1971 SANFL Mobil Cards – Part 6: South Adelaide


South Adelaide had regularly finished in the lower reaches of the SANFL until Neil Kerley’s amazing premiership coaching feat in 1964. The ensuing years had seen them return to the wrong end of the table by the time 1971’s Mobil album was compiled.


(7) Craig Cock (21, 5ft 11 ½ ins, 12st 2lb)


Coming up through the Westminster College system, Craig Cock played in the losing Under 19s Grand Final for South in 1966 against the Roosters. The following season he was a regular selection for the Panthers’ league side each week under new coach Peter Darley, winning the Best First Year Player.


Although never a glamourous footballer, Cock’s effectiveness as a close-checking defender saw him pitted against the opposition’s most dangerous forward most weeks. He came under the notice of the state selectors, making the State Squad in 1968.


South’s fortunes waned over the ensuing seasons, but Cock’s endeavour and effectiveness was never in question.


With nearly 80 games to his credit by the time he was drafted into the pantheon of Mobil posterity, Cock appeared in his 1970 club socks (they were all navy in 1971), but in a pose that was typically Cock – not flashy, but getting the job done.


Craig Cock’s kicking style was not likely to get him an invite into one of Don Roach’s instructional guides, but he steadfastly plied his trade under coaches Darley, Deane and Darcy without ever seeming to be flustered or annoyed, despite his club’s lack of success.


An engineer by profession, a year in Port Lincoln interrupted his League career in 1975 but upon his return in 1976, he was again one of the first selected under (another) new coach Haydn Bunton Jr.


Craig Cock – the footy playing engineer


In 1977, South Adelaide made the finals for the only time during his career. It was also the year that Cock proudly brought up his 200th league game, appreciating occasional runs on the ball when released from defensive responsibilities. Cock himself considered these two seasons his best even though he was by then South’s oldest player.


Cock retired in 1978 and until overtaken by Stuart Palmer, held the record for the most South Adelaide games played. In fact, the four Panther players in the 1971 Mobil cards all went on to play 200 games.


As regular opponent Graham Cornes once noted about Craig Cock, ‘Gee could he play.’


Playing Career

South Adelaide 1967 – 1978 206 games/13 goals




(17) Stuart Palmer (20, 6ft 4ins 12st 5lb)


English-born Stuart Palmer was doubling up at CHF for Urrbrae High in the morning and full-back for South Under 17s in the afternoon as a 16yo.


He made his senior debut at Alberton Oval in Round 3 of 1969, coming off the bench to score a goal with a grubbered first kick. Captain-coach Darley must have liked what he saw, trusting Palmer with centre half forward the next week at home against Centrals. Palmer nailed four goals in the Panthers’ 91 point shellacking of the ‘Dogs. The rangy youngster was hailed as the best first year player by the SA media.


Team success was hard to find as South followed up its 1969 last place with a repeat of that in 1970 under new coach Jimmy Deane. Palmer’s fine season was capped off by his win in the time-honoured Footy World White Wings award.


Palmer’s nascent star power saw him selected amongst the Panther representatives in the 1971 Mobil series, dishing off a regulation handball to an imaginary but grateful team-mate.


1971’s ninth placing brought Deane’s tenure to a halt and Palmer’s career was beginning to stagnate instead of blooming with the early promise of a couple of years previous.



The appointment of David Darcy in 1972, initially as captain-coach, failed to breathe much new life into South. Palmer was by now a fixture in the backline in a club that appeared to be just making up the SANFL numbers. Their 7-15 season in 1974 was the club’s best since 1968, but it was not enough to warrant any further requirement for Darcy’s services.


South’s slow ascendancy began with the appointment of Haydn Bunton Jr as coach for the 1975 season. Palmer had now developed a reputation for reliability and consistency with the occasional flash of brilliance and he brought up his hundredth game. By this point, he was the club’s third most experienced player behind Craig Cock and Mark Coombe.


Palmer was noted for his rebound from either of the key defensive positions, prepared to back his judgement and go for high marking opportunities when they presented themselves.


With youngsters like Andrew Bennett, Eddie Fry, Ron Hateley and Phil Cox beginning to emerge, Palmer’s cool head in defence helped South develop a more competitive stance. A win and a draw against Sturt, eventual 1976 premiers, showed that the Blue and Whites were not that far off.


So it was proved in 1977, as South’s assemblage of pacy rovers such as 16 yo debutant Wayne Slattery (54 goals), Graeme Robbins (50) and Cox (44) amply supported Bennett’s 46 goals. The result was fifth place (13-9) which set up an Elimination Final against Norwood. South, playing in its first final for over a decade, started brilliantly and fended off the Redlegs by 16 points.  They were brought undone by Fos Williams’ West Adelaide in the First Semi Final, in a miserable display after quarter time. Although he had quite a good season, Palmer was particularly disappointed to have lost this opportunity to make up for South’s seasons in the wilderness.


