State of Excitement – SA v WA in 1974

SA’s squad for the game against WA at Football Park in 1974. Back: Barrie Robran, Peter Woite, Neil Sachse, Barry McKenzie, Phil Carman, Graham Cornes, Russell Ebert, Bill Cochrane, Tony Casserly, Rick Davies, Phil Gallagher, Colin Casey, Terry von Bertouch, Michael Graham, Mike Nunan. Front: Greg Bennett, Sonny Morey, Harry Puhle, Peter Vivian, Dean Mobbs, Peter Anderson, Ken Whelan, Rod Seekamp, Roger Woodcock, Darrell Cahill.


It didn’t take long for State footy to come to Football Park.

South Australia tackled Western Australia on May 18, 1974 in the third league game at SANFL’s new headquarters at West Lakes.

And there were some legends of the game in action – Barrie Robran, Rick Davies, Graham Cornes, Phil Carman, Russell Ebert, Mike Fitzpatrick and Brian Peake among them – along with a bumper crowd of 32,219.

SA had 10 more scoring shots but it was a hard-fought clash until late in the game when the Croweaters kicked away to win 14.20 to 12.12.

A five goal-to-two first quarter, with North Adelaide champion Robran booting three majors, was a good start but WA led at half-time by three points, before SA worked its way to a 10-point lead at three-quarter time.

“Western Australia dominated the first half of that last quarter, with less than a goal in it,” former Glenelg champion Cornes recalled. “Then we broke through late, as we started to assert our authority.

“Neil Sachse played a great game in defence, Barrie Robran was, well, Barrie Robran, and Peter Vivian was dashing on the wing.”

This was a historic day in more ways than one, with the Labor Party’s Gough Whitlam winning the Federal Election. They were very different times and the footy players of the day had to work for a living away from the game, even the superstars like Cornes.

“I might have missed voting that day because of footy,” Cornes said. “The polling booths closed at 6pm. I worked at a car dealership from 9am to noon, then straight out to the football. I reckon that was the day I was fined for not voting.”

A fortnight after Central District beat North Adelaide in the first league game at Football Park, eight of the combatants from that clash were lining up as teammates for the Croweaters’ big test against WA.

Dean Mobbs, Tony Casserly, Sonny Morey, Peter Vivian and Bill Cochrane were Bulldog State reps, while North stars Robran, Sachse and Terry von Bertouch donned the famous red guernsey – and Roosters boss Mike Patterson was SA coach.

The second game at Football Park had been played the previous week, with Sturt trouncing West Torrens by 79 points. Five Double Blue players also made the team – Ken Whelan, who had booted xx goals against the Eagles, Davies, Colin Casey, Dean Ottens and Michael Graham.

''As a country lad it was a bit of a dream to play State footy, play well and win.''

SA and Central District wingman Peter Vivian

Casey and Whelan were making their State debuts, as were Mobbs, Cochrane, Vivian and Casserly (although he had previously played for WA) and Norwood’s Rod Seekamp.

“It wasn’t anything I thought about at the time but it is something I look back at fondly nowadays,” speedy wingman Vivian said of his first game for SA. “As a country lad it was a bit of a dream to play State footy, play well and win. The previous year I went to Western Australia but was the 21st man so was the runner, which was a bit disappointing.

“Playing at home is always a big advantage, as we are in our State and slept in our own beds, without too much disruption. For me, Football Park was an advantage, as it suited the way I played. And playing at the ground a fortnight earlier helped me get a feel for what the oval was like. It was a big stadium, very sparse, with lots of concrete. There wasn’t a lot of seating available.

“Although I had a bit of speed, I remember some guy was on my clapper as I was running down the wing and I could not believe he was as quick as me.

“Patto (coach Patterson) emphasised it was imperative to win the first State game at Football Park. If you win you go down in history and if you lose you also go down in history, which are two different stories. We picked the right story.”

Built on swamp land, Football Park was foreign to most SA footy followers, with just a grandstand on the western side and the oval was surrounded by a concrete concourse. In the centre was a 50m diamond, the year before it was changed to a square.

The new ground was barren and affected by swirling winds, which could be a major benefit or huge handicap, depending on which way a team was kicking when a breeze sprung up or suddenly changed direction.

As a curtain-raiser to the main game, the State schoolboys played the State under-19s. Admission prices were adults $1.20 (over 14), pensioners 50 cents, children 30 cents.

Victorian umpire Ian Robinson oversaw the big game, which started at 2.20pm.

The Football Budget for the 1974 SA-WA clash at Football Park.

As for the ball, in the first half, SA’s red Sherrin was used while, after the main break it was WA’s yellow Burley.

“It was a novelty, a curiosity,” Cornes said of the yellow ball.

“Back in 1968 Kerls (Tigers coach Neil Kerley) did a deal with Burley and introduced them to South Australia. I remember one funny moment in a game when Glenelg used a Burley against North. After it went over the fence our property steward tried to throw the ball back and a North official stormed out and picked it up, which then saw two elderly gentlemen fighting over the ball.

“As for Football Park, although it was a long time ago, I didn’t much like the ground at the time. I don’t think the players had much affection for it.” But Cornes enjoyed his first game on the ground.

“I remember Russell Ebert was on the bench and came on in the last quarter and played well. He handballed to me for a goal and I think he passed one to Phil Carman as well for another one. For WA, Peter Featherby always played well against us and always got plenty of it, including in this game.”

The rivalry between the Tigers and Roosters was red hot after the magnificent 1973 grand final at Adelaide Oval, and into the future, with the clubs to play three consecutive premiership deciders in the 1980s, Cornes involved in all those games. So how did Cornes like playing under Patterson?

“I liked him as a coach, he definitely was positive,” he said. “I was surprised I liked him, because we had been bitter enemies at that stage. But I liked all my State coaches and enjoyed playing under them. In State games we had to try to make an effort, because you naturally gravitated to your club team-mates. It’s something I learnt as a player, the importance of establishing spirit in the team, which I always tried to achieve when I was State coach.”

And Cornes became arguably SA’s greatest State coach, leading the Croweaters to six wins in State-of-Origin clashes against Victoria.

Although missing a couple of sitters in the last quarter, Max George kicked six goals for the Sandgropers. He led the WAFL that season with 90 goals for Swan Districts and in 1978 transferred to the SANFL to play for Central District.

Despite going off injured in the final quarter, Sturt’s high-flying Whelan booted three majors and at the end of the season led the league with 108 goals, his second successive ton. Although a reserve in this game, Port’s Ebert went on to win his second Magarey Medal. Vivian was pleased to be playing in the same team as some legends of SA football.

“Barrie is a really good player and person,” he said of Robran. “I remember playing a district cricket game against him a few years earlier and he smashed the ball into my shin. He checked out whether I was okay and offered an apology.”

‘Fabulous’ Phil Carman in a marking duel as Sturt high-flyer Ken Whelan (left) awaits the outcome in SA’s win against WA at a packed Football Park in the ground’s first season in 1974.


SA  5.2  8.6  11.13  14.20 (104)

WA  2.5  8.9  10.9  12.12 (84)

Best – SA: Sachse, Robran, Vivian, Morey, Cornes, Casserly, Colbey. WA: Malarkey, Featherby, Fitzpatrick, Manning, George, Ciccotosto.

Goals – SA: Whelan, Robran 3, Carman, von Bertouch, Cornes 2, Ottens, Davies. WA: George 6, Hayes 2, Monteath, Ciccotosto, Quartermaine, Spry.

Umpire: Robinson. Crowd: 32,219 at Football Park.

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