Almanac Footy History: Remembering the early days of Geoff Southby and Keith Greig


Photo: Courtesy of Blueseum




by David Clerehan



Young gun Will Pucovski’s run of brain injuries jogs a lingering dark memory of a fallen hero from long ago.


I had eagerly anticipated meeting Carlton legend Geoff Southby at a milestone event for a VAFA club we both joined as 18 year olds but it wasn’t to be.


Southby, unable to attend a significant Birthday for Powerhouse, is easily the most decorated player in the club’s 70-plus year history.


Geoff’s meagre 18 games earned a spot in ‘The House’ Team of the Century, while many of mine, over a decade later, were spent in the Under 19s and Reserves before reaching the senior side.


My allegiance to Carlton, coincided with Southby’s VFL debut at Arden Street. There with Brendan Mason, his brother Travis and dad Max, I would have zeroed into the centre of the Footy Record scanning both senior lists to find Ted Hopkins for the last time and two names soon to be recognised as champions: Southby and Greig.


My only memory from that Round 1 game with The Masons, the shocking loss of my reigning Premiers to the wooden spooners.


Within a few weeks, the new Blue with Number 20 on his back , and the gifted Ginger Meggs for North, were selected for “The Big V”.


Those early sightings of Southby’s cowboy swagger around the goalmouth drew my instant admiration. Branded early by imaginative fans in the outer, with affectionate nicknames ‘The Sundance kid’ or ‘Little Joe Cartwright’ from Bonanza.


The new Sheriff of Princes Park had a major weapon among an array of eye popping skills.


Most memorable, the prodigious torpedo kick-outs spiralling the ball perfectly into the stratosphere.


‘Mr Reliable’ could foil an attack from anywhere, in the air or on the ground.


A true hero in every sense to nine year old me.


By midway through 1971, full back was my position in the primary school playground.


Who was this mild mannered Superman from a place called Powerhouse ? A feature in Football Life monthly, revealed a modest Science and Maths student teacher from Bendigo with a regular knack for keeping highly fancied full forwards quiet.


Because he was blessed with a ridiculous vertical leap, deceptive pace and fast hands, I duly stamped Southby a Superhero minus the cape & job at the Daily Planet.


Cementing full back for Victoria in his second year,  Southby was poised to play in finals on the biggest stage. Carlton stunned Richmond in the 1972 Grand Final scoring a crazy 28 goals 9 behinds. No sign of these beautiful numbers in Alf Brown’s Friday Herald analysis; the old bugger all but confirmed a certain massacre awaiting my Blues.


Sensing their fate, my escape option was a birthday party at Luna Park. Over the years since when I pass by the St.Kilda icon, I am reminded of my decision to miss the game.


The heroics of Faraday Primary School teacher Mary Gibbs  with her platform heels denied Carlton front page status in the last race Herald edition but the huge record win was plenty to absorb. My next destination Herald Sun HQ on Flinders Street for the Weg poster and colour lift-out to pore over on the Monday.


In the new season, Carlton’s defence was even better. Each round began with the Thursday night ritual tuning into team selection on the radio. So very reassuring to hear the first three pillars read from the backline: O’Connell (RIP) – Southby – Waite (RIP).


Careful to avoid Alf’s column on the eve of the 1973 granny, but the overwhelming sense of dread returned when Keogh & Armstrong were late withdrawals. Despite the upset to team balance, there was no Luna Park out clause this time.


For many dawns of the new millennium, I had the privilege to receive words of wisdom from coach Hafey in his togs on the beach behind Luna Park. Tommy’s Tigers prepared for the last dance of 1973. They would not be humiliated two years in succession.


A friend described being on a break from selling beer that horrible day at the MCG. Tony was close enough to see and hear the sickening impact of Neil Balme’s fist to the right side of Southby’s head.


I mentioned this unreported crime to the field umpire Robinson in the back of my cab 18 years later, who jokingly claimed to be a Tigers supporter.


In 2017, David Southgate of Hampton reminded Age readers Kevin Sheedy’s playful answer to his favourite moment at the MCG was Balme taking out Southby.


Thankfully, the full impact of brain injuries is now far more widely known and no longer a laughing matter.


Two survivors of head trauma began their stellar careers together 50 years ago and are about to reach birthdays. One of them Significant.


Many Happy Returns Geoffrey Robert Southby and Keith Southby Greig.



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  1. Terrific article. Great memories from a golden age of football.

  2. Very well written and a great read!

  3. Great read Dave. He was a star from day one. Loved his torps from the kick out – From the days when the full back took the kick from a behind and roosted it as far and wide as possible from the defensive goal square. He did have an interesting gait and a lean. The people in the know tell me he is a lovely bloke. I hope the birthday party at Luna Park was a memorable one. Fairly floss and Mad Mouse rides will probably never be an apt replacement for what occurred that afternoon at the MCG. Nice the reference to Mary Gibb too; It was certainly a big week in football and kidnapping in Victoria.