Palmer brought up his 150th game during 1978, but South slipped to seventh as its goalscoring power dried up (for example, Slattery could only muster 15 goals from 24 games).


South’s 1979 resurgence lined up neatly against its accumulation of hundred-game players in captain Geoff Baynes, Bennett, David Earl, Fry, Hateley and Garry Mousley. It was Stuey Palmer at the head of that pack as he closed in on 200 games. Palmer was also starting to finally receive some recognition from the State selectors, being chosen in the squad in both 1978 and 1979.


South’s third place finish in the minor round saw them lose poorly to Port Adelaide in the Qualifying Final, but in one for the quirky record books, they defeated Norwood in the First-Semi 13.28 to 13.7.


They completed a dismal finals series for minor premier Central District in a Prelim Final that South was not expected to win. However, a fearsome wind and a lost toss meant that the Panthers’ only shot at the flag since 1964 ended poorly, as Port’s 30 point quarter time lead never looked like being breached. South has not reached a Grand Final since.


Whilst unsuccessful during the daytime hours, an interesting quirk was South’s successive NFL-run Escort Cup series wins in 1978/79. Palmer was high in the best players in both years’ finals. (More on these matches can be found at: https://www.hardballget.net/npm-nfl-1978-escort-cup.html  and https://www.hardballget.net/npm-nfl-1979-escort-cup.html)


South’s form again yo-yoed in 1980, falling to seventh. Palmer was selected in his first and only State game in SA’s demolishing of a hapless Queensland unit. The final score 30.39 (219) to 3.3 (21) gives an indication of the amount of defensive work that Palmer (South’s sole representative) was required to do. His selection was worthy nonetheless and he also overtook Craig Cock’s club games record during that season.


Underpinned by contributions from Geoff Linke (73 goals) and another 50 goal season from Slattery, the Panthers rebounded in 1981 to finish third with a 15-7 record. The club’s elder statesman by a clear margin, Palmer was joined by Garry Mousley in the Panther 200 club. Solid seasons from Graham and Phil Brooksby and ruckman Robb Hawkins and the emergence of Mark Naley had South set for another flag tilt.


A lack of seasoned finals campaigners brought them undone however and they were never in the hunt in the Qualifying Final (a 41 point loss to Port) which was followed up with an insipid 83 point drubbing against Norwood in the First Semi.


Predictably, South were back down the ladder in 1982, signalling the end of Bunton’s eight seasons. Palmer was appointed captain, relieving Baynes of the skipper’s role. Chris Reynolds’ 70 goals with solid support from John Schneebichler and rovers Naley and Robin White were the highlights of their eighth placed season.


Palmer retained the captaincy in 1983, under new playing coach Graham Cornes. The fourth-placed Panthers’ return to finals action lasted only a week, falling to North Adelaide by 40 points.


In 1984 in his final year as captain, Palmer brought up his 300th game, joining the likes of Russell Ebert, Paul Bagshaw, Cornes and Lindsay Head in achieving that milestone. South’s new-found consistency gave then another fourth place and another early exit from the finals against Norwood.


With Cornes completing his coaching apprenticeship and returning to take over at Glenelg, Palmer found himself under his sixth coach when the Panthers appointed Don Scott in 1985. Scott lasted six winless games before he was replaced by Palmer’s new team-mate Rick Davies. South did well to win eight games under Davies. Palmer retired at the end of 1985, after his seventeenth season.


Ever the clubman, Palmer served as Club Chairman from 1997 to 2000.


Stuart Palmer’s distinguished career saw him elevated to the SA Football Hall of Fame and the South Adelaide Hall of Fame.


Playing Career

South Adelaide 1969-85 337 games 28 goals

South Australia 1 game




(27) Lindsay Backman 27, 5ft 11ins, 13st 1lb


Lindsay Backman was a young player with a voracious appetite for footy in a family of keen South Adelaide supporters. He took to playing for South’s Under 17s under a false name as he was residentially bound to North Adelaide. Once the Roosters summoned him for a tryout, he did his best to not do his best, and was cleared to his desired Panthers.


South knew that they had a good ‘un when he won the McCallum Medal as the fairest and most brilliant in the SANFL Under 17s in 1960.


In 1961, the then 17-year-old was first selected for the South league side, coached by Bill Sutherland.


Backman was South’s top goalkicker in 1962 with a handy haul of 45 majors for the bottom placed side. They finished last again in 1963 with a mere 2 wins, but Backman backed up with a club-leading 34 goals. It was South’s twentieth straight season out of the finals and coach Sutherland was dismissed before season’s end.


