Baggy blue a classic Carlton throwback

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

With the coveted baggy green having copped an absolute battering in the international court of public opinion, it’s rather timely that the baggy blue, after almost 100 years, should make a return.

For more than half a lifetime, this coveted item of Carlton apparel – a throwback to the Depression days of the 1920s and ’30s – was the prized possession of its wearer, the long-serving club trainer Perc Gillett.

The superior quality woollen cap, manufactured by Australian firm Men’s Cricketers and sporting the football club’s famed tri-letter monogram, is now in the keep of Percy’s daughter Lorraine Gillett, who wished to share the item with historically-minded Carlton people.

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The baggy blue cap. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

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A close-up of the baggy blue cap. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

For Lorraine, the cap means the world, for as she recalled: “My father always wore the baggy blue and I’ve been a lifelong supporter of the club because of him”.

Percy Charles Robert (‘Perc’) Gillett was born in the old Victorian goldfields town of Castlemaine on January 23, 1899. Not long after his birth, Perc’s parents relocated to Melbourne and settled in a rental home, before taking occupancy of a house at No.2 Dudley Street (at the corner of Pleasance Street) in North Fitzroy, where Perc spent most of his single life.

Perc carted his books to the local Miller Street Primary School, but pursued an early interest in cycling. According to his son Rob, Perc excelled as a cyclist through his teenage years and secured trophies for the half-mile and ten-mile open road races staged by the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association.

“It was at about this time that my father gave away cycling on medical grounds,” Rob said. “I can only guess that he was advised to do so due to a heart murmur, but in the end my father died of a stroke rather than of any heart condition.”

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Percy Gillett, pictured second from the right in the front row, during the Blues’ 1947 premiership year. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

Crucially, that misdiagnosis set in train a series of events which ultimately led Perc to Princes Park, for what would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship spanning more than 30 years.

“I never asked my father when he first went to the Carlton Football Club and why,” Rob conceded. “Was it to get a kick? Was it to play footy? When you’re younger you don’t think to ask and eventually that opportunity passes,” Rob conceded.

“But he must have got involved with the club around the time he completed cycling, probably 1917 or ’18. In time he became a trainer and the club and the game were his true passions.”

Life Membership of the Carlton Football Club came Perc’s way in 1933, in a year in which fellow trainer Charlie Anderson and Carlton players Fred Gilby, Joe Kelly and Harry “Soapy” Vallence were similarly acknowledged. The Grand Final triumphs of 1938, ’45 and ’47 also eventuated as Perc proficiently plied his training craft.

At the conclusion of the 1949 season, Perc gave the training caper away. Family then became the priority for him and his wife Maude Davies, and their two children the subjects of all their attentions.

For Rob, Perc’s baggy blue cap, was but part of his father’s cherished Carlton wardrobe. Also included was a matching beret, blazer and cream pants.

“The beret was a genuine French beret, although I doubt the club would have been able to afford bankrolling a trainers and players trip to Paris,” Rob suggested.

“All I know is that the beret was around the family home for decades and I can remember running around wearing it as a kid.

“My father also kept the blazer and cream pants he wore as a trainer, which I used when I started playing cricket. Lorraine has all those items now because she was and remains such a loyal Carlton follower.”

Percy Gillett was 77 when he died in Melbourne in July 1976, predeceasing Maude by more than a quarter of a century. Though fishing and horse racing became his pursuits in later life, ol’ Perc always kept the club close.

To quote Rob: “He was Carlton to the core and Carlton to the end”.

Bill Bennett’s 70th

Happy 70th birthday to Bill Bennet.



Career : 1966 and 1968
Debut : Round 2, 1966 vs St Kilda, aged 18 years, 18 days
Carlton Player No. 781
Games : 11
Goals : 9
Last Game : Grand Final, 1968 vs Essendon, aged 20 years, 169 days
Guernsey Nos. 13 (1966) and 12 (1968)
Height : 185 cm (6 ft. 1 in.)
Weight : 79.5 kg (12 stone, 7 lbs.)
DOB : 12 April, 1948
Premiership Player: 1968

A fortunate footballer who was in the right place at the right time, David William (Bill) Bennett played at centre half-forward in Carlton’s 1968 Premiership team in just his 11th VFL game. Although he was still not yet 21, he left Princes Park shortly afterward, and never pulled on the Navy Blue guernsey again.