  4. Great story which I am actually quite close to. The writer David is one of my oldest mates and he was the one who invited me down to play football for Power House in 1980 “just for 1 game”.
    300 games and 42 years later, I’m in my 12th year as club President..

    In 2017, Southby was invited to speak at the clubs 70th Anniversary Gala Dinner but unfortunately was a late withdrawal due to a clash in his schedule. The plan was to get David and Geoff together but unfortunately we will have to try and get them together next year at the Clubs 75th Year Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

  5. Great read David; some fine memories and astute observations. Whilst that Richmond team of the 70’s had some talented players, they were not a patch on the Blues, as their make-up was primarily thugs – Sheedy, Cloke, Balme, Thorpe, Lee, McGhie, Malthouse, Jess (to name but a few) and the greatest mongrel of them all, Ricky McLean!

  6. David Clerehan says

    Thanks David. A relief Ricky pinged a hamstring early in the 1972 Final.
    Swan McKay bravely played out the game with his jaw broken by Balme.

  7. David Clerehan says

    Met Jimmy Jess on Mad Monday 1982 at Edwards Tavern Prahran. Full of remorse for collision with Hunter. A gentleman.

  8. Heather Lacey says

    Geoff Southby was a natural. He didn’t play VFL at school and arrived in Melbourne as a student teacher living on Queens Road opposite Power House. A true cleanskin, he took on football with just sheer sporting ability and innate smarts. What a joy it was to watch him in full flight at fullback. Will never forget the impact he made as a footballer.

  9. Andrew Clerehan says

    Things would have been quite different if it weren’t for that damaged knee way back then.

  10. Russell Shannon says

    Great article Dave,beautifully written and informed.Calling out and bringing attention to that cowards punch does bring some retrospective justice for Southby.l believe he suffered from an acquired brain injury for the rest of his days. Thank goodness this cowardly act wouldn’t go unpunished these days.Certainly no laughing matter or joke for Southby ‘s loved ones and friends.

  11. Matthew Shrimpton says

    Richmond came for blood in 1973 after that 1972 grand final shootout! Luckily today’s game has changed to stop the bloodshed.

    Great read Dave, love hearing your younger self’s perspective on Carlton’s glory days!

  12. Good stuff Dave.

    That day at Arden Street saw not just the debut of those two legends. In the coaching box for North Melbourne was former Melbourne premiership player Brian Dixon. Beating the reigning premiers in your first game as coach: how easy is the coaching caper, he may have thought. A former teammate of his Ian Ridley also made his coaching debut that day. Both men would have gone to bed that night mightily satisfied. By the end of 1971 ?????

    Anyhow Dave here’s a bit more about the opening round that season.


  13. George! October 25th

    Very informative read,your knowledge of our great game is amazing ,thanks for the insight Dave.

  14. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Dave interesting read and personally think,Southby far superior to SOS – completely different era while obviously I don’t condone,Neil Balme’s actions I have enormous respect for Neil

  15. Should be more writing like this,great stuff Dave!

  16. Jack Bennett says

    Wonderful writing as always, Dave. Evocative and descriptive, I can almost visualise nine year old you! The AFL’s approach to concussion management (and head injuries, generally) has improved tenfold over the past few years but is still sorely lacking. I had the privilege of chatting to Peter Jess last year and it was obvious to me that the AFL’s ‘best practise’ approach doesn’t align with the overwhelming majority of research into concussive/sub-concussive episodes. A week or two is not long enough for the brain to recover, it’s that simple.

  17. Not condoning the violence, but after the ’72 Grand Final Big Nick told the press it was the softest game he’d ever played in. You want a casus belli I think you’ve got one right there.

  18. Derek Stewart says

    Well done David. A memorable time in football, which gets too easily forgotten.

  19. Great piece David. Takes me straight back to my earliest footy memories. Grieg and Southby are very prominent names among the stars of my childhood and in a great era for the game.

  20. Halcyon days of football where crowds roared and stars left their pursuers groping. Great to remember the strength and reliability of a player like Geoff who weekly took on the best full forwards and resting rucks with natural nouse and wile. I saw a memorable game at Victoria Park that year when the tight Blues backline and mercurial Crosswell up forward sapped the Pies confidence. Good tribute to a Blues stalwart.

  21. How are you Dave? I remember how upset we where at the Pies banner before the opening bounce of 1980.
    They wouldn’t get away with that now.

