Official Website of the Spirit of Carlton Past and Present
31May/170

Stephen Silvagni’s 50th

Happy 50th birthday to Stephen Silvagni.

 

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Stephen Silvagni

 

show_image.php?id=26017
Career : 1985 - 2001
Debut : Round 7, 1985 vs Sydney, aged 17 years, 346 days
Carlton Player No. 927
Games : 312 
Goals : 202
Last Game : Semi Final, 2001 vs Richmond, aged 34 years, 107 days
Guernsey No. 1
Height : 194 cm (6 ft. 4 in.)
Weight : 99 kg (15 stone, 8 lbs.)
DOB : 31 May, 1967
Premiership Player : 19871995
Best and Fairest : 19901996
All Australian : 1988, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999
VFL AFL Team of the Century: Full Back
Team of the Century: Full Back
Carlton Hall of Fame: 1996
VFL AFL Hall of Fame: 2005
Victorian State Player: 1988, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999
Mark of the Year: 1988
Carlton Legend

Track watchers at Carlton Football Club in the early 1980s would have noticed a young Stephen Silvagni eagerly helping out at most training sessions. Whether it was retrieving a footy from over the fence, kicking end-to end with the players, or even helping to serve up the after-training meal, the skinny, dark-haired son of assistant coach and club selector Sergio Silvagni spent much of his spare time at Princes Park.

It was a fabulous era for the Old Dark Navy Blues, and a time of inspiration for a young boy who would go on to forge his own magnificent career. Carlton claimed three Premierships in four years from 1979 to 1982, and Stephen's formative years were spent in the presence of some of the clubs’ all-time greatest players - including his own father. However, Sergio and his wife Rita deliberately kept Stephen's football education low-key. They insisted that his studies at Marcellin College had to come first, and restricted him to school football.

Even so, Stephen was talented enough to be selected for the 1984 Victorian Under-17 Teal Cup squad. That led to his inclusion in an Australian team that toured Ireland, and before too long Hawthorn was trying hard to recruit him. Under VFL rules of the day, Steve was zoned to the Hawks, and they had first call on him - unless Carlton exercised their rights under the father-son rule. Hawthorn forced the issue when they set a 48-hour deadline for Carlton to decide, and Blues Secretary Ian Collins didn't hesitate. Stephen became a Carlton player - on the minimum contract wage of the time.

"Serge was terrific in the way he allowed Stephen to develop naturally, rather than by force," Collins said later; "some kids who play footy at a young age either get sick of it, or resent it and want to do other things. Consequently they never fulfil their potential. But Stephen wasn't like that. There was balance in his life, which helped him in his football as well. There might have been mind games being played at the time of Stephen's signing, but there was never any doubt - he was always going to be playing for Carlton. Serge and Rita wouldn't have allowed him to go to Hawthorn, let alone encouraged him to go there."show_image.php?id=33587

Stephen believed that he would begin his career with the Under-19s at Carlton, only to be stunned when coach David Parkin informed him during pre-season training that he had been earmarked for an early senior debut. When he was presented with the number 1 guernsey that his father had worn in his wonderful 239-game career in navy blue, it was only a matter of time until Stephen made his senior debut against Sydney at the SCG in round 5 of 1985. By the end of that first year, he was still a skinny, gangly 18 year-old, but he had already been matched against some of the best forwards in the game as a half-back flanker or back pocket. He was a popular winner of Carlton's Best First Year Player award, and a very deserving AFL Rookie of the Year. Carlton finished fifth, and then abruptly sacked their incumbent coach David Parkin in favour of former club champion Robert Walls.

In 1986, Stephen's second year was derailed before it got going when he tore a hamstring in his first game, only to contract glandular fever during rehab. It was about this time that he was christened 'SOS' - for Son of Serge - by friend and team-mate Peter Dean, and the nickname stuck for the rest of his career. Meanwhile, Walls believed that the agile youngster might develop into a handy forward, and so sent him up the ground for his first senior match for the year against Hawthorn in round 12. The experiment was only partially successful however, because SOS finished the home and away rounds with just nine goals, and he was returned to defence before the Blues beat Sydney and Hawthorn in the first two weeks of the finals to book a place in the Grand Final as warm favourites against the Hawks.

At training on the following Thursday night however, Walls called Stephen into the coaches room and shocked the 19 year-old by telling him that he had been dropped from the Grand Final team in favour of Ken Hunter, who had recovered from injury. It was scant consolation, but SOS was to be included in the Reserves side that was also playing off for a flag, against Footscray.

Understandably, the young man was gutted, but he later said; "There were two ways I could have gone into the Reserves Grand Final - either throw in the towel, or give them something to think about. Fortunately, I took the latter option and went well in what was a winning Grand Final." He went well all right - playing at centre half-forward, he kicked five goals and was unanimously judged Best on Ground. Later that afternoon, Carlton lost the senior Grand Final by 42 points, with Hawk full-forward Jason Dunstall kicking six goals.

The shock of what Silvagni saw as a rejection by his beloved Blues was the spur to stardom for him in the ensuing years. Determined never to be left out of the senior side again unless injured, he dedicated himself to train as hard as anyone on Carlton’s list, and started running an extra three kilometre circuit of Princes Park before or after every training session. As his game evolved, SOS became the game's outstanding swingman - a rock-solid defender and a match-winning forward.

