Explore the History of australian football

​WA's Tassie Medal winner Ken McAullay

​Malcolm Brown

​Michael Graham

​John Nicholls

​Robert Walls

​Ian Miller

WANFL: Royals’ Long Drought Ends

Since winning the 1959 premiership East Perth had given their supporters little but heartache. Grand finalists in 1960-1, 1966-7-8-9 and 1971 the Royals had somehow conspired to lose every time. Finally, in 1972 they found the winning formula. Coached by 'Mad Mal' Brown, one of the most colourful personalities ever to represent the club, East Perth had a defence second to none, with full back Ken McAullay securing the Simpson Medal for best afield in the grand final to go with the  Tassie and Simpson Medals he had won earlier in the season while representing Western Australia at the Perth interstate carnival. Opposed in the grand final by Claremont the Royals recovered from a slow start to prove consummately superior in every department with the exception of kicking for goal. Final scores were East Perth 9.17 (71) defeated Claremont 8.8 (56).

Immediately following their premiership victory East Perth became the first Western Australian club to participate in the Australian club championships in Adelaide, and although the Royals lost their semi final to Carlton the series tends to be remembered more for the sight of Malcolm Brown going berserk and laying into every Blues player within reach than it is for the results on the scoreboard.

Second-placed Claremont had won 2 out of 3 home and away clashes with East Perth only to go down to them twice in the finals.[7] The Tigers also topped the ladder going into the finals after losing just 3 of their 21 minor round matches - a club record. At their scintillating best, Claremont were far and away the best side in Western Australia, but crucially they lost form at precisely the wrong time, late in the season just prior to the finals. Nevertheless it was still the Tigers’ most noteworthy season since 1964, when they had last won the premiership.

For Perth 1972 was a promising season during which they improved more than other team in the competition. Much of the credit for the improvement belonged to new coach Barry Cable who unashamedly placed the emphasis on skill and who, but for a lack of strength in the ruck, might well have steered the Demons to the grand final. In the preliminary final clash with Claremont it was the Tigers’ supremacy in the ruck which paved the way for their 31 point win. In all other respects Perth either vied with or were superior to their opponents. A bright future was confidently predicted for the Demons. There was also a noteworthy achievement for one of Perth’s players: Ian Miller became the first centre half forward to win the Sandover Medal in the fifty-one year history of the award.

The only significant difference between reigning premier West Perth’s regular line-up in 1972 compared to the previous year was the absence of Graham “Polly” Farmer, who had retired. At first, the Cardinals rollercoaster seemed set to continue as they enjoyed a fine first half of the season, but this proved to be deceptive. In the end they did not so much seize fourth place on the ladder as fall into it. Nevertheless, they ought really to have won their first semi final clash with Perth. Ahead by 3 goals at the final change, and playing much the better all round football, they floundered in the face of the Demons’ added intensity in the last term to lose by 15 points.

East Fremantle had been warm pre-season favourites for the flag but in the end they failed even to qualify for the finals, albeit only on percentage. Going into their last matches of the season Old Easts and West Perth were level on points. The Cardinals lost to Perth, meaning an East Fremantle victory over East Perth would have secured fourth spot on the ladder. However, they put in a woeful performance and went down by 77 points giving rise to the consensus view that they did not deserve to participate in the major round.

Subiaco boasted a wealth of talent in the shape of the likes of full forward Austin Robertson junior (top league goalkicker with 98 goals), powerful ruckmen Mike Fitzpatrick and Brian Sierakowski, and silkily skilled half forward George Young. They also had one of the best and most innovative coaches in the business in the shape of Haydn Bunton junior. However, midway through the season they found themselves staring at a wooden spoon. Then, miraculously, everything seemed to click, and they finished the season as the competition’s form side with wins at West Perth and East Perth among their triumphs. They ended up just 1 win out of the four. Their supporters did not know it, but the Lions’ fine late season form was a herald of much better things to come in 1973.

Swan Districts beat all the other sides in the competition except Claremont and Perth but on many occasions during the year they looked out of their depth. Much the same could be said of wooden spooners South Fremantle whose fans would be hoping - fruitlessly, as it turned out - for a repeat of the events of 1969 and 1970. Last placed in the former year the southerners grabbed fourth place on the ladder the following season and then won all three finals matches to take out the flag. In 1972 they were impeded by numerous injuries but even their full strength team lacked the talent to topple the league’s top sides.

