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THE YEAR THE SNOWFLAKES FELL by Whispering Jack



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The snow that fell on the slopes of Victoria’s mountain districts in the winter of 1965 was not considered good enough to satisfy the enthusiasts. The really heavy snow that season came in two waves further north in July and August. The first descended on the national capital where “Pig Iron Bob” still held sway. Snow flurries touched the landscape all the way across the Blue Mountains. The next big snow extended further north up to the hills around Mackay in Queensland. Snowflakes fell inside the Tropic of Capricorn. 

I am unashamed to admit it but at the time and back in my home state, I took a bus ride with a group of fellow teens to pay the only visit I ever made to the snow. The sun shone brightly at Lake Mountain, less than 5,000 feet above sea level, where we spent our time wading through cold, mushy puddles of whiteness searching for the non-existent lake — I discovered much later that the place was named after a surveyor called “Lake”. We ate hot dogs and went home. I was unaware at the time but I had just fulfilled the requirement that legend dictated would make me a fully fledged Demon fan.

A few weeks later, it rained so hard on a Saturday morning that I passed on traveling to the north of town to witness the first and only Melbourne game against North Melbourne at City Oval Coburg. It was Saturday 24th July 1965. Ten months earlier, the Demons had won their 12th premiership, the sixth in a decade since 1955, all of them under the coaching of Norm Smith. Today, the team was to be coached by Frank “Checker” Hughes who replaced Smith for this game after the club committee sensationally sacked their legendary coach two days before the game.

The Demons were fighting for a finals place but in normal circumstances would have been expected to win against the Kangaroos with 14 of their premiership 20 in the side. North had not beaten Melbourne since 9 May, 1953. The latter had won 20 games on end against them in a streak that began on 1 August, 1953. This is how the Melbourne team lined up:-

B: N. Crompton R “Tas” Johnson R. Miller

HB: P. McLean K. Rowe F. Davis

C: B. Dixon D. Williams F. Vearing 

HF: H “Hassa” Mann G. Jacobs B. Vagg

F: J. Lord R. Groom K. Emselle

Foll: G. Wise B. Kenneally J. Townsend

19/20: S. Alves H.Bromell

The Shinboners had only won twice in the season to date and were second last on the ladder ahead of Hawthorn on percentage only. But they sensed blood against a shocked and disheveled Demons in front of a crowd of 8,312. Revelling in the wet conditions, they took a 15 point lead at quarter time 3.3.21 to 1.0.6 which Melbourne reduced to 11 points at the main break. However, the Kangaroos took complete control with five goals to two in the third and were untroubled to win by 21 points in the end. It was their first ever win in their brief history at their new ground.

Norm Smith was reinstated as coach during the following week but Melbourne missed the finals and would not compete in a finals series for a further two decades. 

On the morning after that ill-fated game at the Coburg City, I received a phone call from a friend. “They’ve had some decent falls on the snowfields. Would you want to go up there today?” I declined and I never went to the snow again.

Melbourne 1.0.6 3.3.21 5.3.33 9.6.60

North Melbourne 3.3.21 4.8.32 9.12.66 11.15.81

Goals Bryan Kenneally John Townsend Barrie Vagg 2 Ken Emselle Graeme Jacobs John Lord 

Best Bob Miller Tas Johnson John Townsend Ken Rowe Barrie Vagg Frank Davis

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I remember the day so we’ll - year 12 at school having seen MFC in finals every year since kindergarten.  Just assumed it would always happen.  
Reading the “pink paper”, The Sporting Globe, which we used to go in to Flinders Street to collect with disbelief it dawned upon me that it was just possible we could miss finals that year, but of course all would be well after that ?
Listened to the game from home having felt ill all week since Dr Duffy and his committee’s dreadful act of treachery.  

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3 hours ago, Demonland said:

 

Goals Bryan Kenneally John Townsend Barrie Vagg 2 Ken Emselle Graeme Jacobs John Lord 

Best Bob Miller Tas Johnson John Townsend Ken Rowe Barrie Vagg Frank Davis

Not one to brag.  But, what can I say...??  (Apart from "they coulda used me on Saturday night"...!!  LOL)

Okay, seriously, is good to see both Townsend and Emselle in that side.  If my memory serves me right (and, there's every chance it doesn't!), one of those two seemed to always be injured, so they rarely both got to play in the same side.  Anyone else recall that?

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14 minutes ago, Vagg said:

Not one to brag.  But, what can I say...??  (Apart from "they coulda used me on Saturday night"...!!  LOL)

Okay, seriously, is good to see both Townsend and Emselle in that side.  If my memory serves me right (and, there's every chance it doesn't!), one of those two seemed to always be injured, so they rarely both got to play in the same side.  Anyone else recall that?

They played lots of games together in the early part of their careers but then John Townsend injured a knee in 1966 and missed the best part of that and the next season. Then it was Emselle’s turn and he played 1 game in 1968 and another 2 in 1969 when he was mainly in the reserves - he won the Gardiner Medal for b & f in that competition that year.

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25 minutes ago, Vagg said:

Not one to brag.  But, what can I say...??  (Apart from "they coulda used me on Saturday night"...!!  LOL)

Okay, seriously, is good to see both Townsend and Emselle in that side.  If my memory serves me right (and, there's every chance it doesn't!), one of those two seemed to always be injured, so they rarely both got to play in the same side.  Anyone else recall that?

They both played, as you will recall, in the 64 GF - Ken I think was 19th or 20th so I don’t remember if he got a run.   A very sound pair of rovers. 

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45 minutes ago, binman said:

I read the headline and thought to myself that talking politics had been banned 

Fair go - back in those days, snowflakes meant snowflakes. We were 50 years away from political correctness, the cancel culture, Donald Trump and medical substitutes.

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3 minutes ago, monoccular said:

They both played, as you will recall, in the 64 GF - Ken I think was 19th or 20th so I don’t remember if he got a run.   A very sound pair of rovers. 

Jack Dyer used to mix them up and often would say that “Townselle played a good game for Melbourne today.”

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1 hour ago, binman said:

I read the headline and thought to myself that talking politics had been banned 

I thought it was about all the posters on here who want to sack Goodwin, think we can't win a flag or have a myriad of other negatives to pronounce.

The snowflakes have been out in force since last night...

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I remember the feeling of utter devastation at not making the finals in 1965, while the rest of my ‘one-eyed’ Essendon family revelled in it, and took great pleasure in telling me all about it when the Dons went on to win the Flag that year.
I also remember obtaining ‘revenge’ for the taunts from my little sister, by locking her in our backyard dunny, and not releasing her until she could recite our 1964 Premiership team word perfect.  We laugh about it today, but I don’t recall her laughing at the time.  
The last 58 years have taught me the hard way how to deal responsibly with jibes about the Dees.  I’ve well and truly learned my lesson, and it’s time for the ‘curse’ to be lifted.

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