  22. Great story Dave. I was sitting in the top deck of the Western Stand right behind the goals with my dear old Dad. He never really said much during a game. You might get “Go Tiges” or Go the Mighties” but not much else. As we watched the 21 stalk the 20 my Dad gasped as if he knew what was about to happen. He yelled “No Balmey, No!! Shocked at his reaction and rocked by the roar I just remember him shaking his head “Cheap shot Son, cheap shot!!!!!

  23. I do recall the Pies banner in Round one, Steve. The VFL did admonish the Collingwood cheer squad for their appalling and frivolous reference to mental health. Anyway, the result was sweet for a Carlton supporter in Percy’s first outing as coach.

  24. Hayden Kelly says

    Great read Dave and good memories . Not sure about the comment from Heather re Geoff not playing footy at school given I watched him as an 18 year playing wonderfully well at fullback for Sandhurst in a then very strong Bendigo League .
    The other player mentioned young Greig from Brunswick was a very handy player and given the brutality of the game at that time playing on a skinny wing at Arden Street every 2nd week wouldn’t have enthused your life insurance company . As good as Robbie Flower in my view .
    Both Southby and Greig were champions .

  25. Kirsty McIntyre says

    What a great read, David! Your vivid insights through the voice of a young awestruck nine year old and the wisdom of time and hindsight is a moving account that pays homage to real life superheros Geoff Southby and Keith Greig and the game itself.

  26. Mark Poustie says

    Geoff Southby an absolute champion. No disrespect to AFL team of the century full back SOS, but from my biassed perspective, SOS wasnt even the best full back Carlton produced – Southby was. Geoff was 7 years ahead of me at Marist Brothers Bendigo – kicking booming torps in kick to kick with about 20 kids at either end on the asphalt (not a blade of grass in sight .Good way to learn how to keep your feet.). He wasn’t in bad company , all the following around the same vintage – Kevin Sheehan and Kevin Higgins (Geelong), Des English, Trevor Keogh, Barry Mulcair ,Brian Walsh (Carlton) to name a few.
    I dont think Geoff was ever quite the same footballer after that blow in the 1973 grand final.

  27. Daryl Schramm says

    Fabulous read, article and comments. I think I still have all my monthly Footy Life mags somewhere in the garage. I think ’73 was the first live telecast into Adelaide for a VFL granny. First one I remember anyway.

  28. Isaac Hermann says

    Poignant and endearing reminiscences!
    Having experienced a concussion or two in my time – I can only add that we need to look after ourselves and our injured others as best we can – on and off the field.
    Well written Dave.

  29. Sara Coleman says

    Interesting piece, David
    I remember Southby as a solid reliable defender in a very different era of football

  30. Super article David
    I wonder what might have been if Balmey hadn’t taken Southby out. It may have been back to back for Carlton.
    So glad that this aspect it basically gone from the game. I love a tough and hard contest in any sport, but to remove an opponent like this is unsportsmanlike. Don’t get me wrong I love Balmey, but to beat an opponent by skill is far more rewarding.
    Look forward to more of your articles.
    Cheers Shane

  31. Peter Wilshire says

    A beautifully articulated and heartfelt piece Dave. Being a life-long Tiger fan, it certainly brings back a not-so-good memory as an 11-year old on the day of the 1972 Grand Final. What was to become a fateful day for both the Tigers and myself. With the Tigers under siege from the Blues at the half-time break, I have clear memory of walking down to the local park, the John August Reserve, with my close friend Paul (who, at 12, was a year older than me). Clutching a footy in my hand and wearing a Richmond jumper with Royce Hart’s famous number 4 on my back (remember those long-sleeve woolen jumpers with the collar and couple of buttons at the front?). It seemed like, no sooner had we arrived at the John August Reserve, we were harangued, or is that accosted by a couple of boys a few years older than us (Blues supporters, no doubt!). They had obviously seen my Richmond jumper and wanted to cause trouble. All of a sudden, one of these boys produced some kind of implement and told us that it was a rock gun! I can’t recall the details of what this rock gun looked like. Or, maybe I’ve obliterated these details from my memory! Anyway, I do clearly remember him pointing this gun directly in our direction and threatening to shoot both myself and Paul with rocks! As young 11 and 12-year-olds, it was a very frightening experience for both of us! We certainly didn’t stick around; beating a hasty retreat! To make matters worse, later on that fateful day, after the game, I was kicking a footy in the backyard of Paul’s parents house. I have another clear memory of kicking the footy and seeing it hit and smash the window of an old caravan in his parents backyard! What a way to cap off a horrendous day for both myself and the Tigers!

  32. Paul McDermott says

    Southby and Greig both walk up starts in any best Victorian team of the 70s and many would say of any era.

    I once heard someone walking on my kitchen tin roof- I raced outside to tell the culprit off only to discover it was Keith Greig the plumber standing tall lunar like he did after taking a screamer and landing cat like on his feet!

