1966 and all that: Preliminary Final – St. Kilda v Essendon




Saints brush off Bombers

Saturday 17th September



Preliminary finals can be nerve jangling affairs for the supporters of clubs involved. The ultimate prize, still a week away, lies just beyond reach. If your team loses, questions of what if linger until summer’s end … at least.


The big question for Saints supporters was: could St. Kilda overcome its nemesis?



The teams


St. Kilda



B. Head, Murray, Sierakowski

HB. Howell, Synman, Bingley

C. Moran, Stewart, Read

HF. Breen, Baldock, Cooper

F. Morrow, Neale, Davis

Foll. Mynott, Griffiths

Rov. Smith

19th man. Payze

20th man. Rowland






B. Gerlach, Brown, Forsyth

HB. C. Payne, Pryor, Davis

C. Epis, Fraser, Egan

HF. Gosper, Noonan, Sommerville

F. Clarke, Fordham, Williams

Foll. McKenzie, Shaw

Rov. Birt

19th man. Mitchell

20th man. Johnston



Essendon captain Ken Fraser was selected to play in the centre against Ian Stewart in a move that had the football world buzzing with anticipation. It was a match up worth the admission price alone – champion centre half forward lining up against champion centreman.


Saints supporters were spared the agony of a fall at the penultimate hurdle.


The preliminary final proved to be a boilover, as St. Kilda ran out winners by seven goals against the uncharacteristically listless Essendon.


The wet and greasy ground conditions proved to be no problem for the Saints, as they had shown under similar conditions at Moorabbin during the season. Stewart revelled in the mud, while his opponent Fraser floundered. The Dons were slow to start and in the early stages of the match did not have the same appetite for the conditions or the contest. Freelance journalist, Rohan Rivett, writing in the Canberra Times described the previously all-conquering streamlined Bombers as “sputtering unwilling biplanes.” He highlighted how well the wet conditions suited St. Kilda’s ‘Tasmanian mudlarks’ – Stewart, Baldock, Howell and Bingley.


Essendon’s half forward line crumbled under intense pressure and St. Kilda defenders were able to consistently rebound the ball without conceding easy goals. In the goal less third quarter the Saints held the downwind Dons to five points which ruled out a second half comeback. Full forward Ted Fordham, with one goal, was well down on his season average of four. A statistic that reflected Essendon’s lack of the Sherrin was that no player tallied more than 18 disposals.


Best players for St. Kilda were the predictable power houses, Ian Stewart (best on ground), Griffiths, Morrow, Baldock and Ross Smith celebrating his 100th VFL game. Leading the disposals for St. Kilda were Stewart with 29 and Griffiths 28. Griffiths responded strongly after having seven goals kicked against him in the second semi final a week earlier. ‘Cowboy’ Neale led the goal kickers with four, well supported by the young Alan Davis with three, while reliable big man Alan Morrow also kicked three goals.


Coach Allan Jeans attributed his side’s win to three factors: “They were first to the ball, they tackled fiercely and they showed sound teamwork.” After the game the shrewd Jeans quickly took his players aside to restrain their jubilation and to remind them that their goal for the season still had not been achieved. Asked by reporters whether he was smiling after his team’s performance, Jeans replied “I’m smiling on the inside.”


John Bingley, playing on a half back flank, did enough to convince St.Kilda selectors that they had another option for shutting down Des Tuddenham next week. Ian ‘Doggie’ Rowland, wearing his number 26 jumper for the 109th time came on in the last quarter to replace the injured Jim Read. With his form tapering off and suddenly no longer an automatic selection, Rowland was in for a nervous week.





St. Kilda                     4.1 (25)          10.2 (62)       10.2 (62)       15.4 (94)

Essendon                  2.4 (16)          3.4 (22)          3.9 (27)          7.10 (52)




St. Kilda – Neale 4, Davis 3, Morrow 3, Bingley, Cooper, Read, Griffiths, Payze

Essendon – Mitchell 2, Gosper, Williams, Fordham, Noonan, Pryor



St. Kilda – Stewart (best on ground), Griffiths, Morrow, Smith, Baldock, Cooper, Mynott, Synman

Essendon – McKenzie, Gerlach, Brown, Gosper, Pryor, Shaw, Birt



St. Kilda – Read (thigh), Bingley (bruised thigh)


Umpire: Crouch


Crowd: 95 453





Two players reached their 100th VFL games in the Preliminary Final: St. Kilda rover Ross Smith and Essendon half back flanker Barry Davis.


