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Classic Game Review - 1980 Escort Cup Grand Final

Yeah, this one is for the old timers, and for myself.

There are some games that hold a special place in your heart, and some that live in infamy. The 1980 Escort Cup Grand Final is definitely a game that divides fans. Yes, the name of the cup was to promote a cigarette sponsorship, which is bad, but it could easily have been confused with a game sponsored by the local brothel.

“Hey, it’s the Escort Cup… what do we get if we win?”

Hmmmm, well prizes range from….

Anyway, North Melbourne and Collingwood met in a game that, at the time, created enormous controversy. The Kangaroos – coming off two flags in the previous five years added to their trophy cabinet. The Magpies failed in another Grand Final, albeit one of much less prestige, and were left lamenting an inadequate siren volume, and the hard of hearing umpire, Bill Deller.

The kick after the siren (stemming from a mark clearly after the siren) from North’s Kerry Good, as supporters rushed the field is part of footy folklore. Blight took a contested mark in the middle as the siren went, turned and wheeled inside 50 where Good marked on his chest, and converted.

The great thing about these games is that they were shown on live TV during the week, and as such, the more diligent amongst you could track down a fantastic copy if you so chose to... hint hint. Given the A/VFL failed miserably to protect the heritage of the game and full games such as this classic, I am thankful to a private collector who has allowed me to have a copy of this game.

It’s packed full of stars – Brownlow medallists such as Peter Moore, Gary Dempsey, Ross Glendinning, Keith Grieg and Malcolm Blight all lace up the boots in this one, with Moore and Dempsey going head to head at stoppages all over the park. Brian Wilson is also on the park… he'd get a Brownlow as well, but it's less celebrated. He’s also the brother of my auntie by marriage, so what does that make him to me?

Absolutely nothing!

Watching Moore, you can see where his son gets the distinct running style. He looks like a greyhound when he gets the ball – sleek and balanced. He moves like Keith Grieg, only with several more inches in height.

These were days when this series actually mattered. The stars came out to play in addition to the weekend games, long before fitness staff started talking about workloads and recovery. And they played hard, too. Bodies were on the line, and no one was holding back. After all, Stan Magro was on the park.

As I watched, it was interesting to see the different rule interpretations, and how the game is now umpired so differently. They were lenient with paying some marks... not so much with others. Holding the ball was red hot, and bounces were called for quickly - hardly a repeat stoppage to be found. It got me to thinking about how we now analyse the game, and whether or not we over-analyse it? Players were hacking it forward – the amount of torpedo kicks on the run were staggering. Players like Daicos and Schimmelbusch bombed long to contests, yet the handball to the running player is something that hasn’t really changed too much, and opened up just as many attacking options then as it does now.

I found myself starting to apply modern stats and tactics to that game, and began wondering how those players would measure up to current standards when advanced stats were applied to their performances. I’m not the greatest fan of Champion Data – in truth, the bloke who worked for them that said “without this data you’re just a flog with an opinion” came across as a huge dick, to me. It was arrogant, particularly as they don't share the stats readily at all.

Unless you pay, of course. Good business model.

As such, I’ve not really embraced their ‘stats rule all’ mindset. Call it stubbornness or call it preferring to rely on some things you just can’t statistically prove, but I like the eye-test as a barometer for how a player or team are tracking here and there.

That said, things like effective kicks, contested marks, clearances and spoils weren’t kept back then. I thought it would be interesting to jot a few notes down as I watched, so back to the start I went, and here’s what I found.

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Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

North Melbourne had two of the best readers of the game in their side. Gary Dempsey played a kick behind the ball at times, and took nine marks as a result. Six of them were intercept marks, and two were in contests. It made me start to wonder how many intercept marks Dempsey would’ve taken in a year in that role, and how those numbers would stack up today. People speak about Max Gawn doing it last year, and here's Dempsey doing it 38 years earlier.

Ross Glendinning was the other cruising across half half back. He took seven intercept marks for the game in a role that reminded me of the way Jeremy McGovern plays today.

In the last quarter alone, Glendinning took three intercept marks, all in contests. He was very impressive. 14 of his 20 disposals were effective, meaning he ran at 70% efficiency. He did drop one mark that was very costly, but you could argue that the way the game was being umpired, he should’ve been paid.

