The game that had everything


Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games

Round 11 1972

Collingwood   3.4.22   5.5.35   15.8.98   23.10.148
Essendon        2.2.14   7.9.51   8.12.60     13.15.93

VENUE: Victoria Park
DATE: Saturday 12 June
CROWD: 42,200
UMPIRE: Coates

B         Britt              Clifton                  Dunne
HB     Salmon         Potter       O’Callaghan
C         Oborne          Price              Atkinson
HF      McOrist         Gott               Greening
F          Jenkin        McKenna    Wearmouth
FOLL  Thompson, M Richardson, W Richardson
INT     Dean, Stevens

B         Gerlach            Talbot       McKenzie
HB      Davis              Williams       Roberts
C          Fletcher            Fields       Moloney
HF       Tuddenham   Noonan         Close
F          Headlam           Blethyn       Schultz
FOLL  Perry, Grinter, Cassin
INT     Wilson, Payne
COACH  Tuddenham

– Thompson, McKenna, Britt, Atkinson, Price, Oborne, Salmon, W Richardson
ESSENDON – Gerlach, Williams, Tuddenham, Roberts, Grinter, Blethyn, Davis, Fletcher

– McKenna 13, Wearmouth, M Richardson 2, W Richardson, Greening, McOrist
ESSENDON – Blethyn 7, Schultz 3, Noonan 2, Close

It always had the makings of a cracker – Queens Birthday, ladder leaders Essendon, and the return in rival colours of a favourite son, Des Tuddenham, as captain-coach of the Bombers.  An extraordinary atmosphere was guaranteed with a surge of supporters forcing Health Department officials to close the gates an hour before the bounce.  Whilst the official crowd figure was said to be 42,200, many more committed fans were perched high up in the trees whilst others crashed through the iron gates with crowbars near the players’ entrance, cramming ‘one-eyed hill’ at the Yarra Falls end.   Passions were inflamed before the ball was even bounced, when a young Magpie supporter brazenly ran through the Essendon banner.

This was a crucial game for the Magpies against the new VFL glamour side.  The Pies sat just outside the five with 5½ wins from ten games.  Bob Rose, now coaching the Bulldogs, had gained much satisfaction from beating the Woods at Victoria Park in Round 8.  During this time Robert Rose Jnr was standing out of football, pursuing a clearance to his father’s club.  After convincing wins against Geelong and South Melbourne, coach Neil Mann deliberately steered away from mentioning Tuddenham leading into the game.  Doubtless, Tuddy’s new side would take full advantage of his inside knowledge.  And in Noonan, Close and Blethyn, Essendon’s attack posed a serious threat to the Magpies questionable defence.

In perfect sunny conditions, Wayne Richardson won the toss and opted for the Yarra Falls end.  Any notions Tuddy might go easy on his old teammates were quickly allayed when he flattened Greening at the first bounce!  The consequent free and pass to Wayne Richardson resulted in a behind.  After further profligacy, Wearmouth posted the first of the game at the six minute mark. Despite more of the play, the Magpies only managed further goals via Oborne and McKenna, whilst Schultz and Blethyn were on target for the young Bombers.  In a tight contest, Collingwood was eight points ahead at the break.  ‘Tuddy’, generously welcomed by the Magpie hordes, was giving his all and was involved in several trademark physical clashes.

Des Tuddenham in amongst the action early in the game

The second quarter continued in much the same vein, a close tussle with neither side looking the goods.  In between the misses on goal there was plenty of hits, rugged play and a ton of pressure.  Blethyn opened the Bombers’ account with his second snap goal and then his counterpart McKenna notched his second to win back the advantage. The lead continued to change hands with Schultz replying for the Bombers, and then McKenna for the ‘Pies.  The match literally fired up when at the Yarra Falls end Essendon’s floggers were set alight.  The game was held up for seven minutes as people tried to stamp out the blaze.  Even fire engines warranted being dispatched to the ground.  Hundreds of fans evacuated to the field in a bid to escape the flames and smoke.  When the air cleared the deadlock was broken during time-on when Essendon rammed home a hat-trick of goals via Blethyn (2) and Noonan. The burst earned them a 15 point buffer at half time.  The charged-up Bombers threatened to run away with the game.

