Action from Tasmania versus the VFA - Ray Walker of Tasmania gets his kick in front of a full house at North Hobart Oval.
Sixteenth Interstate Carnival Won by Vics
The 1966 Hobart Carnival was one of the most successful on record with large crowds witnessing some excellent football. With both South Australia and Western Australia having provided a stern challenge to the VFL on numerous occasions since the 1961 carnival it was widely believed that a Victorian triumph was by no means guaranteed. In the event, the VFL did emerge as carnival champions, but in their game against the sandgropers in particular they did not get everything their own way. Ironically, the Western Australians were captain-coached by one of Victorian football's all time greats in the shape of former Fitzroy champion Kevin Murray, who at the time was on a two year sojourn with East Perth. Murray's performances in the gold and black of his adopted state in 1966 would earn him a second All Australian jumper, while team mate Barry Cable gave notice of what was to develop into a stellar career by securing the Tassie Medal. Arguably the most impressive performances of the carnival, however, came from a player wearing the rose, primrose and green of the host state. Peter Hudson's 20 carnival goals represented a post world war two record and went a long way towards securing his big time future with Hawthorn in the VFL.
In addition to the Carnival decider between the VFL and Western Australia, in which the Vics overcame a 16 point half time deficit to win by 15 points, there were a number of outstanding matches. South Australia looked 'home and hosed' against Western Australia before a desperate last quarter rally by the sandgropers secured the victory. Tasmania's game with the Western Australians also went right to the wire, with the home state just falling short after leading by 14 points at the long break. Even the VFA, despite its failure to win a match, made a contribution, particularly in the game against their fellow Vics whom they pushed all the way with a resilient and highly tenacious performance.
SANFL: Resurgent Double Blues Claim Top Prize
In his sixth season as Sturt coach Jack Oatey steered the Double Blues to their first premiership since 1940. After losing the 1965 grand final to Port Adelaide by just 3 points Sturt went all out to make amends and ultimately did so in impeccable style. Their only losses in the minor round came against Port Adelaide in rounds two and nine. The Magpies again got the better of the Blues in the second semi final, by a solitary point, but in hindsight this may have worked in Sturt’s favour, serving as a kind of wake up call. In the following week’s preliminary final against North Adelaide the Double Blues produced one of the most devastating exhibitions of finals football seen in South Australia since the war. With winners in almost every position Sturt won by 85 points, 22.14 (146) to 9.7 (61). Port in the grand final proved a somewhat trickier proposition, for the first two and a half quarters at any rate, but once the Double Blues clicked into gear the only question became how much they were going to win by. In the end they precisely doubled the Magpies’ score, winning 16.16 (112) to 8.8 (56). A week later they comprehensively defeated Collingwood, which had finished second in the VFL, thereby proving beyond any reasonable doubt that they were one of the leading teams in Australia.
Port Adelaide was more inconsistent than Sturt in 1965, losing 6 minor round matches, including both encounters with seventh placed Norwood and third placed North Adelaide. The team was widely lauded for the strength of its defence, but coach Fos Williams claimed that this was merely the result of a trade-off whereby Jeff Potter played more or less as an extra man in the backlines, thus, in effect, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
Prior to the grand final, Port appeared to “have the wood” on Sturt, winning the clubs’ round two clash by 2 points, their round nine fixture by 19 points, and an absorbing second semi final tussle by the narrowest of margins. Only in round thirteen were the Double Blues successful, a goal after the siren gioving them victory by a couple of points, 9.18 (72) to 11.4 (70). However, it was perhaps significant that the venue for this match was Port’s home ground, Alberton Oval. After winning there, any sense of inferiority which the Blues might have been experiencing - and there was much talk in the media at the time of Port being “a monkey on Sturt’s back” - must have been well and truly obliterated. On grand final day, the Magpies were conclusively put to the sword in a way which affirmed that the monkey, dislodged earlier in the year at Alberton, had now been well and truly laid to rest.
