1981 Revisited – Round 9: ‘Guilty’



In the days before the VFL’s socialist revolution introduced the draft and the salary cap, the State of Victoria was divided into recruiting zones. Each club had exclusive access to one metropolitan and one country zone. So if, for example, you were a promising kid living in Frankston (metro) or Longwarry (country), your destination was Hawthorn. You had no choice. Equally, if you were a struggling club whose recruiting zones weren’t delivering the quality of players that were coming from rival clubs’ zones, bad luck.


Recruiting players from interstate was an entirely different matter. That was open slather, akin to European colonialists’ “Scramble for Africa”. The clubs that won the signatures of the prized stars from SA, WA or Tasmania usually did so through a mix of rat cunning and deep pockets.


And here’s the point. In 1981, St Kilda recruited a serviceable defender named Doug Cox from the Adelaide club of West Torrens. He played in the first eight games of the season until Richmond challenged the legitimacy of his recruitment. The Tigers pointed out that he’d originally come from South Mildura, in the heart of Richmond’s Sunraysia recruiting zone. The League upheld Richmond’s challenge. St Kilda was fined $5000 and stripped of the eight premiership points they’d accumulated to that point of the season. The Saints were outraged and, led by their vocal president Lindsay Fox, cast themselves as victims of treachery. As fate would have it, Richmond played St Kilda in Round 9.


Cox was ruled ineligible to play with St Kilda by the VFL on 20 May, but the Saints were granted a Supreme Court injunction on the 22nd allowing him to line up against the side which challenged the Saints’ hold on him. The encounter at Waverley suddenly went from being a mundane mid-season game to an almighty grudge match, with Richmond cast very much as the bad guys. Amidst cheers from the majority of the 40,000 crowd, Cox defiantly led the Saints through their banner. Equally defiant, Richmond’s captain, Bryan Wood, entered the arena with fists held high in the face of hostile booing. It was obvious that the match would begin in explosive fashion. The question was – which side would capitalise?


The Tigers’ 11 goal opening was a power-packed burst, reminiscent of their very best footy from the preceding Premiership year. As the quarter-time siren rang out with the Tigers 50 points ahead, Richmond fans sat back with the complacent assumption that a massive win was on its way.


How wrong they were! Over the next two quarters, St Kilda completely took over the game, outplaying Richmond all over the ground. By three-quarter time, they’d reeled in the deficit and with the partisan crowd urging them on, the headlines were already being drafted about the Saints’ fairytale win over the dastardly Tigers. Sadly, for those hoping for poetic justice, the Tigers regained their composure and toughed out a gritty five goal win. Rover Wiley and ruckman Lee were crucial contributors in the finish. Cox himself had a forgettable game, having the unenviable task of matching Kevin Bartlett, who kicked four important goals, and ended the game concussed. Trevor Barker was outstanding for the Saints and Con Gorozidis, with five goals, proved a lively target up forward.


This match was, in many ways, a microcosm of Richmond’s frustrating 1981 season. As their first quarter burst showed, the Tigers were capable of brilliant footy, but appeared to lack the hunger to destroy opponents as they’d done the previous year. Although they won this day, the mid-game lapse was mirrored in a number of games across the season with more dire consequences. Moreover, David Cloke, the bullocking battering ram of a centre half forward, had been in everything during that devastating first quarter, but suffered a knee injury that would sideline him until the last game of the season. In those days when positional football was still the order of the day, the loss of a key position player like Cloke couldn’t be over-stated. It completely upset Richmond’s forward structure and they struggled to kick winning scores for the rest of the year.


For the record, Cox remained at St Kilda following an out-of-court settlement between the VFL, Richmond and St Kilda. Although St Kilda briefly lost its premiership points (Footscray and Melbourne were the recipients) they were reinstated by the League a few weeks later.


Around the grounds, the round produced some interesting statistical anomalies. Ladder leaders Collingwood lost top spot despite winning, and bottom-placed Footscray rose to 11th despite losing. With the halfway point of the season approaching, three of the eventual finalists were outside the Final Five.


