1966 and all that: Grand Final – Collingwood v St. Kilda



The day the Saints came marching in


Saturday 24th September



Grand final day is a magical occasion on the annual sporting calendar of all football lovers. For the participants and supporters of the two teams involved, it is a day of anticipation and excitement, carrying the hope for jubilation and the celebration of success. But equally, so it is a day marked with the possibility for intense disappointment and the emotions of failure.


Would it be a cakewalk for Collingwood or would it be the day the St. Kilda football fraternity could finally sing their club song with full gusto?


Grand final week has its traditions of organised events and club rituals in conjunction with the big day. A high level of media focus built during the week with intense scrutiny of player fitness mixed with player profiles, omens, speculation and predictions from ‘experts’. The week commenced with speculation on television that St. Kilda’s Ian Synman may not be available to play because Grand Final day coincided with the Jewish Day of Atonement. Synman quickly responded, declaring his decision to play.


Injured Saints players John Bingley and Jim Read, who were replaced during the Preliminary Final, were considered likely starters. Centreman Ian Stewart was observed to be walking freely despite a knock to his left leg in the final. It was confirmed that Ross Oakley and Des Kennedy would miss the Grand Final due to the knee injuries they received in the second semi-final. There was some lingering concern in the media and among supporters over the fitness of Saints skipper Baldock after his knee injury late in the season. Over at Collingwood, half back flanker Laurie Hill and wingman Colin Tully declared their availability despite soreness.


Speculation on which Collingwood player, Barry Price or Max Pitt, would get the job on St. Kilda centreman Stewart was raised in the Melbourne press early in Grand Final week. Meanwhile, North Melbourne and South Melbourne played in the first semi-final of the ‘night football premiership’, with the Kangaroos winning a close contest by three points. Later in the week, Hawthorn defeated Melbourne by 28 points and won its way into the night premiership match against North Melbourne the following week. An interesting feature of the night series was the trialling of new rules, including the awarding of a free kick for kicking out of bounds on the full.


The Victorian football community eagerly anticipated news from the final training sessions on the Thursday night before the big game. The main questions were: did Baldock get through training? and would he be 100 per cent fit on Saturday? There were no adverse reports in the press on the Friday concerning ‘The Doc’s’ fitness, but later it emerged that he aggravated his knee injury during the final training run. It was revealed that coach Allan Jeans, aware of the situation, quickly halted the training session and brought his players together, which he hoped would conceal Baldock’s plight from onlookers. Fit or not, the Houdini-like inspirational ‘Doc was considered the key to the Saints chances of claiming their first flag.


Rover Ian Rowland anxiously listened as the team was announced after training. It was bad news, he had been left out! Kevin Billing came in as 20th man replacing Rowland in the selected side. Rowland had been an effective run-with player in the 1965 grand final, keeping Essendon’s Jack Clarke in check. But Jeans had another plan. The Saints coach was looking for a back up for John Bingley, the player selected to tag the damaging Des Tuddenham who had kicked seven goals in Collingwood’s semi-final win over the Saints. Kevin Billing was considered the man for the job if Bingley could not curtail the influence of Tuddenham.

Billing had only been named in St. Kilda’s team on five occasions prior to the grand final in 1966. Twice he remained on the bench all afternoon, and in three games he got a run for a total of 15 kicks, two marks and three handballs. Tasmanian John Bingley had played in only four games that season prior to the grand final, but his preliminary final performance must have satisfied coach Allan Jeans that he could do the job.



St Kilda
B: 1 Rodger Head 6 Robert Murray 13 Brian Sierakowski
HB: 16 Verdun Howell 9 Ian Synman 24 John Bingley
C: 36 Jeff Moran 5 Ian Stewart 21 Jim Read
HF: 15 Ian Cooper 4 Darrel Baldock (c) 27 Barry Breen
F: 8 Alan Morrow 18 Kevin Neale 19 Allan Davis
Foll: 2 Brian Mynott 25 Daryl Griffiths 3 Ross Smith
Reserve(s): 31 Travis Payze 22 Kevin Billing
Coach: Allan Jeans


St. Kilda’s 1966 Grand Final team contained nine players who years later would be named in the club’s team of the century. Darrel Baldock would be named captain and Allan Jeans coach of that team.



B: 35 Ian Montgomery 8 Peter Boyne 5 Terry Waters
HB: 13 Laurie Hill 15 Ted Potter 33 Lee Adamson
C: 17 Peter Patterson 9 Colin Tully 12 Errol Hutchesson
HF: 1 Des Tuddenham (c) 16 Doug Searl 21 Max Pitt
F: 3 Ray Gabelich 7 Ian Graham 36 Gary Wallis
Foll: 28 Len Thompson 29 Kevin Rose 18 Wayne Richardson
Reserve(s): 2 Trevor Steer 4 John Henderson
Coach: Bob Rose



Experienced umpire Jeff Crouch was announced as the central umpire to officiate in his third VFL grand final. He was well supported by the advice on the perimeter fence banner which read: “The Man in White is Always Right”.