In 1987 Stephen played one his most memorable games when Carlton revenged their defeat of the previous year to beat Hawthorn for the Premiership. At just 20 years of age, SOS held the Hawks' stand-in full-forward Peter Curran to a solitary goal as the Blues triumphed by 33 points. In round 14 of 1988, playing at full-forward in the Match of the Round at the MCG, he used Collingwood's Craig Starcevich as a step ladder to take a sensational Mark of the Year. In 1990, he won Carlton's Best & Fairest award by 10 votes from club captain Stephen Kernahan, and polled 16 votes to finish third in the Brownlow Medal. Half-way through the next season however, in Round 14, 1991, SOS tore an ACL ligament in a knee and was sidelined the rest of season.

Back on track at the start of 1992, Stephen kicked 8 goals in Carlton's 24-point loss to the West Coast Eagles in round 9 at Princes Park. He starred again at Princes Park in round 16, 1993, booting a huge 10.6 as the Blues piled on 20 goals after half-time to beat Fitzroy by 86 points. Even so, by 1995 SOS was firmly entrenched as the premier full-back in the game, and his battles with the gun full-forwards of the time - Lockett, Dunstall, Ablett and others - were eagerly anticipated. While tall enough at 194 cm to cope with most opponents, at 99 kg he sometimes found himself out-muscled, so he had become master of the desperate late spoil. With his steely concentration, his exceptional balance and agility, he was the anchor of a daunting Carlton defence in a team that won 23 of its 25 games for the season - including the Grand Final.show_image.php?id=29318

In that wonderful '95 final series, the Blues played Brisbane, North Melbourne and Geelong to win the flag. Steve's opponents in that series - in order - were Daryl White, Wayne Carey and Gary Ablett. The collective return by these three against him was a miserly one (yes, one) goal. Topping off a stellar season, SOS was named 1995 All Australian for the first of three successive years, and in 1996 (after winning his second Best and Fairest at Carlton) he was sensationally awarded the full-back position in the AFL Team of the 20th Century. It was a huge honour, and one not without its controversy in some quarters.

Steve later said about that award; "It didn't really sink in until I was called up at the end of the night to join the legends who had already been named. I remember looking at the faces around me - the likes of John NichollsAlex Jesaulenko and Bruce Doull - wonderful players I used to watch as a kid, and thinking to myself, 'what's going on here? I'm twenty-eight and still have a bit of football left - I'm not finished yet.'"

And indeed he was not. With his stature in the game assured, Steve became much more a vital part of the on-field leadership at Carlton. His impassioned plea to his team-mates at three-quarter time in the 1999 Preliminary Final was one of the factors in the Blues glorious upset win over Essendon. And though Carlton lost that year's Grand Final to the 'Roos, SOS kept a rampant Wayne Carey to one major for the game and was clearly Carlton's best.

In 2000, a groin strain sidelined Stephen from the first four matches. In May, he and his proud dad shared the limelight at the announcement of Carlton's Team of the Century before a season of highs and lows culminated in a severe hamstring injury during the finals. The tendon was ripped from the bone and he was sorely missed on Preliminary Final day, when Essendon thrashed the Blues by 45 points.

Steve was still recovering through the 2001 pre-season, and although he was absent for three games early on, he was back to near top form when he played his 300th career game in round 11, 2001 against Richmond at the MCG. Carlton may have lost by 27 points that afternoon, but when the final siren sounded, the Tigers were herded to the visitor's race by their coach Danny Frawley. In a unique mark of respect by a traditional enemy, Frawley and his players formed a guard of honour and SOS was clapped from the ground.

Later that year, Steve's hip injury flared again. His doctors advised surgery, but he declined and soldiered on. In a strong finish to the home and away rounds, the Blues beat St Kilda and Collingwood decisively to book another finals berth, before meeting Geelong in round 22 at Princes Park. Although only pride was at stake, it was a spiteful match that the Blues won by 70 points. Late in the game, Geelong defender Darren Milburn crashed through SOS with a front-on shoulder charge as Carlton's champion flew for a mark. Out cold before he hit the ground, Steve was stretchered off the field, and Milburn's reputation was permanently blackened.

Two weeks later, Carlton's 2001 season and Silvagni's playing career ended with an 11-point loss to Richmond in a hard-fought Semi Final. SOS kept the Tigers' Matthew Richardson to a handful of possessions and two goals, before announcing that he was taking specialist advice to call it a day after 16 gruelling seasons. Tributes galore from friends and foes alike poured into Princes Park over the following days and weeks, with the words respect, skill and courage commonly used.

Stephen didn’t remain at Princes Park for long after his playing career ended, later saying, "I always felt if I wanted to stay in football, whether that was coaching, or administration or whatever other level, I needed to go outside Carlton for experience - and that's what I did.” Between 2002 and 2010 he filled various roles as an assistant coach at Collingwood, Sydney, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, before earning the prestigious position of List Manager at Greater Western Sydney.

In June 2014, during celebrations marking Carlton's 150th year of VFL/AFL competition, SOS was honoured once more when he was officially recognised as one of the five greatest Blues of all time, alongside John NichollsStephen KernahanBruce Doull and Alex Jesaulenko. Having also won plaudits for guiding the Giants’ young roster through their first three seasons, Stephen then surprised and delighted Carlton supporters everywhere by accepting an offer to return home to Princes Park, and to take up a role similar to what he had done so well at the Giants.