After narrowly missing the finals in 1965 North Adelaide returned to major round action in 1966 after finishing the minor round in fourth place with 13 wins and 7 losses. First semi final opponents South Adelaide were slight pre-match favourites, thanks in part to their marginally superior (14-6) home and ]away record, but perhaps mainly because of their slashing 20.14 (134) to 11.6 (72) victory over the Roosters in the teams’ previous meeting. Every game of football is different, however, and North won the first semi final with some comfort, 15.14 (104) to 11.13 (79). Sturt in the preliminary final were an entirely different matter though. Playing fast, precise, incisive football they tore the Roosters to pieces leaving the brains trust at Prospect to go back to the drawing board.
Of immeasurably greater long term significance, however, the club's Annual Report for 1966 noted:
High hopes are held that Barrie Robran ......will continue to show the form of this season's Second Eighteen Finals. Barrie could be an important acquisition to our senior side.
Prophetic words indeed!
For fourth placed South Adelaide the 1966 season was one of unfulfilled promise. The Panthers opened the minor round in fine style with a 17.6 (108) to 12.15 (87) defeat of Port Adelaide. In hindsight the win was notable as it was the only occasion all season, apart from the grand final, that Port conceded in excess of 100 points.
South’s end to the minor round was perhaps even more impressive as they won seven of their last eight matches to enter the finals in a confident frame of mind. However, as noted above, a more fluent and dynamic North Adelaide side promptly put an end to the Panthers’ premiership hopes. Even worse was to follow as it was announced that 1964 premiership coach Neil Kerley would be leaving the club in 1967 to join Glenelg.
Fifth placed West Torrens improved greatly on their 1965 showing but the general feeling was that the season was still somewhat unsatisfactory. After thirteen minor round matches the Eagles were sitting pretty in second place but they then lost the ensuing half a dozen games to plummet out of finals considerations. Injuries to key men played a part, but there was also a feeling, evidenced in matches such as a 77 point loss to Port and a 52 point defeat to Sturt, that the team had a soft underbelly. Ironically, in the final home and away match of the season, when finals qualification was no longer possible, Torrens produced probably their best display of the season in handing out a 10 goal belting to North Adelaide.
West Adelaide’s new coach Don Roach took steps to ensure that, whatever the team’s limitations in terms of talent, they would not be outdone when it came to fitness. It was arguably this more than any other factor that enabled Westies to rise three places on the premiership ladder as well as win 10 matches in 1966 compared to 4 a year earlier. Twenty-two year opld centreman Robert Day was once again the Blood ’n Tars’ most effective and eye catching performer and the club were relieved when he rejected overtures from no fewer than four VFL clubs: Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and North Melbourne.
Norwood had a disappointing year, winning just 9 matches (compared to 13 in 1965) to finish seventh. The Redlegs were probably the competition’s most inconsistent team, capable, for instance, of downing Port Adelaide one week and getting thrashed by Woodville the next. The undoubted highlight of the season for Norwood supporters was Ron Kneebone’s achievement in winning the Magarey Medal. Kneebone’s success was all the more remarkable in that he played most of the season at full back, a position all too often ignored by umpires when allocating votes.
Woodville improved by two spots on the ladder in 1966, finishing eighth. The side was as physically tough as any, but they tended to rely too much on just a handful of players. When centreman Bob Simunson played poorly, for example, so almost invariably did Woodville.
Centrals’ fall from comparative grace (8 wins, and seventh place) in 1965 was perhaps predictable but was nevertheless taken hard out at Elizabeth. A 12.7 (79) to 10.10 (70) opening round defeat of North Adelaide inevitably raised hopes, but the Bulldogs managed just another 3 wins for the year. On a brighter note, West Australian import Tom Grlusich had a superb season, representing the state, and winning South Australian football’s richest individual prize, a car from the ADS7 World of Sport programme.
