Neil Sachse: 45 years on


This article was first published in April, 2020. We return to it following Neil Sachse’s death yesterday at the age of 69. The introductory words are from John Harms…


This article about Neil Sachse is written by Paul O’Connor. I know Paul through the Western Bulldogs Past Players’ Association, a wonderful organisation, which has welcomed me into the fold. Paul does an enormous amount for the crew. He helps organise stuff, he takes photos, writes updates, visits players to whom he shows great friendship and in some cases compassion and care. He keeps everyone updated on how people are going. I got to know Paul through Ian Morrison who was a guest at a lunch one day -and was a big hit. I ended up at a breakfast at the Western Oval and met Ross Abbey and a few others. One thing led to another and one of the best dinners of the year (it’s really tea in the finest tradition of the evening meal in the western suburbs) I go to is when we introduce the new Western Bulldogs recruits to the past players. This is a genuine footy club.


It’s about time I started posting some of these wonderful articles, updates,  and emails that Paul sends to the players (and me).


Clubs and communities need people like Paul O’Connor. He will be embarrassed by me saying that.  I can hear him pointing out to me now, “This article is about Neil.”


Yes, it is, and Neil’s is a remarkable story.


But I also wanted to introduce Paul.


So here is Paul’s piece:



Today (April 12) is the anniversary of Neil Sachse’s tragic accident. Enough has been written about the accident and the amazing work Neil has done since. This (rather long) article is Neil Sachse – 45 years on. But covers much of his career up until he joined the Bulldogs. Enjoy the story it has taken a lot of work to compile.


My wife (who works some of the year in Adelaide), left Adelaide early on Thursday morning but not before making a stop at the Village Baker (owned and run by Ben Sachse, Neil’s eldest son) for some legendary Hot Cross Buns.


Susan made one stop in Coleraine to visit her parents and arrived home and said: “I have a present for you”, and gave me the Buns. They were warm as they had been sitting in the sun.


I immediately rang Neil Sachse to tell him the story, he laughed and said “did Susan bring home any Lamb Shank Pies”. Neil’s favourite. While chatting, Neil Mentioned that Sunday was the 45th anniversary of his terrible accident against Fitzroy in 1975.


Now, I am not going mention the accident, but show some history of Neil Sachse, some who have read his book Playing On will recognise a couple of the photos. The rest and, other articles come from the O’Connor Bros Archives and from the one and only Mark Schwerdt  SA footy history guru. (thanks for the introduction,  John Harms).


As Michael Sexton wrote: “There was also a clutch of teenagers from a club on the outskirts of Adelaide at Gepps Cross who had grown up playing footy with the smell of the stockyards and abattoirs in their nostrils. Dennis Sachse was a bear who filled the goal square and kicked a ton in a season. His brother Neil was a cat like jack-of-all-trades who was prepared to hurt someone if it meant having a touch. Darryl Webb’s plan for footy was: see ball get ball.”  In one year in the Gepps Cross Junior Colts Neil kicked 119 goals for the year as the sailed through to win the flag undefeated. They won five  flags, not a bad effort.


The first photo shows Neil at 12 years of age in the Red White and Blue for Gepps Cross. The second is his first year with North Adelaide Colts.






Here is a photo of Neil and Dennis – as you can see Dennis was a big unit.


Dennis looked to be the better footballer and Bob Rose came and made him an offer (in 1967) to bring the whole family to Victoria, but he turned the offer down and maintained a stellar career with North Adelaide which include three interstate game. He retired in `71 but a year later was lured back to the club, playing in the seconds at first, he managed 71 goals including 6 in the grand final win over Port. In `73 he kicked a career-high of 105 goals but persistent knee problems forced his retirement in 1975.


Neil played 86 senior games in five seasons, typically producing his best football when it mattered most, such as in finals or his five interstate appearances for South Australia. Superb overhead, strong, direct and purposeful, he could play in any key position or as a run on follower. He topped the Roosters’ goalkicking list in his first two league seasons, both times with tallies of 37 goals. In 1971 Neil was part of a new look North Adelaide that demolished Port Adelaide to take the SA Flag.







