Heidi comes to Chirnside Park

Saturday afternoon’s Victorian Football League clash between traditional rivals Williamstown and Port Melbourne, the ABC’s match of the day, proved to be a ripper affair.  The Gulls jumped out of the blocks superbly and led by just over four goals at the first change. The Borough were magnificent in outscoring the old enemy 11 goals to 4 in the middle two periods and went to the three quarter time huddle with a handy, if not insurmountable, three goals break.

With 30 minutes played in the final quarter Brett Goodes slotted his first goal of the afternoon and Williamstown trailed by a goal. Minutes later Goodes pushed a shot wide and with 34 minutes gone in the final term the margin had been reduced to four points. Port rushed the ball forward and young gun Callum Sinclair marked well within kicking distance. His shot hit the post, the siren sounding not long after. The Borough had withstood Williamstown’s final quarter onslaught and took their season record to 16-0.

Instead of a feeling of relief washing over me my first thoughts were s#*t, I forgot to record the game! Had I done so expecting to relive those final pulsating moments later that evening, I would’ve been bitterly disappointed.

Unbeknownst to those thousand or so at the ground, as the clock struck 4.00pm EST, with the Gulls surging forward, viewers who had been treated to one of the best VFL games of the season were informed by the ABC’s Darren Boyd they could see the final minutes of the game on Auntie’s I-view on the web later in the week. With that the national broadcaster went to its scheduled programme “Treks in a wild world: Trekking in Austria”

Upon hearing of this rather interesting decision made by “our ABC” my thoughts immediately went to a young girl from the Swiss Alps.

On November 17 1968 the New York Jets travelled to Oakland-Alameda County Stadium to take on the Raiders in a showdown of the two premier American Football League (AFL) teams. Both sported 7 win 2 loss records. With 65 seconds left on the game clock the Jets led the home team 32-29. With the game running over it’s scheduled finishing time NBC, who had covered the upstart AFL since 1965 (the two leagues NFL & AFL didn’t merge into the NFL we know today until the 1970 season) decided that it would leave the game and those watching in the Eastern & Central time zones would return to the advertised program Heidi – a telemovie version of the famous children’s story starring Jennifer Edwards (Blake’s daughter).

So what happened next?

The Raiders rallied and scored two touchdowns to take the game 43-32. Viewers in New York were denied seeing the Raiders miracle comeback live, the switchboard at NBC and its affiliates went into meltdown and couldn’t function, and The New York Times & New York Police department were inundated with irate callers – not sure what either of those two institutions could do to assist the peeved punters. NBC news anchor David Brinkley in an editorial delivered during the following evening’s news service apologised for the programming decision prior to airing the final minute of the previous days game.

The legacy of the “Heidi game” saw changes to broadcasting policies ensuring professional football games would be broadcast in entirety in the home markets of the teams involved. All other professional major leagues in North America have copied the NFL with similar clauses in their broadcasting agreements.  The two “Heidi Bowl” combatants won all the remaining games in their regular season schedule and met in the AFL Championship game in January 1969. This time it was the Jets who would come from behind beating Oakland 27-23. Two weeks later “Broadway” Joe Namath delivered on his “guaranteed” victory over NFL champions and raging hot favourites the Baltimore Colts in Superbowl III with a 16-7 triumph and MVP honours.

Recent reports suggest major cuts to the ABC budget will result in the partnership between the national broadcaster and the VFL ceasing at the end of the 2011 season. Yesterday’s decision to return to the scheduled program rather than remain with the football will add weight to the rumours that the 25 year partnership between Aunty and the states leading domestic Australian rules competition will end in the next month or so. I’ve followed the reaction of “posters” on a few sport related websites regarding the end of VFL football on free to air television, and the responses have been somewhat indifferent. One suggestion is that the re-birth of the Footy Channel on pay TV may present an opportunity for the countries state based competitions (VFL, SANFL & WAFL) to find a new home, if only in a highlights package/full game replay later in the week. It may not be that simple. Whilst the new station will require content to fill its schedule the cost of covering the respective competitions may be prohibitive. I would be sad to see the end of the current agreement between the VFL & the ABC. Peter Donegan is a terrific lead caller; Ross Booth, Darren Boyd & Matt Clinch are able deputies with the former member for Wills Phil Cleary providing a little passion from the boundary line.