Optimists would probably describe 1966 as a transitional season for Glenelg, and to be sure the club blooded a large number of new young players. However, all too frequently it was left to a small nucleus of experienced hands - Colin Richens, Bob Anesbury, Doug Long and Brian McGowan - to shoulder the load. The appointment of Neil Kerley as club coach for 1967 had fans drooling with anticipation, however.
Tigers Triumph in Tassie
New Norfolk topped the TANFL ladder after the roster matches with a 15-3 record. However, despite having arguably the best full forward in Australia in the shape of Peter Hudson the Eagles bowed out of premiership contention in straight sets. In the second semi final they were edged out by Hobart by a margin of 11 points and they lost their preliminary final clash with Glenorchy by an identical margin.
Glenorchy and Clarence both won 10 roster matches to qualify for the finals in third and fourth places respectively. In the first semi final the Magpies overcame the Kangaroos by 20 points, 13.10 (88) to 9.12 (66).
The grand final between Hobart and Glenorchy was a rugged affair with the Tigers, coached by John Watts, triumphing by the narrowest of margins. Final scores were Hobart 10.14 (74) defeated Glenorchy 11.7 (73). Hobart went on to down NWFU premiers Burnie by 14 points in the state preliminary final but lost a tempestuous final clash with NTFA premiers City South in Launceston.
The interstate carnival held in Hobart was a highlight of the season with the Tasmanian team performing well and crowds totalling 91,347 attending the matches.
AND Tigers Triumph in Queensland
Mayne overcame the setback of a second semi final loss to Western Districts to capture their third QFL flag of the 1960s. The Bulldogs won the second semi by 15 points, 14.21 (105) to 13.12 (90), before the Tigers overcame an inaccurate Wilston Grange 12.15 (87) to 4.22 (46) in the following week’s preliminary final.
Wilston Grange had earlier comprehensively ousted Coorparoo from premiership contention with a 16.20 (116) to 7.12 (54) first semi final win.
The grand final was another tight, tense affair with Mayne ultimately turning the tables on the Bulldogs and edging home by 8 points, 16.18 (114) to 16.10 (106).
Other States and Territories
In Sydney, the NSWAFL grand final was a repeat of the previous season’s with Western Suburbs convincingly downing St George. Final scores were Western Suburbs 15.22 (112) to St George 10.10 (70). Newtown and Eastern Suburbs were the other finalists.
In Canberra, Eastlake won their fifth consecutive premiership, and their sixth in seven years. Opposed by Ainslie in the grand final the Demons won by 29 points, 13.16 (94) to 8.17 (65). Manuka and ANU made up the final four.
St Mary’s won the NTFL flag with a 17.11 (113) to 11.10 (76) grand final defeat of Nightcliff. Darwin came third, Waratahs fourth, and Wanderers fifth and last.
 Fearful of opposition spies, Saints coach Allan Jeans called an immediate halt to the training session, and the fact that Baldock had suffered a recurrence of his injury was not widely known until after the grand final.
 Football Greats of Western Australia Volume One by Anthony James, page 6
 “North Adelaide Football Club 1966 Annual Report”, page 24.
 Day eventually joined Hawthorn for whom he played 30 senior grade matches including the winning grand final of 1971 against St Kilda.
 To be more specific, Norwood defeated Port 10.9 (69) to 9.5 (59) in round four, and lost 6.17 (53) to 14.12 (96) the following week. It should be noted that, whatever their respective positions on the premiership ladder, the Redlegs have almost invariably been capable of producing something special when confronted by the Magpies.
