AFL 1997 – Twenty Years On: Adelaide Crows (1st)

The Crows pulled the plug on their Tasmanian Victorian coaching experiment and installed favourite son Malcolm Blight as coach for 1997, spelling the end of McDermott, McGuinness, A. Jarman and Anderson.

They didn’t start 1997 well. Losses in the “pathetic Pittman” match against Richmond, against the M&M bedecked Carlton and, lowest of lows, in the first Showdown and Adelaide were 1-3. The ship was righted by a five game streak and Blight’s motley assortment of journeymen, promising youngsters and a core of 100+ gamers looked set for finals.

The Crows finished in fourth place, bumped up by the comp’s best percentage. Their long road to the Grand Final required wins against West Coast, Geelong and a famous win (in the match that they are still talking about) against the Bulldogs.

Lining up without All-Australians Mark Ricciuto (groin) and Tony Modra (ACL) in the Grand Final against the Saints, it was instead left to hardly-household names such as Chad Rintoul (9 games), Shane Ellen, Simon Goodwin (8 games) and Aaron Keating (1 game) to fill the breach.

History was well and truly made that afternoon, Darren Jarman’s five last quarter goals, Shane Ellen’s five (2 from full forward, 3 from half back) are but some of the legendary tales of this day.

What stories do you have of this list (courtesy of the Football Record), before, during and after this momentous afternoon, twenty years ago?


List Management

AFL Debuts 1997: Tim Cook, Tom Gilligan, Simon Goodwin, Aaron Keating, Chad Rintoul, Brent Williams

Players Kept Under Wraps 1997: Greg Dempsey, Andrew Eccles, Ashley Fernee, Nick Laidlaw, Sean Tasker, Adam Ugrinic

Never Heard of Him: n/a

Delistings/Retirements end 1997: Sean Tasker, Adam Ugrinic, Mark Viska


You can review all of the AFL 1997 lists here

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Plenty of memories there, Swish. Back in the days when I could look at a team list and still spot 1 or two that were older than me.

    I really thought Brent Williams was going to make it as a good AFL player, but it was not to be. Tom Gilligan may have been one of the rawest players ever thrown into an AFL debut against Carlton, with Pittman, Rehn and Keating all out injured – he spotted his direct opponent 4 Brownlow votes in his first 2 games. Tim Cook had one very good game against the Eagles.

    I still find it hard to credit that a team could lose its AA full forward, its 3rd leading goal kicker (collarbone), its 5th leading goal kicker (showed them the ball at Waverley) all before quarter time of a preliminary final and still cobble together two winning scores.

  2. Interesting to see that Barry Standfield is from Fish Creek as is subsequent Crows cult player Wayne Weidemann. Other AFL alumnus from this place?

  3. Ian Dunstan (172 games with Footscray & 6 with North Melbourne between 1973-84) was from Fish Creek. His father and brother played for Collingwood.

  4. Will point out, as I’m obliged to do, the quirk that Keating and Brett James pulled off the AFL/SANFL premiership double that year. Keating was the second or third picked ruckman at Norwood. A good year, that one

  5. I still have strong memories of that day. One that’s permanently burned into my mind is Smart holding the ball in the air as the final siren sounds.
    It’s amazing to look back at Bunji collecting 2 norm smiths when he was still learning the game. It’s a travesty he never played in at least 2 more grand finals.

  6. Great memories,Swish and the entry in to the tennis centre after the game was by raffle tickets
    I no this will amaze you but I had some raffle books on me and Greg Champion gave Bob Neil a mention on the mike

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for all the comments so far.

    This was my third full season living in Melbourne, ’95 and ’96 were pretty dismal. Had higher hopes with Blighty, but still wasn’t sure whether the clean out cut too deeply. (I was still annoyed a Scott Lee’s axing the year before).

    The Richmond loss wasn’t a great start to my season of Crow watching, but the Carlton game – sheesh. As we ( me and 5 yo daughter) left Princes Park, this pr*ck Carlton supporter told us to pi55 off back to where we came from, we didn’t deserve to be in the comp. Yeh mate, McKinnon 3204 was my reply.

    I was o/s at a work conference and missed the semi final and arrived back on prelim final day, so didn’t make it there, but snagged a single seat for the big one.

    Shaun Rehn coming out after half time without the knee brace and Troy Bond playing a huge game stand out for me.

