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Trevor Grimwood (West Adelaide)

A Review of the 1977 Football Season

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SANFL: Magpies End Premiership Drought

Forties in Procella (“Strength in Adversity”) might well be the motto of the Magpies' most intense and bitter SANFL rival club, Norwood, but late on the afternoon of Saturday 25 September 1976 it could unashamedly have been borrowed by the black and white aficionados among the record crowd of 66,897 packed into Football Park for the season's finale between Port Adelaide and Sturt. Those Port fans had just witnessed their team, which had totally dominated the 1976 SANFL competition, losing only 4 of 21 minor round matches before comprehensively thrashing Glenelg in the second semi final, somehow contrive to lose when it mattered most against an in truth somewhat ordinary Sturt team which nevertheless was able to tap into a rich vein of finals experience, something which Cahill's Magpies sadly lacked.

That single two hour dose of grand final football probably brought the entire Port team completely up to speed in terms of finals experience, however.  There is scarcely anything so salutary as losing a game you know you ought to have won, and with no immediate way to right the wrong, Port's 1976 grand final players had simply to re-group, and prepare for the slog, sweat and pain of another season long tilt at the flag.

The 1976 season represented a benchmark in another important way, however, as it witnessed the first legible attempt to move towards a genuinely national club competition. The Wills Cup, which was sponsored by a tobacco company, and conducted by the NFL, involved clubs from the three main football states, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Port Adelaide participated, beating Footscray by 34 points, and losing to North Melbourne by 50 points, but the match results were really of secondary importance.  What was of primary significance was that, although the Wills Cup matches were, by and large, poorly attended, they generated significant amounts of income through sponsorship and television.  The VFL was quick to take note: in 1977 it withdrew from the pseudo-national affair to run its own sponsored night competition, and by 1978 it was offering more than twice the prize money of the NFL series (now sponsored by Ardath, and involving teams from the VFA in place of those from the VFL), and enjoyed significantly higher TV ratings, with a concomitant explosion in revenue from peripheral sources such as advertising. In 1979 the VFL formed a company, Australian Football Championship Pty. Ltd., with the objective of developing its own 'national' competition, thereby effectively rendering the NFL irrelevant.  In time, all of the other states came to the VFL table because that was where the money was.  According to Sandercock and Turner, writing shortly after these events in 1981:

The VFL's move on night football was nothing short of a take-over bid for Australian football.  Its formation of the AFC Pty. Ltd. once again isolated the VFA from the mainstream of national football.  It also put a big question mark against the viability of the NFL as a national administration.  Some commentators argue that the VFL, with its superior financial resources and business acumen, should run the whole of Australian football.  The VFL is certainly convinced that it alone has the expertise to run football at the national level, and it has a compelling financial incentive to press its claim.  Whether the VFL razzamatazz is what the game really needs is another question. [5]

These comments should be read as a backdrop to the events of 1990, which will be discussed in the review of that season As of the early 1980s, however, it would seem that Fos Williams' dream of a full-scale national club competition was well on course, although not perhaps in quite the way he might have expected, or indeed would have wished.

But back in 1977, South Australian football's centenary season, Port Adelaide's sole pre-occupation was with the SANFL premiership, an honour that had eluded it for much too long. The season got off to an excellent start when the council and the SANFL reached agreement on the use of Alberton Oval for football, and over the course of the year fans flocked in in near record numbers to watch the pride of the district in action. They had plenty to cheer as well, as the Magpies endeavoured to put the horrors of the 1976 season firmly behind them with a series of dazzling performances that earned both the minor premiership and numerous accolades. Acutely conscious, however, that there was only ultimately only one game, and one performance, that really mattered, the longer the season wore on, the more the focus of John Cahill and his players was on a potential date with destiny at Football Park on Saturday 24th September.

