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Rivals: The heroes and villains of 1970's battle royale

Jezza's famous grab isn't the only reason the 1970 decider is etched in football folklore. Picture: Rennie Ellis - AFL,Collingwood Magpies,Carlton Blues,Alex Jesaulenko,Rivals,Syd Jackson,Len Thompson,Des Tuddenham,Ted Hopkins,Ron Barassi,Grand Final
Jezza's famous grab isn't the only reason the 1970 decider is etched in football folklore. Picture: Rennie Ellis
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WHILE the rivalry between neighbouring Melbourne suburbs Collingwood and Carlton had its genesis early last century, it reached new heights during the 1970 finals series.

In the home and away rounds that year, the Magpies had defeated the Blues twice, and the stage was set for a battle royale when the clubs met in the second semi-final.

The semi-final lived up to its billing, with the Magpies managing to overrun the gallant Blues in the last quarter. The thrilling contest was absorbing, high-scoring and close, with the teams separated by under a goal at each break.

Carlton earned a return match in the Grand Final.

How they billed it

If the semi-final was a guide, the VFL Record said, "this will be the Grand Final of Grand Finals".

Though the Magpies were favourites to end their 12-year premiership drought, the Blues were hitting rare form.

The Record's bullishness would be justified. The ensuing two hours in front of a record MCG crowd of 121,696 stands as one of the most memorable and pivotal games in history.

The moment

Collingwood stunned Carlton as the Grand Final began and the game was quickly slipping out of reach for the Blues late in the second quarter.

That was until star full-forward Alex Jesaulenko leapt over Magpies ruckman Graeme 'Jerker' Jenkin to take a spectacular mark on the centre wing.

By then there were already signs that Carlton was capable of mounting a serious challenge, and the mark served to further inspire Jezza's teammates.

'Jesaulenko, you beauty!', was Channel Seven commentator Mike Williamson's cry. The grab and the line both instantly entered footy folklore. Picture: AFL Photos

What happened next

Down by 44 points at half-time, Carlton coach Ron Barassi implored his troops to use handball as an offensive weapon, even from the backline, which in those days was not encouraged.

Barassi took the gamble of bringing on 19th man Ted Hopkins and the Blues responded, kicking seven goals in 11 minutes in the third quarter.

Trailing by 17 points at the final break, Carlton grabbed the lead in time-on in the last term and held on to win by 10 points.

It was the same margin as in the second semi-final when the Blues lost to the Pies.

Skipper John Nicholls raises Carlton's 10th premiership cup. Picture: AFL Photos

The hero

In only his 28th senior game, Hopkins provided the spark, booting three goals in a scintillating burst in the third quarter and kicking his fourth to get the Blues within a point in the frenetic final term.

Two weeks earlier, Hopkins had given Rose similar headaches when he came off the bench and booted two goals. In the Grand Final his influence on the outcome was immense.

Hopkins would play only one more game before retiring.

Ted Hopkins soaks up his moment in the sun. Picture: AFL Photos

The villain

Collingwood's Des Tuddenham was best on ground in the second semi-final win and was influential in setting up the Magpies' big Grand Final lead at half-time.

But his clash with teammate Peter McKenna late in the second quarter left the star full-forward concussed. McKenna finished with six goals, of which five came in the first half.

In the dying minutes Tuddenham gave away an undisciplined free kick to Brent Crosswell, whose goal put the Blues in front for the first time in the game.

Des Tuddenham strides up the players' race as Blues coach Ron Barassi (right) watches the ground. Picture: AFL Photos

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The pre-game controversy

Carlton had faced the prospect of losing star West Australian Syd Jackson after he was reported for striking Collingwood defender Lee Adamson in the second semi-final.

Blues president George Harris persuaded the indigenous half-forward to plead not guilty at the tribunal hearing on the grounds of extreme provocation, claiming that Adamson had racially abused him. Jackson was cleared, going to kick six goals in the preliminary final win over St Kilda and playing his part in the Grand Final triumph.

Many years later, Jackson apologised to Adamson for misleading the tribunal.

The little-known fact, part 1

On the Monday ahead of the Grand Final, lanky Collingwood forward Ross 'Twiggy' Dunne's father Frank died. Despite playing under duress, Dunne was clearly the Magpies' best player.

The little-known fact, part 2

Dunne was not the only Magpie doing it hard. Centre half-forward Len Thompson, who booted four goals in the second semi-final victory, had a severe rash on his thigh, caused by irritation from a liniment.

Thompson managed two goals in the Grand Final, but was well beaten by Carlton centre half-back David McKay, who was voted best on ground by a panel of experts in the AFL Record in 2001.

Pies coach Bob Rose consoles a distraught Max Richardson. Picture: Herald & Weekly Times

Why the rivalry matters

Ask any supporter of either club which team they hate the most. Even this year after a stuttering start by both clubs, almost 69,000 people turned up to watch them do battle in round three on a Friday night, and another bumper crowd can be expected at the MCG on Sunday.

The 1970 loss still burns deeply with Collingwood.

While the Magpies defeated the Blues in semi-finals in 1978, 1980 and 1984, Carlton reigned supreme in subsequent Grand Final clashes between the clubs in 1979 and 1981.

By winning the '81 flag, Carlton drew level with Collingwood for the most premierships (13). The Blues now share the AFL/VFL record of 16 flags with Essendon, with the Magpies one behind on 15.

Carlton is the only traditional Victorian club to have recorded more wins than losses against Collingwood, much to the chagrin of Magpies president Eddie McGuire.

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