Monday 28 September, 1953
Desperate Geelong rally was in vain
WIN FOR MAGPIES
By HUGH BUGGY
PLAYING with unflinching courage and steadiness in a crisis, Collingwood smashed a dangerous late challenge by Geelong to win the 1953 League premiership on Saturday.
Five goals down at the last change and looking a baffled and beaten side, Geelong launched a desperate onslaught to try to wrest the game from the Magpies just when Collingwood seemed set for a crushing victory.
Going down fighting strongly, Geelong failed by 12 points in its great effort after it had trailed six goals behind late in the third term.
This rousing finish, with two teams straining every nerve for the decisive break, was a fitting climax to a grimly fought game that kept 89,000 fans in a surge of excitement from the bounce to the last siren.
Ended 2-year reign
By its notable victory Collingwood broke Geelong’s two-years’ domination of League football, won its first premiership since 1936, collected its 12th League pennant, and completed a run of nine straight wins.
Nobody who really loves the game will begrudge the Magpies a richly deserved triumph, which was achieved the hard way, by much sweat and toil.
They confounded most of the experts and critics. They flouted all the rules postulated about field balance. And they proved a team of plucky fighters can overcome an odd technical deficiency here and there, even under the intense pressure of a grand final.
Praiseworthy as Geelong’s closing effort was, it should be remembered that Collingwood won the flag with a side that in strength and skill was below the best that the club could field.
In fact, since July, the Magpies only once have been in the happy position of being able to put their best team in the field.
Week after week good players were forced to drop out of the line-up through injury. Yet Collingwood has won the last nine games it has played, and has won them well. No side in the League has been so dissected, analysed, criticised, and damned with faint praise by the experts.
It had little of the equipment essential to win a flag, they said.
Where was its top-class full forward? It had none.
Where was its stabilised half-back line? It had been wrecked completely by the loss of Frank Tuck and Peter Lucas.
Where was its experienced centre half-forward? It had none.
Courage, team spirit
But whatever unbalance there may have been at odd spots in the field, the Magpies possessed in full measure some of the basic ingredients to success in the finals.
They had courage all over the field – sheer pluck that no buffeting or bullocking could disturb.
They had team spirit developed to the highest degree under Spartan training, a team spirit which has made Collingwood one of the most formidable forces in League down the years.
There are no individuals in the Magpie line-up, but only cogs, or links, or parts of a close-knit combination. That is why the backing up and close support of every Collingwood player in the last-quarter crisis on Saturday was faultless.
And they had discipline of a kind that has been handed on as a legacy from the great Collingwood sides of the past. It was that iron discipline which enabled the Magpies to play unruffled football against Geelong’s high-powered late rebound.
Superimposed on these mental assets, Collingwood had a leavening of champions, although no player is called a champion at Victoria Park.
Players like Bob Rose, Thorold Merrett, and Des Healey, the acknowledged master of wing play, would star in any company. Bill Twomey, although not perhaps as consistent, can be devastating when fired by inspiration.
But round and about this leavening on Saturday, Collingwood had several players who had little senior experience behind them, and no experience at all of the electric atmosphere and setting of a grand final.
Yet nobody could detect the slightest evidence of stage-fright in young players like Terry Waites, Lerrel Sharp, or Murray Weideman. Under the Victoria Park discipline they played with the same confidence as if a grand final were a junior game in a paddock.
There was nothing flash or showy about the play of these boys. They just fitted into the side smoothly, playing solid, fearless, and work- manlike football.
Had strategic plan
Collingwood, as always, played to a strategic plan.
The Magpies never go into the field like “minnows”, waiting and hoping that something will turn up to swing a game their way.
On Saturday their plan called for close, bustling work, and the shadowing of every Geelong star. Allied to this was the discreet use of vigor, applied fairly but frequently.
Main aim of the Magpies was to unbalance Geelong in the early stages, and quench that Geelong pace which has always been respected but not feared at Victoria Park.
To this end they tackled with a merry abandon, bumped hard, and bounced into the struggling packs in a rumbustious way. This plan succeeded in the first half. Geelong unquestionably was swung off balance.
Its forwards, harassed by close-playing backs, had to kick in a hurry. Its big men were met solidly in all parts of the field. Its defence gave ground before massed frontal assaults, carried forward in short-passing bursts and speeded up by flawless and telling handball.
Collingwood dictated the trend of the game in the second quarter, and ran to 5-6 to Geelong’s 3-9 at half time.
Geelong’s forward work had lost its former polish and precision, and it managed only 1-7 for the term. Hasty shots, mostly from the flanks, yielded a string of five behinds in a row.
Geelong’s stopgap full forward Russell Renfrey, who kicked three behinds, made little impression on the Collingwood defence, and the side relied on the wide sweeps from centreman Leo Turner to the flankers Bob Davis and Noel Rayson.
Collingwood staked everything on the frontal drive, and might have increased its half-time lead but for the cool, unhurried work of Bernie Smith.
Smith was the personification of audacity, clearing his goal and launching thrusts from the last line of defence.
Looked better side
It was in the third quarter that Collingwood had Geelong’s measure. and looked the superior, all-round side.