That day duly arrived, with only John Nicholls' Glenelg side standing between the Magpies and the ultimate prize.  On the eve of the big match, Mike Pilkington wrote:

Memories of the humiliation and disgrace which have plagued Port since this time last year can be wiped out tomorrow.  Redemption, and the elation which goes with it, will come to the Magpies in the centenary grand final. [6]

Prophetic words indeed, for after a tough, bruising and occasionally spiteful game, the Magpies emerged victorious by 8 points, 17.11 (113) to 16.9 (105).  In point of fact, they had the match well won much earlier, but a flurry of late goals by the Bays gave a deceptive closeness to the final scores.  For Port captain Russell Ebert, it had been "a bloody long time, but jeez it was worth it!" - sentiments wholeheartedly shared by every supporter of the most loved and loathed footy club in the state.

The Magpies' best player list from the 1977 grand final gives some notion of the wealth of talent which Cahill had at his disposal.  Best afield was Brian Cunningham, a plucky and tenacious rover who would later serve the club in a number of administrative capacities.  Others to excel included utility Randall Gerlach, who was playing in defiance of medical advice, dynamic and hyper-aggressive wingman Bruce Light, spring-heeled ruck-rover Max James, and 7 goal spearhead Tim Evans. (Evans registered 87 goals for the season to end up as the league’s top goal kicker.)

After qualifying for the finals in second place Glenelg went on to reach their sixth grand final in nine seasons but as on every other occasion apart from 1973 they slumped to defeat. The Bays kept in touch with Port for most of the match but in the end the exhaustion of playing catch-up football told and they went down galliantly by 8 points.

Under the stern tutelage of coach Fos Williams West Adelaide enjoyed their best season since 1969, ultimately finishing third. The club had the satisfaction of providing the 1977 Magarey Medallist in the shape of former Port Adelaide rover Trevor Grimwood. The epitome of the “honest Aussie battler”, Grimwood struggled for many years to prove himself as an Australian footballer, and was ultimately rewarded with a Magarey Medal. After failing to crack it for a senior game with Norwood in 1965 and 1966, he spent the next four seasons playing for his home town club, Meadows. In 1971 he was recruited by Port Adelaide, but in three seasons at the club he managed just 33 games, and although he played well on occasion, he was never a first choice player. When Port coach Fos Williams crossed to West Adelaide in 1974, he persuaded Grimwood to join him, and over the ensuing four seasons the tough, hard-working and combative rover gradually came into his own.  In 1976, he played the best and most consistent football of his career, winning West's best and fairest award, and finishing in third place in the Magarey Medal.  The following year, although inconvenienced by a persistent hamstring injury, he did even better, polling a highly commendable 32 Magarey Medal votes to win the award by a clear ten vote margin from his former Port Adelaide team mate Max James. Having established himself as one of South Australia's premier players, Grimwood might have been expected to kick on, but in 1978 and 1979 his hamstring problems got steadily worse, undermining his performances to the extent that he only managed 4 senior games in the latter year. In 1980, after 102 games for Westies, Trevor Grimwood returned to Meadows, where he finished his career as a player.

Fifth after the minor round, South Adelaide surprised with a 16 point defeat of Norwood in the elimination final. However, they then lost badly to West Adelaide in the following week’s first semi. This meant that the Panthers ended up in fourth place, their best finish since 1966.

After suggesting during the minor that they might be realistic premiership contenders Norwood faltered at the first hurdle in the finals. The Redlegs’ time would soon come, however. In round six they booted the equal highest score of the season: 33.21 (219) to North Adelaide’s 10.9 (69). (Glenelg matched this in round fourteen when they defeated North 34.15 (219) to 11.6 (72).) Perhaps the highlight of the Redlegs’ season was their triumph in the NFL’s Ardath Cup competition which was contested by leading clubs from the SANFL, WANFL, the VFA and representative teams from Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. In the grand final, played on their home ground of Norwood Oval, the Redlegs narrowly accounted for East Perth with scores of 10.9 (69) to 9.7 (61).

West Torrens finished a distant sixth three wins behind the fourth and fifth placed teams. Arguably the Eagles’ best display of the season came in round seven at Thebarton when they accounted for eventual grand finalists Glenelg by 70 points. Scores were West Torrens 19.10 (124) defeated Glenelg 7.12 (54).

Reigning premiers Sturt surprisingly dropped down the list to seventh place. The dismal nature of their season was summed up in round twenty two when they lost to West Adelaide by 99 points at Football Park.

