Swans 1976

“How many handballs have I had son?” asked Ricky Quade. It’s half time in the rooms at the Lakeside Oval in 1976. I can’t recall who we were playing that day. I was just out of school in my first year of Engineering at Melbourne Uni. By fate I had got a gig helping out with the stats for my beloved South Melbourne.

Tony, the father of a school mate of mine was well-connected with the Swans and had been asked to do the stats for that year. He asked me and his son Chris to help out when he was short of support.

This was pre computers so it was all by hand …. marks, kicks, handballs given and received, goals and points, not much else, marked on a spreadsheet. No pressure acts, inside 50’s or the like were recorded. Fair to say this operation was run on the smell of an oily rag. Though I got in for free, for a poor Uni student that was welcome.

A number of us would take turns at calling the game, for example “mark Bedford, kick Bedford, mark Goss, handball Goss, received Dean, kick Dean, mark Teasdale, kick Teasdale, goal.” Calling was much more fun than marking, as marking meant you mainly had your head buried in the sheet. Not much chance to actually see the game.

By day Tony worked in the office at General Motors Holden at Dandenong, however in his younger days he had been an SP bookie around Port Melbourne where he grew up. So he was naturally good with figures, quick additions, etc. Chris shared his Dad’s interests in horses and the punt, however he had dropped off the Swans as a kid and decided to follow the Hawks instead. A fateful decision one may say.

I followed the Swans because my Dad had grown up in Port Melbourne as well, even though we now lived in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Through my school years South were the perennial cellar dwellers – poor, under resourced. Though we had Bobby Skilton, a triple Brownlow Medallist and a champion player. Each season brought new hope, which only once had been realised in my time when we made the finals in 1970 under legendary Coach Norm Smith. Bobby played his only final that year.

1976 offered another year of hope, perhaps more heightened than others. Another triple Brownlow Medallist, Ian Stewart was our rookie Coach after finishing a decorated playing career with premierships at St Kilda and Richmond. Stewart was a sublime footballer, silky left foot skills and a strong mark for a mid-size centre man. Seeing Stewart in full flight addressing his players in the rooms at half time was another story though. Intense, belligerent are words that come to mind.

We had recruited well. Perhaps the savings on the stats team had helped. Robert Dean a wiry, strong marking forward had joined from Collingwood. He kicked 14 goals in his first two games for us, including 8 at Victoria Park in our first win against the Magpies at that place in 17 years. Expectations were growing. Ruckmen Barry Round and Barry Goodingham from the Dogs and Roos respectively had bolstered the big man department after the departure of “Whale” Roberts, who did not see eye to eye with the new coach, a premiership team mate at the Tigers. The Whale had come as part of the infamous Pitura trade the previous season which also delivered exciting high marking forward Graham Teasdale and defender Francis Jackson.

Champion defender John Rantall returned after a three-year stint at North, culminating in their first premiership the previous year and Quade was back from a season at home in the Riverina for Ariah Park Mirool. Along with our Captain the brilliant Peter Bedford and the likes of rover Normie Goss this was starting to resemble a decent squad of players.

Growing up in the outer Eastern suburbs, I was not aware of any players from our area who had gone on to play VFL at the time. So to me it seemed that high quality top-level players came from another planet, and to be up close at the breaks in games was an absolute thrill.

For me this year also marked my transition to a full on footy spectator. I had played footy at school, though really was not very good, being too small and lacking the ability to find the ball. With my older brothers we had occasionally been to games at the Lakeside Oval in previous years and out at VFL Park at Waverley when we played there. However now I was free from playing, my brother Martin and I went to nearly every game played at the Lakeside and also visited every one of the suburban grounds that hosted VFL, in the period from 1976 up to our departure north in 1982.

My devotion was fuelled by Tony who set a fine example. He had attended every one of our record 29 straight defeats over 1972 and 1973, then missed the drought breaking win as he had to attend a wedding. The story goes that he went to the game and stayed till half time, before reluctantly heading off.

As it turned out we had a competitive season in 1976 with 8 wins, finishing 8th on the ladder, when there were 12 teams and a final five. However we were building towards another finals finish in 1977.

Mid-year the Club decided to move towards a more professional stats unit and hence I lost my part-time roll. It is something that I look back on fondly though, the chance to hang out in the rooms, and be a small part of the operations of a VFL team.

40 years on we are a highly competitive, professionally run Club in Sydney with an enviable record in recent times. I am still passionate about South, the Swans …. The Bloods.

Sadly Tony passed away in 1998, so never did get to see our glory years. He was delighted however to have attended the two Grand Finals we played in 1945 and 1996.

I’m looking forward to the ride again this year. Go the Bloods!

About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. michael pola says


    I too am a lifelong Bloods supporter and recall the 70’s fairly well. I was at that filthy ground Vic Park in 1976 to see us knock off Collingwood and it was actually the very first occasion I had witnessed the Bloods win, in the flesh. I was a chemistry student in Bendigo at the time and only came to Melb when some of my fellow students ( Melb supporters ) came down -they went to the MCG, I went wherever we were playing. The same game I am pretty sure was when Ray Shaw ( father of Rhyce) copped four weeks for striking Teaser . Was this the year Teaser won the Brownlow? I will have to check my records. I have Jim Mains excellent ” In the Blood” which details every game up to the end of the 2009 season .
    We certainly are a much better and well run club these days and the wait has been worth it. I am jotting down some of my footy going reminiscences from the bad old days and will submit to the Almanac in the fullness of time.
    Go Bloods

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