Given that it was a season during which much excellent football was produced it is perhaps a touch surprising to note that, in distinct contrast to South Australia, WANFL attendances declined markedly in 1972.

​Malcolm Blight

VFA: Devils and Roosters Triumph

Oakleigh made a surprise return to the VFA wionners’ enclosure. Captain-coached by former Melbourne ruckman “Big Bob” Johnson, who had enjoyed premiership success in Western Australia, the Devils swept all before them, most notably during the finals when they twice accounted for reigning premiers Dandenong by hefty margins. It was Oakleigh’s first, and ultimately only, divison one flag.

A crowd of some 15,000 crammed into Toorak Park for the second division premiership decider between Geelong West and Caulfield. They were treated to a close, exciting game, won by the former by a single straight kick after Caulfield had led by 2 goals at the last change. The Roosters’ premiership triumph was especially noteworthy as it was achieved unbeaten.

City-South Claim Bragging Rights in Apple Isle

In Tasmania, unlike the mainland states, top quality football is played not just in and around the capital city but also in the north and north west of the state. Sandy Bay might have convincingly won the Hobart-based TFL premiership with straight sets finals wins over New Norfolk but the Seagulls failed dismally in the state preliminary final. Opposed by NWFU premiers Latrobe in Devonport they succumbed meekly by 54 points after mustering a meagre tally of 4.8 (32) for the match. 

Captain-coached by Tasmanian football legend Darrel Baldock Latrobe not surprisingly became a warm favourite to down NTFA top dog City-South in the state premiership decider. However the Launceston-based Redlegs made the most of home city advantage to finish full of running and 6 goals to the good after the first three quarters had been evenly contested.

City-South thus became the first Tasmanian club to participate in the Australian club championships in Adelaide. They lost to North Adelaide in the semi final by 59 points and to East Perth by 7 points in the third and fourth places play-off. Despite the losses the Redlegs acquitted themselves well, particularly in their second match.

Bumper Crowd for NSWAFL Grand Final

Football’s increasing popularity in Sydney was reflected in the crowd of 8,100 which attended the NSWAFL grand final at Trumper Park. This might seem like a meagre total by southern states standards but it was the biggest turn-out in living memory for a football match in Sydney. Western Suburbs, which had suffered just one reversal during the minor round, won the premiership in convincing fashion with a 22.23 (155) to 12.14 (86) defeat of East Sydney. It was a reversal of the previous year’s grand final result and gave the Magpies their first premiership since 1969 and their sixth in total.

The state team showed some excellent form in 1972, convincingly downing both Queensland and a VFL Reserves combination. Equally noteworthy was the state schoolboy team’s success in one of two matches played against South Australia. Admittedly the margin was only a point, and South Australia easily won the other match, but the victory was notable in that it was New South Wales’ first at any level against South Australia.

Other States and Territories

Overall, crowds in the QAFL were up, although the grand final attendance of roughly 9,000 was not a record. Wilston Grange comfortably won that grand final with a 26.8 (164) to 11.14 (80) defeat of Sandgate, which had won the two previous premierships.

The CANFL grand final was even more one-sided with Eastlake trouncing Ainslie by 113 points.

In Darwin, St Marys achieved revenge over Darwin in the NTFL grand final with a 1 point triumph. Darwin had overcome the Saints in the previous four premiership deciders.


[1] Every season between 1968 and 1971 the VFL premiers and their South Australian premiers confronted one another on the Adelaide Oval in matches designated as being for the unofficial championship of Australia. In 1972 the competition became a knock-out series involving the premiership-winning teams of the four main football states: Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. For the first time therefore the “championship of Australia” label arguably had some credence.

[2] “The Advertiser”, 16/10/72, page 17.

[3] “Football Close Up 1973”, page 100.

[4] Ibid, page 34.

[5] Ibid, page 33.

[6] Geelong trailed at every change by 28, 49 and 31 points before adding 7.4 to 2.2 in the final term, in the process exposing frailties in their opponents which would resurface to haunt them during the 1972 finals series.

[7] The Royals won the second semi final 12.14 (86) to 11.3 (69).