Skipper Lou Richards stimulated a fierce and intense onslaught by goaling from a sharp angle. Then, surging straight down the ground the Magpies gave the Geelong defence a thorough pasting. Only a valiant effort by Bernie Smith and Bruce Morrison held up a devastating breakthrough.
Geelong, beaten on the wings, looked a badly shaken side as Healey swung through an angle goal, Bob Rose whipped through the eighth, and big Neil Batchelor slammed on another from long range.
In exactly nine minutes the Magpies had piled on four goals to lead by 9-8 to 3-9. For Geelong all the symptoms of a massacre lay ahead.
John Hyde steadied Geelong by starting a drive through Davis to Ron Hovev for fourth goal. Davis, on the run, screwed through another beauty, but the Geelong offensive was short lived.
Another goal by Batchelor left it the equivalent of five goals down at the last change.
Having played with a confidence and aggression that carried all before it, the Magpies in the last quarter opened defensively.
They seemed intent on sparring and preserving their winning lead. Geelong, quick to sense the plan, struck hard and often by the direct route.
Bob Davis flung himself into the game with rare gusto, roamed far, and with an electrifying dash broke through for sixth goal. Then, turning, baulking, and racing on at high speed, he punted another.
Geelong still had a chance to snatch victory. It was diminished, however, when Hovey, after a superb mark, missed at easy distance.
Collingwood at once dropped the defensive role and attacked fiercely for Bob Rose to clinch victory with a snapped 11th goal.
Geelong fought on, and Rayson goaled, but time was running out and the Magpies could hardly be said to have been in real danger of defeat.
DID YOU SEE.
By PERCY TAYLOR
THE first kick of the match go to Collingwood’s Terry Waites, and the first real mark to Bill Rose, Collingwood follower?
That timely bump by diminutive Thorold Merrett that gave him the opportunity to pass to Keith Batchelor for Collingwood’s first behind?
And Des Healey dash out of the pack to slam the ball past the outstretched hands of Geelong defenders for first goal?
Umpire Jack McMurray handing out free kicks in impartial fashion early in the game-just to show he was the boss?
Flanagan and Pianto co-operating in delivering the ball to Renfrey for first Geelong behind?
That bullet-like pass by Leo Turner and Bill McMaster squirm into the air to take a great mark and kick first goal for Geelong?
Boundary umpires, policemen, and players waiting for the ball to be returned from the crowd after Rayson had scored a nice goal? It didn’t come back.
The goal umpire dash out and speak to Bill Rose, Collingwood’s tall follower, late in the first quarter?
McMaster’s dominance in the air early in the second quarter?
That clever weaving 40 yards run by Bernie Smith -the first of many by the talented Geelong back pocket -and Bob Rose doing much the same for Collingwood a minute later?
Worner’s long run, which ended in Pianto snapping Geelong’s third goal?
That well-judged mark in the pack by Batchelor to bring up fourth goal for Collingwood?
Mick Twomey’s flying mark – best so far – that gave him fifth goal?
Bernie Smith in everything? He tore through the pack in one lovely dash, and seconds later took a tower-ing mark as the second quarter ended.
Lou Richards begin that great third quarter onslaught by Collingwood with an acutely angled goal?
That swerve out of a crush by Healey and his shot that “miscued”? A minute later he did another clever squirm, and this time up came Collingwood’s seventh goal.
Norman Sharp bumped heavily to the ground by smaller Bob Rose? Sharp rose unsteadily and rubbed his shoulder for minutes.
The crash that sent Terry Waites (Collingwood) heavily to the ground? There was a swirl of players, and for a moment it looked ugly.
Ron Kingston coolly send Geelong back three times in succession in the third quarter?
The umpire race up to Bob Davis, waggle his finger at the Geelong wing half-for- ward, and award a free kick up the field.
The best drop kick of the day when Batchelor marked and shot through a 60-yard goal?
The Collingwood trainer waving his towel like a baton as he led the cheers for the Magpies as they took up position for the last quarter?
That superb dash by Bob Davis, and the long-running drop kick for goal that gave Geelong hope of a recovery in the last quarter?
Collingwood players, apparently tiring, not watching opponents properly?
The expression of pain or the faces of Geelong supporters when Ron Hovey, after a superb mark, missed an easy goal?
The last nail go in Geelong’s coffin as Ron Richards passed coolly to Bob Rose, and Rose, just as coolly, steadied himself to shoot through 11th goal?
That long run by Collingwood centre man Bill Twomey-one of several during the game-that ended in a stubbed kick?
The swirling rush of supporters when the siren signalled the end of the game and a Collingwood victory? It was 15 minutes before the last player was able to reach the dressing-room.
1953 ‘[No heading].’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 28 September, p. 19, viewed 26 August, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1763331
Collingwood 2.4 5.6 10.10 11.11 (77)
Geelong 2.3 3.9 5.11 8.17 (65)
Collingwood: Batchelor 4, R. Rose 3, Healey 2, L. Richards, M. Twomey.
Geelong: Davis 3, Rayson 2, Hovey, McMaster, Trezise.
Collingwood: Healey, Mann, R. Richards, L. Richards, R. Rose, Merrett.
Geelong: B. Smith, Renfrey, Williams, Turner, McMaster, Davis.
Crowd: 89,060 at the MCG.