The untameable Tiger

by Lachlan Waterman


1982 – Malcolm Fraser was on shaky ground as Prime Minister; Soft Cell was a band not just a sales philosophy, an extra terrestrial was accidentally left behind on earth, and Glenelg and Port Adelaide squared off in the most infamous and memorable preliminary iinals in S.A. Football history.

A walk down memory lane feels appropriate after 30 years, for the dramatic events that unfolded seemed surreal the first time.

Relations between the two club’s was best described as bitter. Port players claim pint-sized midfielder Brian Cunningham was hit  behind play in a 1976 final; Umpire Peter Mead (a former Port player) was allegedly seen celebrating at the Port club rooms after their 1977 triumph, and Tiger veteran Neville Caldwell received a career-ending blow to the head in the 1981 Grand Final.

The two teams contested a draw on Anzac Day where a controversial holding the ball decision saw Pie Andy Porplicia goal after the siren. Glenelg gained some solace from a fighting victory in the mid season Escort Cup night series. This was footy 80s style. War without the shooting.

Tensions reached fever pitch when the two protagonists met again for the Prelim – Port supremely confident and chasing its fourth successive title, the Bays chasing some sort of respectability and its first finals win against its nemesis since 1974.

In gloomy and overcast conditions Glenelg’s fleet-footed running brigade handled the slippery conditions better and with key forward Stephen Kernahan dominating raced to a 38 point lead midway through the second quarter and looked irresistible.

Tiger Centre Half Back Graham Cornes then in the twilight of his career recalls: “ It was an ominous day. I could hear a big roar in front of the Members Stand and I saw David Granger warming up running up and down the boundary.” Port unleashed David Granger off the interchange and the wiry Center Half Forward went on a rampage – throwing his arms and legs around in moments that stunned observers. Cornes went down, Tiger team-mate Peter Maynard copped two punches to the head and a bleeding ear drum and defender Stephen Barratt had his leg broken in what appeared to be a deliberate kick in the third quarter.

“Every time a Glenelg player went near the ball they seemed to get hurt.” Cornes recalled. Granger was later suspended for 8 matches and never played again. Glenelg players were reluctant to retaliate for fear of missing next weeks Grand Final, it appeared Granger had no such reservations.

It’s hard to imagine any one having such a profound influence on a game with match stats of 2 kicks and 1 hand pass. The overcast conditions seemed to add to the electric atmosphere. “ it was just an unbelievable, sinister atmosphere. I had never seen so much anger and frustration from the crowd.”

Tempers in the crowd reached boiling point when an irate female Glenelg supporter attacked Port Coach John Cahill as he was coming down from the grandstand to address his players before 3 quarter time. With Glenelg unsettled and down to 19 players, Port launched  their way back into the contest with their trademark long and direct style. In a dramatic and desperate finish Glenelg defied the onslaught and clung on to win by a solitary point.

Post-game a normally diplomatic Glenelg Coach John Halbert snarled at suggestions the Barratt incident was an accidental: “Rubbish. His leg was broken by a deliberate kick and you can quote me on that. I won’t listen to a suggestion like that.”

In a sign of the times pre-AFL, patrons at Glenelg movie theaters were informed of the Glenelg victory to rapturous applause. Tony McGuiness, then in his first season of League football before a decorated AFL career maintained: “Emotionally, along with the Crows first game, the best game I ever played in.”

Vision of Port’s number eighteen being escorted off the ground by three policeman encapsulated the whole occasion. Unbelievable. Surreal.

Hostilities re-commenced in 1983 with a typical local blood bath at the Bay oval (now Gliderol Stadium) culminating in 1990 when Glenelg took Port to the Supreme Court to halt its AFL odyssey. Port took Glenelg to the cleaners, continuing its dominance with victories in the 1990 and 1992 Grand Finals.

30 years on and the game highlights has over 3,500 views on you tube. It is still the most controversial, most talked about game in bars, club’s and sportsman’s nights.

Perhaps, if you listen closely enough you can still hear the Soft Cell lyrics …” take my tears and that’s not nearly all…” reverberating around the West Lakes stadium.


  1. Barry Nicholls says

    Good piece Lachlan …’twas on a train back from Melbourne on this day- having been to 82 VFL GF

  2. Memorable year for Carlton supporters. Thanks Barry.

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    Halbert was a great player in his time, was runner up to Lindsay Head in the Magarey Medal a couple oif times before eventually winning one himself, think that’s correct anyway.

  4. You are quite right Peter. Halbert won 61 Magarey and prominent player in Sturt golden era. As a coach got to consecutive GF’s in 81-82 with Glenelg, and Sturt in 83.

  5. Andrew Weiss says

    Lachlan I was at that game as a nine year old in the crowd and let me tell you there was just as much fighting in the crowd as what there was on the field. Back in those days you could use umbrellas and in the first quarter a guy a few seats to the left of me asked a lady in front of him if she could lower her umbrella so he could see the game better. The lady replied no way so the guy grab the umbrella and snapped it in half. Then it was on. The husband of the lady starts punching the guy who snap the umbrella. Then the other wife / partner starts getting involved. By the time the cops and red coats got there we had two blokes with blood all over their faces and two women with suspected broken noses. This was all before Granger went onto the field and caused chaos there.

  6. That is amazing! What of the ground Andrew? I remember Football Park before they had seating around the outer wing, every one was packed in like sardines.

    Thanks for the story.

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