1981 Revisited – Round 2: ‘History Never Repeats’

“The message is clear. If the facilities are good, people will attend. As administrators, we have continually said that we will keep in tune with public feeling. Through last Saturday’s response, we have been given further encouragement to continue with that philosophy”.(VFL President Dr Allen Aylett, VFL Footy Record, Round 2, 1981.


For many years, before the Lake Oval’s redevelopment as a soccer stadium, the peeling signs above its rusty old turnstiles proclaimed $4 for adult admission – the price of a ticket in 1981. South Melbourne’s last season. As the competition moved on, and ticket prices increased, the ground that once witnessed the legendary deeds of Pratt, Nash, Goldsmith and Skilton stood frozen in time, its decaying stands and terraces embodying the fading memory of one of the VFL’s foundation clubs


The editorial pieces in the VFL Records early in 1981 give a clear sense of the agenda that gradually emerged during the year. Seizing on the occasion of VFL Park attracting its 7 millionth spectator during the previous round and a bumper aggregate attendance of nearly 200,000 people at the six games, the League’s barely-contained enthusiasm for “ground rationalisation”, the greater use of its Waverley showpiece and the holy grail of Sunday football shines through:


“It’s important for the football public to realise that VFL Park has been developed solely from the Victorian Football League’s own financial resources. In fact, as a self-funding sporting body, the VFL has paid out more than $9 million over the last five years for the development and up-keep of grounds on which League clubs participate.


“The VFL is a self-generating sport, which has raised the finance for VFL Park and other ground improvements without Government aid. The high financial burden of running clubs makes it essential that the VFL makes more use of it’s (sic) main stadiums such as VFL Park and the MCG . . . this is why the League has been pressing for Sunday football.


“VFL President, Dr Allen Aylett described the response to last week’s games as ‘magnificent’.


“‘It is a tremendous result. We hoped we may be well up in the area of a record and it is thrilling when people respond in this way,’ he said.


“The three highest attendances for the day were at VFL Park, Kardinia Park, Geelong and the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Dr Aylett said these figures further emphasised the VFL’s policy in providing first class facilities for spectators. He said Geelong had only recently completed a major ground improvement project and the crowd of 37,303 had backed the club’s judgement.”


What is left unsaid is what this would mean for the League’s stragglers and the grounds on which they played.


I only attended two VFL matches at the Lake Oval, just a matter of months apart in 1980 and 1981. Enough to get a feel for its rustic charm and picturesque setting on Albert Park Lake. Enough to get a small sense of its place in the history of the VFL. But scarcely an iota of the place it held in the hearts and spirits of the Bloods. This realisation would only dawn on me in the coming months.


On this day, my thoughts are much more immediate. As I find my little patch of gravelly terrace behind the outer end goals on this early April afternoon, I’m feeling some trepidation about the approaching contest. After all it was just seven months since South Melbourne thrashed Richmond here on the eve of the 1980 finals series. The wind that day was strong and flukey, the opposition fierce and the Tigers emerged battered and humiliated with a nine-goal hiding. I certainly have no inkling that this will be the last time I’ll be attending this ground for a VFL match.


But my pre-match concerns about a repeat of last year’s debacle are unwarranted. The early autumn day is still and dry, denying the hosts much of their home ground advantage. Conditions are perfect for our in-form spearhead. And on cue, he delivers. A towering mark in the goal square by Michael Roach, seconds into the game, signals the pattern of things to come. “Disco” dobs a lazy nine, and, ably supported by six from the ageless Kevin Bartlett and a blistering game from his emerging understudy, Dale Weightman, the Tigers enjoy a comfortable and reassuring victory.


Only with hindsight do I realise how much our hosts are struggling. The contrast between the ramshackle facilities here and the modern all-seater VFL Park that I attended last week is obvious. The crowd today is disappointing. Less than 18,000 – the lowest of the round. You’d want to do better than that for your first home game of the season, surely, especially in a match against the reigning premiers?


Elsewhere, however, all appeared right in cosy old world of “six games on a Saturday”. The crowds piled into Princes Park, Victoria Park, Windy Hill and Moorabbin and some ripper contests unfolded. Interestingly, barely 20,000 went to Waverley.