Grand final results -VFL: Carlton 28.9 (177) d. Richmond 22.18 (150); SANFL: North Adelaide 19.14 (128) d. Port Adelaide 10.12 (72); WANFL: East Perth 9.17 (71) d. Claremont 8.8 (56); VFA: Division One - Oakleigh 25.17 (167) d. Dandenong 16.15 (111); Division Two - Geelong West 14.16 (100) d. Caulfield 14.10 (94); TANFL: Sandy Bay 18.9 (117) d. New Norfolk 10.14 (74); NTFA: City-South 11.7 (73) d. Launceston 2.15 (27);  NSWANFL: Western Suburbs 22.23 (155) d. East Sydney 12.14 (86); NTFL: St Marys 13.7 (85) d. Darwin 12.12 (84); QAFL: Wilston Grange 26.8 (164) d. Sandgate 11.14 (80); NWFU: Latrobe 11.16 (82) d. Burnie 8.12 (60); CANFL: Eastlake 26.19 (175) d. Ainslie 9.8 (62); TSP: City-South 14.14 (98) d. Latrobe 8.14 (62).

Perth Carnival Results - VFL 32.22 (214) d. Tasmania 4.8 (32); Western Australia 15.11 (101) d. South Australia 6.17 (53); Western Australia 17.22 (124) d. Tasmania 12.7 (79); VFL 17.9 (111) d. South Australia 8.9 (57); South Australia 22.24 (156) d. Tasmania 9.12 (66); VFL 15.19 (109) d. Western Australia 9.11 (65).

VFL: A Blues Blitz

In Victoria, the state’s emphatic triumph in Perth was treated as an inevitability. Of much greater interest were the weekly fixtures involving the dozen clubs of the VFL, and it cannot be denied that in 1972 these clubs combined to produce a bumper and, in some respects, record season. While full scale professionalism for players was still some way from being achieved there is no doubt that, in the VFL, football could, by 1972, legitimately be described as “big business”, a fact which had an inevitable impact on the way clubs comported themselves off the field. The VFL was also much more visible than had been the case even a decade earlier; TV replays of each week’s games were shown across Australia and in states outside Victoria this had the inevitable effect of stripping the competition of its mysique, of making it seem more accessible. Whereas during the ‘50s and ‘60s kids growing up in Perth or Adelaide aspired to play in the WANFL or SANFL by the 1970s the sights of the most talented had shifted firmly towards Melbourne, and the VFL.

The 1972 VFL season saw the replacement of the top four finals system with a final five. This saw the fourth and fifth placed teams playing off in an elimination match in the first week of the finals, while the second and third placed sides contested what was known as a qualifying final, with the victors playing the minor premiers the following week in the second semi and the losers playing the winners of the elimination final. From that point on the system was identical to that which had operated since 1931.

Prior to the start of the season Carlton was not expected to be a serious premiership contender as it was felt that the side was too inexperienced. However, the Blues turned this apparent handicap on its head with youngsters like David Dickson, Greg Kennerdy and Trevor Keogh all having sizeable impacts. Moreover, several players who had previously been in and out of the senior grade side seized their opportunities with both hands to make significant contributions to the flag win. Members of this group included Bruce Doull, who would go on to play 356 senior VFL games, Paul Hurst and John O’Connell.

Carlton won 18 and drew 1 of their 22 home and away matches in 1972, which was good enough to see them top the ladder. Despite this, it was second placed Richmond (18-4) which was the widespread premiership favourite, thanks largely to its victories over Carlton by 5 points in round four and 31 points in round fourteen. The Tigers duly qualified to face Carlton in the second semi final and after a tense, tightly fought match scores were level, 8.13 (61) apiece. The Blues, one might have thought, would have derived considerable confidence from this result, but if so it was not evident in the following week’s replay when they produced a meek performance in succumbing to the vibrantly intense and physical Tigers by 41 points. Many observers felt that the result was of particular significance in that it had occurred at the venue for the grand final, the MCG, whereas the drawn game had taken place at VFL Park.

In order to qualify for the grand final, the Blues had to confront St Kilda in the preliminary final. A crowd of 96,272 at the MCG saw Carlton struggle for three quarters to shrug off a defiant Saints side before pulling away with a 5 goals to 3 last term to clinch victory by 16 points.

Prior to the grand final, Richmond’s last defeat had occurred in round thirteen on 1st July. Given that, and the fact that they had already defeated Carlton three times in 1972, the Tigers were odds-on to win their first flag since 1969 and their eighth in total. The Blues, however, had other ideas, and with Alec Jesaulenko, Robert Walls, captain-coach John Nicholls, Peter Jones and Barry Armstrong to the fore they seized the iniative from the outset and never relinquished it. In terms of its high scoring it has never come close to being equalled, and unless the game undergopes an immense, unforseeable transformation it is unliquely that it ever will.

