When Roosters crowed and the Redlegs danced
BOB Hammond admits that at the time, while just a kid of 18, he couldn’t fully appreciate the enormity of it. “I knew that 1960 grand final was an important game – more important than the one before, and the one before that,” the Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee says.
“But it was just another game of football.
“I’d come out of senior colts with North Adelaide the year before, so you’re as free as a breeze and just doing your best every week.
“As the finals developed, I think my responsibilities became much clearer to me, along with the reality that this is the grand final and there’s 54,000 people here at Adelaide Oval – so you’d better smarten up your footwork.
“In the end, we got the siren at the right time.”
Hammond, 76, remains one of the most-respected figures in South Australian football, as chairman in Adelaide’s first 10 years as an AFL club and subsequent decade-long tenure as a custodian of the game, serving on the AFL Commission. Before that, he delivered two premierships as Norwood’s coach, including ending the club’s 25-year drought in 1975 in just his second season at the helm.
But perhaps inadvertently outshone in the glittering array of off-field successes is an on-field record that, even in isolation, stands up as a strong argument in any Hall of Fame discussion. It’s a career that boasts seven state matches and 234 league games in North’s red and white colours, highlighted by three SANFL premierships.
The 1960 flag in Hammond’s debut season was followed by back-to-back victories in 1971 and ’72.
The 1972 season will forever remain a high-water mark in SA football after the Roosters later defeated that year’s VFL premiers Carlton by a point to be crowned club champion of Australia.
“It was like a state game, so there was immense pride shared by all within SA,” says Hammond, a back pocket in North’s honorary team of the century.
“It also gave the other clubs the feeling of ‘If we’d won it (the premiership), we could’ve done that’.
“But it’s only North Adelaide that did do it.”
Hammond’s football journey traces back to Adelaide’s post-war northern suburbs, and the Kilburn Housing Trust home where he spent most of his childhood.
To the west was the sewage farm that would later become Regency Park. Closer, to the southwest, was the noise of the Islington Railway Workshops, while the busy factories of the British Tube Mills stood in the north of the industrial suburb.
“It was a tough upbringing, but we never considered ourselves poor,” says Hammond.
“My brother and sister and I, we were rich in the sense that we had pushbikes and a paddock close by. We had a footy, a cricket bat – maybe not a traditional bat, but one carved out of paling.
“And we had parents who encouraged us and (instilled) that someone being better dressed than you didn’t mean a thing. We were proud of what we had.”
IT WAS in neighbourhood games of kick-to-kick that Hammond credits his development as a key backman, as well as his trademark turn of speed that belied his imposing frame.
“My brother was four years older, so when the footy was around you had to be on your mettle to get a kick,” he says.
“That education I had in the paddock with my brother and his mates stood me in good stead as far as my introduction to (North Adelaide) under-17s went.”
Hammond – part of the all-star SA side that famously beat Victoria at the MCG in 1963 – had established himself as a vital part of North Adelaide’s league side by the mid-’60s. Flanked by uncompromising back pocket Hank Lindner and club captain Don Gilbourne, Hammond’s long kick-ins and battles with star goalkickers, including West Torrens’ Geoff Kingston and Port Adelaide great Rex Johns, are part of the SANFL’s early-1960s fabric.
But in 1966, his work with the Dunlop tyre service presented a two-year appointment in Port Pirie.
Keen to secure his family’s future, Hammond accepted the move and captaincoached Ports to a premiership in his first season in country football.
He returned to Adelaide in 1968 and a North side mentored by Magpies legend Geof Motley, before Roosters team of the century coach and 1967 Richmond premiership ruckman Mike Patterson was appointed for the 1970 season.
“Of course, anyone could’ve coached Barrie Ro-
STATE PRIDE: Hammond accepting the Australia Club Champion trophy from Deputy Premier Des Corcoran after the Roosters defeated Carlton at Adelaide Oval in 1972.