In 1964, Woodville and Central District had entered the SANFL’s senior grade competition. They finished the season in ninth and tenth places respectively, positions which were replicated in 1977. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly this was only the second time in their history that the Bulldogs had ended up with the wooden spoon.

VFL: Kangaroos Bounce Back

Four months after their 1976 grand final defeat, at 5.15pm on 24th January 1977, the North Melbourne players assembled at Arden Street to commence training for the new season. Gathering the players in a circle around him, Ron Barassi reminded them that they were no longer the best team in the competition.  Then, in a much louder, more intense voice, he spat out the words "Hawthorn thrashed us last year!"  His distaste was almost palpable.  It was clear he felt insulted, demeaned, and wanted the players to share those feelings.  "This is the year we become number one again!" he insisted, eying each of the players individually for any sign of wavering or dissent.  Seemingly satisfied with their response, he moved on to more mundane subject matter, but in those few moments the tone for the entire year ahead had been set.[1]

In direct contrast to the club's previous premiership year of 1975, North began the campaign that would eventually secure its second league pennant in fine style, winning its first 5 contests of the season, including a memorable 10 goal thrashing of Hawthorn in the opening round. Newcomers to the side this season included former Melbourne veteran Stan Alves, who had transferred to North in the hope of playing in a premiership side, John Cassin, who had begun his league career with Essendon and had spent the 1975 and 1976 seasons with West Torrens, and Stephen McCann, a Western Australian from Geraldton who had yet to play senior league football.  All three would feature in North's eventual grand final winning side, although one player who would not was the club's champion wingman and dual Brownlow Medallist, Keith Greig who, after sustaining serious cruciate ligament damage in the round 6 loss to Richmond at the MCG, went on to miss the remainder of the season.

Although the team lacked consistency after its impressive opening burst of victories it nevertheless qualified for the finals with some comfort, managing 15 wins from 22 home and away games to occupy third spot on the ladder.  Little did the players know it, but they were about to embark on the longest, most arduous journey to a premiership in VFL history. That journey began with a worryingly impotent qualifying final performance against arch rivals Hawthorn which resulted in a resounding 38 point loss. Barassi was apoplectic with fury, expressing his indignation both privately and publicly. Some of his public remarks about his players perhaps transcended the boundaries of tact and common courtesy to which football coaches habitually adhered; however, in hindsight they can clearly be seen to have had the desired effect.

Week two of the finals saw North Melbourne facing Richmond in the cut-through semi final at VFL Park, and right from the start the Kangaroos were a transformed side, comfortably winning every quarter en route to a 16.14 (110) to 9.9 (63) triumph.  Barassi's satisfaction at the performance was reinforced when he learned that the Kangas' next finals opponents would be Hawthorn, which had lost to Collingwood in the second semi final.  "If we don't beat this mob on Saturday, with the incentive we've got now" he informed his players, "then I seriously doubt that we'll beat them for years to come - until both sides have changed substantially”.[]2]

North Melbourne's performance in annihilating Hawthorn in the 1977 preliminary final was perhaps its finest of the Barassi era with the players observing their coach's pre-match instructions to a tee.  "I want you to go out there with every manly fibre you possess......and play the game of your life......the game of your life!" he had demanded, before going on to define what he meant by “the game of your life” as:

".....the physical game......the physical game of running in.......because that'll bring with it the tackling, the pressure, the handball, the backing up, and the talking......all the things we've practised and are supposed to be the best at in the VFL competition!”[3]

Hawthorn struggled gamely to stay in touch during a fiercely contested 1st half, but after the long break the Kangaroos were rampant, kicking 9.9 to 1.4 to win by the scarcely credible margin of 63 points. North had many fine contributors to the win, but veteran rover Barry Cable, making one of his last ever appearances in a North jumper, had close to 40 possessions in what some observers claimed was, quite literally, “the game of his life”.

