Pies and Tigers create template for ANZAC Day football
By: Glenn McFarlane
One of Collingwood’s biggest matches against Richmond featured – pressure-packed football, high-powered performances, and a crowd of 92,436, which was then the second highest home-and-away crowd in VFL history, and which remains fourth highest.
It would also be the seed that would one day help start a grand football tradition on Australia’s most sacred day.
The match, played on ANZAC Day, 1977, challenged the loyalties and the ties of a few key protagonists and this much as anything else helped to swell the crowd well beyond anyone’s expectations.
Tom Hafey, four-time Richmond premiership coach, had transferred to Collingwood during the off-season and had been charged with trying to get the Magpies off the bottom of the ladder for the first time in the club’s history.
And on that day, in Round 4, the 45-year-old coach was coming up against his old club for the first time, having been appointed as the first “outsider” to coach Collingwood.
It’s fair to say that he knew the players from his old team even better than he knew those in his new one.
But before the game Hafey swept aside any thought that emotion might get the better of him and he later explained: It’s a strange feeling for me to coach against my old side but I treated the game like any other.
“Before the game I told the players what they can expect from Richmond and what each player can expect from his opponent. I do that with every match, but I guess I knew the opposition a bit better this time.”
The reality was that his former players couldn’t switch off as easily as he could. That much was obvious.
As the Sun’s Peter Simunovich wrote: “The ghost of Tom Hafey still stalks the Richmond dressing rooms. Clearly coming up against their former coach and long-time mentor haunted some of the Tigers’ players leading into and during the game.”
Kevin Sheedy, Richmond’s ‘back pocket plumber’ who was even then angling to one day become a coach, was one who was torn by emotion. It takes a fair bit to make Sheeds cry, but he admitted to having a few tears welling in his eyes that day.
Sheedy was so emotional and so flustered that he inexplicably kicked the ball 60m the wrong way during the third term.
Years later he would talk about how he turned his embarrassment that day into something far more enduring.
He would use that 1977 match many years later as the template for convincing the AFL, Collingwood and Essendon to hold an annual match on ANZAC Day.
Sheedy said: “I remembered the seed had been planted on that day (in 1977). It was one of the biggest home-and-away crowds of my era. It had me thinking about the concept of bringing people to the football and what entices them to come.”
So the tradition of Collingwood and Essendon games on ANZAC Day began with a thrilling draw in 1995.
The Collingwood-Richmond game was not the only VFL game that ANZAC Day in 1977 – the 62nd anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. Geelong took on South Melbourne at Waverley before a crowd of almost 28,000.
But the only game that mattered for most people was the clash between Richmond – who had replaced Hafey after the 1976 season and appointed 31-year-old Barry Richardson – and Collingwood – who had chased Hafey after finishing bottom under coach Murray Weideman the previous year.
A massive crowd was expected. The early estimates had been around the 75,000-mark, but there were others worried that a petrol strike gripping Melbourne would keep many people away.
It didn’t – even though some people were forced to pay $7.50 a gallon to fill up their cars to make the trek to the MCG. Most chose to swell the packed trains and trams heading towards Jolimont.
Those who stopped off at the crowded Lennox St pub in Richmond for an ale and a counter lunch before the game were given a menu that Tiger fans would have loved.
Publican Sam Stojas happily posed for a photograph for the Herald with a menu check-list of “(Bill) Picken Pie, Magpie Tail Soup, (Phil) Carman Stew, Hot Cross (Ross) Dunne, (Wayne) Gordon Bleu, Roast (Len) Thompson, Chef: Barry Richardson.”
Collingwood’s team for the ANZAC Day game was a mix of experienced players and some talented youngsters.
The veterans included Wayne Richardson (30 years old), his brother/captain Max Richardson (28), Ross Dunne (29) and Len Thompson (29).
The always controversial Phil Carman was 26 and playing his 36th game in black and white. During the match he would get into a tangle with a 23-year-old former Saint turned Tiger defender in his 66th VFL game. His name was Mick Malthouse.
Of course, Malthouse would later coach Collingwood in 12 ANZAC Day games from 2000-2011.
For Carman, there would be more controversies at the end of the season that would cost his club very dearly.
In the 1977 game, Collingwood only had one player who had previously played with another VFL club – former Tiger Gerald Betts. One of the Tigers in the game was also a former Magpie – 202cm ruckman Bob Heard.
Incredibly, four more players in the Richmond side that day would later play for the Magpies – David Cloke, Allan Edwards, Geoff Raines and Jon Hummel.
