1990 Grand Final – Smashed, humiliated and humbled


Anthony James recently sent a beaut email to the Footy Almanac congratulating John Harms for the wonderful webinar he conducted with Tony Wilson and Mark Yeates to discuss Tony’s book of the 1989 Grand Final. 


1989 brought back memories for Anthony, and in his letter he relates of the time  he desperately tried to get into the 1989 Preliminary Final  between Essendon and Geelong. As a teenager he’d managed to sneak into a Pink Floyd concert, and if you can sneak into a concert at the Rod Laver Arena then sneaking into VFL Park should be a breeze Anthony considered, but alas,  VFL Park was a different matter, it was all in vain. A good thing  he remembered, the Bombers were flogged!


Anthony’s story reminded me of my efforts to get to the 1990 Grand Final, one I also prefer to forget. On the morning of the match with some mates we decided to go to the game. It was a spur of the moment decision. We didn’t have tickets, we lived  a good 2 hour drive from the MCG, and this decision  was made around 10.00am. Not a lot of time to get to the ground,  find a park, let alone obtain a ticket. Would we actually see the match?


Bill was the instigator. He was a one-eyed Collingwood supporter, very assertive and positive in all he did. His belief was the Pies would win, no way I told him, it’ll be the Bombers, but little did I know at the time. Bill was adamant we’d be able to get tickets, so off to the MCG we headed. Four of us, 3 Magpies, 1 Bomber.


Lots of friendly banter along the way, a tinny or two,  a quick pit stop at Lara, footy previews on the radio soon had us all psyched up for the game.


I can’t remember where we parked but I have a feeling we were surprised by how easy it was to find one. A couple of quickies at a pub on Victoria Pde, however no luck with tickets there.


Try the Salvos we were told. As we neared the ground  many supporters with signs, or calling out, were making  all sorts of efforts to gain a ticket. Not promising we thought.


It seemed like we  circled the ground numerous times, and it quickly became apparent to us not many sellers of tickets were around, or if they were, the prices they were asking were exorbitant. 


The Reserves had finished, the build up for  the main game was beginning, the noise becoming louder and more intense, and were getting really anxious by now.


Finally spotting a Salvo, Bill marched up to him and asked if he had any tickets. He was coy about whether he had any or not, smiled and shook his donation tin. Others asked as well. Tickets confiscated from scalpers by the police were usually handed over  to the Salvos to distribute, who in return hoped to receive a donation from eager fans. We moved away, watched him for awhile and planned a course of action. It was obvious he had tickets, the size of the donation appeared to be the determining factor whether you received a ticket from him or not.


Bill asked, in fact demanded, $20 from each of us, and with $80 in his hand made his way back to the Salvo. After some negotiating, Bill holds up 4 tickets, a smile beaming across his face and we were on our way. Grand final here we come!


But, they were standing room tickets! Bugger I thought,  how will I be able to see, let alone fight my way through the crowd to any vantage point. Fortunately my mates were much bigger than me so  behind them I settled, oblivious to all the pushing and shoving happening along the way. 


Well, we  eventually found a spot, but I couldn’t see,  the others could. One of the disadvantages of being 5ft 3in simply is that everyone else is taller than you, and on Grand Final day, that’s bad luck buddy! As always, short people are very adaptable and creative, you need to be to compensate somehow,  and as I always did at the footy, a few quick cans, some empties scrounged, and a tower is soon built.


With great effort, precariously balanced, holding onto my mates  for grim life, I venture onto my toes. I can see! But not much. With an effort I can only view the play on the forward line at the City end. Salmon kicks 2 goals and I’m thinking, you beauty, as I notice the frown on Bill’s face. At least the ball was at the end I could see.


Well, my enjoyment was short-lived. Next thing we know, Daniher has sprinted the length of the ground, hit a Collingwood player and it was on for young and old. From that moment on the game was over for the Bombers. The brawl ruffled the Pies’ feathers, the Bombers were  grounded, and not long afterwards the Pies swooped.


The Pies’ supporters were livid, they became loud, nasty, and belligerently sensed victory, the end of the “Colliwobbles” was nigh they yelled. 


The rest of the game became a blur for me, my mates became very boisterous, and very happy, and of course sang the Collingwood song non-stop until they thankfully lost their voices.


That match was the worst experience I’ve ever had at a football match. It was humiliating, we were humbled, and we were smashed. And did the Collingwood supporters let us know! They were relentless. And I was exhausted, completely overwhelmed by it all, and I had to sit through all the presentations and speeches. My mates lapped it up!


Well, as you can imagine it was a long trip back to Colac.  Thankfully we made it back in one piece though  my mates expressed a very keen interest at one stage to head to Victoria Park for the celebrations there! We’d never got home! Common sense thankfully prevailed.


So Anthony James, your  memory of trying to get into a game in 1989 reminded me of my effort to also get into a game, namely the 1990 Grand Final.  I eventually got a ticket, and  much to my chagrin, and that of so many Essendon supporters, it was a day of regret, and one best forgotten.


Anthony’s email also mentioned old footy paraphernalia and he attached the following images of his dad’s 1957 Essendon membership card.




Throughout the 70s I was an Essendon member and the membership cards then were not unsimiliar with the 1957 one above. Little changed over 20 odd years.