Prior to the 1977 grand final, North Melbourne and Collingwood had only met once previously in a VFL finals game. That was in the 1958 preliminary final when a combination of solid, tenacious defending by the Magpies and atrocious kicking for goal, especially early on, by North saw eventual premier Collingwood emerge victorious by 20 points, 14.12 (96) to 10.16 (76). The teams' two meetings in the 1977 minor round had resulted in a win to North by 9 points in round 2, and a more emphatic 39 point win to Collingwood in round fifteen. The Magpies who, under proven premiership coach Tom Hafey had risen from wooden spooners in 1976 to flag contenders a year later, were in the virtually unprecedented position of attracting a measure of sentimental support, but a majority of the 108,244 spectators who packed into the MCG on the afternoon of Saturday 24 September 1977 almost certainly wished for a North Melbourne victory.

At three quarter time, such an eventuality seemed unlikely.  The Kangaroos had started well enough, and at the 1st change had led by 17 points, but since then it had been all Collingwood, with the Magpies adding 8.7 to a curiously hesitant and wayward North's 9 straight behinds.  As Collingwood fans celebrated what they thought was the end of a nineteen year premiership drought, Ron Barassi gave one of the most important three quarter time addresses of his career.  Insisting that the game was far from over, he also made some potentially risky, but in the upshot gloriously successful, positional changes, moving key defenders Darryl Sutton and David Dench to the forward lines.  Within moments of the resumption, Sutton had a goal on the board for North, and a couple more quickly followed from Baker and Dench.  Suddenly, the Kangaroos were doing everything right.  A succession of minor scores followed before full forward Phil Baker, at the fourteen minute mark of the final term, kicked the goal that brought the 'Roos back on terms, with the momentum seemingly all theirs.  

Collingwood, however, dug deep, and shortly afterwards claimed a behind to recapture the lead.  Two behinds to North followed before Phil Baker, after marking, booted his 6th major of the day to send the blue and white contingent in the crowd into raptures: a 7 point advantage to North, with six, maybe seven, minutes to play.  The Magpies attacked repeatedly, with Peter Moore finally procuring a point that brought the margin back to a single straight kick.  Then, with less than a minute remaining, Bill Picken sent a high, speculative kick towards the Collingwood goal square and the long-limbed, wiry form of the appropriately nicknamed “Twiggy” Dunne somehow managed to get both hands to the ball to initiate probably the most momentous thirty second period of his life, which culminated in his splitting the centre with a low trajectory flat punt that put the two teams back on even terms.  Moments later, the siren went, and players from both sides collapsed to their ground in numb weariness mingled with, perhaps, a modicum of relief.  Both sides had failed to win, but at the same time neither side had lost; in a sense, it was almost as though the previous 120 minutes of sweat, toil, desperation, skill, fervour and passion had never even occurred and, for the first time since 1948, and indeed only the second time in VFL history, the grand final would need to be replayed.

Whereas the first game had been tight, tough and tense, all of which probably favoured Collingwood, the replay saw fast, open, skilful football - North Melbourne's forté - very much to the fore.  With the 'three Bs' - Briedis, Blight and Byrne -  in stupendous form, the Kangaroos were headed only briefly in procuring an impressive 27 point victory, which but for some wayward kicking for goal would have been much heftier.  There were brief occasions when Collingwood threatened to get back into the game, only for North to steady, and pull away once more.  

"As you think back on this day, which has been one of the great spectacles in Australian sport" declared Barassi to his players in his intensely emotional post-match summation, "I hope you'll agree that all that hard work......and all that shit put upon you by the coach......was worth it……”[4] There is little doubt that the players, to a man, would have agreed that it was, but unfortunately for the club's supporters the memories generated by this remarkable achievement would have to last them for a long, long time.

After slumping to an unprecedented wooden spoon in 1976 Collingwood burst out of the blocks in spectacular fashion a year later, winning 8 of their first 9 matches to top the ladder. Moreover, that was where they stayed, ending the home and away season with an 18-4 record and giving rise to the widespread opinion that 1977 just might be their year. This impression was reinforced when they scored a battling 2 point win over Hawthorn in the second semi final. In the grand final clash with North Melbourne, however, the dreaded “Colliwobbles” struck with a vengeance as the Magpies surrendered a 27 point three quarter time lead and had to rely on a last gasp goal from “Twiggy” Dunne to snatch a draw. The stay of execution was only brief though: in the following week’s replay Collingwood were comprehensively outplayed from start to finish, leaving the Magpies without a senior grade premiership for fully two decades, easily the longest such drought in their history.