"I always hoped there may be an opportunity I could come back.” said Stephen when the news broke in December 2014. “And when the club came knocking, it really did tickle my fancy. It's nice to be home. I love wearing the navy blue. I always have."
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Milestones

50 Games: Round 5, 1988 vs Collingwood
100 Games: Round 4, 1991 vs Melbourne
150 Games: Round 11, 1994 vs Fitzroy
200 Games: Round 12, 1996 vs Collingwood
250 Games: Round 2, 1999 vs Collingwood
300 Games: Round 11, 2001 vs Richmond

100 Goals: Round 16, 1993 vs Fitzroy
200 Goals: Round 17, 2001 vs Hawthorn

Career Highlights

1987 - Premiership Player
1988 - Mark of the Year
1988 - Victorian State Player
1988 - All Australian
1988 - 7th Best & Fairest
1990 - Victorian State Player
1990 - Robert Reynolds Memorial Trophy - Best and Fairest
1990 - Peter Sullivan Memorial Trophy (Most Carlton Votes in the Brownlow Medal)
1990 - All Australian
1993 - Victorian State Player
1993 - 5th Best & Fairest
1994 - Victorian State Player
1994 - 2nd Best & Fairest
1994 - All Australianshow_image.php?id=25991
1995 - Victorian State Player
1995 - 3rd Best & Fairest
1995 - Best Clubman
1995 - All Australian
1995 - Premiership Player
1996 - Victorian State Player
1996 - Robert Reynolds Memorial Trophy - Best & Fairest Award
1996 - All Australian
1996 - Carlton Hall of Fame
1997 - Victorian State Player
1997 - 4th Best & Fairest
1997 - All Australian
1998 - 8th Best & Fairest
1998 - Jim Stynes Medal (International Rules Series- Best Player for Australia)
1999 - Victorian State Player
1999 - 6th Best & Fairest
1999 - All Australian
2000 - 5th Best & Fairest
2001 - 6th Best & Fairest
2005 - VFL AFL Hall of Fame
2007 - Italian Team of The Century

 

 

29May/170

Bill Redmond’s 90th

Happy 90th birthday to Bill Redmond.

 

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Bill Redmond

 


Career : 1947 - 1948
Debut : Round 13, 1947 vs South Melbourne, aged 20 years, 44 days
Carlton Player No. 620
Games : 7
Goals : 0
Last Game : Round 5, 1948 vs Collingwood, aged 20 years, 352 days
Guernsey No. 2
Height : 182 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 80 kg (12 stone, 8 lbs.)
DOB : 29 May, 1927

Although he was a footballer of undoubted ability, Bill Redmond was also a victim of circumstance in that he wasn't able to fulfil his potential at VFL level. In his first two seasons at Princes Park, he rose from Best and Fairest with the Blues’ Under-19 squad, to being named as an emergency in Carlton’s 1947 Premiership team. But in 1948 a wrangle over his recruitment saw him leave the Navy Blues, and head off to a long and successful career in country football.

Born William George Arthur Redmond at North Melbourne in 1927, Bill grew up in inner-suburban Brunswick during the grim years of World War II. Football, cricket and his apprenticeship as an engineering pattern-maker occupied his teenage years, and he was outstanding at all three. By 1946 he had already played in the First XI at Brunswick Cricket Club before Carlton invited him to join their Under-19 team preparing for the inaugural season of the VFL Thirds competition.

Under their coach Jim Francis, the Blues youngsters made an impressive debut and qualified to play North Melbourne in the first-ever Under-19 Grand Final. Carlton was comfortably beaten, but at centre half-back, Redmond won the Ken Luke Cup as Carlton’s best player. A few days later, Bill and his team-mate Ron Dunn were voted joint Best and Fairest, and the following year Redmond was promoted to Carlton’s Reserves list and given the honour of wearing the Blues’ number 2 guernsey.

Carlton’s senior team finished on top of the ladder in 1947 and went on to beat Essendon by one precious point in a thrilling Grand Final. Earlier in the season, Redmond had come under notice for his poise in defence for the seconds, leading to his inclusion in the seniors for the first time in round 13, when Carlton hosted South Melbourne at Princes Park and won by 4 points. Bill was 19th man that afternoon, as he was a month later in his second match, when the Blues demolished St Kilda. He finished off a notable first year as a senior player by being nominated as an emergency for Carlton’s Grand Final team, but wasn’t required.

In 1948, Redmond established himself as a regular member of Carlton’s senior side from round one, when he lined up in a back pocket alongside champion full-back Ollie Grieve and went on to play the five games in succession. Then in mid-May, North Melbourne caused a stir by protesting to the VFL that Carlton had signed Redmond in contravention of the League’s zoning rules. Bill lived on a street in West Brunswick that was a boundary between the zones. “If you lived on one side of the road, you played for Carlton - and if you lived on the other side of the road, you were North Melbourne,” he explained many years later. Regardless, the VFL sided with the Shinboners, and revoked Redmond’s playing permit.

North Melbourne were intent on getting Redmond to Arden Street, and flatly refused to clear him to Carlton. In turn, the Blues dug their heels in, and the dispute dragged on until VFA club Williamstown stepped in, and trumped both clubs by offering to almost double his match payments. “We got three pounds a game back in those days, and Williamstown offered me five, so I went with them,” he said.

