Happy 40th birthday to Ben Nelson.
Debut: Round 3, 1997 vs Adelaide, aged 20 years, 80 days
1016th Carlton Player
Last Game: Round 19, 2001 vs Adelaide, aged 24 years, 200 days
Guernsey No. 15
DOB: 23 January, 1977
Ben Nelson was recruited from Sturt. The wearer of the #15, Nelson first came across to the Blues from the forming Port Power, joined by single-gamer Andrew Balkwill in a trade for Blue forward pocket Brent Heaver. Nelson looked impressive enough, the guy was a ball of muscle, had good pace and could kick it a mile. Tried mainly as a half back flanker or tagger, Nelson was solid but to be fair, at times, loose as a defender. His natural attributes kept him in or around the Carlton seniors for a number of years, playing a total of 40 games.
He played just the one game in 1997 (in light Blue), while Glandular Fever and hamstring problems would restrict him to just 7 games in 1998. A knee injury would delay his start to 1999 but he would go on to play every game from Round 6 onward, including the Grand Final. After playing 7 of the first 9 games of 2000, he would fail to gain further senior selection that year and only manage 4 games in 2001- all but one as a late replacement - before being traded to Adelaide (who he had played his first and last game for Carlton against) at the end of 2001 for David Gallagher. He went on to play another 12 games for the Crows in 2002, bringing him to a creditable 52 AFL games in total.
In 2007, at 30 years of age, Nelson came equal second in SA's Magarey Medal, behind North Adelaide's James Allan. Nelson would be equal second with two other Sturt representatives, Brant Chambers and Luke Crane.
In basketball such a player would be called a tweener and as such Ben Nelson was unable to acquire a regular ‘spot’ during his time with Carlton. Built like a rock Nelson was often excluded from weight work to prevent him from getting physically bigger as his motor already strained carrying such defined bulk about the field. A fine clubman Ben Nelson always placed team success ahead of his own gain. After leaving Carlton Nelson has enjoyed a fine career in the SANFL where his experience and leadership have been coveted by his team.
1999 - The Past Players' Association Encouragement Award
Happy 70th Birthday to Chris Mitchell.
Playing Career: 1971
Debut: Round 15, 1971 Vs Geelong, aged 24 years, 190 days
Carlton Player No.: 830
Last Game: Round 19, 1971 Vs Richmond, aged 24 years, 218 days
Guernsey No.: 9
Weight: 87 kgs
DOB: January 1, 1947
The former Cat Mitchell played 5 games and kicked 6 goals for Carlton, ironically 5 of those goals came in his first game which was against his old club Geelong in Round 15 of 1971.
Geelong recruited Mitchell from Old Geelong Grammerians.
50 VFL Games: Round 18, 1971 Vs Footscray
Happy 70th birthday to Bryan Quirk.
Career : 1965 - 1975
Debut : Round 3, 1965 vs South Melbourne, aged 18 years, 126 days
Carlton Player No. 771
Games : 167
Goals : 112
Last Game : Qualifying Final, 1975 vs North Melbourne, aged 28 years, 254 days
Guernsey No. 32
Height : 185 cm (6 ft. 1 in.)
Weight : 82.5 kg (13 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : December 26, 1946
Premiership Player: 1968
Leading Goalkicker: 1965
Carlton Hall of Fame 2006
One of Carlton's greats, Bryan Quirk was the football equivalent of a champion greyhound. A tall, beautifully balanced, long-kicking winger or half-forward, he arrived at Carlton at the dawn of the Barassi era, and carved out a celebrated, if unlucky career. He was one of the stars of Carlton’s 1968 Premiership campaign, and would surely have played in at least two more flag sides had he not suffered injuries at precisely the wrong time.
Nicknamed "Quirky" or "Irk," Bryan was recruited from Morwell in the LaTrobe Valley on the recommendation of his coach; ex-Blues captain and ruckman, Graham Donaldson. Donaldson played a big role in recruiting for Carlton at that time, and was directly responsible for also signing up the likes of Garry Crane, Bill Bennett, Ted Hopkins, Vin Waite and Bob Edmond.
"I could see the kid had League football written all over his face,” said Donaldson. “He was a beautiful kick, easy to handle, enthusiastic - made to order.” Bryan had five or six other clubs chasing him, and was a keen Collingwood supporter, but Carlton showed the most interest. Although he was still a teenager, Quirk was Morwell’s centre half-forward. When he turned up at Princes Park for pre-season training in 1965 however, Carlton’s captain-coach Ron Barassi knew the club had found a promising flanker.
After years of mediocrity, the 1965 season began with renewed hopes for every Blues supporter. Fresh from accepting the number 32 guernsey previously worn by rugged defender Vasil Varlamos, Quirk spent the first two games of the year in the Reserves, before experiencing the nervous delight of senior selection for the first time in round 3. Playing on a half-forward flank against South Melbourne on a cool windy day at the Lake Oval, he made an eye-catching debut and kicked three goals, although the Blues lost by 16 points.
From then on, Bryan stayed in the senior team throughout the year as the rookie coach and his players got to know each other. Carlton finished sixth on the ladder, while a number of newcomers were very impressive – including Quirk, who kicked 29 goals in his first 16 games, to win the club’s Leading Goal-kicker award, as well as Best First Year Player.
