By ROBERT LAIDLAW
“Greatest game I’ve seen in my life.” Comment Wally May.
This statement was made by the revered TV commentator moments after Graham Cornes had taken a sensational mark and kicked his match-defining goal in the 1973 grand final.
North Adelaide was gunning for a hat-trick of flags and Glenelg was aiming to break a 39-year premiership drought in the last grand final at Adelaide Oval before the move to Football Park and the clash has stood the test of time, as many who witnessed that epic battle live rate it the best of them all.
But the unforgettable climax might have been missing if Rex Voigt’s ‘eighth’ goal at the 19-minute-mark of the final quarter had received umpire Murray Ducker’s all-clear. “It should have been eight,” Voigt claimed 50 years after the fact.
With Glenelg leading by seven points, if Voigt had been awarded his eighth it probably would have been all over. As it was, the Roosters rebounded for a goal through Dennis Sachse and it was game on, with only one point separating the rivals.
Heroic efforts from almost every man on the field etched the great game in folklore, the next five minutes a chaotic, high-tempo arm-wrestle, both having chances but Glenelg’s one-point lead looming as a bridge too far for North. But, in a season he had won his third Magarey Medal, it seemed appropriate the game turned on some Barrie Robran magic, as he negotiated traffic to punt the ball forward for John Plummer to mark. Plummer slotted the goal and the Roosters were euphoric, leading by five points at the 27-minute-mark.
After some scrambly play Glenelg attacked for what seemed its final chance. North full back Bob Hammond had the footy and looked to rebound out of the danger zone, forcing
the ball forward to half-back before losing control of the ball as a pack threatened to form. Rooster Neil Sachse desperately handballed towards the boundary but Glenelg reserve Craig Marriott, who had only been on the ground for 10 minutes, gathered the ball …
“… (I) picked the ball up and kicked it in the air towards Cornsey, knowing how his strength was high marking,” Marriott said. “I remember seeing Hammond running towards the boundary and I knew his objective was to force the ball out.
“There was no time to look up, as there seemed just seconds left. I kicked the ball and hoped, with some expectation Cornesy would take a mark. He took the mark … and kicked the goal. And we were in front. It was exhilarating.
“Who knew how much time was left? We couldn’t relax … it was that type of game. When John Sandland kicked a goal after the siren to make it seven points, I had a sense of relief – we had won the premiership. There was a sea of supporters on the ground afterwards. That game was the highlight of my career.”
In a high-scoring game from a much-loved era of all-out attacking footy, North kicked 21 points clear by quarter-time after opening with the wind, while the Tigers clawed their way back to lead by six points at half-time.
Glenelg, which had won 20 of 21 games in the minor round, losing only to North in Round 7 – 8.22 to 14.13 – and booted at least 20 goals in 12 games, highlighted by smashing the Roosters 33.20 to 8.10 in Round 15, seemed to have set up the premiership in the third term. After a seven-goal-to-six quarter to lead by eight points at the last break the Tigers appeared to have the winning edge, which could have been wrapped up by Voigt’s ‘eighth’ major.
“I thought it was a goal but when the whistle went for a free to Bob Hammond (for interference in the goalsquare), I was disappointed,” said Voigt, “but I knew I had to take it on the chin and get on with helping us win.
“When Plummer kicked that goal to put North in front so late in the game, it felt like a big crater had opened up. I thought we had blown our chances. As it turned out it was a thrilling finish. It was an unbelievable feeling to be involved in that game … it seemed a goal was scored every two minutes.
“Bob Tregenza in ruck was sensational. He really performed like a Trojan Horse, a machine, and won us the game. We lost (ruckman Bob) Tardif early in the game (injured) and Tregenza just worked so hard. I remember afterwards the bus had to stop halfway down Anzac Highway for Bob to get out and heave up. It was a hot day … felt like 100 degrees. I remember (coach) Neil Kerley told us the night before not to drink any water because it would sit in our stomachs all day. Yeah, right.
“We should have won by more but Hammond played an unbelievable game. I have never seen a full back play that well. The way he put his body on the line was incredible.”
Glenelg's Craig Marriott
''Who knew how much time was left? We couldn’t relax … it was that type of game.''
But Cornes’ mark and goal are what people remember most about this wonderful grand final that incredibly was 50 years ago. The Tigers superstar had not had a memorable day until then – but he sure had an iconic moment in an iconic game.
“I remember Bob Hammond had taken the ball out of our forward area and then Craig (Marriott) scooted around with the ball and hooked it into the air,” Cornes said, when asked about his late heroics. “For me it was almost an act of desperation as I flew for the ball and it stuck between my chin and chest. I did not really think, I just did it.
“After the mark I was lying on the ground and I had a quick look at the goals and thought, ‘why me?’. I walked back, turned around and saw some kids in a tree in line with the goals – I remember them waving. I ran straight and kept my leg straight through the ball. Luckily it went through. When the siren went there was a bit of emotion but mainly there was elation.
“Peter Carey was just 19. He put the rest of the competition on notice that day (he kicked six goals from centre half-forward). For North Bob Hammond played sensationally. And Barrie Robran, well there are not enough superlatives for him – a great player, a great man, and he almost won it for them.
“After the game Bob Tregenza was the only player Kerls singled out. He ran himself to exhaustion – we do not win without him. We would have done anything for Kerls. We would have run through brick walls.
“As for umpire Murray Ducker. Look at his performance compared to modern umpires. They should watch that game and his amazing performance, which was in the days of just one field umpire.”
It all added up to the greatest game of all. Who would have argued with Wally May?
Adelaide Oval, September 29
Glenelg 4.3 9.10 16.10 21.11 (137)
North 7.6 8.10 14.14 19.16 (130)
BEST – Glenelg: Tregenza, Voigt, Carey, Hamilton, Anderson, Colbey, W. Phillis. North: Hammond, Marsh, Howard, Sporn, Robinson, Stringer, Von Bertouch.
GOALS – Glenelg: Voigt 7, Carey 6, Sandland 4, Wickens, Bennett, Hamilton, Cornes. North: Rebbeck 4, D. Sachse, R. Robran 3, Marsh, Plummer, Payne, Von Bertouch 2, B. Robran.
UMPIRE – Ducker. CROWD – 56,525.
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