September 27th, 1997, a historic day in Aussie Rules footy. 99,645 people piled into the MCG to watch Marina Prior sing the national anthem and also a game of footy. In this game of footy, Malcolm Blight, ‘The Messiah’ coached the Crows to perfection, naming Shane Ellen as the man who would replace the great Tony Modra who was sidelined with injury. Ellen had kicked just three goals throughout the entirety of his football career before the 1997 Grand Final and spent much of his time as a defender. Ellen would go on to kick five crucial goals, plenty, but not as many as the great man Darren Jarman who booted six goals to help the Crows kick away when the game was on the line.
The first term was tightly contested but inaccurate, the Saints kicking three goals and six behinds, and the Crows kicking three goals eight, leading narrowly by two points. For the rest of the match the Crows would kick sixteen more goals and only three behinds, fixing their accuracy woes almost immediately. The second term continued to be tight, but it was the Saints taking the lead into the main break by 13 points, after they managed four goals to two.
The second half was where the Crows began to take over. They wrestled the lead from St. Kilda and headed into the last term with a ten-point advantage. In the final term, Jarman and Ellen continued to hit the scoreboard, the former in a massive way, Jarman booted five goals in the last quarter alone, tearing through a tired Saints defence. The Crows would run home winners by 31 points, 19.11 (125) to 13.16 (94). Jarman was a one man show in the fourth quarter, dominating all facets of the forward line. Throughout the match however, there was only one man who could be awarded the Norm Smith Medal, Andrew McLeod. Still my personal favourite footy player to ever grace the field, McLeod was a legend, and beyond deserving of a Brownlow Medal, one of the few achievements he didn’t collect along his journey at Adelaide, but he did collect two Norm Smith Medals, the first in 1997. On that day, ‘Bunji’ had 31 touches and 11 tackles in a monster performance that helped his side claim its first ever Premiership.
Although McLeod and Jarman were the two stars everyone remembers from the 1997 Grand Final, there were many others on the field that day that went unheralded. The likes of Simon Goodwin, Kane Johnson, Shaun Rehn, Nigel Smart, Ben Hart, Tyson Edwards, Mark Bickley and Peter Caven all played that day and contributed to a momentous day in the history of South Australian sport. Although some names from those glory days have faded a little and some have been forgotten through time, there still is plenty to look back on and remember from what was the peak of a dynasty at Adelaide. The Crows would go on to win the 1998 Grand Final as well and continued to be a force in football throughout much of the early-mid 2000s.
1997 Grand Final
Adelaide 3.8 5.10 11.11 19.11 (125)
St. Kilda 3.6 7.11 9.13 (67) 13.16 (94)
Adelaide: McLeod, Jarman, Johnson, Ellen, Goodwin, Caven
St. Kilda: Harvey, Jones, Burke, Hall, Cook, Keogh
Adelaide: Jarman 6, Ellen 5, Bond 4, Smart, Goodwin, Rintoul, Caven
St. Kilda: Heatley 3, Hall 3, Loewe 2, Jones, Burke, Winmar, Peckett, Harvey