Only three players in VFL/AFL history have ever kicked 11 goals in a finals match. Collingwood's mercurial Ron Todd did it twice. Even more remarkably, he did it in successive preliminary finals, during the only two seasons he spent as the club's full-forward.
Ron Todd was a freakish footballer who could easily have gone down as the greatest ever full-forward in the game's history.
His first few seasons were spent sharing the forward line with the legendary Gordon Coventry. 'Nuts' was only ever built for the goalsquare, whereas the lithe, athletic Todd could roam wild and free from centre half-forward.
Todd still managed to kick plenty of goals, especially his 62 in Coventry's final season of 1937. And when Coventry hung up his boots at the end of that year, Todd was primed to take over as the team's primary forward focus.
And boy, did he take over. He kicked a staggering 120 goals in the 1938 season, and established a reputation as the most spectacular and brilliant high mark in the game. He was wild and unpredictable, and his kicking could be unreliable, but he was arguably the most exciting player in the game.
All of which meant Geelong should have been well prepared for the threat he presented when the two teams faced off in the 1938 preliminary final. But obviously not well enough.
Opposed to the 32-year-old Reg Hickey, the 21-year-old Todd marked inside the first minute but kicked wretchedly out of bounds. He then followed up with the game's first goal minutes later, and another soon after. The Pies kicked the first five goals of the game and Todd had three of them.
By half-time he had seven. He missed three sitters in the third quarter but still ended the game with 15 marks and 11.3 (with three out of bounds) out of the Magpies' total of 21.9
That total included the goal of the day, when he blind-turned on the boundary, 50m out from goal, and slotted home from the acutest of angles under great pressure. That was his last of the day, and he spent the rest of the game unsuccessfully trying to get the extra goal that would have given him sole ownership of the finals record (Carlton's Harry Vallence had kicked 11 in a semi-final earlier in the decade).
There had been much excitement before the game at the re-match of the teams which a year earlier had produced one of the great grand finals of all time. And this was another free-flowing, high-scoring game that showcased footy at its best. But with Todd kicking 11 and good friend Des Fothergill bagging five, the Pies eased home by 37 points.
"Todd was the best," said the Australasian. "His safe hands, his pace and judgment, his anticipation and leading out, and his high leaping and marking making him an outstanding figure." The Weekly Times said: "His lightning-like leads and brilliant marking left the Geelong backs completely beaten. No matter how hard they tried they could not stop him."
It was a virtuoso performance, and one that really stamped Todd's arrival as a truly great full-forward.
Ron Todd flies for a mark in a game against Geelong
Even more remarkably, one year later he showed it was no fluke. He kicked 121 goals that year, and again made the preliminary final his own.
The 1939 preliminary final was a tight affair: with four minutes of the final quarter gone, scores were tied. St Kilda then hit the post to sneak in front by the narrowest of margins. At which point, Toddy decided to take over.
He'd kicked six to that stage, a healthy if not-record breaking return. But with the game on the line he suddenly burst into life, kicking four goals in five minutes to take the game away from the Saints. He added another one late to ice the cake, giving him five for the quarter, and 11 for the day out of the Magpies' 20 goals in a 29-point win.
"St Kilda simply had no answers for Todd, who gave a wonderful display of forward work for the Magpies," wrote the Sporting Globe. "His 11.4 won the game for Collingwood. He moved to the ball like a greyhound and outmarked the defenders at will."
In both years, Todd's heroics were ultimately in vain: we lost the 1938 decider to Carlton and the 1939 version to Melbourne, where Todd was again one of our few good players.
But then came the most painful loss of all, with Todd sensationally leaving Victoria Park for a huge-dollar deal with VFA club Williamstown. It was a messy, drawn-out affair, but the end result was that Ron Todd played only one more game for Collingwood after his five-goal final quarter against St Kilda in 1939.
And when thinking about how big a loss that was, consider this: Todd still sits seventh on the all-time list of goals-per-game averages, with 4.3 per game (behind only Hudson, Coleman, Lockett, Dunstall, McKenna and Pratt). But that average includes three seasons where Todd shared the forward line with Gordon Coventry. In the only two seasons he spent purely at full-forward, Ron Todd averaged more than six goals a game – comfortably the best on record.
That hurts. But it does nothing to detract from the freakish efforts of a player who, even at 22, showed he was right at home on the biggest of stages.