Carlton displaced the Magpies on top of the table with a spectacular 99-point mauling of South Melbourne. It was the Blues’ highest score in matches against South and was even more remarkable for the fact that the Swans led by 15 points at quarter time. Speaking of spectacular, if he hadn’t already made a big statement in his first eight games, Peter Bosustow’s eight-goal display took the award for the best performance of the round.





At Arden Street, Collingwood’s 8.1 third term gave it sufficient leeway against North. The home team was solid but, once again, woefully inaccurate. Twomey’s 60 metre run and 50 metre goal was a goal of the year contender.





Essendon’s season was starting to gather momentum, although the tenacious Demons made the Bombers earn their win. Two goals from Tim Watson in a minute late in the final term finally shook them off. Meanwhile Tony Buhagiar was continuing to press his claims as recruit of the year with another best-on-ground performance with 25 possessions and five goals. In the third quarter, he scored 4.3 of the Dons’ 4.9, and was directly responsible for his team snatching the lead for the first time.


At Footscray, Hawthorn struggled all day but eventually muddled its way to victory. For the Dogs, Mick Egan had the rare honour of being best on ground against none other than L. Matthews.


At the Junction Oval, the Cats again broke away early, but unlike the previous week they were able to keep their opponents at bay.







Richmond 11.5 12.8 14.9 20.16 (136)
St Kilda 3.3 9.8 13.12 15.15 (105)

Goals —
Roach 4, Bartlett 4, Welsh 3, Wiley 3, Rowlings 2, Lee, Waterson, Nugent, Wall.
ST KILDA: Gorozidis 5, Roberts 3, Herbert 3, Faletic, Meehan, Sarau, Roach.

Best —
Wiley, Lee, Dunne, Strachan, Bartlett, Wall, Cloke.
ST KILDA: Barker, Thomas, Cunningham, Gorozidis, Faletic, Sarau.

Umpires: James, Robinson.

Attendance at VFL Park: 40,240.

Receipts: $89,356.




Hawthorn 3.4 7.10 9.15 11.18 (84)
Footscray 2.5 7.9 9.12 10.14 (74)

Goals —
Moncrieff 2, Davis 2, Tuck 2, Robertson 2, Goss, Matthews, Murnane.
FOOTSCRAY: Bradmore 2, Dunstan 2, B. Cordy 2, W. Berry, Hawkins, Edmond, Whitten.

Best —
Wallace, Goad, Turner, Goss, Russo.
FOOTSCRAY: Egan, B. Cordy, Davidson, Edmond, Dunstan, J. Reid.

Umpires: Deller, Nash.

Attendance at Western Oval 13,789.

Receipts: $20,310.




Carlton 1.5 8.14 17.17 25.22 (172)
South Melbourne 4.2 6.2 9.4 11.7 (73)

Bosustow 8, McConville 5, McKay 3, Ashman 3, Maclure 2, Marcou 2, Francis, Fitzpatrick.
SOUTH MELBOURNE: Smith 2, Roberts 2, Taylor 2, Hounsell 2, Round, Boyse, Fraser.

Best —
Ashman, Perovic, McConville, McKay, Bosustow, English, Buckley, Klomp, Harmes.
SOUTH MELBOURNE: Taylor, Hounsell, Smith, Round, Boyse, Wright.

Umpires: Dargavel, Smith.

Attendance at Princes Park 22,445.

Receipts: $31,293.




Geelong 7.6 10.12 14.14 16.18 (114)
Fitzroy 3.2 6.5 10.9 13.15 (93)

Goals —
Sidebottom 4, Matthews 3, Bruns 2, King, Floyd, Jeffreys, Yeates, Witcombe, Featherby, Bright.
FITZROY: Quinlan 3, Murnane 3, Wilson 3, McMahon 2, Conlan, Lewis.

Best —
B. Nankervis, Mossop, Hawkins, Matthews, Jeffreys, Sidebottom, Featherby.
FITZROY: Alexander, Smith, Wilson, Murnane, Keays.

Umpires: Chapman, Morgan.

Attendance at Junction Oval 15,604.

Receipts: $29,066.