South rocked the footy world during the 1963 finals, appointing West Adelaide’s Neil Kerley as its new coach. It worked.


Backman relished Kerley’s fitness-oriented approach, as did the entire team. In an extraordinary rise, the Panthers won 19 minor round games (they had won thirteen in the previous four seasons combined). They waltzed past Sturt in the Preliminary Final after they threw away victory in narrow loss to Port Adelaide in the Second-Semi. Backman, who had moved to the pivot mid-season in a sign of his great versatility, was a key player in the Panthers’ first flag since 1938. It was only the stylish, strong marking youngster’s 71st game.


Reverting to an attacking role in 1965, his 41 goals led the way for South, who lost both finals narrowly after finishing second on the ladder.


Backman had a season-ending knee injury in the first round of 1966, the last year of Kerley’s brief reign at the Panthers, after The King had a gutful of interference in coaching and selection matters from certain club officials. South did well to finish fourth given that they had an exceptionally long injury list.


With Peter Darley appointed captain-coach in 1967, South’s slow downward trajectory continued, winning as many games as they lost. Returning for a full season, Backman’s fourth club sharpshooting award was won with a total of 31 goals from his nineteen appearances.


Backman found himself as South’s most experienced player when 1968 came around, South finishing mid-table once more.


The Panthers had a horror year in 1969. They won only twice, both wins coming during the first month of the season. Lindsay Backman took out his fifth goalkicking award with 42.


Backman’s childhood idol and South legend Jimmy Deane took over from Darley in 1970 and this seemed to have a markedly positive impact. Appointed captain and used as a ruck-rover, his tenth senior season was easily the best of Backman’s career. He won several media awards and was selected for South Australia for the first time. Regarded by many as the Magarey Medal favourite (won by Barrie Robran), Lindsay Backman won the 1970 Knuckey Cup (awarded to South’s B&F). His club finished bottom with three wins.


Already featured in the 1964 Mobil series, Backman was shot in last season’s boots roosting the scuffed footy high and long in this 1971 portrait of a club champion.


Some public recognition at last for Lindsay Backman.


Both 1971 and 1972 saw the blue-and-whites continue to occupy the lower rungs of the SANFL ladder. Darley replaced Backman as captain in 1971. Captain-coach David Darcy then replaced Deane at the helm in 1972. During 1972 Backman became South’s first 200 gamer, in what was the final season for this widely respected player.


Backman was selected in South Adelaide’s “Greatest Ever Team” in 2002.


Playing  Career

South Adelaide 1961-72 203 games / 347 goals (1 premiership)

South Australia 1




(36) Peter Darley 27, 6ft 4in, 15st 12lb


If there was an “SANFL scene” in the early 1960s, a college kid from Prince Alfred named Peter Darley certainly burst onto it.


He followed up his initial couple of games with South Adelaide late in 1962 with a Knuckey Cup (B&F) in 1963, his first full season. South finished bottom of the eight team ladder in both years.


The surprise selection of a disgruntled Neil Kerley from West Adelaide as captain-coach brought about a stunning turnaround for the team from Adelaide Oval in 1964. Kerley inspired a previously listless of collection of South players to top place in the SANFL’s newly expanded competition.


Darley, who was dubbed the Jumbo Prince by Kerley (well before Rick Davies earnt that nickname), formed one half of an unbeatable ruck brigade with David Kantilla. South’s historic 9.15 to 5.12 win over Port was only Darley’s 44th club game, but he had already won his second Knuckey Cup. He was also runner-up to Geof Motley by two votes in the Magarey Medal, nine votes ahead of third-placed John Halbert and John Cahill.


Darley shone in his two interstate games that season, high in the best players before 47,207 Croweaters on June 6 against the Big V and again in Perth in mid-July.


By now, Darley had assumed a large presence around town, enjoying his reputation as one of SA’s top players both on and off the field. One possibly apocryphal tale had Darley arriving at one match still dressed in his dinner suit from the previous evening, going on to collect the three votes that afternoon. He probably drove home in a racing-green MG late that night.


Injury struck Darley early in the 1965 season, breaking down in a trial game and only playing three games during the season before having two cartilages removed from his right knee in separate operations. Millicent rookie Brian Roberts was Kantilla’s ruck partner in Darley’s stead.


Returning cautiously in 1966, Darley played fourteen games, sometimes barely fit enough to take the field. He won his third Knuckey Cup, despite those limited appearances and polled highly (15 votes) in the Magarey Medal.


Darley’s life-long friend Kerley left South for Glenelg after that season, due to one too many run-ins with interfering Panther committee men. To replace Kerls, Darley was appointed captain-coach at the tender age of 22.


