A push and a rush and the game is ours

Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games

Round 4, 1987

Collingwood   2.4.16   4.10.34   7.11.53   16.14.110
Richmond       3.5.23    7.7.49   14.8.92   15.10.100

DATE: Saturday 20 April
CROWD: 36,749
UMPIRES: Robinson, Forster

B         Christian       Gayfer       Kerrison
HB      Brown         Manson           Keays
C          Millane        Turner        Bradbury
HF       Fielke         Starcevich    Rizonico
F          Banks           Taylor             Croall
FOLL  Cloke, Atkins, Ryan
INT     P Morwood, Lockman
COACH  Matthews

B          Burton          Laffy              Poole
HB       Czerkaski      Peart              Egan
C          Palm           Wallace          Wilson
HF       Rioli               Lee            Eustace
F          Clark             Hogg          Mitchell
FOLL  Thomson, Pickering, Weightman
INT     Smith Notting
COACH  Jewell

COLLINGWOOD – Ryan, Millane, Starcevich, Cloke, Turner, Taylor, Lockman, Atkins, Fielke
RICHMOND– Weightman, Rioli, Mitchell,Wilson, Wallace,Pickering, Thomson,Burton

COLLINGWOOD – Taylor 6, Starcevich, Ryan, Banks 2, Rizonico, Atkins, Fielke, P Morwood
RICHMOND– Mitchell 3,Wilson, Palm,Pickering2, Thomson, Peart, Wallace, Rioli, Lee, Weightman

Leigh Matthews’ second year at the helm began in diabolical fashion.  Largely due to personal differences with the coach, captain Mark Williams left for Brisbane; leading players Bruce Abernethy and Greg Phillips returned to South Australia; Daicos was suffering debilitating stress fractures of the feet and Cloke was battling chronic groin problems.  Down on playing personnel, Matthews had no choice but to turn to youth.  The new crop at least promised some light at the end of the tunnel, most of them having enjoyed the ultimate success the previous year in the U19’s.

The season proper began horribly.  The Swans subjected new recruits Starcevich and Christian, and youngsters Brown and Crosisca, to a baptism of fire.  After the 91 point thumping, a narrow loss to Carlton, and then a 77-point thrashing by Hawthorn, the season was well off the rails.  New captain Tony Shaw was under pressure; Jack Dyer reckoning the big job required a man of greater stature.

On the comeback trail from injury, Daicos was an unfamiliar sight in the reserves.  Into the already green line-up came highly skilled 16 year old debutante Terry Keays, physically developed beyond his age.  That just 36,000 fans turned up for a Richmond – Collingwood clash at Waverley on the Easter weekend, 20,000 fewer than the next smallest crowd to see the two rivals at the venue in 10 years, had football writers questioning how many true believers were left.

Richmond commenced the game with the aid of a favourable wind, and despite looking clearly the better side, only managed to put a seven point break on Collingwood by the end of the first quarter.

With the wind at their back, the Woods could only muster a lamentable 2.6 in the second term whilst Richmond gained control with four goals.  The ‘Pies had few winners save for Manson on Lee in an uncustomary role at centre half back.  Cloke was giving his all and Turner and Ryan held their own, but Collingwood continually shot themselves in the foot with mistakes.  Pickering and Weightman were all over the Magpies in the midfield, and Wallace and Rioli’s  experience was also at the fore.

When Palm booted the Tigers 14th, 23 minutes into the third term, their lead blew out to 51 points.  Brian Taylor became frustrated by the situation and instigated a melee involving all but five players on the field.  Perhaps unsettling Richmond’s concentration, Collingwood snuck a couple goals before three quarter time to reduce the deficit to 39 points, though beating the notoriously tedious VFL Park egress was still a strong temptation for even the most optimistic breed of Magpie fan.

Having scored a goal after his third quarter exertions,Taylor marked strongly and scored again early in the last.  An easy goal to Rioli pushed the margin back out to 40 points, and the Tigers retained all the cards.  Starcevich’s speculative bomb on the run fortuitously bounced through, though Taylor appeared to have touched it.  A fluent chain of teamwork quickly saw another posted by Ryan, and both teams ramped up their intensity.  The likes of Millane and Ryan rediscovered their legs, former Tiger Michael Lockman forged a determined straight line from the backline whilst others urgently threw themselves at the opposition.

Dragged earlier, ‘BT’ was suddenly the game’s focal point; a goal just inside 50m, then another from a fine grab and an uncharacteristic 60 metre bomb. Stunned Tiger supporters were now biting their nails to the quick. Cloke clouted Palm, which sparked another spotfire.  Weightman was busting his gut to avert the impending disaster, though his gettable shot would have stopped the ‘Pies’ charge in its tracks.

