Today, we’re rewinding 50 years to the day Ron Barassi’s Blues turned around a 44 point half time deficit and Collingwood let their 14th VFL premiership slip through their fingers.
At half time, it was Collingwood’s game to lose. They were the minor premiers, had already beaten Carlton three times including the semi final, had an extra weeks rest, and were up by 44 points. Yet somehow, unbeknown to most, they blew it and fueled the fire of the ‘Colliwobbles’ legend.
In one half time address, Ron Barassi transformed a deplorable outfit into a handballing and running machine that would kick seven unanswered goals after the main break and storm home. Hitting the lead for the first time with only a few minutes left. One of Barassi’s halftime masterstrokes, that played a key role in turning the tides, was bringing small forward Ted Hopkins into the game at the expense of Bert Thornley. The move paid immediate dividends as Hopkins kicked three of Carlton’s first seven goals in the 3rd quarter as well as a crafty assist to Jesaulenko.
Collingwood flew out of the blocks to a 29 point quarter time lead, limiting Carlton to just three behinds for the quarter. Des Tuddenham slotted the first six pointer of the day using a classy Marlion Pickett-esque 360 spin to break into space before putting it through. Peter McKenna, who had a huge first half, got the Pies second, converting the set shot from a big pack mark and giving Collingwood a 2.5.17 to 0.0.0 lead. Wayne Richardson and Len Thompson were the Pies standouts early on, both recording 5 kicks in the first 12 and a half minutes of play.
Con Britt and Peter McKenna kicked the Pies next two to see the quarter time score line 4.8.32 playing Carlton’s 0.3.3. Wayne Richardson and Peter McKenna were the standouts for Collingwood in a dominant opening display only marred by inaccuracy, that would ultimately prove costly. It wasn’t a good start to 1970’s pinnacle match for the Blues who were all over the place, their defence was loose and their inside 50 entries sloppy at best, leaving plenty to be desired.
Marking contest from the 1970 Grand Final
The Blues first goal came in the form of Adrian Gallagher, who was on the receiving end of a big bump 15 metres out and paid the free. Carlton were showing some early promise in the second term, but it was to be short lived as Collingwood returned serve almost instantly when Peter McKenna took yet another big contested mark and converted for his 3rd goal. Soon after McKenna had a chance to put through his fourth goal after earning a free kick in the marking contest, but missed, taking his match tally to 3.2. Carlton defender Kevin Hall’s kick ins were severely lacking penetration allowing Collingwood to lock the play in their 50. The build up of pressure lead to Ross Dunne trapping the ball on the half volley before spinning around outside the pack and slotting it. Another goal came almost instantly as McKenna dribbled it through on the run taking his tally to 4.2 and the score line to 6.11.47 leading Carlton’s measly 1.3.9. The Blues went through a purple patch midway through the quarter, kicked off by John Goold who sent a huge bomb inside 50 that found the hands of Robert Walls giving Carlton their second goal. The third goal came soon after in the form of Adrian Gallagher, for a second they had three on the trot as a Jesaulenko bomb from the centre flew over the pack up forward and dribbled through but it was disallowed as there was an illegal bump under the ball. After racking up three behinds and twelve kicks in a best on ground performance at that stage of the game, Wayne Richardson finally had his first goal, assisted by his brother Max. That goal helped Collingwood weather the Blues mini-surge and put the game right back on their terms, soon after McKenna had his fifth and the Pies lead 9.11.65 to 3.4.22, 22 minutes into the second quarter. The Blues finished the quarter with some more promise but their entries found Collingwood hands. Alex Jesaulenko gave the Blues fans something to cheer for when he flew in a truly majestic fashion, almost stopping time midair, to take the hanger of all hangers, “Jesaulenko, you beauty!” now a household phrase. Sergio Silvagni gave Carlton their fourth with a big torp, Collingwood’s Des Tuddenham followed up with a goal of his own to see Collingwood take a 10.13.73 to 4.5.29, 44 point halftime lead. Throughout the term Carlton showed 2-3 minute glimpses but certainly not enough to look like contenders, they were simply relying on a few individuals as oppose to a team effort. Collingwood on the other hand were looking very good, there forward line running rings around the hapless Blues.
Barassi’s halftime directive to the Blues to handball at all costs is something of footy folklore. Although whether it was actually given is still up for debate, there was certainly a lot more handballing done by the men in navy blue in that infamous second half. Carlton’s handballing and running combined with the introduction of small forward Ted Hopkins would quickly turn a lifeless grand final on its head.
