Almanac Footy Review: VFL season 1971, Round 22


As the 2021 season draws to a close, I’m taking us back 50-years to the last round of the 1971 Victorian Football League, (VFL) season, Saturday August 28. For me it was school holidays, we were going to spend time with my grandparents, residing in 30 Vera St Corowa.


It was a grey, wet drive up the Hume. That night I remembered siting in the lounge with an open fire going. My family being footy buffs we had the replay(s) on the old Black and White television. Of course, next day being Sunday there was more footy on the television with a further replay, then of course World of Sport.


Princess Park saw a replay of the 1970 Grand Final. As in the Grand Final Collingwood controlled the first half, going in 42 points ahead. Then an angry Carlton coach Ronald Dale Barassi made several telling positional changes including Ian Robertson into the centre, as the player selected in the centre was no longer there.  In sensational half time scenes centreman Billy Barrot, clashed with Barassi in the Carlton rooms. Barrot tore of his Carlton jumper, hurling it aside as his VFL career ended. As they had in the 1970 grand final, Carlton over run Collingwood. They had no requirement of a Billy Barrot to help them.


Setting the home side alight was Brent Croswell. Croswell was playing only his second game for the season having been laid low with osteomyelitis. His five goals put the icing on the cake of a twelve kick, ten marks game. The reliable following division of John Nicholls, Serge Silvagni and Adrian Gallagher won plenty of the ball. Ian Robertson’s halftime move to the centre, replacing the ‘absent’ Billy Barrot, saw a big second half from him, driving the ball forward to waiting teammates. The perennial ‘Happy Clapper’, Peter Jones was another fine performer for the victors, with support from back men Geoff Southby, and Vin Waite in gradually wearing down their opponents.


Wayne Richardson again tried valiantly for the vanquished, picking up 34 kicks and three goals. He received support from Con Britt, Graeme ‘Jerker’ Jenkin, also John Greening as Collingwood tried wiping away the ignominy of the 1970 Grand final, but it was not to be.   As a wise man once said; ‘History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce.


When the game ended several Carlton luminaries said goodbye. Sergio Silvagni hung up his boots, whilst Ian Collins went to Port Melbourne in the Victorian Football Association (VFA). Coach Ronald Dale Barassi left Carlton spending some time alongside Ian Collins with Port Melbourne. His time with Port Melbourne was brief playing four games, managing the one goal, before a hamstring injury curtailed his season. Barassi returned to VFL coaching ranks with North Melbourne in 1973.


Carlton: 2.0.12 3.5.23 8.6.54 16.10.106 Croswell5, Jones3, Gallagher2, Jackson2, Quirk2, Jesaulenko, Robertson

Collingwood:  7.2.44 10.5.65 11.8.74 13.9.87 McKenna4, Britt3, W Richardson3, Coles2, Jenkin


The biggest crowd of the day turned out to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, (MCG) where they saw Geelong push Richmond, only just losing an entertaining encounter.  The 36,423 in attendance saw a thrilling contest.


Richmond with experienced pairing of Kevin Bartlett and Royce Hart going well jumped out of the blocks getting away to a 26-point lead, before Geelong turned on a big second half revival. Richmond was held goalless in the third quarter, as Geelong took the lead in the final term. However, Richmond weren’t being denied victory, as roused by Ian Stewart they exposed weaknesses in Geelong defence. Geelong had late chances to snatch victory but set shots by Bill Ryan, and David ‘Darky ‘Harris, were offline. (In 2021 no one would have the nickname given to Harris! We’ve come a long way the last 50 years.)


One of Richmond’s goal kickers that day was Bruce Tschirpig.  His next game for Richmond was the opening round of 1976.  The seasons in between he played in Tasmania.


Geelong’s Doug Wade failed to finish the match injuring a knee cartilage. Wade kicked for 94 goals for the season, one of three seasons in which he kicked between 90 & 100 goals. It’s also worth noting that in 1971 Geelong finished ninth in a twelve-team competition, Wade only playing 19 games for the season, in which he averaged 4.9 goals a game. During his sterling career he also kicked two tons, sitting 4th on the all-time goal kickers list with 1057 goals.  This match was Billy Goggin’s farewell to the VFL. 1972 saw him coaching Geelong West in the VFA. Geelong West went through the season undefeated winning their way back into the First Division after a season in the Second Division.


