Blast from the Past
The Club song was devised by Jim Bradshaw and others during the infamous Perth Intervarsity trip in 1964. The translation of the Neapolitan classic “Funiculi Funicula” with its’ resounding refrain meaning “let’s go to the top” was ignored. The words were replaced with repeated references to self abuse and triumphalism.
The song quickly became a Club favourite and, just as quickly, provided proof to CANFL heavyweights that ANUAFC was a bunch of undisciplined degenerates.
As a result of repeated requests from the League to not sing the song, it became a symbol of defiance, lustily rendered upon the slightest pretext.
Eventually, in deference to the sensitive souls who administered Australian Football in Canberra, an accommodation was reached with the League and singing was confined to the rooms, in most cases.
When the club entered the competition, the team was referred to as “University” or the “Students”.
During the 60’s the team became known as the “Blues” and continued to be called the Blues despite the best endeavours of the Belconnen Football Club after 1971 to claim the name. Belconnen became known as the “Bees”.
ANU continued to be the Blues until they withdrew from the first grade ACTAFL competition. Within a week, the Canberra Times dropped the “Belconnen Bees” and they became the “Blues”.
In 1976, the Committee decided a membership badge should be struck for the ANU Club. Eric Martin, an Architect and regular ANUAFC firsts player who had previously played for Melbourne University, suggested a Griffin would be a suitable emblem for the club, given tradition considered the Griffin to be king of the beasts and the location of the ANU campus on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin.
The Committee at that time was largely comprised of economics, law and political science students, and graduates. They readily deferred to Eric’s superior knowledge of matters artistic, heraldic and mythical, and endorsed his proposal. Badges were struck, the Griffin featured on T shirts and, after leaving the ACTAFL, the “Blues” became the “Griffins”.
The French have a saying, Plus ça change plus c'est meme chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same). ANUAFC seems to have changed little over the years.
Ian Grigg was coach of the ANUAFC side which entered the CANFL in 1962. Ian had played in the Essendon District League in Melbourne and with Manuka. He recalls:
Ian Lambert, who I'd coached at Manuka as a junior approach me during 1961 asking whether I would coach the new university team. I had just finished my playing days at Manuka and after accepting, looked forward to the challenge.
I clearly recall at our first training runs and practice games. Team discipline was not what I had encountered either in the Essendon district in Melbourne playing senior football or at Manuka. Turning up to training on week nights seem to be in the minds of many students an “optional extra” and when university vacations came around a number of students decided that they would slip off interstate to their home towns where they would enjoy the luxury of holidays in the sunshine and leave others to hold the fort playing footy in the Canberra winter. This didn't last long as forced democracy soon took over in - turn up for all ANU games or stay permanently on vacation.
Under Ian’s guidance, the 1962 team won the CANFL Reserve Grade Premiership.
Another six flags and 38 years later, Shaun Manning was coach of the first XVIII. In July 1999 he held a meeting with his players. Points raised included:
- all players should notify coaches of their availability for games, and
- players should make more effort to train. No train No play was thought to be a good policy.
Shaun was prepared to let his players have more input than Ian Grigg. The notes of the meeting in 1999 also record:
- players felt that coaches were making lengthy speeches before a game (and during training) and making too many points; to the point where players minds were wandering and they were switching off before a game (or during training). Players felt that shorter speeches would help them concentrate on the task at hand.
- training should be more enjoyable, and
- coaches should set simple goals.
Shaun had to wait until 2007 to steer an ANUAFC side to a premiership, albeit in Reserve Grade.
In 1962, ANUAFC was admitted to the CANFL Reserve Grade competition on the understanding that if they won the Premiership, the club would be able to enter a First Grade side in 1963.
The team won only 3 of their first 8 games, but managed to win the last six to scrape into the four. The team must have really 'clicked' at the end of the season as they kicked 63 goals in the last 4 games while only conceding 6.
Turner had vigorously opposed ANU’s entry to the competition. It was a sweet victory when ANU defeated Turner in the first semi-final 12-9-81 to 4-11-35. The rest of the finals series loomed as a titanic task for the new team. They met Eastlake in the preliminary final, and the 'Lakes' were tipped to win due to their experience and the fact that their second semi final loss to Manuka was their first for the season.
