1981 Revisited – Round 4: ‘Don’t stand so close to me’


42,000 at Kardinia Park. Just under 30,000 at Windy Hill. These may not sound remarkable attendance figures, but it’s worth remembering what it was like to be part of a crowd this size back at the old suburban grounds.


Firstly, there was no pre-booking back then. Whether you were a club member or a regular cash-paying punter, it was first-in, best-dressed. The gates opened at 11am, coinciding with the start of the Reserves match. On big game days, capacity was often reached by 12.30, at which point the gates were closed. Many latecomers would remain outside the locked grounds, cans piled up, listening to the radio broadcast and taking in the roars of those lucky enough to get in. I’m not sure whether this occurred at the games at Geelong and Essendon played in this round, but the crowd numbers were at the limits of the grounds’ capacities.


For most spectators, the only option at these grounds was standing room. Obviously, this enabled the maximum number of bodies in the minimum amount of space, but it presented big challenges for shorter folk to see over the sea of heads. In the days of steel beer cans and no limits on alcohol, this could be resolved by drinking six cans quickly and using the empties as a platform to stand on. But this tactic wasn’t much use for non-drinkers, kids or for people attending games on their own trying to preserve their precious vantage point when, inevitably, nature called!


Above all, big crowds at small venues created crushes that would surely be forbidden under modern health and safety regulations. There were times when I was in crowds so packed that it was virtually impossible to move from my spot. Fortunately, Australian football crowds never indulged in the manic surges of their UK soccer counterparts. Fights sometimes broke out, but they were remarkably rare considering our close confines, the booze and the free mixing of rival supporters. We were never subjected to segregation or the infamous fences and “pens” that resulted in fatal disasters such as Hillsborough.


In short, I never felt in danger venturing onto the terraces at the old VFL venues, but the experience was always one of nervous, excited anticipation of the unexpected. Invariably, the crowds were loud, colourful and their banter was “fruity” to say the least. Did the primitive facilities simply discourage more refined folk from attending or did they bring out our more basic characteristics? I’ve got no doubt that once I’d passed through the turnstiles, my behaviour quickly morphed from preppy middle-class school-boy to loud-mouth Richmond barracker. It was rebellious. It was exhilarating. My love of going to the footy has endured into the age of all-seater stadiums and theatregoer crowds, but it was forged among the duffle-coated throng with their ghetto blasters and their one-eyed, foul-mouthed devotion for the team.


Yet even as the fans thronged in their thousands to stand at those traditional venues in the glorious weather of Easter 1981, the winds of change were blowing. North Melbourne played the role of disruptor and ally of the VFL by agreeing to switch its home game against Richmond from Arden Street to VFL Park. Amidst confident predictions of a crowd of 60,000, the rather disappointing turnout of 48,000 was glossed over by League boss, Allen Aylett:


“There were around 28,000 more people at the game at VFL Park than would have attended at North Melbourne. The move was a big plus for football and North Melbourne have displayed a lead that I hope other clubs will follow,” Aylett said.


Whilst North was the principal beneficiary of a $100,000 gate (probably three times what it would have generated at Arden Street), the loss of home ground advantage played massively into Richmond’s hands. The Kangaroos were well-beaten by a Richmond outfit that was starting to show glimpses of its 1980 form.


In the other two games played on Easter Saturday, Fitzroy overwhelmed South Melbourne with a 16-goal second half (the power-packed forward line of Rendell, Quinlan and Conlan contributing 16 goals between them), https://youtu.be/KQmnm8_-HTw




While St Kilda, despite logging a whopping 32 points, including eight straight at the start of the game, were untroubled in downing Melbourne at the MCG.


On Easter Monday, the three visiting teams all won hard-fought affairs leaving the home sides all mired in the bottom four after four rounds.


Late withdrawals of Daicos, Kink and Shaw didn’t prevent Collingwood from grinding their way to a narrow win over Geelong. Terry Bright’s five goal haul out of nine for the home side was overshadowed by six of eleven from Craig Davis, including all five in the second half and the sealer moments before full time.



