In response to the devastating Ash Wednesday fires in 1983, the VFL quickly arranged an exhibition match to raise funds for Victorian Police and Emergency Services. Just 11 days after fire devasted Victoria and South Australia, 35,234 fans flocked to VFL Park. With each paying either $5 for adults or $1 for children and pensioners, they were there to see an All Star team take on Carlton, the 1982 Premiers.
Resplendent in Yellow and Red jerseys and sponsored by The Sun newspaper, the Sun in Herald Sun for those too young to remember, the All-Stars were coached by Allan Jeans. Despite the unavailability of Leigh Matthews and Peter Daicos, the Hawks mentor still had an incredibly powerful outfit at his disposal.
Captained by Melbourne’s Robbie Flower, the All-Stars had the likes of Trevor Barker, Gary Dempsey, Michael Roach, Bernie Quinlan, Gerard Healy, Michael Tuck and Tim Watson among their number. So strong was the squad it prompted Jeans to declare, if they were unsuccessful in toppling the two-time defending premiers, that Carlton was unbeatable. “If we can’t beat Carlton with some of the best players from the other 11 clubs, it may well be that Carlton could make it three in a row,” he told the Football Record.
As excited as he was to take charge of his impressive team, it was secondary to the pride he felt at taking part in the VFL’s fundraising efforts. A sentiment shared by his counterpart, Carlton Coach David Parkin. “Carlton is proud to be involved in a match organised to help such a worthwhile cause as the Bushfire Appeal,” he told the Football Record. “Carlton players are fully behind the match and it provides a wonderful chance for the VFL to repay those who have supported it so much in the past,” he said.
That the efforts they were a part of were more important than the match itself, was echoed by Jeans. “No matter who wins the result from the gate takings is what this game is about,” he said.
Once the ball was bounced, this was all forgotten though. Despite the February heat, and the practice match status of the game, the two teams threw themselves headfirst into the contest. In the opening exchanges, it was the Blues more battle-hardened combinations that held sway and they took a three-point lead into the quarter time break.
From there though the sheer volume of quality players at the All-Stars disposal proved overwhelming. With St Kilda’s Joffa Cunningham playing a starring role and Richmond’s Michael Roach kicking six goals, they powered away from the Blues.
I guess I will now have to agree that a team of champions is better than a champion team.Carlton Coach David Parkin Post Game
The scoreboard would show the All-Stars ran out victors by 69 points but the result that mattered came post-match. The desire to lend a hand that had brought the football world together saw VFL General Manager Jack Hamilton able to present a cheque for $163,594 to Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister Race Matthews with a cheque for $163,594. It would prompt the minister to thank all involved for helping “in the massive task of physically and emotionally rehabilitating the fire victims”. Never before had a practice match held so much meaning.
1983 BUSHFIRE DISASTER APPEAL MATCH
All Stars: Roach 6, Conlan 3, Quinlan 3, Edmond 2, Watson 2, Cunningham, Smith, Russo, Wallace, Rowlings.
Carlton: Buckley 3, Harmes 2, Easton 2, Maylin 2, Bosustow, Ashman, Buckley, Marcou.
All Stars: Cunningham, Tuck, Wiley, Glendinning, Smith, Wallace.
Carlton: Buckley, Maylin, Sheldon, Harmes, Kourkoumelis, Johnston.
Official crowd: 35,234 at Waverley