Essendon 2.4 4.9 8.18 14.20 (104)
Melbourne 4.2 6.7 9.7 10.10 (70)

Goals —
Buhagiar 5, Watson 2, Hawker 2, Reid, T. Daniher, Foulds, Van Der Haar, Fowler.
MELBOURNE: Jackson 3, Elshaug 3, Healy 2, Nettlefold, Zantuck.

Best —
Buhagiar, N. Daniher, Reid, Stoneham, Hawker, Watson.
MELBOURNE: Elshaug, Gordon, Gaunt, Healy, Nettlefold, Zantuck.

Umpires: Quinn, Bryant.

Attendance at MCG 31,769.

Receipts: $70,462.




Collingwood 2.4 5.9 13.10 16.15 (111)
North Melbourne 2.5 6.11 9.17 12.26 (98)

Goals —
Brewer 4, Morris 2, Davis 2, A. Shaw 2, Daicos 2, Barham, Hannebery, Weideman, Twomey.
NORTH MELBOURNE: Good 3, Blight 3, Spencer 2, W.Schimmelbusch 2, Reeves, Demetriou.

Best —
Twomey, A. Shaw, Byrne, Williams, Davis, Barham, Moore.
NORTH MELBOURNE: Kelly, McCann, Wilson, D. Smith, Blight, Spencer.

Umpires: Dye, Cameron.

Attendance at Arden Street: 24,625.

Receipts: $47,674








W L D F A % P
CARLTON 8 1 0 1056 783 134.9 32
COLLINGWOOD 8 1 0 1181 890 133.7 32
HAWTHORN 6 3 0 1026 863 118.9 24
RICHMOND 6 3 0 1051 1015 103.5 24
NORTH MELBOURNE 5 4 0 1101 894 123.2 20
Geelong 5 4 0 833 820 101.6 20
Essendon 4 5 0 911 836 109.0 16
Fitzroy 4 5 0 1100 1106 99.5 16
South Melbourne 4 5 0 937 1115 84.0 16
St Kilda 2 7 0 938 1095 85.7 8
Footscray 1 8 0 791 1141 69.3 4
Melbourne 1 8 0 814 1181 68.9 4


Read The Age, Monday 25th May 1981, for coverage of all matches HERE.

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

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.



Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE


About Sam Steele

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


  1. DBalassone says

    Cox “ended the game concussed”. I thought there was a bit more to it than that – wasn’t Cox KOed by Peter Welsh?

  2. Stainless says

    Hi Damien – The Age reports confirm that Welsh was the perpetrator in an incident described as an attempt to break through an opponent’s shepherd. There’s no reference to any report being made and there doesn’t appear to be any video record of the game. How times have changed!

  3. DBalassone says

    Certainly have changed!

    Here’s some footage from That Was the Season That Was – at about 1:01. Looks like he copped a beauty for his troubles…


  4. Keep ’em coming Stainless.

    I notice Micheal Reeves appearing with North Melbourne, he later went to Fitzroy. Tragic story about his wife.

    Roach @St Kilda: Steven ?

    That would have been Gary Sidebottom’s best game for Geelong. Within twelve months not just did he miss the bus,he was playing at the Junction Oval for Fitzroy.

    Davis, 2 goals for Hawthorn? I surmise you mean Rick Davies? Sad episode just before half time there when Terry De Koning flew high on the Hawthorn goal line landing awkwardly. Apparently impacted his footballing future.


  5. Stainless says

    Thanks Damien – he’s certainly down for the count, but there’s no footage of the incident!
    Glen – so many names! I’ll have to start doing an “obscure blast from the past” as part of this series.

  6. matt watson says

    I was at Arden Street that day.
    Watching us kick ourselves out of the game. 38 scoring shots to 31.
    Bad kicking is bad football.
    Post game, two bunches of supporters couldn’t help themselves. Fists flew.
    As a kid, I suddenly found myself right in the middle of the fracas, trying to find an exit through stomping legs and flying bodies.
    Cops broke up the fight.
    Women crying. And the masses – you’re going home in the back of a divvy van…

  7. Stainless says

    Hi Matt
    Ah yes, the old post-game punch-up. Yes it does still happen and we have the phone footage to prove it, but I do associate it more with those old days. Obviously the experience didn’t put you off footy for life!

Leave a Comment