Originally from Maffra, Bennett caught the attention of former Carlton captain Graham Donaldson who played a big role in recruiting for the Blues in the Gippsland region during the early 1960s. Donaldson liked the look of the agile teenager with real football smarts, but getting him to Carlton proved no easy task. Bill was a country boy, apparently bereft of any burning ambition to be a League star, and it took a lot of talking by Donaldson before Bennett eventually agreed to come to Princes Park in 1966 and use up the four match permits that had been negotiated with his club. At Carlton he was greeted by the Blues’ controversial new coach Ron Barassi, and issued with the number 13 guernsey as worn by Donaldson throughout his 106-game career.

Less than three weeks after his 18th birthday, Bennett played his first senior match as 19th man against St Kilda at Moorabbin in round 2, 1966, and was on the end of a 53-point hiding. Moved to full-forward the following week against Fitzroy, he kicked his first career goal in a 32-point comeback win, and followed up with another four goals when the Blues smashed Essendon by 61 points in round 4. His hard leading and quick thinking in that game impressed Barassi , who pencilled Bennett in as the team’s future spearhead – if the club could convince him to stay.

Bennett’s fourth and last match for the year was another effortless victory over Melbourne on the next Saturday afternoon. Then, having used up all his permits, he was back in Maffra by mid-year. After that, it took more than twelve months for Barassi and Donaldson to cajole Bill into having another crack with a Carlton side that was looking a definite contender for the ’68 flag. By then, the dynamics within the team had changed, and the emergence of Brian Kekovich at full-forward had straightened up Carlton’s game plan. So when Bennett returned to the senior side against St Kilda in round 10, 1968 he was wearing guernsey number 12 and playing on a half-forward flank. But he was obviously underdone, so he was sent back to the Reserves to find form before being recalled for round 16 against Footscray at the Western Oval. Although Carlton lost by five goals in a shock result, Bennett showed flashes of his best and kicked two clever majors.

By round 19 – the second-last of the home and away matches – Carlton was clinging to fourth spot on the ladder behind Essendon, Geelong and St Kilda when they hosted Fitzroy at Princes Park. Barassi sent Bennett to centre half-forward, and the Blues attack found real cohesion to pummel the visitors by 52 points. Another win over North Melbourne in round 20 lifted the resurgent Blues to second, and set up a much-anticipated Semi Final clash against minor premiers Essendon.

Playing just his tenth senior match in front of more than 100,000 fans at the MCG on the following Saturday afternoon, Bennett started at centre half-forward, but went down with a serious ankle injury in the second term and was replaced at half-time by Neil Chandler. In a pivotal move, Barassi shifted Robert Walls into attack after the long break, and the resolute Blues drew away to win by six goals.

Bennett was cleared of structural damage to his ankle in the days following, although he was still in doubt for the Grand Final right up until selection night. Meanwhile, Essendon vanquished Geelong in the Preliminary Final and qualified to meet the heavily-favoured Blues in the flag decider. Another enormous, record-breaking crowd of almost 117,000 packed into the MCG to see a tense, dour struggle ruined as a spectacle by a strong cross-wind, but the closeness of the scores kept fans on the edges of their seats throughout.

Carlton clung to an 11-point lead at three-quarter time, and withstood a spirited surge by the Bombers to win the club’s first flag for 21 years – with Bennett watching on from the boundary. Bill’s suspect ankle collapsed on him during the hectic last term, and Neil Chandler came on again to take three timely marks that helped get the Blues home in a hectic finish.

For various reasons, three members of the ’68 Premiership side retired in the days and weeks after the prolonged celebrations; Peter McLean, Brian Kekovich and Bill Bennett. In Bill’s case, he headed home to Maffra, from where he continued to play and coach in various country leagues for more than a decade.

In 1977 he was in Darwin, playing for St Mary’s in the NTFL when he was voted the joint winner of the competition’s Best and Fairest award; the Nicholls Medal, in a tie with Mark Motlop (Nightcliff) and Ian Wallace (North Darwin). He later crossed to Nightcliff, and coached them from 1981 to ’83.

