1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Round 2, Saturday 5 April v Essendon, MCG


by Sam Steele

It’s the Easter weekend. The weather forecast is glorious.

The family’s at Dromana, grabbing a last chance at some beach time before the onset of winter. It’s an annual tradition. Non-negotiable.

For a footy-mad 16 year old, being stuck over an hour from Melbourne, without any means of transport, this is a problem. My vow to watch the Tigers each week has hit an early season snag.

Miraculously, my dilemma is solved. Dad announces that he has a commitment (I forget what) in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. Seizing the opportunity, I “volunteer” to accompany him. To the bemusement of the football heathens in my family (read – all of them), I forsake perfect beach weather for an afternoon under the iconic, corrugated roof of the old Southern Stand at the MCG.

The fans are out in force for our first home game of the year against Essendon. The crowd of 51,000 is by no means exceptional for these big-drawing teams, but bigger than most I’d encountered when we were struggling in 1979. It’s a slow trip up from the Peninsula and I’m scrambling to get to the ground just before the bounce. I’m confronted with the first of many occasions in this wonderful season where the only obvious empty seats have their line of sight interrupted by the metal pillars supporting that famous old roof. During the week, a couple of schoolmates have told me to meet them behind the goals where the Richmond Cheer Squad sits, but the crowd is so dense that I can’t find them and I wind up sitting right at the back of the stand, my shady surrounds in stark contrast to the brilliant panorama that is the MCG arena in full April sun.

The match report from The Age began with an elephant stamp for the Melbourne sporting public’s uncanny knack of turning up in large numbers for great contests that, on paper, looked to be mismatches. The point being that Richmond, impressive first-up winners, was expected to easily account for Essendon, a sloppy, rusty loser last week. What follows is two hours of pulsating, reckless football that leaves both winning and losing coaches full of praise for their charges. “I can’t really tip a bucket on my blokes after a game like that”, quoth Tony Jewell.
For it is the Tigers who somehow lose a game that both teams deserve to win.

Twenty goals flow in a free-wheeling first half. It could have been more. By half time, Richmond’s inaccuracy has cost us a narrow deficit on the scoreboard, but the more significant factor appears to be manpower. Essendon loses defender Neil Clarke early (a broken nose , courtesy of a steamroller called Bourke, was the Age’s sardonic description). Worse is to follow with (I think) T.Daniher and full-back Gary Foulds suffering injuries.

In the days of only two interchange players, these losses look calamitous for the visitors, particularly Foulds, who has continued Michael Roach’s goal drought up to half-time. In his absence, an unheralded raw-boned big man named Roger Merrett moves onto Roach. The Richmond spearhead relishes his new-found freedom. By game’s end, his personal tally is seven goals. I don’t think Merrett ever played full-back again during his long career!

As we did last week, the Tigers edge to a three goal lead in the third quarter, booting six goals to one. However, there remains an evenness in general play that isn’t reflected in the scoring. In the face of adversity, the young Bombers (even then, they were being described as the Baby Bombers) continue to run…and run…and run. But it’s their turn to get the scoring yips. One goal eight is their distressing return for the quarter.

Sometimes footy matches (and teams) refuse to obey the laws of nature. Roach’s heroics notwithstanding, injured players notwithstanding, momentum swings dramatically the Bombers’ way. It’s a procession of Essendon attacks surging towards me at the Punt Road end during a thrilling final quarter. Paradoxically, this team of enigmatic stars is today being led by some unknowns – Frank Dunell, Barry Day, Ian Marsh…who are these guys…and how the hell do they keep bobbing up, alone, in the forward line?

Still it seems that the Bombers will go down gallant, narrow losers, as they continue to spray shots and Roach manages to pot a couple of steadiers at the other end. In the last couple of minutes, Richmond finds itself clinging to a 5 point lead for the second week running.

But then cometh the man. Our resistance is finally broken by one Phil Carman in what was probably his only “fabulous” game for the Bombers. Actually, he’s been a leading play-maker all day, but it’s in these last desperate minutes that Carman turns the game on its head. Yet another Essendon forward surge results in a goalmouth pack and, it seems, another botched chance, as the Tiger defence spoils the marking attempt. That is until Carman gathers it and with a deft piece of evasion snaps a goal, bringing the Bomber hordes to their feet.

