ANZAC Day 1980



ANZAC Day Footy Matches in Melbourne are only a recent occurrence.


The blockbuster Collingwood v Essendon clashes only go back to 1995. For many years the Victorian Football League (VFL) opposed the concept of matches being played on ANZAC Day. There were occurrences of ANZAC Day falling on a Saturday, yet no football was played on that day. Finally, an Act of Victorian Parliament was passed in 1960, allowing professional football on this most solemn of days. From then, ANZAC Day football was underway.


During the early years of football on ANZAC Day, the VFL didn’t roster many high profile matches on that particular day. They didn’t seem overly interested in playing on ANZAC Day. Their local rival the Victorian Football Association was happy to play matches on ANZAC Day, giving themselves a foot in the door over the VFL. For the Returned Services League, a percentage of the gate takings from these games were made available. From the early 1970’s the VFL interest in ANZAC Day grew, as high quality matches, attracting bigger crowds, became more prevalent.


One of those encounters was the 1977 clash at the MCG between Richmond and Collingwood.


Former Richmond legend Tom Hafey coached against his old side for the first time. In a high quality encounter, watched by a crowd of more than 92,000, Hafey took Collingwood to a 26 point win. In the Richmond team that day was Kevin Sheedy. Sheedy has stated this match was the impetus to work towards, then, establish, the ANZAC Day Essendon v Collingwood blockbusters.


For my family, ANZAC Day was not a celebration, more so a day of memory, of commemoration. Five of my mother’s uncles saw action with the First Australian Imperial Forces in “The Great Trade War”. One never came back; the four who returned were all impacted by their experiences.


Subsequently other relatives and family friends saw military action, thus the horrors of war were something we’d been taught about. There had just been the divisive war in Vietnam, so to my family ANZAC Day was treated with respect as a solemn attempt to commemorate the memories of those who served, rather than the jingoistic expression that seems so in vogue now. No ‘Aussie-aussie, oi-oi-oi’ nonsense in those days.


I started barracking for Geelong in 1969. Prior to this 1980 clash with Hawthorn I could only recall them appearing thrice in the ANZAC Day clashes. In 1970 Collingwood inspired by 7 goals from Peter McKenna, defeated an injury depleted Geelong by 8 points at Kardinia Park. In 1977 Geelong went out to VFL Park, where they beat South Melbourne by 27 points. Hands up everyone who remembers South Melbourne and/or VFL Park; both are long gone features from footballs past. In 1978 Geelong again returned to ANZAC Day at VFL Park but the Mike Patterson coached St Kilda, which was off to a strong start to the season, accounted for Geelong by 33 points. In the two latter ANZAC Day clashes Geelong spearhead Larry Donohue kicked 4 goals in each game.


The 1980 ANZAC Day clash between Geelong and Hawthorn was obviously the first meeting for the decade between these two sides. Hawthorn very much owned Geelong in the 1970’s. Geelong won both encounters for 1970, then only three more times for the rest of the decade. These victories were at Kardinia Park in 1973, 1974, then in 1976. In their previous encounter at VFL Park in Round 15 1979 Geelong led by 31 points at the main break before going down by a point. I recall Peter Johnston missed a crucial late shot.


Anyhow ANZAC Day 1980, I caught the V-line train with our good mate Captain Straightman. On the way down I remember hearing radio reports of the United States (US) helicopter crashes in Iran, this in a doomed effort to rescue the hostages held in Tehran.  (The hostage crisis spawned one of my favourite songs of the 1980’s, Stray Cat’s Storm The Embassy. This is track 5 on side 1 of their debut album.) Another conflict in the news at this time was the proposal to boycott the Moscow Olympics. This was in response to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan. The US was quick to act, arranging to boycott the forthcoming Summer Olympics held in Moscow. Other nations including Australia also supported the US. The Australian Olympic Committee, not to say the Australian people, was divided on this issue. It was a big news item in the period.


