After a long and distinguished history, the future of the state premiership was under a cloud by the mid 1970s. 1974 had been the first year since 1951 that the state premiership had not been contested, despite a fantastic final the previous year between Scottsdale and Cooee. Attendances and interest from both the public and clubs was well down on previous years, and so although it returned for the 1975 season there were genuine concerns that the concept may not see out the decade.
The 1975 state final was contested between northern and southern powerhouses Glenorchy and North Launceston. The Magpies had earned their place thanks to a 39-point win over Sandy Bay in the TANFL grand final, and had advanced straight to the final thanks to the state premiership’s rotation system. The Robins meanwhile had to earn their spot the hard way, defeating Scottsdale in the NTFA grand final before winning the state preliminary final with a dominant 89-point win over NWFU premiers Wynyard at York Park. Unfortunately for the Robins, their win came at a cost, with up to eight players going into the state premiership match needing pain-killing injections.
The two sides faced each other at North Hobart Oval on a Sunday afternoon in late September in conditions perfect for football. From the opening bounce the match was a fast and highly skilful affair, with Glenorchy holding a narrow three-point lead at the first change. North Launceston wrestled the momentum in the match in the second quarter, and with Ian Marsh and Tony Pickett carving up the Magpies’ midfield at will the Robins kicked seven goals to two to hold a 26-point advantage at the main break. It was a superb effort given their injury woes, and coach Peter Daniel urged his charges to stick to their game plan and to not let up on the relentless pressure that had proven so effective to that point.
This Glenorchy side was a class act, however, and in the third quarter they demonstrated it. With coach Peter Hudson starting to get the upper hand in his duel with Neil Maynard and Darryl Sutton breaking free from the superb tag put on him by Rodney Loone, the Magpies slammed on nine goals to three in the third term to take a 13-point advantage into the final change. The game was still well and truly up for grabs, but by now the physical toll was beginning to tell on the northerners, and the result was Glenorchy dominating play in the final quarter, running out winners by an even four goals to claim their fourth state premiership. The margin could have been much greater, however North Launceston fought the match out admirably and continued to put the Magpies under enormous pressure, so much so that the home side’s 15 final quarter scoring shots produced an unflattering 3.12
The game is remembered in the annals of Tasmanian football as one of the most exciting and high-quality matches ever played in the state, with the talent on display being a large factor. No less than nine of the 40 participants had either previously played VFL football or would go on to play VFL football at a later date: these included opposing coaches Peter Daniel and Peter Hudson, Glenorchy’s Rodney Eade (Hawthorn) and Darryl Sutton (numerous clubs), and North Launceston’s Graham Hunnibell (Melbourne), Ian Marsh (Essendon), Harry Frei (Footscray), Bruce Neish (Footscray/Essendon) and Tony Pickett (Carlton). Not to mention the other players who it’s widely acknowledged could have easily played at VFL level, such as Trevor Sprigg, Geoff Graham, Gary Linton, Neil Maynard and Richard Spencer. In fact, Eade, Sutton, Marsh and Pickett were all recruited to the VFL on the back of their outstanding performances in the match, with Eade going on to cement himself as an icon of the game in Tasmania. The match also left a profound mark on the individuals involved, with Peter Hudson – no stranger to playing on the big stage surrounded by champions – listing the match as one of the top three he ever played in.
Sadly, even the superb calibre of this match was not enough to save the popularity of the state premiership. After Ulverstone took out the title the following year, the match was again uncontested in 1977, and the final state premiership match was played between Cooee and Sandy Bay in 1978, the northerners triumphing by 26 points before just 3,860 spectators at West Park. Nevertheless, the 1975 state premiership match has gone down in history as one of the great state finals thanks to the skill and talent on display that day and the quality of the football itself, and as such it rightfully takes its place amongst the ‘Memorable Games’ of Tasmanian football.
1975 State Premiership Match: Glenorchy v North Launceston – 28/09/1975
Glenorchy 4.2 (26) 6.6 (42) 15.12 (102) 18.24 (132)
North Launceston 3.5 (23) 10.8 (68) 13.11 (89) 16.12 (108)
Glenorchy: P. Hudson 7, D. Sutton 2, G. Graham 2, M. Emery 2, R. Stringer 1, P. Johannson 1, R. Eade 1, G. Linton 1, R. Parish 1
North Launceston: G. Simpson 4, H. Frei 4, D. Frost 2, R. Young 2, C. O’Byrne 1, T. Pickett 1, S. Sellers 1, I. Marsh 1
Glenorchy: P. Hudson, D. Sutton, T. Sprigg, G. Linton, R. Eade, R. Parish, G. Graham, C. Martin
North Launceston: R. Sellers, T. Pickett, G. Hunnibell, G. Simpson, P. Daniel, H. Frei, B. Neish, N. Maynard
Attendance: 8,654 at North Hobart Oval
B: Craig Martin, Mark Johnston, Jim Dykes
HB: Michael House, Trevor Sprigg, Greg Thirgood
C: Rodney Eade, Gary Linton, Don Holland
HF: Michael Emery, Geoff Graham, Brian Wilkinson
FF: Darryl Sutton (c), Peter Hudson, Paul Johansson
R: John Pilkington, Robbie Dykes, Rod Parish
I: Robert Stringer, Tim Woodham
Coach: Peter Hudson
B: Stephen Spencer, Neil Maynard, Ron Sellers
HB: Rodney Loone, Bruce Neish, Peter Warren
C: Tony Pickett, Richard Spencer, Phillip Sellers
HF: Harry Frei, Peter Daniel (c/c), Craig O’Byrne
FF: Ricky Young, Dale Frost, Stephen Sellers
R: Graham Hunnibell, Glen Simpson, Ian Marsh
I: Robbie Richards, Mick Sellers
Coach: Peter Daniel