The Grand finale – Round 22 1972

Two rounds remain in this year’s home & away fixture. Barring any late season collapse it looks as though the eight teams that will take part in September action have been decided. Whilst season 2010 is unlikely to provide many last round thrills, the football loving public have been treated to some dramatic season finales, 1987 probably the most documented of these. Fifteen years prior to the heroics of Kernahan, Dunstall and Flower, fans were treated to an equally thrilling final round of VFL football.

Prior to the commencement of the 1972 season the Victorian Football League changed its finals system, replacing the “top four” with a “final five”. The series would now comprise six matches, up on the previous one game a week four match series. The new format would allow the League to utilize its headquarter facility at Waverley as a finals venue. From 1972-1974 VFL Park would host games in the first two weeks of the finals. From 1975 to 1991 it would host games during the first three weeks of the finals series, including the Preliminary Final.

It’s time for a change !

With the benefit of hindsight, Sir Maurice Nathan and the powerbrokers at Harrison House could have beaten Mick Young & the Australian Labor Party to the punch and launched the new season under the slogan “Time for a change”.

The leagues 76th season ushered in many changes amongst the leadership ranks of the twelve VFL clubs. Four teams, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon & Footscray commenced the year with new coaches. Des Tuddenham had departed Victoria Park for Essendon to take up the role of Captain Coach of the Bombers. John Nicholls replaced Ron Barassi to assume the same role at Princes Park. Apart from a brief three game stint for VFA club Port Melbourne, Barassi would have no active involvement in Victorian football for the first time in nineteen years. For the first time since 1950 Footscray would enter a season without the services in any capacity of the great EJ Whitten. Bob Rose, who led Collingwood for the previous eight seasons, headed west to take over as coach of perennially under achieving Bulldogs. Neil Mann succeeded Rose as coach of the Magpies. Five clubs entered 1972 with new captains- Tuddenham succeeding Barry Davis at Essendon, Doug Wade, in his final year at Kardinia Park was made skipper of the Cats, Royce Hart replaced Roger Dean at Richmond & John Rantall became South Melbourne’s new on-field leader. David Dench became the youngest man to captain North Melbourne when at the age of twenty he took charge at Arden Street.

Early rounds suggested much was to be different from season ’71. Shortly before half time in their Round 1 clash with Melbourne, Hawthorn’s bid for back-to-back titles lay in ruins after Peter Hudson crashed to the Glenferrie turf. His hour of work had produced an eight goal haul. A marking duel with Barry Bourke would see him fall awkwardly and injure his right knee. The ensuing surgery would end his season. Hudson wouldn’t appear again for the Hawks until Round 21 of the following season. Just how Kennedy’s men would replace his output of 150 goals of the previous season was anyone’s guess. Tuddenham’s appointment paid immediate dividends when Essendon completed the first month of the season with four wins, equaling the amount of victories they celebrated for the whole 1971 season under John Birt. Nicholls had revitalized the Blues to such an extent they were placed no lower than third on the ladder from Round 6 to the completion of the home and away series, putting aside the disappointment of having their premiership defence end in the “pea soup” fog of the Junction Oval the previous August.

Hudson’s was not the only serious injury of the 1972 season. In Round 14, John Greening, champion Collingwood on-baller, was flattened behind play at Moorabbin. The hit would leave him comatose and battling for his life. He was the clear favorite to win the Brownlow when his season came to an abrupt end on July 8. St Kilda defender Jim O’Dea received a ten week suspension for his involvement. Greening wouldn’t return to the playing field for almost two years. A week later Footscray rookie Steven Boyle had his promising football career effectively ended when the 18 year old Gippsland recruit lost the sight in his right eye after a clash during the Dogs Round 15 battle with the Saints at the Western Oval. Making his VFL debut that day for St Kilda was 18 year old Mick Malthouse.

After 21 rounds the six teams who remained a chance to participate in the September action were in order:

Team Points %
Carlton 70 135.9
Richmond 68 114.6
Collingwood 58 136.6
St Kilda 52 115.4
Hawthorn 52 112.8
Essendon 52 108.5

Entering the final weekend the only certainty was Neil Mann’s Magpies would be playing in the inaugural Qualifying Final a week later. Their fourteen and a half wins guaranteed they could neither rise higher nor fall lower than third position. Richmond remained a chance to steal the minor premiership from arch foe Carlton. The Tigers had survived a huge scare a week earlier in their Round 21 clash with Footscray. David Thorpe’s shot from 50 meters sailed straight through the big sticks destined to land in the tennis courts at the Barkly Street end.

