1970-1979

1970 A 17 year old Rick Davies, who could have very easily become a Glenelg player debuts for the club and kicks 5.4 for the day at full forward, but is then subsequently dropped back down to the Reserves the following week to make way for regular full forward Malcolm Greenslade such was the Blues strength at the time! A record 20 consecutive victories from between August 30 1969 to August 15 1970 comes to an end and after an end of season form slump Jack Oatey has the Blues peaking at just the right time with the club making it to yet another Grand Final again against the Tigers and the sixth Grand Final in a row. In a hard fought game in wet and boggy conditions the Blues take control of the game in the second half to make it five Premierships in a row as they defeat Glenelg by 21 points. Paul Bagshaw wins his third best and fairest and Malcolm Greenslade leads the goal kicking with 82.

A young and eager Rick Davies at training on the eve of the 1971 season

1971 The golden era of Sturt ended in 1971 after the retirement and loss of many key players and with the Blues suffering from so many injuries throughout the season it did well to just make the finals. The club lose for the first ever time to Central District in the First Semi Final and finish the season in fourth position. Colin Casey, Michael Graham, Bruce Winter and Ken Whelan all make their debuts and Paul Bagshaw wins his third best and fairest in a row, his fourth in total while Malcolm Greenslade again leads the goal kicking with 49.

A wet and muddy Michael ‘Flash’ Graham at half time in a game against Glenelg in 1971

1972 A rebuilding phase began at Unley in 1972 with Trevor Sims, Tony Lloyd and Robert Barton making their debuts and other young players including Rick Davies, Colin Casey, Bruce Winter, Geoff Lauder, Michael Graham and Ken Whelan all given important game time. The Blues miss the finals for the first time since 1963 to finish the season fifth, however these younger players are all better for the experience. Ken Whelan kicks 106 goals in the Reserves, Colin Casey wins the best and fairest in only his second season, Tony Burgan is named in the All Australian team and Captain Bob Shearman retires after 121 games and five Premierships.

Ken Whelan kicking his 100th goal for the season against South Adelaide at Unley in 1973

1973 Paul Bagshaw is appointed the new Captain and a 17 year old Robbert Klomp along with Brendon Howard and Geoff Leonard debut for the club. High flying full forward Ken Whelan kicks 107 goals and becomes the first Sturt player to do so since Bo Morton in 1940 and the Double Blues charge back into the finals, however after defeating North Adelaide in the Qualifying Final the Blues crash out in straight sets after losing to Glenelg in the 2nd Semi Final and then to the Roosters in the Preliminary Final. Rick Davies wins his first of a club record seven best and fairests and Michael Graham finishes runner up in the 1973 Magarey Medal.

Captain Paul ‘Mr Magic’ Bagshaw flys for a mark during the 1973 Preliminary Final against North Adelaide

1974 John Murphy returns to Sturt from South Melbourne and Robert Oatey joins the club after being sacked as coach from Norwood. Sturt win the Minor Premiership then defeat Port Adelaide in the Second Semi Final by 5 points to progress to their first Grand Final since 1970. They play Glenelg in the first Grand Final at the SANFL’s new headquarters of Football Park in very windy conditions and after Glenelg shut down the Blues in the third quarter and reduce the deficit to only 5 points many were thinking it was game over as the Tigers were coming home with a strong breeze, but the Blues outplayed them in the last quarter and went on to win by 15 points. Rick Davies wins his second best and fairest and finishes runner up in the Magarey Medal, Ken Whelan kicks 108 goals for the season and Team of the Century member and All Australian Brenton Adcock retires after the 1974 Grand Final having played 259 games for the Blues.

(L-R) Ken Whelan, Michael Graham, Rick Davies and Robert Barton during the 1974 Grand Final
(L-R) Brenton Adcock, Robert Oatey and Sandy Nelson celebrating after the 1974 Grand Final

1975 The Blues win the Datsun Cup after defeating the Tigers by 26 points, but an injury riddled and badly under manned Sturt lose the Qualifying Final to Glenelg by 26 points and then to Port Adelaide in the First Semi Final by 67 points, a disappointing end to season 1975 with the Blues finishing fourth. Paul Bagshaw plays his 250th game for the club and Rick Davies wins his third best and fairest while Ken Whelan tops the goal kicking list for the third year in a row with 80.

