1971 SANFL Mobil Cards – Part 10: Woodville

 

Woodville was still struggling to make an impact in the SANFL when 1971 came around, although its recent 1969 season had been its best. It lacked depth but the Woodpeckers’ stars were amongst the best in the state.

 

(11) Malcolm Blight (21, 5ft 11ins, 12 st 7lb)

 

 

Malcolm Blight had deep connections to his local area. His home in Davis Street Woodville was very close to Woodville Oval which helped Blight ‘obtain’ a shiny new footy as a youngster. Perhaps that ball was the one used at his regular weekend sessions at Beverley Oval, home of his junior side the Kilkenny Cats, with fellow locals John Cummins, Eddie Holland and Ray Huppatz.

 

His father Jack played for West Torrens seconds. Uncle Horrie Blight racked up eighty senior games for the Eagles before coaching Woodville in the Amateur League prior to its introduction to SANFL seconds ranks. Cousin George Blight achieved every player’s dream when the 22 year old West Torrens half back appeared in the 1964 Coca-Cola SANFL bottle top series.

 

Blight and Craig McKellar formed an especially dominant on ball combination for Findon High.

 

He was first selected for the Peckers senior side late in the 1968 season after dominating in the Thirds and the Seconds, playing six senior games under captain-coach Noel Teasdale.

 

He drifted through 1969, getting a regular game as a full forward (nineteen in fact), but seeming to lack the intensity necessary at League level. Woodville’s eight wins gave the appearance of a team on the improve.

 

Blight was chosen in the 1970 State Squad, the selectors having a keen eye for talent, if not application. Clubmates McKellar, Huppatz and Holland all gained State selection, but not Blight. Late in the season, Teasdale dropped Blight to the seconds after Blight responded to the coach that his ambition was limited to ‘playing with my mates, going to work [at the Savings Bank’s Woodville North branch] and going out’. Blight initially enjoyed the opportunity for some beer money and a free afternoon but changed his mind after two weeks of dominating in the dew-kickers. He returned to the League side, never wanting to front up in the early game again. He finished the year with 26 goals from his 18 games, mainly as a ruck-rover resting in defence. Woodville finished ninth with six wins.

 

When the Mobil selectors came to pick Woodville’s roster for the 1971 cards, Blight’s pose bordered on sheepish with his characteristic hunched approach to kicking. Local footy watchers had already seen that Blight was a regular high leaper and thumping kick on either foot. According to the card caption, Blight was set to return to his early 1970 form.

 

 

Marks like this were a weekly occurrence for Malcolm Blight

 

 

Blight made his debut for South Australia in their third state game of the 1971 season, a solid win against WA. He was paired with Sturt’s Paul Bagshaw as ruck-rover but left the game early due to a head knock. On the club front, Woodville collected an unwanted wooden spoon (conceding almost 130 points per game didn’t help). Blight’s tally at season’s end stood at sixty-four club games.

 

In 1970, Barrie Robran won his second Magarey Medal. Russell Ebert won his first in 1971. Malcolm Blight’s 1972 season under new coach Barrie Barbary was fittingly statuesque. Although he was selected in the squad of 25 that went to Perth for the Carnival, Blight was left out of the side for the first game against WA. The home side gave the Croweaters an absolute hiding. Blight started on a half forward flank against Victoria, who had smashed Tasmania by 182 points in the first round of games. SA full back Bob Kingston broke his forearm in a clash with Peter Bedford’s head in the first quarter. Blight was then moved onto the rampant Vic full forward Peter McKenna.

 

Peter McFarline reported in The Age that ‘In one of football’s great puzzles full forward Peter McKenna finished the day with eight goals, yet was badly beaten by stand-in SA full back Mel (sic) Blight. Blight…continually outmarked McKenna. Only the fact that McKenna had so many opportunities enabled him to kick eight goals.’ Blight’s stats from that day were 24 kicks and 13 marks.

 

The Croweaters gained some consolation when they dealt out a 90 point thrashing to Tasmania to finish the Carnival in third place. Curiously, Blight’s direct opponent Bob Whitehouse kicked five of Tassie’s nine goals, but Blight’s selection as the All-Australian full-back was considered a formality after his job on McKenna.

 

 

The 1972 Magarey Medal

 

 

In his on-ball role at Woodville, Blight finished with 45 goals from his 21 games and won the Magarey Medal in a canter as red-hot favourite. His tally was 21 votes (6 x first, 1 x second, 1 x third), ahead of Sonny Morey on 16. Equal third on 15 were Bill Bennett, Barry Stringer, Russell Ebert and Fred Bills. He also took out his first Best and Fairest for the Green and Golds, who finished on seven wins in eighth place.

 

 

Blight’s new-found fame made him a popular member of the Savings Bank of South Australia and many local kids were given the opportunity of an autograph or two when he was sent on a visit around Adelaide’s primary schools.

 

 

 

 

 

Interest from VFL clubs was intense. He signed a ‘Form Four’ with the lowly North Melbourne, largely on the knowledge that the Kangas had signed Ron Barassi as their new coach, but Blight remained at Woodville in 1973. He played twice for SA, but both were from the reserves bench. An imagined matchup between Blight and Jesaulenko in the four point loss to Victoria in Adelaide would have been a sight for the ages. His nineteen games (and nineteen goals) for Woodville brought up his hundredth SANFL appearance. Six Magarey Medal votes in a side that came eighth with four wins and a draw also pointed to a downbeat followup to Blight’s 1972.

