North Melbourne's Keith Greig
Ken Whelan (Sturt)
Rex Voigt (Glenelg)
Subiaco captain-coach Ross Smith
Peter McKenna (Collingwood)
WANFL: Long Wait Over for Lions
Subiaco won the minor premiership in 1973, thereby enabling it to maintain its peculiar tradition of almost invariably losing a finals match en route to a flag. Not that there was anything calculated about the Lions' 13.7 (85) to 15.13 (103) second semi final loss to West Perth; it was simply a case of too many Subiaco players - most notably the captain-coach himself - being down on form.
Smith got himself, and his team, back on track for the following week's preliminary final, in which Subiaco always appeared to be in the box seat against East Perth, although the final margin of victory - 10 points - was a little close for comfort.
With it having been so long “between drinks’ for the Lions, enormous interest was generated in the 1973 grand final. Anxious to keep the players' minds focused on the task at hand, the Subiaco management committee forbade them from speaking to the media during the run up to the big game. This was probably just as well, for the grand final rapidly developed into a tense, dour war of attrition. At quarter time the Lions, having enjoyed first use of the breeze, led narrowly, 3.4 (22) to 2.0 (12), but during the second term the Cardinals responded vigorously, and at half time there was just a single point in it: West Perth 4.2 (26); Subiaco 3.7 (25).
It was at this point that Ross Smith began to tap into all his reserves of experience and skill, putting together "one of the most inspired and courageous exhibitions of roving ever seen at Subiaco Oval”. Following their leader's example, Lions players all over the ground lifted, enabling them to eke out what proved to be a decisive advantage. At lemon time, Subiaco led 7.10 (52) to 5.2 (32), a margin of only 20 points admittedly, but West Perth's resistance had been broken, and the last term saw the Lions again outscore their rivals to win with deceptive ease. Centre half back Dennis Blair was awarded the Simpson Medal, although most observers rated Smith's performance as having had the most decisive impact. Keith Watt, Dick Manning and Fred Davenport were other Subiaco players to perform well.
In the ensuing Australian club championships in Adelaide the Lions gave a good account of themselves, comfortably dismissing Tasmanian champions Scottsdale from contention on the opening day, and then pushing VFL premiers Richmond all the way before going down by 13 points.
Runners-up West Perth could ruefully reflect on a season that had seen them do virtually everything right until the day that mattered most. After qualifying for the finals in second place with 15 wins from 21 matches the Cardinals played purposeful, decisive football in overcoming minor premiers Subiaco by 18 points in the second semi final. Only the Lions’ accuracy in front of goal prevented a more sizeable margin. Then, on grand final day, as discussed above, it all went wrong. Full forward Phil Smith had a fine season for the Cardies booting 84 goals to top the WAFL goal kicking list.
In their last minor round fixture of the year East Perth were comprehensively outplayed by East Fremantle and went down by 55 points. A week later in the first semi final the tables were turned, the Royals winning in emphatic style by 49 points, 17.19 (121) to 9.18 (72). Some observers rated them a premiership threat at that point, although the fact that they had failed to win any of their 3 minor round encounters with Subiaco was cause for concern. Such concern proved to be justified when the Royals lost a high scoring preliminary final clash with Subi by 10 points.
Going into their last match of the season against East Perth East Fremantle knew that they had to win whilst simultaneously hoping that arch rivals South Fremantle lost to West Perth. That was how things transpired, leaving East Fremantle on 11 wins and South Fremantle, with a superior percentage, on 10. Unfortunately Old Easts proved incabable of rising to the occasion in the following week’s first semi final, which strangely enough was also against East Perth. The Royals won comfortably and East Fremantle’s long, by their standards, premiership drought continued.
Sixth placed Swan Districts managed a couple of wins against high flying West Perth but other than that their season was almost wholly ignominious. At one stage Swans lost no fewer than 9 consecutive games.
Seventh placed Pert only managed to win 6 games but they provided the Sandover Medallist in the shape of Barry Cable. It was the champion rover’s third such award.
Claremont had a dismal season, winning just 4 games to end up with the wooden spoon. None of the wins was against any of the four finals participants.