In contrast, at Footscray, the goals were shared across 17 players, none scoring more than two. Carlton mirrored their unbeaten rival’s effort at the other end of the Geelong Road, overcoming a slow start to run out five goal victors.


At Windy Hill, Hawthorn led all day but never by enough to shake off the Bombers completely.


Keep those recollections coming. It’s only 39 years ago!





Richmond 4.5 9.12 14.17 17.22 (124)

North Melb. 2.4 4.8 7.12 13.17 (95)


RICHMOND — Goals: Roach 6, Bartlett 4, Tempany 2, Cloke 2, Raines, Nugent, Sarah.

NORTH MELBOURNE: Reeves 3, Spencer 2, Good 2, Boyse, Kelly, Hodgeman, Payne, Jarrott, Smith.


RICHMOND — Best: Raines, Weightman, Wood, Tempany, Bartlett, Sarah.

NORTH MELBOURNE: Glendinning, Good, W. Schimmelbusch, Jarrott.


Umpires: Robinson, Smith.

Attendance at VFL Park: 48,528. Receipts: $102,744.



Collingwood 2.5 6.9 8.9 11.10 (76)

Geelong 5.2 6.4 7.11 9.14 (68)


COLLINGWOOD — Goals: Davis 6, Morris 3, Stewart, Moore.

GEELONG: Bright 5, Clarke 2, Middlemiss, Witcombe.


COLLINGWOOD — Best: Byrne, Moore, Allan, Davis, Morris.

GEELONG: Malarkey, I. Nankervis, Yeates, Turner, Bright.


Umpires: Nash, Deller.

Attendance at Kardinia Park: 42,395. Receipts: $83,031.



Carlton 2.4 4.7 10.9 15.14 (104)

Footscray 3.4 4.8 8.9 11.10 (76)


CARLTON — Goals: Fitzpatrick 2, Armstrong 2, Whitnall 2, Doull 2, Bosustow 2, McConville 2, Wells, Jones, Fitzpatrick, Maclure.

FOOTSCRAY: Edmond 2, Whitten 2, Jennings 2, McKenna2, Loveless, Ford, Dunstan.


CARLTON — Best: Maylin, Perovic, Hunter, Ashman, Southby.

FOOTSCRAY: Jennings, Hampshire, Egan, Hawkins, N. Cordy, Dunstan.


Umpires: James, Fellows.

Attendance at VFL Park: 27,299. Receipts: $52,980.



Hawthorn 3.4 8.10 11.12 13.16 (94)

Essendon 2.1 4.3 8.5 11.13 (79)


HAWTHORN — Goals: Moncrieff 5, Davis 3, Robertson 2, Wallace, Tuck, Considine.

ESSENDON: Andrews 3, Buhagiar 2, Crow 2, Carman, Burdett, Foreman, Hawker.


HAWTHORN — Best: Tuck, Scott, Moore, Wallace, Moncrieff, Greene.

ESSENDON: Andrews, Hawker, Clarke, Carey, Buhagiar.


Umpires: Cameron, Sawers.

Attendance at Windy Hill: 29,597. Receipts: $55,170.



Fitzroy 3.2 9.9 17.12 25.19 (169)

South Melb. 6.5 9.7 12.11 14.16 (100)


FITZROY — Goals: Rendell 7, Quinlan 5, Conlan 4, Parish 3, Mugavin 2, McMahon, McCarthy, Wilson, Harris.

SOUTH MELBOURNE: J. Roberts 5, Taylor 3, T. Morwood 2, Foschini 2, G. Smith, Jackson.


FITZROY — Best: Conlan, Rendell, McMahon, Alexander, Quinlan, Taylor.

SOUTH MELBOURNE: J. Roberts, Teasdale, Taylor, Foschini.


Umpires: Chapman, Dye.

Attendance at Junction Oval: 15,635. Receipts: $29,540.



St. Kilda 4.8 6.14 10.23 16.32 (128)

Melbourne 1.5 4.9 8.13 10.16 (76)


ST KILDA — Goals: Roberts 5, Faletic 2, Lofts, Breen, Dunne, Thomas, Herbert, Sarau, Mildenhall, Nettlefold, Brown.