Grand final results - VFL St Kilda 10.14 (74) d. Collingwood 10.13 (73); SANFL: Sturt 16.16 (112) d. Port Adelaide 8.8 (56); WANFL: Perth 11.25 (91) d. East Perth 10.15 (75); VFA: Division One - Port Melbourne 13.12 (90) d. Waverley 6.11 (47); Division Two - Prahran 17.12 (114) d. Geelong West 5.15 (45); TANFL: Hobart 10.14 (74) d. Glenorchy 11.7 (73); NTFA: City-South 9.13 (67) d. Scottsdale 7.7 (49); NSWANFL: Western Suburbs 15.22 (112) d. St George 10.10 (70); NTFL: St Marys 17.11 (113) d. Nightcliff 11.10 (76); QAFL: Mayne 16.18 (114) d. Western Districts 16.10 (106); NWFU: Burnie 7.7 (49) d. Latrobe 5.11 (41); CANFL - Eastlake 13.16 (94) d. Ainslie 8.17 (65); TSP: City-South 10.15 (75) d. Hobart 9.13 (67).
Hobart Carnival Results - Western Australia 26.18 (174) d. VFA 5.11 (41); VFL 26.24 (180) d. Tasmania 11.13 (79); Tasmania 19.27 (141) d. VFA 7.11 (53); VFL 16.23 (119) d. South Australia 7.9 (51); VFL 14.17 (101) d. VFA 9.7 (61); Western Australia 13.11 (89) d. South Australia 10.14 (74); Western Australia 17.13 (115) d. Tasmania 6.10 (46); South Australia 21.20 (146) d. VFA 9.11 (65); South Australia 14.7 (91) d. Tasmania 9.13 (67); VFL 15.10 (100) d. Western Australia 13.7 (85).
BACK TO: Season Reviews
Action from the meeting between Western Australia and South Australia. From L-R the players pictured are: Neil Kerley (SA), Keith Slater (WA), John Cahill (SA - holding ball), John Phillips (SA), Jeff Potter (SA),, Ken Bagley (WA), Mel Whinnen (WA) and Peter Anderson (SA).
A review of the 1966 Football Season
VFL: Saints Finally Claim Top Prize
When Darrel Baldock held the Victorian Football League premiership cup aloft at the Melbourne Cricket Ground late on the afternoon of September 1966 it represented the culmination of almost a century's worth of effort, dedication, determination and despair - mostly despair. For if the history of the St Kilda Football Club is illustrative of anything it is the fact that triumphant achievement in sport represents only a part - and as often as not a very small part - of the whole story. St Kilda's dramatic one point win over Collingwood on that “one day” in 1966 stands out like a beacon over a predominantly dour and gloomy terrain, and yet during the 1960s St Kilda was beyond question one of Australian football’s most glamorous and well supported clubs.
St Kilda qualified for the finals in second place on the ladder with 14 wins from 18 matches and a superior percentage to both Geelong and Essendon, who also had 14 wins apiece. Crucial to the Saints’ success was their impeccable home form: 9 matches played, and 9 matches won, many by percentage boosting margins. In the second semi final they were opposed by Collingwood who had topped the ladder with a 15-3 record. The Magpies had trounced the Saints in their only minor round clash and at quarter time of this encounter it seemed another thrashing might be on the cards with Collingwood 31 points to the good. St Kilda fought back, however, and over the remainder of the match they were perhaps the better side. The Magpies held on though and ultimately sneaked home by 10 points leaving Saints fans inordinately grateful for the double chance.
In hindsight, it is possible to aver that the extra finals match was beneficial to St Kilda. Moreover, it provided the team with the opportunity for revenge over the team which had bested them in the previous season’s grand final, Essendon. On this occasion the Saints proved consummately superior, adapting much better than the Bombers to the wet conditions, and winning in the end by a margin of 42 points, 15.4 (94) to 7.10 (52). This ought to have primed them adequately for the grand final re-match with Collingwood, but in fact the Saints went into the game with some concerns, not least a niggling knee injury to their champion skipper Darrel Baldock which was worsened during Thursday night training. Moreover, the Saints already knew that they would be starting the grand final without a couple of key players in the shape of ruckman Carl Ditterich (suspended) and wingman Ross Oakley (injured during the second semi).