A crowd of 102 055 fans attended the 1966 VFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Collingwood and St. Kilda in what was the play-off for the 70th VFL premiership. St. Kilda had only appeared in the grand final twice before, on both occasions without success. On the other hand, Collingwood were seasoned grand finalists, with 13 premierships in their trophy cabinet.


In the curtain-raiser Reserves grand final Richmond won a close contest against Collingwood after a goal to 18 year-old Tiger Royce Hart in the final seconds of the game. Was this a portent for the afternoon’s big game? Spectators awaiting the start of play might have read Sir Kenneth Luke’s wish in the Souvenir Football Record. “I look forward to a first-class game which will feature the spectacular skills and sporting qualities for which our code is renowned and hope that our patrons will feel that they have really been privileged to see the match of the season.” In fact, they were to experience one of the most closely contested and ultimately most historic premierships in the history of the game.


Play commenced in bright sunshine with a stiff breeze favouring St. Kilda who were kicking towards the Punt Road end of the MCG after skipper Darrel Baldock won the toss. Umpire Jeff Crouch executed a perfect bounce to get play under way which Collingwood ruckman Ray Gabelich won, but the ball fell straight into the hands of Ian Stewart who got the first kick of the match. The Saints were first on the board after three minutes of play when ‘Cowboy’ Neale executed a left foot snap after playing on from a mark near the goal square. All Australian and St. Kilda captain Darrel Baldock followed up with a long torpedo goal after a free kick two minutes later.


Collingwood’s first real chance for a goal, from a Des Tuddenham snap, was marked right on the goal line by Verdun Howell. Minutes later, the oldest player on the field, Ray Gabelich, marked and goaled from 50 yards out. Collingwood’s second goal, off the boot of Gary Wallis, was overshadowed by a collision between St. Kilda defender Brian Sierakowski and goal umpire Stevens which caused the official to fall and stagger comically before recovering to wave the flags for six points. With streamers littering the ground behind the city end goals and onrushing footballers, the goal umpire had serious workplace safety issues on his hands and around his ankles. At quarter time the Saints led 2.5 (17) to the Magpies 2.1 (13).


Continuing the pattern set in the opening term, the second quarter produced more end-to-end rough and tumble football with desperate defence in the teeth of goal at both ends. For Collingwood, Wayne Richardson found daylight between the posts with a miracle right foot snap for goal deep in the left forward pocket. In contrast, ruckman Len Thompson failed to convert from 10 yards out directly in front late in the quarter. At the city end ‘Cowboy’ Neale kicked accurately adding two goals for the Saints. Ted Potter flattened Neale with a high bump that threatened to boil over as St. Kilda player Cooper raced in to remonstrate with Potter, but cool heads prevailed and umpire Crouch intervened ensuring play quickly continued. Colin Tully was giving the Magpies plenty of drive from the centre with penetrating kicks into the forward line and his side should have been further in front at the main break. At half time Collingwood had a one point lead – 5.7 (37) to 5.6 (36).


The opposing captains led the way early in the third quarter with a trademark snap for goal by Tuddenham quickly followed by an accurate set shot from Baldock. High flying half forward Ian Cooper then marked and kicked truly from a long way out, but soon after ‘Cowboy’ Neale could not add his fourth goal when he missed from the edge of the goal square. Minutes later, he made up for the mistake with a goal off his left boot after gathering a loose ball in front of the Punt Road goal. Collingwood applied sustained pressure during the quarter but the Saints defence held up strongly. Baldock was switched to the back line in an attempt to shore up St. Kilda’s defence and young forward Alan Davis was moved to the wing. Ray Gabelich was having an influence for the Magpies, driving the ball forward at every opportunity. Late in the quarter, Wayne Richardson had two chances to narrow the margin, his first shot hit the post but the second sailed through for a goal and Collingwood then trailed by only four points. At three quarter time St. Kilda 8.9 (57) led Collingwood 7.11 (53).


“You’ve got 25 minutes to make a name for yourself like you never made before” were the last words spoken by Allan Jeans to his men at the three quarter time huddle. Would the final quarter of football for 1966 deliver the promise for the Saints? Could Collingwood, kicking with the breeze, come from behind to win as they had done in the second semi-final?


The final quarter was a tense struggle full of missed opportunities for both sides in the frenetic end-to-end play. Courage aplenty was on display as players desperately tried to gain possession and move the ball forward. After a shocking miss by Gabelich, Saints wingman Jeff Moran goaled first, giving his team a handy ten point lead. Moran’s crucial goal instantly renewed the belief of the tiring Saints.


