1981 Revisited – Round 19: ‘Cool World’


In all my years of going to the footy, I cannot remember feeling colder than I did on this bleak day at Moorabbin.


A screaming north wind is blowing, perversely, from the South Road end. The icy blast rips through my layers of winter clothing. On-field, long-sleeved guernseys are de rigeuer. The crowd of Richmond diehards behind the goals huddles together, penguin-like, but our numbers are too few for it to do much good. With the curtain-raiser still playing, we realise we’ve got another four hours of this ridiculous cold to endure. Giggles blend with chattering teeth as we exhort each other to barrack hard – the only option available to ward off hypothermia.


But even barracking is difficult from our vantage point. With the gale at our backs, all the action is at the far end of the ground. Such is the strength of the wind that a Jim Jess kick-in vies with the Jeff Fehring’s famous roost earlier in the season, covering more than half the length of the ground. Later, St Kilda’s Grant Thomas bombs a torpedo goal from well inside the centre square. With first use of this advantage, things begin brightly for Richmond as we shoot out to a 34-1 lead at the break. But St Kilda is a tough opponent at home at any time and these conditions are tailor-made for them. Buoyed by a vocal “Animal Enclosure”, the Saints better our efforts with the hurricane, heading in at half time with a 10-point lead.


With its season on the line, Richmond simply has to use the wind well in the third quarter. It doesn’t happen. A meagre return of 2.4 to 0.1 has us just five points ahead at the last change. Kicking to the end where just two points have been scored to date, the task looks daunting. When the Saints’ Bill Mildenhall goals a minute into the last quarter, it looks impossible. Then, from nowhere, the Tigers rally. Michael Roach kicks his only goal for the day and the first of the match at our end. The midfielders lift – Rowlings, Raines, Tempany, a young Geoff Martin playing just his second of six VFL games (he looked good – I wonder what happened to him?). We start to win more attacking possession, suddenly playing like we believe we can win, rather than grimly stacking the backline, hoping not to lose. When Bruce Tempany marks a wayward snap-shot from Raines on the edge of the goal square and kicks truly, the Tigers are out by eight points at the 22 minute mark.


But the quarter is a long one. St Kilda’s Peter Brown was concussed earlier on causing a delay to get him off the ground. As time-on approaches, Duperouzel squanders a glorious chance on the run. Then, at the 27 minute mark, Milan Faletic, from a free kick, gets one back for the Saints. They attack again and from another Faletic snap, a rushed behind levels the scores with a minute to go. The pressure is immense but Richmond’s class shows through. From the kick-in, Lee takes a towering mark, Bartlett and Raines run it down the wing to Tempany who closes on goal. Any score will win it. But his finishing is awful, dribbling across goal to the opposite boundary line. But we’ve run it the length of the ground and out of immediate danger.


In the midst of the frantic action is the unlikely figure of Paul Sarah. The ex-Geelong journeyman played his 150th last week but this is the game he’ll be remembered for. On a tough day for goal-kickers, he’s already kicked four of our nine. As the clock ticked over 20 minutes, Sarah bobbed up again, winning a lucky free kick close to goal. But even from 20 metres out, the wind wickedly dragged his shot into the far pocket. Now from this last crucial throw-in, he’s in the action again, pouncing on the ball, then tumbling to the ground in the same spot as his earlier free kick. The whistle sounds again. Another free, this time for a trip by Michael Nettlefold. A brave decision by umpire Robert Blythe, but a clear one. As Sarah goes back for his kick, the siren sounds. He’s no certainty in the conditions, but he’s learned from his previous shot and drills the winning goal. For a few moments at least, the numbing cold is replaced by the inner glow of a thrilling win. For a week at least, the Tigers are back in the Five.




“Umpire Robert Blythe” you may ask? For those with memories of the umpires of the time, this name won’t be familiar. The reason for this is that this round of VFL matches was officiated by stand-in junior umpires after the top 32 umpires resigned over a claim that their association should be allowed to represent them in negotiations with the League. The dispute was resolved the following week but for this round, the fate of the 12 teams rested in the hands of unknown juniors. So unknown were they that I can’t even be sure from the match coverage whether it was in fact Blythe who awarded that fateful free kick. The Age report says it was Blythe but the TV commentary names the other umpire, Gerald McKeeman.


