Hangers, speccies and screamers

One of the most, if not the most spectacular part of Australian rules football is the high mark, where players jump into the air to catch the ball, often jumping over or on opposition players to grab the ball.

Over the long history of the game, many of these great marks have been captured by photographers, who were in the right place and the right time to take a brilliant picture.

Here are some examples of the best hangers, speccies and screamers taken in Australian rules football history.


Aaron Edwards (North Melbourne) versus Hawthorn (AFL – 2007)


Unidentified Carlton player versus Melbourne (VFL – 1960’s)


Bill Ryan (Geelong) versus St Kilda (VFL – 1968)



John Gerovich (South Fremantle) versus East Fremantle (WAFL – 1956)



Andrew Walker (Carlton) versus Essendon (AFL 2011)



John Coleman (Essendon) versus North Melbourne (VFL 1950’s)



Ashley Sampi (West Coast Eagles) versus Melbourne (AFL 2004)



David Holst (Glenelg) versus Norwood (SANFL 1979)



Peter Knights (Hawthorn) versus Collingwood (VFL 1973)



Michael Roach (Richmond) versus Hawthorn (VFL 1980)



John Dugdale (North Melbourne) versus St Kilda (VFL 1961)


The goalpost Grand Final of 1967

Grand Finals of any code of football code in Australia usually provide suspense and excitement, but few of them could match the drama and chaos that occurred at the end of the 1967 Tasmanian State Championship game.

Despite being the smallest state in Australia with the smallest population, Tasmania has never had a truly statewide Australian rules football competition. This is due to the way that the population is spread – based on the State capital, Hobart in the south and on Launceston and other towns in the north. Thus there were three major football competitions – the Tasmanian Football League (TFL), based around Hobart, and two competitions based in the north of the state – the Northern Tasmanian Football Association (NTFA), based around Launceston,  and the North West Football Union (NTFU), based on the towns on Tasmania’s north coast.

Map of Tasmania – the TFL based in the south, the NTFA in the north and the NTFU on the north-west coast.

To determine which team was the best in the state, a play-off between the premiers of each league was held at the end of the year. In 1967, it was the turn of the NWFU to host the final, so the NWFU premiers, the Wynyard Cats qualified directly for the championship game. In the Preliminary Final, TFL premiers North Hobart defeated NTFA premiers East Launceston to qualify as Wynyard’s opponents. The State Championship match was scheduled to be played at West Park Oval, home ground of the Burnie Dockers, on the 30th of September 1967.

With the aid of a strong breeze, North Hobart established a 19 point lead at quarter time – 3.8 (26) to 1.1 (7). Now kicking with the breeze in the second quarter, Wynyard dominated, and turned the 19 point deficit into a 20 point lead – 9.7 (61) to 5.11 (41).

Once again kicking with the breeze, it was North Hobart’s turn to dominate, and they had established a 14 point lead at three-quarter time – 11.17 (83) to 10.9 (69). 122 of the match total of 152 points had been kicked to the eastern end of the ground, but just prior to the start of the final quarter, the breeze died down, giving neither team an advantage. Wynyard scored two early goals to close the gap to a couple of points, and with only behinds being kicked from then on, Wynyard lead 13.14 (92) to 12.19 (91) with the final siren about to sound. The stage was now set for one of the most incredible and bizarre finishes to a major Grand Final in Australian football history.

After being awarded a free kick, North Hobart player-coach John Devine kicked into the goal square, where a mark was taken by North Hobart full-forward David Collins. Just after Collins took the mark, the final siren sounded, but as Collins had taken the mark prior to the siren, he was allowed to take his kick. Being only 10-20 yards from goal, and on a slight angle, it looked certain that Collins would kick the goal and win the match and the State Championship title for North Hobart.

But before Collins could take his kick, thousands of Wynyard supporters invaded the field, and to make sure that Collins couldn’t take his kick, proceeded to remove the goalposts. With the police unable to get the spectators off the ground, and with the goalposts no longer being in place, umpire Jack Pilgrim abandoned the game, and left the field. Collins stayed on the field, with the ball tucked under his jumper, for another ten minutes, in the vain hope that he would somehow be allowed to take his kick.

On Monday, the 2nd of October, the Standing Committee of the TFL met to decide on a course of action. A full replay was suggested – Wynyard agreed, but North Hobart said that a full replay would vindicate the actions of the Wynyard supporters who invaded the pitch. Another option discarded was for the match to be restarted at the point where it was abandoned, with Collins ready to kick for goal. Instead the TFL recommended that no replay should be held, and that the 1967 State Premiership title should not be awarded.

