Moon Landing – A Football(in)g Space


Since time immemorial humans have looked up to the sky seeing the moon. The moon is an astronomical object orbiting our earth. It is of a similar age to the earth being around 4.51 billion years old.


Due to the moon’s velocity, the Earth keeps pulling the moon towards it without the moon getting closer to the earth. The gravity of the moon pulls at our earth causing rises and falls in sea levels, what we describe as high tides and low tides.


The astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to use a telescope to get a clear view of the surface of the moon. Prior to then people either perceived it as a flat surface or having a sea and lakes; apparently some even saw it as a ball of fire, though there clearly wasn’t the technology to view it properly.


Over the centuries, with the subsequent changes in technology, the vision of the moon became clearer. But humanity wanted more than just to see it. Could they reach it? In the twentieth century humans finally produced machines allowing them to reach the moon. The first human-made object to reach the moon was the Soviet Union’s (USSR) Lunar 2 mission, which reached the moon on September 13, 1959.


Two year after this, on April 12, 1961, the USSR’s Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.


This was at the height of the Cold War, with the United States of America (USA) and the USSR both determined to conquer space.


On May 25, 1961 the President of the USA, John Kennedy, addressed a special joint session of Congress. He said, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth”.


The decade saw major advances in space travel as the goal of reaching the moon became so much more achievable. During this period, it is estimated around 4 % of the USA’s federal budget was allocated to reaching the moon. Over 10,000 people were employed on this project. A series of rockets were launched into the atmosphere, each coming closer to the moon, the latter few craft being crewed.


Five years after President Kennedy’s speech, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the first Apollo Mission. This set in motion a series of space missions, with a goal of getting humans onto the moon. Initially the space craft were unmanned though over time astronauts travelled on these space craft. It wasn’t always easy as a fire on Apollo 1 in January 27, 1967 claimed three lives. Following further attempts, enough information and confidence was obtained to endeavour to make the first moon landing.


On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was launched from Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew comprised the commander Neil Armstrong, the lunar module pilot Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, and the command service module pilot Michael Collins.


Within a day, July 17, the first colour transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred. The following day Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits to climb from the command service module Columbia, to check out the landing module, Eagle, the vehicle that would land them on the moon.


AFL Round 15, July 19


As the crew of Apollo 11 soared high above the earth, the football loving public of Melbourne had more down-to-earth matters on their minds. Saturday July 19 saw the arrival of Round 15 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) 1969 season.


Match of the round was at Collingwood’s home ground of Victoria Park where they took on ladder leaders Carlton: Collingwood were second. In the earlier encounter back in round 4 ,Collingwood had beaten Carlton by 64 points at Princess Park. The Round 4 clash saw an all-in brawl resulting in four reports; however, all were dismissed on a technicality.


In the clash at Victoria Park, a crowd of 43, 610 turned up to see Carlton win narrowly, 17.14 to 15.16. Carlton led at every change though the biggest break was the 10-point margin at the end.


For Collingwood, Peter McKenna, on his way to 98 goals for the year, was held to 1.2.  Wayne Richardson, and Des Tuddenham both picked up over 20 possessions, the pair also kicked 3 goals. John Greening, who had dominated in the early clash with 18 possessions and 7 goals, managed only half as many possessions with just the sole goal.


Alex Jesaulenko, despite winning plenty of the ball, only managed 2.6, though Robert Walls kicked four goals without a miss.  Brian Quirk won plenty of the ball with 24 possessions, 8 marks, proving a handful for his opponents.


At Windy Hill, Essendon took on Melbourne. Essendon had reached the Grand Final the year prior though, after Round 14 this season, they hovered just outside the top four. The once mighty Melbourne went into the game sitting last on the ladder, a position they finished the season in.


Essendon were slow to start, only managing six minors in the opening term. The match see-sawed as the lead changed hands through the following terms before the home side snuck in by 5 points, 13.21.99 to 13.16.94. Les Stillman led the way on the scoreboard with 5 goals for the victors.  He finished his VFL career at Footscray, going to the VFA where he appeared with Williamstown, then Coburg. On the cricket field, he was an attacking opener for Victoria, at one point touted for Test selection. He finished his cricketing carer with South Australia. Strong efforts from club stalwarts Don McKenzie in the ruck, Barry Davis best and fairest winner for 1969, also John Williams at centre half-back, allowed them to narrowly hold on.