At Williamstown, Redmond played at full-forward in the Seagull’s 1948 Grand Final team that lost to Brighton. In 1950 he transferred to the Bendigo Football League club Eaglehawk, before joining North Bendigo in the Heathcote District Football League as captain-coach two years later. He was voted Best and Fairest in the HDFL in 1954, then switched to South Bendigo to star in their 1956 Premiership team.

On the move again, Bill was appointed captain-coach of Inglewood before the Blues won the 1958 Loddon Valley Football League Premiership. He then returned to South Bendigo as captain-coach of their seconds, and collected consecutive flags in 1959 and 1960. By 1963 he was at Bridgewater in the LDFL, where he won yet another Premiership – as well as finishing as the competition’s leading goal-kicker with 51 majors.

Eventually, after a varied and quite notable career, Bill retired at last in 1964, aged 37.

Footnotes

While Redmond was at full-forward for Williamstown in the 1948 VFA Grand Final, future Carlton star Keith Warburton was playing in the centre for Brighton.

During his time in Bendigo, Redman also played A Grade cricket for Golden Square and Sandhurst.

Career Highlights

1946 – Under-19 Best & Fairest
1946 – Ken Luke Cup (Best Carlton player in the Under-19 Grand Final)

 

 

16May/170

Ian Aitken’s 50th

Happy 50th to Ian Aitken.

 

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Ian Aitken

 


Career : 1987 - 1992
Debut : Round 2, 1987 vs Collingwood, aged 19 years, 323 days
Carlton Player No. 942
Games : 66 (61 at Carlton)
Goals : 10 (all at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 20, 1992 vs Sydney Swans, aged 25 years, 78 days
Guernsey No. 22
Height : 190 cm (6 ft. 3 in.)
Weight : 91 kg (14 stone, 5 lbs.)
DOB : 16 May, 1967
Premiership Player 1987

In just his sixteenth senior game for Carlton, tall blonde defender Ian Aitken was an acclaimed member of the Navy Blues’ victorious 1987 Grand Final side. Earlier in his debut season he had suffered a broken jaw, but had recovered in time to take part in Carlton’s finals campaign. On his return he quickly found form, and after collecting his Premiership medal, was honoured with the inaugural AFL Players Association Rookie of the Year award.

Only weeks after those twin triumphs however, Aitken was the victim of a callous king-hit during a controversial exhibition match against North Melbourne in London. In the second quarter of a vicious match dubbed the “Battle of Britain” by the local newspapers, Ian was punched from behind by the Kangaroos’ Alistair Clarkson, and the young Blue’s jaw was smashed for a second time. Although he went on to eventually rack up 66 games in an injury-plagued seven seasons at Carlton and St Kilda, Aitken was clearly never quite the same player again.

Ian grew up in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and was educated at Coburg Primary and Coburg High School, where his ability on the football field was first recognised. He was playing for Strathmore in the Eastern Districts Football League when he was recruited to the Carlton Under-19 squad, and promptly underlined his potential by winning the team’s 1985 Best and Fairest award. By 1986 he was regularly being promoted to the Blues’ Reserves team, and at the culmination of that year he was one the stars of Carlton’s victory over Footscray in the Reserves Grand Final - on the same day that the club’s seniors were soundly defeated by Hawthorn.

Heading into 1987, Carlton’s match committee knew that the team’s defence had to be bolstered to match the rampant Hawks and their champion full-forward Jason Dunstall. Aitken and another promising youngster in Stephen Silvagni were quickly promoted, and Aitken wore Carlton’s number 22 guernsey out on to the vast expanses of Waverley Park to play his first senior match against Collingwood in early April. Starting from the interchange bench, Ian was eased into the action and picked up 10 disposals, including a set-shot for goal late in the match. His kick sailed straight through for his first career goal, and set up a narrow win for his team.

By the latter part of that season, Aitken and Silvagni were settled into Carlton’s defence, and impressing everyone with their versatility. In Ian’s case, he was big enough for a key position, but equally at home on a flank or in a pocket, where his aerial skills were complemented by steely concentration. In round 14, 1987 at Waverley, Carlton and Hawthorn met for the second time in that season, and late in the game, Aitken bent low to pick up the ball and was hit hard by an opponents’ hip. That impact broke his jaw and cost him a month on the sidelines, but as soon as he was given a medical clearance he was straight back into the Blues’ line-up. Carlton finished the season on top of the ladder, and qualified for a second successive Grand Final against Hawthorn on a blisteringly hot day at the MCG.

The 1987 Grand Final will be remembered for many reasons, including the extreme heat, another huge crowd, and the impenetrable Carlton defence led by Norm Smith Medallist David Rhys-Jones. All of Carlton’s back six; Mick KennedyStephen SilvagniPeter Dean, Ian Aitkin, Rhys-Jones, and Tom Alvin – either shaded or comprehensively beat their opponent on the day, in a glorious five-goal Carlton victory.

Afterwards, amid the extended celebrations of Carlton’s fifteenth flag, Aitken was acclaimed as Rookie of the Year before the entire team jetted off to London to play an exhibition match against fellow 1987 finalists North Melbourne. Held at The Oval in South London, the game attracted a crowd of 18,000 and was intended to showcase all the spectacle and skills of the Australian game. Instead it turned into an ugly brawl sparked by Clarkson’s assault on Aitken. With nothing left to prove, the Blues approached the game as a bit of fun, while North Melbourne arrived at the ground with a chip on their shoulder and mayhem on their minds.

