John Goold: Happy 70th Birthday!

It is with great pleasure that the Spirit of Carlton Past and Present wishes John Goold a happy 70th birthday. We hope that all involved in John’s life enjoy this wonderful milestone. John is a great friend of the Spirit of Carlton and has generously given his time for many of our events over the years. Please leave your birthday wishes to John in the comments section of this article.

Career : 19631970
Debut : Round 7, 1963 vs Footscray, aged 21 years, 338 days
Carlton Player No. 754
Games : 108
Goals : 3
Last Game : Grand Final, 1970 vs Collingwood, aged 29 years, 90 days
Guernsey No. 11
Height : 184 cm (6 ft ½ in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : June 27, 1941
Premiership Player 1968, 1970
All Australian 1966

A brilliant, flamboyant, two-time Premiership player for Carlton during the Barassi years in the ‘swingin’ sixties,’ John William Crosbie Goold became almost as famous for his dapper appearance off the field, as for his exploits on it. At the height of his football career, he was also a prominent ladies fashion designer – which led to him being dubbed ‘Mr Elegance’ by leading football commentator Lou Richards. Supporters and team-mates however, called him ‘Rags’ or ‘Ragsy,’ because of his involvement in the clothing, or ‘rag’ trade.

Goold first came under notice as an outstanding junior athlete at Melbourne Grammar School. A true all-round sportsman, he shone at tennis, athletics, football and cricket. He was also a keen horseman who loved the game of polo and the rough and tumble of fox hunting. While at school he was a fervent Melbourne supporter, but strangely, never had much confidence in his football ability.

“If I thought I was good enough, I would certainly have gone to Melbourne,” he said many years later. “But I honestly didn’t think I would ever amount to anything in this game. Cricket and tennis were the games that really interested me.’ However, after graduating from MGS, Goold went home to Healesville to star in the Bloods’ 1962 Yarra Valley Football Association Premiership team – an achievement that brought tempting offers from more than one VFL club.

“Incentives were offered elsewhere,” he recalled, “but I gravitated to Carlton – partly because the deep blue of their guernsey attracted me, but mostly because of the good advice I got from people who even then were longsighted enough to predict that big things were ahead for this club.”

The Blues were confident enough in Goold’s potential to offer him the guernsey number 11 previously worn with distinction by the likes of Jack Hale, Jim Knight, Ron Hines and Laurie Kerr, and his first senior game came in round 7, 1963 against Footscray at the Western Oval. He played on a half-forward flank alongside Brownlow Medallists Gordon Collis and John James on that Saturday afternoon, and kicked his first career goal in an 8-point win. Little did he know though, that it would be another six seasons before he would again experience the thrill of sending a football spinning between the big posts, because his future lay in defence.

By his own admission, Goold struggled to find his feet in VFL football during his first two seasons, until the shock appointment of Ron Barassi as captain-coach of Carlton in 1965 began steering his career back on track. “I think you could say that 1965 was my first year of League football,” he said, “That’s the way I felt – that’s the way I reacted to Barassi.”

Under Barassi, Goold rapidly developed into a superb running half-back flanker. Tenacious, and an often freakish high mark, he was unmistakable on the field thanks to his mane of dark hair, his loping running style and somewhat awkward kicking action. Furthermore, he had boundless courage. There is no doubt that he would have played many more games had he not been regularly pole-axed under the high ball – a fact he later freely admitted. “I was always getting knocked out,” he said, “and spent half my bloody time in hospital.”

In the second half of 1965, an injury to centre half-back Gordon Collis forced Barassi to use Goold in the key defensive post. While it curtailed his rebounding instincts somewhat, ‘Ragsy’ rose to the challenge and rarely lowered his colours. Testament to his improvement, he finished third behind John Nicholls and Sergio Silvagni in Carlton’s 1965 Best and Fairest award, and followed up by being selected in the Victorian team for the 1966 Hobart Carnival. There, he had a superb series in which he was runner-up to West Australian Barry Cable in voting for the Tassie Medal, and capped it off by being named on a half-back flank in the All Australian team.