They attack again. Resting ruckman, Max Crow tracks a long kick back towards goal, marking strongly right against the goal post. The siren sounds. Crow’s resultant goal gives Essendon a 7 point win that leaves me feeling like I’ve been pick-pocketed.

Just two weeks after this match-winning performance, Carman head-butted a boundary umpire at Moorabbin and watched the rest of the season from the sidelines. One contemplates a line-up boasting Terry and Neale Daniher, Tim Watson, Simon Madden, Paul van der Haar… and Carman… and wonders what might have been!

The Wrap
Richmond 4.6 9.10 15.14 17.15 (117)
Essendon 4.4 11.7 12.15 17.22 (124)
Rich: Roach 7, Rowlings, Cloke 3, Bartlett, Keane, Lee, Wall
Ess: Day, Dunell 3, Carman, Crow, Madden, Van der Haar 2, Heard, Marsh, Watson

Major Stats
Although his heroics in the last few minutes were the headline-grabbers, Phil Carman was best afield all day with a 26 possession display, just edging Rowlings and Watson who each had 25 touches. In what was to be an agonising year of near misses for Essendon, this was one day where this highly talented team matched skill with persistence, against the odds. As noted in the match account, plenty of lesser lights showed the way for the Bombers, including Day, Dunell, Stoneham, Marsh and Heard.

The Tigers were shaded by Essendon on most stats, but didn’t have too many passengers. Raines, Bartlett and Wood were the leading possession winners along with Rowlings. Cloke and Roach also showed welcome returns to form after quiet games in Round 1.

51,548 at MCG

In other games…
North Melbourne 7.14 (56) v Collingwood 7.19 (61) at Arden Street
St Kilda 11.17 (83) v Hawthorn 15.26 (116) at Moorabbin
Carlton 14.25 (109) v Geelong 15.14 (104) at Princes Park
Fitzroy 17.14 (116) v Melbourne 22.8 (140) at VFL Park
South Melbourne 14.17 (101) v Footscray 10.13 (73) at Lake Oval

Plenty of thrills over the Easter weekend, with Hawthorn’s 33 point win at Moorabbin being the widest margin.
North and Collingwood played out a bizarrely sub-standard contest despite the fine conditions, with the visitors causing a surprise with their narrow win. Geelong was again edged out narrowly, despite leading the inaccurate Blues by five goals early on.

On Easter Monday, Melbourne’s promising early season form continued with a sparkling win over Fitzroy at Waverley. In what was to prove a brief purple patch of an otherwise unremarkable career, Melbourne’s Robert Walters seven goal haul was the highlight, shading Fitzroy’s Bob Beecroft who kicked six. South Melbourne made it two from two with a regulation win at home against Footscray.
The Ladder
Team               W    L    D     PF     PA    %    Points
Carlton           2     0    0     241     198  121.7    8
Melbourne     2    0     0     262    216   121.3    8
Sth Melb        2    0     0     189     158   119.6   8
Hawthorn      1     1     0    222      194   114.4  4
Nth Melb        1     1     0     156     148   105.4  4
Richmond       1     1      0     228      230     99.1    4
Essendon         1     1      0     211      217      97.2   4
Fitzroy             1     1      0     241     253      95.3   4
Collingwood    1     1      0      155    188      82.4   4
Geelong           0     2     0      189     197     95.9    0
Footscray         0    2      0      186    226      82.3   0
St Kilda            0     2      0      183    238      76.9   0

(Next week – Round 3)

About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. Round 2 and both eventual Grand Finalists still outside the 8 – I mean 5.

    Stainless, I remember this game quite well. Firstly I remember the anticipation of it (I must have been one of those with the “uncanny knack” mentioned in The Age) being heightened by the fact that it was the day after Good Friday. I always found Good Friday to be the most utterly boring day of the year. A public holiday with no footy or cricket and the best TV had to offer was the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal. (Yes, we were Catholic, but the “Stations of the Cross” never quite did it for me.)

