On the hallway wall of Bob Barker’s home in Drysdale hangs a montage of four frame-by-frame photographs of what proved to be one of the most famous match-winning plays of any Grand Final.
The stills, taken from the Seven Network’s roving lens, capture that great one-percenter that instantly thrust a 19-year-old kid from Oak Park named Wayne Harmes headlong into football immortality.
They show the lunging No.37 slamming the loose footy some 25 metres from the boundary line to the feet of Ken Sheldon, to set up the game-clinching goal from point-blank range in the shadows of the old Ponsford Stand.
At the moment that Harmes makes hand contact with what was actually his own kick, six other men can be seen in the general vicinity. Carlton centre half-forward Mark Maclure is there, as is his direct opponent Bill Picken, Collingwood defenders Stan Magro and Ray Byrne, and Barker himself. For Barker was the goal umpire who ruled that the ball, to use tennis parlance, was “good” when Harmes did the heroic deed.
“I have never ever had a doubt in mind about that decision. Never ever. There was no need for me to think otherwise. If I had the decision to make 100 times again, I’d do it 101,” Barker said recently.
“It [the football] wasn’t terribly far [from the boundary line], and it was a very close decision. The ball was in mid-air above the boundary line and the rule is that the ball must be completely across the boundary line to be out of bounds. This is something that a lot of people don’t know - an inch of the ball can be on the line and it’s still in play.
“Wayne Harmes actually presented me with the montage of that famous incident. He signed it, and added a message, the exact wording of which is, ‘Bob, Good decision, Well done, all the best’.
In the 34 years since the remarkable happening, Wayne Victor Harmes has happily trotted out the stock answer to the inevitable question – was the football in or out?
“I always ask them who they barrack for,” Harmes said in a previous interview. “If they say ‘Collingwood’, I tell them it was in the Jolimont rail yards, if they say ‘Carlton’, I tell them it was in, and if they’re neutral, I say ‘Does it really f…ing matter?’.
“In truth, I never saw the line … but the goal umpire [Barker] was right on it. He was positioned, he was crouched, and I could have shook hands with him. And if he thought it was out, he would have called it out.”
In reflecting on the moment, Harmes conceded that his decision to hunt down the loose ball when others tapered off was prompted by the embarrassment of having just booted a wayward mongrel punt with more than 113,000 people watching on.
“I don’t exactly know what I was thinking at the time, but the more I think about it now, the more embarrassed I was. What rushes through your head in a split second is ‘Shit, how many people are watching this?’,” Harmes said.
“Kenny [Sheldon] was there for the taking originally. When I first picked up the ball, I saw Kenny out the corner of my eye. He was streaming down the middle, probably 30 metres clear of anyone, and when it happened he had enough time to pop it through with ease. He was pretty carefree the little fella, and I thought, ‘If I can get this and hook it over my shoulder, hopefully it’ll land in Kenny’s lap’ … but it didn’t go to plan.”
Incredibly, Harmes considers that he was central to a more telling moment, in time-on of the final quarter, when Allan Edwards took possession of the footy after a juggled mark to Peter McConville was disallowed, and promptly goaled on the run to again reduce Carlton’s lead to less than a straight kick.
“It was the last centre bounce, and by that stage ‘Jezza’ was off and I’d been thrown into the middle,” Harmes recalled. “Peter Moore had been jumping all over the top of ‘Fitzy’, so I decided to rove to Peter Moore, and if you have a look at the replay, he [Moore] rams it right down my bloody throat.
“I knew at that stage that there wasn’t much time left, and I turned immediately to the members’ and hit an end-over-end kick. That sticks more in my mind than the famous incident.”
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