In 2009 AFL Tasmania recognised as its ‘special category’ induction the three senior teams from throughout Tasmania who achieved their fame by a ‘giant killing’ effort over arguably the strongest opposition of their respective eras.
The ‘Giant Killers of Tasmanian Football’ are clubs that have shown significant resilience and fighting character to achieve a Tasmanian football premiership from throughout Tasmania against all odds and against arguably stronger opponents. The teams chosen for induction are as follows:
> Northern Tasmania: East Launceston Demons – 1967 NTFA premiership team
> North-West Tasmania: Penguin Two Blues – 1977 NWFU premiership team
> Southern Tasmania: Hobart Tigers – 1973 TFL premiership team
Giant Killers of Tasmanian Football – Northern Tasmania: East Launceston, 1967
The East Launceston Football Club was formed as an expansion club in the NTFA in 1947. Their original name of Cornwall gave way to East Launceston in the late 1950s as district football took hold. However, the name change did little to change the fortunes of the Demons who were the undoubted Cinderella team of the Association. In their first 19 years the club had a success rate of just over 25% from 300 games.
In 1967, however, a new dawn began with the appointment of the highly successful Brian Lowe as captain-coach. Lowe had emerged from the Fingal Valley with City South and then spent time at Geelong and came back to Cooee in North-West Tasmania. From ten grand final appearances Lowe had achieved a 100% premiership record, but what could he do with the 1966 NTFA wooden spooners?
It didn’t take the Demons’ faithful long to find out as they surged to their highest finish in the roster season ever. They launched their premiership assault against the top of the ladder North Launceston who were hot favourites to lift their third premiership since 1961 under the coaching of Bob Withers. In a preview of the grand final to come, the Demons prevailed in the final stanza to score a five-point victory and proceed to their first ever title play off.
After defeating City South comfortably the Robins returned for another tilt at the Demons and for many pundits they deserved favouritism on the basis of history, finals experience and their season to date. In the first quarter of the 1967 decider the Robins jumped out of the blocks for a comfortable lead. However, the hungry Demons ground them into the York Park dust in the second term but wayward kicking was costly. A better return in the third saw the Demons seven points clear coming into the final stanza with the aid of the wind. In the final quarter a titanic struggle ensued and the Robins kicked away their chances. With three minutes to go a chain of possessions was followed by a 15-metre penalty for East and flanker John Artis lined up from 35 metres and kicked truly. A straight kick and East took the lead for the final time and the champagne corks began to pop as victory was heralded for the Demons.
The Demons were unable to proceed past the state preliminary final the following week being well beaten by North Hobart. They went to the grand final ‘big dance’ only once more in 1969 before finally succumbing to a merger with City South in 1986. However, their giant killing triumph in 1967 will live forever in the memory of all those associated with the club.
NTFA PREMIERSHIP – 1967 – York Park
East Launceston v North Launceston Date: 16 September
East Launceston: 1.3 3.10 8.11 9.12 (66)
North Launceston: 4.5 4.7 7.10 8.16 (64)
East Launceston: J. Frost, J. Dekkers, G. Whatley, M. Butt, C. Prior, B. Lowe, T. Wicks.
North Launceston: G. Simpson, B. Dunstone, T. Somerville, C. Thompson, T. Stingle, K. McLean, K. Rattray.
East Launceston: G. Whatley (3), T. Wicks (2), J. Frost, D. Pitcher, J. Artis, R. Symmons.
North Launceston: C. Thompson (2), K. Rattray (2), B. Dunstone, P. Stephens, B. Collinson, T. Somerville.
