Book Review: 1964 A GAME, A SEASON, A STATE

by Michael Sexton

published by and available through


Michael Sexton’s 1964 is a “niche” book. Those for whom “1964 SANFL season” strikes a chord – typically 50+ sports loving Croweaters – will cherish this wonderful snapshot of South Australian society and sport.

The recount transports you back to an extraordinary time….1964 conjures the image of a beaming Neil Kerley being chaired off the Adelaide Oval, a euphoric Ian Day triumphant on shoulders behind his leader as a sea of fans celebrate South’s fairytale rise from bottom to top. It also signifies the year Woodville and Central Districts expanded the competition to ten sides as Tom Playford’s state burst with confidence and possibilities.

The names on these pages are part of my childhood – stories from my father, faces on the black + white TV, younger versions of men I knew much later…

Sexton has captured the time and place. The entrenchment of Port’s power; the radical experiment at Elizabeth; the challenges facing groundbreaking aboriginal players like Kantilla, Morey and Rigney…It’s an era when men came from farms and factories and the SANFL was the biggest game in town. The Magarey Medal was televised for the first time, The News hit the streets each afternoon and five matches (for 2 points and with red point posts!) were played and broadcast every winter Saturday afternoon….the scoreboard gave updates around the grounds and race results via The Budget’s code and women knitted rugs and men smoked in the outer. And somehow the world seemed seemed a better place.

It’s not for me to comment stylistically on this book. It is effective. It is nostalgic. It is important social history. Sexton’s success is to delve in to the characters, the stories and pass no judgement.

This is my first Father’s Day since my Dad died. I hear his voice, his tales, his younger years in these pages. I’d have given him Michael Sexton’s 1964 if he was here this Sunday. He’d have disputed some points and elaborated others. And loved it.

A book on the 1964 SANFL season? Why not? Recommended for those who “get it”.


NB:This book is availble through the Footy Almanac upon request. Details at [email protected]


  1. Thanks for the memories Crio. 1964 was my first Grand Final sitting with my father and his father in the stands. Very dramatic day. I remember the atmosphere and some of the players like Kerley, Day and Kantilla. But none of the game. Port we have had its hard men like Chicken Hayes, Ron Elleway, the Obst Brothers, and chunky rover Jeff Potter with the tree trunk legs. I remember them better because they went on to play in the next 6 epics all between Port and Sturt. Port winning the first, with Sturt’s nerves getting the better of them – that is the first where I have a memory of play. Then Jack Oatey’s poetic team win 5 in a row.
    Adelaide Oval was a special place in my growing up, with most of summer spent down from the country staying with my grandparents at West Beach and going to every day of all the Shield cricket and the Australia Day Test Match. That always marked the end of holidays, and school was just around the corner. There was the John Creswell stand behind the bowlers arm at the southern end now replaced by the Bradman stand. There was the Mostyn Evans stand and the Clem Hill stand. I knew Clem Hill had been the first SA cricket champion of the late 19th century and I always wondered who these other blokes were. In latter years I would work out there were more memorials to administrators than players. That is what the Chappel led Packer revolution was about.
    Thanks for helping me with Fathers Day ideas.

  2. Chicken Hayes …. now that name brings back memories …. but not in the way you’d think!

    In the 3 years to 1991 I was a boarder at Prince Alfred College – for those of you who don’t know Adelaide, its a tradditional eastern suburbs all boys Uniting Church private school – right in the heart of Norwood territory. Oddly enough though – amongst its staff in 1991 (at the time when Port Adelaide were trying to go it alone by joining the AFL) were Chicken Hayes and Mark Williams (after he’d retired for Brisbane) as Phys Ed teachers and Brian “Bucky” Cunningham – who was later to become the first CEO of the Power in the AFL.

    Not quite sure how so many Port people ended up at PAC – but the footy coach at the time was former Sturt player Peter Thomas – so I guess they weren’t all that picky about footy affiliaitions!

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