Banks robbed of Mark of the Year
By: Glenn McFarlane
Denis Banks was upstaged – not once, but twice – when he soared through the sky to take one of the most spectacular marks dragged down by a Collingwood player in round 10, 1984.
Collingwood was playing Footscray at what was then known as the Western Oval in a game that transformed from an ordinary mid-season home-and-away match into a dramatic conclusion few would forget.
Banks was almost 25 at the time and playing his 57th game that afternoon. Little did he know that his spring-heeled leap would one day be used in a Tourism Victoria advertisement.
It happened in the second quarter of the clash.
Tony Shaw, who would be adjudged best afield by the Sun News-Pictorial that day, was at the front of the contest and Brian Cordy – father of current Bulldog Ayce – was also in the frame when a flash in Black and White rose and rose and rose.
Banks was able to launch himself through the air and somehow was able to bring down the best mark of his football career.
“It was probably as high as I ever got,” said Banks.
“But I never got the car…that went to someone else.
“When I took the mark, I thought I might have been a bit of a chance (to win the Mark of the Year award). It’s not something you think about too much, but it would have been nice to win the car.”
The modest Banks, who would play a role in a memorable, drought breaking premiership six years later, did win the weekly Mark of the Round on Channel Seven’s World Of Sport the next day.
He would get $100 for this and an automatic nomination for the major season prize of a Nissan Bluebird TRX. That would have been “nice” for a bloke driving an old Ute at the time.
But the Channel Seven experts bypassed Banks’ beauty for Sydney’s Wayne Carroll at the end of the season for Mark of the Year honours, even though a close examination of both marks three decades on shows just how stiff the Collingwood footballer was.
His consolation was that he won the ABC’s Mark of the Year.
In keeping with the public broadcaster’s austerity, the prize wasn’t a car, but a pewter mug to commemorate his memorable mark.
“I’m not sure whether I ever got that mug, either,” Banks said this week.
Banks’ amazing solo aerial effort would also be overshadowed by the conclusion of the game as well – his mark barely mentioned in match reports because of the way in which the game finished, and due to the drama that the final minutes would reveal.
The drama involved Graeme ‘Gubby’ Allan, who would go onto become one of the game’s great football administrators at Collingwood, Brisbane and now Greater Western Sydney, and it centred around his last kick of the day.
“Gubby took a bit of the gloss off what I did,” Banks laughed.
There is little doubt that Allan did that, even though his miskick came on a day in which he had been an outstanding performer for Collingwood. More of that later…for now, let’s concentrate on the build up to the Collingwood-Footscray game that afternoon, and how controversy was there before the game even started.
These were the days when curtain-raisers took place before the main event – how footy fans would love to see that today – and the Magpies produced a shock when the reserves kicked off the winter dew.
Collingwood opted to play Melbourne ruckman Glenn McLean without a clearance in the early game, with the club’s board voting at a late night meeting to defy the VFL rules and get him to don the Black and White.
The reason why he was not immediately selected in the seniors was that no one wanted to see the club potentially lose premiership points for playing an ineligible player. The seconds didn’t matter so much.
President of the New Magpies at the time, media proprietor Ranald Macdonald, said the club had been prepared to lose reserves premiership points, but insisted they would “challenge it to the ultimate.”
Melbourne chief executive Dick Seddon fired back: “It’s a pity Collingwood has turned this into a public brawl”, with the bad blood between the clubs stretching back a year to when Peter Moore had switched to the Demons.
The battle between the Magpies and Demons would eventually be resolved, yet only after Collingwood’s reserves had been docked points for playing McLean when he should not have been played.
McLean, who would later be cleared for Tony Keenan and an exchange of money, would only get to play two senior matches with the Magpies in late 1984, before being discarded within two years.
But that was in the future, and the Collingwood-Footscray clash would have enough tension of its own for the day.
The Magpies went into the game as favourites, though the Bulldogs had a strong, improving side that included the likes of Doug Hawkins, Simon Beasley, Jim Edmond, Brian Royal and Andrew Purser. And former Magpie Allan Edwards was brought back into the Footscray side.
Their coach was only 30 – less than 150 days older than Collingwood’s oldest player that day, Michael Taylor – and he was coaching in his first season and only his 10th game.
Collingwood’s coach was John Cahill, one of the most famous names in South Australian football, who was in the midst of his second season in Black and White.
One of the more unusual things about the Magpie team that day was the fact that there were four Shaws in the one side, though only two of them were related.
Siblings Tony and Neville Shaw – a 19-year-old playing his eighth game – though their other brother Ray was no longer there.
But Derek Shaw, recruited from the Diamond Valley, and Gary Shaw, a Queenslander who had performed well in the West Australian Football League and had cost a small mint in transfer fees, were also playing.
The experienced Collingwood team who would later play off in a Preliminary Final against the eventual premiers Essendon included the likes of David Cloke, Mark Williams, Geoff Raines, Ricky Barham and Peter McCormack. Allan was 29 and playing his 46th game for Collingwood – and his 133rd overall after transferring from Fitzroy.
