Miles Wilks looks back on a game that preceded the greatest Grand Final of them all.

Image The 1970 Preliminary final is a jewel in Carlton’s final history. It is a game that all Carlton supporters should see on video at least once in their lives. The match does have weaknesses – most notably it is in black and white and it does take time to get used to seeing Adrian Gallagher’s sideburns, the size of which would have even made Elvis green with envy, but in its favour it is the match that precedes the greatest game of football ever played- the 1970 Grand Final.

It is surprising that the footage to this match exists, as to obtain footage of football games from around this period is difficult. Most games prior to 1980 have been wiped from Channel 7’s archives, but the 1970 Preliminary Final remains an important historical document of Carlton’s most celebrated year of football.

The Channel 7 commentators, Mike Williamson, Ted Whitten and Butch Gale, make watching this footage a rich experience. Butch Gale, in particular, made the commentary team gel together. Gale was a Fitzroy player from the 1950’s and a burly ruckman who talked like an Australian version of John Wayne.

Gale’s commentary was unique and a million miles from the slick and usually dull commentary of today’s presenters. He didn’t hold back when voicing his annoyance at the bucket loads of streamers thrown onto the oval, “They’re a damn nuisance”; he had phrases that you just don’t hear anymore such as “He’s got a devil of a long way to kick there.” And “they’re playing like a rabble.” But his best piece of commentary was given late in the third quarter after Carlton had almost doubled St Kilda’s score. “If they lose this I’ll be a mon<x>key’s uncle,” said Gale.

For me the game is about four Carlton players; Jackson the aboriginal superstar, Alex Jesaulenko, known as the worm for his ability to pop up anywhere on the field, Johnny Goold, all heart and character, and Brent Crosswell the enigma.

John “Ragsy” Goold looked like a swashbuckling movie star. He reminded me of the original Robin Hood, Errol Flynn. Both were Australian heroes who were seen as ‘ladies men’, and both had foppish 1930’s hairstyles. On top of that when Goold curled the ball in one hand, it almost looked like he was taking a fencer’s stance as Flynn did in the movie Robin Hood.

But in reality there was nothing foppish about the character of John Goold. To witness the 1970 preliminary final is to know what courage is all about. The only factor that could explain Goold making the grand final side of 1970 was a huge dose of courage because in the preliminary final he looked like he was gone for good.

A heavy collision in the first quarter resulted in him bursting the blood vessels in one of his shins. This might not sound painful, but when the cameras decided to concentrate on Goold’s injury instead of the match, one could see up close the pain Goold was experiencing. To see him hobble around the boundary line, supported on each arm by two trainers, barely able to touch his foot on the ground is to see unbearable pain unfold in front of you, all brought right into your living room by the television cameras. Thankfully, there were no tv cameras to witness the four injections Goold required into his leg to deaden the pain before the grand final or the hospital operation immediately after the game.

If there is one motivating reason above all others to see the footage of this game it must be to see more of Alex Jesaulenko in action. There simply has been no player like him. Maybe if you could combine the freakish ability of Kouta, Wayne Harmes and Fevola all into one you could have a player that is close to the capabilities of Jezza.

When watching this game for the first time, I anticipated seeing at least a snippet of Jezza’s magic. By the last quarter of this game, though, it looked like I was going to be left disappointed. Admittedly he had kicked 4 goals to this point and had taken some great marks but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for Jezza.

It was half way through the last quarter that a bit of Jezza magic occurred. With the ball bouncing towards him at full forward, he ignored the opportunity to grab the ball as expected but instead put two hands up to his chest and pushed it one metre in front of him. This allowed Syd Jackson to run on and collect the ball uncontested. It was another moment in the long list of magical moments from Carlton’s Alex Jesaulenko and well worth the cost of the video alone.

There is no doubt that the preliminary final of 1970 was Syd Jackson’s best finals game for the Blues, and an important reminder of the capabilities of one of Carlton’s greatest goal sneaks. Not only did he kick six goals, but his speed, anticipation and raking drop kicks made him an unbeatable forward pocket on the day.

In 1972, Syd became the first aboriginal player since 1950 to play in two VFL premiership teams. With Jackson as a role model, the Carlton Football Club should take a great deal of credit for promoting indigenous Australians in top grade football.

And finally there is Crosswell - the enigma, the player that could do so much and yet also be so unpredictable. He was rightly described in glowing terms by Martin Flanagan in his book on the 1970 grand final called 1970 and other stories of the Australian game. But even he would have been astounded with Crosswell’s form in the preliminary final - 27 kicks, 12 marks and 11 handballs is a possession tally that would have left Greg Williams in his wake.

In hindsight, 1970 should have been Collingwood’s year, but with Crosswell’s confidence soaring after the preliminary final it turned out to be Carlton’s year. During the 1970 finals, St Kilda and Collingwood found Crosswell’s mobility and marking power unmatchable. Crosswell played many exceptional finals games for Carlton and North Melbourne in his career– yet this is the best of them all and another reason why the preliminary final of 1970 is a jewel in Carlton’s rich finals history.