Semi Final, 1961
Hawthorn vs Melbourne
Saturday 9 September
Hawthorn win by 7 points
Goalkickers: Ray Nilsson 3, Geoff Tunbridge 2, Ron Barassi 1, Mike Collins 1, Clyde Laidlaw 1, Hassa Mann 1, Ian Ridley 1, Alan Rowarth 1
Mike Collins (2nd game)
Appearing in the finals for the first time since 1957, when they were thrashed by Melbourne, the Hawks loomed as flag favourites but had to get through the great Demons side first. Speaking before the game Norm Smith acknowledged that the Hawks deserved to be the minor premiers, but thought that "our experience in finals would offset the absence of certain players)). He was without Brian Leahy
Playing for the chance to go straight to the Grand Final, Melbourne swung a selection shock by picking Mike Collins in the side despite him only having played one quarter of league football. Bruce Leslie was also selected on a wing in his third game - it would be his first as a winger.
Despite their experimentation the Demons looked the goods early. Three quick goals had them 19 points ahead at the first break. It looked like Smith's prediction would come true, and their finals experience would beat the minor premiers. With 4.2 on the board before Hawthorn kicked a goal it looked like an easy day at the office, even second gamer Collins was able to sneak forward from the half back flank to kick his first league goal.
Over the next three quarters, though, the Hawks superior fitness and a fiery enthusiasm wore Melbourne down. The game turned when Laurie Mithen was felled 70 yards behind the play during the second quarter. Melbourne players lost focus on the game and started to focus more on revenge than football, and the Hawks responded all over the ground. Melbourne was struggling to find a reliable avenue to goal, when Alan Rowarth soccered the eighth off the ground he became the eighth individual goalkicker. He should have had another late in the quarter, but from point blank range he kicked into the man on the mark and wasted what had been a fortunate free kick.
The Demons were wasting their last use of a handy breeze, and trailed shortly before three quarter time when Nilsson eluded two opponents to goal and set up a three point lead. A golden opportunity to open the final term with a goal was blown when Robert B Johnson also missed a sitter. It left the door open for the Hawks to retake the lead. Throughout the last quarter no more than seven points separated the sides. A goal to Tunbridge cut the margin back to a point after 13 minutes, but Hawthorn immediately responded, showing the Demons how to do it by converting an easy chance.
Ray Nilsson reduced the margin to one again, and for the last few minutes the ball bounced from end to end with neither side able to score again. In the dying minutes the ball sat in front of the Demons goal, but instead of rushing through a behind to level the scores they tried to convert the opportunity into a goal. They failed and the Hawks stayed alive, converting a goal in the final seconds. The Reserves curtain raiser had already been a draw, necessitating a replay the following week, and it was nearly joined by a do over of the senior match.
Best for Melbourne were Roet, Barassi and Mithen. Turner replaced Collins (cramp) in the third quarter. Carroll replaced Ridley in the last quarter. Barassi also suffered cramp.
The Hawks' 11th straight victory, and fourth in a row against Melbourne, put them into their first Grand Final, and forced the Demons into a Preliminary Final date with Footscray.
Nilsson 3.0, Tunbridge 2.0, Rowarth 1.1, H. Mann 1.1, Barassi 1.1, Collins 1.0, Laidlaw 1.0, Ridley 1.0, Lord 0.2, Kenneally 0.1, R. Johnson 0.1
Age - 09/09/1961
Herald - 09/09/1961
Age - 12/09/1961