Bill Bennett coaches West FC
As has earlier been indicated, the present site of the Gillen Club became Wests in the mid- 1970’s. In 1978, with Rod Rose as President, the committee decided that, to be truly successful, a top playing coach, who could attract other good players, was required. As this was going to need considerable money, Rod commenced a very successful bingo night at Wests club, with all players rostered to assist. “Bustling” Bill Bennett, a member of Carlton’s victorious 1970 grand final, then a champion for South Adelaide and a Darwin player, was duly appointed. He is remembered most for his ferocious training for fitness, and his demand for skills. All people associated with Wests at that time recall such as his first night’s training ending with 10 laps of the oval, and then later training nights requiring 5 repeats of runs up and down Tank Hill; the training camp out at Glen Helen when players had to carry sizeable rocks above their heads for 2km; another run from the Westies Club to Heavitree Gap, followed by sprints in the sand, a run up the Todd to Anzac Hill, 3 runs up and down the hill, and a long run through the railway yards back to the Nadich home; and as a final illustration at the start of the 1980 season, a series of exercises at Westies oval followed by a run out through Heavitree Gap, along the dump road, then up the hill to the towers. After a recovery of about 5 minutes, the exercises commenced again, we had to run down the hill and then, at Heavitree Gap, commenced sprinting to the front of the line of players, back to the Westies oval. Wests burst out of the blocks that year, and with Bill rucking non- stop, and no one taking a backward step, won their first game against a shell-shocked Federals by 13 goals, their first-ever game after 8 seasons against a very good Rovers team, and all games until the grand final. Players like Leo “Choco” Nadich and Rob Floreani flourished; Adam and Giana Nadich (Choco’s parents) became life-long Wests supporters; and Adam’s brother-in-law Enzo Floreani went on to coach Wests B grade to their first-ever premiership. Unfortunately two key players were reported in the preliminary A grade final so that Rovers, under astute coach Phil O’Brien, a former Hawthorn player, were successful in a very close grand final. It was a big disappointment, but the next year Bill took Wests to their first ever A Grade Premiership over Pioneers. This was an absolute thriller of a game, with both sides no more than a goal or two in front at any stage, John Green (a decathlete and former S.A. F.L. player) at centre half-forward best-on-ground, and Robbie Goodwin (a former South Adelaide player) dominating his wing. With about one minute to go, Robbie kicked to Bill, who marked on the siren then kicked truly for the victory. The celebrations continued until Tuesday night of the next week!

Luke O’Sullivan’s 50th

 Happy 50th birthday to Luke O’Sullivan.


 


Career: 1988-1997
Debut: Round 20, 1988 vs North Melbourne, aged 20 years, 138 days
953rd Carlton Player
Games: 62
Goals: 58
Last game: Round 18, 1997 vs Adelaide, aged 29 years, 128 days
Height: 182cm
Weight: 94kg
Guernsey No. 41 (1988-9), 27 (1990-97) & 60 (1993 night game)
DOB: 28 March, 1968The story of Luke “Rhino” O’Sullivan is a pearler – was on the list for almost a decade, and only managed to reach his 50th game in his last year. A unique player, O’Sullivan was a 182cm barrel-chested, feet-pumping forward pocket / flanker who loved a goal. He was recruited from the Blues U/19’s, after originally playing for Xavier College (Kew) despite signing on for Footscray where his cousin Shane O’Sullivan had moved to a few years earlier.

Luke also had another brother affiliated with the Blues, older brother Brendan O’Sullivan played Reserve Grade footy with the Blues from 1978 to 1980, he was also later to be the Runner for the Senior team.

Wearing the #27, Rhino had these fantastic side-burns that he wore with pride. His signature move was to take a bounce, rock on to his left foot (preferred) and try to run through tackles. He gave away his fair share of holding the ball free kicks, but also ran over a few opponents. He was a unique player, a player with flair, and clearly a player the Blues loved to keep around despite injury.

First playing in 1988, and perhaps most memorable for a 4 goal burst in Round 6, 1992, O’Sullivan would ironically be delisted after his best year of football, 1997. In the 4 years up to 1997, Rhino would manage 0, 2, 6 and 1 game respectively, due to injury and our strong team a the time. Doing his knee at Waverley didn’t help – remember the surface giving way when he was wearing number 60 in the 1993 ‘Night’ game against Footscray when the Club left his jumper back at Carlton?

1997 was Rhino’s year. 15 games, kicking 12 goals 7 from the flank and occasional midfield role, provided a lot of enjoyment to the fans as Carlton slid out of the finals. Two cracking games – Round 9 versus Freo (26 stats, 2 goals) and Round 11 versus Brisbane are appropriate highlight packages for the man we all loved, the man we all wanted to succeed, the man with the sidies – “Rhino”.

O’Sullivan wore No.54 in 1987 & 1988 whilst playing with the Blues reserves.

Luke O’Sullivan is the uncle of Sydney Swans youngster Daniel Hannebery.