 

 

Perhaps his mind was elsewhere. The newly married Blight was looking for a change of scenery, even speaking to clubs in Western Australia. North finally got their man, after some comical negotiations with Woodville who eventually released him for $30,000. The Peckers had now lost McKellar, Huppatz and Blight (on a three-year contract) to Victorian clubs, a state-standard first ruck combination.

 

 

Footy in 1974 for Blight under the master coach RDB and his new assistant Ray ‘Slug’ Jordon was not made easy by their disdain for South Australians, but he had a serviceable start to his first VFL season. He had a mid-year patch of ten goals in three games before glandular fever took hold. His season was ended by Round 20 after 15 appearances for 17 goals. Blight’s eight Brownlow Medal votes was second highest for the Roos, behind clubmate and overall winner Keith Greig (27 votes). The Kangas made their second ever Grand Final but Richmond led them from start to finish.

 

Blight flitted between the centre half forward and centre half back slots in 1975. He was selected in the Victorian side against South Australia as was McKellar. Huppatz was initially selected for the Big V too but missed through injury. The top five was tightly bunched, North finished third with a 14-8 record and they swept past the higher placed but out of form Carlton in the Qualifying Final. A loss to Hawthorn in the Second Semi set up a rematch with Richmond in the Prelim. The Roos jumped out to a strong early lead which it retained throughout to grab another dip at its first flag. Blight, who hadn’t troubled the finals best players or goal scorers, was selected in a forward pocket to run interference for Doug Wade in the big one. In his second VFL season, Blight tasted the ultimate team success when North thrashed Hawthorn to further the Barassi legend. Blight was far from dominant in his eighteen games (14 goals, one Brownlow vote).

 

In 1976 he was used mainly at centre half forward. North was having a middling season when in Round 10 his after the siren torpedo to win the game against Carlton at Princes Park franked Blight as one of the out-and-out stars of the competition. It was his fourth goal of the final quarter. This performance led to Blight being used as a potent attacking option for the rest of his career. Hawthorn used the impetus of Peter Crimmins’ fight with cancer to inspire it to the 1976 flag over North. Blight had 35 goals from his 23 matches and was in the Roos’ best players in the last three finals.

 

North signed Blight on a new five-year deal during the off season, although he had considered returning to Woodville. The Kangas secured third place in 1977 but looked anything but contenders when Hawthorn had its measure once again in the Qualifying Final. They trounced Richmond the following week, then walloped Hawthorn in the Prelim. Blight had an unremarkable finals series to that point and this continued in the drawn Grand Final against Collingwood. He was benched at three quarter time after hardly touching it from a forward pocket, watching his side claw its way to the lead before Twiggy Dunne’s famous flat punt tied the scores. The North selectors outvoted the coach and Blight kept his spot for the replay.

 

As recounted by Blight in Tim Watson and James Weston’s book ‘Malcolm Blight’, as he ran onto the field ‘Barassi grabbed me by the arm and said, “If I was a praying man, I’d pray for you today”.’ Blight’s blood ran cold.

 

 

Was Blight still thinking about Barassi’s words as the strode on to the MCG in the 1977 Grand Final replay?

 

 

North Melbourne’s second premiership was decided by 27 points. Blight kicked two goals from his 27 kicks on a flank and most had him high in his side’s best.

 

Having finally gained Barassi’s respect, Blight went on to have his greatest season ever in 1978. Playing in attack with regular bursts on the ball, he was easily the Kangas’ most prolific scorer with 77 goals. He was the white-hot Brownlow favourite and he narrowly saluted with 22 votes ahead of Peter Knights (21) and Garry Wilson (20). He was the first player to win the Magarey and Brownlow (but not the last).

 

North qualified for its fifth Grand Final in a row but couldn’t beat Hawthorn. Blight injured his groin early in the decider and was rendered ineffective when the pain killing injection numbed his right side completely. (Ray Huppatz was high in North’s best that day, in his first season at North). Blight also took out his only North Best and Fairest and played his hundredth Kangaroos game. Having finally made the step up from mercurial to consistent, he was unable to add a third flag to his huge personal accomplishments that season.

 

Moving back to a permanent forward role, Blight had 35 goals from his first six outings in 1979. He was appointed Victorian captain in a match against South Australia at West Lakes in May, replacing Alex Jesaulenko who withdrew from the side. He cruised through the match on a half forward flank while watching his adopted state give the locals a lesson in professionalism and fitness. Russell Ebert and (briefly) Graham Cornes were Roo teammates in 1979. It was the first season that Blight hadn’t played off in a Grand Final (or two). He was best player in both games as North failed in the Second Semi against Carlton and the Preliminary Final against the Magpies and was again North’s top goalkicker with sixty goals.

 

The gloss was rubbing off the Barassi Years by 1980. The club was still in finals contention but without the double chance the season fizzled in the first week of finals at the hands of Collingwood and Barassi left to make a sentimental but unsuccessful return to the Demons in 1981.

 

Nobody but North Melbourne and St Kilda thought that the days of the playing coach were over in 1981. Malcolm Blight joined Jesaulenko as the last two VFL playing coaches (the latter retired from playing after Round 8 leaving Blight as the last man standing). North won six of its first ten games, but six losses in a row found Blight shunted from the coaching position. Barry Cable was swiftly installed in his place, barely a week after Blight had been Victorian skipper in a twenty goal pasting of Queensland at the Gabba. Blight, now only responsible for his performance as a player, responded gloriously against lowly Footscray with a club record 11.6 from nineteen kicks and twelve marks. His six last quarter majors hauled the Kangaroos over the line by nine points. He drove straight home, avoiding the waiting media and not even stopping for shower. He followed up with eight goals in an Arden St win over St Kilda before running out of juice after one more week. His fifteen outings yielded a club-leading seventy goals.