Going into this Round 5 clash, Geelong were sitting fourth on the ladder with three wins, Hawthorn fifth, also had three wins. Percentage separated them. Both had missed the finals in 1979, however Hawthorn had been Premiers in 1978 (also 1976 & 1971). Geelong had finished fifth in 1978 though their controversial two-point loss to Hawthorn in Round 21 almost cost them a place in the five. Despite the livid protestations of Geelong fullback Gary Malarkey claiming that he touched the ball, a late shot by Hawthorn’s John Hendrie was given as a goal. Malarkey was part of the Geelong side for this ANZAC Day match. Other household names were the Nankervis brothers, Bruce and Ian, Michael Turner and the veteran John “Sammy” Newman, resplendent in his white boots, all part of the team.


At halftime Geelong had a good break. 6 goals in the first term with another 5 in the second gave the home side plenty of impetus. With the Nankervis brothers on top, well assisted by Peter Featherby and Neville Bruns, the latter pair winning plenty of the ball, Geelong went in with a halftime lead of 31-points.


But the Hawks weren’t to be denied. Michael Moncrieff having a good duel with Gary Malarkey, played a damaging hand up forward with 4 goals, Malarkey with support from ‘Jumping’ Jack Hawkins and Mark Bos defiantly sought to turn back the Hawk attacks. However inspired by the efforts of veteran ruckman Don Scott, the Hawks runners like Rodney Eade, and Geoff Ablett kept winning the ball, belting it forward, fighting back into the contest.


By three quarter time, the margin was down to 13-points. With teenage angst, my mind would have flashed back to the 1-point defeat in their previous encounter (not to mention that 2-point loss at Kardinia Park in 1978!). When Hawthorn took the lead late in the final term a pall of mental gloom must have descended on my mind.


In a thrilling finale Geelong’s Mario Bortolotto soared above the pack, pulling down a screamer in front of Geelong’s goal. In his twelve previous games he’d only managed one goal. After this big mark he goaled, Geelong was in front, hanging on to win. The Cats fans were ecstatic, even the Captain went wild. Mario played the following week, when Richmond beat Geelong at Waverley by 11-points. His next senior game was Round 1 of the following season, in Carlton colours. He played a total of 30 games at Carlton, on top of his 14 at Geelong. In these 30 Carlton games were two premierships, 1981 & 1982.


I was a happy young chappie as the V-line train took us back home that night. I’d been to my first ANZAC Day encounter, seeing my first victory over Hawthorn, as this ANZAC Day was commemorated with a Geelong win.


Geelong: 6/2/38. 11/5/71. 12/7/79. 14/10/94.

B Nankervis 3, Clarke3, Bruns2, Floyd2, Bortollotto, Featherby, Newman, Turner

Hawthorn: 3/2/20. 6/4/40. 10/6/66. 13/11/89.

Moncrieff 4, Geoff Ablett2, Russo2, Scott, 2 Goad, Hendrie, Murnane




  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Glen, really enjoyed this reminisce.
    I think ANZAC day is largely done very well and with great respect these days a nation. Of course, as a Pies fan, the ANZAC game is always a highlight. Given it’s only a relatively recent “tradition”, can understand other clubs taking umbrage at Collingwood and Essendon having the day for themselves. But the two clubs have made it into a massive event. And as Good Friday has shown, maybe not just anyone can be allotted a marquee game and guarantee a huge crowd.
    Your Malarkey Medal votes for this game?? Would love the see G.Malarkey get a Malarkey vote.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great memory Glen !
    Mario Bortolotto certainly won the footy lotto when he moved to Carlton. In 1980 I remember Glen Middlemiss having a good season for Geelong and Terry Bright being prominent along with Michael Turner. I checked the stats and found that the Cats finished on top despite losing their first two matches by less than a goal.

    Luke, love the idea of a Malarkey Medal vote for G.Malarkey.

