The first in Adelaide
By: Glenn McFarlane
The first contest between Collingwood and Adelaide at Football Park was a classic encounter, albeit on a wet and windy Sunday night. More than 44,000 parochial fans crammed in to see the famous black and white take on the AFL’s newest side for the first time on South Australian soil.
It’s also worth recording that a few people still connected to the clubs, and to the AFL scene, were on show that night.
Backman Gary Pert was switched on to a young, blond kid in only his second game after the forward had kicked three goals in a quarter and a bit of football on Ron McKeown. The kid’s name was Tony Modra.
The only debutant in the game was Collingwood’s Mark Fraser, who is now the AFL’s match review panel chairman.
Craig Kelly was one of the best players; Peter Daicos was acting captain of the Magpies in the absence of Tony Shaw; while the Magpies also had Gavin Brown (Carlton), Alan Richardson (Carlton) and Shane Watson (North Melbourne) – playing that night.
Brenton Sanderson was embarking on his fourth game of a career that would eventually take him to Collingwood, where in the years ahead he would share a house with the Magpies’ current coach Nathan Buckley.
Buckley was wearing black and white in 1992, though not the Collingwood strip. He was on his way to a Magarey Medal with Port Adelaide in the SANFL. Within a year, he would be at Brisbane. Within two, he would be at Victoria Park.
Collingwood’s first clash for premiership points at AAMI Stadium came on May 17, 1992 – just a week after the club had lost its “Centenary match” against Carlton, a night that was meant to celebrate the club’s 100th birthday. The Blues won that match by 33 points.
Adelaide had joined the AFL in 1991, but the fixture made for only one clash between the two teams that season, and it ended in a lesson in inner-suburban tribalism for the Crows, with the Magpies handing out a 123-point flogging at Victoria Park.
Everyone knew the Round 9, 1992 sell-out clash at Football Park was always going to be a lot closer.
It was being billed as a state-against-state clash, more so than a club-against-club contest. So much so that the Adelaide Advertiser fuelled those feelings, saying: “Collingwood, more than any other club, represents what Victorian football has been all about for many years … it has plundered interstate clubs; taken the best players from everywhere; and displayed sheer arrogance.”
The Magpies’ cheer-squad bit back with a banner saying: “Collingwood – Proud to be Victorian.”
The ill-feeling extended to the field. The two teams had played in a pre-season game at the same location a few months earlier that had degenerated into a rough-house affair, and the follow-up match started out in a similar vein.
Daicos was “crunched” at the first bounce. Shane Morwood copped a few heavy knocks, one of which came accidentally from the back of teammate Brown’s boot, while one journalist said: “(Craig) Kelly embarked on a personal campaign to bruise as many Crows as he could legitimately manage … he managed to achieve a lot.”
Modra kicked the opening goal of the game as the Crows opened up the early lead. The home side led by two goals following a tight and tense opening term, with Collingwood’s only goal coming from former South Australian Troy Lehmann.
After Modra kicked two more majors at the start of the second term, Collingwood coach Leigh Matthews was forced into making some changes, switching Pert onto the dangerous Adelaide forward.
By the 10-minute-mark of the second term, the Crows led by four goals, and the game looked in danger of sliding away from the Pies.
Then Daicos kicked two dribbling goals and McKeown booted two as well as the Magpies clawed back into the contest. The difference was only two points at the long interval.
A remarkable third term followed. Adelaide kicked 2.2 to Collingwood’s 10 behinds. Yes, that’s right, 10 behinds. The Magpies had so much of the play, but they simply could not convert it onto the scoreboard.
Still, the difference at the last change was only six points, though many observers believed Adelaide had the upper hand. The Advertiser remarked: “They (the Crows) had the use of a slight breeze and the aid of a howling crowd urging them on.”
Collingwood big man James Manson would recall that the crowd was extremely difficult to combat: “It is quite a shock coming to Adelaide … the crowd is quite parochial and I would say that it is harder to play there than it is in Perth.”
But Collingwood was far from done with. And within the first eight minutes of the last term, the Magpies hit back hard with three goals – to Watson, Scott Russell and another to McKeown.
The crowd was momentarily silenced; the visitors led by 10 points.
Modra changed all that with another goal to cut the difference to less than a kick, and he had the chance to regain the lead for the home side. But he missed a shot at the 21-minute-mark that would have tied the scores. The Magpies held onto that five-point margin right until the final siren.
Collingwood had won its first match at Football Park and the locals were not happy, sending off the umpires with a chorus of boos, largely because of a decision in the third term to disallow a “goal” to Matthew Liptak because Modra had illegally impeded Pert.
The home crowd did not take the defeat well, with the Advertiser saying: “The final siren pierced like a knife, extracting a long, loud groan from most of the fans.”
But for the Magpies players and for black and white fans that had made the trip from Melbourne, it was a special night.