Local Footy: Adelaide Lutheran, premiers 1986.

It is something of a curiosity that the pious and stoic German Lutherans who left their homeland to come to Australia in the nineteenth century should fall in love with football. Sport was not a key element of Lutheran culture. But then sport was not really a nineteenth century phenomenon.


By 1986 much of the piety of their forebears had been bred out of the players of the Adelaide Lutheran Football Club, the Bulldogs which left a healthy dose of stoicism, and good fun. They became one of the pillars upon which the A6 division of the South Australian ammos was built.


And it came to pass, that the sons of clergy and teachers and farmers would do well in the mud of the wet winter of 1986 and make the Grand Final.


It was entirely fitting their opponent was Lockleys in the decider.


The Lutheran team, which was made up of those who had been baptised in the same way, learnt their Catechism the same way, and played shepherds and wise men in Sunday School Christmas Eve services (and Crappers, the English squatter), gathered in the Unley Oval sheds. They had grown to be young men, in their prime, and ready to take on the footy world.


In almost-prayer, coach Fos Williams vouchsafed they do well; he implored them to attack the footy, to play with Daniels’s courage, and to beat their rivals to the footy.


It had been a wet week. And the clouds still hung over the Adelaide Hills, a little threatening to replenish the puddle and mudden the mud that was already the cricket pitch.


Skipper Nathan Zweck, by then a motor-bike riding resident at one of Adelaide’s finest hospitals, lost the toss and Adelaide Lutheran kicked against the breeze. (I think). Or maybe it was the other way around.


It was a frenetic opening. The footy fell for Lockleys in the opening stages. It looked like the start of the 95 AFL Grand Final (had it been played). The Lutherans couldn’t get a touch until they got an important one – off the boot as one of the Lockleys players shot for through the big sticks. Touched through for a point. At last the Dogs had the Sherrin. From there things looked up.


The frenzy left the game fairly quickly, it being contested by those who knew too well the durry, the pot and that new wonder food – pizza. And it settled into its amateur rhythm, players in the vicinity of the pill going their hardest while in camera shot, but happy to keep their positions on the field in a very 1960s fashion.


Munch, a skinny engineering student from the Barossa, won a settling free kick and launched a torp which climbed over Mt Lofty in the background. Old John Grocke, who  by then had anticipated the rise and rise of superannuation, gave the Lutherans tremendous structure. In those days that meant that the big bloke who could mark played full forward like Plugger. Grockes tapped towards Zweck, but the footy eluded him and was rushed through.


It was tight. Yank, socks down, and barrel-chested was the Micky Conlan of the Dogs. While Micky was trying to win Fitzroy a place in the Grand Final in Melbourne, Yank was bustling his way through the middle of Unley Oval, sending the Dogs forward. And being shoved into the fence the hordings upon which included ads for Samboy chips and West End (all the good stuff).


Schubert’s snap missed and the Lutheran crowd were getting concerned that opportunities were being missed. Some of these behinds needed to be converted into goals.


Yank registered another behind, and when Lockleys took it up the other end and scored, the Lutherans looked like their theses were being challenged.


Young Munch rallied the troops. He corralled an opponent before corralling was invented ,showing what a genius he was on the footy field, establishing things, just as Pythagoras and Newton had done, from first principles.


Grocke took a strong chest mark. But his set shot missed. And it really was becoming a brow-creasing. Until Zweck found some open space, his sweeping handball reached Krieg, who dribbled one through from the goal square.


Lockleys fought back quickly and it was only telling marks from Munch and Feige in defence which held back the tide. Jim Gerhardy was his usual manic self, looking like he had less time than any footballer who has played the game before, but somehow at the same time being reliable.


Indeed the defence was looking resolute.


Reu had started in the backline, but he got pummeled and managed to land in the coma position on the far back flank. Trainer, Brooksy, waddled towards him, and when he got there (accomplanied by Stolly whose tracky dacks were tucked in to his red socks), Brooksy employed the classic 1986 technique of dealing with a bloke with a suspected broken neck by picking him up by the jumper and squirting water in his face.


Soon after David Harms, then an occasional medical student and regular at the Welly, got crunched and hobbled around with a corky.


Dudley Liebelt, like Harms, one of many pastor’s kids in the team, was locked in a classic contest with the big Lockleys ruckman (No 24). But Dudley was starting to out-jump him, and looked set to get on top. He was starting to have an influence around the ground; at that stage mainly by pointing and yelling. But eventually by doing everything expected of a talented and mobile big man.


There was still a concern that the Lutherans had wasted the breeze, especially when a free kick in front of goals (which disappointed Munch who said something like “Gee whiz”) to Lockleys resulted in a major which brought them within a kick.


Justin Heyne ran on (but there was no sign of Bongo) looking like Malcolm Blight, and the battle continued until the huddle formed at quarter time.


I don’t know what Fos said, but the Dogs started the second quarter brilliantly, with greater intensity and desire. Schubert came in to the game, and the Dogs clicked in to gear….



To be continued


(Perhaps some of the Adelaide crowd can continue the story in the comments below. What did happen next?)


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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Having read the first quarter, and despite knowing what happened in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, I’m dying to find out what really happened…………

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Is the Adelaide Lutheran FC still in existence John? The courageous and necessary Martin Luther needs to be honoured with a football team.

  3. johnharms says

    still going Skip. They are in Div 5 now. They have a reunion today.

  4. Garry Feige says

    Brilliant John ,Simon read it out at the reunion yesterday and got a standing ovation. Cant wait for the rest of the chapters

    Cheers Feigs

  5. johnharms says

    Looking forward to writing them. Would like to get the boys together for a team viewing of the 86 dvd. Nathan Zweck gave it to me a couple of years ago when I was up in Darwin.

    Nice to hear from you GF.

  6. Jonathon Lillecrapp says

    Great work Dark. A great way to introduce the reunion on Saturday was to relive the 1st quarter of the ’86 GF. By the way, we kicked with the wind in the 1st quarter. This made the 2nd quarter even more critical. Looking forward to the next chapter to see how we resurrected our flag chances in the 2nd qurter and beyond…..Cheers, Crappa.

  7. 86ers, I can’t find the DVD (damn kids), and I want to add the next installment. If I do one quarter every five years we can celebrate this into old age (God willing, as Dad would have said).

    Can anyone download the DVD to dropbox?

  8. Great stuff,JTH and other regular almanackers in Swish,Handbag,BD and myself played in Ad Uni flag sides on the same day,I can remember having a few beers with David and Solly at the Welly at various times in 86.

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