After Geelong’s strong finish to 1971, winning three of the last five games, I was so looking forward to 1972, but…….


Richmond:  5.4.34 10.7.67 10.13.73 16.14.110 Hart 4, Bartlett2, Boyanich2, Richardson2, Cumming, Dean, McKellar, Roberts, Stewart, Tschirpig

Geelong: 1.3.9 6.5.41 9.13.67 14.18.102 Wade 4, Clarke2, Closter2, Newland2, Ryan2, I Nankervis, Stephens


St Kilda traveled out to the Western Oval to take on Footscray. The Saints had beaten South Melbourne by 12 goals the week prior, whilst Footscray had unsuccessfully done the road trip to Geelong. In those days the journey to (from)Geelong was the furthest a team would travel to play.


St Kilda had a tight tussle with the home side on the windy Western Oval, but a withering burst of 8.7 to the scoring end in the third term had them double their opponents score entering the final term. Though St Kilda were scoreless in that last quarter they were never troubled in winning by 16 points.


St Kilda’s Alan Davis caused serious consternation for the coach Alan Jeans as Davis was seen eating a Violet Crumble whilst sitting on the bench. Davis’s retort was that chocolate gave you energy. As it was Davis was left out of the side for the following match, the Semi Final loss against Hawthorn, prior to returning for the final two games of the season.


St Kilda: 2.9.21 4.11.35 12.18.90 12.18.90 Breen4, Ditterich3, Galt, McIntosh, Moran, Rae, Smith

Footscray: 2.3.15 3.8.26 6.9.45 10.14.74 Magee3, Quinlan3, Rippon2, Simmons, McGowan


Bobby Skilton played his last game for South Melbourne, as the hometown fans cheered Skilton and his victorious teammates off the Lakeside Oval after a 72-point win over North Melbourne. (Within a decade South Melbourne no longer had a football club, nor did the Lakeside Oval hold top level football.) Skilton subsequently enjoyed a fine 1972 with Port Melbourne playing 11 games, finishing third in the J J Liston trophy, only 6 votes off winning.


On the same day Skilton finished a stellar career, in their Little League team Grant O’Riley was playing his last game. O’Riley made a big impression in junior ranks. He subsequently became a centre half forward in Premiership teams at Port Melbourne as well as playing a few senior games with Fitzroy.


For North Melbourne a season that had started so well with a surprise opening round victory over reigning premiers Carlton, finished with an ignominious defeat to the1971 wooden spooners. The following season was even worse for North Melbourne then Ron Barassi arrived, and as they say; the rest is history.


South Melbourne: 5.7.37 5.8.38 17.12.114 19.17.131 Bedford7, Quade4, Doyle2, Miller2, Hoffman, Skilton, Walsh, Way

North Melbourne: 1.1.7 2.3.15 2.5.17 8.11.59 Baker2, Redenbach2, Wood2, Perry, Taylor


Top of the ladder Hawthorn continued their relentless march to the premiership, Melbourne being their last victims of the home and away season. Full forward Peter Hudson enjoyed himself, outscoring Melbourne on his own. Hudson has 17 shots for goal of which 10 went straight through the hi-diddle, diddle. Team mates Geoff Angus, Bruce Stevenson, and Alan Martello helped Hudson enjoy a ‘day out’, in a season where he had a fair few days out on his way to a tally of 150 goals.


There was a substantial contrast with Melbourne’s key forward for the day, the debutant Stephen Kerley, who only managed four points. For the vanquished, Peter ‘Crackers’ Keenan toiled away in the ruck contests, with support around the ground the 1969 Tassie Medalist Graeme Molloy, as well as John Townsend, and Paul Callery. For Melbourne a season that saw them start with a 105 point victory, then eight wins in the first nine rounds to look like a ‘contender’, again saw them missing the September action. After their glory run starting from the mid 1950’s they had not appeared in the finals since their 1964 Flag. The wait was long way from over, as a finals berth evaded them well into the following decade.