Ryan cut the margin to 10 points when  he hooked one over his shoulder from a tight angle, and Paul Rizonico quickly joined the goalfest (sensationally channeling the absent Daicos). As time-on commenced, the ‘Pies were within a kick.  Best afield Ryan, who had accumulated 21 kicks, required assistance to leave the field as the result of a heavy collision.  Recruited in controversial fashion, former Kangaroo rover Graeme Atkins entered the fray before Starcevich missed a long set shot.  As luck would have it, out of the frantic grappling for possession in Collinwood’s forward zone, Atkins snapped a goal at the 28 minute mark.  Collingwood fans were ecstatic to hit the front but there was plenty of work to do.  A minute later Taylor ran onto a loose ball and kicked the sealer, his sixth.  Enthusiastic fans quickly swarmed the field to mob the equally jubilant players.

Nine goals to one for the quarter and the Magpies had pulled off a stunning victory by 10 points.  In a prophetic pre-match discussion, Len Thompson spoke of the speed of the modern game and more specifically that six or seven goal leads were no longer as imposing as they had been ten years ago.

It was a victory for youth over experience.  Led magnificently by Ryan (19 years old), the Magpies boasted four other teenagers in the team; Keays (16), Croall (18), Brown (18) and Starcevich (19).  With interstate recruits Fielke and Christian, as well as other youngsters Kerrison and Rizonico, the rebuilding work had finally gained some traction.

Whilst the two late goals before three quarter time may have engendered some much needed confidence and belief, the impetus for the huge turnaround was the drawn out ‘wrestlemania’ that erupted on Collingwood’s forward line, rousing the Magpies out of their malaise.  Said Matthews;

“I felt for the last ten minutes of the third quarter we had been going pretty well and that (the altercation) seemed to make everyone more determined.  Sometimes it takes something like that to change the course of the game.”

Matthews’ abandoning of ineffective tags on Weightman and Wallace, and instead deploying Paul Morwood to the centre and Kerrison to the backline for the last quarter, also helped sway the game.

Finally, much maligned rover Matty Ryan ironically performed the match defining act of courage. Sometimes ridiculed for a perceived lack of strength, Ryan’s brave tackle on Mitchell thwarted what looked to be a certain Tiger goal.  And inadvertently, through the suspected broken sternum he suffered, he enabled Atkins to come on and snap the match winning goal.

Brian Taylor (Collingwood)
Dragged in the second quarter, kickless until midway through the third term, and doubtless frustrated by the awkward Michael Laffy’s attentions, it was surprising the tempestuous full forward hadn’t exploded sooner.  Whether good, bad or indifferent, ‘BT’ was nonetheless entertaining.  Whether his part in the protracted fight would amount to anything was debatable, but to his way of thinking, there was nothing to lose. Taylor’s game reflected his team – worst afield for the best part of three quarters, he proceeded to kick half a dozen goals to single handedly turn the match in heroic fashion.

Following the amazing comeback, the Woods managed to string together three wins on the trot, providing hope something could be salvaged from the wreck.  A narrow four point win over Footscray at Victoria Park and a win in its inaugural game against the Bears weren’t boastworthy achievements, but at least the media afforded The Club some respite.

A supposed rift between Taylor and Matthews had the headstrong full forward leaving at the end of the year, a concerted push to move The Club to Waverley, and a humiliating debacle against North (the U19s, Reserves and Seniors combined for a Round 13 score of 4.17) had the media back on script.  More embarrassment followed, including a worst ever hiding at Victoria Park (to Hawthorn by 125 points) and a loss to bottom side Richmond (a mirror of the Round 4 encounter, whereby a 27 point half-time lead became a 37 point loss).

Thankfully the wooden spoon was averted, and in a sign of the future, the young Magpies finished the season in style with a thrilling 5 point victory over Essendon at the MCG.  In a trying year The Club remained united, and a new dawn awaited.

“Collingwood – winless, missing key players and with names on every line that were unfamiliar even to Magpie supporters – was a bumbling , mistake riddled side 23 minutes into the third quarter and was rightly 51 points in arrears of a Richmond team seemingly growing in confidence with every possession.”
The Age’s Harvey Silver paints the picture of Collingwood’s dire situation.

“There is some ingredient missing, whether it is know-how, fitness, character, I don’t know.  On both occasions we looked like we panicked, like we just don’t know how to handle the situation.”
Richmond coach Tony Jewell was at a loss finding answers for Richmond’s second capitulation for the season.

