By Craig Starcevich
AFL Indigenous Round this year celebrates the theme ‘Identity’, inspired by the 20 year anniversary of Nicky Winmar’s extraordinary stance at Victoria Park.
AFLQ’s North Queensland Development Manager Craig Starcevich lined up for the Pies that day and here, shares his recollection of one of AFL’s most memorable moments.
Coming into round 4 of the 1993 season, Collingwood sat undefeated on top of the AFL ladder after knocking over three fellow finals contenders.
We were now three seasons on from winning the premiership. We had only played one final since, but had retained most of the 1990 group and added two prize recruits in Gary Pert (Fitzroy) and Barry Mitchell (Sydney).
Next up was St Kilda at Victoria Park. Coming into the game they had two wins against mediocre opposition. We had just beaten the Bombers in front of 85,000 at the MCG and thought the Saints at home presented no great obstacle to us.
I can’t remember the mood in the crowd being any different to other home games around that time. Our supporters were always very hostile to any opposition, and from all reports crossed a few social boundaries from time to time.
Apparently a couple of St Kilda players were abused as they watched the curtain raiser. Again, this was nothing out of the ordinary for that time.
Our standard script for Victoria Park was to arm wrestle with the opponent for a quarter or so, pull away in the second quarter, and extend the lead thereafter.
The Saints however, had other ideas and went goal-for-goal with us deep into the second quarter. Frustrations grew as it became apparent that this opposition wasn’t about to lie down.
Keeping St Kilda in the contest were Nicky Winmar and Gilbert McAdam who, unbeknown to us, had been the players on the end of the pre-game crowd abuse.
Just prior to half time, a scuffle broke out on the southern wing involving a few of our regular antagonisers and Nicky and Gilly. As was the standard of the day, there were no boundaries when it came to taunting an opponent.
As we left the field at half time, I do remember the crowd noise around the St Kilda race having a little extra venom, as that group of spectators carried on in the vein of the on-field events. It was fairly obvious the fans had picked up on what had transpired between the players.
Those incidents galvanised the Saints. In support of their Indigenous teammates they outscored us 7 goals to 3 in the third quarter. Winmar and McAdam (5 goals) continued to dominate the second half finishing with 20 plus possessions each and Brownlow Medal votes.
St Kilda won by 22-points; our early season momentum came to a grinding halt and the front pages of Melbourne’s Sunday papers held the iconic picture of Winmar lifting his jumper and pointing at the colour of his skin.
He and Gilly had gone a long way to helping their side win the contest, and Nicky, even further by starting a conversation that would change our attitudes to what was acceptable behaviour both on and off the field.