WANFL attendances in 1973 were slightly up on the previous year. In 1972 a total of 732,387 spectators attended the 21 rounds of home and away matches. A year later the figure was 768,677, with more than 120,000 attending the finals. The record aggregate for a single season remained the 810,113 who attended games in 1970.
Scottsdale Enter Big Stage
In 1973, as Australian football was fumbling blindly in the dark for a doorway through which it could escape from the stymieing effects of more than a century of obsessively localised, parochial preoccupation, Scottsdale shared top billing on the national stage at the Australian club championships in Adelaide. Examined logically, the concept of a competition which pitted the might of Richmond (VFL), Glenelg (SANFL) and Subiaco (WANFL) against a club representing a town of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants in northern Tasmania was seriously flawed; little wonder, you might infer, that the game swiftly moved on to other means of broadening its horizons and appeal. However, there is also a school of thought which holds that the game lost something integral to its true nature when it “evolved” from being an activity rooted in enjoyment, active involvement and community pride - “the game of the people for the people”, if you will - to one governed principally by dollars, cents and the profit-loss incentive. The homogonous world of the modern AFL certainly boasts many attractive and exciting features, but it is quintessentially - in keeping with most of the rest of the modern sporting world, to be fair - devoid of romance, allure and the potential to astonish.
Scottsdale qualified to contest the 1973 Australian club championships after a superb season in which it failed to win just 1 of its 20 roster matches (a draw against North Launceston), beat North Launceston twice to secure the NTFA flag, annihilated TFL premiers Hobart by 65 points in the state preliminary final, and scored a tensely fought 11 point win over Cooee (NWFU) to clinch the state premiership in front of a predominantly hostile crowd of 8,269 at Burnie. Scottsdale had dominated the NTFA for much of the preceding decade, but this was the club's first state premiership. Trailing by 32 points at the final change of the state grand final the side looked set for another disappointment. However, the move of key defender Ron Hall to centre half forward altered the game completely, as he provided the Magpies with a much needed focal point in attack, enabling them to secure victory by adding 5.9 to 0.2 in a barn-storming last quarter performance.
Scottsdale's “weekend in the sun” in Adelaide was brief and, measured by objective standards, unimposing, as losses were predictably sustained against both Subiaco and Glenelg. However, the side was competitive, especially in its opening game against the Lions, and for a brief time at least, the tiny Tasmanian town of Scottsdale was indefatigably “on the map”, a state of affairs unlikely ever to be repeated.
More disappointingly, TANFL attendances slumped dramatically, causing the league to launch an enquiry. A total of 226,166 attended all games, including finals. Some thought that the league’s decision to allow the last quarters of roster matches to be shown on TV on Saturday evening was a major factor in curtailing the crowds.
Sandy Bay were the dominant side during the roster matches which they went through undefeated. Their fine form continued in the second semi final when they overcame Glenorchy, but they came unstuck at exactly the wrong time when they lost the grand final to a Hobart side which had only finished fourth going into the finals. Scores were Hobart 11.19 (85) defeated Sandy Bay 10.5 (65).
VFA: Two Blues to the Fore
After failing to reach the VFA division one finals in 1971 and 1972  Prahan finished off the 1973 season in stunning fashion to clinch their fifth senior flag. Needing to win at Sandringham in the final home and away match of the year to even contest the finals the Prahran players suddenly found their best form of the season to romp home by 89 points. They then went on with things in emphatic, irrepressible fashion, downing Port Melbourne by 52 points in the first semi final, Dandenong by 29 points in the preliminary final, and reigning premiers Oakleigh by 35 points in a disappointingly - to neutrals - one-sided grand final. Prahran owed its win in large part to the dominance of centreman Ken Emselle, ruckman Rod Payne, and on ballers Peter Sinclair, Rod Appleton and Geoff Smith.
With just time on to be played in the final quarter of the VFA division two grand final between Caulfield scores were level. Caulfield then hit a purple patch which yielded 4 unanswered goals and won the flag - their first - by 22 points, 18.20 (128) to 14.22 (106).
