Explore the History of australian football

Barrie Barbary, North Adelaide's 1960 Magarey Medallist

Footscray's 1960 Brownlow Medallist John Schultz

Big Breakthrough by Tassie

Some sports lend themselves readily to acts of 'giant killing'.  Soccer, where superiority in skill does not translate automatically into superiority on the scoreboard, is perhaps the classic example.  In Australian football, however, examples of ostensibly 'inferior' teams triumphing against the odds over significantly stronger opponents are comparatively rare.  In part, this is because Australian football, by its very nature, precludes a 'playing for a draw' mentality.  Whereas in soccer it is possible to claim even the sport's most illustrious prizes by deliberately setting out merely to contain rather than outscore the opposition, such containment policies would never work in Australian Rules where success depends on the effective deployment and expression of skill rather than on its attempted suppression.

Tasmania's renowned 13.13 (91) to 12.12 (84) defeat of a VFL 'second best' selection at York Park, Launceston on 13th June 1960 must therefore be regarded as proving that, on that one occasion at least, the Tasmanian players were better exponents of the skills of Australian football than their much vaunted opponents.

Exhibiting great pace and combining with greater effectiveness than their opponents Tasmania jumped the 'big V' with 4 goals to 1 in the opening term, and thereafter the Vics were always playing “catch up” football.  With former Melbourne rover Stuart Spencer prominent for the apple islanders Tasmania maintained its dominance during the second and third terms, but as the fourth quarter opened there were signs that the Victorians were at last starting to find form.  With Essendon's Ken Fraser controlling the pivot, and club mate Hugh Mitchell marking everything which came his way, the Vics hit the front midway through the final term and from that point on might reasonably have been expected to run away with affairs (after all, this was what almost invariably happened where VFL interstate sides were concerned).  However, with more than 15,000 Tasmanians baying for Victorian blood it was the home side which suddenly lifted a notch, and, in a desperation move, the VFL's captain-coach, “Bugsy” Comben, ordered his players to stack the back lines.  This proved to be a costly mistake as Tasmania were able to exploit the spaces created elsewhere on the ground and surge to a 7 point victory.  Perhaps the most ironic feature of the match was that arguably the two best players afield were Victorian Stuart Spencer, playing for his adopted state of Tasmania, and the VFL's Taswegian centre half back Verdun Howell.

The win was in some senses the culmination of a great career for Tasmania's coach, Jack Metherell, a West Australian who had earlier played in the VFL with Geelong, and coached North Hobart with great success.  Metherell was a stickler for hard work and team discipline, attributes which his charges consistently exhibited to optimum effect on arguably the most auspicious afternoon in Tasmanian football history. Tasmania’s triumph was all the more laudable given that no fewer than seven players, including the great Darrel Baldock, were unavailable for selection.

Bad weather restricted TANFL attendances at roster matches to just 164,369 but the finals, apart from the grand final, were well attended. The final four comprised Clarence, Hobart, North Hobart and New Norfolk. In the first semi final North accounted for New Norfolk by 45 points, 13.10 (88) to 5.13 (43). A week later a crowd of 11,235 watched a finals hardened Hobart side downing minor premiers Clarence 14.20 (104) to 13.15 (93). The ‘Roos’ major round inexperience showed both on this occasion and in the following Saturday’s preliminary final when, watched by 12,467 spectators, they succumbed to North Hobart by 4 points.

The grand final was played in appalling weather, as a result of which only 6,001 fans attended. With scoring at a premium because of the conditions Hobart just managed to hold off a stern challenge from North to win by 4 points, 6.7 (43) to 6.3 (39).

The state preliminary final, played at Devonport, saw NWFU premiers Burnie getting the better of Hobart by a solitary point, 9.9 (63) to 9.8 (62). Burnie then had to travel to Launceston for the state final in which City-South proved too strong. Scores were City-South 15.17 (107) defeated Burnie 12.17 (89).

Eastern Suburbs' Run Ends

Sydney Naval defeated Newtown in the NSWANFL grand final, thereby becoming the first side, other than Eastern Suburbs, to claim the premiership in eight years. St George finished third while Eastern Suburbs dropped to fourth. For the second successive season Liverpool ended up with the wooden spoon.

