SANFL Grand Final: Winning ugly

‘The best little league in the country’ was how my boss, Don Roach, used to describe us when I worked for the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) at Footy Park a generation ago.

It was an apt description then and it might be apt now.

But the trouble with little leagues is the tendency to ape their bigger brothers.

Last week the AFL had a rock band belting out a bracket of tunes in the middle of the MCG at half-time.

In yesterday’s SANFL grand final at AAMI Stadium a Rolling Stones cover band, Satisfaction, blasted a succession of Stones’ numbers at blaring decibel levels from a stage at the northern end of the ground, both before the game and at half time.

No doubt it was Satisfaction’s biggest gig with an audience of 29,661. No doubt it was all in the name of SPORTAINMENT! But I hear better music at blues jam sessions on Tuesday nights at the Gaslight Tavern, Brompton among 20 patrons.

Half-time at the footy (like the lunch breaks and afternoon tea adjournment at Test cricket) is when families and friends want to be able to discuss what they have seen – in peace!

The game got off to a bad start with neither side able to score goals. It quickly became worse because of the boorish bellowing of a leather-lunged yob in my section of the Members’ Stand. Fortunately a complaint must have been made and his rapid removal by security staff before quarter-time brought a rousing cheer of approval.

There was little else to applaud. With Norwood leading four goals to West Adelaide’s one at the main break the match was as ugly as the second semi-final a fortnight ago when the Redlegs triumphed eight goals to two. I’ll give one example from the play.

Just before the long interval Norwood chipped three kicks along the south-eastern flank, carrying the ball about 20 metres, with the third mark being taken just inside the 50 metre line. But did the player then shoot for goal? No! Instead, he kicked back 30 metres and four marks later a team-mate again had the ball slightly inside the 50 metre line on a slightly better angle. Seven uncontested marks for what? Damned lies and statistics!

I can’t get no satisfaction.

This might be modern professional football but it was crap to watch and despite the rock band’s attempt to drown out conversation I expressed this view to three journalist mates.

Fortunately two classic goals by Luke Jericho from the north-eastern flank early in the third-quarter lifted the quality of play and even raised queries about whether Jericho was still on the Crows’ senior list. These goals were game-breakers and the Redlegs played purposeful football in a premiership-winning quarter by adding five goals to nil.

Norwood maintained its dominance in the last term and kept West to one goal until the dying minutes of the game when a couple of late majors made their scorecard only slightly less dismal.

When the final siren blows you expect to see the victorious coach rush to his players to share the celebrations. What I didn’t expect to see was 20 or so track-suited members of the Redlegs Seconds team rush onto the field to mob the senior side.

If the ‘little league’ countenanced this behaviour beforehand it has a lot to learn; if it was a spontaneous act by the Norwood club it revealed bad thinking and poorer manners.

Norwood’s Seconds team had narrowly lost the curtain-raiser grand final to Central District earlier in the day and had no business occupying the ground after the main match.

It lacked courtesy on two counts: the premiership-winning team and coach Nathan Bassett deserved the spotlight (by themselves) before the crowd and ABC television audience; and losers West Adelaide merited some respect even while seeking solace from their heavy defeat.

Norwood fully deserved its 28th premiership as it had dominated the 2012 season in which it lost just two games during the minor round and it crushed West in both finals.

It was a season to savour rather than a match to remember.


Norwood                     1.1       4.4       9.5       12.7     79

West Adelaide          0.3       1.4       1.6       3.12     30


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. Peter Schumacher says

    Nice to get some coverage of the game, even given the apparently pretty ordinary standard and worse back up! As a Norwood supporter I am rapt!

  2. Andrew Weiss says

    Bernard i think you are a bit harsh having a go at the Norwood reserves team running onto the ground to celebrate with their teammates. Many of these guys had played league during the year (42 players were used in all). My observations this year is that the Norwood football club is a very close club with all players considered equal and therefore just as much part of the premiership as what the 21 that played on the day were. In the AFL you see the players that missed out celebrating with their teammates after the siren so why not in the SANFL as well. As a Norwood supporter it was great to see them hold up the cup after 15 years. Lets hope there is more to come.

  3. bernard whimpress says

    I don’t mind two or three extras on the ground if they have been significant players through the year and particularly missed a GF through injury – I think back to Ian Stasinowsky celebrating with Bob Hammond in 1975 – but a whole extra team running on struck me as excessive.

    No doubt we could engage in a long discussion about this but I thought it was also a timing issue. The Seconds players were the the first out to reach the premiership players. While one takes the point about a close club and 42 players contributing it also smacked of a closed group in a moment when the winners – 21 who took the field – ought to be allowed to be open, to share the moment with their fans, the stadium audience and the wider football public via TV.

    Certainly the Seconds players had a right to be enthusiastic but I would have preferred that (as a group) they had waited to express their enthusiasm in the dressing room and at the Norwood Oval afterwards.

  4. John Harms says

    Bernard, there is no doubting your writing, it certainly has voice.

    Thought, for a moment (when you were discussing the barbarism of the Norwood seconds), that you were drawing on the influence of the Chapolympiad.

  5. bernard whimpress says

    No, the Chapolympiad wasn’t the inspiration but I dare say I have something of the chap about me. That’s a great clip which I’ll pass on to a few other chaps.

  6. Michael Sexton says

    Nice yarn Bernard – I listened to the match on the wireless while endulging in that other Adelaide spring ritual of getting the tomato plants in. Even though good judges have condemned the match it was a highly entertaining broadcast – especially when Westies came out late for the second half. I began wondering if all hope was lost and they had already headed off to Richmond to tap a keg. For some reason I ended up being slightly disappointed with the two late goals the Bloods scored that pushed them past the futile efforts of North Adelaide in 1989 against Port. At least that day the Roosters could blame the weather. Norwood could have been the stingiest premiers ever but then things have always been a tad more civilised on the Parade.

  7. bernard whimpress says

    What could be honourable than getting the tomato plants in?

    I like your point about West tapping a keg at Richmond at half-time. Given West’s larrikin past – I’m think of the Jack Broadstock period in the 40s; and Neil Kerley chopping down the goalpost from the 1958 Grand Final and throwing bits on a club barbecue afterwards – it wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

    A lot of people around me were hoping that West’s score would be lower than North Adelaide’s but I wasn’t so mean-spirited. Somehow that ’89 joke that Mike Nunan told his team to go out ‘with one goal in mind’ deserves to remain a classic by itself.

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