1981 Revisited – Grand Final: ‘The Winner Takes It All’

 

It’s early Saturday morning.  7.30 maybe. Three bleary-eyed 17-year-olds meet at the tram stop.  I’m feeling a bit guilty as I greet my mates and they grumble about missing out on precious sleep-in time.  I’m the one who’s been agitating all week about going to the Grand Final.  It’s Carlton-Collingwood!  The biggest rivalry in the game.  We can’t miss a Grand Final like this.  The early start’s been my idea too.  It’s worth a whole day of standing, in order to get a position on the fence.  They don’t seem very convinced!

 

***

 

In 1981, the concept of “Grand Final Week” is just emerging.  The Grand Final parade is only in its fourth year and the obsession with turning big occasions into “events” hasn’t yet permeated the City of Melbourne or the VFL.  But some traditions are already well-established.  The Brownlow Medal count is held on the Monday night before the Grand Final, as it is today.  This year, for the first time, there are two Brownlow Medallists.  Within a year of the countback system being abolished in favour of awarding joint medals, Fitzroy’s Bernie Quinlan and South Melbourne’s Barry Round both poll 22 votes to win by one vote from Carlton rover Rod Ashman.  Quinlan and Round have been close friends for more than a decade, starting their careers together in the Latrobe Valley before joining Footscray in 1969. Both men hug each other with delight as they savour their shared glory. Remarkably both players celebrated their 250 game milestones in the same match earlier in the season. It’s a feel-good night (unless you barrack for Footscray and have to endure the sight of two players your club let go both getting the League’s highest honour).

 

How the top ten polled:

Bernie Quinlan (Fitzroy) 22

Barry Round (South Melbourne) 22

Rod Ashman (Carlton) 21

Peter Moore (Collingwood) 16

Trevor Barker (St Kilda) 15

Mervyn Neagle (Essendon) 15

John Mossop (Geelong) 15

Tony Buhagiar (Essendon) 14

Geoff Cunningham (St Kilda) 13

Ken Hunter (Carlton) 12.

 

 ***

 

 We arrive at the MCG just as the Under 19s Grand Final is beginning.  A cold expanse of concrete terracing is our home for the next eight hours.  But it’s right on the wing, under cover and at a perfect elevation.  We get our positions on the fence.  Something to lean on.  Our standing room tickets have cost $5 each (I think).  Even in 1981, it’s pretty good value.

 

Within an hour, a couple of dozen young bucks from one of the university colleges descend into our bay. Staking out their space with strategically-placed eskies, they take out hymn books, launching into a rousing rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.  The surrounding crowd, initially bemused, is caught up in the exuberance.  We all join in the chorus.  In the confines of the standing room bay, enclosed by the overhang of the upper deck, never has “Glory, glory hallelujah” sounded more convincing – or more deafening.

 

As the beers flow, the college boys’ repertoire becomes more secular and the lyrics a lot more fruity.  “The Boys from Nar Nar Goon” and “Up there Echuca” both draw plenty of laughs, before the lads acknowledge the occasion with stirring versions of the Collingwood and Carlton songs.  Needless to say, plenty of surrounding fans join in.

 

With three hours to go before the senior game, the joint’s pumping.  And if the antics of the now-packed standing room areas aren’t enough, there’s some great action on the arena.  The Melbourne Under 19s cause a bit of an upset, knocking off Geelong.  Then the Cats have their moment of glory, beating a strong Essendon line-up in the Reserves.  Unlike Grand Final Day these days, where most of the pre-game action is in corporate marquees, there’s never a dull moment for the plebs.  Before we know it, enormous sacks of balloons in club colours are circling the ground, ready for the players’ entry.  Jon English is up on stage, singing “Waltzing Matilda”.  The college choir can’t resist another refrain of “Up there Echuca” to the same tune.

 

I’ve been standing for five solid hours and I’m not feeling a thing!

 

***

 

To understand the huge anticipation of a Collingwood-Carlton Grand Final, one needs to look at the clubs’ dominance at the time.  Since their last premiership win in 1958, the Magpies have played in 18 finals series, but losing seven Grand Finals and drawing one. Carlton have been the most successful club since the late 1960’s. Since 1968, the Blues have been Premiers four times and runners-up twice.  They’ve missed the finals just three times during that period.