The incident involving Aitken and Clarkson wasn’t the first in the game – indeed there was niggle and some cheap shots from the first bounce – but when Aitken went down in the second quarter the entire Carlton team went looking for retribution. The match ended in a hollow victory for the Shinboners and with seven players reported - including Clarkson, who was later found guilty and suspended for 4 games.

Once recovered, Aitken saddled up for Carlton in 14 games in 1988, including consecutive finals losses to Hawthorn and Melbourne. He played another 15 matches in 1989, then suffered the first in a string of niggling injuries that eventually ended his tenure at Princes Park. When he wasn’t injured, Ian was still a worthy competitor – as shown by his role in Carlton’s Reserves Premiership in 1990 – but by 1992 he was on the outer with the Blues’ match committee and requested a transfer to St Kilda.

Unfortunately for both parties, Aitken’s move to Moorabbin lasted just one season. Ian and Saints coach Stan Alves didn’t hit it off, and Ian managed only five games before retiring at the age of 26 in 1993. His last game for St Kilda ended his career where it started – at Waverley in round 22, 1993 when the Saints thrashed Richmond by 43 points.

In hindsight, Aitken’s retirement probably came at an opportune time. He decided to move into coaching and was able to combine his love of surfing with assignments at bayside clubs Cowes and Barwon Heads. Later, he established and supervised football programs at Xavier College and Box Hill Secondary College. In 2013 he coached Kew to a Premiership in Division 3 of the Victorian Amateur Football Association and was honoured as Coach of the Year. He followed up by winning flags again in 2014 and 2015, lifting the club up a division each time.

In December 2015, Aitken’s football journey came full circle when he was appointed senior development coach for the Northern Blues. The General Manager of Carlton’s VFL affiliate, Garry O’Sullivan, welcomed Ian back to Princes Park by saying “He's got a terrific coaching and developing record when it comes to nurturing younger players, and his man management skills are second to none.”

Career Highlights

1985 - George Armstrong Medal - Under 19s Best & Fairest
1986 - Reserves Premiership Player
1987 – Premiership player
1987 – AFLPA Rookie of the Year
1990 - 1990 Reserves Premiership player
1992 - 5th Reserves Best & Fairest

 

 

11May/170

Paul Constance’s 70th

Happy 70th birthday to Paul Constance.

 

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Paul Constance

 


Career : 1966
Debut : Round 11, 1966 vs Collingwood, aged 19 years, 59 days
Carlton Player No. 786
Games : 3
Goals : 0
Last Game : Round 17, 1966 vs Footscray, aged 19 years, 101 days
Guernsey No. 40 (1966).
Height : 173 cm (5 ft. 8 in.)
Weight : 67 kg (10 stone, 7 lbs.)
DOB : 11 May, 1947
Recruited locally from the Carlton Youth Foundation, Paul Constance confirmed his potential when he was voted Best and Fairest for Carlton’s Under 19 team in 1965. A lightly framed rover, he was allocated guernsey number 40 the following year when he stepped up to Reserves level, and in round 11, 1966 he was called into the senior side as 20th man for the clash against Collingwood at Princes Park.

The ladder-leading Magpies were expected to have little trouble with the inconsistent Blues on that Saturday afternoon. However, led by a dominant ruck division of John Nicholls and Adrian Gallagher, Carlton jumped the Magpies in the first term and held on for a thrilling win by 16 points. Constance got only the briefest of runs on debut, but held his place on the bench for round 12 - when the Blues took on Richmond at the MCG, and lost by five goals.

After that, Paul was sent back to the Reserves for a month to hone his skills, before being recalled for the round 17 match against Footscray at the Western Oval. Once again, he warmed the bench almost throughout, as the Blues took control in the second quarter, and restricted the Bulldogs to a final score of 4.1. (25) - which still stands as Footscray’s lowest total ever against Carlton.

Sent back to the Reserves to finish off the season, Constance capped his year by winning the Reserves Best and Fairest. Despite that honour however, his senior career at Carlton ended shortly afterwards, when he was delisted after the annual season review.

 

 

30Apr/170

Adrian Gleeson’s 50th

Happy 50th birthday to Adrian Gleeson.

 

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Adrian Gleeson

 

show_image.php?id=24878
Career : 1986 - 1996
Debut : Round 7, 1986 vs Collingwood, aged 19 years, 10 days
Carlton Player No. 938 
Games : 176
Goals : 174
Last Game : Round 18, 1996 vs Fremantle, aged 29 years, 95 days
Guernsey No. 12
Height : 178 cm (5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight : 78 kg (12 stone, 4 lbs.)
DOB : 30 April, 1967
Premiership Player: 1987
Victorian Representative 1990, 1991

Adrian ‘Bear’ Gleeson joined Carlton from Koroit - near Warrnambool, in Western Victoria - in 1986, and carved out a fine career of 176 games, including two Grand Finals and the 1987 Premiership. A cheeky, hard-running rover-forward with great endurance and an eye for the goals, he was also a loyal clubman who happily contributed his skills and experience to the Blues’ Reserves team for an extra season after his days as a senior player were curtailed by injury.

Gleeson was the youngest in a family of seven sons who all played senior football. As a toddler he was nicknamed ‘Humphrey’ which later became ‘Humphrey Bear’ when he was given a Humphrey B. Bear suit as a gift and couldn’t be parted from it. On the football field however, his team-mates just called him ‘Bear’, a moniker that was to become his trademark at Princes Park.

