As published in Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games, 2011
Round 11 1972
Collingwood 3.4.22 5.5.35 15.8.98 23.10.148
Essendon 2.2.14 7.9.51 8.12.60 13.15.93
VENUE: Victoria Park
DATE: Saturday 12 June
B Britt Clifton Dunne
HB Salmon Potter O’Callaghan
C Oborne Price Atkinson
HF McOrist Gott Greening
F Tredrea McKenna Wearmouth
FOLL Thompson, M Richardson, W Richardson
INT Dean, Stevens
B Gerlach Talbot McKenzie
HB Davis Williams Roberts
C Fletcher Fields Moloney
HF Tuddenham Noonan Close
F Headlam Blethyn Schultz
FOLL Perry, Grinter, Cassin
INT Wilson, Payne
COLLINGWOOD – Thompson, McKenna, Britt, Atkinson, Price, Oborne, Salmon, W Richardson
ESSENDON – Gerlach, Williams, Tuddenham, Roberts, Grinter, Blethyn, Davis, Fletcher
COLLINGWOOD – McKenna 13, Gott 3, Wearmouth, M Richardson 2, W Richardson, Greening, McOrist
ESSENDON – Blethyn 7, Schultz 3, Noonan 2, Close
It always had the makings of a cracker – Queens Birthday, ladder leaders Essendon, and the return in rival colours of a favourite son, Des Tuddenham, as captain-coach of the Bombers. An extraordinary atmosphere was guaranteed with a surge of supporters forcing Health Department officials to close the gates an hour before the bounce. Whilst the official crowd figure was said to be 42,200, many more committed fans were perched high up in the trees whilst others crashed through the iron gates with crowbars near the players’ entrance, cramming ‘one-eyed hill’ at the Yarra Falls end. Passions were inflamed before the ball was even bounced, when a young Magpie supporter brazenly ran through the Essendon banner.
This was a crucial game for the Magpies against the new VFL glamour side. The Pies sat just outside the five with 5½ wins from ten games. Bob Rose, now coaching the Bulldogs, had gained much satisfaction from beating the Woods at Victoria Park in Round 8. During this time Robert Rose Jnr was standing out of football, pursuing a clearance to his father’s club. After convincing wins against Geelong and South Melbourne, coach Neil Mann deliberately steered away from mentioning Tuddenham leading into the game. Doubtless, Tuddy’s new side would take full advantage of his inside knowledge. And in Noonan, Close and Blethyn, Essendon’s attack posed a serious threat to the Magpies questionable defence.
In perfect sunny conditions, Wayne Richardson won the toss and opted for the Yarra Falls end. Any notions Tuddy might go easy on his old teammates were quickly allayed when he flattened Greening at the first bounce! The consequent free and pass to Wayne Richardson resulted in a behind. After further profligacy, Wearmouth posted the first of the game at the six minute mark. Despite more of the play, the Magpies only managed further goals via Oborne and McKenna, whilst Schultz and Blethyn were on target for the young Bombers. In a tight contest, Collingwood was eight points ahead at the break. ‘Tuddy’, generously welcomed by the Magpie hordes, was giving his all and was involved in several trademark physical clashes.
Des Tuddenham in amongst the action early in the game
The second quarter continued in much the same vein, a close tussle with neither side looking the goods. In between the misses on goal there was plenty of hits, rugged play and a ton of pressure. Blethyn opened the Bombers’ account with his second snap goal and then his counterpart McKenna notched his second to win back the advantage. The lead continued to change hands with Schultz replying for the Bombers, and then McKenna for the ‘Pies. The match literally fired up when at the Yarra Falls end Essendon’s floggers were set alight. The game was held up for seven minutes as people tried to stamp out the blaze. Even fire engines warranted being dispatched to the ground. Hundreds of fans evacuated to the field in a bid to escape the flames and smoke. When the air cleared the deadlock was broken during time-on when Essendon rammed home a hat-trick of goals via Blethyn (2) and Noonan. The burst earned them a 15 point buffer at half time. The charged-up Bombers threatened to run away with the game.