Melbourne was well served by the forward combination of Ross Dillon and Greg Parke, kicking seven of the team’s thirteen goals. Both players pulled in ten marks. Dillon finished the 1969 season with 48 goals and was Melbourne’s leading goal kicker.  Blair Campbell, the former Richmond player famous for his ‘banana kicks’, who also bowled left arm ‘chinamen’ with Victoria, then later Tasmania, popped in with a pair of goals for Melbourne. John Townsend with 24 possessions was busy around the packs.


An accurate Fitzroy beat North Melbourne in their clash at Princess Park, one of several locations the nomadic Fitzroy called home in their final three decades. Though Fitzroy were second last, they’d won their previous two games whereas North Melbourne was faltering after a good start to the season. Despite both sides having 26 scoring shots, Fitzroy with 20.6.126 were too steady for the visitors 14.12.96.  Fitzroy led by 29 points at the first break with North Melbourne fighting back to get within 15 points at each of the next two breaks, prior to Fitzroy doubling that margin winning by 30 points.


For Fitzroy John Murphy, father of future Carlton captain Marc Murphy, was busy picking up 24 possessions, capped off with 5 goals.  Darrell Peoples also kicked 5 goals for the winners. Amongst their teammates was Bill Sykes who later served in the Victorian Parliament as the National Party MP for Benalla between 2002 and 2014.


North Melbourne were well served by Bernie McCarthy, the best player to come out of Yea, kicking 4 goals.  Maurie Wood picked up 26 possessions including a pair of goals; one of Jerilderie’s favourite sons, Mick Dowdle played a good game, with an impressive performance by 17-year-old defender Ken Montgomery, they all being valuable contributors to their team.


At the Western Oval, Hawthorn took on Footscray. Hawthorn came into the match third on the ladder, the home side were ninth. It’s worth adding Footscray had taken on league leaders Carlton at Princes Park the week prior running them to a 4-point margin.


Despite inaccurate kicking for goal, Footscray led throughout, though a seven-goal final term from Hawthorn kept them in the fight. For the home side, Bernie Quinlan in his fourth match led the way with four gaols, stalwart rover George Bisset, after surviving a report the week prior, was a busy body picking up 30 possessions, topped off with a pair of gaols. Bisset had been reported for striking Carlton’s Ian Robertson and, despite being cleared, was not eligible for Brownlow votes. In the Carlton match, he’d picked up 31 possessions, kicking 6 goals but could not receive a vote. He was the Brownlow runner-up by a sole vote! For the vanquished, Peter Hudson proved a handful with nine goals; no-one else managed more than one. Hudson, in his third season was on the way to his second century, following 125 the year before. Footscray with 15.16.106 were 13-point winners, Hawthorn finishing with 14.9.93.


St Kilda travelled to Kardinia Park where they recorded their first win at the ground since 1960. Geelong came into the match fourth on the ladder, 10 points clear of St Kilda sitting in seventh position. The result belied their ladder positions. Geelong led at every break, increasing the margin to 18 points by ¾ time. Surely, they should win again? But they didn’t as the visitors rallied, inspired by strong performances from club stalwarts ‘Big Carl’ Ditterich, the flashy centerman Ian Stewart, Ross Smith and a five-goal haul from Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale, saw them over run the Cats, 16.104 to 13.14.92.


Despite his sides defeat, Geelong’s Doug Wade was a focal point kicking 8.5 out of the final tally of 13.14. Wade was on the way to his first century. He finished 1969 with 127 goals.  Is Wade the only player to both play in a premiership and kick a century of goals with two clubs?


Richmond were at home to South Melbourne, a club who no longer exits. Richmond, after a slow start to the season, was gathering momentum pushing for a finals berth. They jumped South Melbourne, leading at the long break by 58 points. South Melbourne fought it out though the final margin of 67 points showed the gulf between the teams: 22.12.144 to 11.11.77.


Richmond were well served by captain Roger Dean, also the up and coming Rex Hunt, both who kicked 4 goals. Billy Barrot, Michael Bowden, Geoff Strang and Kevin Sheedy were some of the Richmond players with 20+ possessions. Amongst the best for the vanquished were two former Tigers, Wayne Walsh, and Alan ‘Bull’ Richardson. Walsh later returned to Richmond to play in two premierships. Richardson’s son Mathew subsequently played for Richmond, becoming a club great.


