More premiership heartbreak as Palm Beach – Currumbin repeat their 1971 success. Mick Kelly wins the goal kicking and bags 23 against the Blues.

The 1973 season marked one of the most exciting and interesting in the short history of the GCAFL. New league President Frank Sutherland and his team introduced a number innovations including split rounds, live coverage of the Ron Todd Medal on radio, more stringent policies on player clearances and transfers, and a swag of awards for all grades of football including cars, cash, and trips to the VFL Grand Final. The GCAFL adopted the VFL diamond in the centre of the ground. At one stage a crazy idea to have all six clubs in finals was floated but soon quashed.

Player payments became a huge talking point in local football circles as fenced grounds and large crowds gave a more commercial component to what only a few years before had been a small, successful, but largely social league. The colt’s grade was to become under 19’s for the first time with Southport, Surfers Paradise, Palm Beach-Currumbin and Labrador entering the competition. Alan Mackenzie coached the first Magpies under 19 team. 1973 was to be the last for charismatic President Leo Busch. He was to stand aside for Alan Mackenzie at the end of the season leaving a fantastic legacy from his five years as President.

Media interest reached an all time high with daily articles in the Gold Coast Bulletin from forthright scribes, Jack “The Rabbi” Rebbechi and Frank “Lulu” Travaglia. Southport stalwart Don Brown was also back writing for the Gold Coast Bulletin. A mid-May article by Brown outlined the blossoming of the code on the Coast (Click here to read article). Radio personality and local umpire, Maurie Service, hosted various football shows focused on the GCAFL on 4GG.  Football shows were also aired on 2MW. Tipping boards for the GCAFL and VFL were prominently displayed in all local hotels as Australian Football continued to win the public relations battle on the Gold Coast.

1973 began a spate of violent seasons that were the plague of many sports around this era.  A Surfers Paradise player was suspended for 12 matches and controversially commenced playing Rugby League. An all in brawl at the 1972 premiership flag presentation at a round two match set the tone for the 1973 season.

Australian Football, whilst still the most popular code on the Coast, faced continual and increasing opposition for the hearts and minds of the burgeoning Gold Coast population. The Gold Coast Rugby League (GCRL) finally formed its own body in 1973; Hockey was still very popular; Motor sport had developed; there were new clubs in Soccer and Rugby League; and Rugby Union had reformed. The battle of the codes was at its fiercest in Queensland on the Gold Coast. It was the one place in the state however; the one place within the famous Barassi Line (an imaginary line drawn from the Riverina District in NSW through to Darwin), that Australian Football genuinely challenged Rugby League for supremacy (Click here to read article).

No stone was left unturned by the Magpies administration as they strove to engineer the club’s first premiership since 1966 (Click here to read article). The first task was to recruit some quality big men. John “The Flying Priest” Hill (Photo) and John Bray (Photo), a Ruckman who had played some reserve grade at Hawthorn in the VFL were to fit the bill. Hill was a lanky pastor who had relocated to the Gold Coast. He was notorious for his high-flying marking prowess. Wally Hillis stepped up from his reserve grade coaching stint to take on the senior role and Peter McGrath coached the reserve grade. Ross “Buddha” Gillet returned, and was given great support in the midfield during the season by former Tasmanian Amateurs representative Jeff Jordan. He emulated the feats of Gillet the previous season winning the league’s Ralph Tobiano Trophy.

Two other recruits to shine were Western Districts pair John Lynch and John Cheel. Lynch went on to finish runner up to Jeff Jordan in the Best and Fairest. Former Queensland representative and AFL Queensland Hall of Famer Cheel, was a real find for Southport AFC. Jack Rebbechi had this to say about one of his first games for the Magpies in the Gold Coast Bulletin:

John Cheel was one of the biggest men on the ground last Sunday. But his clever baulking, turning and illusiveness would do credit to a top class rover.

(Gold Coast Bulletin 31 May, 1973, p.43) 

Cheel and Bray finished equal third in Todd Medal, whilst Ken Best, with only a handful of games finished equal fifth. Mark Kellam won the GCAFL colt’s Medal. Jeff Jordan not only won the Ralph Tobiano Trophy but also took home a car when he won another award initiated by the GCAFL. Dave Burns, in his 12th year of senior football, was named in the best players when the Gold Coast was soundly beaten by a quality Brisbane under 21 team, which included Queensland football greats Owen Backwell and Don Smith.

The late season arrival of former VFL player Wayne Eastman (via Ganmain) was to prove fortuitous for the Magpies. The 73 game former Fitzroy Utility made a solid contribution in 1973 and went onto to play an important role in the seasons to come. The arrival ultra consistent Ron Brown was to also bolster the 1973-playing list. Brian McDonald also returned to the Magpies after a few years with Collingwood. Western Australian Ken Ottoway was another consistent senior performer.