The big match was no classic, but such fixtures seldom are. It was, however, tough, close and exciting. Watched by a crowd of 102,055 St Kilda started much better than in the second semi final, and at quarter time they held a tentative 5 point advantage. Collingwood fought back, and the main interval saw them a point in front, but the Saints then seized the initiative to lead 8.9 (57) to 7.11 (53) at the last change.
The final term was a roller coaster ride for fans of both teams. At first, St Kilda seemed to be in command, and at one stage they led by 13 points. However, playing with great energy and determination Collingwood rallied, and with time-on looming a behind to Des Tuddenham brought them level. Two minutes into time-on came the moment with which every St Kilda fan is acutely familiar: half forward flanker Barry Breen gathered the ball and sent the last of his 17 kicks of the match wobbling towards the empty goal mouth, whereupon it veered slightly and went through for a behind.
Collingwood just had time to mount one last attack, but this was stalled by Saints full back Bob Murray and St Kilda had won by the narrowest of margins. Five decades on it remains the club’s only senior grade premiership triumph.
But spare a thought for Collingwood. Since 1955 the Magpies had played in six grand finals and only won one. In 1966 they were the best team during the home and away rounds and deservedly qualified for the grand final with a good win over St Kilda. That grand final could scarcely have been more evenly contested and it might reasonably be argued that the way in which it was decided was the football equivalent of the tossing of a coin. Collingwood had now suffered two consecutive last gasp grand final losses, and it would not be long before the “colliwobbles” myth was invented, and used indiscriminately by fans of other clubs to rub salt into the hated Magpies’ wounds.
Essendon, like St Kilda, owed their finals qualification in some measure to a 100% home record. The Bombers were fourth on percentage after the minor round, just as they had been twelve months earlier. In 1965 they swept all opposition aside en route to a spectacular and decisive premiership victory. This time round they got off on the right footing by downing Geelong, 15.6 (96) to 12.14 (86), in the first semi final. For three quarters Essendon was comfortably superior to the Cats but the last term had them grimly hanging on. Nevertheless, they had triumphed.
A fortnight later against St Kilda it was another matter entirely as the straight kicking Saints simply outclassed the Bombers, with the consensus of opinion being that they - the Bombers - were a little past their best, and would need to rebuild.
Fourth placed Geelong entered the finals race in the best form of any top four side after winning their last ten home and away matches. Included in that run were victories over Essendon by 10 goals and St Kilda by 23 points , both at Kardinia Park. However, the Cats could not reproduce their minor round form in the finals, and bowed out somewhat meekly against the Bombers.
Richmond were comfortably installed in the top four for much of the season but the Tigers were left ruing a round eight draw with North Melbourne which ultimately saw them miss the finals. Had they won that match they would have qualified for the finals in fourth place as their percentage was comfortably superior to that of Essendon. Richmond’s best win of the season came in round five against Geelong at Kardinia Park, the Tigers winning 15.8 (98) to 12.8 (80). The team’s time in the sun would shortly be upon them.
Sixth place went to a Carlton side that won 10 and lost 8 matches, exactly as they had done a year previously. The Blues were at their best when weather conditions were inimical to good football. For example, they overcame Collingwood 7.11 (53) to 6.6 (42) in round eleven and St Kilda 7.15 (57) to 5.11 (41) a fortnight later. Both matches took place at Princes Park, which was in dreadful condition. Statistically Carlton had an excellent defensive record, bettered only by Collingwood, but their attack was the third worst in the competition.
North Melbourne had another disappointing season which produced just 7 wins and a draw from 18 matches. The Kangaroos had better fortune in the VFL night competition which they won for the second straight time. In the grand final they trounced hawthorn by 53 points, 20.12 (132) to 12.7 (79).
South Melbourne finished eighth with a 7-11 record. They were capable of kicking a good score, but equally prone to defensive culpability.
Ninth place for Hawthorn represented an improvement over their 1965 showing when they finished dead set last. However, in terms of wins - 5 in 1966 compared to 4 the previous year - the improvement was modest. The Hawks badly needed someone to take the bull by the horns and get the most out of an undoubtedly talented group of players and such a person was, as it happened, waiting in the wings.