Other States and Territories
East Sydney won a high scoring NSWANFL grand final by 33 points from Western Suburbs. Final scores were Eastern Suburbs 22.18 (150) defeated Western Suburbs 18.9 (117). Newtown came in third and St George fourth.
In Brisbane, Mayne defeated Sandgate by 42 points kin the QAFL grand final. It was the Tigers’ seventh post-war flag. Scores were Mayne 12.17 (89); Sandgate 6.11 (47).
Manuka went top in Canberra with a nerve-tingling 1 point win over Ainslie. Eastlake and Acton came third and fourth respectively.
In the NTFL grand final Darwin obtained revenge over their conquerers of the previous season, St Marys. The final scores were Darwin 7.13 (55) defeated St Marys 3.7 (25).
Interstate Match Round-up
The best interstate match of the season took place in Adelaide where the VFL always had just enough in hand in downing South Australia by 4 points. Final scores were VFL 21.13 (139) to South Australia 20.15 (135). Alex Jesaulenko kicked 10 goals for the victors.
A second string VFL combination visited Hobart and came away with an 11.23 (89) to 8.6 (54) win over Tasmania.
In Melbourne the VFL trounced Western Australia by 88 points, 23.20 (158) to 10.10 (70), meaning the Western Australians had still never won against the VFL in Melbourne. Home matches in Perth against South Australia were another matter entirely and it was a case of business as usual as Western Australia defeated the croweaters 11.14 (80) to 8.10 (58).
Finally, in Canberra the home side defeated New South Wales by 33 points, 12.14 (86) to 7.11 (53).
 The “colliwobbles” was a term used to describe Collingwood’s habit of falling apart when pressure intensified during the finals.
 North also tried to sign St Kilda ruckman Carl Ditterich, but negotiations fell through and he eventually went to Melbourne.
 Quoted in Pride of the Bay: the Story of Glenelg Football Club by Peter Cornwall and John Wood, page 202. The word 'good' is a Kerley-ism translatable as “superb, outstanding or great”.
 Ibid, page 202.
 Robran won his seven successive club champion awards between 1967 and 1973, although in point of fact he was originally placed second in the voting for the 1967 award, losing out on a countback to Don Lindner. The North Adelaide Football Club's Board of Directors later decided to rectify this perceived injustice by awarding Robran, and all other runners-up who were originally placed second on a countback, retrospective awards. (I am indebted to Bruce Pointon for alerting me to this, as well as for confirming that Robran's tally of interstate match appearances for South Australia was 17, and not 14 as suggested in some sources.)
 All told, Subiaco has done this on half a dozen occasions: 1912, 1913, 1973, 1986, 1988 and 2007. Only the flags of 1915, 1924 and 2006 were won ‘clean'.
 “Weekend News”, 29/9/73.
 East Fremantle’s last premiership had been claimed in 1965.
 Prahran actually finished second to last in 1972, narrowly avoiding relegation to second division.
Grand final results - CoA: Richmond 12.20 (92) d. Subiaco 10.19 (79); VFL: Richmond 16.20 (116) d. Carlton 12.14 (86); SANFL: Glenelg 21.11 (137) d. North Adelaide 19.16 (130); WANFL: Subiaco 10.12 (72) d. West Perth 6.4 (40); VFA: Division One - Prahran 15.23 (113) d. Oakleigh 10.18 (78); Division Two - Caulfield 18.20 (128) d. Brunswick 14.22 (106); TANFL: Hobart 11.19 (85) d. Sandy Bay 10.5 (65); NTFA: Scottsdale 11.12 (78) d. North Launceston 10.7 (67); NSWANFL: East Sydney 22.18 (150) d. Western Suburbs 18.9 (117); NTFL: Darwin 17.13 (115) d. St Marys 3.7 (25); QAFL: Mayne 12.17 (89) d. Sandgate 6.11 (47); NWFU: Cooee 14.12 (96) d. Latrobe 10.10 (70); CANFL: Manuka14.14 (98) d. Ainslie 15.7 (97); TSP: Scottsdale 16.20 (116) d. Cooee 15.15 (105).