As for the participants in yesterdays epic clash Seagulls coach Peter German can take heart from the efforts of his team who came mighty close becoming the first team to stop Port Melbourne from continuing on an amazing run of consecutive wins now totalling 16 on end, a club record.  How he manages to prepare his men for battle come September will be interesting as the Gulls have failed to beat either Port Melbourne or North Ballarat in their four encounters this season. Yesterday’s victory secured the minor premiership for Gary Ayres and his Port Melbourne charges. Despite continuing on their winning ways some of their recent efforts have seemed a little flat. The football the Borough displayed in the second and third quarters yesterday was their most impressive since the 10 goal hiding they handed out to North Ballarat at Eureka Stadium in June. I’m sure Ayres and his coaching staff will be delighted with the result, the match providing the ideal pre September hit-out.

Whilst home & away perfection would look terrific on anyone’s CV, the former Hawthorn champion will be aware that it will count for nought should Port fail to end a premiership drought that has reached 29 years, the longest barren spell in this historic clubs proud history. If the clubs sixteenth premiership hasn’t been procured in 49 days time I might need to go and hide somewhere myself.

Anyone know what the weathers like in the Swiss Alps come late September?


  1. John Butler says

    Mic, the ‘Hedi Bowl’ is a classic.

    Geat stuff.

    You would presume the ABC’s programming decision was dictated by inflexible national scheduling. It’s hard to see any half-sensible local person making that call.

    It would be a great shame if the ABC decided not to telecast the VFL.

  2. Mic,
    They’ve given big Wilbur best for Willy. Can we get coin for him? How was Ayce? Any others noteworthy?
    Port’s to lose this year but they are cursed.

  3. Martin Reeves says

    Mic – 16-0? This might have been a good game to drop. Thoughts?

  4. John – Unless the Von Trapp family figured prominently I would’ve delayed the Austrian program. Can’t see anyone “fessin up” for the decision to ditch the footy too soon.

    Crio – I think Will’s time at the Dogs is up. Possible suitors – GWS, PA, GC ? Someone will take a punt on him if he’s delisted. Need to see a little more of Ayce. I believe he’s being tried as a key defender. Lake to play in attack in 2012, don’t know if it will be in red, white & blue.

    Apart from the Cubs/Billy Goat jinx I don’t believe in curses.

    Martin – I’m pretty sure they want to win ’em all. Geelong West under rookie coach Billy Goggin won all 18 home & away games plus 2nd Semi & GF in the old 2nd division in 1972, the last VFA/VFL team to do so.

  5. Mic, I’ve never understood why Peter Donegan doesn’t get more opportunities. Strong on footy, excellent during the Spring Carnival, and does a good job at the Stawell Gift.

    Really enjoyed the yarn.

  6. Many thanks John.

    I seem to remember a very young Peter Donegan calling the “red hots” on the Penthouse Club in the late 70’s. Has covered a few Summer Olympics as well. Very underated.


  7. Mic,
    It was sad to hear John Faine openly call for an end to ABC telecasts of the VFL , he claims no one watches it and that it is a huge waste of tax payers money.

    Geelong West for the flag!!

  8. Shaun – I think Mr Faine needs more fibre in his diet.


  9. Not the first time John Faine has called for an end to televised local
    footy on the ABC. It is one of his hobby-horses.

  10. Smokie – Perhaps they could replace the VFL coverage with highlights of Mr Faine’s beloved mid-week veterans hockey league – yawn !

    When is Ranald McDonald returning to the morning slot on 774 ?


  11. cow shed end says

    Nice work Mic,it’s a shame the ABC blackout could not have been used more constructively, had i known the last few minutes were untelevised, i would have paid some pretty handsome coin to either Vic Aanenson or Buster Harlan to jump the fence and belt the living suitcase out of Josh Hill

  12. Roosterboy says


    As always a pleasure to read your insight into the world of sport.

    Here’s a thought, what about we get rid of John Faine as listening to him in the mornings is making me older by the minute and replace him with Mic Ree’s.

    Your balanced insight into the world would be a nice change for 774.

  13. CSE – The frustration of four decades has changed a once mild mannered altar boy such as yourself into an advocate for violence.

    Whilst I feel your pain I’ll see if anyone can get in touch with Buster or Stretch. I’ll get back to you.

    Roosterboy – Thank you for your kind words. The cheques in the mail.


  14. cow shed end says

    Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa……

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