1966 and all that: Prologue

Peter Clark is going to give us a round by round account of St Kilda’s famous season. He sets the season up by placing it in its historical context in this prologue. Peter and the Almanac invite contributors, especially Saints fans, to send us their own 1966 stories.

Prologue – 1966 …When the Saints came marching in



You’ve got 25 minutes to make a name for yourself like you never made before implored St. Kilda coach Allan Jeans to his players at three-quarter time in the 1966 VFL Grand Final. With the day’s final inspirational address complete Jeans left his charges, just four points in front, to complete the task. Showing big-hearted courage, better teamwork, sheer determination and willpower St. Kilda prevailed over Collingwood by the narrowest of margins. They not only made a name for themselves but had secured the club’s first and only Premiership.


The St. Kilda Football Club was established in 1873 and joined the Victorian Football League as one of the foundation clubs in 1897. After 147 years of football the Saints have just one premiership cup in their trophy cabinet. Prior to 1966 the Saints had only played in two Grand Finals, 1913 and 1965. In 1913 they lost to Fitzroy by 13 points and in 1965 Essendon were victorious over the Saints by 35 points. It is 54 years since that glorious season of 1966 which concluded on the last Saturday in September with St. Kilda defeating Collingwood in the VFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. And what a memorable victory it was, by a solitary point kicked by Barry Breen, breaking the deadlock in the final minutes of the game. How did that triumphant season unfold for the Saints and how do we remember it fifty four years on?


1966 for St. Kilda is the story of sweet success. It is also the story of redemption from the painful Grand Final loss in 1965 against Essendon. On an individual player level, 1966 brought a second consecutive Brownlow Medal to a champion centreman but for another star Saint, a fiery blonde-haired ruckman, it brought intense disappointment. Lesser known is the bad luck that fell upon one of St. Kilda’s rovers who played almost the entire season, only to miss out on Grand Final selection. Another player to miss his club’s day with destiny, in his case due to a late-season injury, was a man who went on to become the boss of the AFL. It was also the year the VFL conducted ceremonial events to signal the start of construction of VFL Park at Waverley. League President Sir Kenneth Luke turned the first sod of soil at VFL Park while Victorian Governor, Sir Dallas Brookes bounced a football at the ground’s centre. In the rulebook, the flick pass was outlawed and an initiative designed to reduce congestion in the form of a centre rectangle measuring 45m x 27m, with only eight players permitted inside at centre bounces, was trialled.


The 1965 Grand Final was a lost opportunity for the Saints. Leading by two goals in the second quarter they suddenly went into their shells which played into the hands of their Essendon opponents who went on to win easily in a one-sided second half. History shows that such a loss can either make or break a football team. Many teams don’t get a second chance and an opportunity for redemption, either through demoralisation, bad luck with injuries or another team’s good fortune. But some teams do, and go on to achieve their shared dream of a premiership, although the ‘one that got away’ may still haunt them for the rest of their lives.


St. Kilda’s move to play home games at Moorabbin, a ground similar in size to the MCG, may well have been one of the keys to their rise up the ladder in the mid sixties. The Saints won every game they played at Moorabbin in 1966 as they developed a style of play well suited to the MCG, the venue for all finals matches. The Age football writer, Percy Beames, noted two other telling factors in the Saints’ success. The recruitment of Tasmanians Darrel Baldock and Ian Stewart added a “touch of class” and the surprising decision to appoint the unproven Allan Jeans as coach in 1961 eventually proved fruitful. Jeans won the club over with his sincerity, dedication, application and a shrewd football brain. His coaching tenets were bravery, courage and teamwork. They were to be amply demonstrated by his gallant men on Grand Final day in 1966.


St. Kilda’s playing list for 1966 included seven new players: J. Austin (Cheltenham), G. Croft (Warragul), A. Davis (East Sandringham), A. McMullen (Orbost), T. Payze (Frankston), J. O’Donnell (Xavier College) and P. Weekes (St. Bedes, Mentone).



 Meanwhile …



1966, the Year of the Horse in the Chinese calendar, was a year dominated by headlines from Vietnam, with the intensification of bombing over the north by the American’s and a big step-up in Australia’s deployment of troops. Out in the Pacific, the tranquility was being disturbed by French nuclear testing. It was also a year of unmanned lunar landings by the Russian Luna 9 and the American Surveyor 1 spacecraft. Australians were starting to become familiar with their new decimal currency, introduced with a memorable jingle on the 14th February 1966. In the world of sport it was the year of the Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. Meanwhile the Poms celebrated a win over Germany in the 1966 World Cup, the last time they have been to the summit of the global game. LBJ was running the show in Washington while his close ally down-under, Harold Holt, had just succeeded Bob Menzies in the top job in Canberra. Menzies, number one ticket holder at Carlton, could now spend more time at Princes Park watching his beloved Blues.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE



  1. Really looking forward to reading this series, Peter. Thanks.

  2. John Butler says

    Peter, I’m in complete agreement with Smokie. :)

  3. Jim Johnson says

    Thanks Peter.
    This period of time of course is when my favourite player, the great and courageous Peter Mckenna, with his deadly drop punt, began his amazing goal kicking carrier and his outstanding promotion of the drop punt in our Australian Rules Football Game. His promotion of the drop punt was fabulous and he has not been given enough credit for it.

    Stab Punt Jim

  4. Stainless says

    Likewise, Peter, looking forward to this one. 1966 was a bit early for me (I was two at the time) but St Kilda’s success aside, it’s a pretty interesting season for a number of teams, not least my Tigers. First year under Tom Hafey, just missing the finals, a year before their drought-breaking 1967 Flag. Lots to like.

  5. i’m intrigued by your subject matter Peter. My Masters thesis covers a period of Victorian social/political history from 1967 to 1972. Your work forms a prologue to this.

    Some other similarities.

    You’re a Geelong supporter: i was. You’re from the Riverina: my maternal side is from there, primarily Corowa. You’re entrenched on the south coast of NSW: the cheese’n’kisses and i are enchanted by the south coast of NSW.

    Bring it on.


  6. Peter Clark says

    I look forward to posting a report of every round of the ’66 season starting on Wednesday 8th April.

  7. Peter, re social/historical aspects of life in Victoria following straight on after 1966, my Masters thesis is:



Leave a Comment