 

Blight had suggested to North’s management that he would only return in 1982 if Stephen Icke, Brian Wilson and Gary Dempsey were shown the door and he was granted two of those three wishes. Sensibly North used the now 32-year-old Blight as a full forward. Blight delivered by winning the Coleman Medal with 94 minor round goals for the fifth placed Roos. North nudged out Essendon in the Elimination Final, but continued its dismal finals record against Hawthorn. Blight added a further nine goals in the finals to notch his first 100-goal season. After 178 games and 444 goals for North in nine seasons, plus seven for Victoria, the Brownlow and Coleman Medallist had completed his VFL career on his terms. In each of his nine seasons, Blight was on the wrong side of the free kick count, receiving 308 frees while conceding 558.

 

The easiest thing in the world would be to not do what Blight did next – come back to Woodville. When club identity Bill Sanders raised the idea of Blight coaching at Oval Avenue in 1983, he didn’t have to be asked twice. The club ditched the Woodpecker branding replacing it with The Warriors and turfed the vertical stripes for a gold jumper, green yolk with a superhero like symbol. The Messiah had returned, once the tricky business of paying out coach Rob Olsson’s remaining contract and negotiating Blight’s financial exit with the Roos.

 

 

Once Was A Warrior

 

 

On paper, it looked like the new improved Woodville was no more than the old Peckers in a different jumper. Captain-coach Blight was Best and Fairest and Top Goalkicker with 54, despite missing five games. Woodville snared its fourth consecutive wooden spoon. A win against Port Adelaide was the best of its four wins in 1983.

 

Four more wins was also 1984’s cellar-dwelling tally, but a pre-season clear out and some canny recruiting delivered the likes of Kevin Harris, a feisty rover who gave the Warriors a player in the mould of Ray Huppatz. Blight’s 44 goals from 18 outings was second to Bob Beecroft’s 74 majors.

 

The now 35-year old camped himself at full-forward in 1985 and did so well personally, that he captained his state in Perth and bagged six goals in a whopping win over the Sandgropers and gained his second All-Australian blazer (this time at the other end of the ground). He added the Ken Farmer Medal to his haul of honours with 126 goals. Against another four-win last-placed season, Woodville had the second most points for in the competition and only twice failed to score a hundred points or more. Blight’s attack-first style of coaching was evident.

 

Blight amassed 163 games for Woodville, scoring 359 goals across nine seasons.

 

No longer the player, coach Blight took Woodville to its best ever season in 1986. They were 3-7 before going an amazing 10-2 to finish in fourth spot on percentage. Gun Tasmanian recruits Stephen Nicholls (103 goals) and Michael Templeton aided by superb on-field support from skipper Max Parker saw the groundwork laid in 1983 finally bear fruit. Woodville reversed the result of their 1979 Elimination Final appearance against Norwood, going right away with the business in the last to win by forty-three points. The Warriors came from a six-goal quarter time deficit against Port Adelaide to win the First Semi Final in front of 39,066 at Football Park. It took eventual premiers Glenelg to stop the Warriors in the Preliminary Final.

 

Woodville appeared destined for even greater things in 1987 before dropping the last five minor-round games to finish fifth (12-10). This period coincided with an increase in Blight’s professional commitments (coaches had day jobs back then) at the expense of his coaching duties. Trailing by over ten goals at three quarter time in the Elimination Final against Glenelg, a frustrated Blight announced to the side that his time at Woodville was ending after the match. The Warriors did not make up the margin.

 

Blight was replaced as Woodville coach in 1988 by Russell Ebert, who had mixed results from five years as Port Adelaide’s man in charge. Woodville merged with West Torrens from the 1991 season.

 

Channel Seven recruited Blight for its VFL commentary team in 1988, where his analytical and sometimes wacky thoughts brought a fresh perspective to the world of Lou Richards, Bob Davis and co.

 

Inevitably, Blight attracted the attention on clubs looking to try something new, fresh or just different and it was the perennially under-performing Geelong that provided Blight with his next challenge, a return to the VFL coaching ranks. Third-placed Geelong scored more heavily in 1989 than the other thirteen clubs, but ladder-leaders Hawthorn (always Hawthorn) had a more effective defence. A Grand Final for Geelong in Blight’s first year had everything (think Brereton/Yates, Dipper’s punctured lung, Platten’s concussion and Gary Ablett’s nine breathtaking goals). Hawthorn’s six goal lead at each of the breaks was whittled down to six points when the final siren was blown on a most brutal spectacle.

 

The Cats dropped to tenth in 1990, recovering in 1991 to finish third. A thumping attacking season in 1992 gave them the minor premiership, Blight’s first season as a full-time coach. Come finals time, they accounted for Footscray twice, but lost twice to West Coast, including the Eagles’ first now-AFL flag.

 

Heavily reliant in 1993 on the erratic genius of Ablett now at full-forward with 124 goals (streets ahead of Scott’s 27, Stoneham’s 25 and Brownless’ 20), Geelong had September off, despite rattling off five wins at the end of the season. Blight had spent much of the season stewing over the ’92 Grand Final, but as his outlook improved, so did the Cats’ late season form.