The flow of Southport players/coaches to Surfers Paradise continued as Des Collins quit the Demons mid season and former Magpie Tony Gillard took over. A sweet 92 point flogging of arch rivals Surfers in round two set up a season long dominance of the Demons (Click here to read article). After 12 rounds it was apparent that like 1971, Palm Beach-Currumbin and Southport were the teams to beat. Surfers Paradise was in turmoil, as were Labrador. Broadbeach were still in an establishment phase, and the Magpies racked up some amazing score lines against a Coolangatta Blues outfit that had lost their way after solid performances in 1970, 71 and 72.

The Magpies amassed scores of 36.26, 35.24, 35.22, and 31.23 as they beat the Blues by a combined total of 701 points in four matches. In the round ten match there were 17 individual goal kickers, and in round 20, Mick Kelly went within one goal of breaking Bob Burke’s 1968 league record of 24. In other matches against the Blues he kicked 10 and 12 goals. Kelly won the GCAFL goal kicking with 73 for the season. He donated his $100 prize money to the Magpies end of season trip fund. Mick Power (Photo) also kicked 10 goals against the Blues in round five.

The Magpies finished as Minor Premiers in both the colts and senior grades and went into the finals full of confidence. Palm Beach Currumbin and Southport had both had two wins each in the home and away series and carried good form into the September action. The Lions however proved much too strong in both the Second Semi and Grand Final in an eerie repeat of 1971 (Click here to read article). It was to be the fourth Grand Final without success since the 1966 premiership, and many cruel opponents on the Coast were beginning to liken the run of outs to the Melbourne based Magpie’s Colliwobbles. How wrong they were!

Other articles/photos:

(1973 Playing list)

(1973 Award winners)

(Paul Bullpitt and John Bray)

(John Lynch)

(Owen Park scoreboard)

(Barry Rudd)

(Graeme Watt and Wayne Reibelt)

(Wayne Reibelt)

(Pre Grand Final pictorial)