 

Today’s game is the sixth Grand Final clash between the two clubs. Carlton leads Collingwood 4-1 in premiership battles, winning in 1915, 1938, 1970 and 1979, with Collingwood’s only win being in 1910.   The epic contests of 1970 and 1979 are fresh in our memories.  The Blues are also one premiership short of equaling Collingwood’s League record of 13 pennants.

 

The competing coaches also bring massive records to the occasion. Since 1967 when Tom Hafey led Richmond to the premiership, he’s been in charge of a Grand Final team eight times, with four premierships — all with Richmond. Today he’s taking Collingwood into a fifth Grand Final, desperate to reverse the near misses of 1977 and 79, and the debacle of 1980.

 

His opponent today, Carlton’s David Parkin, isn’t far behind Hafey in the Grand Final stakes. Parkin has taken the Blues to the top in his first year with the club. This follows his long association with Hawthorn going back to the Hawks’ first premiership win in 1961. Since then, he has captained the Hawks to the 1971 premiership and coached them to the 1978 pennant.

 

Carlton are clear favourites, having easily accounted for Geelong in the Second Semi Final. The Blues have sat back and watched the Magpies battle their way to a one-point win over Fitzroy and a seven-point win over Geelong to courageously claw their way into the Grand Final.  The Blues are fit and fresh, in contrast to their opponents who are battling fatigue and injury concerns, particularly ruckman, Peter Moore.  Moore is selected in spite of a hamstring strain sustained in the Semi Final just two weeks earlier.  It’s a big risk.  Carlton, by contrast, take no chances with veteran full-back, Geoff Southby, replacing him with Scott Howell, who will play on Moore.  Mario Bortolotto is a further late replacement for Robert Klomp.

 

In their favour, Collingwood have won both encounters during the regular season, a runaway 57-point win at Princes Park and a one-point thriller at Victoria Park.  Further, their situation is reminiscent of 1979. Carlton had won their way easily through the finals series after finishing the home and away rounds on top. The Magpies, beaten in the Qualifying Final as they were this year, fought back to earn the right to meet Carlton. They were desperate underdogs and the Blues fell in by only five points.  Expectations are high for a similarly determined effort today.

 

***

 

They don’t have “First Goal” betting in 1981, but Mark Williams would’ve been an attractive selection at good odds.  After six frantic, fumbly minutes in which a sprayed long shot by Peter Bosustow is the only score, Barham centres a long kick from the boundary line to the goal-square.  Williams crumbs the pack and Collingwood is away.  For 12 minutes, the Magpies entertain hopes of a similar start to 1979, but their efforts result in six straight behinds. Eventually Jimmy Buckley seizes on a loose ball and spears a pass to David McKay.  With the aid of a 15-metre penalty, the veteran Carlton forward coolly converts.  It’s an ominous sign, but the Magpies quickly hit back.  Kink feeds Barham and the pacey winger slots a trademark running goal.  Late in the quarter, Maclure takes a strong mark at centre-half forward and drills another long goal.  Collingwood’s had the best of the quarter, but only a two-point lead to show for it.

 

It’s obvious that Peter Moore is struggling.  Stuart Atkins is doing the ruckwork for Collingwood and Moore is camped at full forward.  Magpie concerns about a mismatch in the centre only increase as Mike Fitzpatrick spikes the ball 40 metres Carlton’s way at the opening bounce of the second quarter. Marcou wins a free in the resultant play and his long shot is crumbed by Ashman.  Carlton leads for the first time.  Moore comes under sharper scrutiny when he takes a strong mark, but misses the shot from straight in front. Moments later he repeats the dose, this time converting from point-blank range.  Perhaps having this colossus in the goal-square, even semi-fit, will be a weapon for Collingwood?  His topsy-turvey afternoon continues, spilling another mark.  It looks like another lost opportunity for the Pies, until, from the resulting scramble, the ball emerges to Daicos who calmly guides a superb left-foot snap through the middle.

 

Unusually for the era, it’s a dour battle of defences, every little gain hard-earned.  In a play eerily reminiscent of the much-disputed Wayne Harmes/Ken Sheldon goal in the 1979 Grand Final, Phil Maylin just keeps the ball in play in that same forward pocket before squaring the pass to Sheldon, who goals.  Maylin then slices through the Collingwood defence, only to spray an easy shot.  He’ll butcher another similar chance minutes later, but not before Wayne Johnston and Craig Stewart have goaled, each giving their side the lead.