Ken Whelan, the Tony Modra of the 1970’s soars over two Norwood defenders in 1975 at Football Park to take the “Mark of the Year”
Robbert Klomp in action during the 1976 Grand Final

1976 On March 21 a grandstand built to seat 1,380 people is opened at Unley Oval at a cost of $407,000, it is later named ‘The Jack Oatey Stand’. The Blues finish the Minor round second and play Glenelg in the Qualifying Final which they lose by 23 points, all expected the Blues to bow out of the finals in straight sets as they had done the year before, but know one must have told them as they subsequently defeat Norwood in the First Semi Final and then defeat Glenelg in the Preliminary Final after kicking the winning goal in time on. Sturt had recovered from their Qualifying Final loss to make it to the Grand Final against the much more highly fancied Port Adelaide. Despite being labelled as “too old and too slow” the Blues took control of the game after quarter time to win easily by 41 points. Ruckman Rick Davies was best on ground and recorded the often quoted statistics of 21 kicks, 21 handballs, 21 hit-outs and 15 marks. Jack Oatey wins his seventh Premiership with Sturt and a record breaking tenth in total, Rick Davies wins his fourth best and fairest, with all four of them being in a row and Paul Bagshaw proclaims the 1976 Premiership as “the finest moment in the history of the Sturt Football Club”.

Rick Davies soars over Chris Natt during the 1976 Grand Final
John Murphy kissing the Cup after the 1976 Grand Final triumph

1977 The Double Blues were expected to be Premiership contenders in 1977, but the Blues for some frustrating reason, perhaps it was the dreaded Premiership hangover, just couldn’t maintain the momentum of 1976 and with many players struggling to find form the club finished a lowly seventh in a very disappointing year. One highlight was that of Paul Bagshaw playing his 300th game for the club and winning his fifth best and fairest.

1978 Player reputations meant nothing in 1978, with Jack Oatey determined to take the Blues back to where they belonged, playing finals, new faces to the club included Andrew Downes, Geoff Wiseman and Peter Hargreaves. The Blues also finally got their man, Gary Hardeman from the Melbourne Demons, he was a 200 plus game All Australian centre half back who had also come runner up in the 1974 Brownlow Medal and was originally signed in November 1975, but Melbourne blocked his transfer, so he had to wait until 1978 to join the Double Blues, the club paid $40,000 for him. The Blues were absolutely awesome in the 1978 minor round, losing only one game, to the lowly West Adelaide by 22 points at Richmond, this was the Bloods first win over Sturt at Richmond since 1964 to finish Minor Premiers by an amazing 6 games. Sturt played Norwood in the Second-Semi Final and convincingly won by 22 points, ironically their inaccuracy in front of goals on that day of 13.19 not costing them the game. Sturt went into the Grand Final as probably one of the most favoured teams in SANFL history again against Norwood who had defeated Port Adelaide in the Preliminary Final and started as expected, dominating the first quarter, at quarter time it was Sturt 5.9 to Norwood 1.5, then in what was to be one of the worst days in the club’s history the Blues continued to kick themselves out of the game with an unbelievable poor conversion rate in front of goal, ultimately kicking 14.26 for the day. At three quarter time the Blues were 29 points in front, but Norwood came back and hit the front at the 16 minute mark by 3 points, Sturt regained the lead by 4 points, then umpire Des Foster controversially awarded Norwood player Phil Gallagher a mark, Gallagher who didn’t know whether he had been awarded a mark or free kick goaled and with three minutes left in the match Sturt were 2 points behind, the Blues did have the last three shots at goal, but only scored a point and ended up losing by a solitary point. Jack Oatey was despondant, knowing that all that years hard work and success had been undone in just 30 minutes. Des Foster, 15 years later, adding to the controversy, admitted he made a mistake by awarding Phil Gallagher a mark, this wrong decision, perhaps, cost Sturt the 1978 Grand Final. Rick Davies won his fifth best and fairest to tie with Paul Bagshaw who also had won five and finished third in the Magarey Medal.

Gary Hardeman marking against Port Adelaide in 1978

1979 The horror of the last 30 minutes of 1978 was to continue in 1979 for the Blues, as they slumped to finish ninth, due to the loss of a number of senior players at the end of 1978 and major injuries to many other players throughout 1979 season, this meant that for most of the season the Blues were unable to field anywhere near a full strength side, ninth was also the lowest position ever finished during Jack Oatey’s era at Unley, the only few shining lights in 1979 were Rick Davies who was appointed State Captain and won his sixth best and fairest and Gary Hardeman who had an excellent individual season and finished third in the Magarey Medal.