 

Gary Ayres joined Geelong as one of Blight’s assistants in 1994. Recovering again, the Cats made the Grand Final from fourth, thanks to the Billy Brownless’ ‘King of Geelong’ goal against Footscray, a win over Carlton when fielding a very depleted side and Gary Ablett’s match winner, the ‘Hand of God’ goal, again after the siren to oust North Melbourne in the Preliminary Final. Losing to a rampant West Coast in a game that was over by half-time was the third of Geelong’s final Saturday failings under Blight. His time at Kardinia Park was up.

 

 

Men dressed like this the last time the Crows were any good.

 

 

When Blight joined a dispirited Adelaide Crows a coach at the end of the 1996 season, he was again regarded as the ‘Messiah’, regardless of his Grand Final record with Geelong. Back-to-back Adelaide flags in 1997 and 1998 in extraordinary circumstances cemented Blight’s place in South Australian footy history. After finally conquering Everest twice, Blight had nothing more to propel him on and he confounded everyone by quitting the Crows late in 1999.

 

And really, that is where South Australia’s most storied football export should have left it. Instead, he allowed himself to be swayed by St Kilda’s massive financial inducement in 2001. This writer witnessed his final coaching appearance on a dismal Friday night at the Docklands against Adelaide, a palpable sadness looming over the Saints box a few rows behind me.

 

Three statues at Adelaide Oval were commissioned for the three greatest post-war South Australian footballers, Malcolm Blight, Russell Ebert and Barrie Robran. For all his vast achievements, Malcolm Blight is remembered for the vibrant and spectacular way his footy was played. Soaring marks, booming goals, making the impossible commonplace and sometimes, the simple difficult.

 

Blight is a Legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame (2017), a member of the SA Football Hall of Fame and is a Life Governor of the Woodville West Torrens Football Club.

 

 

Playing Career

Woodville 1968-1973, 1983-1985 163 games, 359 goals

North Melbourne 1974-1982 178 games, 444 goals (Two Premierships)

South Australia 7 games (Captain 1985)

Victoria 7 games (Captain 1979, 1981)

All Australian 1972, 1985

 

 

 

(21) Eddie Holland (22, 5ft 8ins , 12st 10lb)

 

 

Eddie Holland was a local lad with strong Woodville links. He made his League debut in Round 6, 1968 against West Adelaide. The 1967 senior coach Peter Obst was a cousin, as was original Pecker David ‘Nipper’ Christie.

 

A knee injury in 1967 wiped out Holland’s year in the juniors, but after showing good form in the Thirds and the Seconds, he joined Findon High schoolmates Ray Huppatz and John Cummins in the senior ranks during coach Noel Teasdale’s first season, 1968.

 

Holland had an instant impact as a confident straight-at-the-ball defender, regularly launching the ball into attack with his trademark booming ‘droppies’. He played fifteen straight games in Woodville’s four-win ninth-placed season, plus all three matches of the post-season series. Three Magarey Medal votes capped off a splendid first season.

 

His 1969 was marked by an early three-week suspension (after an incident against Centrals) and a season ending setback in Round 12 with his first knee injury (of many). Woodville had its best season to date, winning eight games and finishing seventh, not far behind Port Adelaide. Eight games, his first goal and four Magarey votes were Holland’s contributions.

 

 

Holland remains unflustered in this 1972 match against North Adelaide

 

 

Fully recovered in 1970, Holland returned to his barnstorming best. He experienced his career highlight when selected for South Australia against WA in Perth alongside fellow Peckers Ray Huppatz and Craig McKellar. Woodville slid backwards to ninth winning only one game in their last ten. Holland added another eighteen games to his tally.

 

With only three league seasons under his belt, Holland snagged a spot on the 1971 Mobil Cards roster, adopting a rugged defender’s no-nonsense approach to handball, scoring bonus points for his fierce facial expression.

 

 

 

 

Opening the 1971 season in the Seconds, Holland was soon back in the senior side. Successive losses by margins of 135, 127, 57, 150 and 53 points were arrested by wins against Centrals (of course) and West Adelaide. A mid-season knee injury meant that his last League appearance was in Round 13 and he was unable to regain form in the Seconds when he resumed. His eleven outings in the seniors were part of a lamentable season for the Peckers, which finished bottom. Coach Teasdale’s time at Oval Avenue was over after four ordinary years, the final one ending with a risible percentage of 37.1%.

 

Holland’s knee problems meant that he did not play under new coach Barrie Barbary until Round 8 of 1972. The Peckers won their first three games, but only four thereafter. Holland was in reasonable form by season’s end and his club finished clearly higher than both South and West Adelaide. Holland was a member of the first Woodville side to claim any silverware, playing in the winning final of the ‘repechage’ competition, the Coca-Cola Cup, scoring a goal in the six-point win over neighbouring West Torrens. This gave Eagles fans yet another reason to lament the introduction of another club in Adelaide’s crowded north-west. Finishing unscathed after thirteen games was a bonus for Holland.

 

 

Eddie Holland leaves Barrie Robran in his wake

 

 

Eddie Holland was promoted to Vice-Captain in 1973 and spent more time on the park than in any other year, playing nineteen games and slotting eleven majors. He was used closer to the action in the centre for much of the time. Unfortunately, his side could only muster four victories to head a non-competitive trio of themselves, South and West at the wrong end of the ladder. Runner up to Ray Huppatz in the Best and Fairest was an indication of how good Holland could be when he was free of injury.

 

Barbary was replaced by Perth’s Greg Brehaut in 1974, who as Captain-Coach appointed John Girardi as his Vice Captain. An early recurrence of his troublesome knee had Holland taking the slow route via the Seconds before returning with three goals in a win over Westies. He was in and out of the side through injury from then on, finishing with eleven games and left poised on ninety-eight games at season’s end. A purple patch which yielded a win against Glenelg and a draw with Port Adelaide was the highlight of Brehaut’s sole year in SA.