In their “home” game against Carlton, Hawthorn broke away early but were gradually reeled in by the Blues. Inaccurate finishing denied Carlton an easier win but there was a sense of inevitability about the result, nonetheless. Carrying on their form from the previous week, newcomers Bosustow, Hunter and Wells were prominent throughout and all contributed goals when Carlton took control in the last quarter. Brief though they are, it’s worth looking at the highlights to see the grace and athleticism of this team and Bosustow in particular. It’s easy to see why he was such an immediate sensation at the time. The second link is to a longer package of exclusively Carlton highlights which will show what I mean (and no doubt give older Blues fans wistful pangs!)






The match at Windy Hill followed a similar pattern with the home side prevailing narrowly in another high quality contest. Some great names figure in the goal kickers and best players, not the least of which is one N. Daniher for the Bombers. The highlights show a couple of great contested marks which were such a wonderful (and regular) feature of the game back then.





It was a similar story at Moorabbin as St Kilda began and finished strongly but paid dearly for a flat patch through the middle of the game and a distressingly wasteful 9.18 after quarter time. No doubt the Animal Enclosure was in full voice as the Saints came storming home. Two narrow victories for the Cats had the minor premiers of 1980 off to a solid start, although their late fadeout was a concern.


Footscray made eight changes following their disappointing Round 1 loss including four debutants – Alister Ford, Mark Komp, Ross Gallagher and Warren Stanlake. Collingwood at Victoria Park was hardly an easy initiation for them and not surprisingly, another heavy defeat followed. Peter Daicos (6 goals) continued his sparkling start to the season as did Magpie newcomer, Mark Williams.


At Waverley, the Barassi-led Demons again disappointed, the coach declaring that his team played like park footballers rather than VFL Park footballers! New recruit Mark Jackson was an exception with 6 goals for the losers. The highlights show some snippets of Matt Rendell as an emerging star ruck/forward for Fitzroy and the exciting brand of running footy that the Lions would bring to the 1981 season.





I’d love to hear from other Almanackers if they have any memories of these games to enrich my brief summaries.


To read further stories from ‘1981 Revisited….’ click HERE







Fitzroy: 5.5 10.9 16.13 23.17 (155)

Melbourne: 3.1 8.5 11.9 16.14 (110)


Goals: FITZROY: Quinlan 6, McMahon 5, Conlan 4, Wilson 3, Lewis, Rendell, Mugavin, Harris, Murnane.

MELBOURNE: Jackson 6, O’Donnell 4, Elshaug 2, Barnes 2, Healy, Seddon.


Best: FITZROY: Quinlan, Conlan, Rendell, Mugavin, McMahon, Wilson.

MELBOURNE: Jackson, O’Donnell, Barnes, Elshaug, Baker, Elliott.


Umpires: Chapman, Morgan.

Attendance at VFL Park: 20,107. Receipts $79,200.





Richmond: 7.4 12.7 16.9 22.13 (145)

South Melb: 5.1 8.3 11.10 16.14 (110)


Goals: RICHMOND: Roach 9, Bartlett 6, Sarah 2, Weightman, Rowlings, Welsh, Cloke, Scrimshaw.

SOUTH MELBOURNE: J. Roberts 4, M.Smith 4, A. Morwood 2, Wright 2, Goss, Plumb, Evans, Koop.


Best: RICHMOND: Weightman, Roach, Bartlett, Landy, Sarah, Wiley.

SOUTH: M. Smith, Roberts, A. Morwood, Browning, Wright.


Umpires: Howe, Sutcliffe.

Attendance at Lake Oval: 17,850. Receipts: $35,093.





Essendon: 1. 4 6. 8 10.12 16.15 (111)

North Melb: 5.1 8.2 11.5 15.9 (99)


Goals: ESSENDON: Buhagiar 3, Crow 3, T. Daniher 2, Fowler 2, Merrett 2, Reid, Carman, Foulds, Hawker.

NORTH MELBOURNE: Good 4, Blight 4, Easton, Spencer, D. Schimmelbusch, Hodgeman, Smith, W. Schlmmelbusch, Wright.


Best: ESSENDON: N. Daniher, Buhagiar, Neagle, Hawker, Reid, Crow.

NORTH MELBOURNE: Glendinning, W. Schimmelbusch, Tanner, Law, Blight, Good.


