The 1966 Grand Final between St Kilda and Collingwood is rightfully remembered as one of the greatest Premiership deciders in VFL/AFL history. With the sides never separated by more than 13-points, and with less than a goal often the margin throughout the match, it is one of the all-time Grand Final nail-biters. Saints Captain Darrel Baldock, under an injury cloud all week, won the toss and elected to kick to the Richmond end which was favoured by a three goal wind advantage.
His decision was quickly vindicated when Cowboy Neale kicked the first goal of the match after out marking two Collingwood defenders and playing on from the goal square. Baldock himself would get on the scoreboard for the Saints second with the breeze aiding his set shot from a long way out. The teams would trade behinds, before goals from Ray Gabelich and Gary Wallis for the Pies reduced the margin to one point. Alan Morrow desperately attempted to prevent the goal from Wallis and in doing so produced one of the iconic moments in footy. In Morrow’s efforts to reach the ball, he made contact with the goal umpire who was then unable to signal the goal until he produced a minute or two of histrionics. The Saints had three opportunities to extend their lead but only managed behinds which saw them take a four-point lead into the first break.
The Saints were again out of the blocks quickly in the second quarter, Darryl Griffiths kicking truly from a set shot in the opening minutes of the term after claiming a strong mark. Gabelich and Neale would kick their second goals for the match as the Saints maintained a lead of just more than a goal. The Cowboy would kick his third for the match before the half-time siren, but not before the Magpies had taken the lead through goals to Des Tuddenham and Wayne Richardson. It was during this period that commentator Mike Williamson famously opinioned that he wouldn’t be surprised if the game ended in a draw. At the final siren he would be wrong by just one point, which coincidently was the margin the Magpies would take into the long break after a late behind before the half-time siren.
The third quarter would open with Collingwood skipper Tuddenham extending the Magpies lead to a match-high seven points with an early goal. The Saints, with the wind at their backs, would answer strongly. Baldock, who was perhaps a little lucky to receive a holding the man free-kick, would kick the first of a run of three Saints goals rounded out by Ian Cooper and Neale. For Cooper it was just another step on the way to best on ground honours, for the 21-year-old Neale it would be his fourth for the match, while for the Saints it would mean a game-high 13-point lead. The Magpies would not go away though and when Richardson kicked his second, the margin was again back to four points as the two teams took their final break of the afternoon.
The last quarter of the 1966 Grand Final was not one for the faint hearted, so tense was the action that a young Molly Meldrum is said to have fainted in the MCG grandstands amid the crowd of 101,655. Ray Gabelich and Daryl Griffiths opened the scoring for both teams, the former failing to convert from close range after a soft free-kick and the latter having a rushed effort in heavy traffic rushed across the line. Griffiths would play provider though minutes later, with his deft touch releasing Jeff Moran to extend the Saints lead to 10 points.
Third-quarter goal kickers Neale, twice, and Cooper, once, would both miss chances on the run as the lead grew again to 13 points. During this period Neale earned himself another chance to close the door on the contest after taking a strong pack mark but was off-line with his set shot and failed to score. Emboldened by the Saints shakiness in front of goal the Magpies once again lifted themselves off the canvas. Led by their skipper Tuddenham who kicked his third goal for the match, and followed by Ian Graham with his first, Collingwood were back within one point of the Saints.
Neale would once again give the Saints some breathing room with his fifth goal before Max Pitt answered for the minor premiers to once again reduce the margin to one point. With his team surging Tuddenham missed a chance to take the lead but managed to level the scores with his running effort sneaking in for a behind. With the game entering time on and umpire Jeff Crouch set to restart play with a ball up near half forward for Collingwood, commentators Butch Gale and Ted Whitten expressed the level of tension they were feeling. “I’ll have a heart-attack in a minute. Honestly,” Gale expressed as he waited for Crouch to bounce the ball. “It’s ticking on towards time on now and it’s still a drawn match at the moment,” he told Whitten. “I’ve already had three Butch,” the Bulldogs champion responded.
Collingwood’s Trevor Steer would win the resulting ruck contest and his hitout found Wayne Richardson in space and heading towards goal and glory. Unfortunately for the 21-year-old Western Australian, his running shot at goal failed missed everything and the scores remained level as the game sped towards its climax.
“Michael, you might be right this could be a draw,” Gale suggested to Williamson in the commentary box minutes later with play stopped on centre win awaiting a boundary throw in. “I tipped this,” Williamson replied in what is perhaps his third most repeated line of commentary in a storied career. Once restarted, play would move to half-forward for the Saints and the most significant ball up in the history of the club. Brian Mynott would win the ruck contest, but not to his teams advantage. Ted Potter collected the ball but was unable to cleanly dispose of it and could only watch on as it made its way to the 18-year-old Barry Breen. In Game 25 of what would be a 300 game journey, Breen quickly moved the ball forward and his name into St Kilda folklore. “It’s a …….point,” Williamson would scream from the commentary box. “It’s a point. St Kilda in front, St Kilda in front,” he would excitedly tell the world in what is arguably his second most repeated piece of commentary.
Despite the game already deep into time on, there was still some drama to be had before the Saints finally got their hands on the Premiership Cup. From the resulting kick in, they would force a turnover that would result in a shot at goal by Brian Mynott. As if hearing Ted Whitten’s cries to “Slow it down”, the Saints big man took his time before taking his kick. Against the breeze, his kick fell short and was marked by Terry Waters who quickly looked to move the ball on and switched the ball to his Captain in space. With his team’s premiership hopes in his hands, Tuddenham took a bounce and bombed the ball long towards half-forward.
As the ball made its way towards the Collingwood goal, a desperate pack of players formed in readiness to contest possession. To the collective relief of every St Kilda supporter watching on, less than a minute after Breen’s go ahead point, it would be Bob Murray who emerged from the pack with the mark. “Hit the boundary line,” Whitten screamed from the commentary box. Murray did just that and, before Alan Morrow could mark the ball, the final siren sounded to end the Saints 97-year premiership wait.