Gleeson played all his junior footy with Koroit, beginning with the Under 12 team, and progressing right through to the senior side at the age of 16. After representing Victoria in the elite Teal Cup (Under 17) competition, he was approached by Melbourne and Geelong, but those were the days when every VFL club had its own zone, and Koroit was smack in the middle of Fitzroy’s patch. As a result young Gleeson was invited down to train and played a reserves game and one seniors practise match. The Lions expressed their interest in putting the youngster on their list but as he was in the middle of his VCE he refused the offer. Walls must have seen something promising in the young rover however, because when he was abruptly appointed senior coach at Carlton in 1986 (replacing David Parkin), Walls invited Gleeson to Princes Park for a trial with the Blues. And as they say in the classics, the rest is history.

Bear spent the early part of ‘86 with Carlton’s Reserves, where his efforts demanded elevation to the senior team for the first time in round 7. Although he faced perhaps the toughest initiation of all; taking on Collingwood at Victoria Park, it didn’t turn out that way at all. The rampaging Blues – with Craig BradleyWayne Blackwell and Ken Hunter dominant - smashed their fiercest rivals by seven goals. Proudly wearing the number 12 guernsey recently relinquished by 1981 Premiership defender Scott Howell, Gleeson shared the roving duties with champion Rod Ashman, in just about the perfect start for any new Bluebagger.

Bear kicked his first career goal the following week in another decisive win over Geelong at Princes Park, then suffered his first defeat on a freezing cold and miserable day at the Western Oval in round 9, when ninth-placed Footscray upset third-placed Carlton by 14 points in a low-scoring slogfest. After that, it was back to the seconds to see out the season – which ended on a spectacular note for the kid from Koroit when he revelled in the magic of the MCG on Grand Final day as a member of Carlton Reserves Premiership team.

Rod Ashman’s retirement in 1986 opened the door to a regular senior berth for Gleeson, who grabbed his chance in both hands and played 23 of a possible 24 games in 1987 - including Carlton’s glorious Grand Final victory over Hawthorn on the hottest Grand Final day on record. Mark Naley and Fraser Murphy were the first-choice rovers for the decider, so Bear started on the bench, and came on in the third quarter. On a scorcher of a day when the temperature reached 37 degrees, Carlton’s coaching staff knew that Gleeson would be running hard right through to the last minute, and that Hawthorn would be hard-pressed to hold him. That’s exactly what happened, and Bear was a real headache for the tiring Hawks in the latter stages of the match. Picking up plenty of possessions, he kicked a nice goal to the city end of the ground in the final quarter, while the Navy Blues charged home to win Carlton’s fifteenth flag by 33 points. After only 26 games for the Blues, Gleeson had added his name to the exclusive list on the door of the number 12 locker at Princes Park.

In 1988, Bear followed up with an even better individual year, although it finished prematurely when he was hit with a heavy shirt-front in a fiery game against Melbourne at the MCG in round 22. He suffered significant rib damage, and couldn’t play again before the Blues were knocked out of contention by the Demons in the Preliminary Final. Still, Gleeson could look back fondly on a landmark season in which he kicked 37 goals from 23 games ( including bags of six against Fitzroy, and five against Sydney) while earning 13 Brownlow Medal votes to be Carlton's major vote-winner. He also finished a solid fourth in the club’s Best and Fairest award.

Over the next five seasons, Gleeson was an automatic selection in Carlton’s senior team, although the Blues went through a rocky time as the VFL expanded into a 15-team competition with the addition of teams from Brisbane ( the Bears), Perth (the Eagles) and Adelaide (the Crows). By then, Gleeson was ranked among the elite of the game, and represented Victoria in State of Origin matches in 1990-91. His cheerful nature and “can do” attitude made friends easily, and he was a voted Carlton’s Best Clubman in 1992. Polling strongly again in the voting for Best and Fairest, he finished third behind his captain Stephen Kernahan, and crowd favourite Mil Hanna.

It wasn’t until 1993 that the Blues qualified for September action again, and raised the hopes of thousands of supporters with a hard-fought, 2-point win over Essendon in one Qualifying Final – the first VFL final ever played under lights. A week later, Carlton accounted for Adelaide by 18 points in an impressive Semi Final victory on the vast expanses at VFL Park, Waverley – setting up yet another Grand Final clash against the resurgent Essendon. As they had done throughout the latter part of the year, Gleeson and former Melbourne goal-sneak Brent Heaver shared the roving duties in the premiership decider, only to be swept aside by a fresher, faster and far more focused Bomber outfit that inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Blues to the tune of 44 points. For months afterward, that hiding burned deep at Princes Park, and sparked the Blues into a deep commitment to atone for a totally unacceptable capitulation. show_image.php?id=37934

That task took another two seasons - until the shame of ’93 was finally expunged by the magnificent Carlton squad of 1995. On Grand Final day, the Blueboys’ sixteenth win on the trot delivered Carlton’s sixteenth flag - by ten goals over Geelong. Unfortunately for Gleeson however, he was on the wrong side of the fence that afternoon, thanks to a knee injury that derailed his season. After playing nine of the first ten matches, he had strained a ligament in the Blues’ huge win over Melbourne in round 10. While he was back on the field with the Reserves within a month, the quality and consistency of Carlton’s senior list was such that Bear just couldn’t get another look in.