By half time, Carlton had already amassed a total (18.6) high enough to win most grand finals. By the end, losers Richmond had kicked 22.18, which equalled the highest grand final tally in history - prior to 1972, that is. Carlton finished on 28.9 (177) and triumphed by 27 points. Given that the Blues most emphatically had youth on their side there were many post-match comments to the effect that this was the birth of a new era of dominance for Carlton. Many of the people making those comments had also confidently predicted a Richmond victory in the ’72 grand final, however.

Despite losing the grand final - and deservedly - Richmond had for much of the year been the league’s most eye-catching team. In the finals the Tigers scored emphatic wins over Collingwood, 25.14 (164) to 18.12 (120), and over Carlton, as alluded to above. They had proved that they could play match-winning finals footy, and their time as a league superpower would soon arrive. Not that the club’s future prospects were at the forefront of anyone’s mind at the club’s post grand final dance, the atmosphere of which made it more like a wake. Club coach Tom Hafey reportedly refused to make a speech and declined to dance; was he plotting revenge, one wonders?

Third-placed St Kilda probably exceeded even their own expectations in 1972, particularly given that they lost vital players like Bob Murray, Barry Lawrence and John McIntosh to injury during the course of the season. Rover Ross Smith was also severely impeded by an injury sustained just prior to the major round. But once the finals started the Saints produced some of their best football for the year, downing Essendon by 53 points in the elimination final, and Collingwood by 3 goals in the first semi. In the preliminary final St Kilda kept pace with Carlton for much of the match, ultimately succumbing by just 16 points. It was a defiant and by no means dishonorable defeat.

Collingwood suffered a swathe of injuries prior to the finals, most notably to full forward Peter McKenna who had booted 130 goals during the home and away series. This was no real excuse for their limp performances against Richmond in the qualifying final, and St Kilda a week later in the first semi final. After the first quarter of both matches the Magpies were comprehensively outplayed and opposition supporters were quick to utilise the term “Colliwobbles” to describe the team’s displays. At least ruckman Len Thompson’s thoroughly deserved Brownlow Medal win afforded some small consolation.

Des Tuddenham’s appointment as Essendon captain-coach at the start of the 1972 season attracted much criticism but turned out to be a master-stroke. After finishing second to last with just 4 wins and a draw in 1971 the Bombers, with basically the same set of players, cruised into the finals with a 14-8 record. Although beaten in the elimination final by St Kilda there were definite signs that the team was on the up.

Reigning premiers Hawthorn suffered a disappointing slump in 1972, and “they really did not deserve the right to defend their title through a finals series. They struggled all year to stay within reach of the ladder leaders but could not quite come to grips with the top sides. The enthusiasm of the previous year seemed to be missing from the team and most of the big name players found it hard to keep up the pace of the season”.[4] Mind you, the Hawks’ cause was certainly not helped by the injury to champion full forward Peter Hudson in the opening round of the season. Hudson did not resume, and after the season was finished he returned home to Tasmania where he intended to continue his playing career in 1973.

Man for man Footscray lost little if anything compared to the competition’s top sides but they lacked cohesion as a team and this gave rise to inconsistency. Capable, for instance, of overturning Collingwood at Victoria Park and Essendon at Windy Hill the Bulldogs could just as readily lose to the likes of Melbourne, as they did in round thirteen at VFL Park, and Fitzroy, as happened in round seventeen, also at Waverley. 

Melbourne was another middle of the road side but unlike the Bulldogs the Demons achieved consistency of a sort, almost invariably dfeating the teams below them on the premiership ladder, but losing to those above them. With the club’s reserves side finishing second to Hawthorn there were hopes that some of the younger members of this side might give a much needed injection of energy to the seniors in 1973.