‘Roos Rule the Roost in Sunshine State

Coorparoo’s long awaited first premiership finally arrived in 1960, and a small measure of extra satisfaction was derived from the fact that it was achieved at the expense of Coorparoo's grand final nemesis of three years earlier, Sandgate.  The 'Roos' revenge was emphatic as they won by 50 points, although the fact that they amassed a total of 40 scoring shots to 15 suggests that even this margin scarcely reflected their dominance.

Demons Dominate

The 1960s would prove to be easily the most successful decade in the history of the Eastlake Football Club, and they served notice of what was to come in 1960 with another undefeated CANFL premiership (following on from the one achieved in 1957).  This time around the performance was, if anything, even more conclusive, culminating in a 20.15 (135) to 9.9 (63) grand final demolition of Ainslie.

More Plunder for Saints

St Marys were a power in the NTFL almost from the start. Formed in 1952 in order to enable Tiwi Islanders employed by the Armed Services in Darwin to play regular organised football the side won a premiership in only its third season in the competition in 1954/55. Another premiership came the following year and further back to back flags were gained in 1958/59 and 1959/60, making St Marys the most successful NTFL side of the 1950s. The 1959/60 was claimed to the tune of 47 points at the expense of Buffaloes.

Interstate Review

A section two carnival took place in Sydney in  1960 with the following results:

New South Wales 14.24 (108); Queensland 13.19 (97)

VFA 19.31 (133); Canberra 3.11 (29)

New South Wales 13.14 (92); Canberra 13.12 (90)

VFA 22.22 (154); Queensland 3.7 (25)

Canberra 16.16 (112); Queensland 13.10 (88)

VFA 23.24 (162); New South Wales 8.9 (57)

Unsurprisingly, the VFA proved comfortably superior to all three so called “minor states”. In a challenge match played in Canberra after the carnival they downed perennial section two interstate champions Australian Amateurs by 4 goals. 

Tasmania’s match with a VFL second string combination is discussed above. The Tasmanians’ other interstate foray of 1960 took place in Adelaide where they succumbed to South Australia by 65 points after the South Australians had kicked 11 last quarter goals.

South Australia took on the VFL both home and away, losing by 50 points in Melbourne but winning by an all time record margin of 69 points in Adelaide. The VFL met Western Australia in Perth and won by 34 points, 18.15 (123) to 12.17 (89).

Grand final results - VFL: Melbourne 8.14 (62) d. Collingwood 2.2 (14); SANFL: North Adelaide 14.11 (95) d. Norwood 13.12 (90); WANFL: West Perth 17.13 (115) d. East Perth 12.11 (83); VFA: Oakleigh 18.14 (122) d. Sandringham 8.14 (62); TANFL: Hobart 6.7 (43) d. North Hobart 6.3 (39); NTFA: City-South 11.19 (85) d. North Launceston 12.8 (80); NSWANFL: Sydney Naval 9.12 (66) d. Newtown 9.9 (63); NTFL: St Marys 12.9 (81) d. Buffaloes 5.4 (34); QANFL: Coorparoo 16.24 (120) d. Sandgate 11.4 (70); NWFU: Burnie 12.10 (82) d. Cooee 7.15 (57); CANFL: Eastlake 20.15 (135) d. Ainslie 9.9 (63); TSP: City-South 15.17 (107) d. Burnie 12.17 (89).


[1] Unleashed: A History of the Footscray Football Club by John Lack, Chris McConville, Michael Small, Damien Wright,  page 207. 

[2] From an interview recorded on the video "It's a Grand Old Flag”.

[3] Farmer had previously won the Medal in 1956. He would later be awarded a retrospective Medal for 1957 after originally losing out on a countback to East Fremantle’s Jack Clarke.

WANFL: Classy Cardinals Coast to Victory

In what was an evenly contested season, West Perth topped the WANFL ladder after the minor round with 13 wins and 3 draws from 21 matches, 2 points clear of both East Perth and South Fremantle, with East Fremantle a further 4 points adrift in fourth place.  East Perth were, in Cardinals ruckman Brian Foley's words, "the gun team of the late '50s and early ‘60s”,[2] but in 1960 the Cardinals proved to have their measure.  They defeated the Royals by 24 points in the second semi final, and then a fortnight later overcame a slow start to add 8.7 to 1.2 in a match-winning second quarter burst, eventually easing home by 32 points.  Brian Foley, who booted 3 majors, added the Simpson Medal to his '59 Sandover, full forward Ross Ayre bagged 7 goals, and half back flanker Ray Marinko, full back John Towner, and ruck-rover Ross Kelly were among many notable contributors to what was an even, all round team performance of the highest class.  Warming the bench for the Cardinals that day was future champion and games record holder Mel Whinnen, while another West Perth legend in Bill Dempsey formed part of a guard of honour for the senior team as it ran onto Subiaco Oval, having just helped the reserves to victory in their grand final.