Tony Shaw was one of the standouts for the Pies. Even at this early stage, you could tell he was going to lead this team. He was more desperate at the ball, and constantly put himself in the line of fire. Over the four quarters, his only rival in terms of consistent performance was Wayne Schimmelbusch.

Shaw finished with 25 disposals for the game, with 15 of those touches effective (60%) in addition to four score involvements and two direct goal assists. Schimmelbusch had 23 touches, with 17 of them deemed effective (73.9% efficiency) with three score involvements and one direct goal assist.

Going back to the Moore v Dempsey ruck battle, when watching these two, their differing styles are so apparent. Moore is like a modern ruck, and is one of the few in this age who was a preferred outlet for a handball due to his ability to run and carry.

Dempsey is your prototypical 70’s-80’s ruckman (only better), with a good touch at some stoppages, and brute force at others. Moore came off a ‘Michael Holding’ run up that would be nullified by current ruck rules. Seriously, it was almost twice as long as Dempsey’s. Even with that run-up, he found it hard to get over the top of Dempsey, who had great timing.

It took until the last quarter for Dempsey to start really hitting targets with his taps. He finished with 27 hit outs, with 13 of them to a teammate, which is a great ratio when compared to modern rucks. At one point, he was just thumping it forward, but the Collingwood mids were a wake up to his intentions, and a more tactical approach was required. He provided that in the tight last stanza.

Moore finished with 18 touches, with 12 effective (66.6%) and took eight marks (three intercept marks and two contested). In the ruck duels, he finished with 10 hit outs, with three going to teammates. Around the ground, he was better than Dempsey, but he had to be, with Dempsey better in the ruck.

One thing that really jumped out to me was the lack of tackling pressure. I would be extremely surprised if more than half the players on the ground had tackle. Keith Greig had the most on the ground, with five, which really surprised me, as I didn’t think he was a physical player at all. Also, he had the stuffing knocked out of him by Stan Magro after disposing of the ball at one point in the third quarter. Genuine shirtfront that would be worth 4-6 weeks now.

It was called play on, and Magro continued on his merry way as Greig writhed on the ground.

If there is a modern comparison for Greig, it’d probably be Lachie Whitfield in as much as he possesses the running power and penetrating kick, yet is perceived as an outside player, who opposition players will line up if they get the chance. High praise for Whitfield, I know. Now if he can add a couple of Brownlow medals under his belt, the comparison would be a little more accurate.

Greig had a huge second half with 13 touches, but was almost unsighted in the first half, with just four possessions to his name. That said, 13 of his 17 total disposals hit the target (76.47%). He just started to find space, and would use his leg speed to wheel around and lose his pursuer.

A couple of the players I decided not to track in terms of stats caused me almost immediate regrets. Ray Byrne had a wonderful duel with Schimmelbusch on the wing, and won a few one-on-ones against the North captain.

The other was Stan Magro. You know, my memories of Magro were fleeting. I remember him destroying Alex Jesaulenko with a hip and shoulder, and seeing Kevin Bartlett turn him inside out in the 1980 Grand Final, but I’m thinking I may have been undersold on his abilities. He had great timing, was close to the most desperate defender on the park, and was hard at it, irrespective of whether “it” was the ball, or the man. He just looked like he meant business.

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I had such fond memories of Rene Kink, so much so that this game was a real disappointment. Steven Icke completely blanketed him. Kink did kick a goal, but he was completely restricted by Icke both in the air and on the deck. He had five disposals for the game and just two marks.

But he had some definite competition for the worst forward on the ground, with North’s Arnold Briedis cocking up most things he went near. He had one touch in the entire first half before finishing with five touches and two marks. Briedis was caught with the ball, fumbled it, and tried to do too much when the opportunity did present. Not a great day for Arnie.

