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Champagne under lights

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Champagne under lights

SPEED… FIERY CLASHES… and many brilliant passages of play – the Victoria v SA Premiers’ match at Norwood Oval under lights on Thursday had the lot. In a thrilling hard-hitting game that had 18,000 fans yelling throughout, the scores were seldom far apart. Melbourne trailing by 12 points at the last change, finished strongly to kick 3.6 to a point by South Adelaide and win by 11 points – 9.14 to 9.3.

Despite their disappointment, the partisan crowd was satisfied that it had seen one of the best exhibitions of the season. South had their opportunities, but couldn’t come back after Melbourne rover John Townsend had snatched the lead in the 23rd minute of the last quarter. However, they were gallant in defeat. To lose four members of the premiership team and still hold the best club team in Australia to 11 points was a tribute to their courage and ability. Their rise from last in 1953 has been remarkable. Melbourne’s centre line, Frank Adams, Hassa Mann and Graham Watson was surprisingly quiet, and on the night was well beaten.


Melbourne, with a reputation for pace, were closely checked, often outsped, and frustrated into errors. Coach Norm Smith said after the game that South were on of the fastest teams he had seen. The Demons had three players in particular to thank for their win – back pocket Neil Crompton, Townsend and ruck-rover Ron Barassi. Three years ago Crompton was an ordinary player with Glenelg in the SA League, but if it hadn’t been for his sterling work in defence on Thursday, South might have won. Townsend kicked two timely goals in the second half when South threatened to break away, and a third that gave the Demons the lead with only seven minutes remaining. Barassi “the Villain” following his clashes with opposing captain-coach Neil Kerley, brilliantly set the handball pattern for the team.


Frequently he enticed an opponent towards him, created the loose man, and then accurately punched the ball to a lone teammate.

Barassi and Kerley, who had clashed several times in the first half, declared “open ward” half way through the third term, when Barassi ran yards to rain blows on the back of Kerley’s neck. Former Broken Hill recruit Mick Rivers was South’s hero. Brought in after being an emergency throughout the major round, he turned many attacks from the half-back line. Lanky Darwin aboriginal David Kangilla proved that his match-winning Grand Final performance was no fluke by marking and rucking strongly. He also shook off pursuers to kick two goals.

The turning point in the game probably came in the dressing room at half time when Smith instructed centre half-back “Doc” Roet to knock the ball away. Roet had been unable to cope with Peter Darley’s clever body positioning and safe high marking in the first half.


As a result, South attacked from smart-moving centreman Lindsay Backman through Darley to the goalfront, but as Darley’s influence became less pronounced in the second half, South found scoring increasingly difficult. In the third term they had four scoring shots for four goals and in the last quarter only one for a point. Melbourne have played three end-of-season “premiership” matches at Norwood and have given full value in each. In 1963 they beat Port Adelaide by a point before 20,000 people, in 1958-9 (?) they won by 42 points before a crowd of 18,000 and on Thursday they again fought on to clinch victory in the closing stages.


3. Neil Crompton (Melbourne) didn’t drop a mark in the back pocket, where his anticipation and skilful interceptions foiled many South attacks. His kicks usually landed the ball near the boundary on the half-back line.

2. Mick Rivers (South Adelaide) he’s not big, nor a stylist, but he’s courageous and a real battler. Backed his judgmenet at times coming from half-back to the wing to meet the ball, handled it well on the ground and advanced to half-forward before disposing of it.

1. John Townsend (Melbourne) has a reputation for taking marks, but it was his pace and opportunism that impressed SA fans. Scouted the packs cleverly and kicked four goals.

6 Umpire Max O’Connell

This was his first big game, although he has had charge of a few league matches. some Melbourne officials weren’t impressed, and there was some justification as south Adelaide appeared to get the breaks. However, some of his best decisions were against south players- breaches that any umpire would have been forgiven for missing. He should have adopted the 15 yard penalty long before he did in the third quarter for there were a few veteran Melbourne players who took advantage of his latitude. He mad mistakes, but he didn’t rob the match of glamor. Some of the frees that Melbourne complained about were the result of blatant infringements that are in the rule book.


Melbourne captain Ron Barassi has won the club’s best and fairest award for 1964. It is the second time that Barassi will receive the MCC Trophy and the Bluey Truscott Memorial Trophy for the best player. He last won them in 1961. Centreman Hassa Mann was runner-up for the third season in a row. Winger Brian Dixon won the Ron Barassi Memorial Trophy for the third best player. Other awards were: Outstanding service, ruck rover Bryan Keneally; outstanding service , rover John Townsend; and a special trophy for outstanding service to centre half-forward Ray Groom. The award for Melbourne’s most improved player went to follower Graham Wise and for the best first year player to follower-forward Graeme Jacobs.

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