MELBOURNE: Jackson 3, Catoggio 2, Healy 2, McGlashan, Seddon, Moir.


ST KILDA — Best: Cox, Thomas, Fidler, Dunne, Elphinstone.

MELBOURNE: Giles, Baker, Crosswell, Moir, §eddon.


Umpires: Sutcliffe, Howe.

Attendance at MCG: 36,488. Receipts: $88,251






P W L D F A % P
COLLINGWOOD 4 4 0 0 570 420 135.7 16
CARLTON 4 4 0 0 479 357 134.2 16
RICHMOND 4 3 1 0 469 463 101.3 12
ST KILDA 4 2 2 0 527 450 117.1 8
FITZROY 4 2 2 0 549 477 115.1 8
North Melbourne 4 2 2 0 455 421 108.1 8
Hawthorn 4 2 2 0 470 453 103.8 8
Geelong 4 2 2 0 343 370 92.7 8
Essendon 4 1 3 0 375 387 96.9 4
South Melbourne 4 1 3 0 446 576 77.4 4
Melbourne 4 1 3 0 418 555 75.3 4
Footscray 4 0 4 0 387 559 69.2 0


No newspaper links are available for this round.


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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. Yep Stainless, i was one of the 42.395 at Kardinia Park that day. Revenge was sought for the 4 point loss in the 1980 preliminary final, a game which had been a classic case of ‘we wuz robbed!’ In the 1981 clash a good first quarter inspired many to prepare to savour the sweet taste of revenge. Alas, not to be.

    If the memory is correct the ‘Pies had some key players pull out just prior to the game, yet they were still too good for the home side. Looking at their goal kickers, Craig Davis and Kevin Morris tallied 9 of their 11. These pair were part of Tommy Hafey’s ‘foreign legion’ of good, average players who got them into September action, but weren’t able to match their classier opponents come the big day.

    Stainless, i don’t know if you’ve seen it but, some where in the vault of Almanac postings is one i wrote of the 1980 Easter weekend clash at Kardinia Park where the home side won; just.


  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Was that Doug Cox named best for the Saints? Played at West Torrens.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    That was indeed the Doug Cox DS – he had four kicks and five handballs, presumably on Jacko, who seemed to have done ok from limited opportunities. Jackson, in his first league season, had kicked 4,6 and 8 goals in the first three rounds, so perhaps someone thought that Cox was indeed a matchwinner.

    Without stealing any of Stainless’ future thunder, Jackson kicked 76.28 in a team with a 1-21 record that year.

    Jacko’s career numbers were 82 games (20 wins, 62 losses), 308.144, 105 frees for, 249 against.

  4. Stainless says

    Thanks folks.
    Glen – I do recall your piece on Geelong’s 1980 win over Hawthorn. The Cattery was a very different place back then. Even in those days of standing room, I can’t recall seeing a bigger crowd than the 42,000 on this Easter Monday. It must have been a crush?
    Daryl and Mark – without stealing my own thunder, Doug Cox will figure more prominently in this season retrospective. And I guess Jacko will need a mention or two as well. At the time, we Richmond folk had some fondness for him having kicked 132 goals in our Reserves team in 1980. We like to claim that his cult figure status began that year, well before his televised antics at Melbourne. It’s a pity his crazy capers overshadowed the fact that he was a seriously good footballer.

  5. Brilliant Stainless. So many memories.

    Firstly, how’s the Malarkey dash through the guts and then the ball-bursting torp!

    On big crowds, I recall the moment that Channel 7 crossed to Melbourne – after a two-minute inro from Ken Hose and Bruce Burgoyne. YOu’d be deposited into the suburbn ground just as teams were coming our and getting ready. You could feel the atmosphere of the crowd – the tight fit. I especially recall Vic Park and Arden St. The autumn sun in tha faces of the mob at the Yarra Falls end. The cityscape in the bckground.


    And then later in theseason, the wintry conditions.

    Loving these.

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