To this day, this is still the only major Grand Final of any football code in Australia that was abandoned and never replayed. Collins took the ball home with him. I believe a few years later he was invited back to West Park Oval to have his kick. He scored a goal, but unfortunately it had no bearing on the result (or non-result) of the game.

Here is a video showing the pitch invasion after Collin’s mark, as well as recollections from several players and umpires:


The source for this blog post was “The 3AW Book of Footy Records” by Graeme Atkinson and Michael Halon, Magistra Publishing, Melbourne, 1989, p. 10.









Queenstown’s gravel ground, Tasmania

One of the more unusual sporting grounds anywhere in the world.

Scoreboard pressure

Photos and text by Eric Algra

Appearances can be deceptive. This scoreboard is in a lush setting but the ground is made of gravel. Don’t be deceived. This scoreboard is in a lush setting but…

They must breed ‘em tough down in Tassie.

I’d certainly heard about it and finally, on a recent trip, got to see for myself the infamous Queenstown Oval.

Of course the infamy stems from the ground’s heritage-listed gravel playing surface. Apparently this was chosen over grass, which would only turn to mud due to the high rainfall. One can only imagine the dread players would feel at the prospect of playing here.

58 20141207_E Algra_0842 copy Anyone for gravel rash?

Built over a hundred years ago, the oval is home to the Queenstown Crows, part of the Darwin Football Association and, in the past, hosted grand finals for the previous Western Tasmanian Football Association.

Despite its notoriety, the ground itself is set in an attractive location which, I’m sure, would have seen many a tough encounter.


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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.


• 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.


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.

AUSTUS – the curious amalgamation of Australian and American football

One of the earlier posts in my blog was about some of the lesser-known sports that exist in the world. Along with lesser known sports, there are those sports which are an amalgamation of two or more sports. One current example is “International Rules Football”, which is a hybrid of Gaelic Football and Australian Rules football. This isn’t the first time that Australian Rules football has been merged with another form of football – read on for the interesting game of “AUSTUS”.

The origin of AUSTUS was due to World War 2. American servicemen arrived in Australia shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.  Looking for some common ground with Australian soldiers and the population in general, the Americans decided to reach out to the locals with a series of football exhibitions to help support local war charities. Australians, though, didn’t like American football very much — too much time in between plays, too many strange rules and formations, etc. The best part of American football according to Australian eyes were the forward passes, but they just didn’t happen enough to keep the locals interested.

The Australian soldiers saw that as an opportunity to introduce their local form of football – Australian Rules football – to the visitors, and the Americans suddenly understood why the Aussies seemed so bored by American football. Australian football had much more freedom of movement and nonstop action than their game. They decided to try competing with their Australian hosts at Australian football. As to be expected, the Americans were beaten badly.  What was to be done?

Ern Cowley, a journalist with the Sporting Globe newspaper, came up with an interesting idea – why not amalgamate the two different codes of football?

One of the central tenets of Australian football is the mark. Any player who catches a kick that’s 15 yards or longer can “mark the ball” and take a free kick from behind the spot of the catch. Cowley, who knew that the Americans were much better at passing the ball than kicking it, created a game based on Australian Rules that allowed players to mark the ball after catching a forward pass.

The hybrid game was called AUSTUS, taking the first letters of both Australia and United States. Matches started to be played in 1943. The Australians continued to kick, but the Americans proved highly accurate with the pass, which wowed the spectators and made for very close and very exciting matches. Austus matches allowed both countries’ servicemen raise large sums of money for various war charities and helped bring the two countries a little closer together.

There was hope that Austus matches would continue after the war, but alas, that was not to be. Once American forces returned home, they resumed playing American football, and the Australians went back to playing Aussie Rules. Austus faded into a remote corner of history and was forgotten. Cowley however, was awarded the Helms Athletic Foundation Medal in New York in July 1944 for his work on creating the rules of AUSTUS.

The booklet below gives an overview of the positions and rules of AUSTUS, along with the results of five games played during 1943. The player on the front cover, Private William Jost, established an international record for passing with a throw of 76 yards,1 foot, 6 inches at Geelong on August 25, 1943.

I would like to thank sport historian Charles Davis of Melbourne with providing me with a copy of this booklet.