See the Footy Almanac for all these files.


That year they went down to Hawthorn in the Australian Championship.


From 1972 onwards he tended to play more frequently as a defender, and indeed it was probably at centre half back that he seemed most at home, and produced his best and most consistent football.


After an ‘indiscretion’ cost Neil a broken thumb and a stint on the sidelines, he missed the `72 Grand Final.


The following is Brilliant Summary of the `72 win, The Sachse lad here is Dennis.


Coach: M. Patterson; Captain: M. Patterson)


The Grand Final: Back-to-back triumphs


Terry Collins was a last-minute omission from the side because of a broken blood vessel in his leg, and he was replaced by Rodney Robran. Acting captain Bob Hammond won the toss and chose to kick to the Southern end against the breeze.


The game opened at a furious pace, with North quickly into attack and with their first goal on the board from Rodney Robran. Port played 3 rovers, so that Bob Hammond was forced to pick up a rover in the forward pocket. The pacy rovers proved to be a handful, and Port kicked the next 4 goals to go to an early 18 point lead. Barrie Robran then began to exert a significant influence on the game, passing off to Rodney Robran for his second goal. Late in the quarter Sachse took a mark in the goalsquare and converted to reduce the margin to 9 points at the break.


North did all the attacking in the early stages of the second quarter but missed opportunities when Rodney Robran hit the post and then Marsh kicked poorly from a set shot. North looked to be setting up a goal after a string of handpasses finished with Hearl in the goalsquare but he was heavily tackled. Port cleared, but the ball was marked by Phillips who played on and kicked truly to reduce the margin to 2 points. Port kicked the next 2 goals, and the match then became a dour battle of defences. The deadlock was eventually broken when Hearl took a great mark and kicked a 60 yard goal. The margin at half time was 8 points.


Plummer snapped an early goal for North, Port replied, then von Bertouch took the ball off hands and fed a handball to Marsh who kicked truly. Phillips, beaten early, was providing plenty of drive from his wing, and Sachse began to move around and create a target up forward. He grabbed 2 strong marks but missed both times, thus levelling the scores. Rebbeck was rewarded for a great fighting effort with a free but he also missed – North were in front for the first time since the opening minutes. Von Bertouch received a handball from the kick-in and goaled, then Sachse almost marked, retrieved the ball on the ground and burst through for another goal. A magnificent handball from Barrie Robran found Phillips and Sachse marked his kick and converted. Another good passage of play saw Barrie Robran take a good mark, pass to brother Rodney who passed to Hearl. Hearl’s huge kick sailed through to give North a commanding 27 point lead. Port scored a goal in time-on, but late goals to Rebbeck and Sachse blew the margin out to 32 points at the last change.


North were immediately into attack in the last quarter and Sachse took another strong mark and goaled. Port goaled to reduce the margin to 31 points, but when Barrie Robran floated forward to mark and goal at the 15-minute mark, the game was all but over. Shortly after he gathered the ball brilliantly on the boundary and kicked to the goalsquare, where Marsh gathered the ball off hands and snapped truly. Port scored another goal, but North completed a resounding 56 point victory with goals to von Bertouch, Sachse (his 6th) and Hearl


See the Footy Almanac for all these files including the Roosters Reign Supreme in `71 article.



The 1972 Squad


However, Neil played in the North Adelaide Australian Champion team that defeated VFL premiers Carlton in 1972.   He played mainly as a defender and many VFL fans were to become aware of his ability and his fierce approach to the game.


The 73 grand final side. Part of the game is on Youtube and the commentators say ’one of the best grand finals ever’.  Neil said to me emphatically – No. One of the Worst.


Unfortunately, technology got the better of me here and I couldn’t get a copy of the `73 team.


According to my Maths, Neil played in six winning grand Finals (should have been seven) and at least one runner up (I wasn’t able to find any others). So, he knew all about football success.