This was to be the most important and challenging game to date for ANU. The Canberra Times briefly records the details of the game;
University defeated Eastlake by one point in the preliminary final of the second eighteens and will now meet Manuka in the grand final next Saturday. This is a remarkable performance for a team playing its first season. For the first half little separated the teams and at half time Eastlake were one point ahead. In the third quarter, however, Eastlake forged ahead and despite the formidable defence of Prowse and his colleagues the Lakes finished the quarter double the students score: 8-6 to 4-3. University came back in the last quarter, and a long goal from Johnston lifted their spirits. This was followed by three behinds, and then an Eastlake counter attack which was stopped by Barry O'Grady. Another goal by Johnston and the difference was two straight goals. Eastlake had not added to their score during the quarter, their several attempts being stopped by the strong University defence. Right on the siren Johnston (sic*) marked within scoring distance for University and made no mistake. University 8-7-55 d. Eastlake 8-6-54 (CT Mon Sept 10 1962).
*(The Canberra Times reporter was mistaken as it was Russell Parkes who marked on the siren and kicked truly.)
Barry O’Grady writes that the match was lost by Eastlake making a positional change at half time. “I was having a very ordinary day at half back trying to contain a rover. I hated little guys who could make you look stupid and he was their main avenue into the forward line. Fortunately they changed him for someone who was less skilled but they kept moving the ball up that flank in attack. I managed to consistently outmark my new opponent in one to one confrontations and kick to the ball up to Bert Engel in the centre”
Club Notes in the Canberra Football Record of 15 September 1962 report:
What a Finish!
Five points down, Norm (Russell) Parkes marks at full-forward and the siren blows. With our entry into the Grand Final depending on the kick, he didn’t bat an eyelid and booted it through to give us victory by a point.
Full points to Norm for this goal (and others during the match) and to Bert (Peter) Engel, whose battling run led to that vital pass. It’s difficult to nominate stars in a team that tried all day – particularly in that hectic last quarter.
Bert Prowse must be congratulated for great rucking work against heavily armoured opposition. Mick Meagher roved well against stern opponents and did his best work when the going was tough (it’s difficult to rove when the opposing rucks are defending by desperately forcing the ball out of bounds). Vic Price marked and kicked well - again. ”Ace” Johnson turned on a scintillating last quarter and kicked two great goals. Hugh Brophy got many kicks on the wing which he sprayed all over the forward line. Julian Scott played the loose-man game to perfection.
A major factor in the victory was the fact that the ‘Lakes failed to score in the last quarter. Credit is due to the whole back-line and especially to Barry O’Grady whose timely marking and clearing kicks constituted a great captain’s game.
The grand final was played against Manuka, another of the clubs that had opposed the entry of ANU into the competition. Again, victory was sweet. The game was played in poor conditions, with the Canberra Times reporting that they "were the worst experienced for a grand final in Canberra" (Mon, Sept 17 1962). The first grade match was played mostly in blinding rain and a cloudburst covered the ground with water inches deep. We can assume that conditions for the earlier match were only marginally better.
University defeated Manuka by 21 points to win the second eighteens premiership. More aggressive than their opponents, University displayed great determination in the face of adverse conditions. Gaining the premiership was particularly creditable because it was their first season in the competition. The first half was a dour struggle, neither side completely mastering the slippery conditions. Scoring was difficult, only two goals being registered, one by Price of University and one by Brown for Manuka. At half time University had a narrow lead of 1-4 to 1-2. Manuka took the lead briefly in the third quarter, but the students ruck strength prevailed and they moved ahead slowly but steadily to win by 21 points.
University 4 goals 13 behinds 37 points d. Manuka 2 goals 4 behinds 16 points.
Price Johnston, Parkes, Lyall; Manuka-Brown, Sutton.
Prowse, Engel, Johnston, Parkes, O'Grady; Manuka-Thompson, Scanlon, Robertson, Marrish, L.Pini (CT Mon, Sept 17 1962).
The grand final victory over Manuka virtually assured the club a berth in the first division of the CANFL, and the ANUAFC was to spend the next seventeen seasons in the premier football division in the ACT.
Barry O’Grady has booked his travel and accommodation for 19-20 August 2011. Vic Price is a member of the organizing committee.
The club entered the 1970 season with confidence. Canberra Times football writer Colin Hibberd described new coach, Pat McNamara, as one of the most experienced men ever to coach a CANFL team.
Pat McNamara had an impressive football background. He was the son of Bill McNamara who played 69 games for Carlton, was Vice Captain from 1902-1904 and later a committeeman who became a life member at Carlton in the 1920’s. Pat played 54 games for Melbourne and 22 for South Melbourne when he was Captain Coach of South’s reserves. In 1941 he won the Gardiner Medal as the Best and Fairest player in the VFL Reserves competition. He was to be supported by his sons Damien and Tim at the ANU during his term as coach.
The ANU pre-season impressed Hibberd. He wrote that “McNamara has brought his group to a standard even the most ardent supporter would not have expected”. (CT 25.4.70)
The season was preceded by a knockout competition, conducted over three weeks, sponsored by Cottees.