Footscray (4 wins), Melbourne (3 wins) and Fitzroy (1 win) all seemed out of their depth in the VFL this year. Melbourne fans were particularly distraught: their team had been the competition pace setters for over a decade until midway through the 1965 season, and the last time they finished as far down the list was 1953.
VFA: Revenge for Borough
Port Melbourne gained revenge over their 1965 nemesis Waverley with an impressive and comfortable defeat of the Panthers in the 1966 VFA grand final. The Borough overcame a sluggish start to win 13.12 (90) to 6.11 (47) with future South Melbourne Brownlow Medallist Peter Bedford, playing in the centre, the best player afield.
The division two grand final proved even more one-sided although eventual victors Prahran, like Port Melbourne, had to recover from a slow first term. Eventually, however, the Two Blues played all over Geelong West to win by 69 points, 17.12 (114) to 5.15 (45).
Frankston became the latest team to be admitted to the VFA this year.
WANFL: Perth Power to Top
At the end of the 1965 season Perth great Ern Renfry had decided to call it a day as the club’s coach. In looking for a replacement, the Perth committee decided straight away that they wanted an on field leader. Given that four of the previous five WANFL premierships had been won by teams with playing coaches this seemed an eminently logical decision. The committee may also have felt that, given the side's unfortunate penchant for inconsistency, an inspirational on field presence, along the lines of Austin Robertson or Ern Henfry during their early spells at the club, would be more likely to bring out the best in the players than would an apparently remote figure in the dug-out. During the early part of the close season, names like Bob Skilton, Verdun Howell and Noel Teasdale were bandied about as potential replacements for Henfry, with Teasdale reputed to have been offered an unprecedented £4,000 a year. In the end, however, the man appointed came as a complete surprise to almost everyone, and his arrival at Lathlain did not exactly meet with universal approval among the club's fans, most of whom would have preferred either a big name interstate coach, or someone with a definite Perth connection. Malcolm Atwell, "a tough and uncompromising defender” from East Perth, was neither. Perhaps wisely, Atwell opted to maintain a very low profile in the run up to the start of the season, although he did publicly declare that Perth would be the fittest team in the competition, a pledge with which few observers would be able to find fault once the season commenced.
Another key development at Perth at this time was the election of motor vehicle magnate Cliff Houghton as president. Over the next four years Houghton's vision and drive would admirably complement the inspirational on-field leadership style which came to be Mal Atwell's trademark.
Although Atwell had never previously coached, the Perth committee clearly felt extremely confident that he was the right man for the job as they agreed to pay his former club a total of $3,500 over two years to secure his clearance. Such a sum, while not unprecedented, nevertheless represented a substantial outlay for a club like Perth. In hindsight, however, the transaction was tantamount to daylight robbery, as Atwell went on to become one of the most successful and influential coaches in football history.
The new coach's impact was immediate. In the opening round of the 1966 season, Perth trounced South Fremantle by 143 points, and thereafter, although occasional matches were dropped, it proved itself by some measure the most consistent combination in the league. Whether it was the best would not be determined until the finals, but in the meantime hefty wins over the teams predicted to be its closest rivals, namely East Perth (by 46 points in round 4), West Perth (68 points, round 5) and East Fremantle (68 points, round 10), made it clear that Perth would take an awful lot of beating in the race for the 1966 flag. Needless to say, Atwell's achievement in eliciting new levels of consistency and excellence from his charges had the effect of converting most of the club's hitherto disgruntled fans. Just prior to leaving for Hobart with the Western Australian carnival squad, Atwell's stock with Perth's supporters rose higher still when he publicly predicted that the team would win the 1966 premiership. It was a bold and in some senses canny prediction, but one cannot help but wonder how the club's fans would have reacted had it not come to fruition.
