Fitzroy Football Club: Great football, Great community, Great culture.

The famous fog game: August 1971


By David Leydon

As we face another week of cancelled VAFA games, we take a look back at a Fitzroy game that could have been cancelled 50 years ago, way back in August, 1971 – the infamous fog match.

It’s 50 years ago this coming week since one of the most bizarre games ever of VFL/AFL football.

Deep in August of 1971, Fitzroy were playing in the Round 21 game at their then home ground, the Junction Oval in St.Kilda, against reigning Premiers Carlton.

It was an important game for both teams. Carlton had to win to keep their finals hopes alive and the Roys, in their first season under coach Graham Donaldson, were starting to build a team that was on the improve and hopeful of bigger and better things in the years ahead.

Playing in front of a good crowd of 22,413 the game started in sunshine at 2pm. The Fitzroy team included the legendary Kevin Murray and experienced players like Norm Brown, Russell Crow, Alex Ruscuklic and John Murphy. But it was also a very young Roys team with Harvey Merrigan, Warwick Irwin and an 18 year-old bloke by the name of Renato Serafini playing his first game of league football at the top level.

The Carlton team, who had won the previous season's Premiership, and would go on to have huge success in the ensuing years, was full of stars. Jesaulenko, Doull, Serge Silvagni, Nicholls, Crosswell Gallagher and Southby were all there to name a few.

It was always a great thing as a Fitzroy supporter in these years when we played against our local, traditional rivals in Carlton and Collingwood. It didn’t matter where we were on the ladder, you always knew the Roys would bring themselves up for a big game against these teams.

This game back in 1971 was no exception.

The Roys were well in it early after Carlton kicked an inaccurate 3.7.25 to lead us by 9 points at quarter time. Then Fitzroy turned the game on its head and shocked Carlton with a 7 goal second quarter to go in at half time with a 25 point lead.

It was in the second half that the bright sunshine was replaced by a huge fog that came straight off the nearby Port Phillip Bay and completely blanketed the ground. Players couldn’t see more than a few metres in front of them, the scorers and timekeepers couldn’t see the game and had to rely on the emergency umpire to relay details of what was happening out on the ground to them.

Fitzroy ruckman Norm Brown recalled that, “visibility was down to zero and all you could hear was thunk, thunk, thunk of the ball and then it would suddenly appear out of the fog”.

Carlton made the most of the changed conditions and reduced the commanding lead the Roys held at half time back to just 6 points at three quarter time. But in the true spirit of the old local rivalry, the Roys were determined not to let this game slip, and kicked 4 goals to Carlton’s single goal in the last quarter to run out comfortable 23 point winners.

The icing on the cake came late in the game when frustrated Carlton defender Vin Waite belted Norm Brown right in front of Umpire Bill Deller close to Fitzroy’s goal. Deller awarded a free kick to big Browny who goaled and ended Carlton’s charge towards the ’71 finals.

There were of course some funny stories that came out in the years after this game. Carlton had dropped ruckman Peter “Percy” Jones back into a spare man in defence role in the last quarter to try and negate a surging Fitzroy team. As the ball was apparently coming down the ground no one in Percy’s area knew where it was until he suddenly pointed and yelled “There it is!” only to watch champion Roys centreman John Murphy get there first and kick the goal.

It was also later suggested that Fitzroy, who were kicking to the city end of the Junction Oval in the last quarter, turned on the lights of the scoreboard which was just behind the goals so that the Roys players had some idea of where the goals were. Very well done whoever thought of that idea!

There was some talk at the ground that the game should have been called off under such conditions, but there was no fog at any of the other league games that day so it would have been a disadvantage to both Fitzroy and Carlton had such a decision been made.

Thus became the legend of ‘The Fog Game”.

Match details:
Saturday 21 August, 1971 – VFL Round 21.
Played at the Junction Oval, Attendance: 22,413, Umpire: Bill Deller

FITZROY 2.4.16 9.10.64 11.13.79 15.15.105
CARLTON 3.7.25 5.9.39 10.13.79 11.16.82

Goals: Murphy 4, Shanahan 3, Murray 2, Brown 2, Ruscuklic 2, Rhodes, Crow.
Best: Ruscuklic, Murphy, Murray, Irwin, L.Robertson, Padley.

Goals: Crosswell 4, Gallagher 2, Armstrong, Jackson, Jesaulenko, Jones, Robertson.
Best: Armstrong, Gallagher, Crosswell, Silvagni.

The Fitzroy team:

23 Norm Brown, 32 Russell Crow, 7 Warwick Irwin, 36 Harvey Merrigan, 22 Shane Molloy, 5 John Murphy, 1 Kevin Murray, 14 Barry Padley, 15 David Rhodes, 8 Laurie Richards, 18 Leigh Robertson, 13 Alex Ruscuklic, 12 Ray Sault, 34 Doug Searl, 47 Renato Serafini, 38 Paul Shanahan, 24 Bill Sykes, 21 Alan Thompson, 33 David Wall, 11 Noel Zunneberg.

Photo: 38 Paul Shanahan (Fitzroy) and 20 Geoff Southby (Carlton)

Get our Newsletter

Are you a Member?