At other venues some of the other debutant umpires would be more familiar as they went on to have lengthy careers at VFL/AFL level. Chris Mitchell was one of those, officiating at VFL Park for the Geelong Fitzroy game. By all accounts, Mitchell had an easier day than his colleagues at Moorabbin and was even applauded off the ground by the fans. The game itself was a critical one for both sides’ finals prospects and was therefore a major disappointment for Fitzroy which squandered their first use of the strong wind. Geelong opened with 4.2 to 2.5 Into the teeth of the gale and weren’t troubled thereafter. In a season where the Cats struggled to find regular goal-kickers, a five-goal return from Paul Jeffreys was a welcome surprise.




Coming off successive defeats, Collingwood experienced early tension at Victoria Park when North banged on the first five goals of the match and led by 26 points at the first change. It was only mid-way through the second quarter that the Magpies broke their goal drought, after which they took control at Victoria Park. North fought back to within four points mid-way through the last term, before the Maggies broke away again to end the game with three telling majors. The win secured Collingwood’s place in the finals and all but wrapped up their double chance, but the performance did little to silence those questioning their Premiership claims.


Wind also played havoc at the other games. At the Western Oval, Hawthorn seemed set to boost its percentage after its 41 point break in the first term, after which Its forward troubles reared again — 7.20 to 12.10 after quarter time tells the tale.  At the aptly-named Windy Hill, Essendon were also plagued by inaccuracy but did what they had to to overcome Melbourne.


The weather gods didn’t smile on the VFL’s second Sunday Football venture either, as Saturday’s biting wind gave way to cold, wet conditions at the MCG. The crowd of 24,000 was probably twice what would have attended this game at the Lake Oval and the gate takings were again far healthier than they would otherwise have been. Unlike last week’s game, this one was a fizzer. South displayed none of its recent winning form and the ladder leaders had the result stitched up by half time. So easy was the Blues’ win that they were able to rest skipper Mike Fitzpatrick and rover Rod Ashman on the bench for most of the day, keeping them fresh for bigger contests ahead.






Geelong 4.2 7.11 10.12 11.19 (85)

Fitzroy 2.5 2.5 5.14 9.16 (70)

Goals — GEELONG: Jeffreys 5, Reynoldson, Clarke, Witcombe, Bright, Neale, Peake.

FITZROY: Poynton 4, Quinlan 2, Parish, Murnane, Lewis.

Best — GEELONG: Neal, B. Nankervis, Bos, Jeffreys, Nankervis, Bright, Mossop, Witcombe.

FITZROY: Serafini, Smith, Poynton, Parish.

Umpires: Mitchell, Childs.

Attendance at VFL Park: 25,565. Receipts: $57,819.



Richmond 5.4 5.4 7.8 10.11 (71)

St. Kilda 0.1 6.8 6.9 9.11 (65)

Goals — RICHMOND: Sarah 5, Bartlett 2, Lee, Roach, Tempany.

ST KILDA: Mildenhall 2, Barker, Faletic, Thomas, Kellett, Sutherland, Gorozidis, Nettlefold.

Best — RICHMOND: Jess, Sarah, Bartlett, Raines, Smith, Tempany.

ST KILDA: Sarau, Thomas, Brown, Duperouzel, Roberts, Mildenhall.

Umpires: McKeeman, BIythe.

Attendance at Moorabbin: 15,943. Receipts: $23,826.



Collingwood 0.3 5.9 11.16 14.19 (103)

North Melb. 4.5 6.8 9.10 11.13 (79)

Goals — COLLINGWOOD: Barham 4, R.Shaw 3, Daicos 2, Williams, A. Shaw, Weideman, Allan, Kink.

NORTH MELBOURNE: Blight 3, Holt 3, Spencer, Hodgeman, Byrne, D. Dugdale, G. Dugdale.

Best — COLLINGWOOD: Barham, Moore, Williams, R. Shaw, McCormack, Byrne.

NORTH MELBOURNE: Tanner, Byrne. Hodgeman, Spencer, Dench, Dempsey.

Umpires: Sneddon, Saville.

Attendance at Victoria Park: 21,237. Receipts: $20,853.



Essendon 1.9 5.12 9.19 14.20 (104)

Melbourne 0.2 3.4 3.5 9.6 (60)

Goals — ESSENDON: Buhagiar 3, Crow 3, Hawker 3, Van Der Haar 2, N. Daniher, Foulds, Eustice.

MELBOURNE: Jackson 3, Elshaug 2, 0’Dwyer2, Braddy, Korn.

Best — ESSENDON: N. Daniher, Buhagiar, Foulds, Van Der Haar, Eustice, Crow.

MELBOURNE: Flower, Elshaug, O’Donnell, Keenan: O’Dwyer, Korn.