As Monday’s experts and the weekend warriors digested the results of the round 15 VFL clashes, 384, 400 kilometres (240,000 miles) from earth, Apollo 11’s crew prepared for descent onto the moon.


With the various space modules playing their roles getting the astronauts to the moon, it was time for their planned separation. Leaving the larger Columbia component of Apollo 11, Aldrin and Armstrong set off in the specifically designed lunar module Eagle, their goal to land on the moon’s surface.  Around 102 hours, 45 minutes after the start of the journey, the Eagle touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity. The Eagle had landed.


The July 20, 1969 moon landing made history.  When Armstrong stepped out of the space vehicle on to the surface of the moon he uttered those famous words, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” Humans had walked on the moon. An estimated 650 million people worldwide saw this. As a small child at the time, I have faint memories of watching the event on a grainy old black and white television.


Aldrin joined Armstrong on the moon surface where they took photos, obtained scientific specimens, planted the flag of the USA, as well as leaving a plaque on the moon. The plaque read, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon – July 1969 AD- We came in peace for all mankind.”


After spending just over 21 hours on the moon’s surface, Armstrong and Aldrin commenced the process of beginning the long voyage back to Earth. Early on the morning of July 21, both returned in the Eagle lunar module joining Collins in the command module Commander. The journey back home was underway.


On July 24, Apollo 11 reappeared back on earth, landing in the vast Pacific Ocean.  After being away for 195 hours and 18 minutes, 35 seconds, Apollo 11 and her crew were back on earth. The USS Hornet was the vessel nearest their landing, retrieving the three astronauts from the waters.  A hero’s welcome awaited the three moon pioneers.


Space, the final frontier, was being conquered.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE






  1. Stainless says

    Great summary, Glen, and terrific to reminisce about so many famous old names. And how about that crowd at Victoria Park. Imagine the crush! I was too young to be aware of the footy in 1969 but old enough to remember the lunar landing. Despite that, I associate that year with a Richmond Premiership season more readily than with the momentous feats of Apollo 11!

  2. Loved it, Glen. I was a Year 12 student at boarding school in Toowoomba. I seem to remember the whole school coming to a stop to watch the grainy images on a most inadequate black and white TV. Two memories – I was a bit sweet on a girl who ended up marrying my cousin (!) and the biggest song of the year was Russell Morris’ “Real Thing”. Australian football only came into my life a year later.

  3. With the Power obsessed with playing an annual game in China, perhaps, in a few years time, they could be persuaded to play say, Collingwood on the moon. Both teams could wear moon boots.

    Also, now that moon talk is popular, I sent the following to the Adelaide “Advertiser” for its Boomer section published each Monday. Whether it will see print is another matter. Anyway, here it is.

    An American and a Russian are enjoying a beer in one of Mickey’s pubs. Before long the conversation turns to the space race. “You know, Chuck, it was our scientists that started it all off. Way back in ’57 we launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik into Earth orbit”.
    “Yes Boris, I remember that, an excellent achievement. However, it was our scientists that were able to put the first man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth”
    “Granted Chuck, that was indeed a quite remarkable feat, replied his friend.
    Just then a stranger stepped up to the bar. “I say chaps, I couldn’t help but overhear. But, where I come from, our Scientists are planning to soon put a man on the Sun”
    Both the American and Russian burst into laughter. “It’s way to hot for anyone there”, said Chuck.
    The stranger just smiled and said, “Our scientists are not silly you know, they won’t make the attempt until night time”..

  4. PS There’s already been a song written about our hero its titled SUNSHINE SUPERMAN

  5. Phil Hill says

    I went down to boarding school in the early seventies and we always went to Collingwood Carlton games at Vic Park. They were great affairs.

    Southby (a Benidgo boy ) on McKenna, gee there were so many great match ups and they would play on each other all day. Instead of players going off quicker than hot milk you could follow a match up all day.

    Happy days

  6. Ian , 1969 was a big year for Russell Morris. He had a second number one with ‘Part 3: Into Paper Walls’, both produce by ‘Molly ‘ Meldrum.

    On another point is Doug Wade the only player to both kick 100 goals with two clubs, also play in a premiership with two clubs?


  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific piece Glen !
    43,610 at Vic Park. Imagine the atmosphere? Imagine the toilets ?
    I guess on July 19th, 1969 people weren’t saying: “We can put a man on the moon, but we still have to piss in our own beer bottles.”

Leave a Comment