Almanac Footy History: The Games that Murdered Football


I should have called this the games that nearly murdered football, because like Rock and Roll, football will never die. I wrote this to remember those times when things don’t go to plan, such as Collingwood’s recent move into women’s football, when the big occasion falls flat or when the opposite of last year’s grand final occurs. These occasions are good for the winning side, but not pleasant for the rest of us. So ladies and gentlemen, I present the worst big occasions in football.

1994 World Cup Final

Probably the worst game of Soccer in living memory. While FIFA usually gets it wrong big time, this time they seemed to get it right. They gave the hosting rights to the biggest sports market on the planet, the USA. With its huge ethnic communities, and insatiable appetite for televised sport, what could go wrong? Plenty. First of all Columbia had an ordinary campaign, culminating in their goalkeeper being murdered by the drug cartels in retaliation for his mistakes at the tournament. Maradona was expelled from the tournament after he failed a drug test.

Finally the big day arrived, and in the heat of a California summer the two glamour sides of world football, Brazil and Italy, met in a highly anticipated showdown. With barely a shot on goal and no highlights, the match drifted into extra time, where nothing happened. Finally the match went to a penalty shootout, where Italy’s hero Roberto Baggio stuffed up his shot. Game to Brazil, not that anyone noticed.

Australia v New Zealand, Rugby Union Bledisloe Cup 1996 Wellington. In an action reminiscent of boxing’s worst mismatches, the Australians chose to diss the Haka, the New Zealand war dance that begins every rugby match involving All Black and Kiwi teams. They talked amongst themselves, they turned their backs on the display, and they laughed at the earnest NZers. Not a good idea. The angry All Blacks, with Jonah Lomu in full flight destroyed Australia 43-6 in the rain and the wind of Wellington. Later, the Australians learned their lesson. They faced the Haka, staring back at the New Zealanders with grim determination. While this helped to make the Australians more competitive, it did little to help the huge psychological advantage of that terrible night…

1985 Hawthorn v Geelong Round 12

Probably the most spiteful match in the modern era, this one started with Mark Jackson (Geelong) starting a fight because he was bored, and wasn’t getting a kick. It ended with Neville Bruns (Geelong) getting his jaw broken and Leigh Mathews (Hawthorn) up on an assault charge. The spite continued the following day with Hawthorn coach Allan Jeans having a personal slanging match with footy commentator and former champion Peter McKenna on World of Sport.

During the late 80s Hawthorn seemed to always have the wood on the Cats. Even when the Cats got ahead by over 10 goals at half time the Hawks reeled them in. In the 1989 grand final the spite continued with Mark Yeates of Geelong running through Dermot Brereton at the opening  bounce, and Dipierdomenico of Hawthorn ending up in hospital with a punctured lung. The following year they met in the opening round, and Hawthorn absolutely humiliated Geelong. I find it hard to recall any two sides who hated each other as much as those two at that time. Two years later they met in the second semi final, and the result was just the same, narrow loss for Geelong.

1985 was a year to forget. The grand final was one sided, a Collingwood reserves player bopped the umpire and the Sydney Swans were sold into private hands. All the clubs started running out of money.

1975 NSW Rugby League Grand Final

In the big money era, the NSW rugby league competition was dominated by the big spenders, Manly and Easts. St George limped into the grand final with injury to their star player, Graeme Langlands, who was useless on the day. NSW rugby league is not exactly renowned for it’s one sided walkovers but this one was a doozy. St George was hammered 38-0. Saints came back two years later to defeat Parramatta in the replay after an epic draw, but it took a while for all conquering Easts to return to the winners list.

1986 NSW Rugby League Grand Final

This excruciating match was the third of 3 grand finals involving the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs. With each match the score got less, and the football more defensive. Mick Cronin kicked 2 penalty goals to Canterbury’s one. That’s all the scoring there was – no tries. A fond farewell to Parramatta’s two great champions, Ray Price and Mick Cronin, and a farewell to Parramatta’s golden era, was marred by this ugly snorefest.

1977 VFA Grand Final

It was the VFA’s greatest day, celebrating 100 years since their founding in 1877. After the amazing draw between Collingwood and North the previous day hopes were high for a ripper celebration and a game worthy of the occasion. They were sadly mistaken, as Port annihilated Sandringham by 100 points. Apart from a giant human football made by cheerleaders and mascots, there was precious little to cheer about.

1988 VFL Grand Final

There were many one-sided walkovers in the 1980s in the VFL. This one was kind of special because harsh reality hit the city of Melbourne like a Monty Python fish. After the Cinderella side Melbourne won the night flag in 1987, then won two finals on their way to a heartbreaking preliminary final against the Hawks, hopes were high the following year following a barnstorming run through the finals where Melbourne beat West Coast, Collingwood and Carlton on their way to another showdown with the Hawks. We all hoped David could beat Goliath, but Goliath pulverised David by 96 points, it was not pretty. There was a streaker (female) in the final term, but it did little to lift the mood of doom and gloom. Anyway, channel 7, the old meanies, put a commercial on when it happened. Possibly the worst grand final ever, up there with 2007 and 1960. Note that Melbourne came back in 1990 and eliminated Hawthorn from the finals. But they were never the same.

It is fitting that this sad trip down memory lane ends with the 1960 grand final. I have written about this one before. Collingwood kicked 2 goals 2 behinds in its worst grand final performance. There were many dark moments in Collingwood’s 32 year journey of heartache and frustration from 1958 to 1989 – the 81 point loss to Richmond in the 1980 grand final, the 133 point loss to Essendon in the 1984 preliminary final and of course, Collingwood’s blackest day, 1970, where the Magpies led by 43 points at half time and still lost by 10. There are many other black days in football. The “One Goal in Mind” SANFL grand final of 1989 springs to mind. It is up to others to remember them.

Brazil got better in 2002. Geelong finally beat Hawthorn in 2011. Collingwood ended its nightmare in 1990. So in the end, in spite of these messes, football was the real winner…


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  1. It wasn’t the Colombian goalkeeper who was murdered, it was defender Andres Escobar.

  2. Cat from the Country says

    Yes some have been less than ordinary games.
    The worst I attended was in Sydney 2015 I think.
    Geelong were so flat footed they could have stayed at home.
    At least the next year in the same game it was only by double figures!
    Geelong have to get over the Swans to be really great

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