Hawthorn qualified for the finals in second place having won 17 of their 22 matches, and hopes were raised of a second consecutive premiership when they convincingly defeated North Melbourne in the qualifying final. Scores were Hawthorn 19.11 (125) to North 12.15 (87). The second semi final clash with Collingwood was a rivetting affair which could have gone either way, but in the end it was the Magpies who prevailed - just. That meant that the Hawks would have to overcome North Melbourne once more in order to reach the grand final, and most observers expected them to do precisely that. Inexplicably, however, they put in probably their worst performance of the season to go down by 67 points, and a campaign which had promised so much ended in ignominy.

In 1977 the VFL started a new night competition which was contested by all twelve league clubs. In the final, at Waverley, Hawthorn defeated Carlton 14.11 (95) to 11.5 (71) in front of a crowd of 27,407.

The Hawks’ ranks were bolstered in 1977 by the return to the club of champion full forward Peter Hudson, who duly topped the league goal kicking list for the fourth time in his career, bagging 110 goals. Statistically the most prolific full forward in the history of the game, Hudson can also lay strong claims to having been the best. All told, Hudson played a total of 289 senior games for New Norfolk, Hawthorn and Glenorchy between 1963 and 1981, netting 1,721 goals at an average of 5.95 goals per game. He also kicked a further 317 goals in other games such as interstate matches for Tasmania and Victoria, intrastate football for the TFL, night games, state and Australian championship matches, and so forth, for an Australian record career total of 2,038 senior goals. The key to Hudson's success was an indefatigable desire to gain possession of the football, which he did repeatedly by virtue of his strength, vigorous, pacy leading, and excellent handling and marking skills.  Topping this off, he was a meticulously accurate kick for goal, albeit relying, almost exclusively, on an old fashioned tumble punt which would have scored no points whatsoever for “artistic merit”, and which seemed outmoded even in Hudson's era. Not that “artistic merit” ever contributed measurably to a premiership, of course.

As a coach, Hudson took charge of Hobart in 1986 and remained at the helm for two years, steering the side to consecutive unsuccessful finals campaigns.

When the official Tasmanian Team of the Century was announced in June 2004, no one was surprised to find Peter Hudson named as full forward.  He was inducted as an inaugural icon of the Tasmanian game the following year.

Richmond won 14 matches and drew 1 to qualify for the finals in fourth place. The Tigers then shrugged off a stern first half challenge from South Melbourne in the elimination final to coast to victory by 34 points, 13.10 (88) to 7.12 (54). This was only South’s second finals appearance of the 1970s; back in 1970 they had fallen at the first hurdle too, against St Kilda. This time the emotional drain of qualifying for the finals almost by the back door possibly contributed to their elimination final fade-out. With one home and away match left to play the Swans were in sixth place, 2 points adrift of fifth placed Carlton. Round twenty-two saw the Blues visiting Footscray while South Melbourne faced an ostensibly much trickier task: a trip to Arden Street to take on third placed North Melbourne. The match at the Western Oval was closely fought until half time at which stage the home side were a single point to the good. During the third term, however, the Bulldogs tore Carlton apart, adding 5.9 to 0.2 to effectively seal the match - and, as it turned out, the Blues’ fate. Not that anyone at Arden Street imagined this, for at three quarter time the Kangas led 13.8 (86) to South’s 9.9 (63) and looked on course for a comfortable victory. The Swans, however, got up to win the match by 10 points after running rampant in the final term. Scores were South Melbourne 15.13 (103) to North Melbourne 14.9 (93).

Despite bowing out of the premiership race at the first hurdle South appeared to be on the verge of perhaps the club’s greatest era since the war. Sadly, however, the next few years almost witnessed the club’s demise, and ultimately gave rise to a highly contentious relocation to Sydney, where the club continues to be based.

