Happy 60th birthday to Graeme Whitnall today!
From the Blueseum:
Career : 1974 – 1981
Debut : Round 1, 1974 vs Melbourne, aged 21 years, 345 days
Carlton Player No. 842
Games : 66
Goals : 20
Last Game : Round 21, 1981 vs North Melbourne, aged 29 years, 118 days
Guernsey Nos. 7 (1974 - '79) and 30 (1980- ’81)
Height : 180 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 79.5 kg (12 stone, 7 lbs)
DOB : April 5, 1952
The son of champion country footballer Noel Whitnall, and the father of 2006 Carlton Best & Fairest Lance Whitnall, Graeme Whitnall seemed set for a long and productive career when he won Carlton’s Best First Year Player award in 1974. Graeme hailed from Talbot, near Maryborough in central Victoria – a small town with a proud football history. His father Noel played 205 games for the Talbot Hawks, the club that also produced Carlton Premiership player Paul Meldrum.
While attending Maryborough Technical school, 17 year-old Whitnall was invited to train with Maryborough in the Ballarat Football League. He won a place in their senior side - without playing with their reserves - and by the age of 19, won their 1971 senior Best and Fairest Award. In 1972 he was a member of Maryborough's senior Premiership team. He came to Carlton in 1973 and, wearing guernsey number 47, won Carlton's Reserves' Most Improved Player Award. In 1974 Graeme moved to number 7 and played seven senior games to win Carlton's Senior Best First Year Player Award. His son Lance picked up the same award in 1997. Another son Shane Whitnall played a season of Reserves Grade football with the Blues in 1996.
Graeme was a handy pickup for the Blues; a true utility who could play anywhere, but was most useful as a hard-running ruck-rover. Unfortunately for Graeme, he came to Princes Park at a time when Carlton was assembling a player list rich in similar types, including established stars like Barry Armstrong and Neil Chandler. Whitnall proved a handy addition, but couldn’t command a regular place in the senior team for an extended period. In his seven years at Princes Park, he averaged nine senior games per season.
"Poppy" (so called because of his red hair) had his best season in 1977, when he was one of two Carlton players to play all games during this season (the other was Ray Byrne). In 1978 the fiery "Poppy" and Carlton's newly-appointed captain-coach Alex Jesaulenko clashed, with the result that Graeme only played four senior games for the year. He applied for an open clearance, but that was refused, so he returned to play at Maryborough during 1979. After winning Maryborough's Best and Fairest for a second time (from just 14 games) and after the off-field upheaval at Carlton over the 1979 / 80 summer, Graeme was invited to return to Princes Park. He played a further 11 senior games during 1980 and 1981, in guernsey number 30.
In 1980, Graeme picked up the Carlton Reserves’ Best & Fairest award, but at the end of the following year, he retired from VFL football after being overlooked again during the final series. Sixteen years later, Graeme’s strapping son Lance pulled on the Famous Old Dark Navy Blue for the first time, at the dawn of a career that would bring him a Grand Final appearance, All Australian selection, the 2006 John Nicholls Medal and over 200 games of fine service to the Blues. Graeme's oldest son Shane also played 40 Reserve games for Carlton during 1996 and 1997.