Scenes from the chaotic second quarter

Like a radio dial finding its station, the Magpies found themselves completely in tune with one another to produce a third quarter of few parallels in The Club’s history.  Collingwood’s runners feasted off many of Thompson’s 37 hit outs.  In turn, McKenna gorged himself on the delivery of the brothers Richardson and Barry Price to the tune of seven goals straight.  Wearmouth, Greening and Gott snuck in for goals and ‘Thommo’ was also damaging around the ground, as his 19 kicks and 11 marks suggest.  When the ball did find its way into Essendon’s forward zone, the likes of Britt, Clifton and Salmon quickly turned defence into attack.  All over the ground Collingwood boasted winners – McOrist had it over Barry Davis, Wearmouth had a fine time, as did Greening, Atkinson and Gott.  Barry Price also weaved his way down the ground in brilliant style, delivering the ball lace out to McKenna.  It rained goals at the Yarra Falls end – by the last change the ‘Pies’ swift eclipse tortured the Bombers to the tune of a 38 point deficit.

Essendon tried valiantly to undo the damage, Blethyn and Noonan posting early goals.  When Blethyn steered through his sixth the margin was back to 20 points.  But the Magpies weren’t done with yet, and picked up the threads of the third quarter to weave a merry dance around the Bombers.  Firstly Gott put the ‘Pies back on track with a major, followed by McKenna and Max Richardson.  Close and Blethyn answered, however McOrist and then McKenna (twice) kicked percentage boosters to close out the game.  Another eight goals to Essendon’s five amounted to a superb 55 point demolition, exposing the Bombers lack of real talent and depth.  Perhaps a harsh assessment though, for the Woods’ collectively entered ‘the zone’, where possibly no team would have got near them.

Collingwood players were feted by club officials in the rooms after the game, however President Peter Lucas was quick to condemn the disgraceful behaviour of the cheer squad.  Meanwhile, the focus of the match, Des Tuddenham, was received warmly by his former fans on the ground and in the social club (despite the odd jeer during the game).  Tuddy was still a legend at Victoria Park, and like McKenna, will forever be remembered a Collingwood man, despite his brief sojourn to enemy territory.

Peter McKenna (Collingwood)
Seven goals in a quarter is a rare feat in any grade of football.  The Magpies season was virtually on the line when the siren signaled the beginning of the second half.  Whilst Thompson and the Magpie runners initiated the devastating third term blitz, McKenna closed the deal in his usual dead-eye fashion.  McKenna wasn’t done with yet, adding another three in the last quarter for a 13 goal haul, one of the best tallies of his prolific career.

The crowd pleasing triumph over Essendon was followed by a gritty five point win against flag-favourite Richmond, finally pushing the Magpies into the five.  In what ultimately proved a disappointing year, Collingwood copped two significant blows along the way.  Just a few weeks later, Moorabbin was the scene for the infamous John Greening incident that nearly claimed the young prodigy’s life.  Then Collingwood’s other match-winner, Peter McKenna, was injured later in the year and missed the finals. McKenna had kicked 130 goals during the regular season.  Subsequently, Collingwood made no impact against Richmond, and then bowed out to St Kilda (largely due to inaccuracy).  Given the events at Moorabbin, the loss was made all the more galling.  The only consolation was Len Thompson deserved Brownlow win, The Club’s first in 32 years.

Controversy was set to follow the young banner-wrecker, who many years later became Collingwood Vice President, before a cavalier approach to matters ended his tenure.

So another season of ifs, buts and maybes drew to a close.  At least 12 June 1972 remains a fond memory, an encapsulation of everything that made the Victoria Park experience of the era so memorable.

“We will be flat out for a win because I don’t think a team really has arrived until they beat Collingwood at Victoria Park… I’m hoping Essendon can do for me what Footscray did for Bobby Rose.  Like Rose, I think it will be a help to know so much about the Collingwood players.”
Essendon Captain-coach Des Tuddenham before the big clash.

“Fireworks on field, blazing floggers around the boundary, crowds on the ground…the game had everything.”
The Sporting Globe sums up an amazing afternoon of entertainment.

“It was a very special day for me, and I won’t forget that for as long as I live.   I had a job to do and I just wanted to go out there and do it, but it was very hard playing against blokes I’d played 10 years with.  But the crowd, the Collingwood people that day, were very good to me.  As I ran out onto the ground they clapped me, said ‘thanks, well done for what you did at Collingwood’.  They gave me a bit during the game but the crowd that night at the social club were terrific.  They stood up and clapped when I came into the room.  It was marvelous, really touching.”
Tuddenham reflects.

Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games
An ebook by Jeff Dowsing

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. This was very entertaining to read….imagine being there! 20 goals kicked between two blokes, fires, fans on the field, 42,000+ crammed in, Tuddy playing against his old mob…I’m glad you have shone a light on this old match, otherwise just a score in the record books. Love the bloke running through the Essendon banner. I have a feeling that floggers may have been banned for a time after this match, and that the cheersquads brawled also. Nice work

  2. Dave Nadel says

    Ah memories. Great report Jeff. I remember the burning floggers although I was at the other end of the ground. One quibble, I think you’ll find Peter Lucas was Club Secretary and Tommy Sherrin was President.