Alas for the Dogs it was a fraction too late and the Tigers held on to win by two points. Had it been a second earlier it would’ve capped a massive comeback as the home team trailed the Tigers by more than seven goals at quarter time – Kevin Bartlett’s six goal first term doing most of the damage. To finish the home and away season on top of the ladder Richmond needed to overcome the eleventh placed South Melbourne at Waverley (Peter Bedford’s 100th VFL game), and hope the Dogs could pull off an upset win over the top of table Blues at Princes Park. History suggested this was unlikely as Footscray hadn’t defeated Carlton at that venue since the 1964 season.

Three teams St Kilda, Hawthorn & Essendon entered Round 22 on 52 points. Glenferrie Oval would host the clash between the Hawks and Saints, the winner cementing a finals spot. If Essendon failed to defeat Collingwood at Windy Hill, the two Grand Final protagonists of the previous season would meet again seven days later in a sudden death showdown at VFL Park.

And so to the four matches that mattered. I’ve included a “live ladder” at the completion of each quarter. Percentage is calculated on For/Against totals to the end of that term, and if a team is leading at that particular juncture they are awarded the premiership points – confused? If so you know where to find me to pose your questions.

First Quarter

Geoff Blethyn bagged three first quarter goals to allow the Bombers to lead by the barest of margins at quarter time (5.4) to the Pies (5.3). In an inspired move Allan Jeans threw Barry Lawrence up forward with instant results as the Tasmanian kicked three opening term goals (he’d entered the day with one goal in total for the season) to help the Saints to a 10 point lead over the Hawks (6.1 to 4.3). Greg Kennedy completed a hat trick of trebles at Princes Park, the Blues (5.1) enjoying a 14 point gap on the inaccurate Dogs (2.5). Richmond was keeping its end of the bargain, leading South by 9 points at the first break (5.6 to 4.3).

The live ladder at quarter time looked something like this

Team Points %
Carlton 74 136.3
Richmond 72 114.9
Collingwood 58 135.8
St Kilda 56 115.9
Essendon 56 108.4
Hawthorn 52 111.9

Second Quarter

Jeans’ masterstroke continued to pay dividends with Lawrence adding another two goals in the second quarter, helping the Saints (12.2) to a 21 point lead over the Hawks (8.5) after two quarters. Irish born Stuart Magee notched a pair of goals as the disappointing Dogs suggested a massive upset at Princes Park was a possibility. Their five second quarter goals saw them go into the rooms with an eight point margin on the table toppers (7.11 to 7.3). If that wasn’t enough to have the Blue faithful reaching for the antacids an ankle injury sustained by Alex Jesaulenko would have ensured Mylanta was the beverage of choice in the Harris Stand at half time. Jezza wouldn’t return after the break, and was replaced by the artist formerly known as Andrew Lukimitis – Andy Lucas.  Essendon had stretched their lead to 15 points at Windy Hill (10.7 to 8.4) and Royce Hart’s four second term goals sparked a nine goal Tiger avalanche that had the men in Yellow & Black lead the Swans by 47 points at the long break (14.11 to 7.6)

At the half the live ladder was as follows:

Team Points %
Richmond 72 116.6
Carlton 70 134.2
Collingwood 58 134.2
St Kilda 56 116.1
Essendon 56 109
Hawthorn 52 111.2

Third Quarter

Whilst the result was irrelevant to Mann’s men, Collingwood applied the blow torch to the Bomber bellies with a seven goal third quarter, Peter McKenna the chief wrecker with four goals for the term and Collingwood took a slender 8 point lead to the final break (15.7 to 13.11). Hawthorn narrowed the gap at Glenferrie Oval to a mere 9 points (13.5 to 14.8) during their five goal to two third quarter comeback. Michael Moncrieff led the charge with three majors for the home team. The Dogs continued to hang tough and looked like they’d end their eight year drought at Princes Park against the Navy Blues. Despite being outscored three goals to two for the period the Dogs turned for home 7 points clear (9.16 to 10.3). The Tigers kept on keeping on and were eight goals clear of South Melbourne upon completion of 75% of their VFL Park match-up (16.15 to 9.9)

