Retro Bomber No 3: Steve Copping No. 24 – The First Draft!

Steve Copping – had hands so large, I’m glad I never showered with him

Some background… In 1981 the VFL held it’s first annual draft (and here I was thinking it was 5 years later), it was in November, 1980, the VFL Board of Directors resolved to adopt a totally new approach to the recruitment of interstate players. The regulations of the League were amended to provide that, in future, players could only be registered with VFL Clubs through being drafted at an Interstate Selection meeting. Previously, players were registered on Form 4’s and clubs vied with each other for the signatures of the outstanding players from interstate clubs. The Bombers signed Craig Bradley under the Form 4 system, yet somehow he got to Carlscum…

The history-making first Interstate draft took place at VFL House (82 Jolimont Road, Jolimont) on Tuesday, 8th October, 1981. So here’s the list of players selected in the 1981 VFL Draft, it make for interesting reading..(my comments in italics)

  1. Melbourne, Alan Johnson (Perth, W.A.) – 135 games
  2. Footscray, Neil Craig (Sturt, S.A.) – Never played in VFL – But coached!!
  3. St Kilda, Grant Campbell (East Perth, W.A.) – Never played
  4. South Melbourne, Mark Naley (South Adelaide, S.A.) – ended up at Carlton
  5. North Melbourne, Craig Holden (Swan Districts, W.A.)
  6. Richmond, Peter Hofner (Port Adelaide, S.A.)
  7. Hawthorn, Ken Judge (East Fremantle, W.A.)
  8. Essendon, Wayne Otway (East Perth, W.A.) – 36 crafty games
  9. Fitzroy, Dean Turner (East Perth, W.A.)
  10. Geelong, Tony McGuinness (Glenelg, S.A.) – Like Naley, said no to Cats & end up at Dogs
  11. Collingwood, Chris Carpenter (Launceston, Tas.)
  12. Carlton, Ross Ditchburn (Claremont, W.A.)
  13. Melbourne, Danny Hughes (Port Adelaide, S.A.) – 100+ games for Dees
  14. Footscray, Trevor Klisby (North Adelaide, S.A.)
  15. St Kilda, Geoff Linke (South Adelaide, S.A.)
  16. South Melbourne, Phil Brooksby (South Adelaide, S.A.)
  17. North Melbourne, Tom Warhurst (Norwood, S.A.)
  18. Richmond, David Tiller (North Adelaide, S.A.)
  19. Hawthorn, John Platten (Central District, S.A.) – Champion!
  20. Essendon, Stephen Copping (Glenelg, S.A.) – Our man, 42 games over 3 seasons
  21. Fitzroy, Chris McDermott (Glenelg, S.A.) – Champion who waited for the Adelaide team to come.
  22. Geelong, Greg McAdam (North Adelaide, S.A.)
  23. Collingwood, Scott Knight (Launceston, Tas.)
  24. Carlton, Chris Velde (Glenelg, S.A.)

In summary, the winners were Hawks & Dees… The failures, Tigers, Cats, Swans, Dogs & Pies (0 games from any selections). Bombers did OK, but Stevie Copping did fall in between Platten & McDermott (he was never coming East, the Bears tried to get him in 1985/6)!! Don’t get me wrong, Copping could play, he was very canny and strong for a ‘key forward’ who was also under 6 foot.That’s only 180cm to the kids out there, 7cm taller than Alwyn Davey & 3cm taller than Jamie Elliot. How about this, he is shorter than Darcy Parish and he played at Full Forward (sometimes….)

Copping spent the period from 1982 to 1984 with Essendon, clearly Kevin Sheedy knew that he Bombers needed skilled & mature players & Copping was part of the early crop that helped build the Premiership sides of 84/85. He was 25yo when he come over and if you read below, his career in SANFL as a forward was outstanding. He played a total 42 games with the Bombers, including the losing Grand Final of 1983, and kicking 88 goals. He played virtually every game in 1982 & 1983, then 1 in 1984 before heading back to Adelaide at seasons end.

In the SANFL he commenced his league career in 1974 with Glenelg and had played a total of 246 senior games for the club by the time he retired following the victorious Grand Final of 1986 against North Adelaide. Copping had also played in the previous season’s Grand Final defeat of the same opposition. With the Bays he amassed a career tally of 460 goals and was their top goal kicker of the season three times. He represented South Australia on five occasions.

What do I remember most about Copping? He had very large hands, that made the ball really stick when he marked. It was something I recall commentators remarking on – hands that made a football appear small, in the same way Joel Garner made the cricket ball appear like a golf ball. Reports that Copping’s large hands had parallels with other parts of his anatomy remain unverified, but suffice to say I’m happy I never had to shower with him.

Well played Steve Copping, a very worthy – and historic – Retro Bomber!


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