Official Website of the Spirit of Carlton Past and Present

Tributes paid to the life of Brian

John Nicholls leads the victory lap for the 1970 Grand Final. Brian Bearman is pictured on the far left wearing the tie. (Photo: C & J Stuckey Pty Ltd Photographics)

John Nicholls leads the victory lap for the 1970 Grand Final. Brian Bearman is pictured on the far left wearing the tie. (Photo: C & J Stuckey Pty Ltd Photographics)

Tributes are being paid to the long-serving Carlton statistician Brian Bearman, who died recently at the age of 82.

Brian’s working relationship with Carlton took in the Barassi era and beyond, and spanned almost 40 years. His loyalty to the club was rewarded with Life Membership in the club’s Premiership year of 1987.

Five years previous, Brian’s brother Ken was awarded Life Membership for services as timekeeper. In 2000, Brian’s son Lewis was similar recognised for his contributions as a statistician – “three Life Members of the Carlton Football Club none of whom ever played a game,” as Lewis observed.

Born on November 12, 1933 in Manchester, Brian Bearman, together with his brothers and parents, boarded the first Australian-bound passenger ship from the UK after the Second World War. The Bearmans made the move as Brian’s grandmother was advised that a warmer climate was in the best interests of her health – and she pitched for Australia because she heard you couldn’t get a decent cup of tea in South Africa.

On disembarking the vessel in Brisbane in 1947, the Bearmans settled in the city, only to relocate to Melbourne five years later.

When Barassi accepted the role of Carlton Captain-coach on the cusp of the 1965 season, Ken Bearman was already keeping time for the club. According to Lewis: “Barassi wanted a statistician and Ken said to his brother ‘you love the club – you can do that’.

“And that’s exactly what happened. From ’65, Brian started keeping stats with people like Margaret and Grant Salomon and his good mate the late Ron Bromley. Then in 2000 when Wayne Brittain took over and replaced a lot of statisticians with a lot of computers, Brian stayed on for a couple of years with the Carlton Heritage Committee.”

James Koochew, Brian’s successor as Carlton’s head statistician in 1994, said that he was but a young man of 26 at the time “and Brian had been doing the job for longer than I’d been alive”.

“I remember that Geoff Walsh made the announcement that I was taking over and Brian was the first bloke to stand up to offer his congratulations,” James said.

“That was a measure of the man. He was a true gentleman.”

In more recent years, and though his friendship with Stephen Gough, Brian fulfilled duties as a guide at the National Sports Museum. But he remained an active Carlton supporter to the end.

“There’s a photograph of Dad running a victory lap with ‘Big Nick’ and the Carlton players after taking stats in the 1970 Grand Final,” Lewis said. “That moment was one of the joys of his life – to run the victory lap with them.”

Brian Bearman died peacefully in Cabrini Palliative Care. He is survived by his beloved wife of 54 years Ruth, son Lewis, daughter Tanya now living in the United Kingdom, and four grandchildren.


Vale Allan Greenshields

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

The late Allan Greenshields (left) with Ken Hands, the only surviving member of Carlton's 1947 premiership team. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)
The late Allan Greenshields (left) with Ken Hands, the only surviving member of Carlton's 1947 premiership team. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

Former Carlton footballer Allan Greenshields, the 20th man who never got a run in the 1947 grand final, has died at the age of 90.

With Greenshields’ passing, Ken Hands becomes this club’s only surviving member of the ’47 premiership team – and Hands is also the last man standing from the ’45 “Bloodbath”.

Though Greenshields managed just 16 senior appearances for the Old Dark Navy Blues, not a day went past that he didn’t think about what might have been on that last Saturday in September ’47.

As 20th man on that fateful afternoon against Essendon, he took his place on the timber alongside Ken Baxter, the only player of that era to represent Carlton in the two premierships that bookended the Second World War - 1938 and ’45 - as well as ’47.

These of course were the days prior to interchange and, as fate would have it, Greenshields never got the call-up. When Freddy Stafford sunk Essendon with that match-winning snap in the dying moments of the ’47 Grand Final, Greenshields was still watching on in his dressing gown.

