Flashback Friday: VFL/AFL’s Highest Scoring Grand Final


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This #flashbackfriday we rewind to the highest scoring VFL/AFL Grand Final in history played on this day, 44 years ago in 1972. Like the 1990 decider, Carlton and Richmond met for the Premiership in October due to an earlier Final being drawn and requiring a replay.

October 7, 1972 dawned a dull and cloudy day and these were the conditions that confronted both teams and 112,393 spectators at the MCG for the opening bounce. Due to their draw in the Second Semi Final both sides were closely acquainted, with this to be their third clash in four weeks. Richmond’s convincing replay win, along with their two regular season wins, saw them enter the match strong favourites, but minor premiers Carlton had other ideas.

With both clubs splitting four of the preceding five premierships, neither team was short of big game experience. With an unusual lack of nerves both attacked the game from the opening minutes and trading goals early. It was going exactly to plan for Carlton and their Captain-Coach John Nicholls, who had decided his team’s best chance for victory was to engage in a shoot-out with the less defensively capable Tigers.


Having the matched played on their terms, the Blues started to find the multitude of options they had up forward. Nicholls himself kicking 2 first quarter goals as Carlton set a new first quarter record score of 8.4. Richmond took advantage of their chances to, doing extremely well to stay within 3 goals as the Blues finished the quarter on fire.

Carlton were even more explosive in the second quarter. The difficulties in scoring they had two weeks earlier in the Second Semi Final Replay all but forgotten as they slammed on a record 10 goals. The Tigers had no answers as the Blues played the game at breakneck speed and their forwards dominated their opponents.

With 10 future VFL/AFL coaches playing in the match Nicholls’ strategy and positional changes would have been instructional as he completely blindsided his Richmond counterpart Tom Hafey. Having himself been outpointed by Tiger Ruckman Craig McKellar, he sprung a major surprise by positioning himself permanently forward and leaving the centre battle to Percy Jones.

Jones dominated McKellar, negating much of the drive and advantage the Tigers had in previous encounters. He also played a key role, dropping into the hole, in helping Bruce Doull completely outpoint Richmond champ Royce Hart. With Nicholls, Robert Walls and Alex Jesaulenko unstoppable up forward the Blues had a 9 goal Three Quarter Time lead despite the efforts Kevin Bartlett, Francis Bourke and Neil Balme with kicked 5 goals.

After 50+ years of finals dominance over the Blues, dating back to 1920, Richmond attacked the last quarter with the confidence of a team expecting to win. The much vaunted fitness of Tom Hafey coached teams coming to the fore as they outscored Carlton 7 goals to 3 in the last quarter. In the process recording a score only bettered, to this point in time, in Grand Finals by their opponent on this day.

The combined tally was a record in all games at the time and remains the largest Grand Final tally to this day. Of the remarkable 50 goals kicked on the day, Nicholls, Jesaulenko and Walls registered 19. Ray Boyanich had neither the strength or smarts to go with Big Nick as the Carlton leader helped himself to six majors. The unfortunate Dick Clay battled manfully but could not find a way to curb Jesaulenko at full-forward who repeated his Preliminary Final heroics and kicked a game high seven goals.


Robert Walls was the universal pick as player of the match an ever present danger for Richmond, he caused no end of headaches for Hafey who had no answer to his efforts. Rex Hunt and Barry Richardson having no answer to the Blues star as played a key role in seven goals on top of the six he kicked himself. When the siren sounded one of the biggest boilovers in Grand Final history was complete Carlton defeating Richmond 28.9 (177) to 22.18 (150).

The Tigers would have their revenge beating Carlton in the 1973 Grand Final but that was in the future and it wouldn’t matter on this day, with the Blues celebrating one of the great Premiership victories well into the night at Princes Park.


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