Further injury problems stretched Gleeson's absence from the senior side to more than a year, before he was welcomed back with another emphatic victory – this time over Adelaide at Princes Park in round 15, 1996. He played the next three games in succession, only to be omitted from the team after Carlton destroyed the competition’s 16th team; Fremantle, by 61 points at Princes Park in round 18. That turned out to be Gleeson’s last senior appearance for the Navy Blues, although he was retained on the roster until the end of the 1997 season. Throughout that time, he continued lending his wealth of experience and on-field leadership to Carlton’s younger brigade, and finished off his fine career with consecutive Reserves Best and Fairest awards in 1996-97.

While playing for Carlton, Gleeson studied accountancy and financial planning. After his retirement, he began a new career as a consultant, and established a successful business. Meanwhile, his ties at Carlton remained strong, and in May 2006 he was appointed to the Blues’ Board of Management, and served for more than a decade.

Milestones

50 Games : Round 1, 1989 vs Footscray
100 Games : Round 17, 1991 vs Adelaide
150 Games : Round 12, 1994 vs Melbourne

100 Goals : Round 4, 1992 vs North Melbourne

Career Highlights

1986 - Reserves Premiership player
1987 – Premiership player
1988 - 4th Best & Fairest
1988 - Peter Sullivan Memorial Trophy (Most Carlton Votes in the Brownlow Medal)
1989 - 9th Best & Fairest
1990 - Equal 7th Best & Fairest
1991 - Equal 9th Best & Fairest
1992 - 3rd Best & Fairest
1992 - Best Clubman Award
1994 - 8th Best & Fairest
1996 - Reserves Best & Fairest
1997 - Reserves Best & Fairest

 

 

28Apr/170

Ken Hunter’s 60th

Happy 60th birthday to Ken Hunter.

 

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Ken Hunter

 


Career : 1981 - 1989
Debut : Round 1, 1981 vs Richmond, aged 23 years, 334 days
Carlton Player No. 889
Games : 147
Goals : 160
Last Game : Round 5, 1989 vs Hawthorn, aged 32 years, 1 day
Guernsey No. 9
Height : 183 cm (6 ft. 0 in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : 28 April, 1957
Premiership Player 198119821987
All Australian 1979198019821983
Best and Fairest 1981
Leading Goalkicker 1983 (43 goals)
Carlton Hall of Fame (Inducted 1998)
Carlton Team of the Century

Ken Hunter was already 23 years old when he was recruited to Carlton from Claremont, WA in 1981. A seasoned, two-time All Australian defender, he had finished runner-up to champion ruckman Graham Moss three years in succession as Claremont’s Best and Fairest. Over the same period, he had suffered a broken jaw on three separate occasions, while earning widespread acclaim for his aerial ability and his outstanding bravery in marking contests.

Two other VFL clubs in North Melbourne and Richmond had previously shown interest in Hunter, but both clubs ultimately decided that at 183 cm and only 76 kg, he was just too lightly-framed for the rigours of VFL football. Indeed, Richmond’s President at that time, Ian Wilson – when he heard that Carlton had signed Hunter - was even quoted as saying that Richmond “doesn’t recruit half-back flankers.” That comment was to haunt Wilson for a decade, as Ken went on to forge a magnificent career in Navy Blue.

To a whole generation of Carlton supporters, Kenny quickly became a synonym for courage . With his spindly frame, his socks down around his ankles and his trademark mop of unruly hair, Hunter ran into, and flew over packs from all angles to take spectacular marks week after week. Absolutely fearless in his pursuit of the football, he never shirked the fiercest of physical clashes. Fans winced often during games when he launched himself at the ball from impossible angles, only to be sent cart-wheeling to the turf - but like the India rubber man, Kenny always bounced back.

His talent demanded an immediate place in Carlton’s star-studded team, and there have been fewer debuts on a bigger stage than the one that faced him at Waverley Park in the opening round of the 1981 season, when the reigning premiers Richmond faced the 1979 champions Carlton. In guernsey number 9, Hunter lined up in a back pocket, alongside Geoff Southby and Des English to complete an illustrious last line. Three other debutantes in Peter BosustowDenis Lenaghan and Mario Bortolotto also strode the big stage for the first time that afternoon, as the Blues got off to a dream start in smashing the Tigers by 62 points.

By August of that year, Carlton had claimed the minor premiership ahead of Collingwood, Geelong, Essendon and Fitzroy, and the only drawback to the Blues impressive Semi Final win over Geelong was a thigh injury suffered by champion full-back Geoff Southby – a blow that ruled him out of the Grand Final clash against the Magpies, and left a worrying hole in Carlton’s defence.

Scott Howell was chosen to replace Southby for the decider, and covered himself in glory by controlling Collingwood’s Brownlow Medallist Len Thompson; but it was Carlton’s dynamic half-back line of Bruce Doull, Ken Hunter and Wayne Harmes – aided by the inspirational ruck work of skipper Mike Fitzpatrick, that got the Navy Blues home by 20 points in one of the great Grand Finals. After just 23 games for his new club, Hunter topped off a superb debut season by winning Carlton’s Best and Fairest award, and having the honour of seeing his name added to the number 9 locker at Princes Park. Already, he was Carlton’s new folk hero.