 

John McInnes, the quietly spoken multiple Reserves Magarey Medallist from Norwood was appointed coach at Woodville in 1975. In Round 2 Holland shared his 100th game with Ralph Sewer, who would still be going around in 1990. Woodville smacked West Torrens, under their new coach Noel Teasdale, by 77 points, but it was one of only four wins. Holland played the first five and last seven of Woodville’s eighteen games, with more injury and a spell in the dew-kickers accounting for the middle two months.

 

Holland commenced 1976 with a personal best five goals in a 71 point thumping of South Adelaide. He missed Rounds 6-8 which included Woodville’s first win over Port Adelaide, in the legendary ‘Buff Tyrell’ match. Returning for three more weeks, another injury meant that the man who could ‘play like a German band’ (in the words of one cheer squad member’s mother) was finished in the green and gold stripes.

 

Playing Career

Woodville 1968-1976 118 games, 28 goals

South Australia 1 game

 

 

(31) Ray Huppatz (22, 5ft 6in, 11st 1lb)

 

 

 

After initially being overlooked for a place in Woodville’s Colts due to his lack of size, local boy Ray Huppatz roved his way to the Best and Fairest the following year while also making the SA High Schools side, representing Findon High. In 1966 he was talked into having a year with the Thirds (Under 19s), was quickly promoted to the Seconds and played his first senior game in Round 9 against West Adelaide. Although that was his only taste of League footy for the year, he won the Seconds Best and Fairest and was also Runner-Up in the Thirds, despite only playing four matches there.

 

After the first three Reserves games in 1967, Huppatz was elevated to Peter Obst’s League side and soon came to notice for his ferocious and fearless attack on the ball. His five goal effort in a one-point loss to Centrals in only his fourth League game was a pointer of things to come. His first full season at the top resulted in fifteen games, eighteen goals and three Magarey votes. His club however had little success, winning only once and drawing with eventual premiers Sturt.

 

Under new coach Teasdale in 1968, a couple of injuries meant that Huppatz had to return via the Seconds mid-season, but once he was back in the seniors, his last half of the season was very solid.

 

Huppatz emerged in 1969 by taking out his first club Best and Fairest in what was the seventh-placed Peckers best season to date. During his nineteen outings he racked up 39 goals, second only to Colin McVicar’s 57 majors. As well as his strong efforts when the ball was in dispute, his aerial exploits saw Huppatz regularly take high flying grabs which belied his 5’6 ½ frame. Although overlooked by the umpires in the Magarey voting, good judges such as Gordon Schwartz had marked Huppatz down as an imminent selection for South Australia.

 

 

Opening 1970 with five goals against Glenelg, Huppatz played with courage and gusto into the leadup to SA’s Adelaide Cup Day fixture against Victoria. He was duly selected to make his State debut, roving with North Adelaide’s Terry von Bertouch. SA lacked nothing in the small man department, as both players were ranked in the Croweaters’ best three. Woodville was travelling quite well until the wheels fell off after Round 10. Huppatz roved to teammate Craig McKellar in the Perth state game and was again one of the best players in a losing side, setting the example for courage. This came at the cost of a broken arm which finished off Huppatz’s season, missing the last six club games. This injury also cost the tenacious Huppatz any chance of winning a car as he was leading Channel 7’s Footballer of the Year at the time. It didn’t stop him from recording another Woodville B&F and he was a clear leader for his club with ten Magarey Medal votes.

 

Huppatz was duly awarded with a spot on the Mobil 1971 roster. Sporting seriously impressive mutton chops, you can almost hear him respond ‘if you say so’ to the cameraperson as he offers up an innocuous handball. The card’s reverse summarised Huppatz with ‘He has pace, a good football brain and the courage to rush in where angels would fear to tread’.

 

His 1971 was even more impressive. Woodville’s was less so, starting off with a string of 100+ point shellackings. Despite missing a few games, Huppatz was a walkup start for the MCG state game. Paired with Michael Nunan roving to Dean Farnham and Ian Verrier, Huppatz was SA’s best, taking on Victoria’s Leigh Matthews. The five goal loss was closer than the margin suggested, with the home side only shaking off the visitors in the last twenty minutes. Just two days later, SA took on a rested Tasmanian side in Hobart. Huppatz (five goals, after three against the Vics) and von Bertouch (four goals) repeated their best player performances from 1970, this time at the feet of Peter Darley and Wayne Phillis. In the win against WA in Adelaide a few weeks later, Huppatz was rated SA’s best narrowly ahead Russell Ebert, with a dynamic six goal haul. Despite playing for the bottom side, Huppatz (17 votes) was only four votes behind Ebert on Magarey Medal night and he polled almost half of Woodville’s votes. If that wasn’t enough, Huppatz completed a hat-trick of Peckers Best and Fairests and his 33 goals was also the club’s highest tally. Huppatz had 84 club games under his belt at season’s end and had gained a reputation as a player able to dominate at the highest level.

 

 

 

 

Barrie Barbary replaced Teasdale as coach in 1972 and he appointed Huppatz as skipper, with club stalwart Rodney Allen as his deputy. The Green and Golds looked good with three early wins, but won only once more before the Perth Carnival loomed. Huppatz was busy but not as dominant as compared to his 1971 State form during SA’s three mediocre performance, his compatriot Blight in All-Australian form. At club level, Woodville won seven games, but only one of its last eight. Huppatz, as skipper was able to bring back some silverware to Oval Avenue when the Peckers won the Coca-Cola Cup, played amongst the fifth to eighth placed teams during the finals. With seven Magarey Medal votes, Huppatz was eclipsed by the meteoric rise of Blight, who took out both the Medal and Woodville’s Club Champion award. Huppatz’s century of club games was achieved in 1972. Of the current players only Allen and Fred Hansch had played more. With forty goals, he was only outscored by Ralph Sewer (52 goals) and Blight (45).

