Almanac Footy History: Round 1 1971

The Footy Almanac Round 1 1971


Fifty years ago the major football code in Australia was the Victorian Football League (VFL). While every state had a footballing competition it was Victoria that drew the best players, had the biggest crowds, with the quality of football being the best in the land. Melbourne, Victoria was the heartland of the national game. It was six games in Melbourne on a Saturday, none of these weeknights, Sundays, let alone interstate clubs/clashes back in that time.


Australia, Victoria, was a very different world then. On November 17, 1970, Victoria were world leaders in legislating on compulsory seatbelts, an action that augured well as in its first twelve months Victoria’s road fatalities fell by over 10%. The Royal Commission into the Failure of the West Gate Bridge was still sitting, sorting through evidence. When the opening round of the season arrived Lynn Andersons’ Rose Garden topped the pop charts.


Only a few weeks prior to the opening round of the VFL season, Australia saw a change of Prime Minister, as the ruling Liberal-Country Party saw dissent in its ranks. A spill was called for the coalition leadership, the position of Australia’s Prime Minister. Incumbent Prime Minister John Gorton drew 33 apiece in a vote of no-confidence with challenger Billy McMahon. Gorton then used his vote for McMahon, meaning a change of leadership.


The role of Australia in the undeclared war in Vietnam raged on, as opposition to the war continued growing. In Melbourne, another Moratorium march to show opposition to the war was planned for  June 30. Also, on the metaphorical radar, was a proposed tour of Australia by the South African Rugby Union team, the Springboks. This was scheduled for July, but already opposition to it was mobilising.


Victoria’s state Government was led by the uncouth Sir Henry Bolte. Bolte seemed like a representative of the old squattocracy, with his scant respect for democracy, and a strong rural base. Bolte, whilst not actually part of the old squattocracy, certainly owned, and made his money from the land.


Saturday, April 3 was the opening of the 1971 season. A hot, sunny day which saw the temperature hover around 80 Fahrenheit, just under 27 Celsius in the modern vernacular,  greeted the contestants and the awaiting crowds. The last VFL match had been the unforgettable 1970 Grand Final when Carlton overcame a half time deficit of 44 points to overrun Collingwood, being victorious with scores of 17.9.11 to 14.17.101.


Reigning premiers Carlton went over to the Arden Street Oval to take on North Melbourne. North Melbourne were Wooden Spooners in 1970, though they finished the year with a win over Geelong at Arden Street.


North Melbourne shocked Carlton. Taking an early lead, they outscored Carlton in three of the quarters. ‘Slammin’ Sam Kekovich proved a handful for the club his elder brother had previously represented. Among his teammates Kekovich received fine support from Paul Feltham who also kicked four majors, as well as Mick Dowdle, Dr Rob Peterson, and future North Melbourne/Carlton coach Denis Pagan.


Amongst the debutants this day for North Melbourne was a pale winger from Brunswick, Keith Greig. Within two years he’d won the Brownlow Medal, backing it up the following year.


For the vanquished it wasn’t a day to remember. Ian Robertson knocked up winning the ball, John  “Big Nick” Nicholls played a captain’s role wining the ball, also kicking goals but many of the others seemed afflicted with a premiership hangover. Carlton’s 1970 premiership hero Teddy Hopkins again started on the bench. However there no further heroics from him, this being his final VFL game.   Hopkins never played another senior game. Amongst his teammates that day was a debutant from Sandhurst in the Bendigo League Geoff Southby, who also became a premiership hero. Such was Southby’s impact that in his first season he won the club Best and Fairest, one of numerous achievements obtained on his way to the Australian Football Hall of Fame.


North Melbourne: 4.5.29  8.8.56 14.12.96 18.16.124   D Farrant 4 Feltham 4 Kekovich 4 Greig 2 Hodgetts 2 Bryant Peterson.

Carlton: 3.3.21  7.8.50 10.12.72 14.14.98    Jesaulenko 3, McLean3, Nicholls 3, Walsh 2, Keogh, Quirk, Robertson.