The Tigers’ veterans included Sheedy (29), Kevin Bartlett (30), Francis Bourke (30) and Wayne Walsh (30).
As Hafey headed around the boundary line to walk towards the coach’s box for his 251st VFL game, a few who had formerly cheered him called him a “traitor” – an irony not lost on the man who had been replaced, not chosen to walk away.
Most supporters in yellow and black, though, praised him for what he had done for their football club.
The first term turned out to be a “tug of war…a desperate, scrambling exhibition of football.”
Collingwood had a slight edge. Rene Kink, 20, and in his 35th game, had played a key role early. His first goal came five minutes into the game when he “snatched the ball out of a pack 35m from goal and then drove it home with a hurried punt kick”. His second came three minutes later when “he marked strongly from 65m out and steered another one home.”
Richmond took 17 minutes to kick its first goal – via Hummel – but the margin at quarter-time was four points in Collingwood’s favour, but it could have been more if not for the Magpies’ wasteful 4.7.
But a powerful second term – highlighted by some incredible run from the Magpies – saw Hafey’s team kick 5.4 to the Tigers’ 3.1 to carry a 19-point lead into the main break.
Scot Palmer, of the Sun, wrote: “The fitness for which he (Hafey) is renown made players of the calibre of Andrew Ireland, Bill Picken and Ian Cooper shine, while the handball was pure and positive and the kicks long and penetrating.”
“The Magpies were more desperate to win the ball, they handled the ball with confidence and surety and theír handball was swift, sure and accurate. And the much fitter looking Magpies have at last eliminated short passing way to goal.”
Barry Richardson admitted later that “Richmond players were too tense and emotional; they never settled down. I think it was because of the big game and Tom coming back here.”
Sheedy was one of them. In the third term, he booted the ball the wrong way, bringing Bronx cheers from the crowd.
The following day he recalled: “I’ve got a very sore tail where I was kicked by about 5000 members for kicking that ball the wrong way. I just looked at Carman (who marked the ball) and said to myself: ‘What a bloody silly thing to do’.”
The Herald recorded: “The Magpies should have wrapped up the game in the third term when they swept to a 41-point after four goals in nine minutes from Andrew Ireland, Shane Bond, Peter Moore and Ross Dunne. Maybe it was overconfidence because the Magpies let the Tigers get within 20 points at three quarter time.”
At one stage the difference was only 16 points, and Collingwood fans – wary that the club had let slip big occasions before – started to feel a sense of anxiety.
They should not have been worried. The Magpies finally settled and went on to win the match by 26 points.
Collingwood’s main goal kickers were Bond (four), Carman (three) and two to Dunne, Ireland, Kink, Peter Moore and Ron Wearmouth.
The Magpies’ best player was centre half-back Bill Picken, who was 20, and playing his 52nd game, and whom the Sun described as “impenetrable”. Ireland, Wayne Richardson, Cooper, Kevin Worthington and Wearmouth were also in the best.
There was a sense from those at that game that Hafey had dragged Collingwood into the modern age after seemingly being weighed down by its past glories for too long.
The Sun said after that ANZAC Day match: “Within six months, Tommy Hafey has drilled into Collingwood that it is playing football in 1977, not 1924.
“The Magpies dusted themselves off and launched into a new age yesterday by once and for all shedding the heavy burden of tradition. For if they had still belonged to the past and gone into the MCG clash with Richmond treating it as one of the “traditional” matches, Collingwood might not have scored a 26-point victory.”
It was thought that the Magpies’ win that day was the club’s 1000th victory – even some newspapers reported it, before statisticians quickly pointed out after the fact that it was the 999th.
Regardless, Hafey had no interest in the milestone. He talked of and planned for the future – not the past.
He said: “I didn’t even give it (the milestone) a thought before the game because I am not interested in the past tradition, only the future. These boys have not been a part of Collingwood premierships and won’t be until they start to think about the present and the future.”
Sadly, Hafey’s 1977 Magpies did not taste the premiership success the club and its supporters craved. They came as close as you can get to a flag without winning one – playing in a drawn Grand Final (without the suspended Carman) before losing the replay (also without Carman) to North Melbourne.
It was a cruel end to one of Collingwood’s brightest seasons. Hafey had taken over a team that had finished last the previous year and pushed them into two Grand Finals without the ultimate reward.
But that 1977 ANZAC Day game between Collingwood and Richmond was enough to sow the seeds in Sheedy’s mind that a blockbuster game on Australia’s most sacred day would be good for football and for the fans. And Collingwood and Essendon have proven that since 1995.