With half an hour of the home & away season to play the live ladder took on this look:

Team Points %
Richmond 72 116.6
Carlton 70 134.2
Collingwood 58 134.2
St Kilda 56 116.1
Hawthorn 52 111.8
Essendon 52 107.7

Fourth Quarter

Despite the best efforts of a somewhat inaccurate Leigh Matthews (1 goal 3 behinds for the quarter), early goals to John Manzie and John Stephens steadied the Saints, ensuring they would participate in their third finals series in a row. Further goals to the two Barry’s, Breen & Lawrence (the latter’s sixth for the day), put the result beyond doubt as St Kilda extracted some revenge over their nemesis of the previous season running out 18.13-121 to 15.12-102 winners. The Hawks now required Collingwood to knock off Essendon to ensure their season hadn’t come to an end.

At Windy Hill Neville Fields got the Dons first six pointer for the quarter and when Tuddenham notched his third goal for the day the Bombers could smell September action for the first time in four seasons. Doug Gott put the Pies back in front with his second for the day, but Blethyn, who’d brought up his ton the previous week, restored the lead for the Bombers. McKenna’s eighth goal caused mild cases of angina in the Showers Pavilion, but future MLA for Wimmera Hugh Delahunty goaled to keep the Essendon heartbeat flickering. Behinds to Delahunty, Blethyn and Ken Roberts ended the scoring for the day. The Dons had prevailed over the Pies 17.15-117 to 17.10-112. Desmond Vincent Tuddenham had taken Essendon from eleventh spot the previous season to a place in the finals in his first season in charge.

Richmond cruised into September action with a lazy seven goal final term to run out easy 76 point winners over the hapless Swans (23.20 to 12.10). Royce Hart starred with seven goals for the day, with former Tiger Eric Moore completing his season with a four goal return for the Bloods.  If the Dogs could hold off the Blues, Richmond would take the minor premiership and a rest the first week of the finals.

Robert Walls & John Nicholls eased the nerves of the Carlton crowd (which included former Prime Minister Robert Menzies) with the first two goals of the quarter to take a nine point lead. Gary Dempsey added his second for the day, and when Bernie Quinlan marked 30 yards out it looked like the ‘Scray might just pinch the points, consigning the Blues to a match up with arch rival Collingwood in seven days time. Quinlan missed, Trevor Keogh received a free kick (wasn’t there!) and goaled. Carlton were almost safe. Almost. Quinlan slotted his fifth goal for the day, to go with his six behinds, but time beat the tragic Bullies for the second time in seven days as Carlton saluted by 3 points (13.8-86 to 11.17-83).

At the completion of the 1972 home and away season, the top five finished:

Team Points %
Carlton 74 134.27
Richmond 72 117.68
Collingwood 58 133.82
St Kilda 56 115.27
Essendon 56 108.27

The finals:

Collingwood would continue its poor run in finals by bowing out in straight sets, stretching its finals losing streak to four games. It would drop both finals games the following year and would eventually finish with a 6 win-13 loss-1 draw finals record during the 1970’s. St Kilda thrashed Essendon to win the first ever (Elimination) final played at VFL Park on September 9. Seven days later Waverley would host the first drawn final since 1962 when Carlton and Richmond tied the Second Semi Final 8 goals 13 behinds apiece. Alex Jesaulenko had a chance to win the game for the Blues with a kick after the siren but fell short. The Tigers smacked the Blues by seven goals in the replay. Carlton, after overcoming the Saints in the Preliminary Final, would kick a record Grand Final score (28.9-177) to take the decider by 27 points from Hafey’s men.