 

Huppatz retained the captaincy in 1973 with Eddie Holland his new deputy. Woodville won only four games (and a draw) but remained in eighth spot. The Huppatz-von Bertouch roving pair was in scintillating form against Victoria on May 12 in SA’s best performance in years. Nonetheless a four point loss resulted. When SA lost a month later against WA in Perth, Huppatz was SA’s best, pitted against Barry Cable. According to the 1974 South Australian Football Record Year Book ‘Livewire rover Ray Huppatz maintained his big-game reputation by providing thrust around the packs but too often his attacks fizzled out at half-forward or on the full-forward line’.  It was another fruitless year for Huppatz at Woodville. He led the club’s Magarey voting and brought up a stunning fourth Best and Fairest from the past five seasons. His tally of 41 goals was narrowly pipped by Mike Doszna’s club-leading total of 43. At this stage he had done everything he could at Woodville, but finals seemed further and further away.

 

 

Huppatz was high in SA’s best against Victoria in 1973

 

 

Having signed the proverbial Form Four with Footscray in 1972, Huppatz decided to join what was seen as the nation’s best competition, giving the opportunity to prove himself against the country’s finest players each week. Woodville also did itself no favours with its treatment of their star rover at the end of the 1973 season so he became a VFL Bulldog in 1974 after 125 SANFL appearances.

 

Mike Sheahan reported in The Age that Footscray paid $20,000 for the clearance and Huppatz will be paid $9,000 per season on a three year deal. Players Max Parker and Carl Vesty may also have been thrown in by the Dogs to sweeten the deal.

 

Ranked ninth in 1973, Footscray started well in 1974, then had a six game losing streak from Rounds 11 to 16. By winning their last six games, they qualified in fifth place for Huppatz’s first crack at finals action. Collingwood were way too good for the Bulldogs in the Elimination Final. He finished the season with the most Dogs’ disposals and chipped in with thirty goals (his best ever VFL tally). He was on the wrong side of the umps’ whistle, winning 49 frees while conceding 71, but they did award him eight Brownlow votes (the same as Malcolm Blight).

 

Huppatz was in very good form in 1975, being one of Footscray’s two selections for the Victorian state side against WA, taking pride of place on the front row of the team photo. However, he was a late withdrawal due to a knee injury suffered early in the Round 9 loss to Hawthorn. He tried to get through State training the following week but broke down and was replaced by kennel-mate Ross Abbey. Huppatz came back in Round 14 but that was it for 1975 as his troublesome knee required an operation, which was not entirely successful.

 

The Victorian selectors hadn’t forgotten him in 1976 and he was back in the state side, roving to Gary Dempsey in Perth, sharing the duties with Barry Cable. Footscray scraped into the five with a last round draw with ladder leaders Carlton, edging out Melbourne who had a big win at Victoria Park. Geelong ended the Dogs’ season in the Elimination Final. Huppatz snagged 17 Brownlow votes (votes awarded by both field umpires).

 

 

Footscray supplied Ray Huppatz and Gary Dempsey plus Ben Bradley (Head Trainer) and Dr Barry Mullen (Medical Officer) to the Big V in 1976 (source @FootscrayFC1992 on Twitter)

 

 

The next season was Huppatz’s last as a Bulldog. He played in 19 of their 22 games, bringing his total for the club to 66 games. Footscray had a middling season and there was much discontent in the background. At season’s end Huppatz and Footscray parted ways.

 

He moved to North Melbourne in 1978, which had just recorded its second VFL flag under Ron Barassi and included former Woodville teammate Malcolm Blight. Huppatz didn’t take his place in the League side until Round 6 and was dropped to the Reserves after Round 14. He was recalled to the Seniors for Round 22 and retained his spot as second rover throughout the finals. As minor premiers, North played Sturt at Football Park in a scratch match that preceded the SANFL First Semi-Final. Huppatz accidentally clashed heads with Sturt’s boom recruit Gary Hardeman, breaking the latter’s cheekbone and costing him a place in Sturt’s finals tilt.

 

The VFL Grand Final Record stated that Huppatz was ‘Recruited from Footscray to lift roving division with the departure of Barry Cable. A strong player he is a terrier around the packs and despite not being a long kick has good direction’. Once again proving his worth when it mattered most, Huppatz was high in the best players in North’s thrashing of Collingwood in the Prelim. Finding Hawthorn just too good in the Grand Final, Huppatz was again outstanding for the losers, sharing top billing with Wayne Schimmelbusch for the Kangaroos.

 

1979 was a wipeout for Huppatz, doing his knee again during the preseason.

 

Huppatz had returned to Adelaide during his rehab. He returned to the Kangaroo senior ranks in 1980, flying over to Melbourne to play seven games near the end of the season as well as playing in the 1980 AFC Night Series win over Collingwood. However he finished the season and his VFL career in the Reserves.

 

He was back with Woodville in 1981, but as Huppatz found, they were still bottom, winning only three times. He played seventeen games either side of a six week break due to a hamstring injury, snagging thirty majors. During the off-season, he was in disagreement with both coach Rod Olsson and his  club (over financial terms) so Huppatz announced his retirement. When Woodville reported to the media that he had been sacked instead, he offered his services to Port Adelaide, who had won the previous three flags. Huppatz still had something to offer, despite his age.