Like a radio dial finding its station, the Magpies found themselves completely in tune with one another to produce a third quarter of few parallels in The Club’s history. Collingwood’s runners feasted off many of Thompson’s 37 hit outs. In turn, McKenna gorged himself on the delivery of the brothers Richardson and Barry Price to the tune of seven goals straight. Wearmouth, Greening and Gott snuck in for goals and ‘Thommo’ was also damaging around the ground, as his 19 kicks and 11 marks suggest. When the ball did find its way into Essendon’s forward zone, the likes of Britt, Clifton and Salmon quickly turned defence into attack. All over the ground Collingwood boasted winners – McOrist had it over Barry Davis, Wearmouth had a fine time, as did Greening, Atkinson and Gott. Barry Price also weaved his way down the ground in brilliant style, delivering the ball lace out to McKenna. It rained goals at the Yarra Falls end – by the last change the ‘Pies’ swift eclipse tortured the Bombers to the tune of a 38 point deficit.
Essendon tried valiantly to undo the damage, Blethyn and Noonan posting early goals. When Blethyn steered through his sixth the margin was back to 20 points. But the Magpies weren’t done with yet, and picked up the threads of the third quarter to weave a merry dance around the Bombers. Firstly Gott put the ‘Pies back on track with a major, followed by McKenna and Max Richardson. Close and Blethyn answered, however McOrist and then McKenna (twice) kicked percentage boosters to close out the game. Another eight goals to Essendon’s five amounted to a superb 55 point demolition, exposing the Bombers lack of real talent and depth. Perhaps a harsh assessment though, for the Woods’ collectively entered ‘the zone’, where possibly no team would have got near them.
Collingwood players were feted by club officials in the rooms after the game, however President Peter Lucas was quick to condemn the disgraceful behaviour of the cheer squad. Meanwhile, the focus of the match, Des Tuddenham, was received warmly by his former fans on the ground and in the social club (despite the odd jeer during the game). Tuddy was still a legend at Victoria Park, and like McKenna, will forever be remembered a Collingwood man, despite his brief sojourn to enemy territory.
Peter McKenna (Collingwood)
Seven goals in a quarter is a rare feat in any grade of football. The Magpies season was virtually on the line when the siren signaled the beginning of the second half. Whilst Thompson and the Magpie runners initiated the devastating third term blitz, McKenna closed the deal in his usual dead-eye fashion. McKenna wasn’t done with yet, adding another three in the last quarter for a 13 goal haul, one of the best tallies of his prolific career.
The crowd pleasing triumph over Essendon was followed by a gritty five point win against flag-favourite Richmond, finally pushing the Magpies into the five. In what ultimately proved a disappointing year, Collingwood copped two significant blows along the way. Just a few weeks later, Moorabbin was the scene for the infamous John Greening incident that nearly claimed the young prodigy’s life. Then Collingwood’s other match-winner, Peter McKenna, was injured later in the year and missed the finals. McKenna had kicked 130 goals during the regular season. Subsequently, Collingwood made no impact against Richmond, and then bowed out to St Kilda (largely due to inaccuracy). Given the events at Moorabbin, the loss was made all the more galling. The only consolation was Len Thompson deserved Brownlow win, The Club’s first in 32 years.
Controversy was set to follow the young banner-wrecker, who many years later became Collingwood Vice President. Showing the same reckless tendencies, Brad Cooper was caught up in business scandals such as the HIH disaster, and was quietly shown the back door to Victoria Park.
So another season of ifs, buts and maybes drew to a close. At least 12 June 1972 remains a fond memory, an encapsulation of everything that made the Victoria Park experience of the era so memorable.
WHAT THEY SAID:
“We will be flat out for a win because I don’t think a team really has arrived until they beat Collingwood at Victoria Park… I’m hoping Essendon can do for me what Footscray did for Bobby Rose. Like Rose, I think it will be a help to know so much about the Collingwood players.”
Essendon Captain-coach Des Tuddenham before the big clash.
“Fireworks on field, blazing floggers around the boundary, crowds on the ground…the game had everything.”
The Sporting Globe sums up an amazing afternoon of entertainment.
“It was a very special day for me, and I won’t forget that for as long as I live. I had a job to do and I just wanted to go out there and do it, but it was very hard playing against blokes I’d played 10 years with. But the crowd, the Collingwood people that day, were very good to me. As I ran out onto the ground they clapped me, said ‘thanks, well done for what you did at Collingwood’. They gave me a bit during the game but the crowd that night at the social club were terrific. They stood up and clapped when I came into the room. It was marvelous, really touching.”