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Northern derby to honour one of the greatest-ever GNFL sides in 50th reunion of Chapman Valley’s invincibles

Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Phillip Giltrow, Bernie Knight, Mithcell Thompson, Vince Knight, Gerard McKenna & Bernard Gray
Camera IconPhillip Giltrow, Bernie Knight, Mithcell Thompson, Vince Knight, Gerard McKenna & Bernard Gray Credit: Jake Santa Maria

The northern derby has always been a fierce rivalry but this weekend’s will commemorate one of the greatest ever battles and one of the greatest ever sides as Chapman Valley celebrates the 1973 invincibles.

In 1973 the Royals went undefeated on their way to securing their second premiership as part of their three-peat, but that masks the drama that came on the final weekend in September.

The Valley had been belting teams all year, beating every side except the Rovers in the opening rounds by more than 20 goals.

Many would have expected a waltz to a second straight premiership but instead, Northampton almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history as the grand final ended in a draw.

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Although it was 50 years ago, it still lives fresh in the mind of premiership player Vince Knight as he recalls the drama of the final.

“The weather was shocking and North they just shut us down and it was a really good effort and something you never forget really,” he said.

“It would have been devastating to go undefeated all year only to go down in the grand final.

“We did well to draw in the end with a few injuries and it sparked us up for next week.”

Fortunately, the Royals would come out on top in the replay held the weekend coming out on top by 20 points, though once again they did it tough.

Jim Lincolne’s report for the Guardian states it took “a paralysing fightback to overwhelm the tiring Northampton and gain their second consecutive premiership”.

“In spite of the previous Sunday’s deadlock, most fans believed the Valley would gain an easy victory. They did win but it was not easy .... Northampton displayed tremendous courage to surge back in the fourth and hit the lead before Valley’s Wayne Proudlove broke through and it was all Valley attack. ”

By virtue of winning three in a row, it’s the second time around for these legends to celebrate though there will be some different faces.

“There are probably about half a dozen that weren’t in the year before the likes of Laurie Bellotti, Dean Forster, Kingsley Cooper and I think nearly everyone from the side will be down there,” Knight said.

Unlike the sides of today which often chop and change with FIFO, work and other commitments, Bernard Gray said it was a very tight-knit side that year.

“We played the whole year and our side never changed — we only played about 25 players throughout the whole season,” he said.

While the old boys won’t be taking to the field, they are looking forward to reminiscing about their triumphs and hopefully another good game of footy.

“It really is a good day they look after us and it’s great to catch up with everyone,” Bernie Knight said.

“Talking to Aaron (Thomas) he said they were unlucky not to beat them up there in round one, we might have to hamstring Harry Taylor,” Vince joked.

“Before the game, we will present our corresponding numbers to the league boys and then they’ll present them back to us after the match which we get to keep,” Vince said.

“But good on the club for doing it. We had a really great crowd for last year’s one and hopefully we get the same this weekend as it’s something that only comes around once, until next year’s of course.”

Chapman Valley will take on the Rams from 2.30pm on Saturday at their home ground, Mazzuchelli Oval.

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