Umpire A. Kregor
Coach: Brian Lowe
Back:s M. Butt A. Peters I. Castles
Half Backs: W. Towns F. Maxwell N. Webb
Centres: R. Symmons P. Webb C. Prior
Half Forwards: J. Artis T. Pearce T. Wicks
Forwards: J. Frost G. Whatley G. Goninon
Followers: B. Lowe J. Dekkers D. Pitcher
Reserves: T. Geale B. Webb
Giant Killers of Tasmanian Football – Southern Tasmania: Hobart, 1973
The Hobart Tigers entered the 1973 TFL grand final as rank outsiders in nearly every pundit’s eyes. They were up against the Rod Olsson-led Sandy Bay Seagulls, who were hottest favourites in TFL history. The Seagulls had defeated Hobart on all four occasions that they had met in the roster (including an 85-point hiding in round 18); they were dual reigning premiers and had easily progressed into the grand final; and, finally, had not lost a game during the season to date. Simply, they looked unstoppable for their third successive premiership.
The Tigers were led by the dynamic duo of coach, Alan Appleton—who was a hero of their great era under Mal Pascoe in the early 1960s—and small and dynamic midfielder, Malcolm Bugg, who had come to the club from Wynyard and enjoyed his greatest season when elevated to the captaincy midyear.
The Tigers’ year could be described in one word: inconsistent. They fell over the line to make the finals by four points ahead of New Norfolk who had a superior percentage. They were 12 wins adrift of the Seagulls at the top of the ladder. Incredibly, the Tigers had not won a game at North Hobart Oval for the year as they fronted for the first semi against Clarence. Even more surprisingly, they managed to overcome the more favoured Roos with literally the last kick of the game, a goal to veteran forward Kerry Wilson.
The preliminary final was Hobart’s best effort for the season as they cruised past Glenorchy to earn a spot in their first grand final for seven years. The grand final started with Sandy Bay and Hobart going goal for goal and by three quarter time the Tigers led by six points and appeared to be gaining the ascendency. The final challenge for the Tigers would be to run the game out after a gruelling finals campaign. Despite the odds, the mighty Hobart of ’73 went away from the Bay in the final half of the quarter to score the upset of the century by a clear margin.
The Hobart team’s achievement in 1973 was the stuff of legend at the time and the Tigers will forever be considered the giant killers of senior football from Southern Tasmania.
TFL PREMIERSHIP – 1973 – North Hobart Oval
Hobart v Sandy Bay Date: 15 September
Hobart: 2.3 5.7 8.11 11.19 (85)
Sandy Ba:y 3.0 4.2 8.5 10.5 (65)
Hobart: M. Bugg, K. Williams, S. Gay, J. Howard, D. Bishop, K. Wilson.
Sandy Bay: D. Morrison, C. Rae, R. Olsson, N. Styles, M. Steele, J. Gallus.
Hobar:t S. Gay (3), G. Barnett (3), K. Wilson, T. O’Rourke, D. Watkins, J. Howard, M. Krause.
Sandy Bay: R. Adams (3), M. Elliott (2), V. DeVenuto (2), N. Styles, J. Gallus, N. Ricketts.
Umpire D. Blew
Coach: Alan Appleton
Backs: R. Clarke P. Ratcliffe P. Martyn
Half Backs: D. Bishop K. Luxmore M. Williams
Centres: J. Howard M. Bugg I. Sullivan
Half Forwards: S. Gay K. Wilson T. O’Rourke
Forwards: M. Krause M. Dickson G. Barnett
Followers: K. Williams P. Reid D. Watkins
Reserves: M. Free T. Werchon
Giant Killers of Tasmanian Football – North-West Tasmania: Penguin, 1977
Penguin had endured the longest wait in Tasmanian football history to reach the 1976 NWFU grand final after last tasting premiership success in 1932. The Two Blues had high expectations under the coaching of north-west football personality Warren ‘Putt’ McCarthy. In his first season since crossing from arch-rival Cooee in 1976 he had guided the perennial cellar dwellers to second spot after the roster. After a loss in the second semi-final the Two Blues bounced back and comfortably advanced past Cooee to a rematch with Ulverstone in the decider. However, the mighty Robins of 1976 were on a mission and with one of the greatest coastal teams ever they shut Penguin out of the contest in the first quarter and were never challenged.
