A good old-fashioned flogging

Supporting a football team of any code is a rollercoaster experience – enjoying the highs of memorable wins, and suffering through the pain of terrible losses. Both these feelings were experienced by Glenelg and Central Districts fans during a record-breaking afternoon in August of 1975.

The home-and-away season of the South Australian National Football League was drawing to close, prior to the end of season playoffs, which would determine the premiers of the League. Round 17 of the 18 rounds was scheduled for Saturday, the 23rd of August, and one of the five matches played that afternoon pitted the Glenelg Tigers against the Central Districts Bulldogs, with the game being played at the Tigers home ground of Glenelg Oval.

Prior to the game, Glenelg were sitting in 2nd place in the ten team league, just behind Norwood, and had already booked their place in the playoffs. Central Districts were in 7th place, and were still a chance of making the playoffs, as 5th place North Adelaide were only two points ahead of the Bulldogs with two games left in the home-and-away season. When the two teams had met in Round 8 in May, Glenelg had a big victory, winning by 141 points: 33.14 (212) to 9.17 (71). With the Bulldogs desperate for a victory, most people though that the result would be a lot closer than the Round 8 game. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the exact opposite occurred. Glenelg went on a scoring rampage, setting many scoring records for top-level Australian Rules football that have not been equalled since then. Here is the final result:

Glenelg 12.6 25.12 34.17 49.23 (317)
Central District 3.2 6.4 10.7 11.13 (79)

Here is a photo of the scoreboard after this historic game.

Scoreboard

• Glenelg became the first SANFL team to kick more than 300 points in a game.
• Its winning margin, naturally a record, eclipsed by 12 points the previous highest league score.
• Glenelg slammed through a goal every two minutes of playing time.
• It took 170 minutes to complete 100 minutes of football. The time taken as the boundary umpires ferried the ball back for centre bounces after each goal accounted for most of the 41 min. 34 sec. of “time on.”
• Glenelg’s 15.6 in the last quarter beat the previous best one-quarter score in the SANFL – West Adelaide’s 14.10 against North Adelaide back in 1940.
• Glenelg’s 317 is still the only 300+ score by a team in any of the four “major” Australian Rules football leagues – Australian Football League, Victorian Football League, South Australian National Football League and Western Australian Football League.

After the excitement of watching Glenelg kick 25 goals in the first half the second half became rather agonising, as the game had become an exhibition for Glenelg, rather than a competitive game. Interest in the closing minutes centred on Glenelg’s race to kick 50 goals. It ended as wingman John MacFarlane’s flying shot hit a goal post as the siren sounded. Despite being on the end of an absolute hiding, Central Districts managed to kick eleven goals themselves, with the match aggregate of 60 goals and 396 points also establishing new SANFL records. There was a scoring shot in the game every 62 seconds. The poor scoreboard operator must have got very tired changing the numbers!

Central Districts backpocket player Julian Swinstead remembers the game:
“It was like standing up against a wall and facing a machinegun loaded with footballs… The Bays were in full flight and no matter what we tried we couldn’t halt them. I got a stiff neck from watching the ball shot from the centre to Fred Phillis, between the goal posts, to the boundary umpire and back to centre for another bounce.”

Fred Phillis was Glenelg’s full-forward, and he had a day out, scoring 18 goals and 6 behinds. His 18 goals set a new record for a Glenelg player, and is the 2nd-highest number of goals scored by a player in an SANFL game, beating only by Ken Farmer’s 23 goals for North Adelaide against Torrens in 1940. Here is a photo of a very happy Phillis in the dressing-rooms after the game.

400px-Phillis18goals75

In an interesting footnote, Central District players and their most loyal supporters would have retired back to the club’s home town of Elizabeth and their newly opened $150,000 licensed clubrooms after the game; clubrooms designed by architect Dennis “Fred” Phillis!.

After their record-breaking loss, Central Districts lost their final game of the season against Sturt, and finished the season in 7th position. Glenelg won their first two playoff games, and faced off against minor premiers Norwood in the Grand Final, but were defeated by 12 points.

Here are some highlights of the game. The first clip is from the first quarter and the early part of the second quarter. It is amazing to note that after 8 minutes of play, there had been only one goal kicked in the game, and that had been by Central Districts!

Here is a second clip which includes recollections by several Glenelg players, as well as footage of the John MacFarlane shot in the dying seconds which just missed being Glenelg’s 50th goal in the game.

I think there were a couple of reasons for this record-breaking performance. Due to injuries, Central Districts were fielding a very young and inexperienced team, and some of those players unintentionally “gave up” when Glenelg stated to get on top. On the other side, Glenelg were fielding their absolute best team, and when they realised that they could boost their percentage and finishing position on the ladder, they showed no mercy and continued to pile on the points.

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