South had the honour of providing the 1977 Brownlow Medallist in the shape of Graham Teasdale. A forward during his 6 games with Richmond in 1973 and for the first two seasons of his South Melbourne career, Teasdale was thrown into the ruck in 1977 to spectacular effect, winning both the Brownlow and his club’s best and fairest award.  Thereafter, he never quite recaptured the same level of performance, but he remained a key contributor to the South cause, and when he sought a transfer to Collingwood in 1982 the club was, understandably, reluctant to clear him.  After standing out of football for several months, however, Teasdale finally got his way, but his time with the Magpies was effectively ruined by injury.  In a season and a half at the club he managed just 14 games and 21 goals to add to the 125 games and 138 goals he had played with the Swans.  At his best, Graham Teasdale's aerial brilliance and prodigious kicking made him one of the game's most exciting talents, but he produced his best form too intermittently to be regarded as a true champion.

Carlton’s failure to procure finals qualification was both disappointing and unexpected. The Blues were in the five every week from round one to round twenty-one but lost out after losing their final two matches of the season against Richmond by 3 points and South Melbourne by 3 goals. 

Seventh placed Footscray were consistently successful against the league’s lower ranking teams but emerged victorious from only one clash with a finalist; that was in round nineteen when Richmond were the victims.

Geelong finished well off the pace winning just 8 matches and losing several by embarrassingly sizeable margins. The Cats lacked strength in depth, and were little better than cannon fodder for the likes of Hawthorn and North. They did manage a noteworthy win against Collingwood in round sixteen, however, scraping home by 5 points despite having 15 fewer scoring shots. Final scores were Geelong 16.6 (102) defeated Collingwood 12.25 (97).

After defeating Hawthorn by 39 points in round sixteen Essendon looked poised to launch a realistic bid for finals participation. Instead, the Bombers went on to lose every one of their last 6 matches to finish totally out of the frame in ninth position.

Fitzroy, Melbourne and St Kilda shared the ability to kick noteworthy scores; unfortunately, they also had a tendency to concede even higher tallies. In fairness, this was an era when high scoring was the norm throughout Australia, with coaches only just beginning to devise dedicated defensive strategies. In the VFL all but two clubs - Geelong and St Kilda - managed to accumulate 2,000 points during the 22 home and away rounds, with Hawthorn averaging an astonishing 119 points a game. Geelong, by contrast, conceded an average of almost 122 points per match.

WANFL: Demons Do It Again

Fifteen wins from 21 qualifying round matches was sufficient to earn the Demons the minor premiership in 1977, and a 54 point second semi final crushing of Old Easts made them virtually unbackable flag favourites.  The key to Perth's dominance in the second semi final had been the performances of their rovers, Wiley and Mitsopoulos, together with the near impregnability of their backline, which constituted virtually a 'team within a team' where "the players know each other backwards, they have played together for years and their cooperation is second to none in the League”.[7]

It was more or less the same story in the grand final, which again pitted the Demons against Old Easts, except that on this occasion Perth's superiority was, if anything, even more complete.  After settling down marginally better in a torrid opening term, Perth went into the first change with a 13 point advantage. Thereafter, however, the game developed into a massacre of a sort seldom witnessed on the most important day on the football calendar as Perth added scores of 8.3, 7.3 and 7.3 over the course of the remaining three quarters to amass an all time WANFL grand final record tally of 26.13 (169).  East Fremantle, with 14.12 (96), were 73 points adrift. The Demons had so many good players that to pick out just a few seems almost churlish, but most media reports listed on-baller Wayne Currie, ruckman Wim Rosbender (who won the Simpson Medal), half back flanker Ken Inman, centreman Geoff Watt, wingman Alan Johnson and centre half forward Stephen Hargrave.  Perth's forward pocket Murray Couper was the game's top scorer with 6 goals to add to the 8 kicked in the secdond semi, when he had earned a surprise recall to the team. Ken Armstrong's avowed policy of concentrating on local talent was amply endorsed and vindicated in that full forward Doug Farrant, a Victorian who had played 70 VFL games with North Melbourne, was the only player in the victorious Perth twenty who hailed from outside the state of Western Australia.

East Fremantle won 14 of their 21 minor round matches to qualify for the finals in second place, ahead of third placed West Perth on percentage. They had triumphed in two out of three home and away games against Perth but found the Demons much too resolute and accomplished in both the second semi final and the grand final. In between Old Easts accounted for West Perth in the preliminary final by 16 points, 17.15 (117) to 15.11 (101). There was some consolation for East Fremantle supporters when Brian Peake was awarded the Sandover Medal. Peake had made his East Fremantle debut on 29th April 1972 against Perth, and immediately caught the eye as much for his mature temperament and toughness as for his undoubted football ability.