Umpires: Fisher, Ryan.

Attendance at Windy Hill: 15,411. Receipts: $18,912.



Hawthorn 8.1 10.9 14.13 15.21 (111)

Footscray 1.2 5.6 10.8 13.12 (90)

Goals — HAWTHORN: Matthews 3, Davies 3, Tuck 2, Ablett, Polkinghorne, Russo, Hendrie, Scott, McCarthy, Kennedy.

FOOTSCRAY: Komp 3, Hawkins 2, Salt 2, Hampshire, Davidson, Burton, Whitten, Dunstan, Gallagher.

Best — HAWTHORN: Matthews, Russo, Mew, Scott, Wallace, Kennedy.

FOOTSCRAY: Hawkins, Edmond, McAllester, Salt, Burton, Dunstan.

Umpires: Howlett, Garland.

Attendance at Princes Park: 8,058. Receipts: $8,415.



Carlton 5.0 10.5 11.6 13.7 (85)

South Melb. 1.4 2.9 4.11 8.14 (62)

Goals — CARLTON: Johnston 4, Lenaghan 4, Ashman 2, Bosustow, Waddell, Howell.

SOUTH MELBOURNE: Hounsell 2, Foschini 2, T. Morwood, K. Taylor, Round, Wright.

Best — CARLTON: Sheldon, Johnston, Bosustow, Maylin, English, Harmes, Lenaghan, Hunter.

SOUTH MELBOURNE: Round, Browning, Hounsell, D. Carroll, Smith, S.Wright.

Umpires: Beitzel, Phillips.

Attendance at MCG: 24,287. Receipts: $53,278





Read The Age, Monday 10th August 1981, for coverage of all matches HERE.




W L D F A % P
CARLTON 15 4 0 2054 1567 131.1 60
COLLINGWOOD 15 4 0 2126 1736 122.5 60
ESSENDON 14 5 0 1998 1599 125.0 56
GEELONG 13 6 0 1902 1522 125.0 52
RICHMOND 12 7 0 2081 1950 106.7 48
Hawthorn 11 8 0 2049 1840 111.4 44
Fitzroy 11 8 0 2105 1969 106.9 44
North Melbourne 8 11 0 2072 2048 101.2 32
South Melbourne 8 11 0 1937 2097 92.4 32
St Kilda 4 15 0 1711 2049 83.5 16
Footscray 2 17 0 1581 2318 68.2 8
Melbourne 1 18 0 1581 2502 63.2 4




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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!


  1. John Butler says

    Stainless, I remember how cold those Morabbin terraces could be.

    This series has been a constant reminder of many things that had escaped the memory – like the umpires dispute here.

    And Denis Lenaghan. This was probably his best game for the Blues. It was a very hard job breaking into our mosquito fleet in these years.

    Somehow, I think I’m looking forward to the finals. Just a hunch. :)

  2. Stainless says

    Hi JB
    Thanks for your ongoing interest. I’m sure reminiscing about 1981 is a chore for you :) although you might want to skip next week’s instalment!

  3. John Butler says

    Stainless, all we Blues have is our memories.

  4. Stainless says

    Memories served me well for 37 years!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Huge effort all year with this Stainless. Loving what you’ve done with the titles too.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks for another instalment of this interesting year. I can remember thinking how lucky those umpires were getting those opportunities at the top level before expectations. You really had to wait your turn back then.

  7. Thanks Swish. Appreciate the support. My memories of the hits of 1981 are starting to flag I must confess.
    Thanks Daryl. Yes, the señor umpiring panel was pretty small back then. I do clearly recall the speculation at the time that senior umpires probably wouldn’t have paid that free kick to Sarah at such a crucial time and place. Who knows?

  8. Chris Mitchell, went to Footscray North Primary, then Maribyrnong high School, Chris was circa 3 years older than me. He went to to a decent career as a senior umpire.Umpire Saville; was he another from the Western suburbs? Umpire Beitzel wasn’t. I really can’t recall what happened with most of these umpires.

    Music hits of 1981? I remember seeing Stray Cats @ Dalla Brooks Hall, supported by Paul Kelly & the Dots. Saw Rose Tattoo a few times in 1981; who else did i see? Was 1981 the first year EON FM graced the airwaves? Does anybody recall EON FM?

    Trevor Barker, Les Parish, two chaps who are no longer with us. They still seem young to me, as much of 1981 doesn’t seem too far back for me.

    Keep up the good work Stainless.


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