Back in time: footy coverage at the Almanac in 2020


This is going to be a very different footy season. And a tough year for all of us. We wish everyone the very best.


I have a suggestion. Now that the season is suspended, let’s bat on, pretending it’s a year from the past. And throw ourselves back into that moment.


We’ll choose a year. We would write a report on each VFL/AFL game for that season. Perhaps someone would report on another metropolitan or country league. Keep the ladders current. Link to some articles written at that time.


We’ll go back in time.


We just have to choose a year.


That might be tricky. But let’s get some nominations (via the comments section here).


As a starter, I nominate the following:


1919 – because it is the time, post- World War I, of the Spanish influenza epidemic.


1920 – 100 years ago


1970 – 50 years ago, and as researchers and writers we would still have access to some of the characters involve. Percy Jones for example.


1980s – a great season from the 1980s


Add your suggestion in the comments – about a date, and about what else we could do with this. We could make a terrific book out of it.


All the best to you and your families.



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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Great idea, JTH. I was thinking something similar. 1919 and 1920 are both great options for me, both being VFA premiership years for the Doggies! The Spanish Flu takes in both those years as well, and it would be interesting to explore that in relation to COVID-19.

    Another option might be the 2000 season, which had it’s time frame altered for a different reason — the Sydney Olympics. Some of our younger contributors might prefer to write about that. And I will, of course, be happy to write about Essendon’s only loss that season.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I seem to recall that Gordon Agars did something similar for the 1986 Adelaide Uni Blacks triple premiership season. But either of 1997 or 1998 would work for me. As long as it isn’t 2004.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    1950, the year I was born, Essendon won the premiership, and John Coleman won the goal kicking.
    1984/1985, two great years for the Bombers!

  4. 1966 for mine. A year at the centre of a decade that shaped the world as we know it and also delivered my Saints glory.

  5. 2019 feels like a good one…

    Nice idea JTH, I think this is a *novel* way to help push back against what’s happening in the big bad world right now.

    P.S. I’m sure many of us were thankful for your comments on Offsiders right off the bat – especially health professionals who are going to be hammered like never before. Go well.

  6. Yvette Wroby says

    Can we change outcomes of games? Say 2009 GF

  7. what a great idea
    what about 1988 Soul Olympics Ben Johnson getting rubbed out – perhaps we could relive the season and make sure that Jim Stynes didn’t cross that mark and Buckenara didn’t get the chance blew and the demons go into the Grand Final – terrible year for the Tigers though so it we really hard to relive then again given what has happened recently….
    given that thought what about with these years 1963 Cats 1967 Tigers 1969 Tigers 1973 1974 1980 2007 2009 2011 2017 2019 you get the drift

    No seriously a fabulous idea – great for research and personal memories

    Another idea – could be a moment a in time from watching footy and write about it – Mine could be being at Arden St and sitting right on the fence with my brother seeing graham Teasdale take an absolute screamer over Keith Greig right in front of two impressionable 70s teenagers

    Or if you weren’t there – watching on TV Blight unleash the bomb at Princes park – whilst cover in mud after a game of Rugby in the Canberra mud

    or what moment you would have liked to have seen but where too young or not alive
    Royce Hart coming in from the side against Geelong in 1967 the photo now immortalised in the big wall hanging in the MCG long room showing key sporting moments
    Cazaly scraping the stratosphere my Grandmother saw him take mark after mark in the mud at the lake Oval for the mighty bloods ( she was a member back then and would catch the train to Melbourne to go to the footy – she died before here beloved team had moved to Sydney in 82 )

  8. I was thinking just that Yvette, kind of an alternative history coverage…might get the creative juices stirring!

  9. Colin Ritchie says

    What about a significant event, eg the year you were born, married etc?

  10. John Butler says

    Of course, if anyone has any interest in 1911, somebody’s written a fair bit about that season. :)

    Just type 1911 in the search engine.

    And Stainless has 1980 pretty well covered.

    Maybe these efforts can inspire some ideas about other seasons.

    There was a lot of footy played before anyone knew what an AFL was.

  11. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    1981 – The last year of the VFL, backed by then record crowds played on mainly suburban grounds and VFL Park.
    South Melbourne’s last year, Lake Oval.
    Fitzroy in finals, Junction Oval
    Blighty the last captain-coach, Arden Street
    Sheedy’s first season as coach, Windy Hill
    High scores, tight finishes, umpire strikes and everyone’s favourite: Collingwood losing another f#@%ing Grand Final.
    How can you go wrong ?

