Main content

The day Winmar drew the line in the sand

The day Nicky took a stand Relive that memorable day at Victoria Park when St Kilda great Nicky Winmar took a stand against racism
Nicky Winmar shows the Collingwood crowd his skin during the infamous 1993 game at Victoria Park
THE POWDER keg of abuse which erupted at Victoria Park during - and after - the Collingwood-St Kilda game on April 17, 1993, will never be forgotten.

Winmar's nation-building moment

The racial slurs hurled constantly at the two best players on the ground that afternoon - indigenous Saints Nicky Winmar and Gilbert McAdam - blotted a wonderful, history-making match, but also hastened change: racism in football would not be eradicated overnight, but was now in a harsh spotlight that would, correctly, intensify as the years passed.

It is wrong to assume the Magpies were the only club to have fans who resorted to the cruellest of taunts, but it is an inescapable fact that their home fortress - on that day - became the proverbial 'line' at which Winmar - in raising his jumper, pointing to his skin and saying, "I'm black and I'm proud to be black" - stopped and said, "Enough!"

Controversy and drama has never been a stranger to Collingwood-St Kilda clashes.

Read the full story in this weekend's AFL Record

As foundation clubs of the competition (in fact, they met in the opening round of the maiden VFL season of 1897 at Victoria Park), the two have staged many memorable battles, but to understand the tasty rivalry - particularly over the past 50 years - requires a short history lesson.

While the Magpies beat the Saints roughly seven times out of every 10 meetings over 116 years, a spicy anomaly (and a splinter in the rear of black-and-white fans) was that St Kilda prevailed in five consecutive finals clashes between the two from the legendary 1966 Grand Final until (and including) the 2009 qualifying final.

One of those was the 1972 first semi-final (the first year of the final five), played just 10 weeks after the infamous John Greening-Jim O'Dea behind-the-play incident at Moorabbin, which sidelined the Collingwood star for almost two years and resulted in the St Kilda defender being suspended for 10 games.

The 18-point loss gave the Magpies the unwanted tag of being the first side under the new system to go out in straight sets by way of qualifying and first semi-final defeats.

Twenty years later in 1992 (and with a John Greening sign still being displayed annually at Collingwood-St Kilda matches), the sixth-placed Saints triumphed in a classic elimination final at Waverley by eight points - their first finals victory in 19 years and a bitter pill for the third-placed Magpies to swallow.

The Pies had missed out on the double chance by percentage in a year they were trying desperately to win the premiership to honour their late teammate Darren Millane.

That '92 final was just one of an extraordinary group of five Magpies-Saints games of the early 1990s, which culminated in the events at Victoria Park seven months later. A one-point Collingwood win at the MCG in 1990, a draw at Moorabbin in 1991 and a one-point Saints victory at the MCG on Queen's Birthday Monday 1992 all preceded the memorable final.

For round four, 1993, a capacity crowd of 28,350 had crammed into the famous old venue.

It was the match-of-the-round: Collingwood coming off a five-day break, having beaten Essendon by 30 points at the MCG on Easter Monday to sit second and be one of only two unbeaten sides with Adelaide.

The Saints were sixth, having accounted for the Swans and North Melbourne since their opening-round loss at Geelong.

While the visitors were advantaged by two extra days to prepare, their task was made bigger by entering the match without champion full-forward Tony Lockett, who had kicked eight goals against the Swans at Waverley Park the week before but had been suspended for two games for striking Tony Malakellis.

All-Australian defender David Grant was out with a broken thumb and No.1 ruckman Lazar Vidovic with a quad injury.

During the match, brilliant on-baller Robert Harvey, who was starring with 14 disposals, tore a quad muscle in the second quarter, and fellow midfielder Dean Greig strained his hamstring.

An unseasonal warm day was the final piece in the complex jigsaw that became the considerable backdrop to the match - two hours of gripping theatre later and the Saints, primarily through seven goals to three in the third quarter, had saluted by 22 points in a high-scoring (18.18 to 15.14) epic.

McAdam received three Brownlow Medal votes for his 21 disposals and five goals, Winmar two votes for his 25 disposals and final-quarter goal that helped seal the upset victory.

In a strange twist, McAdam, whose father Charlie left the ground early that day because of the extent of the abuse his son and Winmar had directed at them, revealed he had been racially abused by Collingwood players in games over the previous two years, but not in the notorious 1993 match.

"I'm not going to hold grudges for the rest of my life, (but) there were players in the Collingwood side that I wasn't happy with at the time," he said.

"I don't talk about the players much, but we copped it, not just from the supporters, but the players as well.

"The draw at Moorabbin in '91, the (Queen's Birthday) Monday game in '92 at the MCG when we beat them by a point and the final at Waverley - I'm not going to kid around, I got racially abused, but I'm not going to say who it is because I've moved on."

McAdam wasn't aware of close friend Winmar's post-match reaction to the Collingwood supporters' insults until the following day when he saw photographer Wayne Ludbey's iconic image on the front page of The Sunday Age.

He likens it to the human rights salute of American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the dais after the medal presentation for the 200m sprint at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

"Absolutely - I'm quite happy to put it in that category; a lot of people might not agree with me, but that's the way I feel about it, and I've spoken to a lot of other Aboriginal people and they look at it as a similar thing because it's ground-breaking," McAdam said.

Read the full story in this weekend's AFL Record