 

Johnston’s shot has taken a wicked leg break past the goal post.   But this is perhaps not the only “wicked break” that Johnston has inflicted on Collingwood.  Moments before his freak goal, Johnston and his opponent, Graeme Allan, are just out of screen, circling a marking contest in Carlton’s forward line.  Seconds later, Allan is prostrate, spitting teeth and blood.  His jaw has been shattered, the force of the blow pushing his front teeth through his bottom lip.  Nearby teammate Ian Cooper hears rather than sees the impact, later describing the crack of the bone as the “worst sound I’ve ever heard in my life”.  The brutal incident itself and Peter Landy’s clipped, dispassionate description that “Allan’s in a bad way” are indications enough of how times have changed.  Likewise, the decision by the Collingwood medical staff to allow the clearly concussed Allan to remain at the ground beggars belief.  “He was away with the fairies”, describes one team-mate.  “We couldn’t understand anything he was saying and when you looked him in the eye he stared straight through you”.  In the absence of any umpires’ report and in the days before video evidence and match review panels, there are no repercussions for Johnston or any other possible perpetrator.  He will take his place as usual in the Carlton side in Round 1 1982.

 

The sides leave the arena separated by just a point.  It’s been a torrid, pressure-packed half in which neither side has given an inch.  Rain starts to fall during the break.  It seems less likely than ever that this pattern will change.

 

***

 

David Parkin, at this very time, coined the phrase “the Premiership Quarter” to describe the importance of the third quarter in deciding these sorts of contests.  True to his word, his Carlton sides are becoming masters at spectacular third-quarter bursts that obliterate otherwise competitive opposition.  Will they do so today? When Wayne Harmes collects the ball in midfield, bounces twice and goals from long range, their prospects are looking good.  But for the next ten minutes, the Blues can make no further headway in the slippery conditions, clinging to a one goal lead.

 

The break, when it finally comes, is sudden and unexpected.  After a decidedly “2020ish” chain of quick-fire handpasses, Collingwood’s Mick Taylor shimmies through the Carlton defence for Collingwood’s first goal in nearly half an hour of play.  A minute later they have a second.  Rene Kink swoops on a loose ball and caresses a clever pass to Tony Shaw 20 metres from goal.  Brother Ray bobs up next, snapping an improbable shot from the boundary line.  When Williams executes a brilliant smother and charges into an open goal, the Magpie army is in full voice.  As the clock ticks into time-on, Barham adds a fifth.  Collingwood by 21 points.  It’s a big margin in these conditions.  Carlton has just six goals on the board and the rain is getting heavier.

 

Parkin’s “Premiership Quarter” dictum was accurate.  So often Grand Finals are decided by bursts like this, at this time of the game.  This should be Collingwood’s time. But Parkin has other thoughts that prove prescient.  “I really did think it would take a great side and a lot of character to get back from that point”, he says post-game.  In the crucial last minutes of the quarter, that character starts to emerge.  Carlton attacks and it looks like Johnston’s taken an unlikely pack mark.  But it slips from his grasp and the umpire signals “play-on”.  Collingwood looks like it’s got a lucky reprieve.  McCormack grabs the loose ball and handpasses to Cooper to clear. But in the tiniest of actions, games can turn.  As Cooper takes possession, his hands knock into the body of Maclure.  The ball spills loose, straight to Ashman, unmarked.  From 20 metres on a tight angle, he gives Carlton a lifeline.  Sensing the moment. Fitzpatrick pounds a hit-out 30 metres forward.  Hunter wins a free only to see the gallant McCormack take a saving mark and clear to Kink on the wing.  It should be enough.  But it isn’t.  Carlton players swarm around Kink forcing another spillage.  This time Buckley is the grateful recipient.  Another coolly taken shot nailed, seconds before the siren.

 

Parkin says he was ready to tear strips off his players at the break.  But in these last couple of minutes he reconsiders.  Instead, his message is full of conviction that his team will prevail.  “I’m convinced by what I saw just before three-quarter time that Collingwood hasn’t much run left…there can be no doubt in my mind that if we get the first goal we’ll win”. If those words haven’t assured the players that their opponent is flagging, Noel Lovell’s panicked handball over the boundary line surely does.  Lovell somehow escapes being penalised, but it matters not.  Sheldon crumbs a goal from the throw-in and the Blues smell blood.

