The Tasmanian state grand final of 1967 between North Hobart and Wynyard is famous as being the only major state grand final in Australia to be declared ‘no game’.
The game entered the annals of Tasmanian football history after a famous incident immediately following the final siren. North Hobart full forward David Collins marked the ball around 15 metres from goal with his side one point behind after what had been a rugged but see-sawing game all day. Umpire John Pilgrim adjudicated that Collins’ mark had been secured before the final siren, but the Wynyard supporters behind the western goal deemed otherwise. Amid their howls of derision at what could be assumed would be a game altering decision they surged onto the ground and removed the goalposts before Collins could take his shot on goal.
The fall-out from the incident saw the match declared ‘no game’ and thus no state premiership was awarded for season 1967. North Hobart full forward David Collins and his counterpart, Wynyard full back Phil Dell, have spoken about the 1967 state grand final as one of the highlights of their respective careers.
State Grand Final Date: 30 September 1967
Wynyard: 1.1 9.7 10.9 13.14 (92)
North Hobart: 3.8 5.11 11.17 12.19 (91)
Venue: West Park, Burnie
Umpire: J. Pilgrim
Wynyard: Dell, Clarke, Cox, West, King, Wilson, Neal.
North Hobart: Devine, Graham, Mills, Brakey, Smith, Deayton, Hawkins.
Wynyard: West (6), Templar (2), Atkins, Clarke, King, Coughlan, Murfet.
North Hobart: Devine (5), Graham (2), Dwyer, Collins, Woolley, Mills, Arnold.
B: A. Wilson P. Dell K. Edwards
HB: J. Stretton D. Cox R. Reece
C: K. Innes A. Andrews G. Gaby
HF: T. Wright D. Atkins A. West
F: J. Neal J. Coughlan K. Murfett
Ruck: L. Clarke D. Templar K. King
Res. M. Bugg G. Garland
Coach: J. Coughlan
B: R. Mawbey D. Roberts R. Smith
HB: J. Wright G. Brakey K. Deayton
C: M. Hawkins T. Best R. Bennett
HF: W. Knowles T. Woolley D. Graham
F: M. Arnold D. Collins I. Mills
Ruck: H. Macquarie J. Devine G. Dwyer
Res. B. Styles S. Sproule
Coach: J. Devine
State Grand Final, 1967
Crowd scene with goalpost in foreground. Wynyard’s Phil Dell waits on the mark to no avail.
Tasmanian State Grand Final, 1967 – Wynyard vs. North Hobart: Game Description
By John Devaney
The 1967 football season was a memorable one in many respects. In Tasmania the 1967 state premiership decider between Wynyard and North Hobart turned into one of the most controversial matches of all time and spawned a story that made headline news throughout the country, even in areas were Australian football was contemptuously referred to as ‘aerial ping pong’.
North Hobart qualified for the state grand final with a hard fought 11.12 (78) to 8.16 (64) defeat of Glenorchy in the TFL grand final, followed by a solid win over NTFA premiers East Launceston in the state preliminary final. Meanwhile, Wynyard’s 13.7 (85) to 7.7 (49) victory over Cooee in the NWFU premiership decider propelled the team directly into the state grand final which was scheduled to be played at Burnie’s home ground of West Park on Saturday 30 September 1967.
The Advocate journalist Allan Leeson provided the following first-hand account of the events leading up to one of the most dramatic, controversial and memorable finishes to a football match in the game’s history:
Saturday’s state grand final at Burnie had all the features of the game—brilliance, tension and drama—everything in fact, except a result. The sensational conclusion which led to the declaration of ‘no game’ was a pity, because it left a nasty taste after a close, tough, hard fought, entertaining clash between two talented teams. Both sides claim they won, and perhaps it would have been a fitting result if David Collins had booted a point for a draw, instead of being swamped by the crowd. As it is we will never know who should have won the game, although the outcome will be argued for years. According to the NTFA umpire Pilgrim, North Hobart full forward David Collins marked the ball close to the opening. Collins was so close it was hard to imagine him missing the big opening, which would have given North victory by five points—but goals have been missed from 10 yards out before!