VFL: Revenge for Richmond
In 1973, with only one thing - revenge over their 1972 nemesis Carlton - on their minds, Richmond experienced the opposite of a premiership hangover, and ultimately emerged with the flag. However, the route to the premiership was often bumpy, with a 20 point qualifying final loss to Carlton representing the nadir, and meaning that the team would have to confront - and surmount - three weeks of cut-throat finals football to emerge with the ultimate prize.
The first semi final against St Kilda was closely fought until three quarter time, but in the last term Richmond added 6.3 to 1.0 to win by 40 points, and comprehensively raise confidence ahead of a do or die preliminary final encounter with minor premier Collingwood. At half time in the preliminary final, the Magpies looked to have one foot already in the grand final, as they led by 6 goals and seemed totally in control. In the second half, Tom Hafey opted to introduce a half fit Royce Hart to the fray, and the gamble paid off in dramatic fashion as he provided a hitherto absent focal point ahead of centre, helping himself to 2 magnificent goals, and contributing to several others as the Tigers roared back to be within 8 points at the final change. The Magpies were not yet beaten, and in terms of general play the last quarter was evenly contested, but there seemed to be an air of inevitability in the way that Tiger moves were rounded off with goals, whereas Collingwood kicked a succession of behinds. Richmond duly added 5.2 to 2.5 in the final term to win by 7 points, and set up the longed for grand final showdown with Carlton.
In battling their way to a 16.20 (116) to 12.14 (86) grand final win over arguably its greatest foe, Richmond emphatically demonstrated all the virtues and qualities traditionally associated with the club; the inspirational displays of the likes of Bartlett, Sheedy, Sproule, Clay, Hart and Stewart in the white heat of battle graphically personified the 'eat 'em alive' philosophy, and many supporters of long standing regarded the Tigers' 1973 premiership success as their proud team's finest hour. For many, the 1973 VFL grand final is best remembered for a controversial incident just before half time involving champion Blues full back Geoff Southby and the flailing fist of Richmond strong man Neil Balme, but the effect of this incident on the outcome of the game was negligible. The Tigers won - and indeed led at every change, by 9, 26 and 38 points - because, just as in 1969, they had peaked at precisely the right time, and because every member of the side was adept at performing skillfully and purposefully under pressure. Carlton made a semblance of a comeback early in the last quarter to get to within 18 points, but the Tigers went on to dominate the closing stages just as they had most of the rest of the match, and in the end the 30 point victory margin probably flattered the losers.
The rubber stamp to what had been a remarkable season came when Richmond re-claimed the Australian club championship courtesy of hard fought wins over Glenelg by 15 points and Subiaco by 13 points in Adelaide.
Carlton's 1973 side was rated by John Nicholls among others as superior to the premiership winning combination of the previous year, but it faltered when it counted on grand final day. During the minor round the Blues won 15 and lost 7 matches before comfortably downing Richmond in the qualifying final. Watched by a crowd of 86,386 at the MCG Carlton led at every cahange by 8, 11 and 24 points before triumphing in the end by 20 points, 13.13 (91) to 10.11 (71). In the following week’s second semi final against minor premiers Collingwood the Blues had to battle hard for three quarters before pulling away in the final term to win by an identical margin to the qualifying final triumph over the Tigers. Final scores were Carlton 15.17 (107) defeated Collingwood 12.15 (87).
Carlton were favourites going into the 1973 grand final but they failed to cope with Richmond’s relentlessly aggressive approach and were never really in the match. It must also be noted that the Blues had injury worries. Rod Keogh had been injured in the second semi final and was ruled unfit for the grand final. Moreover, Barry Armstrong was unavailable because he had recently had his appendix removed. Several more Carlton players were selected despite injury problems and it as least arguable that the team’s performance was undermined as a result.