Three minutes later, Magpie captain Des Tuddenham produced an inspirational goal from a long way out, quickly followed by a six pointer to full forward Ian Graham. But St. Kilda responded with a steadying goal from Kevin Neale. Not to be left behind, the Magpies replied with a goal to Max Pitt from an acute angle, and then a point from a wind-affected kick by Tuddenham locked scores at 10 goals 13 apiece. The stage was set for a heart-stopping conclusion as exhausted players from both sides continued to throw themselves into the contest.


Channel Seven commentators Mike Williamson, Alan ‘Butch’ Gale and Ted Whitten provided a classic description of the final quarter replete with characteristic one-liners, predictions, admonishment and counsel. Ted Whitten’s urgings in the final minutes to “Slow it down. Slow it down!” and “Hit the boundary line!” showed his view of play from a coach’s perspective as well as his leaning towards a St. Kilda victory.


In the end it was a tumbling kick by number 27, Barry Breen, that broke the deadlock and created football immortality for the young Saints half forward flanker. Ted Potter stood resolute throughout the final quarter, taking goal-saving marks and thrusting the Magpies forward time and time again. A hurried handball under pressure from Potter after a ball-up, was deflected into the hands of the young Breen who quickly put the ball onto his boot and watched it roll through for a behind. That point, arguably the most famous point in football history, was to become not only the match winning score but the kick that sealed St. Kilda’s first and only VFL/AFL premiership win. Bob Murray stopped Collingwood’s last forward thrust with a solid mark under intense pressure and seconds later the final siren blasted and blasted and blasted repeatedly to signal St. Kilda’s magnificent victory. Finally the Saints had come marching in!


Courage and a never-say-die attitude delivered the flag for St. Kilda. The Age reporter Percy Beames summed up St. Kilda’s win: “Big hearts, more than talent and ability, won the premiership for them.” Melbourne veteran Brian Dixon concurred: “St. Kilda, fierce, tireless and determined, exhausted itself to deservedly take out the 1966 VFL premiership.”


It was jubilation for the Saints and disappointment for the Magpies and their coach Bobby Rose. Collingwood had just experienced a second heart-breaking Grand Final loss in three seasons, following their 1964 loss to Melbourne by four points. History would record a third and possibly even greater disappointment in 1970 when Carlton staged an unlikely comeback to defeat the ‘Pies by 10 points.


Adding to Collingwood’s pain were the results of the two games played earlier in the day at the MCG. In the Reserves grand final Richmond defeated Collingwood with a goal kicked at the 28 minute mark of the last quarter by the young Royce Hart. In the Under 19’s Essendon defeated Collingwood by 47 points.


As was the custom at the time, the players exchanged jumpers, with captain Darrel Baldock accepting the premiership cup and leading his players on a victory lap wearing Des Tuddenham’s guernsey. After 1966 the league put an end to the tradition of captains swapping jumpers ensuring the victorious players were photographed celebrating victory wearing their true colours. Ian Synman was the only St. Kilda player not to swap his jumper with a Collingwood opponent. Synman could now celebrate the achievement of one of his football ambitions. By the end of his career in 1969 he had realised his other goal, to play 150 games.


Norm Smith medals, for the best player in the grand final, were not awarded until 1979. If they were awarding them retrospectively, St. Kilda’s Ian Cooper surely would have been the recipient.


In the end Ian Rowland’s replacement, Kevin Billing, was not required on the day and did not join in the victory lap. Instead he remained in his dressing gown near the player’s race. John Bingley’s selection was vindicated as potential match-winner Tuddenham was restricted to just three goals. Up in the stands, unlucky Saints Carl Ditterich, Ross Oakley, Ian Rowland, Des Kennedy and Ray Cross sat together and celebrated too.  Fortius Quo Fidelius indeed.


Allan Jeans paid tribute to his players after the game, saying ”Whatever you players do, or where ever you go, I’ll always remember what you have done for me today.” Little did Jeans know that he would be similarly rewarded many times during his long career as a coach by players from another VFL/AFL club known for their great bravery, determination and strong team culture.


But for St. Kilda folk the pinnacle has not been reached since and that wonderful moment has not been gifted again.





St. Kilda                      2.5       5.6       8.9       10.14 (74)

Collingwood               2.1       5.7       7.11       10.13 (73)



St. Kilda – Neale 5, Baldock 2, Griffiths, Cooper, Moran

Collingwood – Tuddenham 3, Gabelich 2, Richardson 2, Graham, Wallis, Pitt



St. Kilda – Cooper (best on ground), Sierakowski, Stewart, Griffiths, Breen, Smith, Neale, Murray

Collingwood – Waters, Montgomery, Patterson, Tuddenham, Richardson, Potter, Tully


Ian Stewart (28) and Ian Cooper (23) led the disposals count for the Saints, while Wayne Richardson (22) and Des Tuddenham (19) topped the tally for the Magpies.