The 1966 Hobart Carnival proved to be an excellent one for players from the Perth Football Club, and the confidence and experience gleaned presumably helped those individuals rise to the occasion later in the year when faced, for the first time as far as most of them were concerned, with the pressure, tension and intensity of a league grand final. Perth had four players in Western Australia's carnival squad, with rover Barry Cable earning selection in the All Australian team as well as winning the Tassie Medal for the carnival's best player. He was Perth's second Tassie Medallist, emulating former club great Merv McIntosh, who had won the award at Adelaide in 1953.
With 16 wins from 21 minor round games Perth topped the ladder heading into what proved to be a highly memorable finals series in which attendance records were set at each of the four games. In the second semi final a crowd of 30,077 saw Perth narrowly overcome a stern challenge from Mal Atwell's former team mates at East Perth, who were now being coached by Victorian champion Kevin Murray. The Demons won 13.21 (99) to 13.16 (94) and were no doubt totally unsurprised to find themselves lining up against the same opposition a fortnight later in the grand final.
With 46,763 spectators crammed into Subiaco Oval, Perth opened brilliantly after Atwell had won the toss and elected to kick with the aid of a stiff breeze. At quarter time, Perth led 6.7 (43) to 2.1 (13), with rover Barry Cable, who had booted 3 early goals, and wingman Peter Krepp especially prominent. During the 2nd term, however, the Royals fought back fiercely, and at half time the game was all square, 8.10 (58) apiece.
As Perth fans watched in horror, their team squandered opportunity after opportunity during the third term, and instead of building a match-winning lead they headed for the three quarter time huddle just 17 points to the good, after kicking 1.12 to 0.1 for the quarter. In the final term, however, Perth showed beyond any doubt that it was a team of true premiership class, defending tenaciously and, when occasion allowed, pouring into attack in numbers to snatch vital scores. East Perth tried everything, but to no avail, as Perth ran out winners by 16 points, 11.25 (91) to 10.15 (75). A lesser team would certainly have let its third quarter waywardness de-rail it, but Perth under Atwell was already on the verge of greatness. Six goal Barry Cable won the Simpson Medal, while Astone, Krepp, Lawrence, Jenzen and Pyke were among many other fine players for the victors.
East Perth deservedly made the grand final in 1966 but there could be no denying that Perth “had the wood” on them. In the minor round the Demons won 2 out of 3 and followed this up with a 5 point success in the second semi final. Having noted that, the Royals actually entered the finals in the best form of any of the four participants as they had won their previous 9 games. As has often been remarked, however, finals football is a completely different matter to the mundane, bread and butter affair of home and away fixtures.
East Perth’s arch rivals West Perth also approached the finals in excellent form, having won 8 of their last 9 games. In front of 32,036 spectators they improved that record to 9 wins out of 10 with a comfortable demolition job on East Fremantle in the first semi final. The Cardinals won by 6 straight kicks, 13.17 (95) to 7.17 (59) and would undoubtedly have approached their preliminary final clash with East Perth in confident frame of mind. However, they produced easily their worst performance since the first half of the season and went down by 7 goals, 12.11 (83) to 19.11 (125).
Reigning premiers East Fremantle never really looked like being good enough to repeat their 1965 success. “Big Bob” Johnson’s feat in topping the league’s goal kicking list was a minor highlight. He booted 92 goals.
Fifth placed Claremont finished well off the pace in 1966, managing just 8 wins from 21 minor round matches. It would be a long time between drinks for the Tigers.
In 1965 Swan Districts made the grand final. A year later they plummeted to sixth place after only managing 7 wins, plus a draw with Subiaco. There was some consolation to be derived from rover Bill Walker’s second successive Sandover Medal win, however.
Subiaco and South Fremantle proved to be the league’s chopping blocks in 1966. The Lions’ best result was probably a 15.10 (100) to 12.21 (3) home victory over Perth in round six while the pick of South’s performances also came in round six when they trounced West Perth by 69 points at Fremantle Oval.