In the best game of the first round of the knockout, ANU 13.9.87 beat Acton 8.12.60. ANU had been 5 goals up at half time but tired. With 4 minutes to go, Acton got within 5 points. This prompted an ANU comeback in which they kicked 3 goals to win by 27 points. John Buxton, playing in the centre, rated special mention for being in control. Despite the fade-out, the Times reported that ANU beat Acton in every facet of the game which was taken as evidence of a solid pre-season.
The game and its’ aftermath had a degree of drama with a report involving Don Cowie. On this occasion (by way of change), Don was the innocent party, having allegedly been struck by Lieske of Acton. The CANFL Tribunal sustained the charge and suspended Lieske for 2 weeks. Problem – Lieske was not registered to play with Acton and the matter had to be referred back to the Ovens and Murray League where he last played. The Canberra Times reporter, Colin Hibberd speculated that Lieske faced suspension for a season. His fate is not recorded.
The following week, ANU was tipped to beat Manuka in the pre-season semi-final as they were the fittest team in the competition. ANU was well on top for the first three quarters but tired badly. Manuka kicked 4.4 to 1.0 in the second half but ANU was able to hang on for a four point win and a berth in the Grand Final against Eastlake. It had been a ragged game. The scoreline was ANU 11.12.78 d Manuka 11.8.74. Mick Healy kicked 6 goals and his marking was described as “brilliant”.
On 2 May 1970, the Canberra Times tipped Eastlake to prevail in the knockout Grand Final and win the $200 prizemoney and the Rosebowl trophy. Ian Crebbin, a former Manuka player and Roger Thornley ex-RMC came into the side. It was thought that Bruce Munday, Peter Ramus and Bill Whittakers would not have the strength to match Ted Lees and the other Eastlake followers. Eastlakes’ goal to goal line was also seen to be stronger with Mick Healy at centre half forward and Bob Klintberg at centre half back being the only members of the ANU spine to impress.
Eastlake won comfortably, 19.16.130 to ANU’s 6.8.44. University scored first but then the Eastlake followers, Ted Lees, Grant Lawrence and Alan Hird dominated with ANU having no match for Lees’ marking strength. Later, Alan Hird and Ted Lees were both to play for and coach ANU.
Ainslie was tipped to beat ANU in round 5 of 1971, but after one of the most memorable games played by ANU in the history of the club, the Canberra Times headline read “ANU topples rules premier”. The University performance was described as some of the best football seen in Canberra for some time as ANU’s teamwork left Ainslie flatfooted. David Morgan kicked 8, Rob Wilson was best on ground, Dick Miller, Frank Crimmins and Allan Hird won the rucks and Bill Whittakers kicked two goals in the last quarter, one from at least 70 yards out.
ANU led by 14 points at quarter time, Ainslie by 12 at half time and ANU by 1 at three quarter time. Ten minutes into the last quarter Ainslie had forged to a 20 point lead which prompted one of the greatest fightbacks ever seen in Canberra football. A snapped goal from Tony Pryor and a hurried shot from Bill Whittakers reduced the margin to 8 points. A point to Allan Hird and a goal from a high mark to David Morgan, an Ainslie point and Morgans’ seventh goal saw ANU leading by 4 points. The ANU burst continued and in 15 minutes, ANU went from a 20 point deficit to a 36 point lead. A late Ainslie goal and a couple of behinds to ANU cut the final margin to 28 points.
The Canberra Times concluded that ANU was a definite threat to all teams.
After round 19, the finalists had been decided, ANU could not drop from 4th place. David Morgan had kicked 77 goals for the season. Another six in the 119 point loss to Manuka the following week took him to 83.
The weather forecast for Saturday 21 August 1971 was for fine weather and a top temperature of 63ºF. Vic Price had an eye on the weather as he was to be married at St Pauls’ Manuka that day. Rain began to fall in the morning and over half an inch was recorded during the afternoon. Queanbeyan Park oval deteriorated rapidly. Mud and slush made conditions for the match between ANU and the home side extremely difficult.
The ANU game plan involved getting the ball to David Morgan as often as possible in a seemingly Quixotic endeavour to have him kick 100 goals for the home and away season – and not have the milestone as a distraction for the semi final which was to follow. A spectator reported that after Morgan had posted 3.9 from 12 scoring shots in the murk, the tactic seemed flawed. He then found form and landed 16 goals straight to make a total of 19 for the afternoon. John Buxton, Dick Miller and Bob Schaedel spoiled the Morgan party by also scoring goals in a 22.14.146 (Morgan 19.9.123) to 10.12.72 win. David Morgan had 102 goals for the season.