Doug Cox only had a brief career at St Kilda, but was involved in one of the VFL’s most dramatic stories of his era.
Doug passed away in Mildura on November 30, aged 62.
He was a pacey defender who instantly settled in to a regular place in the senior side in 1981.
At 23 years of age, he already had considerable SANFL experience under his belt.
He was recruited from South Australian club West Torrens and prior to the 1981 season was involved in a conflict between his old club and the Saints.
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He was a Lance-Corporal in the army at the time and under permit rules did not need a clearance from his SA club when the army transferred him to Melbourne.
His former club contested the issue, but it was finally resolved just 19 hours before the season’s opening bounce.
It seemed that all clearance issues were settled, but in the background, Richmond had been checking Cox’s credentials.
All hell broke loose when, eight rounds into the season, the Tigers asked the VFL to revoke Cox’s permit and declare him a Richmond player, because he had lived in the country zone for three years, and not the two years he had stated on his registration form.
Richmond had sent an administrator to Mildura to find out as much as possible about Cox and he told the Tigers they had a right to claim Cox as a player.
The VFL board then handed down a sensational and unprecedented decision to strip St Kilda of the eight premiership points they had already registered with Cox playing in the side.
The Saints were to be fined $4000, but no individual action would be taken against Cox or Ian Drake, the official who had recruited him.
When he expressed no desire to play for Richmond, the Tigers told him he could play for either the Tigers, his old team South Mildura, “or rot”!
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St Kilda then released details that Richmond had privately offered to drop the case if the Saints cleared Ian Sartori and Michael Nettlefold to them.
This prompted a simple response of “get stuffed” by St Kilda vice president Bill Coady, who regarded it as an exercise in blackmail.
There was a wave of public sympathy for the Saints and emotions were heightened by the fact that the clubs were due to play each other three days later.
A fund-raising corporate breakfast contributed to St Kilda’s court case as the club obtained a Supreme Court injunction to enable Cox to play in the match.
St Kilda came back strongly in the game after looking like they would be overrun early.
For Cox, the day ended in misery as he was knocked out in the final term and taken to hospital.
The following day saw 2000 fans turn up to rally at Moorabbin and St Kilda players donated the car, which had been allocated for the best-and-fairest award, to be raffled.
The best-and-fairest was subsequently won by Trevor Barker, who had already suffered financially in this era.
Cox was cleared by Richmond to St Kilda for $75,000 in an out of court settlement, and the VFL restored St Kilda’s premiership points.
Doug Cox played 36 games across the 1981 and 1982 seasons, before a dispute over his professional running involvement led to him leaving and playing at Essendon.
His natural speed resulted in him winning the Grand Final sprit in 1984.
He then returned to West Torrens.