  12. Stephen G. Nuske says

    It is an excellent idea. My grandmother died in Melbourne, in 1919, with the Spanish flue pandemic, just months after my mother was born. What were the cats doing in this year, and how did it affect them? When my mother died in 2008, we put a Cats scarf in her coffin.

  13. Dan Brettig, Adam Collins and co did a brilliant podcast series on the 1993 season, “The Greatest Season That Was…”. It was excellent listening.

    1977 for me.

  14. Love it.
    The idea of a hundred years grabs me.

    1920 – reports from VFL, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, VFA, Ovens & Murray…
    A picture of The Game in 1920 – a Game that was focussed on more than one league.

  15. DBalassone says

    I’ll back Phil up on 1981 – despite the last Saturday in September (still heartbreaking just to think of it) I think that was the greatest season ever. In fact would have lots of yarns from the 80s era to contribute. If people get bored over the next few months, I recommend the old WWF/WWE clips from youtube.

  16. Earl O'Neill says

    Capital idea!
    It’d be great to revisit the 1920s but I wonder if the amount of research materials might be too thin? I’d nominate 1966, the year of my birth and the greatest year for pop music, and 1977, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Radio Birdman and both Grand Finals were draws.

  17. Gotta be 1970

    Tuddy and Thomo go on strike pre-season.
    Five Essendon players withdraw their labour and don’t play Rd1
    Royal visit
    VFL Park opens
    Ted retires (same day as John Jillard pulls the pin same day in the two’s)
    The South Melbourne fairy tale, specifically looking at
    • QB clash at LO v the Pies (19 points down, 9 minutes to play, won by the barest of margins) in front of 35,000
    • Rd 21 @ Kardinia Park – Applegate
    • Bedford’s Brownlow
    • South drew an average crowd of just under 20,500 to their 10 home fixtures at Lake Oval
    3 players notch a ton of goals

  18. Completely agree with Ed. 1966 is the year. It was the change to decimal currency and St Kilda’s only flag to date, to go with 27 wooden spoons in 123 years of VFL, AFL football since 1897. I also agree with Yvette with change of result of 2009 GF, as well as drawn 2010 GF, as well as GF losses for St Kilda in 1997, 1971, 1965 and 1913. St Kilda were in winning positions in most of those GF losses, Ed, Yvette and Yoshi all need some enjoyment if the year was 1966, considering the Mighty Saints are the least successful AFL club as far as longevity is concerned. St Kilda supporters cannot thank Barry Breen enough for his wobbly point to give St Kilda victory in the dying minutes of the 1966 GF. Long live Barry Breen and longer live the St Kilda FC!

  19. Stephen G. Nuske says

    Amen and yea verily to Mark re 1966!

  20. george smith says

    i would like to put in a word for 1953 – not just because Collingwood defeated bob Davis’s all conquering Moggies.

    At the moment the master story teller Ken Burns is giving us the History of Country Music on SBS, a good distraction if the virus and the lack of footy are getting you down.

    Two Saturdays ago Ken gave us “The Hillbilly Shakespeare” – Hank Williams, who died on New Years Day 1953 in the back of a limo on the way to a beer barn concert in Ohio, not noticed by his driver until it was well and truly over.

    The ghost of Hank Williams looms large over country music, from his peculiar son to Johnny Cash, Elvis and K.D Lang who have all had a go at the saddest of all songs “I’m so Lonesome I could Cry”, an anthem, along with James Ingram’s “Just Once”, that must be dear to the heart of every Collingwood supporter.

  21. NIk Stace says

    I’d vote for 1993 – The Greatest Season That Was – the podcast has a huge amount of background information!