Ted Hopkins snagged the first two goals of the half for Carlton, Jesaulenko and Walls assisting. A period of back and forth with barely any penetration ended when Sydney Jackson produced a magical snap from the boundary. Brent Croswell, who was having a ripper game, kicked the Blues fourth of the quarter from 40 metres out. Robert Walls dished off to Hopkins for Carlton’s fifth consecutive goal and Hopkins third in his short yet invaluable involvement. Carlton were looking a completely different team and Collingwood had no answers, surely they wouldn’t turn around a 44 point deficit in a matter of minutes. Walls was in the play again selling the candy and slotting the goal on the run. Hopkins was crafty dribbling the ball across to the open Jesaulenko who put through Carlton’s seventh straight goal less than fifteen minutes into the half! The Blues weren’t just breathing fire into the contest they were putting themselves in the box seat. The fifteen minute patch of dominance had seen a 40 point turn around as their 7.0 played Collingwood’s two behinds of the half, seeing them 11.5.71 trailing Collingwood’s 10.15.75. Whilst influential Collingwood supporters were in the rooms celebrating the ‘win’ at half time, it was well and truly game on. Len Thompson finally ended the Blues hot streak, kicking a goal to take the margin back to 10 points. Peter McKenna kicked his sixth, taking the margin out to 16 on the cusp of three quarter time and capping off a late Pies resistance. The three quarter time scoreline being Collingwood 13.16.94 leading Carlton 12.5.77.
Play from the 1970 Grand Final
Carlton nearly started the fourth quarter in enviable fashion when Ted Hopkins had a chance from about two metres but unfortunately sprayed it. Len Thompson gave the Pies real hope when he converted from his 1 on 1 mark to stretch the margin out to 21. Unfortunately for Collingwood that goal would be their last as they failed to produce effective entries for the rest of the match. They certainly didn’t have any less of the ball then Carlton in the finishing stages but the Blues defence held very strong. Centre half back David McKay took plenty of big intercepts and ultimately, Collingwood were shut down. Carlton’s combination of open running and handballing as well as looking to link Jesaulenko to Nicholls at full forward paid real dividends, they would kick 5.2.32 to 0.1.1 in the final 25 or so minutes of the match. Robert Walls had an extremely tight snap to cut the margin to 9 but some great athletic defence saw it touched on the line. Luckily the Carlton faithful didn’t have to wait to long to see the margin slashed to single figures when Nicholls got his second of the quarter. Collingwood fluffed another opportunity when they went for a short chip to McKenna but Robert Walls had a great read of the play and snuck up completing a brilliant intercept. Ross Dunne earnt a free up forward just to turn it straight over to McKay. The handballing tactic that had bought Carlton into the contest nearly cost them dearly as McKay turned it back over to Des Tuddenham who was caught by the scrambling defence. A couple of brilliant minutes from the electric Sydney Jackson saw the margin cut from 8 to 1. He took a great specky then bombed it in forward for a behind. He then followed it up with a truly remarkable piece of work where he smothered a kick, tapped the ball forward to himself, outpaced the three Pies hot on his tail and handballed over the top to the lone Ted Hopkins who kicked his fourth. The Pies had more and more entries but couldn’t find a way through the now impenetrable defence of Carlton. More risky handpassing in the backline created plenty of heart-in-your-mouth moments for onlookers and players alike, but the Blues lived to see another day. John Nicholls had a free sixty metres out and sent it deep resulting in no score leaving the margin at 1. Best on ground Brent Croswell was taken high 15 metres out, and 120,000 fans collectively held their breath as he slotted the goal, giving Carlton the lead for the first time 25 minutes into the last quarter! With the Blues leading by 5 Collingwood had more inside 50 entries including a big spoil from Sergio Silvagni on Peter McKenna, who had gone quiet after a 5 goal first half. 28 minutes into the quarter Carlton extended their lead to 11 when Jesaulenko sent forward a long bomb into the vacant forward 50 that remarkably dribbled through. The Pies had more late chances but David McKay was there intercepting yet again in an astronomical last quarter for him. Ross Dunne’s missed set shot would be the final score of the game and as the siren sounded Ron Barassi and his troops became ingrained in footy folklore for eternity.
Carlton’s Brent Croswell was the clear best of ground for his efforts, especially early in the game when he was the shining light of a dull outfit, he finished with 23 disposal and two goals. Key centre half back David McKay was also big for Carlton especially in the last quarter, finishing with 20 disposals and 9 or 10 marks. Intoduced into the match at half time, Ted Hopkins was great with four goals, Jesaulenko also kicked three to go with his immortal ‘mark of the century’.
For Collingwood vice-captain Wayne Richardson was their standout, finishing with 22 disposals, Barry Price also had 22 and the younger Richardson Max had 19. Peter McKenna was good up forward with six goals but couldn’t hit the scoreboard when it was needed most, that effort a key turning point in the outcome.
Collingwood were left to rue their inaccuracies finishing with 14.17.101 to Carlton’s superior 17.9.111. Although the Blues really turned up in the second half, Collingwood lost the game just as much as Carlton won it. Highlighted by their 5 extra scoring shots for 10 less points and last quarter effort where they had more of the footy yet scored just 7 points and conceded 34. Nevertheless, Ron Barassi foreshadowed his coaching brilliance and Brent Croswell and Alex Jesaulenko earnt their place as bona-fide stars of the game in an all time classic that holds a powerful place in footy history.