 

Collingwood launches a desperate attack down the members wing, ending with David Twomey who fires a long-range shot.  Visions of his brilliant goal at Arden Street earlier this season return until, in a classic “Colliwobbles” moment, Moore attempts to mark the goal-bound ball.  It spills through his fingers and over the line.  A superb team-lifting goal becomes a deflating touched behind.  The contrast couldn’t be greater with Carlton’s next attack, which spills from a pack and into the open arms of Ashman again.  He jogs into an open goal and the lead changes – for the final time.

 

Although Carlton dominates from hereon, the game becomes more and more scrambly.  The inevitable kill is slow and drawn out as the Blues spray their chances.  As late as 20 minutes into the quarter, Collingwood are only two goals down before Maclure finally marks and goals to seal their fate.  McKay adds the exclamation point to Carlton’s revival before the siren confirms their triumph.  From their lowest point just before three-quarter time, the Blues have slammed on 6.7 to 0.2.  It’s been a glorious resurgence or a dramatic fadeout, depending on your allegiance.  As a neutral, I’m left disappointed that a contest that’s promised so much has petered out to a tame finish. Yet another Collingwood failure is going to be the headline story from the day. But this understates Carlton’s ability to prevail in a game that’s required gritty resolve rather than their characteristic showmanship.  This will be a very satisfying victory for the ODNBs.

 

There are numerous full replays of the game that can be found on YouTube, but this highlights package captures most of the key moments.

 

 

***

 

Chaotic hoopla in the winners’ camp.  Devastation for the losers.  The post-match in 1981 differs little from the present day.  The time-honoured swapping of guernseys is still practiced back then, before awkward commercial obligations render it a no-no.  The short-lived practice of awarding medallions to the losing team suffers its death sentence when Peter Moore throws his away in disgust at yet another defeat.  The Norm Smith Medal is awarded for just the third time.  Bruce Doull is a hugely popular winner, in part because his reticence is matched only by his unflappable defending.  His post-game interview here must rank as one of footy media’s rarest treasures. (Happy 70th Birthday, Bruce!)

 

 

Mike Fitzpatrick is the pundits’ pick for best afield, but instead of “Norm”, he must make do with the honour of lifting the cup with David Parkin.  As the weary but triumphant Blues do their victory lap, a few post-match interviews round up Channel 7’s telecast of the day.

 

 

 ***

 

As we emerge, exhausted but sated, from our concrete cavern, none of us have any inkling that this meeting of the two VFL heavyweights will mark the beginning of a slow but steady demise in the fortunes of both clubs.

 

Carlton’s decline is a while off.  Today has been a supreme test for a great side and they’ve come through it superbly.  In the short-term, success will fuel success.  In similar circumstances and conditions, the Blues will slug it out again 12 months later against another arch-rival, Richmond.  Again, they will prevail, despite looking beaten at stages.  But their supreme self-confidence will gradually transform into hubris.  Stars will retire, move on.  Replacements will lack their brilliance.  They will fail to win a final between 1983 and 1985.  Rapacious plundering of South and Western Australia will deliver a final influx of talent to Princes Park before the realities of the draft, salary cap and expansion of the competition hit.  Of all the clubs, Carlton is the least willing and able to adapt.  Its 1987 Premiership will be seen as their railing against the dying of the light.  The 1995 Flag, glorious as it was, looks in hindsight little more than a dead cat bounce ahead of two decades  of self-inflicted disaster – the hefty price for the club’s flagrant contempt for the new order.

 

Collingwood topples quickly.  The heartbreak of four Grand Final losses in five years is too much to bear.  The 1982 season is a disaster for the club, team and coach.  A time of upheaval and blood-letting follows.  Eventually, the Magpies will enjoy Premiership success.  The 1990 Flag finally shatters the millstone of three decades of Grand Final failure.  The 2010 success is testimony to a decade of hard work and careful team-building. But both are fortuitous one-offs.  There will be no return to the dynastic Collingwood “machine” of the 1920s.  The Magpies will squander the fruits of their 1990 Flag, reaching the end of the decade a near-destitute wooden-spooner.  Since then, the club has finally thrown off their amateur ethos that held them back for so long.  Collingwood now is powerful, professionally-run and chock full of good people at every level.  But on-field, the old ghosts still flourish.  Despite the club’s strength and stability, the Magpies still find ways to fail their biggest tests.

 

Such prospects are far from our minds as we board the packed old W-class tram on that drizzly September night.  Our heads are still full of this latest engrossing instalment of the VFL’s greatest rivalry.  We never once think that, four decades on, that rivalry will have become all but irrelevant.