Fitzroy took on Richmond.  This pair had tangled in the opening round of 1970, on a Sunday match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) attended by  the British Royal Family . The 1970 match was the first ever VFL match on a Sunday. The 1971 opening round clash saw them playing at the then Fitzroy home ground, the Junction Oval. Richmond took an early lead, then a tally of 9.10 in the ‘premiership quarter’ saw Richmond make that a crushing lead.  Richmond eased up in the final term, allowing Fitzroy to regain some pride, though a margin of 51 points is nothing to sneeze at.


Making his debut for Richmond that day was the former St Kilda dual Brownlow medallist Ian Stewart. By the end of the year the flashy centreman had a third Brownlow to his name.  Within two years he was part of another premiership team. Not too many players had a Brownlow, along with premiership success at both clubs they played with.


Not just a dual Brownlow Medallist, but quite a few dual premiership players were in Richmond ranks that day. Among them were dual premiership quartet Kevin Bartlett, Bill Brown, Roger Dean, and Royce Hart combining for 17 of Richmond’s 22 goals.


For Fitzroy, a founding member of the league, but who sadly no longer exist in the increasingly commodified, corporatised code, the best players on the day included Warwick Irwin, John Murphy, Norm Dare and  Russell Crow.


Richmond  6.3.39 11.6.72 20.16.136 22.18 .150  Bartlett 6 Brown 4 Hart 4 Dean 3 Bourke Boyanich Hunt Moore Roberts

Fitzroy: 2.3.15 6.6.42 8.6.54 14.15.99 Murphy 3 Andrews 2 Padley 2 Ruscucklic2 Searl 2 Irwin Murray Newnham


The biggest crowd of the round, 28,727 were at the MCG which saw two of the legends of Melbourne’s golden era coaching the contestants.  Norm Smith was now in his third year at South Melbourne, whilst former five-time premiership rover Ian Ridley was debuting as Melbourne Coach. Ridley’s premierships were achieved during Smith’s coaching reign. South Melbourne had been a finalist in 1970, the first time they had been in the finals since 1945.


Melbourne jumped off to a flier, with small men Denis Clark and John Townsend seeing plenty of the ball.  Gary Hardeman, Melbourne Centre Half Back in their team of the century consistently thwarted South Melbourne’s attacks, whilst up forward five players kicked three apiece. The start to the year saw  Melbourne fans feeling a return to their golden era, even more so when after round 9 they sat second, winning eight of their first nine games.  Then the wheels fell off with only three more wins for the year.  Melbourne finally returned to the finals in 1987 though premiership glory still evades them.


South Melbourne were outclassed, as memories of being finalists the previous year vanished into the ether. Though Berrigan’s favourite son Fred Way battled bravely in the ruck, with support from club legend triple Brownlow medallist Bobby Skilton, and one of Victoria Police’s finest, Russel Cook, South Melbourne’s year was off to a shocker; it wouldn’t improve.


South Melbourne finished the year wooden sooners with only three wins. Retiring at the end of the year was club legend, Bobby Skilton.  Within a decade South Melbourne no longer existed, as the ‘football code’ saw more commercial opportunities setting up a team in Sydney. No room for sentiment in this business. Like fellow founding VFL club Fitzroy, they’re but a memory.


Melbourne : 5.5.35 10.8.68 15.13.103 24.21.165 Bourke 3 Burgmann3 Callery3 Gallus 3 Townsend 3 Molloy 2 Parke 2 Carr Keenan Lakes McKenzie Wells

South Melbourne: 1.3.9 4.11.35 6.14.50 7.18.60 Bedford 2 Brice McAuliffe McCracken Quade Skilton


At Kardinia Park 1971 started well for the home side, with their quarter time tally doubling the score of their opponents, St Kilda. Geelong on 5.2.32 were nicely clear of the visitors who were on 2.4.16. Geelong was strengthened by the return to the team of the experienced pair of Peter Walker, and Chris Mitchell, neither who appeared in 1970. Geelong missed the finals in 1970, the first time since 1961. Would this opening term set them on the way back to the finals?