Hawthorn: 2.4.16 9.11.65 14.12.96 18.16.124 Hudson10, Angus3, Matthews2, Porter2, Rice

Melbourne:  2.4.16 4.6.30 7.13.55 8.17.65 Townsend3, Clark2, Callery, Molloy, Tilbrook


Windy Hill saw the home side take on the seventh placed Fitzroy. Eleventh placed Essendon came into the match following a loss to North Melbourne, their third consecutive loss. In comparison Fitzroy had won their previous three games including a win over Carlton in the ‘fog match’ of the previous round.  A loss by Essendon condemned them to a lowly eleventh. Essendon led for the first three terms before Fitzroy got on top as ruck pair Norm Brown, and Russell Crow, provided plenty of    the ball for their smaller players to get Fitzroy over the line.


In the Essendon side was David Starbuck, who in his farewell match, collected 21 possessions and two goals, being one of their better performers. These two goals were the only goals of his VFL career as 1972 found him lining up with Coburg in the VFA.


Fitzroy: 1.4.10 5.11.41 9.15.69. 13.17.95 Brown 3, Murphy3, Crow2, Padley2, Shanahan2, Thompson

Essendon: 4.5.29 7.5.47 11.10.76 12.12.84 Cassin2, Noonan2, C Payne2, Starbuck2, Davis, Delahunty, Fields, Moloney


As is the wont the final game of the season saw several players turn out for the last time. I’ve mentioned a few, but there were others including South Melbourne’s Fred Way, North Melbourne’s Maurie Wood, and Fitzroy’s Bill Sykes none of who turned out again for their teams in the VFL senior competition.


When the round finished Hawthorn remained on top of the ladder where they’d been since Round 8. It would be Hawthorn’s first finals appearance since their then only premiership in 1961.  Below them were St Kilda, Collingwood, Richmond, all holding the same position as they did entering the final round. The top four teams had remained the same since Round 17, though except Hawthorn their positions in the four had alternated.


The following week saw the start of the 1971 Finals series. In that time, it was the Final Four, played over four Saturdays. The first Saturday saw the third and fourth placed sides play. For the loser the season was over, the winner survived into the Preliminary Final. Week two saw the top pairing clash with the winner going into the Grand Final, the loser went to the Preliminary Final, alive for another week.  The winner of the Preliminary Final went into the Grand Final; for that matches’ loser it was ‘all over, red rover.’  In 1972 the Final Five replaced the Final Four. In modern times it is hard to comprehend the finals looking anything other than a televised four-week odyssey of teams playing across Australia at different times and days, though in these Covid times nothing is certain.




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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  1. Hello Glen. Apologies for not replying earlier to your wonderful trip down memory lane.

    As you mentioned Round 22 1971 was notable for the curtain call of a number of household names such as RDB, Skilton, Goggin, EJ, Serge and Billy Barrot.

    Another who played his final game in Navy Blue that afternoon, Barry Mulcair is an interesting story. A mid season arrival in June 1970 from South Bendigo (colourful raconteur Greg Boxall went the other way) Mulcair played the remaining 13 games in the Blues senior team and was part of the memorable 1970 GF winning squad. He played the first 6 games of ’71 and was dropped prior to Carlton’s clash with Dogs at VFL Park, not returning to the seniors until the final game of the home and away season.

    BTW which Barrot did you prefer – Bustlin’ Bill or Wes, member of Port’s 1976 premiership winning team?

    Look forward to your next piece, keep up the great work my good man.


  2. Hello Michael. Thanks for the reply.

    I forgot to mention EJ’s farewell appearance as Footscray’s coach was that afternoon. One of a number of notable performances @ the Western Oval that day. These included Ron McGowan kicking half of his career goals, whilst teammate Grant Simmons kicked his sole senior goal. However they couldn’t bring home the 4 points to celebrate.

    Barry Mulcair is really vague in my memory. I’m aware he played in the 1970 premiership, his final game was this 1971 ‘replay’ of the result from the 1970 grand final. I know a Kevin Boxell in Bendigo, Greg Boxall doesn’t ring a bell.

    Hard to compare the Barrot brothers. Billy who played a decade at the highest level was @ a different level to Wes with 4 games across two clubs. Did Wes play in a Port Melbourne premiership team?


  3. Hello Glen.

    Wes Barrot started the 1976 VFA GF on the bench.


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