East Perth remained one of the league’s top clubs, and reached their fifth grand final in succession. West Perth had the Royals’ measure in the finals, however. East Perth ruckman Graham “Polly” Farmer emphasised his status as one of the pre-eminent footballers in the competition by winning the Sandover Medal for the second time.[3]

East Fremantle qualified for the finals in fourth place before overcoming local rivals South Fremantle in the first semi final by 17 points. A fortnight later in the preliminary final, however, they were outclassed by East Perth to the tune of 60 points.

South Fremantle reached the finals for the first time since 1956 but bowed out of the premiership race at the first hurdle. Full forward John Gerovich provided some cause for celebration by kicking 101 goals to top the WAFL goal kicking ladder for the second time.

Subiaco, who had contested the grand final in 1959, finished fifth and missed the finals by a win plus percentage. The Lions included East Fremantle (three times) and South Fremantle among their scalps for the season, but they proved incapable of toppling the top two.

Claremont had last contested the finals in 1952 and they won just 8 matches in 1960 to miss out once again. However, they did manage to defeat both East Perth and West Perth proving the old cliche that, on their day, they were as good as anyone.

Seventh place for Perth meant that they missed out on finals action for the first time since 1952, and only the third time since world war two. Swan Districts meanwhile finished last for the second time in a row after managing just a couple of wins for the year. Their situation appeared hopeless.

Graham Campbell (Fitzroy)

West Perth ruckman Brian Foley takes a typically strong grab.

SANFL: Roosters Rise From the Ashes

In 1959 North Adelaide had finished second to last in the SANFL with just 4 wins for the year from 18 matches, one of the worst returns in the club's entire history up to that point. Clearly, some drastic remedial action was required.

The club administration responded by appointing an experienced outsider, Jack McCarthy, as senior coach for the 1960 season. McCarthy had previously coached Port Adelaide at senior, seconds and colts level, and he immediately imbued his charges with a fresh appetite for success. Despite having basically the same group of players as in 1959 North charged up the list in 1960 to record 13 wins out of 18 and qualify for the second semi final. Once there, McCarthy had the satisfaction of seeing his new side overcome his old by 10 points after a tense, low-scoring struggle.

A fortnight later, North's opponents in the grand final were Norwood, and a huge crowd of 54,162 were treated to one of the all time great finals matches. From the start, North performed brilliantly, but the Redlegs' resistance was dogged. North led at every change by 9, 7 and 4 points before just keeping their noses in front in a tumultuous final term to clinch the premiership by 5 points, 14.11 (95) to 13.12 (90). Rover Barry Potts with 7 goals was best afield, while Gilbourne, Hammond, Gambling, Montgomery and 1960 Magarey Medallist Barrie Barbary also performed well.

Norwood recovered from a poor start which yielded just 2 wins from 6 matches to quaify for the first semi final in which they were opposed by West Adelaide. The Redlegs had lost by 18 points to West in their final home and away game of the season but on first semi final day they produced an assured and at times inspired performance to romp home by 47 points, 18.12 (120) to 10.13 (73).

Nobody - other than the Norwood fraternity - gave the Redlegs any chance of overcoming the might of Port Adelaide in the preliminary final. The Magpies, who were chasing an incredible seventh consecutive premiership, had won both minor round clashes with the Redlegs, but on this occasion it was Norwood who held all the aces en route to an emphatic 8.11 (59) to 3.14 (32) triumph. The Redlegs’ good form continued in the grand final but it was not quite good enough to overcome North. Most people in the crowd at Adelaide Oval that day would doubtless have been surprised if told that Norwood would not contest another grand final until 1975.

For the first time since 1952 the SANFL grand final would feature neither West Adelaide nor Port Adelaide. The Magpies were the pre-eminent side during the minor round but fell apart in the finals. They were perhaps missing their old mentor, Fos Williams.