    Our Saints supporting neighbours decorated our fence with red white and black streamers on the morning of the GF; they were gone when I got home.

    A great shame that Mods didn’t get to play in either flag, but we managed to find our goals from other avenues.

    Andrew Eccles got his chance the next year.

    Quite a few recycled foot soldiers in there too, none of whom have had to put their hand into their pocket in an Adelaide pub since then. I’m with you Steve, how did we do it?

  8. Mick Jeffrey says

    So that’s what Aaron Keating looked like without the headgear…..

    What many forget in that GF is that for much of the day the Crows had just Keating on the bench (Jameson did a hammy, Clay Sampson had some other leg problem) so Malcolm basically was shuffling 18 for 3/4 of the day. Mind you we wouldn’t be talking about this if any of those chances we had in the last quarter 7 days earlier were converted (or if James Cook did a better job of poleaxing Jarman in the 3rd term).

    Correct me if incorrect but such was the turnover only Smart, Bickley, Pittman, Rehn and Hart played in both the club’s biggest disappointment to that stage (93 prelim) and the GF.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Mick, keep talking it up. Technically correct about those five players but turnover wasn’t all that it seems.

    Also from that Essendon prelim were Liptak, Modra, Ricciuto, Tregenza and Viska, who were still on the list in 97 but didn’t play in the GF. Jameson and Robran were on the 93 list, but didn’t didn’t play against Essendon. Tasker was also on both lists, but played neither game.

  10. Warren Tapner says

    Port Adelaide (sorry, Swish) brothers Troy (the elder) and Shane Bond were both classy players in AFL premiership sides. Young Shane was a member of the West Coast Eagles’ 1994 inaugural premiership team, and Troy created headlines by walking out on Carlton on the eve of the Blues’ 1995 Grand Final demolition of Geelong. Troy had played 15 matches (including two finals) over the season by then, but Carlton coach David Parkin wanted Scott Camporeale (back from injury) in his grand final team, so Bond was left out.

    Troy requested a trade to Adelaide at the end of that year and was a valuable acquisition. He collected eight disposals and four goals in the Crows’ ’97 grand final victory, but after that, hamstring and calf problems cut his career tally to 94 games and 77 goals.

  11. Fish Creek has a nice hotel.

    A few names i’d forgotten: Eccles, Fernee & Gilligan aren’t registering.

    Adam Ugrinic, was he on Geelong’s list at one point ? Matthew Liptak, did he become a doctor ?


  12. Glen Andrew Eccles played in 98 flag wingman went to Carlton,Ashley Fernee played a couple of games re tallish defender,Tom Gilligan was unlucky in that as a ruckman got thrown to the wolves due to injury and played before he was ready played in the 1st showdown.Adam Ugrinic was on the Cats list.Matty Liptak is a surgeon ironically he did the op on Ryan Burton and deemed his injuries to risky to draft which in reality is also full kudos to Burton and the Hawks

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Wazza, Mrs Swish remembers doing the Bond bros school bank for them down the Port.

    Thanks Glen/Book – It was David Ugrinic who was on the Cats list, drafted in ’93, but didn’t go over until ’97 – left after ’98 – played 30-odd reserves games.

  14. Warren Tapner says

    And of course, there was Nigel “Notso” Smart., who famously volunteered to walk barefoot over a bed of hot coals during a pre-season training camp, and suffered serious burns! Good player though. Won flags with the Crows in ’97 and ’98.

  15. Howdy apologies re David Ugrinic and as insane as Nigel Smarts fire walk was he played a trial game a week later and I reckon he was the Crows 1st all aust representative

  16. As I might have mentioned somewhere else, I was at the GF in the AFL members area with a (then) fanatical Crows supporter who is now an Eagles board member and his 1st wife. She had entered on a male colleague’s membership card and s*$& herself when they checked the name on the card. The attendant let her in anyway. We had a ball, but really enjoyed Greg Champion’s rendition of the Crows theme song to the tune of the Saint’s theme song.

  17. Luke Reynolds says

    What a pity A.Modra missed out on a flag. Certainly deserving to be there in ’97. Adelaide games were a must watch between 1993-97 when he was flying high. Modra signed his footy card for me at Victoria Park in 1994. ALL the girls in my year at High School in 1994 were in love with him. That footy card gave me peak popularity in my high school years. For a week or so.

Leave a Comment