50 Years On – What Else Happened on This Day?

Many will know that 50 years ago this week, St. Kilda won its only premiership and Barry Breen’s life changed forever. There was another 18 year old who had a stellar day on that overcast Saturday.

 

 

What else happened on that day?

In fact drama unfolded everywhere.

 

 

Melbourne was enduring a second week of a crippling electricity strike. A dispute between the SEC and its workforce remained unresolved. The Royal Melbourne Show was severely compromised. Exhibits such as the Dodgem Cars and the Ferris Wheel had to be shut down and were idle. Homes were unable to use any form of electrical power for heating and severe restrictions were placed on cooking. External lighting was entirely banned. Unsure what the status of an electronic scoreboard would be if that had been the facility of the day.

 

 

Also under threat were arrangements for the upcoming Golden Fleece Night Series final between North Melbourne and Hawthorn. Traditionally held under lights at South Melbourne’s iconic Lakeside Oval, as a result of the likely power constraints contingencies were in desperate negotiation with the plan to hold the final the following Saturday afternoon. Repeat – that is the Night Grand Final played on a Saturday afternoon! Such mayhem.

 

 

At the MCG, VFL powerhouse Collingwood would play in all three Grand Finals this day.

 

 

The first of these was in the old Under 19 competition. Essendon, led by led by ruckmen Wayne Headlam and Bruce Lake, were highly fancied. The final ladder positions were thrown into turmoil late in the season, as Richmond was “stripped” of seven wins for playing an unregistered player and lost their place in the finals. Previous results were reversed and it was Collingwood who benefited most from the outcome. To their credit, they were able to win their way through to the decider and the form of Danny Hibbert, Denis Le Gassick and Wayne Weston gave them some chance on the day. So too did Essendon’s inaccuracy! In a game they absolutely dominated, the Bombers found the target just seven times from 32 scoring shots – but eventually it was enough to get them home.

 

 

In the Wimmera, a charismatic High School Principal could not get his Stawell boys across the line against the Russell Crow inspired Warracknabeal. Within weeks, the beaten coach would embrace the notion of heading back to the big smoke to see if he could make a difference with his former VFL club. A legacy begins.

 

 

A Grand Final loss was also unfolding for former Carlton captain and coach Graham Donaldson at Traralgon. Rivals Morwell were well placed thanks to the high leaping, teenage sensation Alex Ruscuklic. The pair were destined to reunite in another incarnation five years later, but the influence of Donaldson’s next project would felt soon enough by hundreds of primary age schoolboys. Donaldson’s employer the State Savings Bank had already endorsed a transfer and it facilitated an initiative that would ensue for decades.

 

 

But the unnoticed highlight of this day occurred in the curtain raiser. It had a finish worthy of its own legend status but the events which transpired were totally enveloped by the famous finish in the main game still a couple of hours away.

 

 

Collingwood had been a strong contender all season. Made up of mostly senior and experienced clubmen nearing the end of their careers, five of the line up had actually played in the VFL grand final loss against Melbourne just two years earlier. Mick Bone and David Norman had been in fine touch as had local boy Dick Telford. Young forward Peter McKenna had been providing many goals.

 

 

Richmond had been undefeated all season and like their Under 19s, were penalised for playing the same unregistered player but with so many wins, they were still able to qualify for the finals and won their way through to the big day. The Tigers’ line up consisted entirely of new comers which was completely in line with their senior team’s “rebuilding” commitment under new coach Tommy Hafey. Unknowns such as Ray Orchard, Mick Erwin and Barry Teague were key players. The long sleeved Blair Campbell who had returned to the twos after a recent debut at senior level.

 

 

History would show, while Collingwood was quite experienced and had a core of players who had played in a VFL Grand Final at the highest level – Richmond was predominantly a team developed from their junior sides . Richmond had seven youngsters playing in their Seconds on this day who would go in the years ahead to be VFL premiership players!

 

 

The game was tight all day. A late Barry Richardson goal gave Richmond a slender lead at the main break. As the players headed for the dressing rooms for the half time break, there was coinciding activity upstream along the Maribyrnong. The New Zealand bay Galilee had fallen short in his first start of the new spring carnival. There was some doubting the wisdom of his Sydney Cup entry – not to mention the three feature races in this state. With the Toorak and Caulfield still ahead of him, his Melbourne Cup odds had now drifted to 50-1.

 

 

Back at the ‘G, the Seconds Grand Final was a cracker. At the 25 minutes mark in the final quarter, almost in a premonition, Barry Price broke out of the centre and completed the 45 yard stab pass hitting McKenna on the chest. His conversion gave him his fourth and Collingwood the lead by one point.

 

 

A desperate scrabble for possession resulted in consecutive ball ups until a Kevin Shinners drop kick found the high leaping Royce Hart fifty yards out. The young Tasmanian had begun the season in the Thirds where he had enjoyed some success. When the Thirds season was lost with VFL imposed penalty, the young man was elevated to assist the Reserves campaign. At this point in his career, Hart has not played a senior game and is virtually unknown. So is the “suit and the five white shirts” story.

 

 

Twenty seven minute mark, Hart calmly steps back and readies himself. His kick is a beauty but it falls short and is marked on the goal line by John Dallamarta. The opportunity is lost. Collingwood clear and retain their lead. In an amazing dress rehearsal, the Pies run the ball down the outer wing and unload a long bomb which is intercepted with a fine pack by Tigers full back Mike Green. With only seconds left now, the Tigers bound back in attack where it is the unlikely Neil Busse is in space. His penetrating kick finds the spectacular Hart who has marked and will kick from exactly the same spot he kicked for the match winner not sixty seconds earlier. This time he goals. Siren sounds. Tigers win a thriller.

 

 

Saturday 24th September 1966 will be remembered for the feats of two unsuspecting 18 year olds.

Not such a good day for Collingwood as it turned out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Thanks for this Warwick.

    I had no idea who the Stawell coach was until I found this

    http://www.stawelltimes.com.au/story/3192539/kennedy-is-guest-at-luncheon/?cs=12

  2. charlie brown says:

    A really good read thanks Warwick. Coincidentally 50 years on, the lack of electricity was also having a cripping impact but this time in the fair state of South Australia and this time caused by (so they say) natural causes.

    Swish – a great pick up re the Stawell coach

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