A promising start turned to a horror day for the locals, with only St Kilda’s inaccuracy saving Geelong from further ignominy. St Kilda with 19.21 to 3.7 after quarter time, had their biggest ever win at Kardinia Park. The sole positive the home side could gleam was the debut of Number 14, David Clarke on the half forward flank. Clarke became a fine on field performer for Geelong for many years, though he finished his career with Carlton.


St Kilda had finished 1970 third, the victory on this opening day sent them on their way to a grand final appearance. Travis Payze, John Bonney, Ross Smith, and Brian Mynott were just some of the players who  vanquished their Geelong opponents that day. A notable contributor in the victors’ team that day was Billy Barrot, former Richmond premiership player. He crossed over to St Kilda after the 1970 season, swapping with Ian Stewart, though he only played the opening two games of the season before finishing the year with Carlton. By 1972 he was performing with Oakleigh in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) ranks.


St Kilda: 2.4.16  8.15.63  13.17.95  21.25.151. Payze 4 Galt 3  Barrot 3 Mynott 2 Stephens 2 Theodore2 Bonney Breen Davis Smith Ward

Geelong:  5.2.32  6.4.40  7.7.49  8.9.57 Wade 3  Ryan 3 Clarke Goggin


Essendon hosted Hawthorn at Windy Hill. Essendon had struggled in 1970, finishing second last with just the six wins. Hawthorn after a poor start finished eighth, winning ten of their last  fifteen matches.  Hawthorn full forward Peter Hudson kicked his third consecutive ‘ton’ in 1970. In this opening round clash, he started his 1971 campaign with a bag of five. For Hawthorn, and Hudson, this was a start of a big year. Hawthorn lost only thrice in the year, collecting their second premiership. Hudson kicked his fourth consecutive ton equaling the most goals kicked in a season with 150. No one has equalled, let alone done better since.


For the vanquished, 17-year-old debutant Graeme Schultz kicked four goals to get his career off to a good start. It was a fine first year for Schultz. He kicked 29 goals in his 16 games, being the second highest Essendon goal kicker for the season.  Schultz had an interesting career with Essendon playing 77 games in his two stints with the club, broken up by six years in Western Australia.


Hawthorn 4.3.27 8.11.59 11.15.81 13.18.96 Hudson 5 Heath 3 L Matthews 2 Crimmins Keddie Porter

Essendon 2.6.18 5.7.37 8.10.58  10.12.72 Schultz 4 Gross 3 Daniel Fields Williams


               Collingwood, smarting from losing the unlosable 1970 Grand Final were at home playing Footscray.  These two had opened the previous season at Footscray’s home ground the Western Oval. On that occasion Collingwood won by 64 points, with Peter McKenna kicking 11. This time it was Des Tuddenham among the goals kicking nine, the final margin being 83 points. Tuddenham was one of two Collingwood players, Wayne Richardson the other, winning over 40 touches that day, phenomenal statistics for that time.


Footscray were best served by George Bisset kicking four goals, also the versatile Gary Merrington, with determined flankers Stephen Power, and Ricky Spargo, who battled it out against a superior opponent on the day.


Just over 12 months later Footscray made a victorious trek to Victoria Park. Their coach that day was Collingwood legend Bobby Rose who’d coached Collingwood in the 1971 clash.


Collingwood: 11.2.68 16.6.102 20.8.128  25.10.160 Tuddenham 9 McKenna 4 Thompson 4 W Richardson 4 Dunne2 Britt Waters

Footscray: 4.1.25 5.3.33 7.9.51 11.11.77 Bissett 4 Merrington 2 Magee Pagnocolo Salmon Spargo Thorpe


We’ve named some of the V F L debutants that day. There were those who became club legends, others burnt brightly for a while, then faded away . Keith Greig, Athol Hodgetts, Geoff Southby, David Clarke, Brian ’The Whale’, Roberts, Henry Coles, John Gallus, Rod Galt, Rod McFarlane, are just some of those debutants from that Saturday’s matches, fifty years ago.


