Incredible! A complete round of Australian football matches that ended in scoreless draws.


by Bernard Whimpress


Hell, I remember when Glenelg kicked 49 goals 23 behinds against Central District in 1975 and Freddie Phillis kicked 18 goals. I wasn’t there but I remember it.


I remember when Peter Hudson, Peter McKenna, Doug Wade and Alex Jesaulenko used to kick 100 goals a season and it wasn’t all that long ago that Buddy Franklin kicked well over the ton and Fev ended up on 99.


I watched the telecast of the 1972 VFL Grand Final when Carlton 28.9 defeated Richmond 22.18, the first time two sides each kicked more than twenty goals in the biggest game of the year. Amazingly at one point the telecast broke away for the race of the day at Flemington or Caulfield or somewhere and in three minutes the Tigers rammed on four goals.


I saw the 1973 SANFL Grand Final at Adelaide Oval when Glenelg 21.11 defeated North Adelaide 19.17 by seven points and the Roosters hit the front in the time-on period of the last quarter chasing their third flag in a row. I was standing on the back of the old southern mound and wearing a red parka to ward off the afternoon chill. When Graham Cornes took his great high mark between the grandstand flank and south-east pocket and kicked his match-winning goal I reckon he was aiming for me. I had a perfect view as it sailed through the posts.


Australian footy was a long-kicking high-scoring game. I remember it well.


I never saw John Coleman or Ken Farmer but I know that Farmer kicked 23 goals against West Torrens in 1940. I know that Farmer kicked 100 goals for eleven consecutive seasons from 1930 to 1940. I know these things well.


Sports followers love the measure of things.


Australian footy fans have long criticised soccer because of its low scoring. Never more so than when games end as nil-all draws. Boring!


Niggardly soccer fans used to describe Aussie Rules as aerial ping-pong.


Can you imagine our game of footy ending in a nil-all draw?




Can you imagine a complete round of matches ending in nil-all draws?




Incredible, but true.


You have to go back a long way. However, there are lessons to be learned from history.


Saturday, 27 July, 1878 is a date to be remembered. It was round 11 of the second season of the South Australian Football Association competition. All the SAFA matches on that day ended in scoreless draws.


The three contests saw top side Norwood in its first season take on 1877 premiers South Adelaide who had slipped to fifth place, Port Adelaide (second) play Victorian (third), and a third encounter between bottom sides South Park (sixth) and Kensington (seventh). Fourth-placed Adelaide had a bye for the round.


South Adelaide 0 drew Norwood 0


The match at South Adelaide’s home ground in the south parklands attracted a crowd of around 1000 and because of the rivalry which had developed  between the clubs it was anticipated that a rough and tough game might be expected. Accordingly several police officers were present but their services were not required. Play began at 3.20 with Norwood  kicking from the west with a strong cross wind slightly in its favour. Fifteen minutes after the start Letchford marked well forward for Norwood and passed to Dedman but the goalsneak was unable to score against his former team. A vigorous game was under way and there was little to choose between the sides although Souttar had an opportunity to goal for Norwood but failed to capitalise on it.

The half-time interval was much longer than it should have been because the South players adjourned to the nearby Arab Steed Hotel and nearly half an hour was wasted before they reassembled after wetting their whistle. When the game resumed the determined struggle continued with South having the ball in attack and Norwood defending grimly and successfully. The ground was damp from recent rain and slippery from heavy showers during the game. Most players had their uniforms covered in mud from head to foot when the match ended without result.


Victorian 0 drew Port Adelaide 0


These clubs met on Victorians home ground at the foot of Montefiore Hill before a crowd of about 500. The weather was showery in the early part of the afternoon but cleared when the game began about 3 o’clock, and remained dry until the finish. The only disadvantage was the slippery state of the ground resulting in many falls. Port Adelaide won the toss and kicked with aid of a breeze from the south. The ball was first rushed towards the Port goal and kept in that vicinity before being repelled and most of the play took place in the centre of the ground. Both sides worked hard but when half-time was called neither had scored although the Victorians generally appeared to be on top.

On their return the players went in harder than ever, the ball being first carried with a rush near the Victorian goal but was quickly rebounded to the middle of the ground. The heaviness of the Port team assisted them in keeping the ball in attack and several marks were obtained in front of their goal although they were unable to score. Victorians’ skilful play saw them move the ball through the middle of the ground and retain possession but time was called before a definite result could be obtained. For the Victorians Osborn was especially distinguished and the followers were also notable in the same team. Fletcher and Prideaux were among those who stood out for the visiting side.


South Park 0 drew Kensington 0


This game took place on South Park’s ground and was late starting at 3.35. Kensington won the toss and kicked to the east with the assistance of a strong wind. Even so it was the Parks who took the ball into attack from where it was cleared. Several chances to score were missed by both sides in the first half. After the break the Parks again rushed the ball into attack but again it was defended. Kensington played well towards the end of the match but overall the play favoured South Park and Ive who had a good chance to goal was unable to register a score. Kensington captain Harrison and the Parks skipper Pettinger competed hard for their teams.