    I also remember being pretty impressed by Phil Carman but the stand-out memory for me was Paul Van Der Haar kicking a torpedo goal from a standing start inside the centre-square. It sent Bomber fans wild but almost straight after, Van Der Haar, who had been limping already was forced from the field. His leg was later diagnosed as broken, meaning that his 70-metre barrel was kicked by a bloke with a broken leg!

  2. Remember the game as probably the best game I had seen at the time and even still in the top 2 or 3. Completely free flowing attack at all costs. Thought on that performance that both teams had improved on 1979 and both would be in the finals for sure.

    Great work Sam. A trip down memory lane

  3. Sam, you mentioned Phil Carman turning the game on its head.Was the word head, used a a pun for his peformance at Moorabin a few weeks later? On a sad note were two of the Essendon side to pass away at young ages, Nobby Clarke, and Ian Marsh ? Can that point be clarified ?


  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Beautiful work Sam. Great meeting you yesterday. I remember Ian Marsh wore number 37 and was really quick on the wing for Essendon, but injury must have cut his career short. Carman had a chance to kick the winning goal against Richmond in early 1981, after the siren. Thirty metres out directly in front, he sprayed it and the Bombers lost.

    The other thing I remember is Lou Richards’ summation of the North v Coll game at Arden street: “I’ve seen better matches in an ashtray”. Priceless.

  5. Phil, that 1981 match of which you speak was the first half of an amazing piece of symmetry. Richmond had trailed by 26 points at 3/4 time of that match at the MCG but rallied to win it by 4 points after Carman’s miss. 10 weeks later at Windy Hill it was Richmond who led at 3/4 time by 26 points. The Bombers completed the about face by kicking 5.8 to 1.2 in the last quarter and won that match by 4 points.

    There wouldn’t be two many “mirror-image” games like that having occurred between the same two sides in the same season!

  6. Stainless says

    I’m loving all these long memories.

    Gigs – I can’t say I recall Vander’s torp, although it doesn’t surprise me. He’ll certainly get a mention later in the season. Did he really have a broken leg? It can’t have been too bad as he was back in the side for our Round 13 meeting. But clearly Essendon were the walking wounded that day. And yes, I was at both the 1981 games and recall that statistical symmetry.

    Noelmc – As my review will show, Essendon had huge potential but no luck (or was it resolve?) in 1980. Man for man, I reckon they were certainly as good as a couple of the finallists. It was the last year before a certain K. Sheedy started with them.

    Glen – I do recall that Nobby Clarke passed away recently, but not sure about Ian Marsh.

    Phil – Likewise, it was great to meet you and chat about the footy – and other important things in life. Love Lou’s comment about North v Collingwood. I don’t recall the game as such but I remember reading that Ronnie Wearmouth sat on Billy Picken’s shoulders on the mark as a North player was shooting for goal on the half-time siren. The other “larrikin” event from this round was the rogue beer can chucked rom the “Animal Enclosure” at Moorabbin that was intended for the umpire but KO’d Garry Sidebottom.

    There’s just no fun in the game any more….

  7. I remember a similar piece of statistical symmetry in 2006. The Cats were beaten by the Dogs by one point, not sure what round, and on the 23rd July the Dogs were beaten by the Cats by the same margin. I was at both games but the Cats victory was on my 50th birthday. I felt like they won it just for me. Both were exciting games in a not so memorable season for (at the time) a long suffering Cats supporter. Fortunately they have given me many presents and eradicated the suffering since.

  8. Savvas Tziwnhs says

    The last quarter is now on you tube! Australian Rules Football was once a great sport. And this game is a perfect example of it.


  9. Thanks for the memories, Sam. I wonder if you are the same Sam Steele who went to Camberwell grammar with me? in fact, was I one of the friends who sat behind the goals with you and the cheer squad to watch the tiges all those years ago?
    If so, please reply, and I’ll get in touch!! Love to catch up on 30+ years!

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