 

Read The Age, Monday 28th September 1981, for coverage of all matches HERE.

 

 

GRAND FINAL DETAILS

 

CARLTON v COLLINGWOOD

 

Carlton 2.4 5.8 8.13 12.20 (92)

Collingwood 2.6 5.7 10.10 10.12 (72)

 

Goals — CARLTON: Ashman 3, Maclure 2, McKay 2, Sheldon 2, Buckley, Harmes, Johnston.

COLLINGWOOD: Barham 2, Williams 2, Daicos, Moore, R.Shaw, T.Shaw, Stewart, Taylor.

 

Best — CARLTON: Fitzpatrick, Doull, Hunter, Marcou, McConville, Perovic, Maylin, Glascott.

COLLINGWOOD: Picken, Taylor, Williams, Kink, Twomey, McCormack.

 

Norm Smith Medal: Bruce Doull (Carlton)

 

Umpires: Dye, Robinson.

Attendance at MCG: 112,964.

 

 

 

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About Sam Steele

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

Comments

  1. Excellent finish to an excellent series.
    Thanks, Stainless, for the entertaining walk down memory lane.

    P.S. Was Klomp dropped or injured? I don’t recall.

  2. Stainless, your 1981 revisit has been an epic achievement! Congratulations and thanks from an appreciative audience. Now I think you’d better go and have a little lie down to recoup your strength for whatever your next project might be.

  3. Painful to relive that again, but great writing to be able to take me right back there to the grey, wet September afternoon. I actually watched the game again during the first lockdown for the first time since ’81.

    Thanks Stainless for a magnificent series. Meticulously researched and expertly executed.

  4. Where I lived in WA we had the ABC broadcast. Doug Heywood, etc. It’s interesting to contrast the Lou/Landy call with today’s calls. Lou was obviously a hard core Collingwood man, but there was no sense that he was ever biased, and they called it so straight, and with fewer voices. I know it’s easy to say “better in the old days” but we could certainly do with a few more straight callers in preference to the vocal calisthenics and over-analysis (which in fact under-analyses given they still only tell us the bleedin’ obvious) we cop today.

    Bit harsh on the 95 flag. Carlton finished the 93 and 94 H&A seasons in second place before winning in 95 and still hung around about until 2000 including a 99 grand final berth. But the salary cap scandal certainly

  5. … errr, certainly fixed their little red wagon (full of brown paper bags).

  6. Stainless, there has been so much to take out of this 1981 series, and not just because Carlton won the flag.

    Your observations about the crowd on the day reaffirm my general memories of the time. Footy crowds rarely had trouble entertaining themselves – something that has been completely ignored in these days of “match day experiences’.

    As for the footy? Where would I start and end? Collingwood did a magnificent job just getting through to this game. Those Hafey sides are remembered for the losses, which is unfair. They generally overperformed given their spread of talent. Hafey did a magnificent job, considering what the Collingwood administrations of the time wouldn’t consider or provide.

    Parkin was the modern thinker Carlton needed to take the team Jezza had hardened up and transform them into one of the great sides of any era.

    Re the Brownlow – Rod Ashman was very stiff to get pipped. He polled in 11 games (more than anyone that year) but got too many 1 or 2 votes. He was a magnificent player.

    I reckon your assessment of Carlton’s decline nails many of the right causes, but your timing is premature. 3 flags in 14 seasons is the sort of decline any club would likely be pretty happy with.

    Carlton’s real problems start with the dawn of the AFL era. Jack Elliot was a pretty effective president for Carlton over his first decade. He just never knew when to quit while he was ahead. He badly misread the growing power of the AFL administration.

    But this is your essay, not mine. Thank you for all the work you’ve put into this. Along with Peter Clark’s 1966 work, this has been one of the real highlights of the Almanac year.

    Cheers.

  7. Great recollection Stainless. I was in the front row of the second top deck of the Olympic Stand, right on top of the behind line. Which meant I had the perfect view of Peter Moore’s ill-fated goal-line intervention, which visibly knocked the stuffing out of Collingwood – with at least 20 minutes still to play and still with the lead, which must be some kind of record for ‘jacking it in’. In hindsight, maybe Hafey was effectively finished at Collingwood at that moment.