 

Port were minor premiers in 1982 and Huppatz appeared twenty times in black and white that season. His only SANFL finals appearances were losses to Norwood and Glenelg (the latter by a single point in a spiteful Preliminary Final).

 

His final season at Alberton in 1983 under new captain-coach Russell Ebert was one of the few times that Port had finished outside the finals race in recent years but Huppatz remained valuable with thirty goals from his seventeen games and took the Mark of the Year at the age of 34.

 

Ray Huppatz was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and was Woodville’s pre-eminent player at the time of his move to Victoria.

 

 

Playing Career

Woodville 1966-1973, 1981 142 games, 254 goals

Port Adelaide 1982-1984 38 games, 54 goals

Footscray 1974–1977 66 games, 74 goals

North Melbourne 1978–1980 19 games, 21 goals

South Australia 8 games

Victoria 1 game

 

 

 

(40) Bob Simunsen (29, 5ft 11½ins, 12st 9lb)

 

 

 

Attending Woodville High and living in the Port Adelaide zone, the Woodpeckers were fortunate that Bob Simunsen decided to remain with his junior club when it was granted probationary admission to the SANFL Seconds competition in 1959. Playing in the Senior Colts (U19s), he won the Tompkins Medal for the best player in that competition.

 

He was a standout in Woodville’s senior side in 1960 and was runner-up in the Seconds’ Magarey Medal. His club finished a creditable third in the competition. Resisting overtures from Port Adelaide, Simunsen continued at Oval Avenue, winning consecutive Magareys in 1961-1962. Appointed Woodville’s captain in its final season in the Seconds, he was runner-up to Centrals’ Gary Window in 1963’s award, a reverse of the previous year’s quinella.

 

Simunsen retained his club’s captaincy when it commenced in League ranks in 1964 under coach Harold McDonald. All three of ninth-placed Woodville’s wins were against fellow newcomer Central District. Playing mainly in the centre, he continued to lead from the front, picking up thirteen Magarey Medal votes and the club Best and Fairest while playing all twenty games. He was also named in the centre for the 1964 Advertiser Team of the Year.

 

 

Simunsen was a shining light in Woodville’s early days.

 

 

Ceding the captaincy to new Captain-Coach Peter Obst, Simunsen’s form in 1965 as a centre saw him selected for his first state match, against Victoria at Adelaide Oval. SA thrashed a tired and weakened Victorian side which was returning from a double-header in Perth, although Simunsen obtained a season-ending shoulder injury in that game. Woodville’s three wins gave handed them the wooden spoon.

 

Simunsen bounced back in 1966, coming equal second to Norwood’s Ron Kneebone in the Magarey Medal. He was the only Woodville player selected for the Hobart Carnival and was solid against WA and the VFA as a half foward, before putting in a BOG performance when he was given the opportunity to play in the centre against Tasmania. He brought up his 50th club game and won his second B&F. The Peckers finished in eighth spot with four wins and a draw.

 

It was back to the cellar for Woodville in 1967 with only a win and a draw. Simunsen brought up his third senior Best and Fairest. In the SA Football Record Year Book, his playing style was described as ‘near-perfect balance, quick short dashes, sure ball handling and the ability to get good distance with either foot’. The writer did not mention that many of those kicks were his favourite, the drop kick. He played in both of SA’s losses that year.

 

 

SA’s Simunsen, Fred Phillis and Barrie Robran surround Victoria’s Barry Davis

 

 

Woodville looked east for Obst’s replacement, opting for North Melbourne and Victorian ruckman Noel Teasdale as their 1968 Captain-Coach. ‘Teaser’ took out Woodville’s Club Champion award ahead of Simunsen and the emerging Craig McKellar. Simunsen was high in SA’s best in both the home win against the Sandgropers and the away loss to the Big V. Ninth spot from four wins saw Woodville narrowly avoid the wooden spoon, which was ‘won’ by Norwood.

 

With more games under their collective belts, Woodville improved greatly in 1969 thanks to the efforts of Craig McKellar, John Cummins, Malcolm Blight, Dennis Syvertsen and dynamic rover Ray Huppatz, who took out his first B&F. Stalwarts Simunsen, David ‘Nipper’ Christie, Rodney Allen and Fred Hansch all brought up their 100th games during the season. Simunsen was no longer a fixture in the State side, but he remained a valuable contributor to his club.

 

The 1970 season started with promise and the Green and Golds had five wins from the first ten games. However, they did not snag the two premiership points again until the final round and finished ninth. The durable Simunsen did not miss a game and by season’s end he led the club senior tally with 126 appearances. He was runner-up to Huppatz in the Best and Fairest.

 

Having been one of Woodville’s initial Mobil Card roster in 1964, it was fitting that Simunsen returned in 1971. Shown on the card dishing off a left-sided handball, the reverse side of the card lauded him as ‘a great team player…looks like he’ll go on forever’.

 

 

 

Teasdale stood down from the playing ranks that year and Woodville turned to its most experienced player (and inaugural SANFL senior skipper) Simunsen to re-assume the captaincy. The season started in ominously bad form, starting with a 25.24 to 3.21 loss to reigning Premiers Sturt at Unley, a loss at Prospect by 127 points, a narrow loss to South by 57 points, culminating in an Alberton thrashing by 150 points and going down to Norwood by 53 before breaking its duck against Centrals (naturally). The Peckers steadied somewhat from that point on and finished the season with six wins, the same as West and South, but the paltry percentage of 37% keep them in tenth.

