Almanac Books: Champions All extract – 1976 Grand Final

Champions All

Champions All


Excerpt from Champions All – A History of AFL/VFL Football in the Players’ Own Words by Matt Zurbo


76 Grand Final

Hawthorn 13.12 North Melbourne 10.10


Wayne Schimmelbusch, NM: We were probably the best side in ’76 but Hawthorn were probably better than us in ’75. We won in ’75 because nothing was going to stop us from winning our first premiership. Especially once we hit the front. And in ’76 nothing was going to stop Hawthorn from winning it for Peter Crimmins.


Peter Knights, Hawthorn: When I came to the club Peter Crimmins was the one who showed me the way, on and off the field. With those people you form bonds. On the oval he was cheeky, unbelievably courageous, determined, quick, dynamic, skilful … I mean, Leigh Matthews was second rover to him! Crimmo was very light, very small. He’d give as much as he took, despite his frame he’d mix it up with anyone. Him and Kevin Sheedy used to have it out with each other at Glenferrie Oval. Back pocket and forward pocket/rover going for it. Off the oval he was the court jester. Clubman, practical jokes, he provided so many of the things that make a football club. He was a wonderful player, a wonderful person. A mentor. A leader.


Come ’74 he was our captain. We knew that he had a groin injury and he was struggling, but we didn’t know until it was diagnosed as a swollen testicle … Once they took it out they found out it was cancerous. He had to go in for chemotherapy throughout ’74, but got back playing again.


The thing that we always remember about Crimmo throughout ’74 and the start of ’75, is that he’d get sick, it would knock him over … but he’d get up again. It would knock him over, he’d get back up again. Crimmo just wouldn’t accept this foe! Just so courageous.
He was still our captain in ’75, and got back to a fitness level that allowed him to play reserves footy … Grand Final we’re up against North Melbourne.


John Kennedy Senior, Hawthorn coach: I did have the thought, ‘Well, if we get him out on the ground it might inspire the others a bit …’ But it was only a hunch … I thought, ‘How far do you go? He has cancer.’


Peter Knights, Hawthorn: One of Kennedy’s great catchcries was – There is no sentiment in football! He left him out. We were all surprised, disappointed.


John Kennedy Senior, Hawthorn coach: I know they all said Oh, Kennedy’s tough, but it’s a different thing with cancer. You get one knock . . . I drove home with him that night, and he was very upset, and I didn’t blame him either. We lost by ten goals.


Peter Knights, Hawthorn: Come 1976, the cancer reappeared in Crimmo’s lungs. By the end of ’76 he was seriously ill. A couple of weeks into the finals a number of us went to visit him, he was like a human skeleton, so frail, so weak.
Come up to the Grand Final, we got to have a go at North Melbourne again … Crimmo was just too crook to come … Prior to the game John Kennedy read out a telegram from him – It’s going to be the toughest 120 minutes of your lives, I’ll be with you every inch of the way, signed, The Little Fella. And even though North had thrashed us the year before, there was no fire and brimstone, there was just resolve . . . It was all about Crimmo.


John Kennedy Senior, Hawthorn coach: Oh, the players would have given their all for him! It often doesn’t succeed to say, ‘We want to win for so-and-so!’ But, on that occasion … you’d have been made of stone if it didn’t make any difference.


Peter Knights, Hawthorn: Come that last quarter, the game was still in the balance. But I knew I was prepared to go to the next level, whatever it took. We all did. That year, there was nothing that was going to stop us.
About half-a-dozen of us who were close to Crimmo took the Premiership Cup out to his home that night. Brian Douge, Barry Rawlings, John Hendrie, Alan Martello, Bernie Jones, and myself. We got him out of bed, he put on his wig, put a rug around him, and took a photograph of him and us and the cup. You take a look at that photo and you’ll see that cheeky smile, that grin that he always had! That night, it wasn’t solemn, it was a celebration, about jokes and sharing a champagne with Crimmo. We relived every kick, mark, handball from that game to him until about 2 am, when he was exhausted and went off to bed.
Crimmo died about 48 hours later. There’s no doubt he hung on for that day. No doubt.’76 will forever be known as Crimmo’s Cup.



Champions All – A History of AFL/VFL Football in the Players’ Own Words by Matt Zurbo

Published by Echo Publishing


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  1. Old dog,Peter Crimmins,LEGEND thank you

  2. Amazing extract, absolutely breathtaking..

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