    Behind me were a mother and daughter who had spent most of the first half with Mum whinging every time a Carlton player fumbled or missed a goal or dropped a mark. In the moment of silence before the bounce early in Collingwood’s mid-third-quarter run of goals, just as the rain was setting in, I heard an absolutely exasperated voice behind me say ‘Either start behaving yourself or you can go and sit with the bloody Collingwood supporters!’ Five minutes and a couple more Magpie goals later, domestic disharmony broke out again and this time Mum had had enough, swearing bitterly, snatching up her stuff and heading for the aisle. Daughter’s last call: ‘And I’ll have MY bloody umbrella back, thanks! Stick your plastic thing over your head’

    Garry Hutchinson described that last quarter as ‘watching victory sink in like a glass of chilled cognac’. After the frantic finish to the 79 decider, having 10 minutes to anticipate the siren was a welcome change to the script (as was the uneventual summer that followed). From the MCG to the Hilton forecourt to Princes Park via Perce’s pub, the celebrations seemed to go on forever, with no need to worry about my final resting place after moving into a flat in Brunswick Road over the first week of the finals. I had very fortuitously decided to go for a run around Princes Park in the middle of that week, seen the queue outside the Heatley Stand and realised tickets were on sale the next morning and not the following one – I was one fitness guilt-prod away from missing the whole show.

    A few random observations: Carlton’s first and last goals were both kicked by David McKay. Their second and second-last came from Mark Maclure. Rod Ashman kicked their third and third-last, and Ken Sheldon folllowed the script for the 4th and 4th-from-last.

    Mario Bortolotto’s GF contribution must have been the most anonymous ever. He never took the field – I think Parkin at one stage may have said ‘I forgot he was there’ – and even as he stepped up to get his winner’s medal he was introduced to the crowd as ‘Scott Howell’. (Fortunately he kept his spot for the following year, and his effort in controlling a rampant David Cloke did get their due recognition.)

    Carlton scored 4.7 to two behinds in the last quarter, almost exactly mirroring the first quarter in 1970 in which Collingwood blitzed 4.8 to 0.3. Both matches were played on Sept 26 without that date recurring in the meantime, and Carlton also won the next Sept 26 Grand Final (1987).

    (I watched YouTube highlights of the first Sunday game, between Essendon and Collingwood a month before the finals and the narrative was almost identical to the GF, with Collingwood 3-4 goals ahead half way through the third quarter before stopping stone dead, and Essendon (as Carlton did) delaying the final sealing of the match with a run of behinds, missed opportunities and umpiring misfortune in the middle 10 minutes of the last. It highlighted one Achilles heel that Essendon never fixed even as they were winning 15 on end: appalling conversion, which saw a host of 20-plus behinds scores and cost them in the two losses that followed.)

  8. Thank you all for your comments, kind words and your interest in this series.

    I’m not quite done yet! There is a post-script still to come, which sums up my major reflections of the season as a whole rather than the Premiership, which was the focus of this piece.

    Smokie – I’m not sure if Klomp was injured. The newspaper summary just says replaced in selected side by Bortolotto.
    Ian – I’ve really enjoyed researching this series. I’ll certainly take a break, but I’d happily do other season reviews in future.
    Damian – time does ease the pain although it never fully erases it. I too forced myself to watch a couple of Richmond’s finals losses during lockdown – you learn a lot from defeat!
    Tony – spot on about the commentary. Doug Heywood was a terrific commentator, as were most of the ABC crew back then. I found Lou’s voice a bit grating but I agree his lack of bias, given his Collingwood background, was admirable. He must have found the last part of the Grand Final agonising to call.
    John – we got your boys over the line in the end :) You’re right about the Collingwood teams of that era and Hafey’s efforts to extract the maximum from them. Re. Carlton’s decline – yes, I’m being harsh (after 3000 words on your Premiership, you’ve got to allow me a little schadenfreude!) I did say that Carlton’s downturn was a gradual one. Typically, when organisations fail, the seeds of decline are sown well before the failure manifests itself. Carlton’s response to a slight drop-off in performance in 83-85 was to go out and spend big on star players. The 87 Flag was the short-term positive. But in the longer term, it reinforced the mantra that this was the way to success and ignored the fact that the world was changing rapidly.
    Rick – thanks for your recollections of the day – personal memories bring it to life. And those are remarkable statistical points. I too saw the highlights of the earlier Essendon-Collingwood game and thought at the time that the pattern of the match was very like the GF.

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