“Have I thought that it might have been me in that position?,” said Greenshields in a recent interview? “Oh absolutely . . . absolutely . . . it would have been nice”.

“I didn’t get a run and that was tough because we were struggling all day long. We were behind Essendon all day and Essendon should have won it because of all those behinds. We’d kicked something like eight straight to half-time and they’d kicked 8.11.

“We finished up winning it by one point (13.8 (86) -11.19 (85)) as you know . . . and on the fence, where the coach (Percy Bentley) sat with the selection committee, they were imploring Perc to put me on because we weren’t getting the result we were looking for - and Freddy Stafford hadn’t had a touch for the whole game.”

Carlton's 1947 premiership team on grand final day. Allan Greenshields is pictured on the far right.

Greenshields remembered that as the match wore on, members of the Carlton’s brains trust gained voice as they called on Bentley to make a change.

“They (the selectors’) were saying ‘Put Allan up for Fred, but he (Bentley) wouldn’t do it. He said, ‘No, we’ll just wait a bit longer’,” Greenshields said.

“Well as it happened, the ball came out from a throw-in by the boundary, landed in Fred’s arms and being a right footer he turned around and goaled with a left foot snap of all things . . . 25 yards out from goal, right through the centre.

“So he (Bentley) was vindicated and I was left lamenting,” (laughs).

Born in the southern Mallee town of Rainbow in 1926, Greenshields relocated to Melbourne through his employment with the bank in 1942 and turned out in games for Pascoe Vale the following year - losing out to the competition’s best and fairest Des Rowe by a single vote.

On the recommendation of the renowned Carlton recruiter Newton Chandler, Greenshields put pen to paper to play for the club - and the rest, as they say, is football history.

Greenshields’ last hurrah in Dark Navy came against Melbourne at Princes Park in the sixth round of 1949, and he went out on a high when he slotted both of his Carlton career goals in a 39-point victory over the Redlegs.

Later that same year, he turned out for St Kilda, for the first of 57 appearances over six seasons at the Junction Oval.

But Greenshields heart forever beat Blue, and he supported Carlton until the end.

Allan Greenshields' wife of 22 years Millicent died in 1977. He is survived by his sons Mark and John, daughters Sue and Jackie, and grandchildren Tom, Kate and Jack.

The Carlton footballers will wear black armbands as a mark of respect to the late Allan Greenshields in Saturday night’s match with Collingwood at the MCG.


Carlton’s reluctant recruit passes away

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

The late George Ilsley.
The late George Ilsley.

George Ilsley, Carlton’s homesick rural recruit who earned legendary status in the Bendigo Football League, has died at the age of 84.

Born in the Murray River town of Koondrook in 1932, George Ilsley’s prodigious football talents were such that by 14 he was representing the neighboring Kerang club at senior level.

In 1949 Ilsley joined Eaglehawk for what would become a lifelong association both on and off the field with the Bendigo League’s Two Blues. There in ’53, Ilsley finished runner up in the League’s Best and Fairest to Sandhurst’s Noel Evans – the same year Eaglehawk took the pennant under the watch of its captain-coach, the Carlton Premiership player Ollie Grieve.

By then, Ilsley had made his mark as a big occasion player and matchwinner of renown. Though he stood just 174cm in his long stops (and specially heeled boots) he tipped the scales at 80kg. Ilsley was regarded as the Bendigo Football League’s most accomplished centre half-forward, and performed just as capably in the back half.

During the ’53 season, and almost certainly at Grieve’s urging, Ilsley trialed briefly in five Carlton reserve grade matches. The following year, match permits were arranged and Ilsley turned out at senior level, albeit briefly.

Wearing the No.27 (co-incidentally worn by Grieve who remains Carlton’s games record holder in the guernsey), Ilsley, then 22 years old, lined up on a half-forward flank against South Melbourne, in what was the opening round of the ’54 season.

George Isley, in the lead-up to his first senior game for Carlton, together with Denis Zeunert, Princes Park, 1954.

That Saturday afternoon at the Lake Oval, Graham Kerr, Noel “Nobby” O’Brien and Denis Zeunert also turned out for the visitors for the first time.

