HALL OF FAME – Graham Cornes


I am sure there are plenty of Victorians wondering how Graham Cornes made it into the AFL Hall Of Fame given his less than memorable 5 game career for North Melbourne in 1979 (admittedly he was 31 by then).

Some may assume that there is a quota required to be reached (e.g. non-Victorians must comprise at least 5% of total representation) so from time to time pesky Croweaters and Sandgropers get a guernsey by default. Clearly, Cornes elevation is not warranted on his VFL career so it must be based on his total contribution to “the game”.

As a child in Adelaide (yeah, yeah, I’m OK now!), I was a fanatical Glenelg supporter and would rarely miss a game at The Bay. Cornes was apparently born in Victoria but was recruited to Glenelg from Whyalla at 18 or 19. He was 6′ 2′ in the old and as skinny as a rake. He burst on the scene in the SANFL and was soon taking a “Mark of the Year” every week – consistency was not his strong point but he knew how to do the spectacular. His early career was disrupted by National Service but he returned to play over 300 games for The Bays and, considering his stature, was remarkable for his durability and physicality. Though most write-ups have him as a forward, in my recollection he was an old-fashioned ruck-rover/follower who could pinch hit in the ruck and rested in the forward pocket. If the ball was kicked high in his general direction, he would take off with his magnificent leap.

Unfortunately, Glenelg were (are?) a tragic club. They entered the SANFL in 1921 and had to wait until 1925 for their first win. Our first flag was won in 1934 and we endured many dry years, and no flags, until Neil Kerley was recruited from South Adelaide to take over in 1967. He immediately put his competitive stamp on the club and took the Tigers to the finals in his first year. They then lost Grand Finals in 1969 and 1970 in the midst of Sturt’s great era (not even Royce Hart could help us!). Finally in 1973, everything clicked. Having lost only 1 game for the season, Glenelg went into the last Grand Final to be held at Adelaide Oval as a hot favourite against a seasoned North Adelaide led by the wiley “Swamp Fox” Mike Patterson with support from greats Bob Hammond and Barrie Robran. On a day when the temperature hovered in the 90s, North jumped the nervy Bays to lead by 22 points at the first change but they inched their way back into it and by 3/4 time it was anyone’s game. The last quarter was frenetic with the lead see-sawing throughout. With only minutes left, North hit the front again but Glenelg attacked again and when Craig Marriot threw a speculative snap up in the air it was Cornes who found the energy to take a spectacular pack mark. From about 35 yards out at 45 degrees he calmly slotted it through to put Glenelg in front by a point. The siren went soon after with the ball in the hands of John Sandlands who kicked another goal after the siren to make the margin a 7 point victory. For that mark and goal alone, Graham Cornes deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame!

Obviously, Cornes went on to coach Glenelg to back-to-back flags, had great success as the South Australian coach and was the inaugural coach of the Crows. He’s also sired a couple of good ones in Chad and Kane.

Thanks for the memories, Cornesy!





  1. Mark Schwerdt says

    For all of you other SANFL tragics, proceed here immediately.


    Where else will you find Wilbur Wilson, Sally Saywell and Tano Barilla in all of their Bulldog glory

  2. Cornes is Victorian!! Wow. That’s like revealing that Napoleon was born in Dundee.

  3. I saw all 5 of Cornes’ games for North first-hand. In those days, I used to go to Arden St to watch training also. I distinctly recall my dad saying to me one Thursday night: “Look at Cornes, he is a thoroughbred, and looks the complete footballer. I just can’t understand how he cannot get a kick on Saturdays.”
    Cornes did say in an interview that he held no beef with RD Barassi, it was more that he did not have any pre-season to speak of in 1979, and was stuck in a pocket beside another South Australian in M Blight.

    Cornes spent his early years in Lorne.

  4. Richard Naco says

    I am another former Glenelg tragic, and my brother and I basically missed one game in 1973 (the away loss to North). This story resonates so much with me – I’ve told Chad about that mark and that goal, which was basically done 6 years before The CHAD! was even subbed onto this planet.

    The story of The Goal is a classic. Graham Studley (his middle name, seriously) was laid out on the Bay half forward flank with 2 trainers desperately attempting to massage the cramps out of them: it was deep into time on of the 4th/4, and the Roosters had just taken a 5 point lead. The sealing North attack was defused and the ball moved along the flank. Cornsey shrugged off the trainers and soared above the pack to take one of his patented screamers.

    That was the easy part.

    The flaw in the Gazelle’s game was his kicking for goal. Let’s not be cute about it: he was awful.

    So naturally, game on the line, the ghosts of Glenelg’s frustrations from 37 years all hooping and hollering in his mind, Graham Cornes kicked the ball straighter than any other shot in his career. Bays up by 1 (and I really would have preferred that last goal not to have been kicked – that amazing game deserved a 1 point margin).

    (To us!)

    Asked later how he’s managed to kick that goal when shooting for goal wasn’t exactly his strong suite, he told a tale about two boys, up a tree outside the ground, bedecked in the red and white of Norths, and making obscene gestures to him as he lined up the shot. The line from him to those kids in that tree went straight through the middle of the goals. So instead of shooting for the goal, he was aiming instead at these kids, and hoping that if he could get a good boot on it the shot would have sailed far enough to knock the cheeky buggers out of their free seat in the tree.

    I’ve often wondered who those kids were that basically cost the Roosters that final (the last Grand Final held at Adelaide Oval), and if they ever knew what role they had played in that classic game.

  5. Cornesy was a great player. Am waiting for Paul Bagshaw to be included.

  6. Richard,
    Pretty sure the tree (Moreton Bay Fig?) was at the top of “the hill” to the city end that Glenelg were kicking in the last quarter. It was certainly a thrilling match and a deserved victory after all the heartache the Bays had been through over the years. Bomber Hamilton – what a star! How would he go these days with skinfold tests?? I never thought of Cornes as a bad kick at goal – Fred used to get the yips from time to time but barely got a kick that day.

    As for Bagshaw. I concur that he was at least the equal of Cornes as a player but Studley has the coaching – SANFL, State of Origin and Crows- (and I guess media) credentials that Bagshaw doesn’t so you won’t ever see him in the AFL Hall of Fame I think.

  7. part of a Harry Kernahan speech I’ve posted previously, when he remembers the 1985 Premiers on the 20th Anniversary…

    “In 1966 I went to play in Whyalla and I started coaching North Whyalla. First game there was this kid who was killing us in the ruck. I said at quarter time I played state footy I’ll go on the ball and take care of him. He jumps all over me and at the end of the game I rang Ray Curnow and said get up here and sign him. So he drives up in his old Morris Minor and we go around to Barrie Robran’s place and he says sorry I already told North Adelaide I’ll play there. Second week same thing. This young kid is killing us and I go onto the ball. He is jumping all over me putting his boot in my neck and at the end of the game I ring Ray.

    There’s another one

    Oh no not again Harry

    Anyway up he drives in the morris and we go around to the BHP working men’s singles quarters. As we go in there is this kid lying on the bed with long hair, a big cowboy hat on strumming his guitar. Ray stopped and looked and turned slowly to me and growled: You have got to be bloody joking.

    But he signed him and Graham Cornes has been a great player and coach of this club.”

  8. Great story Crio. Can just imagine Harry telling it too!

  9. Richard Naco says

    I can even hear the Horse again as you tell it.

    Very very Harry, that yarn.

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