Graham Cornes Interview 2010

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Cornes was a champion with the Glenelg Football Club in the SANFL, between 1967-1982. He played mostly at centre half-forward. In his 317 Club games for Glenelg he kicked 339 goals and won the club best and fairest award three times.

Captained Glenelg in 1978.

Member of the premiership team in 1973, taking a spectacular mark in the last minutes of the game and calmly goaling to regain the lead.

He originally signed on with the VFL's South Melbourne in Victoria early in his career, but did not play in the VFL until 1979, when in the later stages of his career he played 5 games with Ron Barassi's North Melbourne before returning to South Australia.

As playing coach with South Adelaide he played 47 games in 1983-1984

Represented South Australia 21 times, including captain 1978,

All Australian 1979, 1980

Tassie Medallist 1980

Simpson Medallist 1979

Coaching career

  • 1983-1984 South Adelaide taking them to fifth both times.
  • 1985-1990 Glenelg winning Premierships in 1985 and 1986 and also taking them to three losing Grand Finals in 1987, 1988 and 1990.

Cornes had an astonishing record in State of Origin matches, boasting nine wins from eleven matches including six wins from eight matches coaching the South Australia team against Victoria.

All Australian coach 1987-1988.

1991 appointed inaugural coach of the Adelaide Crows in their first year in the AFL, until the end of 1994 when he was replaced by Robert Shaw. His highest result with the Crows was third place in 1993; his worst result eleventh in 1994. (Source: Wikipedia)

Graham was also voted by the Snouts Louts in 2009 as the man whose name would be used as the label for the “Gold Members” of The Snouts Louts, over Peter Carey and Stephen Kernahan.

Graham is now a high profile multi-media personality.

Graham, thank you for the honour of allowing us to interview for our “Legends and Larrikins” forum.

Before we start, one of the Snouts, (Shane Frencham) owes you an apology. He says:


“when I was young, my mum took me to a sports store in town where Cornsey works to get my first Bays jumper. When Cornsey asked me whose number I wanted on the back, I said Paul Weston. When Cornsey ducked out the back to get the number done, my mum clipped my ear and said i've probably offended Cornsey for not asking for his number! I’ve never forgotten it & i'm still carrying the guilt! Can you please apologise for me?”

GC: Don’t give it another thought Shane, because it never offended me. The moment has long gone, so should your remorse.

How did you end up at the Bay?

GC: Purely by chance as I had signed at the start of the 1967 season with West Torrens. But they never really followed it up. I had left school (Seacombe High School) in 1965 and had moved to Whyalla, which was Torrens’ zone. Fortunately, although I didn’t realize it, I was still residentially tied to Glenelg. The great Harry Kernahan was captain-coach of South Whyalla and I played for Central Whyalla and occasionally rucked against him. He obviously recommended me to Glenelg and Ray Curnow and Tom Bonnily visited me, invited me to train and I played the last three games of 1967 when our season had finished in Whyalla.

You had three coaches while at the bay - Kerls, Big Nick, and John Halbert.

Are you able to share some thoughts on these three?

GC: Kerls was a tremendous coach – perhaps the major influence of my life – we would follow him anywhere and do anything he said. He was ahead of his time and had a far greater regard for the tactics and the skills of the game than he is given credit for.

John Nicholls came with the reputation as one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. He was a good coach and earned the respect of the younger players, but the older ones compared him to Kerls, which was an unfair comparison. He had a good regard for defensive tactics, but I always felt he was distracted by other issues in his life.

John Halbert was an excellent coach, although I didn’t see eye-to-eye with him because he did try to change my football role. I ended up playing the last few years of my career at centre half back, which took some adjustment. But he was a fine, honorable man. He eventually realized that the Jack Oatey style wasn’t a complete answer to football success. He took us to two grand finals, but couldn’t find that extra piece in the coaching puzzle

Did you consciously try to take hangers?

GC: Definitely - once I realized I could. It was one of the main reasons that I played the game. That, and the mateship

Best Glenelg player seen?

GC: Too hard.. Take your own pick, Peter Carey, Steven Kernahan or Kym Hodgeman before he did his knee.

Best opposition player?