West Adelaide somewhat surprisingly failed to do themselves justice in the first semi final against Norwood and their season was over. They had comfortably accounted for the Redlegs in both minor round clashes but that counted for nothing when it mattered.

West Torrens at least managed to maintain their impressive record of never having finished lower than fifth since world war two. However, the Eagles should really have done better. Comfortably ensconced in the top four after a 17.8 (110) to 6.13 (49) defeat of South Adelaide in round fifteen they then proceeded to lose their last three minor round matches to catapult out of contention.

Sixth placed Sturt finished with an 8-10 record. Their best victories came in roundsix against Norwood (13.13 to 9.17) and round ten against North (15.10 to 12.14). On the negative side of the ledger, in round sixteen the Blues provided bottom team Glenelg with one of their only two wins for the year.

South Adelaide, wooden spooners in 1959, improved by one place in 1960 despite winning just 3 of their 18 home and away matches. This was one more than a hapless Glenelg side which slumped to last for the first time since 1954.

VFL: Business as Usual for Mighty Demons

Melbourne's dominance of the VFL seemed more consummate than ever in 1960.  The side yet again topped the ladder after the home and away rounds, and for much of the second semi final encounter with Fitzroy it was a quintessential case of “men against boys” as the Demons won virtually every position en route to a 14.18 (102) to 4.16 (40) triumph.  The grand final brought a long awaited opportunity for revenge of sorts over Collingwood, and this was achieved in the most resounding way imaginable.  Melbourne won 8.14 (62) to 2.2 (14), with the Magpies' tally the lowest in a grand final since the inception of the Page-McIntyre finals system in 1930.  Indeed, the result could have been even more embarrassing for Collingwood, as both of its goals had a touch of luck about them: the first came after Melbourne full back “Tassie” Johnson dropped a mark in the goal square, and Ray Gabelich was able to snatch up the ball and score easily from point blank range; the second was the result of a long shot from John Henderson which only just eluded the goal line pack.  Best for Melbourne - and, needless to say, best afield - was centre half back John Lord, who was ably assisted by highly skilled but combative centreman Laurie Mithen, ruckmen Len Mann and “big Bob” Johnson, and dynamic, flame-haired wingman Brian Dixon. 

Over the ensuing three decades Collingwood fans would become accustomed, but by no means wholly resigned, to grand final disappointment, but it is at least arguable that no other reversal would be as conclusive and humiliating as that of 1960. The Magpies actually did well to reach the grand final as they only qualified for the finals in fourth place ahead of fifth team Hawthorn only on percentage. They then overcame Essendon in the first semi final by 9 points after trailing by 5 points at the last change. Scores were Collingwood 9.12 (66) defeated Essendon 7.15 (57). The preliminary final against Fitzroy a fortnight later was a similarly low scoring affair and once again the Magpies had to bridge a narrow three quarter deficit - 8 points in this case - before edging home by 5 points, 9.11 (65) to 8.12 (60). The grand final was a different matter, however. Despite the wet conditions, which many felt would be to Collingwood’s benefit, Melbourne’s teamwork and skill came to the fore and they were simply too good for the Magpies.

After finishing second to Melbourne only on percentage Fitzroy failed to do themselves justice in the second semi final, succumbing somewhat meekly to the Demons by 62 points. The preliminary final clash with Collingwood was the most exciting final in years and Fitzroy did everything but win it. In the third quarter they were consummately superior in all respects except accuracy in front of goal, registering 1.4 to the Magpies solitary goal. The Lions led by 8 points at the last change, an advantage which scarcely a true reflection of their dominance. During the final quarter Collingwood’s rucks, well held in check until now, took centre stage as the Magpies fought back. With only a couple of minutes to play Collingwood led by 7 points but Fitzroy refused to surrender and they surged forward in numbers. Graham Campbell was twice presented with opportunities to goal but he managed only minor scores to leave the Magpies winners by 5 points. It would be another twenty-six seasons before Fitzroy again finished as high on the ladder as third.

Essendon, runners up to Melbourne in 1959, dropped two places in 1960. The Bombers were solid during the minor round, winning 13 matches and losing 5 to qualify for the finals in third spot. In the first semi final they had chances to win but their kicking for goal was poor - somewhat ironic, given that, in the shape of Ron Evans, they had the league’s top goalkicker. Evans, who had also been the VFL’s leading goalkicker in 1959, booted 67 goals.