Collingwood, with a 19-3 record, comfortably headed the ladder after the 1973 minor round, but they fell in a heap come finals time. In the second semi final they led Carlton by 2 points at three quarter time only for the Blues to add 6 last quarter goals to 3 and win quite comfortably. Even worse was to follow, for in the preliminary final clash with Richmond the Magpies threw away a 6 goal half time lead, eventually going under by 7 points. Following this game the old notion of “the Collingwood colliwobbles” resurfaced with a vengeance. Magpie full forward Peter McKenna topped the VFL goalkicking charts for the second successive season; he booted 86 goals.
Fifth after the minor round St Kilda destroyed Essendon in the elimination final thanks to a magnificent second half which yielded 17 goals compared to the Bombers’ 6. Final scores were St Kilda 24.14 (158) defeated Essendon 13.13 (91). St Kilda’s tally of 10.1 in the final term was a new record for a finals game. That was as good as it got for the Saints, however. In the following week’s first semi final clash with Richmond they made a game of it for three quarters before being blown away in the fourth. The Tigers won by 40 points.
Essendon finished the minor round poorly with losses in their last 3 games. Their position in the finals was never in jeopardy, however, and they went into the elimination final clash with St Kilda in confident frame of mind recalling that they had downed the Saints in both home and away encounters during the season. This time round they had no answer to the Saints’ ruck strength and smooth teamwork, particularly after half time, and so a season which had promised much at one stage ended disappointingly.
Prior to the commencement of the 1973 season North Melbourne's playing stocks had risen appreciably via the signing of three bona fide champions in the shape of Doug Wade (208 games and 834 goals with Geelong), Barry Davis (220 games for Essendon) and John Rantall (over 200 games with South Melbourne). These signings were made possible by the introduction by the league of a rule whereby a player who had given his club ten years service could obtain a transfer, without any restraint, to the opposition club of his choice. The VFL at the time was concerned about the possible legal ramifications of a case involving rugby league player John Tutty in New South Wales in 1971, in which the courts had eventually ruled that the New South Wales Rugby League's regulations on the transfer of players constituted a restraint of trade. Although the VFL's hastily drawn up "Ten Year Rule" was soon withdrawn, it was in place long enough to enable North to make major headway towards its goal of securing a senior premiership by 1976.
In addition to the trio of champions mentioned above, North also procured the services of one of the legends of the game as coach, when former Melbourne and Carlton supremo Ronald Dale Barassi was enticed into the fold. Whatever else you could say about Barassi, he was a born winner, who had an undoubted knack for bringing out the very best in his charges.
Perhaps not surprisingly, North improved beyond measure in 1973 to manage 11 wins and a draw from its 22 home and away matches, good enough for sixth position on the ladder, its highest placed finish since 1959. Moreover, Greig's victory in the Brownlow was the club's first in that award.
Keith Greig was one of the most exciting footballers of his era. Following a brief stint with Brunswick he embarked on a glittering 300 game career with North Melbourne during which his trademark long stride became one of football's most familiar sights. Winner of the Brownlow Medal in both 1973 and 1974, he somewhat ironically failed to land North Melbourne's club champion award in both years, before ultimately breaking through in 1980.
A Big V representative on 13 occasions, Greig was equally proficient as a wingman or on a half back flank.
That 1971 premiers Hawthorn, who finished seventh, were still a powerful combination was evidenced by their minor round victories over both eventual grand finalists, Carlton and Richmond. Despite winning only half of their matches the Hawks finished with a positive percentage (109.6%) and several of their victories were by substantial margins. They would continue bubbling under for another season before breaking through to embark on the greatest sustained era of success in the club’s history up to that point.
Fitzroy won 9 matches and lost 13 to finish eighth. The Lions blew hot and cold, beating the likes of Richmond, Carlton and Essendon but suffering defeat at the hands of tenth placed Melbourne (twice) and eleventh placed Geelong.
Footscray had another dismal season, winning just 7 and drawing 1 of their 22 home and away fixtures to end up ninth. It was the twelfth consecutive year that the Bulldogs had failed to qualify for the finals. Their best wins of the season came back to back in rounds twenty-one and twenty-two against Carlton and Richmond.
Melbourne (7 wins), Geelong (6) and South Melbourne (4) all had miserable seasons mixing hefty defeats with occasional wins over fellow strugglers.