Who among the 2021 debutants who will become stars of the future. On Thursday March 18, a new season kicks off, the now traditional MCG clash between Richmond and Carlton the first of nine games, played in five states, over four consecutive days. Let the show begin!


With the 2021 Australian Football League(AFL) season nearly on us, it’s nice looking back to see what’s come before us. Six games in Melbourne, Victoria, on a Saturday are a memory.  Some of us are old enough to recall those long-gone days.






For more from Glen, click HERE:




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  1. John Butler says

    Fair game from Tuddy – 40 possies and 9 goals.

    This season is right at the beginning of my footy memories. I went to Worthing Road Primary School, in the heart of Saints territory. I can vividly remember the pall in the school yard at recess on the Monday after the Grand Final. I reckon 90% of the school were Sainters.

    I was unaffected, as Jezza had already converted me to the Navy Blue cause.

    50 years! Yikes.

  2. Thanks very much for the start of your 50-year VFL anniversary reports, Brad.
    I look forward to reading each one.

  3. Oops, my apologies, Glen, I called you Brad.
    I must’ve been thinking of former Fitzroy player Brad Davis.

  4. Glen, although you won’t agree, I am very happy to read that my team St Kilda with only 1 flag and a massive 27 wooden spoons in 124 years of VFL/AFL football, beat your very successful Geelong team in round 1 of 1971 by a massive 94 points and would have won that game by much more if St Kilda had kicked straight, as you mentioned. I say that because very long suffering St Kilda fans have had very little to cheer about over the years. The 1971 Grand Final is one that definitely got away from St Kilda, after leading Hawthorn by 20 points at three quarter time.

    Both St Kilda and Hawthorn were 1 flag each after 1 round of 1971 and of course, it’s currently 13 flags to Hawthorn and only 1 flag for St Kilda. The new zoning areas cost St Kilda massively after their premiership in 1966. Many Hawthorn champions of the 1970s, including Leigh Mathews and a number of others, came from suburbs that were previously zoned to St Kilda. Geelong of course now has 9 flagss, including 3 flags from 2007 to 2011 beating my Saints in 2009 after St Kilda won 19 home and away games in a row that season, and St Kilda is the least successful Victorian club of all time apart from University.

    Hopefully, St Kilda are on the right track now and can win their 2nd flag in the not too distant future. If the Western Bulldogs could do it in 2016, so can St Kilda but Geelong, apart from Richmond, will be hard to beat in 2021 with Jezza, Jeremy Cameron, being added to the team.

    What also cost St Kilda in 1971 as you mentioned was the brilliant centreman and 2 time St Kilda and 1 time Richmond Brownlow Medalist, Ian Stewart, being traded to Richmond before after the 1970 season for Billy Barrott from Richmond. Ian Stewart ended up being a great player for Richmond, whereas St Kilda got little value from Billy Barrott, although he played well in round 1.

    Oh well, it’s only a game!

  5. Did KB play on ball then Glen or more HFF.

    Tuddenham with 9 Goals and 40 possessions sounds like one of the best all time games ever. 40 possessions be rare then. How many supercoach points did he get then

  6. Grade 3 @ Footscray North Primary in 1971 for me, John. 1971 had its moments for my family.

    Sorry FitzroyPete i’m not doing a weekly review of 1971; i’m not organised enough!. Last year Peter Clarke did a top write up of the St Kilda premiership year 1966, whilst Stainless did a wonderful weekly review of 1981. Possibly one of these chaps has the motivation to cover the footballing events of fifty years back.

    Anonymous 1971 was my third year of barracking for the Cats. St Kilda was a side others feared, skilled and strong. Players like ‘Big Carl’, ‘Cowboy’ Neale, Wayne Judson, Travis Payze, etc helped their teammates feel confident on the ground. St Kilda played some good footy in 1971,including handing two shellackings to Geelong, twice beating fellow finalists Collingwood in the home and away season, with a strong win in the rain over Richmond in the preliminary final, among my memories of then.

    Rodney KB roved until the late 70’s. I reckon only played HFF from 1980 (1978?).