The Rhino’s career acts as a time capsule for a generation of AFL football which will never be seen again. Only Essendon’s Dean Wallis may have taken longer to reach 100 AFL games. The modern player would never be afforded such time to develop/recover. Dogged by injuries and the fact that his natural playing positions were filled by some of Carlton’s most proven players it is a sign of the respect held for ‘The Uncle’ that his presence was sought by the Carlton Football Club for ten years plus.

Milestones

50 Games: Round 3, 1997 Vs Adelaide Crows

Career Highlights

1987 – Reserves Premiership

Dean Rice’s 50th

Happy 50th birthday to Dean Rice.



Career : 19942001
Debut : Round 8, 1994 vs Richmond, aged 26 years, 57 days
Carlton Player No. 997
Games : 234 (118 at Carlton)
Goals : 85 (42 at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 20, 2001 vs St Kilda, aged 33 years, 155 days
Guernsey No. 23
Height : 180 cm
Weight : 92 kg
DOB : 17 March, 1968
Premiership Player 1995

A courageous, versatile, blonde-haired right footer who was given a second chance by Carlton when his career at St Kilda prematurely ended, Dean Rice was a mainstay of the Blues’ 1995 Premiership team and a real asset to the club throughout his 118 games between 1994 and 2001.

Famously nick-named “Special Fried” by Rex Hunt, the 3AW radio caller, Rice was the nephew of former Geelong captain and 1963 Premiership player Colin Rice. After starting his junior football at Essex Heights, which at the time was aligned with Richmond, Dean joined Longwood in the Benalla District League to play alongside his two older brothers. The family connection with Geelong came into play when the Cats recruited him for their Under-19 squad, but he failed to progress further than Reserves level at Kardinia Park before he was discarded.

In 1986 – still just 19, Rice was given a trial by St Kilda and won a place on their senior list. He made his debut for the Saints early the following season and was soon a regular member of their team. Powerfully built, a clever mark and surprisingly quick, he found his niche on the wing at Moorabbin and represented Victoria in an interstate match against South Australia in 1989. By 1991 Dean had played more than 100 games for St Kilda, and had experienced finals football for the first time when the Saints fell to Geelong in that years’ Elimination Final.

However, that charmed run came to an abrupt halt during the 1992 pre-season, when Rice suffered a ruptured ACL ligament in his left knee. A full reconstruction was required, and he was off the field for the entire season. He came back to play 11 games in 1993, only to damage his other knee (thankfully, nowhere near as badly) against Adelaide in round 15. That turned out to be his last game for St Kilda, because the Saints decided not to gamble on his future and delisted him at season’s end.

Meanwhile, Carlton was smarting from a humiliating defeat by Essendon in the 1993 Grand Final, where the Blues’ lack of pace and desperation had been brutally exposed. Rice had his admirers at Carlton – including coach David Parkin, who was very happy when the 25 year-old was picked up by the Blues at pick 19 in the 1994 Pre-Season Draft, and given the number 23 guernsey previously worn by 1987 Premiership player Paul Meldrum.

Rice ran out for his first game in navy blue against Richmond on a Friday night in round 8, 1994, and was immediately under notice. Playing out of a forward pocket, he had taken two excellent marks on the lead and kicked his first goal for the Blues right on quarter-time, before disaster struck. In the first minutes of the second term, Richmond’s Tony Free fell across Rice’s rebuilt knee while both were scrambling for the football, and the pain told Dean immediately that another season was over. Still, Carlton retained their faith in him, and constant reassurance helped him through another reconstruction and the gruelling months of rehabilitation for a second time.

Almost precisely one year later, Rice returned to Carlton’s senior team in time for the Blues’ only two losses in 1995 – against Sydney in round 8, and St Kilda in round 9. From then on, the rampaging Blues swept all before them, and stormed to another flag by demolishing Geelong in a one-sided Grand Final. Rice was more than handy in that triumph – especially during the second quarter, when he kicked the goal that swiftly put down Geelong’s attempted resurgence.

Despite occasional pain in his rebuilt knee, Dean became a true utility as his career progressed – a reliable running half-back or winger, and a crafty defensive forward when required. In 1999 he had perhaps his most consistent season, playing 22 regular season games and four finals – including Carlton’s astounding Preliminary Final victory over Essendon, and the somewhat anti-climactic Grand Final loss to North Melbourne that followed a week later.

Another good season in 2000 produced 24 games (including two more finals) before Rice decided that the next season would be his last. Although a serious ankle strain in round 6, 2001 cost him 10 weeks on the sidelines, he returned to play another five games late in the year. By coincidence, his last match saw Carlton account for St Kilda at Docklands in round 20, with Anthony Koutoufides the star.

