Football researchers have uncovered an error in Grand Final records that has somehow survived undetected for more than 50 years.

And its discovery has belatedly resulted in a significant change to a major Collingwood award. 

The primary beneficiary will be Magpie forward Ian Graham, who will now have a share of the club's 1964 goalkicking award, to go with the Copeland Trophy he won that same year. 

Graham previously had been credited with 41 goals for the 1964 season, having apparently gone goalless in the Grand Final against Melbourne. Terry Waters won the goalkicking that year with 43, having kicked two in the decider. 

Terry Waters during his playing days

But now it turns out that the official AFL records of that game have been wrong. Graham did kick a goal, which was wrongly credited to Waters. 

The incident came in the second quarter, when Waters kicked the ball towards goal, where Graham grabbed it and snapped truly.

As Alf Brown wrote in the Herald at the time: "Waters, marking on the boundary, landed the ball forward. Graham, flying high, marked and swung round, kicked straight and Collingwood had taken the lead."

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Ian Graham's forgotten goal in the '64 GF

See the goal that Ian Graham kicked in the 1964 Grand Final against Melbourne, which was wrongly credited to Terry Waters

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Strangely, despite such evidence in the kick-by-kick reports, and the goal even appearing in film of the game, the 'details' sections that accompanied the match reports all missed Graham's goal, crediting Waters with two for the match and erroneously omitting Graham. And nobody seems to have noticed. 

The mistake was picked up by the man behind Demonwiki, Adam Woolcock, who found the error while researching a book on Melbourne's 1964 Premiership. The change was last week officially approved by the AFL's stats department.

It means Waters now has one less goal for the year and Graham one more than previously recorded – leaving them both tied on 42 goals.

It's only the fourth tied goalkicking title in Magpie history, after George Anderson and Archie Smith in 1892, Lou Richards and Bob Galballay in 1944, and Anthony Rocca and Chris Tarrant in 2002.

Even more significantly, it makes Graham only the tenth Magpie to have won the Copeland and goalkicking in the same season. Others to have managed that feat include legendary names such as Gordon Coventry, Peter McKenna, Bob Rose, Murray Weideman, Des Fothergill and Peter Daicos.

Graham, who now lives in NSW, was stunned when told of the change this week.

"I always knew I'd kicked a goal in that game – I remember it clearly," he said. "I just didn't know everybody else had missed it.

"And to be mentioned alongside names like Coventry and McKenna – who I played with and was good mates with – well, that's an honour. It's an amazing story – you've made my day."

Even better for Graham is that he and Waters were particularly close teammates, sharing a flat in South Yarra for most of their footballing life together. They remain close friends today, and spoke as recently as last week.

"He's not going to be happy when he hears about this," Graham laughed. "I think I'll have some fun with it."