Following the 1972 season the short lived “10 year rule” was introduced; as such  players with more than ten years service at their present club could seek a clearance to a team of their choice. North Melbourne utilized this rule to attain the signatures of Barry Davis, Doug Wade & John Rantall. The three champions would play major roles in the revitalization of the Roos helping them procure their first VFL premiership within three years of signing. Other players to change clubs during the VFL’s brief dalliance with free agency were Adrian Gallagher (Carlton to Footscray), Carl Ditterich (St Kilda to Melbourne) & George Bissett (Footscray to Collingwood)

Some other 1972 memories included:

  • Three days after the VFL’s home and away season ended 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and eventually killed by the Black September group during the Munich Olympics
  • Despite Billy McMahon’s best efforts to capture the imagination of the electorate (which including eating a Chicko Roll in Puckle Street Moonee Ponds) Edward “Gough” Whitlam became Australia’s twenty first Prime Minister when the Australian Labor Party won 67 of the 125 House of Representative seats to form government following the general election held on December 2
  • Watergate
  • Ian Chappell would lead the Australian Test team to a 2-2 draw with England in the Ashes series. Whilst the Poms would retain the urn Chappell’s men would reach #24 on the Go-Set National music charts with “Here come the Aussies”
  • Bruce Beresford’s directorial debut “The Adventures of Barry McKenzie” was released to an unsuspecting public.
  • “Number 96” debuted on the 0/10 Network in March


  1. Thorough Mic.

    My father (Tigers) took my younger brother (Tigers) and I to the GF from Tassy.

    That was a memorable match with the Richmond losing score equalling the previous top score.

    Dad and brother weren’t happy but I didn’t care as I was a Cats supporter.

    If I rememder the Blues paid for the win next year from the grumpy Tigers with the Lauri Fowler shirt front on ‘big Nick’ and did Mr Balme biff Geoff Southby?


  2. John Butler says


    Such Sweet Memories!

    This Grand Final is my first clear Carlton memory- listening to it on the radio, the surprise in the commentators voices (as we upset the Tiges), how the goals just kept coming.

    And you’re right Phantom, they certainly made us pay the next year.

  3. Phantom #1 – Amazingly Richmond lost to Carlton just once in ’72.
    ’73 was payback. Tigers little lucky to be get to the big one as the Pies enjoyed a 6 goal lead in the PF the week before. Royce had a massive second half – say goodbye to Collingwood.

    John #2 – Some Carlton people say Southby was never the same player after being smashed by Balme. Your thoughts ?

  4. Very good piece Mic.

    ’72 was the first Grand Final that I attended …. as a young 7 year old at the time, so fond memories (even for a Fitzroy supporter).

    Carlton’s record Grand Final score (28.9-177) was even more remarkable given that three players (Jesaulenko, Walls & Nicholls) kicked 19 of the 28 between them. And that John Nicholls was not a renowned goalkicker (averaging less than 1 goal per game for his career) but bagged 6 on GF day.

    That is all

  5. Arma #4 – Many thanx.

    Can you remember how much it cost a seven year old to attend the GF that year?

    Nicholls had never kicked more than five in a game prior to the ’72 GF. Healthy return the following season (47).

  6. Mic,

    I’ve got my Footy Record and my ticket somewhere at home. You’ve inspired me to dig them out now!

    That is all

  7. Mic, I attended that game as a 12 year old and from memory there were no concession for kids. You just bought series tickets at set prices for sitting and standing. I also went into the Tigers Rooms before the game which was pretty special even for a fedgling Blues supporter. Still have the footie record as well.

  8. Arma #6 – I’m glad the article/post had that effect.

    Tony #7 – If you were attired in the Navy Blue I’d love to know how you managed to get into the Tiger rooms.

  9. cow shed end says

    great job Mic, was at those last two dogs games,In the second last game against the Tooiges David Thorpe had 15 Baulkes and 12 blind turns before he decided to kick that last non-goal to cries of “kick it ya bloody lair”.Like all things Footscray tragedy was the only certainty..

  10. CSE #9 – Thanx for your kind words.

    We played the Blues & Tigers in the final two games the following season. Got over the top of Carlton in Round 21, I think Sandilands had a good day on Southby. ABC covered the game. I’m sure Dick Mason had the house on the Dogs – he was getting a little toey when the Blues made a final quarter run.

    Beat Richmond in Round 22 by a point – Albion recruit Gary Steel who debuted the day Steven Boyle was injured kicked the winning point. Robert Rose in his final VFL game prior to his accident on St Valentines day ’74 had possession of the ball when the siren sounded.

  11. I saw the 72 GF from standing room behind the Punt Road goal (Carlton’s end in the second and last) still wearing my whites having plyed cricket that morning up to midday, thought I may as well play because I didn’t have a ticket. At the last moment a friend of the family had dug one up, and left it with a bloke in a donut van to give to me. This guy didn’t know me from Adam but all he knew was ‘look out for a 14-year-old kid with dark hair, dressed in cricket gear’.