Peake truly began to blossom as a player in 1973 when he made his interstate debut, and in the following season's winning grand final he was many observers' choice as best afield, although the Simpson Medal was split between team mate Gibellini and Pretty of Perth.

Quick, tough, aggressive, and displaying tremendous endurance, Brian Peake was a dominant force for East Fremantle throughout the 1970s, winning the club's fairest and best award an incredible 5 times in succession between 1976 and 1980, as well the aforementioned 1977 Sandover Medal.  He was a prominent contributor to the club's 1979 grand final defeat of arch rivals South Fremantle, and his performances for Western Australia were also of the highest order.  In one game against Victoria in 1978 he had 23 kicks compared to 2 by his illustrious opponent, dual Brownlow Medallist Keith Greig.  At the 1979 state of origin carnival in Perth Peake skippered the Western Australians to victory and was rewarded with a Tassie Medal and captaincy of the All Australian team.  He was also named an All Australian after the 1980 Adelaide carnival.

Persuaded by these achievements that Peake was the finest footballer in the land Geelong officials enticed him to Kardinia Park in 1981 where he would play 66 games over the next four seasons.

Peake returned home in 1985 with plenty of football left in him, and immediately helped the Sharks to their first flag since 1979.  The following year he was again chosen as skipper of the All Australian team after leading the Sandgropers to their sixth national title.  A sixth Lynn Medal as East Fremantle's club champion in 1987 was the icing on the cake towards the end of a remarkable career, which ultimately finished in 1990 with a brief 10 game stint with Perth.

West Perth played consistently well during the minor round before downing East Perth, 14.17 (101) to 10.5 (65). However, as mentioned above, East Fremantle proved marginally too strong for them in the preliminary final.

The Royals finished off the minor with a resounding 114 point defeat of eventual premiers Perth. This clinched fourth spot on the premiership ladder ahead of South Fremantle but the side were unable to reproduce such stunning form during the finals and bowed out meekly at the hands of arch rivals West Perth.

The nearest thing to a highlight in South Fremantle’s otherwise unremarkable season was their feat in overcoming East Fremantle in two out of three Fremantle derbies. The Bulldogs also beat West Perth in round three, East Perth in round nine, and Perth in round eleven but for the most part they looked a little out of their depth against the league’s leading sides. A classic case in point was their 113 point loss to Perth in round four, the Demons winning 30.18 (188) to 11.7 (73). Bulldogs full forward Ray Bauskis was the WANFL's top goal kicker with 108 goals.

The bottom three clubs, Subiaco (7-14), Claremont (6-15) and Swan Districts (3-18) finished a long way off the pace in 1977 although all were capable of proffering an occasional challenge to the top sides.


Port’s Fitting Centenary Celebration

Port Melbourne captured their second successive VFA flag in 1977 with a 23.19 (157) to 7.15 (57) grand final mauling of Sandringham. Their 100 point winning margin was singularly apporopriate in that 1977 was the Association’s centenary year. In one of the mnost one sided premiership deciders ever the Boroughs led at every change by margins of 26, 65 and 96 points and then extended their lead to more than 100 points midway through the final term before easing off towards the end and allowing the Zebras a couple of late goals.

In second division the grand final pitted Mordialloc against Yarraville. In the second semi final clash between the teams Yarraville had won comfortably, but on grand final day the Bloodhounds kept their noses just in front for three quarters before racing away in the last term to record a convincing 38 point win, 19.19 (133) to 14.11 (95).

As an adjunct to the regular season the Association held a centenary cup competition which was won by Port Melbourne from Caulfield.


Turmoil in Tasmania

The Tasmanian Football Council, the official governing body for football throughout the state, was torn apart this year by the withdrawal of both the NTFA and NWFU. Although the intrastate series continued, the state premiership was not contested. Protracted negotiations to reform the TFC took place both during and after the 1977 season and eventually led to a reconstituted body, with equal representation from all three member organisations, the TANFL, NTFA and NWFU.

