|Devonport wins the fights and the footy - The 1988 Tasmanian Statewide League Grand Final|
|Written by The Licorice Gallery|
|Thursday, 18 June 2009|
North Hobart Oval plays without a doubt a major part in Tasmanian football history. It has been host to many great clashes over the years from interstate and intrastate football to the rivalries of the former TFL (Tasmanian Football League) competition.
In the 1970’s they jammed into the tiny ground, lining the terraces with views of the Derwent River and shouting their lungs out at their local heroes in a grand final or battling against the seemingly unbeatable big ‘V’ or the ‘Crow-eaters’ from South Australia. In 1979, 25,000 squeezed into the ground to watch Glenorchy play Clarence in a classic TFL grand final, a record attendance for a match in Tasmania.
Seven years later and the structure of football on the ‘Apple Isle’ had changed. Teams from the three major bodies in the state were invited to form the Statewide Football League and thus provide the state with the strongest competition for both players and supporters possible. The competition was dominated by the southern clubs in the first two years with the likes of Glenorchy, Clarence and North Hobart proving too strong for their northern counter-parts.
In 1988 however, the competition saw the emergence of the Devonport Blues from the North West coast. The Blues had lost seven straight towards the end of the season before and Coach Roland Crosby saw this as a blessing in disguise. It hardened the team up and turned them around, bringing them closer together as a unit. They went through the 1988 season losing only four games and finished two games clear on top of the ladder and then made it through to the grand final with a thirty point win over Glenorchy in the second semi-final.
In the preliminary final Glenorchy smashed the Burnie Hawks by a record 90 points kicking 24.22.166 to 8.8.56. It was a remarkable effort by the Magpies considering the Hawks had beaten them in their two clashes during the year by an aggregate of 147 points! Another remarkable feat was that the Magpies were about to play in their thirteenth grand final in fourteen years. Unfortunately for the ‘Pies one of their up and coming midfielders, Darryn Creswell, was suspended for an indiscretion in the second semi and would miss the clash with Devonport.
The game is infamous for a wild brawl that started even before a pre-game marching band had time to leave the ground. One of the two field umpires, Terry Fellows, hadn’t even the chance to wipe the nervous sweat off his hands before bouncing the ball when chaos erupted on Glenorchy’s half-forward-flank in front of the Roy Cazaly stand.
Players from both sides ran from all parts of the ground to be involved. There was standing room only at the fence as the fans anxiety and apprehension of a colourful beginning was unfolding right before their eyes. Abuse and encouragement at players just a few feet away was being sprayed like custard in a food-fight. The umpires were powerless and if it wasn’t for field umpire Fellows giving up on mediation and bouncing the ball in the centre with just a sprinkling of players around, the fight would have gone into the night.
The wild scenes on the ground had the 17,878 strong crowd at fever pitch, and while misty rain had made conditions slippery on North Hobart oval, it didn’t dampen Devonport’s spirits in the first term. In similar fashion to their win over the ‘Pies in the second-semi final they bolted out of the blocks to a four goal lead at quarter time.
Former player, centre-half-back Dave Martin, recalls that first quarter and the mindset of his team-mates leading into the match, “We had some mail leading up to the GF (Grand Final) that they would not let this happen again and that they would need to increase their physical pressure against us, as a group our defensive six, who played most games together, made a decision before the game that if it looked like it was going to be on then as a group we would attack”.
“Sure enough at around CHB (centre-half-back) with the band still on the ground, a few of their boys started pushing and shoving etc so as one we turned on them which instigated the now famous all in brawl”, Martin recalled.Martin was reported in the match for striking an unknown player. “A few more blues broke out in the first quarter and yes I was nabbed for the unknown player which was probably appropriate as I was throwing so many I had no idea either who I hit, if anyone”.
A master stroke by the Devonport hierarchy on the morning of the game was the move of eighteen year old Dion Scott to the forward line. Scott marked everything that went near him and kicked two goals to help kick-start the Blues before being moved into the ruck later in the match. “The focus was always on “the fridge” Chris Reynolds so we had him as a decoy early and used Dion as our target”, explained Martin. For his efforts, Scott was rewarded with a $200 bonus by a generous club sponsor after the game.
Quarter-time – Devonport 5.2.32 to Glenorchy 1.2.8.
In the second term the Magpies lost experienced mid-fielder Gary Linton but outscored the Blues three goals to two. Devonport’s century goal-kicker Chris Reynolds had been held goalless to half-time by Michael Webster and the margin had been reduced to 19 points.
Things had been willing early but Devonport had assumed the ascendancy and were winning both the football and the fights, something that had North-West football personality Harold ‘Tiger’ Dowling a little surprised. He wrote in the Advocate newspaper in Devonport on the Monday after the grand final, ‘I make no apology for suggesting some Devonport teams of old would have jumped the fence and disappeared when the fisti-cuffs started - even before the ball was bounced’.
Half-time – Devonport 7.3.45 to Glenorchy 4.2.26.
In the third term the two teams went toe-to-toe on the scoreboard in an arm wrestle for supremacy. Whilst Devonport had been able to jump out of the blocks in the first quarter the Magpies were able to match them on the scoreboard once the game had settled down.
However not many teams are going to win grand finals with only nine scoring shots to three-quarter-time, no matter how low scoring the match is. There was another injury concern for Glenorchy too when rover Danny Ling left the field in the quarter. The ‘Pies were now down to the playing 18 on the field and the crowd could have been excused for wondering if they had seen the best of Glenorchy’s challenge.
Three-quarter-time – Devonport 10.4.64 to Glenorchy 7.2.44.
The final term saw Devonport book-end their game with another five goal haul. The ‘Pies could only manage one major and with their bench depleted they succumbed to the aggressive tackling and determination of a committed Devonport outfit. The Blues effective tackle count was 42 for the game, almost twice their usual figure for a match.
Spearhead Chris Reynolds shrugged off three opponents to finally kick his first goal late in the match, it gave him 111 for the season, one ahead of Hobart’s Wayne Fox. It would be another missed opportunity for the southern Magpies; they had lost five grand finals in a row between 1976 and 1980.
‘Pies skipper and ex-Footscray player Robert Groenewegen had no excuses after the game,” We lost the fight and we lost the football – they were just too good and too committed for us…” he said. There may have been some bad blood between the sides during the game but in a show of good sportsmanship Groenewegen made his way into the Devonport rooms after the match to congratulate them.
It was a massive day for the coastal city with Devonport’s football neighbours the East Devonport Swans winning the Greater Northern League Grand Final in the north of the state. Martin recalled celebrations as being ‘huge’ with the whole city back at the Blues clubrooms by the time the team had arrived back from Hobart around midnight. The Boags Draught would have been flowing and the club song sung with plenty of gusto until the sun had well and truly risen over the cool waters of the Mersey River adjacent.
Final scores – Devonport 15.7.97 d Glenorchy 8.6.54.
Reports: K.Wilson (D’Port) for striking.
Umpires: Gary Dawson and Terry Fellows.
Pics courtesy Rod Morris/Morris Media.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 19 June 2009 )|
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