  3. Thanks Dave & yes, I was too trusting of the news report from the game.

  4. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks Jeff,

    I’m enjoying your series.

    Probably because of the fire, this is my earliest footy memory.

    Any chance of doing Round 20, 1972?

  5. Jeff Dowsing says

    Thanks Peter,

    Don’t think I’m up for writing up Geelong’s most sensational games though!

    There is a couple links above though if anyone wants to click through & find out the 40-odd other games I’ve covered..

  6. Skip of Skipton says

    Good one, Jeff. I never knew about that game. I was three years old at the time. Wow. What a day. They don’t make ’em like that anymore!

    The stats archive I use has Gary Tredrea (Warren’s dad) playing instead of Graeme Jenkin, and the crowd figure 44,800. Doug Gott also kicked 3 goals. I only remember him as a backman.

  7. Thanks Skip for the tip – I don’t think Jenkin or Tredrea got a mention in any reviews I found so whoever played probably sat on the bench all day. And I dare say one was a late replacement for the other. Generally I got the teams from an Excel spreadsheet on the CFC website which has every team from every game between 1897 – 2004. I’ll check it out.

    And I stand corrected on Gott kicking 3, I am a few goals short on the tally. Thanks Skip.

  8. Skip of Skipton says

    G’day Jeff.

    Have a look at this site.

  9. Yes Skip, I do refer to that site from time to time, it’s fantastic.

    Good call on Tredrea. If only he could have eked out another 81 games in the black and white we could have nabbed his son!

  10. Skip of Skipton says

    Tredrea Snr did eke out another 80 odd games in Black and White, Jeff.

    Wikipedia tells me he was a local Collingwood zone Reservoir boy, who after his time at Victoria Park had a move to Queensland on the cards but ended up at Port Adelaide. Had he went to Queensland or remained in Melbourne, who knows where junior might have ended up? Warren was a keystone in the team Port Adelaide built which took the ’04 flag, and captain! Sliding Doors, eh?

  11. Real Football Lover says

    This was one of two Australian Rules games I have ever attended. I could have sworn it was played on Anzac Day but clearly your records are better than my memory – it was a long time ago.

    I was up the other end from the fires but I was very impressed by the the number of fights that broke out nearby among the fans – some of them seemed to involve followers of the same team. The other thing that struck me was the amount of niggling that went on between the players when the ball was up the other end (and often not visible given the fact that the day was misty and there was a lot of smoke haze). I thought that the players picking on the bespectacled Blethyn were very unmanly. I quite enjoyed the day out but I couldn’t say I was impressed by the Magpies performance (my team for the day as I supported Wests in Sydney) as my host was the hon-sec of the Essendon Social Club. The atmosphere in the car on the way home was somewhat subdued.

    My second game was 30 plus years later when I took my young daughter to see the Swans get flogged by Collingwood at ANZ. She was band-wagon Swans supporter after they had visited her school. She was so disgusted by their performance that evening she forswore them and has since become a rusted Wanderer’s fan. Such is the fickleness of youth.

    Anyway it was interesting to read the story about the game. Thanks for doing the research and taking the time to post such an engaging piece.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read , Jeff I love reading anything which includes references to the great ,
    John Greening unusually for a SANFL follower thru the tv show the winners he was my , 1st ever football hero and the game you have reviewed certainly had some highlights as well ! Thanks Jeff

  13. Timothy O'Leary says

    Cracker of a read, thanks Jeff!

  14. Adrian Castagnini says

    Yep, I was there as a ten year old fanatical Collingwood supporter and remember the guy running through their banner and the fires, no wonder floggers got banned. The other amazing thing were the many guys who somehow climbed onto the roof of the grandstand to watch the game as it was so overcrowded it was a clever way to get a good view. It would never happen these days . The most electrifying start to a game ever due to Tuddy’s return as a traitor!

  15. Brings back memory’s Jeff. I was a 14 year old st the time and sitting in the forward pocket on the fringe of the cheer squad. At the Sheraton Stand end. Maybe the years have embellished the story a little, but from what I remember of the day, it was an Essendon fan that ran through the Collingwood banner before the Essendon one got torn to shreds. I remember him being chased the length of the ground by the Pies cheer squad and somehow making it over the fence and into the crowd at the Yarra Falls end. Also the joint was that full there was people sitting on top of the Rush stand. No idea how they made it up there but I don’t think I’m making it up.

  16. It was an Essendon fan ran through Collingwoods banner. The Pies cheer squad then chased him to the fence and he copped plenty. The mob then turned to Essendons banner. The Bomber cheer squad saw what was coming and tried to roll the banner up. Later when the Essendon banner was unrolled and held up it had giant holes all over it.

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