Australian Football in the 60s

We’d seen off the Korean War and ‘Nam was yet to come, and in between we had our footy. Having had a look at the 70s, I thought that id keep going back in time to the lesser known era of the 60s.

The 60s may have been the last great era of National Footy, where any state could beat the other. Tasmania even notched a couple of wins over Victorian sides in the decades.

As 1960 dawned upon the world, the VFL consisted of twelve teams, the SANFL consisted of nine and the WAFL eight. The leagues were relatively uncontaminated by each other’s stars and Victoria had yet to cast its eyes across the western border in any meaningful sense.

The SANFL expanded for the first time since the 1920’s with the far north of Adelaide being granted a team in Central Districts. While initially unsuccessful, Central Districts would compete in some 10 straight Grand Final appearances thirty years later.

For the VFL, the decade opened with Melbourne competing in its 7th Grand Final.  Essendon and Richmond would share the spoils for most premierships and Melbourne would win its last premiership in 1964. The VFL Night series was in full swing, with non finalists competing in an 8 team knockout competition at Lake Oval.

The WAFL premierships were dominated by the Perth sides. West Perth would take three in a row from 1966 to 1968, and East Perth won in 1969. In South Australia Port Adelaide would win three of the first 4, but it would be Sturt who would dominate the second half of the decade winning 5 straight from 1966-1970 under Jack Oatey.

For the VFL, it was the era for home ground adjustments. St Kilda would buy Moorabbin and move there in 1963, Richmond would move to the MCG and games would stop being played at Punt Road in 1964. North Melbourne moved to Coburg in 1962 and back to Arden Street in 1966. Games would stop being played at Brunswick Street Oval, when Fitzroy made their first move to Princes Park. The Waverly Park behemoth was being constructed and would open in 1970.

The VFL rejected an offer of 14,000 pounds to continue showing the last quarter and replays after determining that it had cost the league some quarter of a million spectators.

It was a star studded era. Ian Stewart and Bob Skilton were prolific in the VFL winning two Brownlow medals apiece. For Western Australia, Graham Farmer won his final medal in the WAFL, Bill Walker won no less than three Sandover medals (as well as in 1970) and Barry Cable took the award home twice. Across the border in Adelaide, the spread was more even with Lindsay Head winning the last of his three Magarey’s and Barrie Robran winning the first of his collection.

Reports from the era state that the 1960 season in Victoria was particularly affected by bad weather. Ron Evans lead the goal kicking for the season with only 67 goals and it wasn’t until 1968 that Peter Hudson would break the century kicking 125 goals for the season. Peter Mckenna would get on that bandwagon in 1969 and both would lead many a goal kicking tally in the 1970’s.

It appears that similar problems may have affected the SANFL forwards of the era with no one breaking the century until 1969 when Fred Phillis kicked the first of his two centuries (and 99 in 1971). For Port Adelaide, Rex Johns was the dominant forward of the decade topping the goal kicking twice.

Whatever the situation in Victoria and Perth, Austin Robertson laboured under no such difficulties in Perth with the Subiaco forward topping the goal kicking 5 times and breaking the century mark three times and hitting the 90s on another occasion.

In Interstate footy, Tasmania knocked off a Victorian ‘B’ side by 7 points in Launceston.  The 1961 Brisbane Carnival (not least noticeable for being held in Queensland) was won by Western Australia. The 1966 Carnival in Hobart was taken by the Victorians despite reportedly strong opposition from Western Australia and South Australia. The 1969 Carnival was easily won by the Victorians.

Brian Dixon would take the Tassie Medal in 1961 for Victoria, Barry Cable in 1966 for WA, and a tie in 1969 between Peter Eakins of WA and Graham Molloy of SA.

More than anything else, it was an era for coaching legends. For the VFL, Norm Smith was at Melbourne – albeit not for long before moving onto South Melbourne. The best player in the AFL Grand Final receives the Norm Smith Medal. He coached to 6 premierships with Melbourne and was named the Coach of the Century by the AFL. Recongised by many as the man who brought order to Australian football in Victoria.

Ron Barassi would move from Melbourne to coach at Carlton, taking home the flag in 1968 and 1970. Legendary coach Allan Jeans would start at St Kilda in 1961, winning their only flag, before going on to win 3 premierships with Hawthorn in the 80s. Tom Hafey was also active during this period taking Richmond to two of four premierships.

In SA, Sturt had the legendary Jack Oatey who is the only SANFL coach to reach 500 wins from 777 games at 3 clubs (Sturt, West Adelaide and Nortwood). He coached to ten premierships – still a record for any coach at top level Australian Football (and jointly held by Ports John Cahill).The Best player in the SANFL Grand Final is awarded the Jack Oatey Medal.  He is often over looked as one of the prime drivers of handball in Australian footy.

Port Adelaide had the legendary Fos Williams, who coached to 9 premierships and has the SA medal for best afield in an origin match named after him.

In Western Australia, John Todd began his 721 game coaching career, taking 6 permierships with South Fremantle, East Fremantle and Swan Districts. He is the Swan Districts coach of the century and was later a coach of the West Coast Eagles. He also coached Australia in 6 international rules games.

Hayden Bunton Junior began his coaching career in South Australia at Norwood, but won all of his 5 premierships in Western Australia, most of which he won while captain coach of Swan Districts. He’s also something of an exception in Australian Football being in the AFL Hall of Fame as a coach, The SANFL Hall of Fame as a player and is a Legend of The WAFL Hall of Fame.

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