GC: Again too hard: pick between Robran, Ebert, Blight, and perhaps Phil Carman. Stephen Michael in State games

You seemed to be the Glenelg player that opposition supporters loved to hate. Were there any memorable things said to you? Did the attention put you off your game or spur you on?

GC: Nothing really that I can remember and I don’t think it distracted me at all.. You just knew the opposition supporters hated you. My sexuality was always questioned but rarely did they have the courage to say anything face-to-face

Your thoughts on leaving the Bays the first time, was it your intention to return to the club as coach one day?

GC: I was disappointed that I hadn’t been appointed coach when John Halbert left, but South Adelaide quickly offered me their position. I simply moved to the next stage of my life. Never really knew if I would get the chance to come back though. It was a very hard decision to leave South and come back, but I spoke to Kerls and he said “do what’s right for you and go where your heart is” I realized, as much as I enjoyed the time and the people at South, the heart was at Glenelg.

The stint at North Melbourne with Russell Ebert under the coaching of legendary Ron Barassi did not turn out as well as could have been hoped. What did you gain from that time? In hindsight would you do it again?

GC: It was a really important time of my football life. I regard it as a tremendous learning experience. I was 31 when I left, but even in hindsight, I wouldn’t have sacrificed any of my previous SANFL experience. What I would do differently would be to move across in November. I didn’t arrive until early February after holidaying overseas. I missed the major part of the pre-season which did set me back. Overall however, even though it didn’t work out, it was great experience that helped me immensely both as a player and a coach.

What’s better, coaching a premiership or playing in one?

GC: There is simply no comparison. Playing in a premiership is one of the thrills of a footballer’s life. Winning one as a coach was simply a relief.

What experiences as a player helped mould your coaching philosophies?

GC: All of them really, but most of all, the disappointments teach you how to do it better if you get the chance to coach. You take the best attributes from the coaches who have influenced you and add your own theories, and hopefully the package works. The biggest lesson I learned and preached was that football is never about what you have done, but what you can do in this precise moment that is now. But there is so much more, it’s impossible to distill it to one sentence.

A few of the Louts want to know what you said to Phil Carman at Norwood, before he rubbed your face in the mud. Do you remember this?

GC: I remember it clearly, but no words were exchanged. He had tackled me. I hit him in the head with my elbow and he fell on top of me and pushed my face in the mud as he got up. Everyone thought it was funny, including the both of us. I did have an ear full of mud though.

Are there any other funny moments that stick out that can be shared?

GC: There are so many, but there was one time at training when Neil Kerley tried to tell us a joke about a washing detergent salesman. When he told the punch-line Wayne Phillis was standing behind him, dropped his shorts and flashed his you-know-what. Kerls thought he had told the greatest joke ever, because we couldn’t stand up for the laughing but he never saw what “Butch” was doing.

When you reminisce on your times at the bay what do you remember most fondly?

GC: The team-mates; and those great days when there were 15,000 people there lifting the roofs off the stands with that “TI-GERS” chant.

Did your time in Vietnam impact you as a footballer?

GC: Undoubtedly - apart from the two years that I missed. But the Army experience taught me, more than anything else, that you really can keep going when you have never left to give, because in Vietnam, in combat conditions, you had no other option. It also taught me how much I loved the club, because I missed it and the team-mates so much

You released a single in the 70’s. What was it called, was it any good, and did you sell many? Was it better then Wandering Star by Kerls?

GC: It was a football parody called “Untying the Laces” The flip-side was called “I Gotta Girl’’ Both Wandering Star and Untying the Laces were pretty bad, but it was a lot of fun doing it.

Quick Word Association

  • Dave Granger - Dangerous then, sad now.
  • Max Kruse in the 1987 Grand Final – Legend- take him to war anytime.
  • Coaching Ross Gibbs – Challenging but what talent!
  • Ron Barrassi - Icon, but can’t help thinking that Kerls would leave him for dead,.
  • Slug Jordan – Typical loud-mouthed Victorian
  • Fur Coats – Politically incorrect now but I loved mine.

Any final words for the long suffering Glenelg faithful?

GC: Good luck, say g’day to the Louts for me and maintain the faith.

Best wishes,

Cornesy (12)

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See also: Legends and Larrikins of the GFC

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