'Jesaulenko, you beauty!'

BY SIMON SMITH

WARNING: This article may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The birth of modern football. The largest crowd in Australian sporting history. The mark of the century. The most imitated moment of Aussie Rules commentary. The greatest half-time comeback in an AFL grand final. The most iconic footage in the sport’s black-and-white era. And 50 years on, now seen and heard as never before!

'Bring him oxygen!'

Often bestowed with a litany of platitudes, the 1970 Victorian Football League (VFL) Grand Final remains a defining moment in the history of Australian Rules football. In front of an unsurpassed 121,696 spectators at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the code’s fiercest rivals, Carlton and Collingwood, played out one of the most dramatic encounters on the biggest day of the season. Approaching half-time, Carlton were adrift by over seven goals in an era of football when such a deficit was generally considered to be impossible to make up. Against a star-studded Collingwood side that had beaten Carlton in all three previous encounters that season, it was practically unthinkable. But then, a moment of football immortality beckoned – one to inspire a flagging team in front of an array of waiting cameras.

VFL Football player taking a mark in the 1970 grand final.

Alex 'Jezza' Jesaulenko takes a mark in the 1970 VFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, 26 September 1970.

 

Superbly captured in one uninterrupted shot under the direction of HSV7’s football broadcasting pioneer Alf Potter, 25-year-old Carlton full forward Alex Jesaulenko made a perfectly timed run and leap onto Collingwood ruckman Graeme 'Jerker' Jenkin on the MCG members’ wing. It remains the most famous grab in VFL history. Endlessly rescreened ever since, HSV7 commentator Mike Williamson’s accompanying catchcry – 'Jesaulenko, you beauty!' – has entered the game's lexicon, transcending the moment of play to become a catchphrase of high marking and enshrining both the player and event in Australian sporting folklore.

Presented here for the first time is in an edited montage of surviving TV, film and radio coverage from the NFSA collection of 'Jezza’s' most famous moment, including the iconic sequence in colour:

One Day in September

For a 12-team Victorian-only competition that was still a decade from accepting its first interstate club, the 1970 VFL Grand Final generated significant media interest across the country. Indeed, the cameras of the Seven Network, the VFL and AFL’s long-time commercial broadcaster, were not the only ones present at the MCG that day. At least three other sets of camera teams were also in attendance capturing the contest, both on videotape and on film. HSV7’s coverage was the most widely screened, the Seven Network broadcasting the game live into Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Wagga Wagga affiliates. Later that evening, Seven’s telecast was replayed to audiences in Melbourne, regional Victoria and Tasmania. It was not until 1977 that the VFL allowed the grand final to be televised live against the gate in its home state.

The sizeable Sydney audience prompted GTV9 Melbourne to pay to share ABC TV Melbourne’s (delayed) telecast to relay the match live back to TCN9 Sydney, with the addition of their own commentary team and video disc replay technology. With the two rival commercial networks now broadcasting the game live into the harbour city, The Age reported that some locals were opting to fly north to watch the game on television, as the $51 Qantas return flight to Sydney was cheaper than what some ‘scalpers’ (ticket touts) were asking.

Movietone Productions (VFL Grand Final, 1970) and Rod Kinnear Productions (The Big Game, 1970) similarly filmed extended sequences on 16mm with multiple camera teams for match highlight compilation packages. These were destined for newsreel cinemas and film society hire through cigarette company sponsorships, though this time in glorious colour. To be expected, football-mad Melbourne also offered blanket radio coverage, with five stations (3LO, 3KZ, 3AW, 3GL and 3XY) each calling the complete game.

'It kept bouncing and bouncing and bouncing…'

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the game in AFL Grand Final week, the NFSA has edited an all new highlights compilation, utilising our digitised film, television and radio holdings of the game. These include choice moments from the iconic HSV7 and rarely-seen GTV9 broadcasts, unseen angles of the game from both The Big Game (1970) and Barry Thomas’ unused camerawork for Movietone Productions, and memorable excerpts from the radio commentary boxes of 3KZ and 3AW.

Here are highlights from the first half of this historic game:

This package includes highlights from the second half:

'I made you famous!'

In subsequent years, Alex Jesaulenko’s iconic leap – coupled with Mike ‘Golden Voice’ Williamson’s excitable commentary – has tended to overshadow Carlton’s remarkable second-half comeback victory. 

In 1975, 'Jezza' would be name-dropped by Norm in the hugely successful Life Be In It advertising campaign. He received a surprise guest appearance from Jenkin to discuss the grab on This Is Your Life in 1980. 

Affectionate re-creations in AFL-sponsored advertisements for Carlton & United Breweries (1997) and Toyota (2006) further ensured the mark and its associated commentary would become familiar to contemporary audiences. 

More than 30 years after the game, good friends Jesaulenko and Williamson joined Bert Newton on the Good Morning Australia couch to recreate the special moment:

With thanks to the AFL, Carlton Football Club, Collingwood Football Club, Nine Network, Seven Network, Network Ten, Cinesound Movietone Productions, 3AW, Australian Radio Network, Vera Kinnear, Rhett Bartlett, Tony De Bolfo, Martin Flanagan, Simon Owens, Jamie Sanderson and Daniel Slonim. Highlights videos edited by Terry Stuetz and produced by Simon Smith.