On the field of play Sandy Bay contested their seventh consecutive TANFL grand final and emerged victorious for the fourth time in a row. Opposed in the grand final by Glenorchy the Seagulls were in irrepressible form and won by 79 points, 19.9 (123) to 5.14 (44). The grand final curtain raiser was the deciding match in the Australian Schoolboys championship between Tasmania and Victoria wshich was one by the home state.

The other main premiers in 1977 were Scottsdale (NTFA) and Penguin (NWFU).


State of Origin Is Born

With traditional interstate contests widely regarded as outmoded owing to the VFL’s near invincibility the idea was hatched of allowing states to select players based on their geographical origins irrespective of where they happened to be based. The first ever state of origin contest therefore took place in Perth with a Western Australian team featuring several VFL-based players trouncing Victoria by 94 points, 23.13 (151) to 8.9 (57). Earlier in the season a Western Australian team comprised only of WANFL players had met the VFL in Perth and lost by 63 points affording clear evidence oif the fact that the VFL was bleeding West Australian football dry.

Western Australia and South Australia (featuring players from the WANFL and SANFL respectively) met one another twice during the season with the former state triumphing on both occasions. In a match held at Football Park to commemorate the centenary of the South Australian league the sandgropers proved real party poopers and won by 7 points, 15.18 (108) to 15.11 (101). In the return match in Perth the margin was 40 points.

A VFL representative side visited Hobart and annihilated Tasmania by 109 points. Scores were VFL 24.28 (172) to Tasmania 9.9 (63).

Two other interstate contests took place in 1977 with the most noteworthy occurring in Brisbane where Queensland scored an unexpected but whoilly meritorious win over the VFA. Final scores were Queensland 14.18 (102) defeated the VFA 13.17 (97). Meanwhile in Canberra the ACT comfortably overcame New South Wales, winning by 39 points, 18.24 (132) to 14.9 (93).


Other Premiers

In the NSWAFL grand final Western Suburbs defeated North Shore by 40 points to claim their third flag in four seasons. QAFL premiers were Western Districts, who downed Wilston Grange in a thrilling grand final by 5 points. In the ACTAFL Manuka contested their fifth straight grand final and emerged victorious for the fourth time. Their opponents were Eastlake who had comprehensively beaten them in the previous year’s premiership decider. Finally, in the NTFL  grand final Waratahs accounted for St Marys by 13 points thus securing their thirteenth senior grade flag.


FOOTNOTES

[1] For a more detailed description of the initial training session of the 1977 season, see The Coach by John Powers, pages 4-8. 

[2] Ibid, page 119.

[3] Ibid, page 127.

[4] Ibid, pages 157-8.

[5] Up Where Cazaly? by Leonie Sandercock and Ian Turner, page 172.

[6] Quoted in Gentleman Jack: the Johnny Cahill Story 1958-82 by John Wood, page 91.

[7] ”WAFL Football Budget”, 24/9/77, page 1.


Grand final results - VFL: Collingwood 10.16 (76) drew with North Melbourne 9.22 (76); Replay: North Melbourne 21.25 (151) d. Collingwood 19.10 (124); SANFL: Port Adelaide 17.11 (113) d. Glenelg 16.9 (105); WANFL: Perth 26.13 (169) d. East Fremantle 14.12 (96); VFA: Division One - Port Melbourne 23.19 (157) d. Sandringham 7.15 (57); Division Two - Mordialloc 19.19 (133) d. Yarraville 14.11 (95); TANFL: Sandy Bay 19.9 (123) d. Glenorchy 3.14 (32); NTFA: Scottsdale 15.19 (109) d. North Launceston 10.10 (70); NSWAFL: Western Suburbs 18.25 (133) d. North Shore 14.9 (93); NTFL: Waratahs 10.15 (75) d. St Marys 8.14 (62); QAFL: Western Districts 18.16 (124) d. Wilston Grange17.17 (119); NWFU: Penguin 11.18 (84) d. Cooee 11.14 (80); ACTAFL: Manuka 16.12 (108) d. Eastlake 14.9 (93); NFL: Norwood 10.9 (69) d. East Perth 9.7 (61).