    And when I turned 50 I received a birthday card from the great Geoff Southby via a mutual friend. How bloody good was that!

    Well done to David on recognising them both but for also delivering an absolutely outstanding piece of writing. .

    More please.

    Thank you David.

  33. David, this is a wonderful re-count of football and social history. Thank you, Sue and family.

  34. Alex Jones says

    Great read David, footy before my time but I can just imagine it. Bring back the torpedooooo!

  35. Yvette Eyles says

    Superb article, David — I was instantly transported back to the 70s and the beginnings of my lifelong love affair with the Navy Blues.

  36. James Lewis says

    Love your piece on Geoff Southby.Dave. Amazing footballer and a gentleman of the game. On field and off. Remember him coming into The Orrong Hotel some 20 years or so ago which was my local at the time. He worked nearby and just popped in to have a counter meal. I was taken back how well physically he looked. My impression was he could still have played football as he still had that commanding presence. Lovely bloke and I always thought he was probably Carltons’ best full back therefore the games best. Thanks Dave for reviving memories of a golden era in football.

  37. Such a great read Dave! Interesting background info on Southby. I lived through the era I love reminiscing about the 70s.

  38. Dave Sheehan says

    Terrific article. As a mad Blues supporter I remember all this like it was yesterday. Geoff Southby was a sensational player; I particularly remember a lot of his torps from the goal square threatening the centre circle.

  39. RipponleaRob says

    Evocative of my memories of Saturday afternoons at Kardinia Park watching Billy Goggin, Doug Wade and the ruckman who was the greatest player of his generation Polly Farmer. Unfortunately the Southby era was a barren one for the Cats

  40. Well written. Great read!

  41. Great memories – the good old days of the Blues!
    Thanks for an interesting article.

  42. Shirley Anne Fox says

    I don’t know much about football, but I found your article to be well written with a touch of humour. You obviously have a great regard for Geoff Southby.

  43. I wore number 20 on my back while in primary school, but was always confused why the rest of the Carlton kids wore number 25 ? Geoff not only a great footballer but is dad to a former elite netballer. Courage and determination did not fall far from the tree. Thanks for the article DC.

  44. Bruce Cameron says

    Marvellous stuff David. I’ve always remembered Southby’s torps and defensive skills, but you’ve rightly evoked memories of his vertical leap, speed, and unique gait. A truly graceful and fair champion, like K. Greig. I hadn’t been aware they started on the same day in the same match. Thanks for folding in other contextual fabric: Mary Gibbs at Faraday, Alf Brown’s dismal Carlton predictions, Tony’s sickening auditory experience in the forward pocket, you wishing you were at Luna Park and reliving it with Tommy over the years. Great work, well-written: a treat really.

  45. Great article Dave. You are very passionate in regards to your football knowledge. Back in 1972 I was 11 years old living in a small town called Merton. I was more into tennis and cricket than football. Your article brings back memories of kicking a football at school which was the same size as the infamous Faraday school.. (1 teacher and 13 kids)
    My mum and dad owned and worked the general store, post office and service station. We would watch the games on the black and white TV each Saturday night. How times has past and football has changed over the years.

  46. David McLeod says

    I really liked your Geoff Southby article.
    He was in that category of unique footballer, ‘Greatest of All Greats’ with the likes of Peter Knights, Robbie Flower, Peter Daicos to name a few. Probably the greatest fullback ever.
    And one our Carlton Boys.
    I’d be happy and honoured to paint a portrait of that astonishing Southby mark over Balme. In oils on canvas of course. Dave Mcleod

  47. Beautifully described Dave. It’s great to read about this era.

  48. Great article David.
    My memories of a wonderful player includes his great kicking whether the torp or the long drop punts kicking in from behind almost to the wing at Princess Park.
    Interesting stat he played his first,100th, 200th and last game all against Nth Melbourne.
    As for Sheedy’s “favorite moment at the MCG”, Richmond may have won that game but they lost all respect.

  49. Great article, wonderful memories linked to a message about looking after footballers during and after their playing careers. Coaches still refer to them as the cattle so may be still a way to go.

  50. Perfectly written and your imagery captivates :)) great read David would love to see more !

  51. Gamesdownunder says

    Wonderful memories David.
    Geoff Southby and Keith Greig both captured beautifully.
    Fortunate to have played alongside the great Carlton fullback at Power House in the Amateurs in 1969.
    He loved baseball but had never played Aussie Rules before. Spent a couple of weeks in the Ressies before the Senior coach happened to pass by and see him. Went on to win the Senior Best & Fairest award in just half a season.
    He was a student who needed a dollar so went home and played at Sandhurst in 1970. The rest is history.
    One of the all-time greats !!

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