Umpire: Crouch



Read The Age, Monday 26th September, for coverage HERE.





In the VFA grand final, Port Melbourne 13.12 (90) defeated Waverley 6.11 (47).


Country Footy


Many country leagues in Victoria and the Riverina also held their grand final that weekend. In the Riverina, the South West District League premiership was won by Narrandera [8.15 (63)] who defeated Griffith [6.9 (45)]. Other winners included: Mangoplah-Cookardinia United, Walla Walla, Lalbert, Irymple, Moama, Murrabit, Crib Point, Wunghnu, Forrest, Westerns, Lansfield, Cranbourne and Warracknabeal.


A week later, Albury, Kyneton, Portland, Merboo North, Garfield, Northern United, Warrnambool, Morwell and Golden Point joined the list of 1966 country footy premiership winners.




On Saturday 1st October in Adelaide, Sturt 16.16 (122) defeated Port Adelaide 8.8 (56) to win the SANFL premiership.


Over in the west, Perth 11.25 (91) defeated East Perth 10.15 (75) in the WANFL grand final.


Night Premiership


North Melbourne 20.12 (132) defeated Hawthorn 12.7 (79) in the Night Premiership played on Monday 26th September.


Meanwhile …

 On 22nd September Ansett ANA Flight 149 crashed near Winton in Queensland killing all 24 on board.

To end on a happy note, on the day after the Saints came marching in the Sierakowski family hosted a BBC television crew at their Mentone home. The crew were making a film for the launch of colour TV in Britain as part of a series called Inside Australia. An Australian Rules Football grand final and the 14 member Sierakowski family celebrating St. Kilda’s first premiership would feature in the film.



Next week:


1966 and all that … Epilogue



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


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  1. Saintsmania says

    Yes, we’ve done it! St Kilda are Premiers in 1966! Oh When The Saints Go Marching In! Carn The Mighty Saints! What a great three quarter time speech and after match comments from Allan Jeans. Barry Breen, you are definitely the hero for kicking the winning point, as is Bob Murray for his match saving mark after that point. Kevin Neale was tremendous in kicking 5 goals, as was was Ian Cooper’s best on ground performance. St Kilda supporters are also forever grateful for the magnificent performances that Daryl Baldock and Ian Stewart gave to the club, in that great match and their whole careers.

    Thank you Peter for bringing back wonderful memories for success starved St Kilda supporters. Your articles on St Kilda’s 1966 premiership year have brought joy and happiness to every St Kilda fan.

  2. Great work Peter. I think all footy fans (Collingwood excepted) have a soft spot for this remarkable game and you’ve brought it back to life wonderfully well. Likewise your account of the season has been a terrific series – I’ll be interested in what you conclude in your epilogue.
    Thanks again.

  3. These twenty Saints should be canonised!

  4. This has been an excellent series.
    Thanks Peter.

  5. Really enjoyed this series and looked forward to getting your next installment each week. Apart from your own summaries the decision to include some VFA and bush footy was well-received too, and the current affairs added to it all. As did the links to the Age. Much appreciated, Peter.

    I’m looking forward to the Epilogue.


  6. I am glad the series has brought back happy memories for Saints fans. I have indulged my love of country footy and the links between the VFL and the bush. Hopefully, that has also rekindled some great memories for readers.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the research. One more piece to go, next week, 1966 and all that: Epilogue


  7. Next project?

  8. Thanks Heaps Peter.

    This has been a marvelous series looking at the amazing year St Kilda first won the VFL flag. What has really added to your work is that you’ve had the skill and knowledge to also include details and information of other footballing leagues into this rich tapestry. You’ve also added information re other topical events of 1966 in your marvelous social history. It gives a great template for any other writers wishing to do a series about a season/year.

    Try as i might i find it hard to get my memories of 1966 in any sort of order. For many years i thought my parents took me to Sydney/Canberra in January 1966. I still have memories of being in those locations, but it may actually been January 1967. If that’s the case i must have next to no memory of the year; i certainly don’t remember the footy !

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this well researched, splendidly compiled work. If, as one hopes, Maryanne & i can head up to the South Coast in the future, it would be good to catch up for a chin wag about the Riverina, the Catters, etc.

    Stay safe

  9. G’day Glen!
    I am so pleased you enjoyed the series and I appreciate your kind words. The series evolved into a weekly highlight for me as well.
    Would love to catch up with you – we have much to reminisce about.


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