Fifth placed Hawthorn had an encouraging season under the stern tutelage of coach John Kennedy. The Hawks won 13 home and away games to miss out on finals participation only on percentage. Good things were just around the corner for the brown and golds as they intimated with wins at Victoria Park against Collingwood and Melbourne on the MCG, to name but two. After losing their opening 5 matches the Hawks simply got better as the season progressed, a trend which was set to continue in 1961.

St Kilda won half their matches in 1960 to finish sixth. The Saints’ best performances came in round five when they downed Collingwood by 2 points and round seven when they overcame Fitzroy by 4 goals. Both matches took place at St Kilda’s home venue of the Junction Oval.

Seventh placed Carlton won 8 matches and drew one (with Richmond). The Blues almost invariably defeated the teams below them on the premiership ladder but all their matches with top four sides ended in defeat.

The highlight of South Melbourne’s season was their triumph in the VFL’s night series. Opposed in the grand final by the more highly favoured Hawthorn they eased to victory by 13 points, 13.12 (90) to 8.11 (59). It was the Swans’ third triumph in the competition, which had only been running since 1956. Perhaps they were helped by the fact that matches took place at their own home ground of the Lake Oval. In the day competition South won just 7 of their 18 minor round fixtures.

Geelong had a generally dismal season, although the Cats did manage a win at Junction Oval against Fitzroy, making them one of only two teams to win there all year. Overall, however, 6 wins and a draw was a disappointing return which indicated that fresh blood was sorely needed. Fortunately for the club’s fans this would not be long in arriving.

Tenth place for Footscray represented an improvement on their wooden spoon of 1959. All 6 of their wins were against fellow cellar dwellers. They did have one significant reason to cheer, however, as their ruckman, John Schultz, won the Brownlow Medal. Renowned as much for his fairness as for his brilliance, there can have been few more fitting recipients of the award than Footscrays “gentle giant”, John Schultz. 

Recruited by the Bulldogs after he had played just 16 games with country side Boort, having played previously with Caulfield Grammarians in the VAFA, Schultz made his VFL debut in 1958 against Collingwood, and within 20 seconds of the opening bounce he was lying prostrate, unconscious, the victim of a Harry Sullivan back-hander.  Despite this strenuous introduction to league ranks, however, Schultz himself was never known to resort to underhanded activities of any kind during an illustrious eleven season, 188 game VFL career that saw him widely recognised by his fellow ruckmen as the most challenging and difficult opponent in the game.  During the early 1960s in particular Schultz stood head and shoulders, if not literally, then certainly in terms of impact and effectiveness, over every other ruckman in the VFL.  His Brownlow Medal win in 1960 was universally acclaimed, as were his invariably superlative performances in a Big V jumper (24 of them in all), which at the 1961 Brisbane carnival earned him an All Australian blazer.

Much more than just an effective knock ruckman, "Schultz was acclaimed for good tackling, elegant marking and hard, fair bumping”.[1]  He was also supremely fit and durable, on one occasion playing a club record 169 consecutive games.

Voted the Bulldogs' best and fairest player on five occasions, Schultz was Footscray through and through.

North Melbourne again disappointed, winning just 5 home and away games to finish eleventh. Richmond, however, were even worse, managing just 2 wins and 2 draws to plunge to the first ever VFL wooden spoon in their history.

VFA: Devils Dominate

In 1960 Oakleigh’s home ground underwent resurfacing work and was unavailable. Oakleigh trained at Toorak Park and played its home matches at Camberwell. The club comfortably qualified for the finals, but both Toorak Park and Camberwell became unavailable, and the players were forced to train using second rate facilities. However, despite this handicap, which was mitigated still further by a second semi final loss to Sandringham, Oakleigh went on to secure a fifth flag. After downing Williamstown in the preliminary final the side maintained its momentum to play all over Sandringham in the grand final and record an emphatic 10 goal win. Oakleigh's first ruck of Graham Ash, Vic Naismith and Ray Allsopp together with skipper and second ruckman John Coughlan were the cornerstones of the triumph.

At the end of this season the VFA, concerned at the sometimes alarming discrepancy in standard between top and bottom, decided to split the competition into two divisions, with promotion and relegation, from 1961.

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A Review of the 1960 Football Season