 

Simunsen did not play on after the 1971 season. His official SANFL league record of 145 games and 75 goals only partially tells the story of his steadfast contribution at Oval Avenue (he also played 71 senior games from 1960-1963 prior to Woodville’s admission to League ranks). The Football Budget said of the brilliant centre/on-baller/half forward in 1969 that ‘Woodville has had no better ambassador and no more dedicated player’.

 

During the summer months of his footy career, he was a stylish left-handed opening batsman for Woodville DCC. Simunsen played four Sheffield Shield matches in 1972-1973, joining other Mobil Card players Lindsay Head, Eric Freeman and Barrie Robran as State cricket representatives. Like Robran, Simunsen won the Talbot Smith Trophy as the best A Grade District Cricket fielder. Robran’s sole win in 1970-1971 was exceeded by Simunsen’s four wins (’65-’66, ’67-’68, ’68-’69 and ’73-’74).

 

In 2006, Bob Simunsen was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame and is also a Life-Governor of the Woodville-West Torrens Football Club.

 

Malcolm Blight regarded Simunsen as his hero. Nothing more needs to be said.

 

 

Playing Career

Woodville (SANFL Reserves) 1960-1963 71 games

Woodville 1964-1971 145 games, 75 goals

South Australia 8 games

 

 

To read all articles from the 1971 SANFL Mobil Footy Cards Series by Swish click HERE

 

 

Many thanks to the following publications and sources:

Woodville Football Club – All the Facts & Figures 1938 to 1990 by John Storer (accessed at MCC Library)

Best of Both Worlds – Peter Cornwall and David Burtenshaw (accessed at MCC Library)

SA Football Budget – various editions

Footy World – various editions

South Australian Football Record Year book – various editions

Football Times Year Books – various editions

australian.football.com

Footy Film SA’s YouTube channel

‘Malcolm Blight – Player Coach Legend’ by Tim Watson

 

 

 

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About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Quoting the mothers of cheer squad members – the kind of research sadly missing in today’s footy media.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’ve been sitting on that nugget for a while. Thanks again McA.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    Outstanding research, Swish.
    I particularly enjoyed the detailed account of Malcolm Blight’s amazing career.
    Bruce Doull, notorious for his economy with the spoken word, uttered one of his few onfield observations one day when standing* Blight; “You’re a freak Blighty.” That’s equivalent to Don Bradman greeting Stan McCabe after his 232 at Nottingham, remarking “I’d give a great deal to play an innings like that, Stan.”
    * standing as a gesture to the South Australians in the community.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Peter, well done re “standing”.

    Not much can be said about Blight that isn’t common knowledge. I probably went a bit more deeply than I needed to on him, but I was pleased to have a crack at giving Huppatz, Simunsen and Holland their due too.

  5. Another cracking piece to close out a ripper of a series.

    Huppatz deserves his due. His (pretty decent) career seems to have been over-shadowed by the next generation of SA rovers like Platten, McGuiness, Naley with their various medals, flags and state-of-origin exploits. I was a young bloke when he came home to SA and we just wrote him off as some ‘old bloke back from the VFL’ when compared to these rising stars and others like Bradley, Aish and McIntosh. He deserved a lot more credit than we youngsters gave him.

    If only they had given Ralph Sewer a guernsey in the 1971 series, they could have paired a bloke in Simunsen who was there for the club’s first league game with Sewer who was still around for its last.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Greg, good points, well made.

  7. Daryl Schramm says

    Marvellous effort that. Well done Swish. It’s taken me a while to read it as you’ve given these SA footy stars their due, as you have throughout. I’m glad you mentioned Simunsen’s cricket exploits. Eddie Holland was a favourite for all SA footy supporters who followed the Peckers as their first, or second side (sans Fitzroy). Ray Huppatz was at Port in ’82, my first year of cracking league. It would be worth posting vision of that MOTY. Hard to describe, but Schmaaly wouldnt be happy me mentioning it. I remember the footy budget of Rd 4 ’72. after both Centrals and Woodville were undefeated after 3 rounds, ‘clashing’ at the Ponderosa.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks DS, glad you liked it.

    That Huppatz mark appears at 0:40 in this

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-TerzePXUo

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    Great highlights. A young Neil Balme coaching Norwood, red point posts at Footy Park as well as a cricket square in the centre.. Thanks Swish. Enjoy tomorrow’s lunch. I tried for a live stream but. . . .

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    As always, well researched Swish. That’s the best wrap of Malcolm Blight’s career I’ve read.

    Pity they changed from the stripes, reckon those guernseys looked fantastic.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Luke. Blight’s story has many layers, but heck he was good.

    Don’t see stripes like that anymore either.

    All four of the featured Peckers also played district cricket for Woodville.

  12. Thanks for this, Swish.

    You have revived some great Blight memories for me, as you probably know that I saw the majority of his North career first-hand. Like many of the great North players of the era he had a love-hate relationship with RDB.

    Malcolm Blight was a champion footballer, with a natural ability (e.g. able to use both sides of the body, clean hands, high-flyer, clever footy nous) that was only equalled by players such as P Daicos, C Rioli etc. I just loved watching him play, and yes I was at Princes Park for the 70-metre top and at the Western oval for his post-coaching bag of goals.

    Sadly, Ray Huppatz’ best days were behind him when he landed at North.

    Thanks again, Swish.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thank you Smokie, what a time it must have been, seeing Blight in the flesh on a weekly basis.

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