Footy History: On finding a holy (South Melbourne) relic

In 1964 South Melbourne finished eleventh on the ladder, with only one win. There were only 12 teams in those days. Noel McMahen was sacked as coach, Bobby Skilton won the best and fairest and Max Papley was our leading goalkicker with 25 goals.


The 60s were pretty dismal for the Bloods.  With a promising finish of 8th in 1960, the following four years were sad times for our beloved team:  11th in 1961, 12th in 1962, 11th in 1963 and 11th in 1964.


1965 started promisingly. We won four of the first eight games. So, with a jubilant victory over the Hawks in Round 8 – despite the atrocious 24 behinds – we were nevertheless far from optimistic about the Cats the following week. Optimism? What’s that? It just didn’t exist in the mind of a Swan follower. And, we hadn’t won two consecutive matches in five years!


Geelong – the premiers of 1963, finalists in 1964 and, before Round 9 on June 12th 1965 – had only lost one game.  Who were we kidding, thinking that perhaps, just maybe, we could beat them?


32,260 fans squeezed into Lake Oval to see our stars perform rarely seen magic. Bobby Skilton, Graeme John, Stewie Magee, Max Papley, Johnny Rantall and Paul Harrison all starred; Bobby Kingston kicked nine goals and Herbie Matthews four. We led at every change and despite John Devine and Billy Goggin causing headaches for the Bloods, we won 20.9.129 to 17.13.115. It was a truly memorable win.


We chaired our one and only Bobby Skilton off the ground. Not only was he the great Bobby Skilton, he was our captain and he was our newly appointed coach. He was the best and simply adored.


South finished 8th that year and we were pleased with our year, especially beating that mob Geelong in Round 9.


I must have been incensed about what was written in the Footy Week about our performance against the Cats. On the 16th June (four days after the game) I wrote a letter to the Editor of that publication entitled “Down with the Egotistical Cats”. I obviously felt strongly about something!


Jan Courtin Swans letter 1965 version2


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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.

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