Davis (knee ligaments), I. Payne (ankle)

Reported:     Devine (Geelong) from striking D. Shaw (Essendon) during the third quarter.

Umpire: Crouch

Crowd: 93,765


Reserves: South Melbourne 12.9 (81) defeated St. Kilda 9.17 (71)


Inaccuracy in the second quarter cost the young Saints dearly, as they piled on the points instead of goals. Kevin Billing and Pat Murphy were among the best for St. Kilda.


Under 19s: South Melbourne 9.9 (63) defeated St. Kilda 7.15 (57)


Read The Age, Monday 5th September 1966, for coverage HERE.


The Ammo’s (VAFA)


Melbourne High School Old Boys 9.20 (74) defeated Coburg 8.8 (56) in the second semi-final of the VAFA ‘A’ section.


Country Footy


Around the country leagues, teams that won premierships that day were: Omeo (Omeo League), Hawkesdale (Port Fairy League), Fish Creek (Alberton League), Prestige (Ararat Association), Willaura (Mininera League), Newstead (Maryborough League), Rockbank (Bacchus Marsh League), Gordon (Ballarat District League)and Neerim South (Ellinbank and District League).





Galilee, trained by Bart Cummings, firmed strongly in the betting for the Caulfield Cup after winning the Patrobas Welter at Caulfield that day. Bookmakers were on the money as Galilee not only won the Caulfield Cup but followed that up by winning the 1966 Melbourne Cup.


Read more of Peter Clark’s weekly reviews of  St Kilda’s triumphant 1966 footy season HERE


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About Peter Clark

is a lifetime Geelong supporter. Hailing from the Riverina, he is now entrenched on the NSW South Coast. His passion for footy was ignited by attending Ovens and Murray League matches in the 1960's with his father. After years of watching, playing and coaching, now it is time for some serious writing about his favourite subjects… footy, especially country footy, and cricket.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    First final I ever attended, overwhelming for a country boy. Only thing I can remember from the game was David Shaw kicking a goal.

  2. It’s hotting up now.

    Looks like J. Devine became a little frustrated.

  3. Love it, peter. Thanks.

    I am curious about the two semi finals being played on consecutive weekends. When did this change?

  4. Peter Clark says

    Hi Col, likewise my first attendance at a VFL final was between those two teams (1968 prelim) and it was an awakening experience.

    G’day JTH, yes John Devine (from Colac) could throw his weight around, in frustration – as no doubt he felt that day. He was well known at Harrison House on a Monday night.That was his last game for Geelong.

    Thanks Smokie, glad you are enjoying 1966 and all that. The final four system was replaced in 1972 with the McIntyre final five system which featured an elimination and a qualifying final in the first week, followed by 1st and 2nd semi finals played on the second weekend of finals.

  5. Smokie – The Final 4 system was played over four weekends with one final per weekend. It changed in 1972 with the introduction of the Final 5. Two semi-finals were played in Week 2 under that system.

    Great account of the game, Peter

  6. Michael Seymour says

    “Cool and mostly fine, max. 55F (12.7C)” I comment on the weather as my family and I were spending the end of second term school holidays at Rosebud and we spent that afternoon on the beach listening to the game on Dad’s transistor radio. Maybe conditions were a little balmier on the Peninsula than at the G?

    Dad was a very keen Essendon man. He didn’t seem to mind the Cats though either. I recall him becoming a bit twitchy as the game tightened up in the last quarter but the Dons got over the line in the end. Mum was a keen Pie supporter, as was my sister, so the family had plenty of interest in how events unfolded on the Saturdays of September 1966.

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