1973 Match Results

Date Venue Home Away Southport Goalkickers and Best Players
Round 1 1/04/1973 Salk Oval PBC 10.19.79 Southport 14.11.95 (Lynch 3, Sutherland 3, Jordan 2, Sapwell 2, Bray 2, Hill, Gillett)
Round 2 8/04/1973 Paradise Point Broadbeach 5.7.37 Southport 12.15.87 (Best: Gillett, Watt, Best, Brown, Kelly, Courtney)
(Watt 2, Jordan 2, Jones 2, Gillett 2, Rudd, Best, Sutherland, Courtney)
Round 3 15/04/1973 Owen Park Southport 24.27.171 Surfers 12.7.79 (Best: Gillett, Brown, Sapwell, Watt, Jones, Hill, Kelly, Cheel, Bray)
(Kelly 4, Bray 4, Cheel 3, Gillett 2, Sapwell 2, Rudd 2, Hill 2, Courtney 2, Bulpitt 2, Lynch)
Round 4 22/04/1973 Labrador Oval Labrador 11.15.87 Southport 15.17.101 (Best: Best, Lynch, Jones, Riebelt, Cheel, Gillett, Ayres)
Round 5 29/04/1973 Owen Park Southport 31.23.209 Coolangatta 15.9.99 (Best: Gillett, Power, Lynch, Bray, Best, Kelly)
(Power 10, Bulpitt 5, Cheel 3, Jones 2, Gillett 2, Bray 2, Sutherland 2, Sapwell, Lynch, Turner)
Round 6 6 & 7/05/73 Owen Park Southport 19.21.135 PBC 20.18.138 (Power 5, Bray 3, Jordan 2, Bulpitt 2, Watt, Jones, Sapwell, Kelly, Cheel, Hill, Sutherland)
Round 7 13/05/1973 Owen Park Southport 14.21.105 Broadbeach 8.10.58 (Best: Bray, Rudd, Best, Lynch, Brown, Kelly)
(Kelly 4, Lynch 2, Watt 2, Cheel 2, Sutherland 2, Bray)
Round 8 20/05/1973 Isle of Capri Surfers 7.17.54 Southport 10.14.74 (Best: Rudd, Best, Burns, Brown, Jordan, Riebelt)
(Kelly 3, Jordan, Gillet, Lynch, Turner, Cheel, Bray, Hill)
Round 9 27/05/1973 Owen Park Southport 19.16.130 Labrador 11.14.80 (Best: Jordan, Lynch, Brown, Burns, Haselam, Kelly)
(Kelly 5, Bray 3, Rudd 3, Cheel 2, Jordan 2, Watt, Brown, Best, Bulpitt)
Round 10 3/06/1973 Len Peak Oval Coolangatta 5.4.34 Southport 35.22.232 (Best: Watt, Jordan, Burns, Best, Cheel, Sutherland, Monson)
(Kelly 8, Sutherland 6, Watt 3, Brown 3, Cheel 3, Lynch 2, Power 2, Jordan 2, Burns, Gillet, Best, Bulpitt, Taylor, Forest, Smith, Newton, Watts)
Round 11 17/06/1973 Salk Oval PBC 13.17.95 Southport 15.19.109 (Best: Cheel, Brown, Rudd, Bray, Watts, Mason, Burns)
(Mason 4, Sutherland 2, Kelly 2, Brown 2, Bray, Lynch, Jordan, Sapwell, Power)
Round 12 24/06/1973 Paradise Point Broadbeach 7.12.54 Southport 18.21.129 (Best: Hill, Brown, Cheel, Jordan, Monson, Mason)
(Mason 7, Cheel 5, Sutherland 4, Bray 2, McDonald 2, Hill, Brown, Jordan, Kelly, Lynch)
Round 13 1/07/1973 Owen Park Southport 20.12.132 Surfers 9.9.63 (Best: Sutherland, Burns, Cheel, Bray, Jordan, Lynch, Brown)
(Lynch 5, Sutherland 4, Cheel 3, Rudd 3, Ottoway 2, Jordan 2, Mason 1)
Round 14 8/07/1973 Labrador Oval Labrador Southport Cancelled
Round 15 15/07/1973 Owen Park Southport 36.26.242 Coolangatta 8.9.57 (Best: Kelly, Cheel, Brown, Sapwell, Rudd, Gillet, Jordan, Sutherland, Lynch)
(Kelly 12, Cheel 8, Sutherland 4, Lynch 3, Jordan 2, Gillet 2, Best, Brown, Ottoway, McDonald, Sapwell)
Round 16 23/07/1973 Owen Park Southport 8.17.65 PBC 11.18.84 (Best: Jordan, Bray, Hill, Browne, Burns, Lynch)
(Jordan 4, Kelly 2, McDonald, Gillet)
Round 17 30/07/1973 Paradise Point Broadbeach 8.10.58 Southport 17.20.122 (Best: Jordan, Lynch, Sutherland, Bray, Gillet)
(Jordan 6, Sutherland 2, Eastman 2, Cheel 2, Best 2, Browne, Burns, Lynch)
Round 18 7/08/1973 Isle of Capri Surfers 12.9.81 Southport 19.20.134 (Best: Cheel, Bray, Hill, Jordan, Lynch, Monson)
(Cheel 5, Lynch 4, Eastman 3, McDonald 3, Gillet, Kelly, Hill, Bray)
Round 19 14/08/1973 Owen Park Southport 21.14.140 Labrador 11.11.71 (Best: Jordan, Gillet, Browne, Bray, Sutherland, Best)
(Sutherland 4, Kelly 4, Gillet 3, Jordan 3, Eastman 3, Cheel 2, Browne, Bray)
Round 20 21/08/1973 Len Peak Oval Coolangatta 5.6.36 Southport 35.24.234 (Best: Jordan, Kelly, Cheel, Bray, Eastman, Rudd)
(Kelly 23, Lynch 3, Eastman 2, Cheel 2, Bray 2, Hill, Kellam, Sutherland)
First Semi 28/08/1973 Owen Park Labrador 15.11.101 Surfers 15.17.107
Reserves Surfers 11.14.80 Labrador 9.10.64
Colts Surfers 6.13.49 Labrador 5.2.32
Second Semi 2/09/1973 Salk Oval Southport 11.11.77 PBC 19.18.132 (Best: Burns, Sapwell, Rudd, Browne, Jordan, Hill)
(Watt 3, Kelly 3, Bray 2, Lynch, Gillet, Best)
Reserves PBC 9.16.70 Southport 6.4.40 (Best: W Burns, McGrath, Alexander, Courtney)
(Torrens 3, Coibasic, Thrift, McDonald)
Colts Southport 5.6.36 PBC 7.5.47
Prelim 9/09/1973 Owen Park Southport 23.15.153 Surfers 10.12.72 (Best: Browne, Bray, Cheel, Watt, Eastman, Ayres)
(Eastman 5, Gillet 4, Bray 4, Rudd 2, Kelly 2, Lynch 2, Hill, Sutherland, Burns)
Reserves Southport 5.14.44 Surfers 15.15.105 (Best: Courtney, Coibasic, McGrath, Thrift, Turner)
(Courtney 2, Turner, Thrift, Coibasic)
Colts Southport 12.10.82 Surfers 3.8.26 (Best: Cronin, Morris, Hyde, Rudd, Torrens)
(Jones 2, Hyde 2, Morris 2, Cronin, Trapp, Griehke, Evans, Chaffey, Kellam)
Grand Final 16/09/1973 Salk Oval PBC 18.15.123 Southport 9.13.67 (Best: Hill, Best, Jordan, Lynch, Kelly, Ayres)
(Jordan 3, Bray 3, Eastman 3)
Reserve Grade PBC 10.15.75 Surfers 5.8.38
Colts PBC 7.14.56 Southport 7.5.47 (Best: Evans, Allard, Kellam, Morris, Hyde, Cronin)
(Jones 3, Kellam 2, Hyde, Haffey)