  22. As a massive St Kilda supporter, I am also thinking of Fitzroy supporters. Although Fitzroy had won 8 flags to St Kilda’s one, unless Fitzroy supporters have completely converted to barracking for the Brisbane Lions, they no longer have a team to barrack for whereas St Kilda does. Unless, dare I say it, the dreaded coronavirus makes St Kilda, which are heavily in debt, fold, if AFL matches are not played. Caroline Wilson said so much on Footy Classified on Wednesday night. Let’s hope that does not happen but the safety and health of the community is paramount. Enough has been mentioned in the Footy Almanac about Fitzroy’s 1983 season. Therefore I would suggest 1944, Fitzroy’s last premiership, to be the year that the Footy Almanac goes back in time. Like St Kilda supporters, Fitzroy supporters need enjoyment as this is the 25th year in a row without Fitzroy. Obviously 1966 is my first choice, but 1944 is my second choice. Unfortunately we are all living through a real life nightmare and horror movie with the coronavirus, but a more pleasant movie, apart from Pleasantville, would be Back To The Future, where we go back in a time capsule to the year 1966 or 1944.

  23. My third choice would be 1964. Although Melbourne has had plenty of success with 12 flags, their last premiership was back in 1964, a longer flag drought than St Kilda. Also, where would AFL Football be without Melbourne? Unfortunately, we will inevitably find out soon what Melbourne will be like without AFL Football! 1964 was the year that The Beatles came to Melbourne. Greg Champion from The Coodabeens, has previously sung on their radio program, “Where Are The Footy Fans?”, to be sung to the tune of The Beatles song, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. Who knows, he may well sing that song again on his program this Saturday, during these very difficult times.

  24. Guess what, Back To The Future, is on television this Saturday night at 8pm on channel 9. As Yvette Wroby alluded to, if only St Kilda supporters could back in a time capsule to alter all their GF losses to wins. In between the Geelong and GWS match this Saturday night, assuming the game will still go ahead, I know what film I’ll be watching. My 4th choice for a football year to go back in time, would be 1933, South Melbourne’s last flag. I know South Melbourne relocated to Sydney in 1981 and became the Sydney Swans and have won 2 more flags in the last 15 years, but true Bloods supporters still enjoyed being South Melbourne. I don’t want 1954, because I am jealous of the Western Bulldog supporters who won a flag in 2016, breaking their flag drought before St Kilda, who is yet to break their premiership drought since 1966.

  25. My 5th choice is 1975 for North Melbourne. There is nothing like winning your 1st flag after a 50 year drought. 1975 was the year colour television came in. Of course, North Melbourne have won 3 more flags since and I hope St Kilda beat North Melbourne this weekend too.

  26. I think any year or game that was significant for fans will make great reading. . I was supposed to attend a footy dinner in Yass where Sheeds was to be the guest speaker , however have instead dug out an old scrap book from the eighties. I will choose a snippet from that to send in.

  27. Sorry Sherpa and anyone else who wants the 1980s because St Kilda supporters really detest the 1980s as the Saints won 5 wooden spoons that decade from 1983 to 1986 and 1988, as well as 1977 and 1979 in the late 1970s. St Kilda readers, including Ed, Yvette, Yoshi, myself and others would not enjoy reading articles from the 1980s, with the exception of Tony Locket kicking 117 goals for St Kilda in 1987 and winning the Brownlow Medal in 1987. Carlton won the flag that year and didn’t know what a wooden spoon was until the new millennium, where they have won more wooden spoons than any other team this millennium with 5. To Nik Stace who chose 1993, Jan Courtin, being a massive Sydney Swans supporter, would hate that year because that was the period where her beloved Swans lost 26 games in a row.

  28. AH yes, Colin Ritchie.

    The year after you were born the Geelong Pivotonians downed Essendon in the 1951 grannie.

    I was there as a small primary schoolboy and loved it when an ageing Dickie Reynolds ran out in the last term as 20th man, but didn’t (or couldn’t) save the game.

    Of course Johnnie Coleman had been rubbed out for snotting a Carlton opponent (may have been Harry Caspar) in an earlier final and didn’t take his place in the GF side.

    Mind you in 70 years of watching, writing about and commentating on radio VFL/AFL footy Coleman is still the greatest player I’ve ever seen.

    Brucie Morrison and Bernie Smith did their best to counter him but he could soar above a pack off just 2 or 3 steos.

  29. Yvette, I think the result of the 2009 GF would have been changed if that game was played in front of an empty stadium, with no crowd, like it is now. St Kilda missed so many easy shots for goal, particularly in the 1st half of that GF, that the match would have been sewn up at half time, had they kicked accurately. I put it down to playing in front of a big crowd, much bigger than any crowd those St Kilda players had ever experienced before, whereas the Geelong players had experience a crowd of that magnitude in the 2007 and 2008 Grand Finals. I have no doubt those St Kilda players would have kicked the majority of the goals they missed that day if it was played in front of an empty crowd. The fans would have missed not being there but a flag is a flag.