“As a team, we still have a long way to go.  That little one quarter performance does not change much, apart from giving the players a bit more confidence.”
Ever the pragmatist, Matthews wasn’t getting carried away with the excitement of the barnstorming finish.

I remember the crowd excitement and the pleasure of beating my old team.”
Matchwinner Brian Taylor enjoyed nothing more than proving his detractors wrong.

Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games
An ebook by Jeff Dowsing


About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Damian Watson says

    I think this is the last quarter of that match: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1P38QKJcI8

  2. DBalassone says

    Remember that game well. Great work! A highlight of an otherwise miserable year, but we did manage to blood some youngsters such as Brown, Crosisca and McGuane, and picked up a couple of WA recruits Christian and Starcevich too. From memory, poor old Richmond surrendered 3 massive leads in the first 5 or 6 weeks of that year.

  3. DBalassone says

    Magic stuff. One of the great players & coaches of all time, but definitely THE greatest character for mine (and proves that characters don’t just have to be larrikens). Green with envy that you got to spend some time with the great man. Growing up, he used to live a few doors down from us in Doncaster East. I remember knocking on his door one Halloween and he was embarrassed not to have any candy, so he went back to the kitchen to look for something and returned with a bag of peanuts.

  4. DBalassone says

    Sorry that last post was meant for the Blighty piece by M. Zurbo. Oooops.

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says

    What a comeback! I remember turning the radio off in disgust at 3 quarter time. Curiosity got the better of me though and I wanted to check how much we were losing by or the faint hope that we might have come back. Turning the radio back on the Pies were only two points down: “Atkins snaps….Collingwood in front!!” Jubilation quickly filled the Dimitriadis household.

    Thanks for the footage Damien, I just watched the whole last quarter on youtube and thanks for the memories Jeff. How good were Starcevich, Millane and BT in that last quarter? Also, can’t believe how open the game was. Hardly any ‘stoppages’, flooding or presses. I’m not being sentimental, but the game was much better then as a spectacle and as an expression of pure football skill.

  6. DBalassone says

    You wonder how good Fielke would have been if hadn’t returned to Adelaide for personal reasons at the end of the ’87 season. Magarey Medalists have a great record in the VFL/AFL.

  7. Jeff Dowsing says

    I tell you what Phil, tonight’s game was damn horrible compared to that game 25 years ago.

  8. James Grapsas says

    Great piece Jeff. Interesting that only nine players from the Collingwood team went on to play in the 1990 flag about 3.5 years later.

  9. Jeff Dowsing says

    Thanks James. And just on the line-ups, the Tigers don’t look too bad on paper, probably underachieved in not making the finals that year.

  10. James Grapsas says

    Agreed Jeff, Richmond had a poor 1987 season to claim the wooden spoon with good players like Wallace, Weightman, Wilson, Mitchell, Rioli, Lee, Hogg and Poole in the side. Some of those players were still with the Tigers when they won the spoon again in 1989 under KB. Interesting to think why they underachieved so badly in the ’80s after they won the flag in 1980 and were runners-up in 1982.

    I looked the game up and saw that Terry Keays (debut) and Jason Croall wore guernsey numbers 60 and 56, respectively, before they graduated to numbers 14 and 8 soon after. A few high guernsey numbers in the line-ups, including Notting’s 58.

    I am a Geelong man and I recall another great game from 1987 when Geelong played the Pies at Waverley on the Queen’s Birthday in round 11. Have you written a review of that match in your list of 50 sensational Collingwood matches, despite the fact that it was a narrow Collingwood loss?

  11. If we’re talking reviews of close Collingwood losses to Geelong, can we get a review(s) of the 1971 and 1972 encounters at Kardinia Park. In 1971 Peter Mckenna, Doug Wade and Bill Ryan were all amongst the goals as Geelong came home by 9 points, then in 1972 the Pies blew a big lead to lose by a point. As a young chap, in short pants, i listened to these games on 3GL, so it would be nice to have my memories refreshed.


  12. Jeff Dowsing says

    Wooden spoon, geez that really is bad going for that Tigers list.

    Maybe a bit optimistic there James on including those old KP wins in a CFC list of sensational games!

    Whilst I have actually included a couple losses and a few draws, it was tough going squeezing in the Pies’ finest hours across nearly 1450 wins… And there were several v Geelong that I found hard to leave out too. A couple great games at the ‘G in ’94 & ’95 featuring Bucks & Dermie I can recall.

    Funny the 2 clubs seem to have had so many close ones over the years, yet a lot of blowouts as well.

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