Think Round 10 matches in Fitzroy history and the overwhelming majority of hardcore fans will go straight to 1963. The Miracle Match. Fitzroy v Geelong at Brunswick Street Oval.

It was one of the biggest upsets in AFL history and Fitzroy’s only win in Kevin Murray’s 1963-64 stint as senior coach. And, sadly for the club legend, it came when he was away on State duties.

So, in the only game he ever coached, Wally Clark is credited with steering a young, inexperienced and winless Fitzroy side to an extraordinary victory over an experienced and powerful Geelong unit that would go on to win the ’63 flag.

Fitzroy didn’t just fall over the line. They led at every change in front of a crowd of 16,222 and won 9-13 (67) to 3-13 (31) against a Cats side that included 14 members of their subsequent premiership side.

Clark, who had played 105 games with Fitzroy from 1955-62, was captain-coach of the Reserves when he deputised for Murray. And after his special moment of glory, he won the Gardiner Medal as the best & fairest player in the Reserves competition before heading to Tasmania to coach.

Both sides had caretaker coaches, with Neil Tresize, a 185-game dual premiership player with Geelong, deputising for Bob Davis in charge of the Cats.

According to the media it was a no-contest. Such was the expectation of a one-sided romp that none of the Melbourne radio stations even bothered to send a commentator to be part of the all-games coverage.

It was a wet weekend in Melbourne – so wet that all games the following week were postponed – and Brunswick Street Oval was a bog.

With Murray and first rover Graham Campbell missing, Fitzroy made eight changes after a loss to South Melbourne in Round 9. Five were forced as they fielded a side with an average age of 22 years 128 days and average experience of 30.2 games.

There were seven teenagers and only four players older than 24. Ron Harvey, in his 119th game, was the oldest at 27 and the only 100-gamer. Six players had played less than 10 games, and only six had played more than 20, although the likes of Norm Brown, Gary Lazarus, Allen Lynch (uncle of Alastair) and Ray Slocum would go on to be 100-gamers.

For such a seemingly unimportant game there are wonderful records and recollections.

They tell how, on the evening before the match, Clark called his troops together and quietly, thoroughly, and carefully explained — in very clear, precise, and simple terms — how they were to play collectively, how each was to play as an individual and, in particular, how each was to play against their specific opponent.

He stressed the importance, regardless of the end to which the team was kicking, of attacking along the dryer (northern) grandstand side of the ground and defending along the far more water-logged (southern) "outer" side.

He demanded they concentrate on tackling hard and keeping close to their opponents, and that they continuously back each other up. As often as they could, they were to use handball directly to the team-mate that was backing up. In general play, he instructed them to keep their opponents between themselves and the boundary.

The Geelong side, without State pair Doug Wade and Alastair Lord, was only marginally older and more experienced. But it was stacked with talent. Captain Fred Wooller was the senior statesmen of a side that include Billy Goggin, Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, John Yeates, John Devine, Tony Polinelli, John Sharrock and second-gamer Bill Ryan.

It a move that was in direct contrast to Murray’s normal policy, coach Clark opened the Fitzroy rooms prior to the game to as many fans as could squeeze in and sent them out to the raucous cheers of assembled diehards.

It worked. They led 3-4 to 0.6 at quarter-time are kicking to the scoring end, and 3.7 to 1.6 at halftime. With 10th gamer Lazarus kicking four goals at full forward – more than the Geelong side – they won the game with a 5-4 to 1-3 third quarter. A goal apiece in the last left Fitzroy fans elated.

Brian Pert, father of Gary, was best afield in his 95th game as Fitzroy, finding untapped levels of inspiration and tenancy, nullified the likes of Farmer and Goggin, and held Sharrock goalless at full forward.

So concerned were Geelong after the shock defeat that three days later they convened a special meeting of all players and selectors. They won nine of their next 10 games, including the grand final, while Fitzroy did not win again until Round 2 1965 under new coach Bill Stephen.

The Fitzroy team for the ‘Miracle Match’ was:-

B: Brian Carroll, Allen Lynch, Norm Brown
HB: Brian Pert, David Sykes, Bob Beattie
C: Wayne Eastman, John Bahen, Coli Sleep
HF: Tony Hirst, Ron Harvey (capt), Brian Beers
F: Max Miers, Gary Lazarus, Ian McCrae
R: Bryan Clements, Ron Fry, John Hayes
Res: Barry Fitzgerald, Ray Slocum.



Coming off a 105-point hiding from North Melbourne in Round 9, coach Mick Nunan made five changes ahead of a Round 10 ‘home’ game against 7th-placed Sydney at Whitten Oval.

With Jarrod Molloy to play his 50th game for the Lions and former favorite son Paul Roos set for his 299th AFL game for Sydney against Fitzroy, Simon Atkins and Jason Baldwin returned from injury, Trent Cummings was recalled, and Peter Boyle and Peter Doyle played their first game of the year.

They replaced Anthony McGregor, Darren Holmes and Frank Bizzotto, who had played their last game for the club in Round 9, plus Mick Dwyer and Rowan Warfe.

Sydney, bound for the grand final in their first season under Rodney Eade, had been battling and needed a good showing. They got it. After a competitive first half had left the Swans 14 points clear they turned up the gas to add 13-6 to 4-4 after the break and win 21-11 (137) to 10-7 (67).

Matthew Dent had a career-best 33 possessions in his 36th game, Brad Cassidy kicked three goals in just his fifth game, and Chris Johnson had 20 possessions and kicked two. Tony Lockett kicked nine goals for the Swans and Roos had 20 possessions.