Ulverstone and Cooee were the clear pacesetters in season 1977 with Penguin a distant third and having to face up to East Devonport in the first semi-final. The Two Blues were seriously challenged for three and a half quarters but ultimately overcame the Swans in unconvincing fashion by 17 points. Penguin’s chances of advancing to the premiership decider seemed to decrease after the most one-sided second semi-final in NWFU history, which saw the Cooee Bulldogs defeat reigning premiers Ulverstone by 101 points.
The preliminary final started well for Penguin and they built an early lead with the wind and held a 15-point advantage at half time. The Robins worked hard in the third quarter against the wind to ensure that the last quarter would determine the result. Inaccuracy cost Ulverstone the chance to defend their title and the Two Blues advanced to the grand final for the second successive season with a two-point victory.
The 1977 NWFU grand final saw Cooee the short priced favourite given their good form in the finals and a couple of big wins over the Two Blues in the roster. Penguin were not without a chance as they had at least beaten Cooee during the season, but given their history they were considered the biggest underdog in NWFU history.
The wily captain-coach of the Two Blues came together with his old teammate, Cooee’s captain-coach Graeme Shephard, to toss the coin at Devonport Oval and with a howling gale blowing towards Bass Strait. After the coin fell both captains pointed towards Bass Strait. Umpire Williams had to intervene and supervised the toss of the coin for a second time. Coach McCarthy called correctly and the Two Blues kicked with the wind, however they were unable to build a convincing lead and appeared to have blown their chance to gain the ascendency when they finished the quarter only nine points ahead. The Bulldogs rebounded in the second stanza and went into half time nine points to the good. It seemed that Cooee would now be able to overrun the Two Blues who appeared to be tiring. In a monumental effort Penguin dominated the third quarter, their last with the wind, and built the largest lead of the game at the break (18 points). But would it be enough to hold out Cooee and achieve that long awaited premiership?
In a titanic struggle in the final quarter the Cooee team threw everything they had at Penguin, but could not convert enough of their chances to ultimately take the lead. As time on commenced the Two Blues looked home leading by 16 points and the unthinkable was about to happen for the long-suffering Penguin supporters. Cooee’s only effective forward and champion goalkicker, Stephen Beaumont, kicked two goals in a minute, including one after the siren, to bring the Bulldogs within a kick of winning, but this only gave the impression of a close finish as the Two Blues supporters began the biggest celebration in the history of the small seaside town of Penguin.
The achievement of the Penguin Two Blues in defeating raging hot favourite Cooee, after four decades as the Union’s perennial cellar dweller, duly sees them recognised as the ‘Giant Killers’ from the North-West Coast.
NWFU Grand Final – 1977 – Devonport
Penguin v Cooee Date: 17 September
Penguin: 4.5 5.10 10.14 11.18 (84)
Cooee: 3.2 7.7 8.8 11.14 (80)
Penguin: R. Watt, B. Valentine, P. Looney, T. Owens, P. Lade, P. French, C. Fielding.
Cooee: K. Carrolan, T. Lee, K. Beswick, G. Shephard, L. Hawken.
Penguin: P. Looney (2), R. Watt (2), G. Cowmeadow (2), K. King (2), T. Owens, W. McCarthy, D. McKay.
Cooee: S. Beaumont (4), D. Baird (3), M. Beswick (2), P. Reinmuth, R. Paine.
Umpire K. Williams
Coach: Warren McCarthy
Backs: T. Howard P. Lade K. Creedon
Half Backs: W. Manson D. McKay D. Langmaid
Centres: T. Owens R. Plapp S. Willcox
Half Forwards: P. French W. McCarthy P. Looney
Forwards: C. Fielding G. Cowmeadow M. Anstee
Followers: B. Valentine R. Watt K. King
Reserves: B. Fielding T. French P. French
R. Deayton G. Stubbs S. Ling
G. McCarthy J. Hall