“AS soon as you hit the ground, you run close to the boundary line, you take in the atmosphere, you look up into the stands and you say, ‘Okay, it’s showtime. Let’s get going.’”
For Carlton legend Robert Walls, little will come close to the come-from-behind victory to end all others the day the Blues claimed the 1970 Premiership.
Reflecting on the day 50 years on, it’s a game Walls can recall beyond any other in his 259-game career spanning three decades.
“When I think about it, I guess I think about the great fightback. We were pretty much considered down and out at half time and yet we were able to come back,” Walls said.
“Just the excitement of winning a game like that in front of the biggest crowd ever at an AFL game and against the traditional enemy in Collingwood, a team that we respected so much.”
Walls remains among the exclusive group to have played that day; the 1970 Grand Final still holds the record for the largest VFL/AFL crowd at 121,696.
While most would succumb to nerves on football’s day of days, it was the steady words of football great Norm Smith that rang in Walls’ ears as he headed out on to the race.
Insight from the coach, the captain and the best-and-fairest winner.@tony_debolfo goes through the archives to tell the incredible tale of the most famous game of all. This is worth the read.#HonourThePast— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) August 28, 2020
1970 was Carlton’s third consecutive Grand Final appearance under Ron Barassi, who enlisted the wisdom of his former coach Smith in the years prior.
“It goes back to a couple of years before ’70, in ’68 when we were playing in our first Grand Final — for most of us. Ron Barassi took us to Norm Smith’s home,” he said.
“I remember Norm telling us that when you run down the race and you hit the ground, put your head up, throw your chest out and take it all in.
“Say to yourself, ‘I’m here because I deserve to be here, because I’m part of a good team and I’m going to show everybody just what a good player I am and what a good team we are.’”
WOW! ??— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) August 29, 2020
Fifty years to the day, we've found it: never-before-seen - and the only known existing - footage of Alex Jesaulenko's 100th goal in the 1970 season. #HonourThePast
It became a mantra etched in the mind of Walls as his career progressed and the connection forged by his firm but much-loved coach.
Barassi never failed to instil confidence in the Blues, steadfast in the possibility of a comeback despite a 44-point deficit to the Pies at half time.
“I think there was an underlying confidence that on the day, anything could happen and of course it was a game of two halves. We were confident and part of that is because we had Ron Barassi as our coach,” he said.
“We loved him, he was tough, he was hard but I think if you talked to any Carlton player who played in those Grand Finals under Ron, they would say that they owe him heaps because he made us into the team of players that we became.”