His AFL career may have ended that afternoon, but Dean wasn’t quite ready to hang up his boots for good. In 2002 he spent one last season with Scoresby in the Eastern Football League, then took over the reins as coach of country club Wonthaggi for another two seasons (2003 – 04), Rice also coached Berwick for two seasons (2011 – 12), Longwarry for two seasons (2013-14). Since 2006, he has held a number of senior positions with AFL Victoria in junior development, training and education.

Dean Rice continued in his football development role, he was the football development manager in the AFL Yarra Ranges from 2013 to 2017. Rice was appointed the AFL South East football development manager for the 2018 season.

More recently, Dean’s very promising son Bailey Rice was eligible to join either Carlton or St Kilda as a father-son selection in the 2015 National Draft. He trained at both clubs, but eventually chose St Kilda and was taken as a third round pick by the Saints at number 49.

The epitome of sacrifice whose true work on the football field was never reflected in the over-indulged statistic sheets. He forged a brilliant career despite significant injuries that may have compromised someone with lesser ambition and drive. Struggled however to understand the concept of international travel and passports.

Milestones

150 Games (AFL) – Round 19, 1997 vs Collingwood
50 Games (Carlton) – Round 13, 1998 vs Fremantle
200 Games (AFL) – Round 1, 2000 vs Brisbane Lions
100 Games (Carlton) – Round 17, 2000 vs Hawthorn

Career Highlights

1995 – Premiership Player
1997 – Pre-Season Premiership Player
1998 – Equal 9th Best & Fairest

BBQ Postponed: Old Blues to be welcomed back to Princes Park

PLEASE NOTE: The BBQ scheduled for the 24th February has been postponed until later in the season.

Any enquiries should be directed to Lou Katsamas via either Email: lou.katsamas@carltonfc.com.au, Phone: 03 9389 6231 or Mail:  Lou Katsamas c/o Spirit of Carlton PO Box 83, North Carlton, VIC, 3054.

 

 

 

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

The Carlton Football Club is again opening its doors to all senior footballers who ever wore the dark Navy Blue guernsey – together with former officials and staff members – to a free barbecue breakfast at the old ground.

In conjunction with the Spirit of Carlton, the club is extending the invitation to the aforementioned – together with their wives and/or partners, children and/or grandchildren – to also view a training session involving the current-listed footballers under Brendon Bolton’s watch on the morning of Saturday, February 24, commencing 10am.

Carlton is also opening up the inner sanctum – the locker room – to enable former players to be photographed with their loved ones by the lockers carrying their old guernsey numbers.

Robertson Webster Image
Former players Ron Robertson (left) and Peter Webster, pictured at the 2016 event. (Photo: Carlton Media)

The breakfast will be held on the landing by the George Harris Room at which those players and officials who so ably served Carlton can renew their old friendships.

The opportunity to reconnect has been relished by former players and their descendants – a case in point, the kinfolk of dual Carlton Premiership player the late Charlie McInnes – his daughter Laurie Morgan, grandson Luke and great granddaughters Ava and Alexa – who two years ago paid the old ground a welcome visit to be photographed in front of ol’ Charlie’s No.31 locker.

For the McInnes clan, it was as if the club had given Charlie back.

“It was absolutely sensational to see Dad’s locker, but to have Luke there and my two granddaughters to share the moment made it really lovely,” Laurie said at the time.

“It means a lot to go back. I’d only ever been in the old rooms a couple of times and they weren’t done up like they are now.”  

Ron O’Dwyer’s 80th

Happy 80th birthday to Ron O’Dwyer.



Career: 19561958
Debut: Round 2, 1956 vs Melbourne, aged 18 years, 76 days
702nd Carlton Player
Games: 13
Goals: 11
Last Game: Round 2, 1958 vs North Melbourne, aged 20 years, 73 days
Guernsey No. 7
Height: 170cm
Weight: 70kg
DOB: 5 February, 1938

Originally from Broken Hill North, and known as ‘Cookie’ around the club, Ron O’Dwyer wore guernsey #7 in 13 games for Carlton starting in 1956. He kicked 11 goals for the Blues.

O’Dwyer transferred to Collingwood, he played with the Magpies from 1959 to 1961. In his time at Magpies he played a further 27 games and booted 15 goals. He also played in the losing 1960 Grand Final with the Magpies.

Ron O’Dwyer is currently the President of the AFL X-Men organisation.

Picture:
Ron O’Dwyer in the 1956 Reserves.