Barassi’s influence at Carlton bore fruit in his third year, when the Blues returned to finals football at last. Richmond, Carlton, Geelong and Collingwood fought out the 1967 Premiership, and Ragsy Goold won the hearts of the Carlton faithful with two lion-hearted performances. Although Carlton was knocked out of contention by successive losses to Richmond and Geelong, Goold was tireless throughout both games, and it was obvious that he thrived on the added pressure of finals football.

Precisely twelve months later, the bitter taste of those defeats was washed away when Barassi’s Blues edged out Essendon by 3 points in the 1968 Grand Final, and ended 21 years of despair at Princes Park. To win Carlton’s ninth VFL flag, the Blues had had to defeat the minor premier Bombers twice during the finals – and did so, thanks to a watertight defence led by Goold, and a dominant ruck division headed by John Nicholls.

In round 5, 1969, Carlton hosted South Melbourne at Princes Park in a match significant for a number of reasons. As he regularly did, Ron Barassi swung his team around prior to the opening bounce, and Goold found himself in the unaccustomed role of ruck-rover. While the Blues set about establishing a good break on the scoreboard, Ragsy relished the freedom to kick two first half goals – his first majors for 78 games. Just before half-time however, he was flattened in a pack, concussed again, and replaced during the long break by Barry Gill. Alex Jesaulenko was substituted at the same time – by a shy, ambitious youngster named Bruce Doull, making his senior debut for Carlton in guernsey number 4.

In September, 1969 the Navy Blues began their third straight finals campaign with an impressive 6-goal Semi Final win over Collingwood in front of more than 108,000 fans at the MCG. A fortnight later, Richmond stunned the flag favourites with a withering last quarter in the Grand Final, and knocked Carlton out of the Premiership race again at the last hurdle. Half-way through the year, Carlton’s club doctor discovered that Goold had been playing with shin splints in both of his lower legs. The pain they caused was considerable, but Ragsy soldiered on and held down centre half-back throughout the season.

John Goold’s VFL career at Carlton culminated in the fabled 1970 Grand Final triumph over Collingwood. What is not so well known is that Ragsy was only cleared to play in that game on the morning of the match. After narrowly losing to Collingwood in the second Semi Final, the Navy Blues destroyed St Kilda by 62 points in the Preliminary Final, and earned another shot at the Magpies in the decider. But one of Carlton’s problems was that Goold had been kicked on a shin against St Kilda, causing a burst blood vessel and serious swelling.

Despite the best efforts of the club medical staff, Ragsy had only a slim chance of playing in the Grand Final right up until game day, when his worried coach reluctantly allowed him to take his place in the side. Later, Barassi justified his decision by saying that in his opinion, a less than fully fit Goold was still worth his place in the team. By half time in the Grand Final however, he was probably questioning that judgement – because Carlton had been totally outplayed, and trailed an impressive, cohesive Collingwood by 44 points.

Therefore, Carlton’s magnificent comeback – orchestrated by Barassi, and sparked by the fairytale exploits of 19th man Ted Hopkins – is one of the greatest of all football stories. Against enormous odds, the Navy Blues fought their way back into the contest, and eventually, rolled over the top of the frantic Magpies to snatch victory by 10 points in the last few minutes of the match.

Hopkins ended up with four goals, Barassi was hailed a genius, and Ragsy Goold was carted off to hospital immediately after the game to have further urgent treatment. While there, he decided that there was no better time to end his VFL career – especially because his burgeoning business interests were demanding more and more of his time.

In the years after his football career ended, John Goold created a remarkably successful business empire. In 1971 he sold his fashion label and took up farming at Mortlake in western Victoria, where he coached the local football team for three seasons. Later, he formed a diversified pastoral company, and purchased a magnificent complex called Ballangeich Run at nearby Ellerslie. While his passion for farming and livestock grew, he began breeding top quality polo ponies, and represented Australia in international competition.

During the 1997 and 1998 seasons, John’s son Ed Goold played reserve grade football for Carlton.

Thanks to the Blueseum for this bio.

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