Collingwood captain, Ray Shaw looked like he was on cruise control out there. Through the first three quarters, Shaw amassed eight touches, but collected nine disposals in the tight last quarter alone. In a game where there were a heap of hacked kicks forward under pressure, or at least perceived pressure, Shaw demonstrated a lot of poise and skill. He ran at 66% efficiency for the game, but always had his eyes darting around, looking for the best option. Whether it came off or not was almost secondary – his ability to find time to assess the situation was great, plus he had a gorgeous kick across the body to set up a goal for his teammate in the second quarter.

Others I decided to take some note of were Ronnie Wearmouth, who I used to hate as a player when I was kid, mainly because the Collingwood supporters I went to school with loved the bloke, and Simon Sandford… if you’re reading this, you hurt me one day when you jumped on me and screamed “Wearmouth” when you tried (and failed) to take a screamer. The Mongrel forgives, but he doesn’t forget. Wearmouth flashed in and out of the game, and like many Pies, was quiet in the second quarter, but his run through the middle and 12 disposals (9 effective) were very valuable.

Stephen McCann was an interesting one. In the first and third quarters, he looked like a world-beater, and in the other two quarters, he couldn’t get near it. He reminded me a bit of Trav Cloke, if we’re looking at a modern equivalent. He finished with nine touches, six of which were effective but his turnover as North were running into attack in the last quarter where the goals were beckoning and the crowd was screaming… he just had an incredible attack of the fumbles that’d make Jack Darling proud. It was indicative of the way I remember him – maybe a little mechanical, but sometimes with mechanical things… stuff just goes wrong. Overall, he was pretty influential, but negatives get more press than positives.

This Daicos fella could play a bit, huh? Five weeks removed from knee surgery, there he was, twisting and turning out of trouble in the middle, en route to picking up 13 touches for the game. He looked

North full back, Darryl Sutton made one mistake all night, electing not to try to punch from behind in the last quarter. It cost the Roos a crucial goal, with Collingwood youngster David Twomey marking in front of goaling.

Billy Picken was one I didn’t remember much of, other than memories of others talking about his high flying exploits. Not much of that was on display in this one, with Picken not registering a single mark in the first half. He finished with only one for the game; a nice contested grab against Blight, but was down on the day.

I was also planning to keep an eye on Denis Banks, but a knee injury in the first quarter saw him leave the ground and not return.

Lou Richards and Bob Skilton both talked up the game of Roy Ramsay for North, but even though I he took some nice marks in defence, he was responsible for Tony Shaw, who was easily amongst the best for the Pies.

Then there was Blight. I’m a huge Malcolm Blight fan, and when the game was there to be won, Blight stepped to the fore. He had 20 touches for the game, but seemed to go missing for long stretches, with the second quarter particularly quiet. 11 of his 20 touches were effective, and he finished with three goals, two of which came in the last quarter. He was also responsible for the precise kick which gave Kerry Good the chance to win the game.

Speaking of Good, he had four goals for the game, including the winner, but in a third quarter where he had minimal touches, he made all of them look good. He had three disposals for the quarter, from three contested marks, and kicked 2.1. My Dad used to call him the ‘Flying Nun’ as he reckoned he used to fly a lot, and end up with none. Well, he ended up with plenty in this game. Inducted into the Tassie Football Hall of Fame recently, Good’s 1980 Night Grand Final might be his best work on a big stage.

Before listing those who I thought best, this game saw an incident, or what could have been an incident that jumped out at me. Running toward the loose ball, Peter Moore and North little man, Ray Huppatz appeared on a collision course. Only one man body-lined the ball, and it wasn’t the big, blonde ruckman. Moore took his eyes off the ball, stuck one hand out to try and finesse a contest that required courage, and was found out. Not the big fella’s greatest moment.

North’s best – W Schimmelbusch, R Glendinning, G Dempsey, R Huppatz, K Greig

Collingwood’s best – T Shaw, R Byrne, S Magro, P Moore, P Daicos.

Final thought-  I watched it in a pretty low volume... couldn't hear the siren clearly at the conclusion of any quarter, let alone the frantic last. 

 

So, you got through it all, and if you’re an older… err, I mean more distinguished gentleman, you may be wondering how you procure a game such as this, right? I should state, I am not sending this to anyone, but I am more than happy to pass on the details of where I got it from if you want to get one for yourself. Send us a message on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll give you a hand.

 

 

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