Ilsley booted a goal in that game, which went South’s way by five points in a nail biter. The following week he turned out in an injury-depleted outfit which fell 29 points adrift of Melbourne at Princes Park.

Not long after, Ilsley advised coach Percy Bentley that he was going home.

Back at Eaglehawk, Ilsley took over from where he left off, earning Best on Ground status when the Two Blues beat Kyneton to claim the 1957 BFL flag. Between 1958 and ’60 he captained and coached Eaglehawk, before briefly defecting to Northern United in the Golden City Football League.

Flying Ilsley! One of many high-flying marks taken by George Isley for Bendigo against Ballarat, in a best-on-ground performance at Queen Elizabeth Oval in a representative match, 1956.

In 1962, Ilsley was adjudged Best and Fairest in the GCFL, then returned to Eaglehawk to eventually rack up more than 350 senior games. During that time, he also represented the BFL in more than a dozen inter-league matches.

In 1965, Ilsley was appointed Ground Manager for the Eaglehawk Football & Netball Club at Canterbury Park – a position he held until he passed.

Throughout it all, Ilsley was constantly acknowledged for his lofty on-field achievements, as Life Member and Hall of Fame member of both Eaglehawk and the Bendigo Football League; and centre half-forward in the Two Blues’ Team of the Century – a team which included fellow former Carlton players Grieve, Rod Ashman, Alf Baud, Des English, Fred Jinks and Greg Kennedy.

Ten years ago, Ilsley was further acknowledged when Eaglehawk’s Best and Fairest trophy was renamed the George Ilsley Medal.

Ilsley’s eldest grandson, Mick Ilsley, said his grandfather never harboured any regrets about what might have been with his VFL career.

“My grandfather was very content with his life and how it all panned out. He was later asked to try out at Geelong and numerous other League clubs but he just couldn’t be lured down,” Ilsley said.

“He always said football in the big smoke wasn’t for him. He didn’t like the hustle and bustle of city life and he loved the country.

“He was a very quietly spoken man. He didn’t like to talk about himself or his football exploits, and we actually had to talk him into attending the Bendigo Football League Hall of Fame to be inducted because he didn’t want to go.

“This was because he was never one to dwell on the past. It was more about the future and his family.”

Ilsley died suddenly at his home on April 8. He is survived by his beloved wife Mollie, sons Terry, Chris, Mick and Gerard, and their extended families.

A service of thanksgiving for the life of the late George Ilsley will be held in the Mulqueen Family Chapel, 15-25 Bridge Street, Bendigo on Thursday, April 14, at 11.00am. The funeral cortege will leave at the conclusion of the service for the Eaglehawk Lawn Cemetery, by way of Canterbury Park, the home of the Eaglehawk Football Club.

More By Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media


There is also a fitting memorial piece written Richard Jones on George's impact on the Eaglehawk Football Club.


Vale Ivan Rohrt, 1920-2016

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

Former Carlton President Ivan Rohrt has passed away.
Former Carlton President Ivan Rohrt has passed away.

Former Carlton President Ivan Rohrt, a member of George Harris’ famed Progress Party and a key figure in the establishment of the old Social Club, has died.

Rohrt, whose role as Melbourne City Councillor proved vital to the club’s interests through a golden era both on and off the field, passed away on Wednesday afternoon in a Camberwell nursing home just a fortnight shy of his 96th birthday.

Rohrt’s son Richard said his father simply died of old age – “and he’d always joked that he’d already seen his epitaph at the club”.

“Dad’s surname was often confused with Jack Wrout’s and he remembered that after Jack died he was sitting in the stands when the cheersquad raised the banner upon which were the words ‘RIP JACK ROHRT’.

“Dad felt terrible for Jack’s family and came home saying ‘I’m really spooked – I’ve just seen my name on an RIP’.”

Ivanhoe Borch Rohrt, the son of a Norwegian-born father and English-born mother, was born in the South Gippsland town of Yarram on March 23, 1920.