A Review of the 1973 Football Season
SANFL: Epic Triumph by Bays
In 1973, the quintessential “Neil Kerley method” - glimpsed, perhaps, in 1964 with South Adelaide, and again with the 1969 Bays - came at last to full fruition. Glenelg in '73 was, in terms of its average standard of performance, a VFL side in all but name. With the exception of its round seven meeting with North Adelaide at Prospect it not only never lost, but - until that fateful 'one day in September' - it never looked even remotely like doing so. "There's greater depth this year," observed Kerley half way through the year, endeavouring to pinpoint the reason for the team's spectacular improvement. "And we've got bigger players - and the biggest are a lot quicker than those of the past. Experience is another factor. This is a good side.”
Just how good became clear after the round fifteen return meeting with North Adelaide when the Bays blasted the reigning Australian champions off Glenelg Oval to the tune of a staggering 160 points. It was, according to Kerley, "the best effort I've seen from a Glenelg side", while Alan Shiell, writing in 'The Sunday Mail', suggested that "the remarkably ruthless manner in which Glenelg tore North apart almost defies description”.
The Bays were in a similarly merciless frame of mind for the second semi final, in which they demolished their nemesis of '69 and '70, Sturt, with arrogant ease, 20.13 (133) to 11.10 (76). Surely now nothing could stand in the way of 'Kerley's Mob' as they sought that elusive 'holy grail' of football, the Thomas Seymour Hill trophy?
The 1973 SANFL grand final, the last to be played on Adelaide Oval, would have to be a serious contender for the title of “best ever”. Glenelg's grand final opponents, North Adelaide, had, in addition to the 1972 club championship of Australia, won both of the previous two premierships and, in Barrie Robran, boasted a player who, in the view of some, was the most audaciously gifted exponent of the game in history. In the previous weekend's preliminary final the Roosters had vanquished the Double Blues with even greater conviction, and by an even greater victory margin (87 points), than Glenelg had managed in the second semi. There could be little doubt that on this occasion it most emphatically would not be a repeat of the round fifteen meeting between the two sides.
Right from the outset of the 1973 grand final it was clear that Glenelg was in for its toughest match for some time. Kicking with the aid of a strong breeze, North Adelaide withstood a strong start from the Tigers to outscore them 7.6 to 4.3 in a vibrant, free-flowing opening term. The second quarter saw the Bays fight back to lead 9.10 to 8.10 at half time, and when they emerged from a topsy turvy third term still 8 points to the good, and with the aid of the wind to come in the final quarter, victory, and that long sought flag, seemed assured. However, the Roosters staged a desperate fight back which saw them lead by 5 points with three minutes of time-on already played. What followed rapidly found a place in South Australian football folk lore - not to mention becoming a conspicuous cornerstone of the tradition, indeed the very soul, of the Glenelg Football Club.
With time running out, the Bays mounted one last, frenzied assault on goal, only to come up against the stern, resolute figure of North Adelaide's veteran full back, Bob Hammond, who had been virtually impassable all day. With an apparent calmness that he probably did not feel, Hammond careered out of the backlines paddling the ball in front of him; finally, the ball reached a recumbent Neil Sachse in the left half back flank region, and he endeavoured to handball it over the boundary line. However, Glenelg's twentieth man, Craig Marriott, who had only just come onto the ground, and was probably the only player afield still with a spring in his step, managed to intercept the ball, and launch a towering, hopeful punt kick back towards goal. The ball came back to earth in Glenelg's right forward pocket, directly into the hands of Graham Cornes, who had taken the preliminary insurance of perching two metres above the ground on the necks of the waiting pack. Cornes, who had scarcely been sighted all afternoon, coolly went back and goaled with a nonchalance that belied the acuteness of the angle: Glenelg was in front by a point.
If poetic justice had been served, that was how it ought to have ended, but Glenelg's nineteenth man John Sandland added another goal after the siren to give an illusion of comfort to the scoreline, the Bays winning by 7 points, 21.11 (137) to 19.16 (130). Centre half forward Peter Carey and rover-cum-forward pocket Rex 'Noddy' Voigt, with 6 and 7 goals respectively, vied for Glenelg's best, while prolific kick winning centreman Kerry Hamilton, lively Western Australian rover Greg Bennett, and full back Peter Anderson - a former North Adelaide player - were others among many to shine.
