1973 VFL Grand Final
|1973 VFL Grand Final|
|Date||29 September 1973|
|Stadium||Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia|
|Broadcast in Australia|
The 1973 VFL Grand Final was an Australian rules football game contested between Carlton and Richmond at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 29 September 1973. It was the 77th annual Grand Final of the Victorian Football League (VFL), staged to determine the premiers for the 1973 VFL season. Although Carlton were the favourites to win, it was Richmond who would take the flag by 30 points, marking that club's eighth premiership victory.
This was the second consecutive year in which the two teams met in the premiership decider, with Carlton having won the 1972 VFL Grand Final by 27 points in a memorable high-scoring affair. The Tigers, who were clear favourites to win that game, were desperate to atone for that humiliating result.
In the finals series, Richmond lost to Carlton by 20 points in the Qualifying Final before defeating St Kilda by 40 points in the First Semi-Final. They then defeated Collingwood by seven points in the Preliminary Final (a game in which they came back from a 45-point deficit) to advance to the Grand Final. Carlton, after their win in the Qualifying Final, defeated Collingwood by 20 points in the Second Semi-Final to advance to the Grand Final.
Both sides had injury and illness concerns before the game. Richmond champion Francis Bourke and captain Royce Hart were not supposed to be playing on strict medical grounds, but such was their determination to play that they were selected anyway. For Carlton, Barry Armstrong and Trevor Keogh were ruled out, while Alex Jesaulenko and Neil Chandler were not fully fit. Carlton were forced to name Vin Catoggio in the Grand Final side for his first full VFL game.
For field umpire Ian Robinson, this was the first of a record nine Grand Finals which he would officiate.
The match was played in hot, dry and blustery conditions in front of 116,956 spectators, the fourth-largest crowd in VFL/AFL history. Richmond rover Kevin Bartlett, a renowned finals performer, was prominent early, gathering kicks at will. The first key incident in the match occurred at the 4-minute mark of the quarter. Carlton captain-coach John Nicholls, who had masterminded Richmond's demise in the previous year's Grand Final, was coming out to mark a long kick from Alex Jesaulenko when he was sensationally felled with a high shirtfront by Richmond defender Laurie Fowler, who was running back with the flight of the ball. Fans and players were stunned at the sight of one of football's most imposing figures laying groggy on the ground and unable to rise. Teammate David McKay reflected thus on the incident:
Nicholls lay motionless for at least three minutes, whilst being attended to by trainers. He was awarded a 15-yard penalty, and scored a goal from the free kick, but suffered double vision and had no impact for the remainder of the match.
Richmond's desperation to win was apparent from the outset, and with Brian "Whale" Roberts starting to get on top of Percy Jones in the ruck contests, Richmond had managed to eke out a slender lead at quarter time, with Kevin Sheedy kicking all three of their goals.
Richmond's other ruckman Michael Green—whose form leading up to the Grand Final had fans worried—opened the scoring in the second quarter when he scored a goal from a free kick at centre half-forward. Carlton hit back with goals to David McKay and Kevin Hall before big Richmond forward Neil Balme left his mark on the game. First he king-hit Carlton full-back Geoff Southby, and then moments later got a punch on Vin Waite. Southby was concussed by the blow and would not return to the field after half time. Carlton were still in the match until the time-on period of the second quarter, when Richmond took control - through goals to Bartlett, captain Royce Hart, Balme, Roberts and Ian Stewart - to lead at the main break by 26 points.
Hart kicked his third major to open the scoring for the second half, as Richmond began to slowly increase their lead. Stewart was moved to the half-forward line after injuring a leg, and kicked two goals for the quarter. Carlton was forced to make changes and brought on their second reserve, Bryan Quirk. Shortly afterward, Phillip Pinnell, who had been doing well in defence, suddenly broke down with severe cramp, and hobbled to the forward pocket, further adding to Carlton's woes. Richmond's defense, led by Francis Bourke and Dick Clay, managed to restrict the Blues to just two goals for the quarter - one each to Neil Chandler and Robert Walls. At the last change, Richmond held a commanding 38-point lead.
Carlton refused to concede defeat. After making some positional changes, the Blues kicked the first three goals of the quarter - two to Garry Crane and one to Walls. By the 15-minute mark they had managed to cut the margin to 18 points, and if Nicholls had not missed a shot from the goal-square, the game would have been up for grabs. Richmond steadied after Tom Hafey replaced Noel Carter with Kevin Morris, and when Balme kicked truly before being substituted for Craig McKellar, the contest was effectively over.
Kevin Bartlett was Richmond's best player, gathering 27 touches (all kicks, not surprisingly) and a goal. Kevin Sheedy's three goals in the first quarter were pivotal in helping the Tigers get a solid start, and he continued to be constructive throughout the match, ending up with 16 kicks and 7 handpasses. Michael Green shrugged off concerns over his lead-up form to assist Brian Roberts in subduing Carlton ruckman "Percy" Jones, and starred all around the ground, taking 8 marks and kicking a goal. And captain Royce Hart, despite a suspect left knee, was at his imperious best, kicking three goals and taking a series of strong marks.
Crane was rated as Carlton's best, and experienced finals campaigners Robert Walls and David McKay also played well. Richmond's win completed a great day for the club; earlier in the day, the Tigers had already secured the flag in the Reserves, Under 19s and Under 17s competitions. As Francis Bourke wrote after the game:
For the second time in their history, Richmond would go on to win successive premierships, defeating North Melbourne in the 1974 VFL Grand Final and cementing Tom Hafey's reputation as one of the all-time great VFL/AFL coaches. Carlton's next appearance in a premiership decider came six years later, when it won the 1979 VFL Grand Final against Collingwood.
Match Scorecard and Details