  3. Glen – I have memories of this game, but try my hardest to get Waverley Park out of any footy flash backs. I really hated that ground. I have reason to go back to Waverley Park again these days, watching the VFLW Hawks. Its still a horrible place.

    Great piece to reminisce over. Thanks.

  4. Ta chaps.

    Luke to my memory the Nankervis brothers and Peter Featherby both won lots of the ball, Gary Malarkey defended stoutly but still conceded four goals, Rod Blake had a good duel with Don Scott, and the forward line, well it didn’t do much. I’ll be a spoilsport Luke giving the vote to Bruce Nankervis.

    Phil , 1980 started with two close losses. In Round 1 South Melbourne won by 3 points courtesy of a late goal by debutant John Roberts. The following week Geelong ran reigning premiers Carlton to 5 points at Princess Park. At the start of the 1980’s Geelong had very strong back line, the forward line was a tad less so: by the end of the decade it was the total opposite.

    Dips, i don’t recall seeing many Geelong V Hawthorn games @ VFL park. The 2 point loss in the 1991 second semi is the only one i recall. Trevor Poole had a late,long, shot but couldn’t goal.. That episode in 1979 was not the only time Pete Johnston covered himself in infamy with late shots for goal. A great mark; goal kicking ?


  5. Stainless says

    I attended the other game played on ANZAC Day 1980. A slightly more one-sided result!
    Great reminiscences! Thanks.

  6. Stainless says

    Glen – hate to spoil your story but according to my account and validated by a check of AFL Tables, the Geelong Hawthorn game you’re writing about was actually played at Geelong, not Waverley. Carlton played Melbourne at Waverley on ANZAC Day. Your memory of the trip out to Arctic Park must have been for another game.

  7. Stainless says

    Sorry Glen – I re-read your piece. Of course you didn’t catch a V-Line train to Waverley!

  8. No stress Stainless, the game i attended on Anzac Day 1980 was at Kardinia Park. The previous time these two teams met,in 1979, was at VFL park Waverley.


  9. Wow – how memory fades! I was probably thinking of the 1991 encounter. The past is a fog. Yesterday is a fog!

  10. DBalassone says

    Wonderful reminiscing Glen. That 1979-81 period was a golden age of VFL football.

    I did not realise Mario Bortolotto only played 44 games. Surely this must be the least amount of games for a duel premiership player.

    I had to reread the bit about Peter Johnston missing a crucial shot in 1979. I have a vague recollection of him missing a shot (possibly after the siren) against the Pies in 1982 Round 22 which also cost the Cats the game. Or maybe it was someone else?

  11. Ta Damian.

    Yeah Mario finished his career at Geelong with style kicking the winning goal in his second last match, then got himself two flags at Carlton. He packed a bit into his brief career.

    Peter was a fantastic mark,but his kicking for goal used to fill us with trepidation. I can recall three costly misses.

    There was the match against Hawthorn at VFL Park in 1979, the five point loss to Collingwood at Kardinia Park in the final round of 1982, as well as a late miss at Junction Oval against Fitzroy in early 1983. There were other misses but these were the ones that i remember really hurt.


  12. Thanks for this, Glen!

    I greatly enjoy reading about games and seasons from days gone by.

    For fear of upsetting my Magpie and Bomber friends, I will leave aside my thoughts on their duopolising of Anzac Day for another time.

  13. Hi Glen. Good story about ANZAC Day in 1980. But there is an even better one about Geelong beating Hawthorn by 80 points later that season at VFL Park. Bill Goggin, Geelong coach, Justified prolonging the 3/4 break by speaking endlessly to his players, saying it was not often you got 80 points ahead of Hawthorn, and he wanted to savour the moment. Bob

  14. G’day Bob.

    Despite missing out on the finals in 1993 that year must have been good to you. Big victories in both encounters V hawthorn.I saw the second match, [email protected] Kardinia Park.


Leave a Comment