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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Shane John Backx says

    I too have a story of the lengths one bloke , a Collingwood fan went to to get into the 1990 Grand Final and it even tops that one Colin Ritchie!! Its a bloody ripper too

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Good one, Colin! Your piece certainly underlines the fact that, when it comes to your team losing an important match, there’s not “a fine line between pleasure and pain”, more like a four-lane highway!

  3. Colin well played,Nick Papa Raschella and I got the bus over from Adelaide ( we had tickets ) the only ticket we could get for Danny Hansen was a children’s ticket so we walked a lap of the ground decided our best bet
    Nick walked in then Danny then I shoved my ticket over the top of his easy campese we are in
    Half way thru the last q this guy yells out it cost me a grand to get in but it’s worth it,Danny replies hey pal it cost me $5.40 it’s still worth it a lot of laughter around us.That night we were back at Vic Park I walked up and told the guy on the door I was Rodney Maynard from,Norwood and had signed for the pies taken straight thru to the players only function,I get a beer and then walk over to,Craig Kelly he smiles and says biggest night of my like and I’m bloody drinking with you I replied you should be privileged ( I didn’t overstay my welcome and had a laugh with,Ned about it since

  4. george smith says

    Memories of grand final day 1990, one of the best days of my life. My marriage, my daughter’s birth and 2010 are up there. I had some time off work, so I had a decision to make – do I go to Melbourne and try and get a ticket, do I stay in Canberra with my parents, or do I go home to Sydney to hang out with my girlfriend.

    After the horrors of 1980 and 1981 Melbourne was not an option, so I drove back to Sydney, listening to the radio broadcast from 3L0, the one day of the year that Sydney ABC was devoted to Aussie rules. Because the day was overcast, wandering the Blue Mountains was not an option so we ended up at the Powerhouse Museum for two hours, eventually walking back to Darling Harbour where a lone small sized teev had the images I so craved, Tony Shaw punching the air and Sheedy and co looking disconsolate. I didn’t even know the the score. I hugged anyone nearby, I shed real tears, I cried out for joy.

    I wanted to go home and watch the tape, but we had a meal in Chinatown instead. It is probably the best meal I’ve ever had, even though I don’t remember a thing about it. The weird thing about Sydney is the silence – nobody cared, they just went about their business as if the great occasion never happened…

  5. Must have been a tough day as a Bomber fan, Colin. I also had a standing ticket that day and was greatly looking forward to the contest between clearly the two best teams that year. However, Essendon was completely gazumped by the drawn Qualifying Final and an enforced delay of 3 weeks between their last home and away game and the Second Semi Final. They couldn’t recapture their form and were a shadow of their best on GF Day. Collingwood reacted best after the all-in brawl and were aided by some trigger-happy umpires who were keen to re-assert their authority. The rest of the game was a turgid, boring slog. The contrast with 1989 couldn’t have been greater.

  6. Dave Nadel says

    I got up at 5.00 am to queue for my ticket at Highpoint in Maribyrnong. This was a sale to Collingwood and Essendon members. I think I was 19th in the queue but i got my ticket in the Southern Stand. The MCC and State Government were already starting to rebuild the stand to create the Great Southern Stand for the 1992 Cricket World Cup. Instead of a seat in row of wooden seats, I was sitting on a self contained cheap plastic seat. It was an improvement on standing room (often on cans) which was how I had watched all the Magpie Grand Final losses in 70s and early 80s. The Grand Final was wonderful but after all the previous disappointments I didn’t really believe that we had won until Monkey kicked his goal in the last quarter, at that stage the Pies were double the Bombers’ score.

    I was 43 years old. The last time the Magpies had won a Premiership I had been 11 years old and had heard the first three quarters on the radio and the last quarter on TV (they only showed the final quarter live in 1958). I am not going to say it was the best day of my life but it was pretty good. I had waited a long time for this. I walked up to Victoria Park and stayed there till about 1.00 am, listening to endless versions of Good Old Collingwood Forever. My wife drove up to the point at Johnston St where the police had blocked off the road. I was able to walk there (just) to meet her. It might not have been the greatest day of my life but it was certainly the best day I had ever spent at the footy.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Wow Col, no tickets on the day of the game and getting 4 of you in for $80- unthinkable these days! Great effort.

    When Salmon kicked those first two goals he, and Essendon, looked unstoppable. Took some Daicos magic to start to turn the tide. Was the best day of my 11 years to date at that stage by a mile, and wonderful to wear my long sleeved Collingwood jumper to school all that next week.

  8. Col, what’s with this self-flagellation? The memory of it is bad enough without going into the gory details.How about ’93 or ’00?

  9. DBalassone says

    A story well told Colin. Though I was too caught up in the joy of the moment at the time, I’ve often wondered how Essendon supporters felt about it afterwards. To be the team to lose to the team labelled the Colliwobbles would have been a bitter pill to swallow – after the footy world had delighted in the Pies failures for thirty years or so.

    But something that stuck with me…that night after all the celebrating, I popped the tape into the VCR at about 2am to watch the game again…and I saw one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on a footy field (that no one else has ever mentioned). When the final siren sounded: Tim Watson sort out Tony Shaw and gave him the biggest hug. Now Watson would have been hurting like hell, so for him to take the time to do that was a gracious, humble act, and I have forever held Watson in high regard because of it.

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