Adelaide’s two daily newspapers, the South Australian Advertiser and South Australian Register, each covered the first two matches. Of the South/Norwood game the Advertiser described the play as ‘exciting and brilliant’ and the Register as ‘determined, rough but played in friendly spirit’. Of the Victorian?Port Adelaide match both papers noted the play was rough but the Register added that the spirit was friendly. Only the Advertiser covered the South Park?Kensington affair and its brief report made no mention of the style of game. Maybe a cub reporter was learning the ropes.

Australian football then provided no evidence of ping-pong and it certainly wasn’t aerial. It was a scrambling ground-level game but it was a game all the same.

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Bob Speechley says

    Very interesting as usual Bernard. South Park went on to fame elsewhere whilst those bloody “Victorians” took over the game!

    As a matter of interest WRT to low (and high) scores the following may be of interest:

    1927 Grand Final in “torrential rain and freezing winds”-

    COLLINGWOOD – 2.13 (25)
    RICHMOND – 1.7 (13)


    ROUND 6

    HAWTHORN – 26.15 (171)
    GEELONG – 25.13 (163)

    ROUND 13

    ESSENDON – 3.10 (28)
    FOOTSCRAY – 3.5 (23)

    I can still feel the Windy Hill wind blowing through me from those days – it was straight from the South Pole!

  2. Is 21.11 to 19.17 reeeeaaaaallly seven points?

  3. bernard whimpress says

    Thanks Bob

    A nice touch about South Park and Victorians and the follow-up highs and lows stats.
    Another which springs to mind is one when I think Collingwood kicked 4.19 and Peter McKenna kicked something like 2.12. Watching the telecast McKenna kept leading out on the flanks and kicking those beautiful long drop punts but they just kept dropping the wrong side of the posts.

    And Tony

    One statistician will invariably catch another out. It was seven points and somehow between checking the scores and writing them down I gave North Adelaide another point.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bernard, especially liked the half-time visit to the Arab Steed Hotel, which is still trading in Hutt St.

  5. bernard whimpress says

    Yeah, that’s a classic isn’t it Mark? The Steed is a good pub and a nice place to enjoy a Ploughman’s and a Coopers Ale in the autumn sun.

  6. I was at the Dogs v Bays game mentioned. Wish the Bays had adjourned to a local Bay pub at 1/2 time that day….

  7. bernard whimpress says

    They probably wouldn’t have got in at the Holdfast because no doubt their supporters were already celebrating. Of course the size of that win had many thinking the Bays were a cert for the premiership only to fall to Norwood in the grand final.

  8. Were there no point posts in those early footy days, Bernard? Goals only?
    I was at the 1973 SANFL Grand Final you mention as a neutral with mates on the concrete steps in front of the VY Richardson Gates (were they there then?). Still probably the most exciting game of footy I have ever seen in the flesh.
    Cornes mark – South Western corner in front of the old Edwin Smith stand? Only thing he did all day. Sandlands mark and goal on the siren (he also had a bad day) always seems an injustice, as it turned a one point game into seven. Bob Hammond and Geoff Paull in the North backline had extraordinary games. I can still see them in my mind’s eye glistening with oil and sweat on a very hot day, running the ball out defence time after time.
    There is a question – players don’t get oiled up by masseurs any more. When did it change and why?
    Hope Ross Lyon doesn’t read your piece – he’ll be checking out 1878 coaching manuals.
    Love these snippets of history. Where we came from says so much of who we are. Thanks Bernard.

  9. Great story Bernard.

    Years ago I quizzed an Englishman about nil-all draws, asking him how could these be interesting. A Blackpool fan, he told me about one of the best days of his life when his team came away with a nil-all draw, but was extremely lucky with the opposition hitting the crossbar numerous times, receiving unfortunate off-side calls- just a lot of misfortune. He reckoned they should’ve/ could’ve lost about 6-0. He was ecstatic.

    Love the Arab Steed line too.

    It’s looking like the Holdy might be the place to be this season for Glenelg fans; anywhere but watching the team play.

  10. bernard whimpress says

    Yes, the Vic Richardson Gates were erected in 1967 and Cornes did have a quiet one until that mark. Hammond played superbly but Sandlands final goal gave him four which wasn’t all that board although it paled behind Voigt’s seven and Carey’s six. Top comment about Ross Lyon.
    Good to hear the perspective of a Blackpool fan able to celebrate after a bad day. Imagine the Australian sense of relief after the Mackay-Kline stand at the Oval Test of 1961. Draws certainly have their subtleties.

  11. Rex Voigt – haven’t haard that name for 40 years! He was a Loxton boy from memory and we had lived in Renmark for a few years so he and other Upper Murray players like Ebert, Light, Seekamp were always high in our interest. Voigt was a big bodied rover from memory – Jeff Potter heavy or Leigh Matthews lite. Very skilful and tough – lacked a yard of pace – not that it mattered then.

  12. bernard whimpress says

    Definitely lots of good Riverland players Peter. I would’ve said Voigt was nuggety but not as heavy in the legs as Potter nor Matthews for that matter.

Leave a Comment