Fitzroy started the season promisingly, securing wins over the previous year’s grand finalists St Kilda in round two and Hawthorn a fortnight later, but thereafter the wheels fell off disastrously. It was observed of the Lions that the backline “was uninspiring but tight, they had one of the most brilliant centrelines in the League but all this ability was wasted because they had no one who could regularly kick a winning score”.[5]

Geelong lost their first ten matches of the season, a sequence which cost coach Bill McMaster his job. Under his replacement, club legend Graham “Polly” Farmer, the Cats improved significantly, and they finished the season with 7 wins to their credit. Among these victories were a 25.18 (168) to 14.8 (92) mauling of eventual grand finalists Richmond, a 10 point defeat of Essendon at Kardinia Park and, most notably of all, a stupendous 1 point come from behind win over Collingwood, also at Kardinia Park.[6]

Both South Melbourne and North Melbourne had seasons to forget, winning 2 and 1 games respectively. For North, better times lay just around the corner, but South were on a downward spiral which, apart from a fleeting finals appearance in 1977, would endure for over a decade, by which time the club had controversially relocated to Sydney.

Awesome Vics Romp Home in Perth

The Australian club championship series was not the only ostensibly national competition to take place in 1972. In June, in Perth, teams representing Australia’s four leading football states - Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania - assembled to contest the last ever single city round robin interstate carnival. The reason these competitions had had their day was starkly revealed by the results of the carnival matches: most notably, Victoria massacred all three of the other states with consummnate ease, ending up with a percentage of 281.8. The Vics were, quite literally, playing football at a completely different level to their opponents. Moreover, virtually all the best Tasmanian and West Australian footballers, and an ever increasing proportion of the top South Australians, were now plying their trade in the VFL.

A distant second to Victoria in the carnival standings was the host state, impressive victors over South Australia by 48 points in their opening match, less eye catching in downing Tasmania by 45 points in their second, and never getting within sniffing distance of the “Big V” in their final game. South Australia comfortably overcame Tasmania to finish an unconvincing third, while for the Tasmanians it was by some measure the worst carnival showing in the state’s history.

As usual, an All Australian team was selected after the championships. No fewer than ten members of this team hailed from Victoria, while Western Australia had seven representatives, South Australia two, and Tasmania one. The Tassie Medal for the carnival’s best player went to Western Australian full back Ken McAulley from East Perth who polled 17 votes. Second with 9 votes was VFL ruckman Len Thompson of Collingwood, while South Australia’s Peter Marker (Glenelg) and Ian Miller (Perth) from Western Australia shared third place with 8 votes each. Captain of the team was WA’s “Bad Mal” Brown from East Perth.

​A Review of the 1972 Football Season

​Barrie Robran

Oakleigh captain-coach Bob Johnson who played his last ever game in the 1972 VFA grand final.

Cock o’ the North

The date: Sunday 15 October 1972. The place: Adelaide Oval. The occasion: the Australian Premiers final [1] between North Adelaide (SANFL premiers) and Carlton (VFL premiers). 23,213 spectators screamed themselves hoarse as the Roosters, having trailed by 5 points at the last change, and despite coming home into the breeze, applied Victorian style pressure to their opponents during a torrid final quarter to emerge victors by the narrowest of margins and claim the title "Champions of Australia". North champion Barrie Robran gave an irrepressible display which in some ways was the pinnacle of his career, and gave rise to an unprecedented tribute from quintessentially one-eyed Victorian TV commentator, Louie 'the Lip' Richards, who dubbed Robran "the new king of football”.[2]

The whole North Adelaide team were “kings of football” that day, and it is arguable that South Australian football itself has never achieved a more noteworthy triumph. Certainly, whatever else is said, it was the North Adelaide Football Club's finest hour, albeit that subsequent developments in the game would render it almost meaningless.  

Under the coaching of former Richmond ruckman Michael Patterson North Adelaide had been transformed from a talented team with a soft underbelly to a combination which even some staunch Victorians admitted would hold its own, without perhaps doing well enough to qualify for the finals, in the VFL. The Roosters already had the 1971 premiership under their belt and, perhaps predictably, suffered something of a hangover which saw them win just 3 of their first six minor round games in 1972. After that, however, the side was virtually indomitable. North entered the finals in pole position with a 16-5 record, one win clear of Port Adelaide. The Magpies, which had downed the Roosters in two of the teams’ three minor round encounters, loomed as the only serious threat to North’s chances of going back to back. However, in the second semi final, after a lack lustre showing in the opening term, the Roosters firmed as flag favourites by adding 14 goals to 6 over the remainder of the match to win comfortably by 21 points. In the grand final re-match a fortnight later it was a similar story: Port played well in the first half, and actually held an 8 point advantage at the main break, but in the third and fourth quarters North swept their opponents aside with almost contemptuous ease. Just as he had been in the grand final twelve months earlier, centreman Barrie Robran was the best player on view, while rover Terry Von Bertouch, half back flanker Geoff Strang, full back Bob Hammond and 6 goal full forward Bob Hammond were also conspicuous. North Adelaide’s subsequent triumph in the Australian championships was icing on the cake after indisputably one of the greatest seasons ever enjoyed by a South Australian club.

