Echoes of ‘74

With the Double Blues and the Bays set to face off in the 2023 SANFL Grand Final tomorrow, Sunday, September 24, Barrier Truth’s Adelaide correspondent Peter Argent speaks with Broken Hill’s own Sturt legend, Colin Casey. The discussion focuses on that unforgettable day at Football Park in 1974 and Sturt’s chances this year.

Sunday’s battle on the pitch will be a significant milestone for SANFL football history. Glenelg and Sturt are facing off in a Grand Final for the first time since 1974. Notably, that match was the inaugural Grand Final hosted at Football Park, the then-new home of the competition. Remarkably, tomorrow marks only the fourth Grand Final meeting between these two teams, with Sturt leading the ledger at 3-0. These previous wins were all under the guidance of the iconic coach Jack Oatey, who prevailed against teams coached by the late Neil Kerley in 1969, 1970, and 1974.

Rewinding to 1974, Sturt had a standout season, finishing as minor premiers a mere half-win ahead of Port Adelaide. In a nail-biter of a second semi-final against the Magpies, they were down 6.4 to 1.1 at quarter-time but staged an incredible comeback, winning by five points with a scoreline of 7.19 (61) to 8.8 (56). This win secured their direct entry into the Grand Final, where they would face the then-reigning champions, Glenelg.

“It was a typical windy Footy Park day,” Casey reminisced in an interview with the Barrier Truth. “The previous winter, Jack had been playing me at centre half-forward, but he moved me to the half-back line that season. My opponents that day were Graham Cornes and Neville ‘Twiggy’ Caldwell.”

That unforgettable match also featured a famous incident involving Paul Bagshaw. “There is a famous yarn about Bagshaw saying he gritted his teeth ready for a big last quarter after he had heard Cornes charging into the Glenelg huddle at three-quarter time, proclaiming ‘we got this one won boys’!”

Sturt emerged victorious in that Grand Final, riding a wave of determination and team spirit. “We got off to a big start in the opening term and kicked six unanswered goals,” Casey elaborated. “Jack Oatey in his usual way asked us if we were to go all-out attack, and that’s what we did.”

When the final siren sounded, history recorded that Sturt scored 3.4 against the wind in the last quarter, beating Glenelg’s two straight goals to win by 15 points. The final tally showed Sturt 9.16 (70) defeating Glenelg 8.7 (55), with a whopping 58,113 fans in attendance.

“Any Grand Final win is special, but your first always holds fond memories,” Casey continued. It was indeed a remarkable day for many players, as the team was a blend of seasoned athletes and first-time premiership players, including Bruce Winter, Robbert Klomp, Robert Barton, Robert Oatey, and others.

In the 1974 season, Casey also debuted in SA state football, facing off against teams from Western Australia and the VFL. His state-level competitions even led him to play against Steve Hywood, a former South Broken Hill footballer, in a game against Tasmania.

Looking ahead to this year’s clash, Casey admitted that Sturt is the underdog but added, “I feel confident we’ll put up a good showing. Being an underdog has served the club well over the years.”

The showdown is set for 2:30 pm this Sunday at Adelaide Oval. Don’t miss it.

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