From a North Adelaide perspective the grand final defeat was inordinately hard to bear, all the more so in that victory had been so cruelly snatched away in the dying moments. After the match club in the North changing rooms coach Mike Patterson attempted to make a speech, but broke down after just a couple of sentences. In a way it reflected the mood among Rooster players and supporters better than the most sparkling or erudite soliloquy.
North superstar Barrie Robran won his third Magarey Medal in 1973. Robran was arguably South Australia's, some would say Australia's, greatest ever footballer. The bare statistics fail to do him justice: three Magarey Medals and seven consecutive club fairest and most brilliant awards during a 201 game career which also saw him represent his state on 17 occasions. Originally from Whyalla, Robran off the field was shy and unassuming; on it, he was an artist. Victorian Mike Patterson who coached Robran for much of his league career observed that "Barrie can match (any Victorian) in any phase. I've seen him do things that the best players over there have been unable to accomplish”.
Robran's 'finest hour' arguably came during North Adelaide's 1972 championship of Australia final against Carlton when he performed with such brilliance that, on more than one occasion, opposition player Alex Jesaulenko - himself no mean footballer - broke into spontaneous applause.
Third placed Sturt impressed during the minor round and in their first finals match before falling apart. The Double Blues won 17 of their 21 matches to qualify for the major round in second place. They boasted both the best defence and the best percentage in the competition, and looked to be on course for the grand final when they defeated North Adelaide in the qualifying final by 6 points. However, hampered by the loss of brilliant wingman Michael Graham, who had been involved in a car accident, they were comprehensively outdone by Glenelg in the following week’s qualifying final, the Bays winning by 57 points. Even worse was to follow because even though Graham returned to the side for the preliminary final clash with North the Blues produced easily their worst performance of the entire season, losing by 91 points. On a brighter note, high flying full forward Ken Whelan kicked 107 goals to top the SANFL’s goal kicking list.
By beating Port Adelaide by 35 points in the last minor round fixture of the year Norwood secured fifth spot on the premiership ladder heading into the finals. Both the Redlegs and Central District finished with 10 wins from 21 matches but Norwood had the superior percentage. In the elimination final they once again faced Port Adelaide, and produced another excellent performanc e to win by 6 goals, 23.13 (151) to 17.13 (115). Both this match and the first semi final clash with North Adelaide took place at Norwood’s home ground of the Parade. In that first semi final Norwood took the game right up to the reigning premiers before ultimately succumbing by just 5 points. Had the Redlegs produced their end of season form earlier in the year they might well have emerged as a real premiership threat.
Port Adelaide suffered some uncharacteristically hefty losses in 1973 and although they qualified for the finals in fourth spot they never remotely looked like challenging for the premiership. In the elimination final Norwood swept them aside with ease, and new Magpie coach John Cahill looked to facing a stern challenge to turn things around.
Injuries to key players early in the season saw Central District struggle but thgey improved later in the year to come within sniffing distance of a fin als berth. The Bulldogs could be infuriatingly inconsistent. For instance, in round ten they defeated Port Adelaide by 73 points, before downing West Torrens by 7 points. They would presumably therefore have travelled to the Parade to face Norwood in confident frame of mind, but they suffered their worst thrashing for some years, ultimately going down by 133 points.
Seventh placed West Torrens finished the season well, winning 6 of their last 8 minor round matches. However, this was nowhere near enough to repair the damage done by a woeful start to the year which saw them lose their opening 5 fixtures and stand 3-10 after the thirteenth series.
Woodville acutely felt the loss of rover Ray Huppatz and utility Malcolm Blight, both of whom had moved to Victoria. They also lacked reserve cover and had a tendency to start games reasonably well before fading. A total of 4 wins and a draw saw them finish eighth.
Both ninth placed South Adelaide (4 wins) and tenth placed West Adelaide (3 wins and a draw) had eminently forgettable seasons.
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