For Port Adelaide it was yet another case of so near and yet so far. The Magpies’ loss to North in the grand final was their fifth such reversal in seven seasons. They played some fine football during the minor round, and their preliminary final clash with Central District was one of the most memorable major round matches of recent times. Trailing 9.14 (68) to 13.11 (89) they comprehensively outclassed the Bulldogs in the final term, adding 5.6 to 2.3 to emerge victorious by a single straight kick. Judged on their respective performances over the match as a whole, Central District had produced the better, more flowing football, but Port won “simply because they refused to give in”.[3] On the following Saturday, however, all the grit and defiance in the Magpies’ locker was to no avail.

In both 1971 and 1972 Central District lost to Port Adelaide in the preliminary final. In the former year there was a modicum of disappointment, but this was outweighed by the knowledge that the club had just enjoyed the greatest season in its history up to that point. In 1972 the Bulldogs improved on their 1971 showing, winning more matches (15 as against 13), and coming much closer to overhauling the Magpies in the penultimate match of the season. This time ‘round, however, there was no sense of satisfaction at their achievement, merely raw disappointment at was perceived as a failure to fulfill their potential. Who knows, but had full forward Gary Jones (91 goals in 1971), defender Lyndon Andrews and forward David Saywell recovered from their injuries in time to front up against Port things might conceivably have been different.

Fourth place in 1972 went to Norwood which thereby ended an uncharacteristic six season stint without finals football. Their return was far from satisfactory, however. In the first half of their first semi final clash with Centrals the Redlegs had 17 scoring shots to 8, but only led by 4 points. After half time the Bulldogs’ running brigade upped the ante and the Redlegs were left chasing shadows. Centrals ultimately won by 30 points, 19.7 (121) to 12.19 (91).

Sturt went the opposite way to Norwood in 1972, failing to make the finals for the first time since 1964. That they were still a talented combination was undeniable - wins during the season against the likes of North, Port (twice) and Centrals proved that. But on the opposite side of the ledger were defeats at the hands of the league’s bottom three, Woodville, South and West. Also undeniable was the fact that the Double Blues were in a rebuilding phase, given which it would have been heartening to the club’s supporters to note that some of the team’s best and most consistent football was produced by relative newcomers such as defender Colin Casey (Sturt best and fairest in ’72), wingman or half forward flanker Michael Graham, and ruckman Rick Davies.

Sixth placed Glenelg vied for wins (11) with Sturt in 1972 but had an inferior percentage. The Bays generally proved capable of defeating the teams below them on the premiership ladder, but of their 9 matches against final four opponents only one - against Norwood in round eleven - was won.

Just as in 1971, West Torrens finished the 1972 season in seventh place on the ladder, albeit with one fewer win (7 compared to 8). They tended to rely far too much on too few individuals and their attack was woefully weak, with only South Adelaide scoring fewer points for the season.

The twin highlights of eighth placed Woodville’s 1972 campaign were victory in the Coca Cola Cup, a knock-out competition held after the minor round involving the teams placed fifth to eighth, and utility Malcolm Blight’s triumph in the Magarey Medal. Both were club firsts. Much like Torrens, however, the ‘Peckers tended to be much too reliant on a small nucleus of players, notably Blight, rover Ray Huppatz, and 51 goal half forward Ralph Sewer.

South Adelaide, which had last qualified for the finals in 1966, had another season to forget, winning just 5 out of 21 minor round matches. They also had both the fewest points for and the highest number of points against in the competition.

Half a win behind South, and last for the first time in thirty-six years, was West Adelaide. Had Westies beaten Norwood in their final minor round match instead of drawing with them (they kicked 15.21 to 16.15) they would have leapfrogged South on percentage and avoided football’s ultimate indignity. The promise shown in 1968 and more especially 1969 when the Bloods made the finals must have seemed a distant memory to the club’s supporters.

A major plus in an otherwise mediocre season for South Australian football was the fact that the game attracted an all time record aggregate attendance of 1,152,486 patrons - 130,000 more than the 1971 figure.

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​Austin Robertson junior