by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Collingwood opened the 1977 season strongly, winning seven of their first nine games. North was almost as good, losing just three games in the same period. One of their wins was against Collingwood. Both teams slipped midway through the season with Collingwood winning four from their next six and the Kangaroos just breaking even with three wins and three losses. Both teams finished the season well with just two more losses and Collingwood finishing in first position and North Melbourne third. The final four had become a final five (introduced in 1972). As in 1975, North had to do it the hard way. They were the only team since the introduction of the final five to make and win a Grand Final from third position.
The finals system had gone from four teams (as in 1966) to five teams. The top teams were Collingwood, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Richmond and South Melbourne (now the Sydney Swans). In the first week, there was one Elimination Final between fourth and fifth and one Qualifying Final between second and third. Collingwood had the week off and would play in one Semi-Final against the winner of the QF. The QF loser would play the winner of the EF. Win or lose, by virtue of their placings at the end of the season, Hawthorn and North were entitled to the double chance if they lost their first finals game.
Richmond defeated South Melbourne in the Elimination Final and Hawthorn defeated North Melbourne in the Qualifying Final. So the Semi-Finals were North Melbourne versus Richmond and Collingwood versus Hawthorn. There would be no "next week" for the losers. Collingwood won a thriller against Hawthorn by a mere two points while North demolished the Tigers by 11 goals. In another quirk, both Collingwood and North scored a total of 112 points in their wins. Collingwood scored 17.10 while North scored 16.16.
In the first Grand Final, North had the better of Collingwood and was more accurate in front of goal, kicking 4.4 to Collingwood's 1.5 for a 17 point lead at quarter time. The second term saw the Kangaroos fail in front of goal with just six points while the Magpies slammed through three goals to be right back in the contest and just two points down at half time. North also failed to kick a goal in the third term and Collingwood took a 27 point lead with five goals for the term. North Coach Ron Barassi shifted defenders Daryl Sutton and David Dench to the forward line. Sutton and Baker goaled for the Kangaroos. A point to the Kangaroos was followed by another goal to Baker. Late in the term, the Kangaroos had a seven point lead. Peter Moore kicked a point for the Pies and then Ross Dunne took a strong mark and goaled with just 40 seconds on the clock to force a draw and a replay the following week. The final score was Collingwood 10.16 (76) to North Melbourne's 9.22 (76).
The replay was hard-fought throughout, but the Kangaroos had the better of Collingwood for most of the game. They broke the game open and led by six goals early in the second term. However, they only kicked one goal and Collingwood stormed back into the match with a ten minute burst to be within 11 points at half time. Most of the third term went goal for goal but the Kangaroos kicked away late to lead by 5 goals at the final break. Collingwood refused to give in and got to within 12 points early in the final term. The Kangaroos withstood everything the Pies threw at them. Even though the Magpies outscored the Kangaroos for the term, North won the replay by 27 points. It was North Melbourne 21.25 (151 to Collingwood's 19.10 (124).
Source: Every Game Ever Played 1897-1997, AFL Record Season Guide, This Football Century, 100 Years of Australian Football
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 8:47 PM EDT