The 'Roos edge home against the odds - 1979 TFL Centenary Grand Final: Clarence v Glenorchy
CLARENCE FOOTBALL CLUB 1979 (L-R): Noel Leary, Stuart Bennett, Chris Riewoldt, David Garlick, Andrew Vanderfeen, Robin Norris, Chris Spaulding, Ross Burns, Tony Triffett, Shane Giffard, David Cashion, Warren Mackay, Greg French, Michael Tyson, Rod Hughes, Neil Moorcroft, Rod Kelly, Geoff Doyle, Tony Chadwick, Tim Howard
Setting the scene
In 1979, Glenorchy, the much-despised Magpies, had swept all before them in the home-and-away season. Their only two losses for the year had been to their grand final opponents, the Clarence 'Roos, and both had been at Bellerive, the 'Roos home ground and graveyard of many a visiting team. Furthermore the 'Pies had demolished the 'Roos by 8 goals in a canter in the second semi-final a fortnight earlier. Having lost the past three grand finals to Sandy Bay, the 'Pies also vowed there would be no distractions this time and so they prevented their players from attending the William Leitch Medal count and banned them from the media. It was also touted as being the final game for legendary full-forward Peter Hudson whose outstanding goal-kicking had made the 'Pies appear unbeatable. To cap it all off, it was the Centenary of the TFL and thus a truly historic day for football in Hobart.
There was no such thing as reserved seating at North Hobart in 1979 so large queues had formed when the gates opened at 7.30am . By 8.30am the 5,000 available seats were occupied and newcomers had to find a spot in the standing area. By he time the main match started 24,968 people were crammed into the ground – a record attendance for a football match in Tasmania which still stands. Given Hobart ’s population at the time was around 150,000 this was an enormous turnout. The Magpie build-up and general season-long arrogance had brought them widespread antagonism from the public and of the 25,000 fans at least three-quarters were hoping the 'Roos could scare the 'Pies.
All regulation stuff as the 'Pies withstood the fierce early pressure to lead by 9 points. I, like many at the ground, thought 4 quarters by 9 points is 36 points – it could be worse.
Generally it is the third quarter that is the 'premiership' quarter but on this day it was the second quarter that was to transform the psyche of the day. After 20 minutes, the 'Pies still led but only by eight points as the 'Roos battled hard. We were at least getting a contest but it seemed inevitable the 'Pies would pull away. Then the 'Roos goaled twice in quick succession to take the lead – the crowd was abuzz. A hopeful “Clarence!” chant swept the ground. The players responded and third, fourth and fifth goals followed. Clarence by 22 points – was this a dream? The 'Pies pulled one back after the siren but unbelievably the underdogs were 16 points in front at half-time. All through the break there was an incredible buzz of excited chatter as people wondered out loud – “Clarence couldn’t actually win, could they?”
A breeze sprang up and the 'Pies kicked to the scoring end. Just like the first quarter play was tough and the pressure ntense but the superior skills of the Magpies began to tell and by the final change they had wrested back the lead by four points. Did the 'Roos have any petrol left in the tank? Would the 'Pies run away with the match in the final term?
As the teams huddled at the final break the skies opened and torrential rain began to fall. It eased a little by the time the final quarter began but the ground had been transformed into a muddy skating rink. Who wanted to win the flag the most? An early goal to Clarence grabbed back the lead. The crowd was at fever pitch and the play see-sawed from end to end with no reward. Fifteen minutes in, Peter Hudson soccered the ball off the ground and it went through for a goal. The 'Pies were back in front! Time ticked away as the weary players fought every desperate contest as if their lives depended on it and every spectator roared and cheered and groaned with every bump and slip and slide. Twenty four minutes gone and the Hudson fairytale scenario seemed complete – it looked like his soccer goal ten minutes earlier was to be the match winner as the 'Pies clung grimly to a three point lead. Clarence surged forward once more and ‘Bumpy’ Triffitt gathered the loose ball 50 metres out. On a good day he could kick it 30 metres with limited accuracy. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Triffitt roosted the sodden ball goalwards and it floated and floated and floated before bouncing through a Glenorchy player's legs and being gathered up by Tony Chadwick, who snapped a goal with his left foot from about 30 metres out. (He later claimed that this was the only left foot kick he executed all season!) The 'Roos were in front! The roar from the crowd was sustained and deafening. The famous old North Hobart ground shook to its foundations. The seconds ticked away, the siren sounded, the underdogs had won!
Glenorchy had slumped to its fourth consecutive grand final defeat but this one hurt the most as they had been raging hot favourites. They were to lose a fifth consecutive grand final the following year before finally ending the pain with a flag in 1983.
Clarence as a club emerged like a butterfly from its cocoon in 1979. Up until then they had won just one previous premiership and had a record of failure. After the heroics of 1979 Clarence became one of the power clubs of Tasmanian football with several premierships in the TFL, the Statewide Football League and most recently the Southern Football League.
For football in Hobart, this was as good as it got – the celebration of a century of football, a record crowd, a heart-stopping match, a glorious triumph for the underdog, and the passing of a legend with the retirement of Peter Hudson. Truly one of the Great Games.
Clarence: 3.4 9.6 10.8 12.11.83
Glenorchy: 4.7 6.8 10.13 11.14.80
Clarence: Moorcroft, Leary, French, Reiwoldt, Vanderfeen
Glenorchy: Hudson, Barwick, Linton, Pilkington, Dykes
Clarence: Moorcroft 3; Garlick, Vanderfeen 2; Chadwick, Gifford, Kelly, McKay, Tyson
Glenorchy: Hudson 6; McCann 2; Excell, Thirgood, Woodham
Attendance: 24,968 at North Hobart Oval (record)