The knee injury caused Darley to lose his ability to leap. With his mobility reduced, he adopted a style reliant on bodywork and creative handball for the balance of his playing days.


Under Darley, South maintained its mid-table standing in 1967 and 1968 and he claimed his fourth and fifth B&Fs. Darley’s 1968 season was particularly notable. As SA captain, he was named as the state’s best player in both of their games. He tied with Barrie Robran for the Magarey Medal, however, a mid-season indiscretion led to his disqualification for the award, as described on the SAFC website:


‘… he tied with Barrie Robran in 1968 but was ineligible because he had received a one match suspension for telling an umpire what we all knew about him in any case.’


A sophisticated Darley coaching during his enforced layoff in 1968, unaware that the indiscretion was to cost him a tie with Barrie Robran in that year’s Magarey.


Although his coaching days were numbered after guiding South to another wooden spoon in 1969, Darley’s efforts in the 1969 Carnival against the likes of John Nicholls (Vic) and John McIntosh (WA) were rewarded with All-Australian selection.


Jim Deane relieved Darley of the coaching role, returning to the club that he helmed from 1951-53, but the Panther doldrums were firmly entrenched in 1970-71. Darley had yielded the captaincy to Lindsay Backman in 1970 but was skipper again the next year. He again captained SA against Victoria in 1970. There was talk of him moving to Glenelg, but this came to nought.


Darley alleged that he was the subject of a bribery attempt before the last minor round match of 1970 against Woodville, although an investigation by the SANFL found no evidence of this.


Darley’s 1964 Mobil Card selection was reprised in 1971, snapped in a rucking pose that gave some idea of his now bullocking but creative technique.


In 1971, he played in two winning State games against Tasmania and Western Australia, before twisting his ankle at work and missing the rest of the season.


Darley in action in 1970. The tackler is Malcolm Blight as Stuart Palmer and John Cummins look on.


By the time David Darcy was given the captain-coach position in 1972, Darley was entering his career’s twilight. His general fitness and approach to training had dropped off in his final three seasons, so much so that he somehow found time for a lightning mid-season visit to the second Ashes Test at Lords.  He still won two more Knuckeys (giving him a total of seven – a club record) before finishing as his club’s top goalkicker for 1974 with 44 goals. His games tally also passed 200 during that season.


Peter Darley’s 2002 selection in the South Australian Football Hall of Fame was the merest of formalities as was his spot in South Adelaide’s equivalent.


Although he treated footy as a pastime, Darley gave it his full attention on game day, often playing under the duress of injury, carrying his club on his ample shoulders. The other days of the week, perhaps not. Darley was employed by the airline TAA during his footballing days, but he is fondly remembered for his time at the Wellington Hotel and later the Oyster Bar.


Peter Darley was (and still is) one of SA’s footy’s great personalities.


Playing Career

South Adelaide  1962-1974 206 games/123 goals (1 premiership)

South Australia 13 games



To read all parts in the 1971 SANFL Mobil Footy Cards Series click Here


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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


  1. Lindsay Backman was a very skilful, elusive classy midfielder. Stood out in a lacklustre South side for most of his career.
    Peter Darley is a “what might have been” with modern arthroscopic knee surgery. Early in his career he was brilliantly athletic in the mode of Peter Moore or Graham Moss. Got by on his strength and smarts for most of his career after the knees went. Tragedy that he didn’t get that deserved Magarey Medal.
    Thanks for the memories Swish (Stuart Palmer must be a missing neurone).

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Another fantastic synopsis Swish. So many links, so many blasts from the past. South not quite good enough yesterday to reach their first GF in 41 years at The Oval.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hope to get to Torrens by year’s end PB, but material is pretty scant. Know much about Bob Wildy?

    I was hoping for a Panthers win on Sunday DS, after learning a fair bit about them while doing this piece.

  4. Swish comprehensive and interesting as always-Craig Cock v good tight checking defender sadly passed away nearly a year ago.Stuie Palmer underrated his son,Lachy could seriously play would have been drafted fell off his push bike and damaged both knees while he played some league footy was never the same.
    Lindsay Backman has at least seen the article liking it on facebook.Peter Darley in the one season he was running the Wellington hotel when the blacks were there let’s just say he wasn’t really a fan of Brian as you would know with good reason on occasions

  5. I was looking for a Panthers win Sunday too Swish. Hard to fathom that 1979 was their last appearance in the decider. They have had Glenelg’s measure in recent seasons and almost treat the Bay oval as a home ground. Excellent profiles too. Peter Darley is to be thanked for the Oyster Bar or the Booga Shop as it was known.

    Thanks Swish.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for spreading the word ‘Book.

    Ta Mickey, Darley always makes me think of Adelaide’s swinging 60s, Ernie Sigley and the TAA Junior Flyers’ Club.

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