Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: Traditions

As we glide towards the MCG for the now season opener between Richmond and Carlton, I am acutely aware that this is a rivalry which transcends such quaint new “traditions.”  These clubs have rumbled on this mighty arena for decades.


The years have gone by but, as I step off the train and look down through Yarra Park to the imposing MCG, I am reminded of one such rumble – the 1972 Grand Final. As a 13-year-old boy, I made my way to Jolimont Station each day before walking through the Fitzroy Gardens to attend school. Crossing Wellington Parade, I watched the now Pullman Hotel, an MCG landmark, slowly rising from the earth.


The 1972 Semi-Final between the Tigers and Blues had ended in a draw, necessitating a replay the following Saturday. The MCG ticket office opened on Tuesday morning.


Should I admit that our group lined up at the gate when we should have been sitting in Maths class?  Should I also admit that we were stupid enough to double our trouble and rock up to school late, finals tickets in our pockets?  It was triple trouble when our parents found out!


Richmond won that replay easily, raising expectations for the big one. We Tigers now had a certain swagger in our step, convinced another flag would soon fly over Punt Road.


Securing a ticket for the Grand Final was more problematic, given that 112,393 attended that day. Somehow, at the 11th hour, I wangled a restricted view ticket. At 8.30 am, the gates were flung open and I strolled in confidently, ready for a marathon day of Grand Final deciders!


Taking my seat in the old Southern Stand, I came to understand what “restricted view” meant. One of the many pillars that supported the roof completely obscured the Punt Road End goal. During the curtain-raisers I shuffled along to better vantage points, my options contracting regularly as each seat was claimed by its rightful owner. As the Seniors ran out onto the ground to the delirious roar of the colourful crowd, I was sitting sullenly in my allotted spot. Later, clutching morosely at whatever flimsy straws were available to me, I took solace in the notion that, technically, I did not actually see many of Carlton’s goals.


That game was so free-flowing it was breathtaking. A new record for scoring in Grand Finals was set, the teams combining for 50 goals between them.  Richmond’s score of 22.18 (150) equalled the previous Grand Final record.  Sadly for me, Carlton won easily, scoring an imperious total of 28.9 (177).


My teenage arrogance dissipated quickly, especially during the second quarter, when the Blues piled on 10 majors. Nicholls, `Jezza’ and Walls scored 19 between them and could not miss. I can still see Tommy Hafey, animated and red-faced, urging his charges on at the three-quarter time huddle.  Nine goals behind, he begged for one superhuman, last ditch effort. A belated surge closed the gap, Richmond were certainly not disgraced, but it still ended in tears.


In the dying embers of the game, Neil Balme was reported for striking David McKay, breaking his jaw. We didn’t know this at the time but the first salvo of the vicious 1973 Grand Final, also played between these two teams, had just been fired.



Tonight, the evening is sultry. The fading light is a far cry from the overcast grey of Grand Final Day in 1972. The MCG is perfect, green and lush, just as it was that day. We take our seats in the Members Stand, directly opposite my 1972 restricted view seat, awaiting the next glorious chapter in this wondrous rivalry.


In a fast and furious opening to the game, Tom Lynch scores his first goal in the yellow-and-black. A second follows quickly. First-gamer, Noah Balta goals with his first kick, joining a large and illustrious club. “Snags” Higgins highlights his bright future in the game through opportunistic play. We’re up by 40.


The Blues have a new captain, Patrick Cripps. Their most recent captain, Marc Murphy stands by his side. Together, they knuckle down and fight back. With each goal, belief grows. A trickle of resistance turns into a wave and threatens to become a tsunami. When superstar Alex Rance leaves the field with a serious injury, it is the Tiger fans who become restless and uneasy. Are we running out of petrol tickets?


Richmond’s success in the last two years has been built on pressure, which breaks resistance late in games. Tonight will be no different. Late goals decide the issue.


We leave happy, but also thinking of Alex Rance, we wish him all the best in his recovery.


CARLTON        0.1     4.4     8.8      9.10 (64)
    5.4     7.8    10.9    14.13 (97)


Carlton: McKay 2, Fasolo, C.Curnow, McGovern, Murphy, Fisher, Thomas, Newman
Higgins 3, Lynch 3, Nankervis 3, Balta, Riewoldt, McIntosh, Butler, Weller 


Carlton: Cripps, Newman, Fisher, Murphy, Thomas, Setterfield, McKay
Richmond: Cotchin, Higgins, Houli, Nankervis, Lambert, Graham, Martin 


Carlton: Nil
Rance (knee) 


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Meredith, Findlay, Fleer


Official crowd: 85,016 at the MCG


First published by Joe De Petro on the MCC website Balcony Banter.

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About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975. What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year. It was a magical time, much like the current period in history.


  1. Stainless says

    My first ever VFL game, Joe, and the scars are still with me! No matter how weak Carlton have been, our consistent success against them in recent years has always given me that little bit of extra satisfaction!

  2. Joe De Petro says

    Thanks for sharing, Stainless. Those scars cut deep, don’t they? For me, it was the first time I had seen them lose when it mattered. That is when you lose your innocence.

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