    When I’d got home from cricket it was alraedy 12.30, my Mum had got the call about the ticket, she bundled me into the car and terrorised the neighbourhood wuth some outrageous hoon driving for about 15 minutes, as we chased the train to Westgarth or maybe Clifton Hill from West Heidelberg – in an ancient Cortina.

  12. ’72, again if I remember correctly they had a national champoinship in Adelaide.

    North Adelaide beat Catlton to win (obviously the VFL couldn’t handle that so they canned the idea) east perth and then City South from Tasmania.

    My father who was associated with City South and went to Adelaide said there was a heavy clash of bodies between Mal Brown (East Perth) and Alan Pearson (Alay preacher from City South). Pearson was hurt but stayed on the ground till after Mal.
    left. A very hard player.

    City South only got beaten by Carlton by 9 or ten goals and they had three school boys in their team. It was the team that finished off the dominance of Darrel Baldock’s Latrobe team after he returned to Tasmania.

  13. Can say I was at Glenferrie when Hudson did his knee – up to then looked like he was going to break the goalkicking record in a match, and also sitting behind the goals at the GF when Big Nick went on his rampage. Most memorable was in one of his goals, the ball landed just in front of me and a spectator going for the big grab suffered a compound fracture of a finger and missed the rest of the match!

  14. Rick,
    Did the bloke in the Donut van have hands the size of dinner plates and a jaw to match. If he did it would have been “Basher” Williams who played in the ruck for South in the 50s.

  15. Phantom #12 – The series you mentioned involved East Perth’s Mal Brown taking on the whole Carlton team. Trevor Keogh may have been an unfortunate recipient of a “hay maker” from Mr Brown. I think the Roosters knocked over the Blues by the barest of margins in the decider.

    I’m pretty sure the end of season “Champions of Australia” continued until 1975.

  16. Martin Reeves says

    Comprehensive Mic. Not sure what would be worse: sitting through a losing Grand Final to Carlton, or failing to reach the finals in 28 years, on all, but two occasions.

    Tony – was reading about ‘Basher’ Williams in Flanagan’s ‘The Game in Time of War’ this morning on the way to work. He apparently lost his yearly wages on the 1945 GF. Perhaps a prelude to his later career that you mention.

  17. Martin #16 – Many thanx

    Strange season (72) in some respects for the Tigers. For a team that won 18 games their % was pretty ordinary – suffered a couple of big losses – St Kilda at Moorabbin, more surprising was the 10 goal + loss to the disappointing Cats at the MCG. Won the close ones.

    Having said that after the job they did on the Blues in the 2nd Semi Replay it was quite a shock to see the way Carlton did it so easily on GF day.

  18. Mic

    Nice trip down memory lane although for me, like some others, the memories are painful. The ’72 GF was the first VFL game I attended and after the initial thrill of seeing my heroes in the flesh (and in colour), the shock of experiencing such a stunning defeat was profound for a sensitive eight year old. I can vividly recall watching the second quarter procession of goals with tears in my eyes.

    A further footnote from 1972 and the introduction of the Final Five was the classic Jack Dyer comment: “it’s confusin’ now there’s five teams in the Four”.

  19. Stainless #18 – Speaking as someone who supports neither Blues or Tigers, the 72 GF loss seems to be the one that really irks the Richmond faithful, much more than ’82. I was only 7yrs old at the time but I can remember being shocked at what unfolded on GF day.

    Revenge was somewhat swift. Having said that 51 weeks would’ve seemed an eternity to a 9yr old however.

  20. Mic

    I reckon you’re right although I was probably too young to understand why.

    I think it’s to do with the fact that up until then we had the wood on Carlton in finals, right back to the 20s and 30s. We certainly went into the game as hot favourites. It was probably the way we lost also. Richmond was the big marking high scoring team but we were beaten at our own game.

    Sadly I missed the 73 GF as I had to go to a wedding, but the result gave me great pleasure nonetheless.

    In 1982, we beat the Blues comfortably in the 2nd semi but I for one wasn’t surprised by the reversal in the GF. Carlton had beaten us twice during the regular season and were definitely the best team on their day. Their “premiership quarters” were unstoppable.

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