Central District v Glenelg 1975
The day dawned ominously on this minor round game. Glenelg would make yet another Grand Final that year, were near to full strength, and hungry. They had beaten the Dogs earlier in the year by a lazy 23 goals. Centrals were struggling, had had shocking luck with injuries and were forced to play boys who had started the season in the Under 17s. Glenelg wanted to go into its finals campaign with a full head of steam and wanted its mercurial full forward, Fred Phillis, to get near to his century so as not to prove a distraction.
I was on the western side of the snug Glenelg Oval, in the shadow of the Sparks Stand. My best mate Steve Hill was roving the boundary for St John’s Ambulance, pretending to be neutral. It was a breezy, sunny day – about 9,000 people settled in to watch proceedings. The hardy Doggies fans had made the long trip to the “G”, hoping for a 7th against 2nd upset. Tiger fans smelled blood.
This strangest of football games started slowly. Centrals were having a dip and goaled first. To their credit, they kept slugging, even when their captain was stretchered off and their key forward got pole-axed by an old fashioned hip-n-shoulder. But it became clear that this was going to be a day out at the Bay. Glenelg players hunted in packs, played on at every opportunity, ran through the lines and kept firing the ball into attack, where potent forwards ran riot. By quarter time, the home team had amassed 12 goals to 3 by the visitors. In the modern defensive game, these scores are commonly seen at full time.
In the second quarter, the punch-drunk but feisty Dogs, with Tony Casserley, Terry Moore, Graham Prior, the Norsworthy brothers and others plugging the dam, doubled their score (to 6.4) but then so did their hosts (to 25.12), making it a twenty goal lead at the big break, a cricket margin.
The last half was surreal. Fred Phillis posted his 100th goal early in the third quarter and would finish the day with 18, 7 more than the opposing team. Centals had their best session, posting 4.3, shadowed by Glenelg’s modest 9.5.
At the start of the last quarter, Centrals attacked and stopped the Tiger tsunami for several minutes. Then the dam broke and the Bays slammed on 15 goals, at one stage scoring every couple of minutes in a basketball-style run. Nothing like this had been seen before. It was a rout, a massacre, a slaughter, a Roman Holiday. Steve Hill was too busy having heart murmurs of his own to worry about the health of the patrons. As Pride of the Bay records, plucky Centrals defender Julian Swinstead wrote of the experience: “It was like standing up against a wall and facing a machinegun…”
Graham Cornes took an early minute in his 150th game and cheered the team on with the crowd as in the closing minutes, a 50th goal was up for grabs. Then, a huge 10 minutes or so into extra time, Brian Colbey handballed to John MacFarlane, who turned and fired in the final coffin nail…which irresponsibly hit the goalpost, leaving the victors stranded on 49 goals. The fans actually booed.
That final score was 15 goals better than the previous record, which had been almost bettered by 3 quarter time. It created a generation of Glenelg-hating Centrals supporters. And several records were set that may never be broken. As Merv Agars wrote the next day in The Advertiser, “Having seen the goal-scoring record established I don’t want to be there when it is beaten. I know I wont be. It will take more years than I have left.”
And the upshot? SNAFU as usual. Glenelg would go on to lose the Grand Final, one of its 12 defeats in the Big One over its many years of bafflement and frustration.
G 49.23 (317)
CD 11.13 (79)