In an interview with this reporter for the club’s publication “Out Of The Blue” some years ago, Rohrt talked of how he “always had a soft spot for Carlton”, particularly after fate dealt its hand.

That happened when Rohrt’s father, a local cream carter, was advised by a GP that it was in the best interests of his health to ditch the heavy labor and find employment elsewhere.

In 1940, the Rohrts took over the running of North Carlton’s famous watering hole The Rising Sun Hotel (now the chic Italian food and wine providore Enoteca Sileno) at 920 Lygon Street.

“There were 32 pubs in Carlton and we always reckoned we had the best beer,” Rohrt said of The Rising Sun. “If you didn’t support Carlton then your pub was no good, and that was why I was a Carlton supporter.”

In those carefree days, cars were scarce and supporters would tram it to the pub, down a couple of thirst-quenching ales, then hotfoot it up Richardson Street and through the turnstiles into the old ground. Rohrt, who later combined civic duties with those of his family’s hotel business, unhesitatingly declared Saturday “the busiest day of our week”, and such was the frenetic nature of matchday pub life that he was rarely able to get to Princes Park.

Until one day when Carlton got him.

“It was Melbourne Cup morning 1964 and two fellows came in off the Lygon street entrance. One of them said to me ‘Are you Councillor Rohrt?’, and I said yes that I was a Melbourne City Councillor for 15 years (and a member of three major committees, including the finance and public works committees),” Rohrt said.

L to R, Russell Ohlsen, Ivan Rohrt, Mark Maclure, syd Jackson, Alex Jesaulenko and Ian Thorogood, circa 1976. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

“Initially I thought they were ratepayers coming to talk to me about a hole in the footpath or something. Anyway I said to them ‘I’ll get back to you when I settle down here’.

“It got a bit quieter in the next half an hour and I said ‘What can I do for you two?’ and the taller man said ‘My name is George Harris and this is Eddie Fakhry. You’re a city councillor – would you be interested in joining the (Carlton Football Club) reform group?’. Naturally I said ‘Well, I’ll have to ask the missus’ and my wife Joan was not fussed. After a couple of days of giving it some thought I rang George Harris and said ‘Yes, I’m prepared’.”

Rohrt believed that he was approached to join the Harris ticket in late 1964 after the late Don Chipp rejected an initial approach. Incredibly, he had never previously met any of Harris’ running mates, but was unfazed nonetheless.

As he said: “It was a very exciting time because it opened up a new era for me, and a hotel keeper being involved in the main sport in the area was a good business move too”.

Not withstanding his role in the Barassi putsch, Rohrt’s impeccable connections with the City of Melbourne ensured that he would be a key player in future negotiations to secure funding for just such an entity – and yet the process took a substantial personal toll.

“It was one of the most stressful times I had in public life. My hotel licence was hanging on it and it was a very worrying time for me. I’d put a lot of time into getting the money for Carlton,” Rohrt said.

“It’s been on my mind now and again for many, many years. After the council meeting  was over and we got this money to build the social club, one of the councillors said to me ‘You’re in a bit of trouble, Rohrt’. I said ‘What trouble?’ and he said ‘you’ve got a pecuniary interest. I said ‘pecuniary interest?’. I thought that was putting a quid in your pocket.

Regardless, Rohrt resolved that it would be in his best interests to step aside, albeit temporarily.

“I rang George (Harris) and told him that because I was a hotel keeper I’d run the risk of losing my licence if I was challenged and there’d be a gaol term associated with this,” Rohrt said.

“I said ‘George, I think I better resign’ and George understood.”

At a subsequent meeting, influential Carlton powerbroker Sir Leo Curtis addressed the faithful and strongly urged Harris to reinstate Rohrt if ever a vacancy became available.

“That (a vacancy) happened a few months after that speech and I was grateful to get back onto the board because I loved the club and helped them so much,” Rohrt said.

The Carlton Social Club was officially opened by the former Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies prior to the first round match with Geelong at Princes Park on April 15, 1968 – the same day the precious talent who was Brent Crosswell made his senior debut in Dark Navy.

By the end of ’69, the social club had generated profits of more than $150,000, vindicating the extraordinary lengths to which men like Rohrt had gone.