Kenny won his second Premiership medal in 1982 when the Blues’ class, flexibility and superb fitness got them home in another ferocious Grand Final clash against Richmond. Hunter was again a star throughout the finals, although he seemed to be in dire trouble when he was pole-axed by Richmond’s Jim Jess in the opening minutes of the flag decider. All but knocked out cold, he was sent forward to recover, kicked an important pressure goal on the run, then returned to the backline to be one of Carlton’s second-half heroes. The Blues beat the top-heavy Tigers by 18 points, and Hunter’s career reached another level when he was named an All Australian for the third time.

Hunter began 1983 in absolutely spectacular fashion when he took one of the all-time great marks in Carlton’s blockbuster rematch against the Tigers at Princes Park in round one. Running back hard with the ball coming in high over his right shoulder, Kenny must have known that the pack was charging straight at him, and that an horrendous collision was inevitable. But somehow, at the precise moment, he leapt into the air, twisted his body in flight, and plucked the Sherrin out of the sky as bodies tumbled all around him and he miraculously emerged unscathed. It was insanely brave, it was spectacular, and it deservedly won him the Mark of the Year.

Sometime shortly after that brilliant solo effort, Hunter began being troubled by a hip complaint that would plague him for the rest of his career. Consequently, Carlton coach David Parkin released Kenny into a ruck-roving or pinch-hitting forward role, and very soon he was being described as the most valuable and effective utility in the game. Setting a new personal best, he kicked seven goals in Carlton’s big win over North Melbourne in round 21, and five in the Blues’ disappointing loss to Essendon in the Elimination Final. Although a natural defender, he had proved that he was a very reliable set shot for goal, and his 43.17 for the year added Carlton’s Leading Goalkicker award – as well as another All Australian guernsey - to his already crowded trophy cabinet.

In 1984 Kenny was appointed club vice-captain, and served under three captains - Wayne JohnstonMark Maclure and Stephen Kernahan – in successive seasons. In June 1984, with Johnston out injured, Hunter stepped up to lead the Blues, and did superbly - booting eight telling goals against Footscray at Princes Park. Carlton thrashed the Bulldogs by 34 points that afternoon, while another future Premiership star in Peter Dean played the first match of his fine career.

Hunter’s third Grand Final appearance came in 1986, and was a disaster. Having earlier strained a hamstring during Carlton’s gutsy victory over Sydney in the Qualifying Final, Kenny was rushed back into the line up at full-forward for the Grand Final showdown against Hawthorn. But he wasn’t right from the outset, and the Hawks hammered a depleted Carlton by six goals on a bad day for the Blues.

Thankfully, revenge wasn’t long in coming for Hunter, or his wounded club. Precisely twelve months later, when Carlton and Hawthorn faced off in yet another Grand Final, Kenny was fit and the Blues were primed for payback. Hunter began at half-forward, before switching to a sweeping defensive role, and the Blues demolished the Hawks by 33 points on the hottest Grand Final day on record. Kenny’s third flag (and Carlton’s fifteenth) was a victory built on the Blues tight, cohesive defence, led by David Rhys-Jones, Hunter and the magnificent Stephen Silvagni.

Kenny’s eighth VFL season in 1988 began with a bang, when he hosted a forward’s clinic at Princes Park in round 2, and kicked six goals against the hapless Brisbane Bears. By late in that year, Carlton were comfortably on course for another finals campaign until round 19, when injuries to key players – including Hunter - gave the Blues the staggers. Kenny’s hip problem had flared again, and his ankles and calf muscles were increasingly battle-fatigued. He couldn’t play at all throughout September, and although Carlton wound up in a solid third place on the ladder and knocked Collingwood out of the Qualifying Final, successive defeats by Hawthorn and Melbourne destroyed any hopes of back to back flags.

Season 1989 also began poorly for the Navy Blues, while Hunter continued to be frustrated by nagging injury concerns, and the team suffered a string of early defeats. Eventually, after copping a 54-point hiding from Hawthorn at Waverley Park on the day after his 32nd birthday, Ken bowed to the inevitable. He underwent hip surgery with the intention of playing on, but it was soon evident that prolonging his career was out of the question, and he announced his retirement before the year was out.

At the finish, Ken Hunter had played 147 games for Carlton, and kicked 160 goals in nine seasons. Like his former team-mate and co-defender Bruce Doull, he was universally respected by friend and foe alike, and farewelled with genuine affection from all corners of the national game.

In 1991, Ken briefly returned to WA as coach of the Reserves at Perth Football Club, but a family illness cut short his tenure and he was back in Victoria within two years. In 1993 he was appointed to the Board at Carlton, and served the Navy Blues in that capacity for a decade. Meanwhile, his post-career honours kept rolling in. In 1998, Ken was inducted into the Carlton Hall of Fame, and two years later, he was somewhat controversially named on the interchange bench in Carlton's Team of the Century. Undoubtedly, he would have been in the starting line-up at any other club.

Milestones

50 Games : Round 6, 1983 vs Geelong
100 Games : Round 21, 1985 vs Hawthorn

100 Goals: Round 7, 1985 vs Sydney Swans

Career Highlights

1981 - Robert Reynolds Memorial Trophy: Best & Fairest Award
1981 - Best First Year Player Award
1981 - Premiership Player
1982 - 3rd Best & Fairest
1982 - Premiership Player
1983 - 4th Best & Fairest
1984 - 7th Best & Fairest
1986 - 7th Best & Fairest
1987 - Premiership Player