Umpires: Smith, Deller.

Attendance at Windy Hill: 26,443. Receipts: $44,597.





Collingwood: 6.4 14.11 20.13 26.22 (178)

Footscray: 1.2 6.2 9.5 13.6 (84)


Goals: COLLINGWOOD: Daicos 6, Davis 5, Stewart 3, Williams 2, R. Shaw 2, Taylor 2, Moore 2, Barham, Hannebery, Byrne, Allan.

FOOTSCRAY: Whitten 4, Ford 3, Jennings 2, Hampshire, Berry, Edmond, Wheeler.


Best: COLLINGWOOD: Daicos, Williams, Moore, Shaw, Barham, Stewart.

FOOTSCRAY: Whitten, Jennings, Ford, Reid.


Umpires: Cameron, Quinn.

Attendance at Victoria Park: 26,512. Receipts: $30,739.





Carlton: 1.2 7.11 11.16 17.21(123)

Hawthorn: 4.3 9.6 11.9 16.11(107)


Goals: CARLTON: Maclure 4, Bosustow 3, M.Fitzpatrick 2, Armstrong 2, Wells, Jones, Hunter, Doull, Ashman, Francis.

HAWTHORN: G. Ablett 4, Moncrieff 4, Matthews 3, Goss 2, Murnane 2, Robertson.


Best: CARLTON: Maylin, Ashman, Perovic, Lenaghan, Bousustow, Southby, Fitzpatrick.

HAWTHORN: O’Halloran, Moore, Eade, G.Ablett, Robertson.


Umpires: Nash, Robinson.

Attendance at Princes Park: 31,660.

Receipts: $62,552.





Geelong: 4.3 8.7 15.10 16.13 (109)

St. Kilda: 5.5 8.8 9.14 14.23 (107)


Goals: GEELONG: Bright 3, Mossop 3, Johnston 2, Clarke 2, Turner, Blake, Bruns, Jeffreys, B. Nankervis, I. Nankervis.

ST KILDA: Breen 3, Duperouzel 2, Roberts 2, Meehan 2, Sarau 2, Sartori, Faletic, Jesaulenko.


Best: GEELONG: Bright, Johnston, Yeates, Clarke, Mossop, Malarkey.

ST KILDA: Thomas, Roberts, Duperouzel, Cunningham, Barker, Breen.


Umpires: James, Sawers.

Attendance at Moorabbin Oval: 24,496. Receipts: $49,282.









CARLTON 2 8 141.3
GEELONG 2 8 104.5
ST KILDA 2 4 121.7
Hawthorn 2 4 110.6
Fitzroy 2 4 107.1
Essendon 2 4 103.4
Richmond 2 4 89.4
Melbourne 2 0 72.1
South Melbourne 2 0 71.4
Footscray 2 0 57.3


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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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. A great combination of history, analysis and heart here, Stainless. And those names! Enjoying your work and looking forward to coming instalments.

  2. They don’t score like they used to.

    Ten century scores in twelve matches. All these years later when a ‘normal’ round has eighteen matches it’s rare to see ten centuries in a round.

    Milan Faletic couldn’t repeat his round one glory. All down hill from there.

    Keep ’em coming Sam, i’m looking forward to future installments of the season that was; a long time back.


  3. Daryl Schramm says

    39, 38, 31, 39, 33, 30 goals each game respectively. Tough work for the boundary umpires. Also of note is the attendance and receipt figures. Vic Park 26K returned $30K. Moorabbin 24.5K for $49K. 20K for $79K at VFL Park. So that’s why they wanted Sunday football there! Looking forward to viewing the highlights later. I wonder what the SANFL outcomes looked like. Thanks Sam.

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    Facebook comment from Kevin Bartlett in response to above 1981 Round 2 post.

    “In my prime!
    Did well to steal a few snags off old cocky that day. He was on fire.
    – KB”

  5. Stainless says

    Thanks all.
    The scoring rates are certainly stratospheric by current standards, although as we’ll see, 1981 turned on a pretty wet winter, which brought the scores down significantly.
    Daryl – on the issue of gate receipts, I assume that at Collingwood home games there were lots of members and fewer paying cash at the gate, and vice versa at Waverley.

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