A Vice-President at Carlton, Rohrt was later elevated to the Presidency with Harris’ departure. His reign as President was somewhat rocky. On March 31, on the eve of the 1976 season, John Nicholls resigned as Captain-Coach and five days later Secretary Allen Cowie suddenly died.

And yet it was under Rohrt’s watch in that same year that Carlton secured the American-based company Avco for what was then the largest sum ever pledged to a VFL club - $135,000 over three years.

Richard Rohrt said his father was of a time “when Carlton was a family . . . and he loved every minute of it”.

“It really goes back to the old fashioned days when the President and members of the Committee would all gather for training, get their two pennies’ worth in with the match committee and the Chairman of Selectors who was Jack Wrout, then retire to the committee room’s bar where Dad would open up,” Richard said.

“As a man, Dad was tall and well-presented, and nothing was ever a problem. He was one of the longest-serving members of the Melbourne City Council representing the Labor Party and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for anyone. He wanted to represent as many people as he could.”

Rohrt is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years Joan (now 90), son Richard, daughter Susan and six grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are yet to be finalised.

Carlton players taking to the field for Friday night’s Nab Challenge match with Sydney will wear black armbands as a mark of respect to Ivan Rohrt and the club’s late long-serving bootstudder and Life Member Dennis Turner.

More By Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media


Blues’ bootstudder dies

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

Former Carlton bootstudder Dennis Turner has died.
Former Carlton bootstudder Dennis Turner has died.

Dennis Turner, one of the last of the Carlton Football Club’s bootstudders, has died at the age of 79.

Turner served as a senior bootstudder through the late 1980s and 1990s, having completed a myriad of tasks as Carlton’s Under 19 and reserve grade team manager, commencing in 1969. His brother Hugh also officiated as a Carlton trainer.

Bob Lowrie, who started as a trainer with the thirds at Carlton on the same day as Turner, remembered that Dennis would regularly front up at the club of a Sunday morning to cook breakfast for the players when they left the track.

“Dennis also worked behind the bar at 'Nick’s Nightclub'. He was a really, really good bloke and I had a lot of time for him. He would do anything for the Carlton Football Club,” Lowrie said.

Turner’s commitment to the club was rewarded with Life Membership in 1988 – the same year in which Premiership players Ken Hunter and David Glascott, together with club dentist Dr Don Hall, were similarly acknowledged.

Laurie Carter, the club’s bootstudder until 2007 who worked at the craft with Turner, Lou Saccardo and the late Frank Finn, remembered that they all served through that transitional phase following the introduction of moulded soles.

“When the moulded ones came in with four stops in the top and two in the heel, some of the players wanted a couple more in the heel, so Dennis and me and the others would knock them in – 13, 15 and 19mm,” Carter recalled.

“Fraser Murphy always went for the 19 mil no matter what the weather was like and Stephen Kernahan always wore screw-ins. He said to me one day that his father once said to him ‘If you’re going to play League football you wear stops.”

Carter recalled that Turner combined duties at Carlton with those as a security guard at the Serum Laboratories.

“In the early days when they’d train in the afternoon he’d work in the morning and knock off early to get to the club. Now they train in the morning so it’s all changed,” Carter said.

“Dennis always did his job, and he stood up for others,” Carter said.

More By Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media


Vale Carlton’s Rat of Tobruk

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

The late Colin Prosser. (Photo: Sunshine Coast Daily)
The late Colin Prosser. (Photo: Sunshine Coast Daily)

Colin Prosser, a former Secretary of the Carlton Football Club and one of this nation’s last surviving Rats of Tobruk, has died in Caloundra at the age of 94.

Mr. Prosser was, as reported in the Sunshine Coast Daily, “a frail old man with dementia when his life drew to a close in a Currimundi nursing home last Thursday (February 18).

“But in his day, Mr. Prosser and 14,000 Australian men just like him had been heroes. As the Rats of Tobruk, they held off one of the most strategic ports in the Middle East against relentless attacks by the German and Italian forces for 241 days.”

Born in Victoria in 1921, Mr. Prosser apparently lied about his age to join the army in 1939, not long after the outbreak of the Second World War.

