50 Years On – The Final Round 1966

With seven teams all within one win of each other, this season’s final round throws up interesting permutations. This was exactly the situation which confronted the leading teams in the last round of 1966. Five teams competing for four finals spots. Double chance up for grabs.

St.Kilda had dominated the early part of the season, winning their first eight. Collingwood took top spot off them at the half way mark with a comprehensive win at Victoria Park. Perennial finalists. However, it was the rookie coached Tigers who were the season’s surprise packet. Two weeks they were sitting on top of the then VFL ladder but consecutive losses and a costly draw against North Melbourne earlier in the season had them half a game out – albeit with a superior percentage. Perennial finalist Geelong and reigning premier Essendon made up the quintet.

The entire scenario may never have eventuated if not for first gamer Blair Campbell the previous week. At the Lake Oval, an after the siren goal gave the Tigers a one point win and they remained in the finals hunt. In his short football career, Campbell was to make a name for himself by successfully kicking goals from beyond the boundary line with his mastery of the “boomerang” kick. On this day he was 35 yards out and dead in front. He just managed to make the distance but converted.

For the second week in row, the five top teams were fixtured to play the five bottom teams. All games were to be played simultaneously on that final Saturday afternoon of winter. A win for any of the contenders would not only secure their finals berth – it might also deliver a double chance. A loss would almost certainly mean elimination.

St. Kilda were heavily favoured to win against the lowly rated Hawthorn at home but their captain and star player Darrel Baldock was injured. He had missed the previous game and it was uncertain if he should play in this one either. If he aggravated his injury his season would be over and he would not be available for the finals. However, if St.Kilda lost – there would be no finals. The compromise was that selectors named him on the bench as a “just in case” insurance. Coach Allan Jeans had a history of not using 19th or 20th men in games so perhaps Baldock may not be required to take the field anyway. Kevin Billing, who was familiar to the role, shared the bench with his skipper.

Around the ground scores were manually updated at the end of each quarter on the cumbersome Gilbey’s Gin scoreboard. Usually greeted with either a cheer or a groan, the half time information confirmed that both Collingwood and Geelong had commanding leads but disquiet gathered as there was only ”a kick in it” at each of the other three games. Fans were busily scribbling with biros across the folded pages of the Football Record trying to work out who might play whom, percentages and whether their team could still get the double chance.

At Moorabbin, the Saints were expected to win easily but had managed to accumulate only a slender lead. Hawthorn were a problem for them. In two seasons the Hawks had fallen from Grand Finalist to the wooden spooners and now they were rebuilding. The Hawks had eight first year players including Crimmins, Meagher, Wilson and Gay. They also had a rookie coach in charge for just his eighteenth game – unaware probably that today would be his last.

In the third quarter there was genuine anxiety among the St.Kilda crowd. Hawthorn were outplaying them and early goals to Gay and Browne put Hawthorn into the lead for the first time. Their veterans Arthur, Dickson and Peck were influential too. Peck and Morrow had a disagreement. Des Dickson came in to assist. A quarrel to be resolved another day perhaps? Surely the Saints at home with everything to play for could knock over one of the bottom teams. The Saints had won the first eight games of the season. Surely they were not going to lose and miss out on the finals?

Murmurs of “time to bring on Baldock” began to emanate from the learned. When Wes Smith kicked another to double the visitors’ lead, the masses became even more agitated. Voices had unified now and a happenstance chant of “We Want Baldock! We Want Baldock!” was gathering momentum from the terraces.

The season was slipping away. Neale soccered a much needed goal but a fifteen yard penalty gifted John Peck a further Hawthorn goal and now everyone involved was in total accord. The situation had become perilous. “We Want Baldock! We Want Baldock!”

As if to tease the ranting discord, the brains trust’s response was to send Baldock and Billing, still in dressing gowns, for a jog along the boundary line – a common practice of the day. The Saints crowd went ballistic. They were completely unified now in their demand and the cadence of “We Want Baldock! We Want Baldock!” was accompanied by the stamping of feet which made the entire floor of the concrete grandstand wobble and bounce.

Cowboy kicked a steadier but the crowd still demanded Baldock. The rollicking and intoxicating mob mentality was fun. But as we entered time on the festivities turned less gracious when Morton marked again and converted from the square. Enough was enough. It’s time. Bring him on! We had reached the point of desperation. All parties were in accord now. So off came the dressing gown – and on came Baldock.

Within a minute he goaled.
What a moment. What a magical moment.

The scoreboard update at the final break clarified the circumstances. The Tigers had pulled away from Fitzroy at the MCG and looked to be easy winners now. Campbell and a youngster named Bartlett get four each. And at Windy Hill, the Bombers have turned a half time deficit into a match winning lead. There was only one piece of the season’s jigsaw left. All eyes turned to Moorabbin. Win and you’re in – lose and you’re out!

It’s folklore now that St.Kilda did get past the persistent Hawks on this day. Ten points. The Saints held their spot in the four and enjoyed immeasurable benefit from their double chance. Baldock’s twelve disposals and pair of goals in just a tad over a quarter of football may have been handy for his team. Richmond, needing one of the four teams above them to stumble, missed the finals. Better days lay ahead for them.

In a 7 year career, Kevin Billing was named as 19th or 20th man in 15 of his 27 senior games for St.Kilda. He did not take the field in eight of those games. But on this famous day, Kevin Billing did get a run. He came on with two minutes to play replacing Read. He got one kick.

In the following weeks he was left out of the St. Kilda line up for both of the semi finals but was a surprise inclusion as 20th man for the Grand Final. Must have been some kick?


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About Warwick Nolan

Cricket tragic. Football tragic. However, he did enjoy glory early in his career. His zenith was as a ten years old when Simpson and Lawry opened the batting, Baldock wore a Collingwood jumper and a UFO landed on the school oval.


  1. Great stuff Warwick.

    Blair Campbell, i recall him playing cricket fortsamaini back in the late 1970’s. Chinaman bowler. He also played for Victoria but i i was too young to recall him

    Is it “Stormy ” Lance Morton who goaled for Hawthorn that day ?. I recall him playing for South Melbourne in 1972.


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