The Greatest Night of All

NSW beat Victoria 1990 SCG 22 May 1990
From the inner-sanctum of the pre-match preparations and on-the-field Neil Cordy recalls playing for NSW in a glorious victory over Victoria at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1990

                  Daniher brothers warm-up at the SCG play together for the first time – for NSW v Victoria
                                                         l-r:  Neale, Chris, Anthony and Terry

The bus ride from the team hotel to the SCG was only a few k’s but it was taking forever as we crawled through Sydney’s peak hour traffic in pouring rain.

The delay provided the opportunity for one of my team-mates, who will remain nameless, to call his bookmaker.

“Can you believe we are 7-1 to win this thing?” he said. “And the line is at 55 points.”

Plenty got on. Why wouldn’t you? It had been raining all day in Sydney and didn’t look like stopping. Teams would be flat out scoring 55 points let alone winning by 55 points and the odds of 7-1 in a two horse race were almost unheard of. It was a matter of principle to not let this opportunity pass by. The line bet of nine goals plus looked a certainty and we also fancied our chances for the win.

The wet and heavy conditions in Sydney would not be to the Vic’s liking and this was a midweek match in May. Travelling interstate wasn’t as common as it is now and many of their players would be focused on club responsibilities a few days later.

Plus we were on our home deck, the SCG, and had it all to play for.

What a scalp this would be!

The Big V was full of superstars but we had our fair share of talent as well. All Australian and Bob Skilton medallist Barry Mitchell was one of a number of Victorian-born Sydney Swans players lining up in the sky blue. As were Steve Wright, David Bolton, Tony Morwood and myself.

But the vast majority were NSW born and we had some big names ourselves including John Longmire, Wayne Carey and Billy Brownless who led the attack.

There was also a little bit of magic in the air for the NSW boys. This would be the first time all four Daniher brothers, Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris lined up together. They all played for Essendon but injuries had conspired to prevent them appearing together for the Bombers. It would happen later that year when Kevin Sheedy put all four in for Neale’s last game (Round 22, St Kilda) but this was the first.

Terry was our skipper and one of the game’s greatest leaders. He was a dual premiership (Essendon 1984-1985) and All Australian captain. I’d played under Terry for NSW at the Bi-Centennial Australian Carnival in Adelaide a couple years earlier. We went down narrowly to hosts South Australia and beat Western Australia. It was an honour to play under him.

John Longmire was also inspired by the opportunity to play alongside Terry and his brothers.

“It really had an impact on me, playing with Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris,” Longmire said.

‘Horse’ was up for it as were the rest of us when we ran out onto a sodden SCG but mid-way through the second quarter the Big V pushed out to a five goal lead.

Cue the kid from Corowa.

By half time he had six goals on the board in a stunning burst against some of the best defenders the game has seen in Steve Silvagni, Chris Langford and Danny Frawley. His performance shouldn’t have surprised us, going into the match ‘Horse’ had booted 33 goals in the first eight games of the season including 12 against Richmond in round two.

While the Kangaroos star was on a rampage it wasn’t completely a one man show. NSW coach Col Kinnear had handed out a number of defensive assignments including one for me on the wing against Collingwood captain Gavin Brown.

While I had my hands full with Brownie the biggest job for the Sky Blues was given to another Magpie Mick Gayfer. Like Longmire Gayfer came from Corowa-Rutherglen but he was schooled in the dark arts of defence. This night the human blanket nullified Dermott Brereton. It was a vital role in such a closely contested match.

Mick was at his best as the Vics surged late in the third term. There was nothing in it at the last change, Longmire’s eighth early in the last was vital and enough to see NSW hang on for an historic 10 point victory.

“I roomed with Neale and we didn’t miss a chance to enjoy the win,” Longmire said recently.

“The whole Daniher family were there including their five sisters and parents Jim and Edna. Neale got back to the room at about 4 am and woke me up to have a cup of tea and tell me about the 80 metre goal he kicked. It’s a great memory because the Danihers are one of the great NSW footy families.”

His North Melbourne team mate Wayne Carey was also proud to be wearing the sky blue. The 19 year old Carey had just played just 12 senior games for North Melbourne at that stage but expectations were high for the teenage sensation.

That night he wore the number 26 in honour of Sydney Swans stalwart and NSW team mate Steve Wright. A few years earlier Wright had taken Carey aside at a footy clinic in Wagga Wagga for chat and a kick. Wright had forgotten the moment but Carey hadn’t.

It was a memorable night for everybody involved in the NSW team. To topple a full strength Victorian team on our home ground, the SCG, in front of our fans meant so much. Not just for the players but all the coaches and support staff involved as well as the wider Aussie Rules community throughout the state.

Personally the win over the Vics remains one of my proudest football achievements.

For a team which had very little time together there was a remarkable team spirit.

It was great to be a part of.

More than 30 years on NSW has two very successful teams in the AFL and is producing more elite talent than ever through the Swans and Giants academies, strong community and school competitions.

I’d like to think that win over the Vics helped change the way footy in NSW was viewed around the country and how the state looked at itself.

(For the record NSW beat Victoria 13.8.86 to 10.16.76.- Editor)

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