  30. To the people who said 1981, I strongly disagree. Carlton have had too much success with 16 flags. In fact, any year where Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon have won flags is totally unacceptable. Those teams’ supporters do not deserve more enjoyment with 47 flags between them.

  31. For all the research-buffs among the Almanackers, ‘Australian Football in 1920 Relived’ is a great concept. I like E. regnans’ suggestion of stories of the game from many leagues around Australia. Trove will be a great starting point for researchers.
    For the more creative, what about exploring the ‘If only…’ concept. The stories of games we would love to rewrite. Supporters of all 18 AFL clubs would have at least one game, where there was a moment they would walk over red coals to rewrite. Imagine the chance to be back in the moment as the umpire or goal umpire or boundary umpire or masterful coach. There are endless possibilities: scope for humour, use of pathos, drama and suspense, or just a chance for everyone to reclaim the one that got away.
    As a lifelong Cat, a rewrite of the last quarter of the 2005 semi-final at the SCG has mouth-watering possibilities… If only!

  32. I’d suggest the season as it happened in 1920 as the Spanish flu didn’t subside until December of that year (so three years in total; something to ponder)….or 1989 for obvious reasons.

  33. Mel Bourne says

    How about 1956? It was the year the Olympic Games was held in Melbourne. It was also the year that black and white television started in Australia and Melbourne won the premiership that year.

  34. Any 20th century year is OK with me as I’ve only been an active Saints fan since 2001 (although I have all of the 1980s Grand Finals on video and watched games galore then on ESPN). But I suppose I’d vote for 1966 because I’d love to know how that whole season played out before the Saints finally won. It would also be great if the rewrites touched on daily life too as much as possible.

  35. Like GlennB, I also vote for 1966. Unfortunately, in the previous decade St Kilda lost their premiership coach in Allan Jeans and their premiership captain in Daryl Baldick. Also, Barry Breen said on SEN radio a few months ago that Kevin “Cowboy” Neale, who kicked 5 goals in the 1966 premiership is in the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease. St Kilda premiership centre man Ian Stewart suffered Gillan-Barre syndrome in 2012, where he was paralysed from the neck down. It would be good if The Footy Almanac could good get hold of Barry Breen and ask him what he personally felt like when he kicked that wobbly point in the dying minutes of the 1966 Grand Final and what he felt like when the siren sounded at the end of the 1966 Grand Final, giving St Kilda it’s 1st premiership!

  36. Glenn I can help.
    A few years ago I wrote a record the 1966 season from the perspective of the Saints.
    I have posted an updated version of it on my website:

  37. Peter, although I am a very biased St Kilda supporter, with due respect to any other Footy Almanac writer or any other writer in general, your record of the 1966 season from the perspective of the Saints is honestly the best article I have ever read! Congratulations! I hope that Yvette, Yoshi, GlennB, and any other avid St Kilda supporter get to read it soon too, if they haven’t done so previously.

    I would never have guessed you barrack for Geelong from that article, although it was an updated version from the Saints’ perspective. That was the enjoyment that St Kilda fans have been craving to read with only 1 flag and 27 wooden sports in 123 years of the VFL/ AFL and an uncertain future due to the Coronavirus, as well as a growing debt by being unable to play in China.

    The next best thing for St Kilda supporters who haven’t seen the winning Grand Final win at the ground in 1966, apart from watching the replay of the game on television, is to read your article about season 1966 itself, the year in general, and of course, the 1966 Grand Final itself. Even if St Kilda supporters were at the MCG for the 1966 Grand Final, it is still well worth them reading that article.

  38. Damian Roache says

    As a rare Rugby League writing contributor I vote for 1970.

    Firstly, the nice neat fifty year cut.

    Secondly, this was the start of the decade that held the last 3 game full interstate residents series.

    Thirdly, the 70’s brought change to the code with more educated coaches, trainers and administrators.

    Fourthly, it was a World Cup year

    Fiftly, Toowoomba won its last Bulimba Cup against the might of Brisbane.

    So, when do we start John :)

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