When the game started, both sides traded goals, with each kicking six goals in the opening term.
While the visitors held a narrow sway of two points at the first change, it looked more promising for the home side, as it had been kicking against a slight breeze.
Each of Collingwood’s six goals came from a different player, with Gary Shaw, Greg Phillips, Banks, Michael Richardson, Barham and Queenslander Dale Woodhall all scoring majors.
Woodhall, 23, was playing his eighth game for Collingwood. He had been a champion goal kicker in the Queensland competition, but could not quite translate that dominance to the VFL, though he did kick seven goals in a game against Sydney.
He kicked two goals in the second term, while Gary Shaw scored another major and Cloke added his first.
By half-time, it seemed as if order had been restored as the Magpies had managed four goals against the wind, keeping the Bulldogs without a goal. The difference was 29 points at the long interval.
Midway through the third term, the margin was still 26 points, and it appeared as if Collingwood was about to record a routine victory.
But Collingwood would only add one goal in that third term, through Banks, who was having a memorable day.
The Bulldogs added four goals in the third term – two from Beasley, who was slowly getting on top of McCormack, who had barely given him a look-in, and two from Edmond, who had been brought back in the senior team after a week in the reserves.
At three-quarter-time, Collingwood led by only 11 points.
Shane Morwood and Derek Shaw kicked Collingwood’s only last quarter goals.
The Herald said: “Even in the final term it always looked as though Collingwood was going to hang on despite Footscray’s determination.”
But the Bulldogs kept coming, and Cahill watched helpless as majors to Michael McLean, Rick Kennedy and veteran Bruce Duperouzel put the home side right back into the contest.
Then came the defining moment of the match, and Banks’ second term mark was all but a distant memory.
It came as the seconds ticked down desperately and the ball was locked deep in the Footscray forward line at the city end of the ground. Collingwood fans breathed a sigh of relief when Allan was awarded a free kick against Edmond.
The Magpies held on grimly by a solitary point. Just a little earlier, Allan had cleared with a near-perfect pass to Barham.
This time he had the ball about 15 metres out from the Bulldogs’ goal.
Allan’s eyes looked immediately across goal, and when he made a movement in that direction, the fans’ heartbeats skipped a few beats.
The kick was intended for Phillips, but it lacked the penetration to make it and Beasley lunged at it.
The Bulldog forward grabbed hold of the ball before Phillips could get his hands on it.
Adding insult into injury, Beasley landed heavily on Phillips’ knee, causing an injury.
The pain for Allan was so much more, though. It was so intense that later he could not even remember that Edmond had placed his hand to his head and uttered an expletive, suggesting he must have had rocks in his head to attempt such a move.
Tim Lane, on the ABC, had said: “Graeme Allan is hanging his head, but he did what I think his coach would expect…It was a super effort by Beasley. He could write a new chapter in the Boys’ Own Annual.”
Beasley did not miss and put the Bulldogs in front by five points, with Collingwood’s 13.17 (95) to the opposition’s 15.10 (100) leaving them short when the siren rang soon after his kick.
Allan would later break his silence in an interview with the Sun’s chief football writer Peter Simunovich, who must have been sharing his subject’s pain, given he was a Collingwood supporter.
Allan “accepted the blame” for his “now famous” miskick.
He said: “It’s all my fault; it was just a bad kick. That’s all there is to it.
“I saw Greg running in. It was a play we normally do; I just kicked it too soft. I didn’t see Beasley. I just went numb and I didn’t see him kick the goal. I just turned my back and started to walk to the rooms.”
Cahill was shattered, as much by the fact that the Magpies had struggled in the second half, as with Allan’s kick.
“We should never have been in that position in the first place,” Cahill said after the game.
“Our second half was disgraceful.
“Our players wanted to play it nice, and soft and wide instead of crashing in and being physical. We’ve just let so many people down today. Footscray was more desperate for us in the closing stages.”
Malthouse was disappointed with those who suggested his team had stolen the game.
““I don’t think we stole it, for one minute,” he said.
“To say Collingwood was robbed of victory would be quite incorrect.”
Banks recalled this week that switching from defence was not something that Collingwood did all that often in those days, with Leigh Matthews’ arrival two years later making that tactic more prevalent than in the past.
But Allan said: “I should have played percentage football and kicked it long around the boundary. For a bloke of my experience, I shouldn’t have done it.
“I felt like digging a hole and burying myself in it. I still do.
“I went home after the game and cried.”
While the rest of the Collingwood team went out to drown their sorrows, Allan could not face a night on the town.
He was in bed early before a phone call roused him around 10.30pm.
It came from a Magpie teammate who told him he better get up because “a group of about 14 or 16 were coming around for a drink…an impromptu party.”
Allan did not have any alcohol in the house at the time, but that was easily fixed.
His teammates were happy to make it a BYO.
Banks recalled: “It ended up being a bit of a late night…we ended up having a few drinks with Gubby, which was good.”
The pain was shared together. And Banks gave no thoughts to being upstaged as he and his teammates tried to get around a mate who had made the mistake of his footy life.