This next article highlighted Neil’s superb role in defence against WA in Tasmania in 1974.




An amazing note, Neil and his wife Janyne’s (maiden name Kowald) ancestors came from Silesia, an historical region of Central Europe mostly in Poland with small parts in the Czech Republic and Germany and in fact lived approximately 40 km from each other. There is no doubt their knowledge of German baking has been passed down through the generations. Neil adores Berlinner Buns. And his son Ben cooks all these and more but his real specialty are Lamb Shank pies.


I trust this gives you a good look at Neil Sachse as a player before he came to the Bulldogs.


He is doing well in ‘isolation’ but did go for a good wheelchair spin last week and is in great spirits.


I ran into him by chance on December 20, and he looked and sounded better than he has for a couple of years.





The last picture of him toasting his birthday in early January. Many happy returns mate, I look forward to catching up as soon as this virus issue is under control.


Woof Woof,
Paul O’Connor


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  1. Brilliant Paul.

    Thank you

  2. I feel like a lam shank pie!

  3. Paul thank you,Neil’s outlook on life is truly remarkable a quality quality individual and family

  4. Ashleigh Powell says

    It bought some wonderful memories. Thank you

  5. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story Paul – marvellous.


  6. Darren J Ray says

    RIP Neil. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  7. colin rettos says

    Neil was an amazing footballer representing north adelaide and his state with pride.
    he did so much for the cause of people with disabilities in this state and the awareness in all types of football head collisions since his injury playing for footscray for VFL ( as was known at that time)
    RIP Neil Sachse. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  8. Daryl Cearns says

    Neil and I grew up together attending Nailsworth Tech and playing all our junior football at Gepps Cross football club. Our coach was John Weaver and I captained the side for the five in a row, Neil was an outstanding mark and kick and very strong at that early stage. A heap of us from Gepps went up to North Adelaide together and played 17, 19; and seconds but the old boy had it all to go on. So many stories when we were young. We kept in touch over the years. Janyne deserves great tick for being a great wife and mother and was always there for Neil. Very sad day for all of us who knew him. Exceptional footballer, great husband and father and good bloke. Had much more to deal with than any of us will ever know and have to endure.

  9. Thanks the commenters. I think you have expressed what many are feeling.

    Daryl, you must have some stories to tell!

  10. Bob Morcom says

    Bob Morcom NAFC 1968-1973
    He shone brightly on and off the field and was a true leader in all aspects of his life.
    So proud that he “teased” us into identifying the 1968 Colts Team….lost one game, sadly the Grand Final.
    A wonderful reunion resulted in 2019, some 50 years later, with our memories still that of 17 year olds.
    RIP Neil

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    Great post and comments. I for one would love to know the names to the faces of that ’68 Colts team, and the side that spoilt the NA party.

  12. Colin Ritchie says
  13. Bob Morcom says

    1968 COLTS TEAM
    Back Row:Brian Walters G Gregory Bob Ford Neil Sasche Rod Young
    4th Row: D Vermuele David Hissey Trevor Webb Chris Collins Paul Guy R Haynes
    3rd Row: Roger Frick Daryl Cearns G Ellis J Johnstone W Haynes Bob Morcom Adrian Rebbeck
    2nd Row: David Gilbertson G Bennett John Paech Steve Ward Gary Murdock Harry Furber B Roberts Garry McGahey
    Front Row: Keith Carroll Tony Olsson Jeff Bevan A Spicer Adrian Forster Kym Broadstock P Holmes
    In Front S Guy
    Absent Rick Dorsett
    Others may be able to help fill the gaps. Hope this helps.

  14. Haje Halabi says

    I remember Neil Sachse well, both myself and my brother wrote him get well letters as kids, I was 13 Ab was 11…and he wrote back with his handwriting….I wished I kept that letter….Vale NS…..a kind man

  15. I remember Neil as a kid went to school with Neil new all his family
    My condolences to his family he was a grate guy and a good player
    Love bob Poyner

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