Reserves: Collingwood 8.9 (57) defeated South Melbourne 8.7 (55)


Under 19’s: Collingwood 10.7 (67) defeated South Melbourne 8.15 (63)


Those two victories complemented the Collingwood senior team’s second semi final win the previous Saturday and meant that the Magpies had qualified for the grand final in all three grades.



Country Footy


That Saturday in 1966 Inverloch, Bonnie Doon, Marrar, Deniliquin, Springbank, Alvie, Bruthen, Charlton, Cohuna, Murchison, Lexton, Hazelwood, Katandra, Seymour, Upwey, Dennington and Cressy won premierships.


Interstate football Nail-biters in Perth, Adelaide and Hobart


WANFL: second semi final – Perth 13.21 (99) defeated East Perth 13.16 (94)


SANFL: second semi final – Port Adelaide 13.10 (88) defeated Sturt 13.9 (87)


TFL: grand final – Hobart 10.14 (74) defeated Glenorchy 11.7 (73)



Meanwhile …


The following day in Sydney another ‘saintly’ team were chasing a premiership, but for the famous St. George (Dragons) it was to be their eleventh consecutive NSW Rugby League title. That astonishing record of sustained success will almost certainly never be beaten. St. George’s 23-4 premiership win over Balmain was certainly a good omen for the Saints in Melbourne.


However, the St. George Australian Rules team could not join the premiership party that weekend. They were defeated in the 1966 Sydney ANFL grand final, played at Trumper Park, by Western Suburbs.


Out in space, American astronaut Richard Gordon straddled the Gemini II spacecraft during his 44 minute space walk. Gordon’s command pilot Charles Conrad encouraged his partner by calling: “ride him, cowboy.”


St. Kilda fans may have had similar words of encouragement for their ‘Cowboy’ (Neale) in his forthcoming battle with Collingwood full back Peter Boyne.



Read The Age, Monday 19th September, for coverage HERE.


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. Wonderful work again Peter.
    Ran into your old mate Rob Manion when I was out at Parramatta last Saturday umpiring a women’s match.
    Parra going very well. So is Rob.

    I reckon this preliminary final was St Kilda’s second greatest win ever, the best to come the following week.

    Good to see Deni win their break-through premiership in the Murray league.
    Well worth the 2000 quid they paid Curly Ion to leave Footscray to coach them.
    Enabled him to buy a new Monaro 350 to drive to Wagga to coach Turvey Park a few years later.

    Can’t wait for next week!

  2. Ta Peter, Essendon had the wood on the Saints for a few years. From 1963 Essendon won five consecutive matches; i think it’s five. The 1965 Grand Final highlighted it, though St Kilda beat Essendon in the 1966 home & away clash.

    Peter/Dr Rocket, who did Deniliquin beat on their big day?

    Looking forward to next match Peter. What did George Harris say about beating Collingwood?


  3. Peter Clark says

    Thanks Glen!
    Deni defeated Allan Jeans’ first club Tocumwal to win the ‘66 big one.


  4. Hi Peter,

    Who was coaching Toc in 1966?

    I’m guessing Don Whitten….?

  5. Peter Clark says

    Yes Dr Rocket, it was Don Whitten who coached the Bloods in ’66.
    He coached Toc. from 1964-68, along the way winning the 1967 GF against Cobram.

    The Tocumwal FC web site has some very interesting historical info.

  6. Thanks Peter.

    I had a geek at the Toc website – its all about beating Bloody Finley!

    The father of the Hawkins brothers, Wynne, played for Tocumwal. He sought a clearance from Toc. when he moved to a farm near to Finley. It was denied and he never played again. He was aged in his mid-twenties

    Pretty sure Don Whitten stayed on in Toc and ran the pub near where you cross the bridge over the Murray…
    maybe Glen! can help?

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