Once again, we bussed to charmless, imaginatively-named Football Park at West Lakes, to see Glenelg contest another Grand Final. Having lost the first one there (1974) and subsequently losing the Grand Final in 1975, 1977, 1981 and 1982, we felt we were due. North felt due too, having lost its last Grand Final in 1973 (see the Greatest Game of Football Ever Played).
The side was: Peter Carey (C), Stephen Copping, Chris Duthy, Adam Garton, Ross Gibbs, Tony Hall, Wayne Henwood, David Kernahan, Stephen Kernahan, Robin Kidney (int.), Chris McDermott, Tony McGuinness, David Marshall, Peter Maynard, Michael Murphy, Scott Salisbury (int.), John Seebohm, Alan Stringer, Wayne Stringer, Tony Symonds.
This was one of the more vicious finals in memory, not so much for fights, although there were several; rather, invariably, when someone got the ball, they were smashed. Sometimes players were smashed nowhere near the ball. But North looked faster and slicker; Parsons dominated early up forward (before Cornes moved Henwood on to him), and the ‘angry ant’, Tony Antrobus, was annoyingly everywhere. After giving up the first 3 goals to the opposition, Glenelg settled and ended the quarter trailing 2 goals to 4.
But North moved up a notch in the first half of the 2nd quarter, treating Glenelg, in commentator Robert Oatey’s glorious phrase, “with scant disrespect”. Salisbury couldn’t resist flooring the hated Antrobus as he kicked forward, giving up a free down field and a goal, and when panic spread through the defence the North captain, David Tiller, pounced and Glenelg trailed by 2 goals to 7. Coach Graham Cornes, the hero of 1973 Grand Final and player in the following five losing ones, could not believe how undisciplined we were, how we could be so bad. We looked rattled, out-of-sorts and beat.
Nor could anyone work out how, with a seeming flick of an invisible switch, they could suddenly be so good. Having another apparent big bad day at the office, the next ten minutes completely changed the game. In that ten minutes, or less, the Tigers piled on 7 goals to nil, ending the half 2 goals in front and North shell-shocked, stunned into silence, and into ineptitude.
First, Adam Garton, a makeweight in attack, led to a David Marshall pass and goaled and then, getting the ball from Stephen Kernahan, wheeled around and put another through the uprights. With Henwood barging out from defence, Salisbury ferocious at the ball or body, Ross Gibbs quelling Antrobus and Maynard & Marshall starting to link defence with attack, North lost its rhythm and started to commit blunders. David Robertson, a potent attacking midfielder for the Roosters, fumbled the ball and then paddled it backwards ‘blind’, giving up possession and the initiative. From there, the Bays attacked; Tony Hall passed to Maynard who scored a goal and a king-hit to his head – Glenelg 2 goals down now.
A great smother by Kidney turned the ball over and Marshall found Steve Kernahan, who goaled. When ‘Sticks’ took a screamer in the square and converted, the Bays were level, and in no mood to stop. Maynard again drove the ball forward and when Stephen Copping gathered the crumbs and casually put through a miracle snap for a goal (leaving Cornes agape), Glenelg were not only in front, but everyone present had a sinking feeling it was to be the Year of the Tiger.
A goal up now and yet another thrust by Glenelg, with players hurling themselves at the ball, “running around,” as Peter Marker put it, “like unregistered dogs”. McGuinness pirouetted and kicked deep into the forward pocket, where Copping took a great mark, virtually one-handed as he performed an acrobatic tuck and roll. Another goal, and while half time gave North some relief, they had to face the big break knowing they had squandered a 5 goal lead, were 2 goals down, and the opposition was on a roll.
And Glenelg rolled on – before the first minute of the second half was up, McGuinness had steamed in to score – not long after this, Stephen Kernahan and Garton both gathered and goaled. Salisbury was struck in the face and laughed it off, McGuinness was tripped and danced out of trouble. You could sense North’s growing frustration and despair, so that when Kernahan made another strong lead and mark, and his closely trailing opponent David Wildy, not known as a thuggish player, hit him 3 times about the head from behind, it was not a total surprise. Kernahan got a free and penalty distance for that and goaled; North’s day was summed up when Wildy, going for a mark, was hit (once) by Kernahan, ostensibly attempting to spoil. Revenge had been a dish enjoyed hot; North got no free and Wildy did not get up.
Starting the last quarter 5 goals up, kicking with the wind, their opponent’s key position player unconscious, Glenelg were never going to be threatened and party time came early. Whilst the Bays had the ball on a string, performing tricks that were pure Dom Perignon, North players were falling over, having tantrums, giving away frees, and awaiting the toll of the final siren. Just before that, we were treated to 2 lovely spectacles: Ross Gibbs, with the side well up, delivered an immaculate long drop-kick, beautiful relic of an earlier age. And Stan Wickham, who had been admonished for riding a bike onto Norwood Oval in 1954, rolled (in a wheelchair this time) over to the Thomas Seymour Hill Trophy and gave it a great big kiss.
This was a mighty struggle that ended in a total capitulation by the other side, who never recovered from a 10 minute blitz that dazzled the eye and confounded the mind. Glenelg had at last fulfilled its promise and the whole team had played the best football of the year when it actually counted. As events would prove, they were soon of a mind to do it again.
5 October, 1985