The reason for this sensational finish was the refusal of both sides to give in. They gave everything in a game highlighted by incidents, many of which should have been seen and dealt with by the umpire. But the play moved along at such a rate that umpire Pilgrim found it hard to keep his eyes on every corner of the ground. Many of the behind the play incidents were cowardly and spiteful and a good share were aimed at Wynyard’s star rover Kevin King. How the game did not get out of control is amazing, particularly during the fierce closing stages of the 3rd quarter. With 26 minutes on the clock rugged North Hobart vice-captain Des Graham mowed down King and Stretton and the umpire appeared to take his number.
Hero for the Redlegs was captain-coach John Devine—he was all he was cracked up to be and more! Devine was an inspiration and at times played a lone hand against the determined Cats. His ruck-rover role took him to all corners of the ground and he was dangerous wherever he went, particularly in attack. He dished out bulldozer bumps and received just as many, but always came back in his mercurial style to lift the side when he was most needed. With he and his three fiery rovers—Graham, Dwyer and Mills—in dashing form the southern Robins had a big advantage. The only problem for North was the hot-headed attitude of rover ‘Harry’ Dwyer, a failing which led to many free kicks and should have brought more.
Wynyard’s full back, Phil Dell, centre half back David Cox and ruckman Leon Clarke were again the outstanding Cats. And with King and Neal making the best of every opportunity, and West showing a return to form with six goals from a flank, the home side equalled North in many phases.
The southern premiers should have sewn the game up after winning the toss, but shocking kicking for goal left them without the expected advantage. Wynyard’s skipper John Coughlan made his usual move to centre half forward 25 minutes into the game, but the Cats were only able to break through once, when West scored from a free up the ground against Devine.
Wynyard’s tremendous come back in the second term left the Redlegs stunned—8.6 to 2.3 speaks for itself. Coughlan moved back to full forward and 20 minutes into the game North’s spearhead David Collins swapped places with centre half forward Tom Woolley, neither of whom had impressed. The Cats’ big man Leon Clarke levelled the score with the third goal of the quarter, only seven minutes after the start. The Cats gained confidence and their paralysing burst kept North from scoring until 18 minutes into the term, when a point was rushed. Brilliant play by West, and cooperation by Coughlan, led to another three quick goals by Wynyard, while the defenders stalled North’s attempts to break through the big opening until 29 minutes into the quarter. Devine booted his side back into the game after the siren when he shot accurately after a mark.
The boot was on the other foot in the third term, when the Redlegs displayed their tremendous fighting spirit to recapture the lead. With the wingers taking all honours, Garry Brakey holding the defenders together and Devine and the little men doing their share, North grabbed the lead with 15 minutes on the clock. It was in this quarter that Devine was at his best, kicking two goals and setting up three of the four others. His hand passing, cool anticipation and uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, was an inspiration to the Redlegs and they answered in a body. After an early goal the Cats were kept scoreless for 14 minutes until West kicked a point 23 minutes into the term.
Wynyard took the scoring end in the final quarter without the advantage of a strong wind, which had dropped considerably. Brilliant cooperation down the flanks led to two goals in two minutes, and everyone thought the Cats were going to race away. But they had not allowed for North’s never-say-die attitude and, with Devine still the master, the visitors maintained their small lead. The crowd roared when Phillip Dell was disallowed a mark on the last line, although the umpire blew his whistle, and while players stood puzzled Devine picked up the ball and blasted a goal.
Dell was still saving magnificently on the last line, together with a revitalised Edwards, and the Cats raced forward twice only to see West miss two in a row. But on the third occasion he found the opening and levelled the scores 19 minutes into the quarter.
The Cats kept up the pressure but could not shoot straight, while North lifted itself again and tried desperately to break through the tight Cat cordon. With 30 minutes on the clock (and Wynyard one point to the good) Templar gave away a free for holding the man and Devine went back for his kick 30 yards out. Collins raced in from the side of a pack to mark as the siren was heard—and the rest is history.
As Collins went back to take his kick, hordes of spectators surged onto the playing arena, and several of them tore down the goal posts. Police tried desperately to clear an avenue for Collins to run up and take his shot but to no avail. In the end, Collins had no choice but to leave the playing arena, having first stuffed the match ball under his jumper (40 years later, he still has the football).
The 1967 Tasmanian state premiership final was ultimately declared ‘no game’, with North Hobart believing that the moral victory was theirs, and that to replay the match would effectively constitute a sanctioning of ‘mob rule’.