  7. Peter Fuller says

    I have no memory of that opening round so I read your accounts like a whodunnit, not knowing the results. I was playing at the time probably had a practice match that day. As a player at local level, I rarely saw VFL matches being restricted by the Saturday afternoon scheduling to occasional matches on public holidays. My year was typical, first emergency in a premiership winning team, and dropped too late in the season to be eligible to play in the magoos who also made the grand fnal.
    I was impressed by your grasp of understatement with your reference to Ian Stewart’s unique achievement of a Brownlow and a premiership at two different clubs. Even without checking, I’m reasonably confident that Peter Moore and Chris Judd are the only players who won Brownlows at different clubs. Darcy’s dad suffered a couple of GF losses with the Magpies and didn’t play finals at Melbourne. Juddy skippered the Eagles in their 2006 flag, but to JB’s and my chagrin couldn’t carry the Blues to ultimate success.

  8. Philip Mendes says

    Nice report Glen. I may well have been taken as a six year old to watch that Fitzroy vs Richmond match, but have no memory of it. For some reason I do recall being at the Fitzroy vs Melb game that year, something about the scores on that day excited me. Without checking, I think Melb won 120 to 92. I believe they were top of the ladder at the time, but fell away badly in the second half of the season. I also have a distant visual memory of the famous Fitzroy vs Carlton fog game later that year.

  9. Ta Phil, your scorecard memory is correct..

    Yeah Melbourne beat you chaps by 28 points in the first encounter @ the ‘G’. Result reversed in the return bout.

    Fitzroy played some good footy in 1971, 1972. You beat Geelong easily both times in 1971, then you won at Kardinia Park early in 1972: the first time in over a decade. Both seasons you scored victories over finalists. The R 21 clash V Carlton @ the Junction Oval in 1971 ended the reigning premiers chances of making the finals. The weekly “Inside Football’ had a front page photo of two players peering forelorn into the fog. I’m trying to remember who the two were: Paul Shanahan and David Mckay? Bizarre how the fog bypassed over venues but dropped into(onto) the Junction Oval in the 3rd term.

    Peter, Ian Stewart was an amazing character. Three Brownlows, three Premierships across two clubs, he stands alone in these areas. Stewie.


  10. Peter Fuller says

    I reckon the Carlton player in the fog photo was Geoff Southby, a great mate of Swan McKay, so a forgivable confusion.

  11. Great reading Glen.

    The 1970s were very forgettable for Geelong supporters and 1971 seemed to set the tone.

    I am planning another weekly series in 2021: Geelong’s Record Run in 1952-53.
    Stay tuned.


  12. Ta Peter.

    I started barracking for Geelong in 1969, though that and 1970, are a tad vague in my recollections. 1971 certainly is more recognisable, with the years from 1972(when I first went to a game) to 1999 (when I stopped barracking for them) are as clear as day.

    Too young for the great run of the 60’s. By the end of 1972 there were none of the 1963 premiership team still playing, though Doug Wade remained at North until the end of 1975, adding another flag to his resume. My first finals memory is 1976, though three finals appearances for one win during the 70’s was you said, ‘very forgettable’.

    Look forward to the recalling of the great undefeated streak of 1952-53.


  13. Splendid read my good man, bravo.

    Carlton, Fitzroy and Footscray turned the tables in Round 12. I have fond memories of the Puppies 15 point triumph over the Pies as it was the first time I’d ventured to the Western Oval. Great start, 1 from 1.

    David Clarke won the Geelong B&F in his first season. Thorpey was named the Dogs club champion the same day he wrapped up the Age/Channel 9 Player of the Year award and collected $2000. Not a bad little earner considering the average weekly wage in Australia at that time was around $80.00

    Great memories, thanks muchly, look forward to your next effort.


  14. Hi Glen
    I’m a bit late onto this but looking forward to the series. 1971 just pre-dates my first attendance at games but it’s the first full season that I remember following. A good one for my Tigers although ultimately disappointing. Not a bad effort from KB – 6 goals as a rover! And 19 scoring shots in one quarter – how the game has changed!

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