Service records indicate that Mr. Prosser served his country in the Middle East for around two and a half years until 1943. At least some of his time was served in the army field workshop.

Following the war, Mr. Prosser found work as a correspondent for The Argus newspaper in Melbourne and, later, as an ABC broadcaster both in Australia and abroad.

Mr Prosser replaced Cr. Larry Floyd as secretary of the club and Finance Committeeman on September 1, 1955. Quaintly, his Strathmore address and four-digit telephone number were included in the annual report of that year.

1955 was a pivotal year, for it was also Ken Luke’s final year as President, having served in that capacity for a then record 18 years since the Premiership year of 1938.

It was also the year in which Perc Bentley, who commandeered Carlton to the 1945 and ’47 Grand Final victories, relinquished Senior Coaching duties to Jim Francis.

In signing off as Secretary in ’55, Floyd, in a letter of appreciation in Carlton’s Annual Report, wrote;

“To my successor, Mr. Colin Prosser, I wish the greatest measure of success in the carrying out of the many duties that are required from a full-time secretary of a League club. In the short time that I have worked with him, I feel that he has the capacity, enthusiasm and energy for the post and deserves all the support and loyalty that can be given him in the task of getting the Club on to the top of the list.”

Ken Luke also offered the highest praise;

“Your new Secretary, Mr. Colin Prosser, has commenced his duties and already is showing excellent results. He has travelled many hundreds of miles recruiting new potential players. I am sure our new Secretary will be a great acquisition, and we trust that his term in office will bring success to our club, both on and off the field.”

Prosser’s term as secretary was all too brief – ending on August 31 in the Melbourne Olympic year of 1956 when he was replaced for a brief period by the grand old man of Princes Park, Newton Chandler - and later by Allen Cowie.

“It is regretted that because of illness Mr. Colin Prosser had an interrupted season as Secretary,” Chandler noted in the ’56 Annual Report.

“At the end of his term of office, when the President made a presentation to Mr. Prosser, the best wishes of the Club and the committee were conveyed to him for his success in his new sphere.”

Vivienne Kerr, Carlton’s No.1 female ticketholder and the wife of the late former Carlton player and powerbroker Laurie Kerr, remembered Mr. Prosser from his all-too-brief secretarial days.

“Colin was a very nice fellow, a gentle soul, who was a tiny bit fragile when he came back from the war. He was a bit unsure of himself,” Vivienne said.

“He worked with Laurie at The Argus. He had the occasional grand plan . . . he was quite good.

A lovely memory Vivienne has of Mr. Prosser involved the visiting Trinidadian pianist Winifred Attwell.

“Whilst Winifred was in Melbourne on a concert tour, Colin asked her if she would put on a private show for the hierarchy of the Carlton Football Club at The Chevron. We had dinner with her and she played piano for us all night.”

Vivienne believed Mr. Prosser relocated to Queensland not long after his Carlton tenure ended “and Laurie pretty much lost contact with him”.

Mr. Prosser was amongst the last surviving members of Australia’s Rats of Tobruk, who held off one of the most strategic ports in the Middle East against relentless attacks by the German and Italian forces for 241 days.

Five years ago, there were thought to be just 150 Rats of Tobruk still living.

News of Mr Prosser’s passing was conveyed to the club by local funeral director Glenn Greyson, himself a Carlton supporter.

Mr Prosser’s funeral is to be held at the Gregson and Weight chapel at Caloundra tomorrow (Friday), February 26. He and his wife had no children and at the request of his power of attorney, a representative from the Caloundra RSL Sub-branch will read his wartime history at a poppy service.

Mr. Prosser’s carer, Salvation Army volunteer Joy Prior, told the newspaper that Mr Prosser were truly deserving of recognition.

“You see someone shuffling along in a wheelie walker and you don’t know what they’ve done in their life,” she said.

“We enjoy the freedom that we’ve got today because of people like Colin.”

The Carlton players will wear black armbands in memory of Colin Prosser, in Sunday’s NAB Challenge match against Essendon at Ikon Park.

More By Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media