Looking to match Richmond's ploy of playing tall, strong-marking wingmen on the wide expanses of the MCG, Barassi shifted Quirk to the centreline in 1966 to combat the Tigers' stars Francis Bourke and Dick Clay. It set the scene for some classic confrontations in coming years, as the long-striding Carlton speedster (and his tenacious fellow winger, Garry Crane) took on the Richmond guns. At 185 cm and just 82 kg, Quirk could be out-muscled by either of his Richmond opponents, but when the ball hit the ground or spilled into space, his acceleration left them floundering. And his accurate, long kicks to position made him a real weapon for the Blues.
Barassi’s methods bore fruit, and he and Quirk shared their first final series together at Carlton, when the Blues finished second on the ladder to Richmond in 1967. Although straight-sets losses to Richmond and Geelong in successive weeks quickly tipped the team out of contention, the finals experience those games gave the Blues would soon prove invaluable.
By early 1968, Bryan had notched 70 consecutive games before Carlton met South Melbourne in round 6, in another match at the Lake Oval that soon turned ugly. During a clash with South's Eric Sarich, Quirk suffered a broken jaw that sidelined him for seven weeks. After such a charmed run with injury, it was a portent of things to come.
He returned for the run to the finals, and played consistently well as Carlton leapt to flag favouritism by finishing second on the ladder to Essendon, then demolished the Bombers by six goals in the second Semi Final. A fortnight later, Barassi’s Blues ended a 21-year flag drought for the Carlton Football Club with a dogged three-point Grand Final victory over Essendon. Back on a half-forward flank, Quirk had an enthralling duel with Bomber star Barry Davis in a match ruined as a spectacle by a strong, swirling wind. The Blues won a see-sawing contest with grit and determination, thanks largely to the ruck dominance of captain John Nicholls, and the tenacity of wingman Garry Crane.
Precisely twelve months later, Carlton started warm favourites in the 1969 Grand Final, after beating ladder-leaders Collingwood in the second Semi. Our opponents were fourth-placed Richmond, who had ominously struck top form at the right time, and ended Collingwood's season in the Preliminary Final. On a day of bitter disappointment for every Bluebagger, almost 120,000 people packed into the MCG to see Richmond prove too good in a hard, skilful contest. As usual, the centrelines of both sides were prominent all match, with Carlton's wingmen Quirk (who collected 25 kicks) and Crane outstanding in a beaten team.
Every Blues fan knows that Carlton made their third Grand Final appearance in a row in 1970, but this time there was no Bryan Quirk in the line-up. The previous week, while playing one of his best games of the year against St Kilda in the Preliminary Final, Bryan had collided heavily with his team-mate Barry Mulcair. That hit dislocated his shoulder, and ruled him out of Carlton’s most famous victory of all; over Collingwood in that year’s epic Grand Final.
While no doubt there were mixed emotions as he watched his team's incredible resurgence from 44 points down at half time to snatch their glorious 10-point triumph over the Magpies, it was later revealed that Quirk had also been playing with a broken bone in his wrist for a number of weeks. Furthermore, way back in March, he had hurt a knee in a practice match, but had nursed it at first to try to avoid surgery. He soon realised that that was futile however, and had an operation that cost him 10 matches. It was in his comeback game in round 18 that he broke the bone in his wrist – followed by the collision with Mulcair that put the chop on his year. This was certainly a season in which he couldn't do anything right!
Lingering problems with that shoulder and a Carlton player roster brimming with talent restricted Bryan to only a handful of games in 1971, but he was back to near his best by mid-season in 1972, as Carlton’s centreline of Garry Crane, Ian Robertson and Quirk propelled the confident Blues towards another finals campaign. Then in round 16, while Carlton were on the way to another clinical win over Essendon at Princes Park, Bryan copped a knock on a knee that all but ended his season.
He eventually returned to the side and sat on the bench for the first of Carlton’s finals, but wasn’t risked from then on. Capping off surely the hardest Premiership campaign in club history, the Mighty Blues then fought their way through four successive cut-throat finals to rout Richmond by 27 points in the highest-scoring Grand Final ever played.
In 1973, Collingwood waved their cheque book at Quirky in a determined bid to lure him to Victoria Park, but he refused them and stayed on with the Blues. Although still plagued by shoulder problems, he managed 12 games, and his late-season form was good enough to win him a place on the bench in yet another final series. In their fifth Grand Final in six years, Carlton met a Richmond team whipped into a frenzy by their coach Tom Hafey and President Graham Richmond, and the Tigers’ attack on the man and the ball proved decisive. Bryan got only the briefest of runs on the ground in the last quarter, when the game was well and truly over, and Richmond were already celebrating their 5-goal win.
Although his opportunities began to decline from then on, Bryan Quirk’s character shone through as he continued as a loyal, reliable and highly-respected member of the Carlton family. In 1974, after another 19 games at senior level, he was awarded Carlton’s Best Clubman award, while in 1975 – his final season – he won the Reserves Best and Fairest; in addition to making another 10 appearances at senior level.
His last game was as a reserve in the 1975 Qualifying Final against North Melbourne, on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon at the MCG. Bryan took to the field in the last quarter to replace his captain Alex Jesaulenko, with the game safely in North’s keeping. His VFL career was over, but he still had much to contribute to the game.
In 1976, Quirky headed to central Victoria to start a new era in his sporting life as captain-coach of Maryborough. After two seasons with the Magpies, he was lured back to Princes Park to take charge of the Under 19 squad and had immediate success, guiding the Blues’ youngsters to back to back Premierships in 1978-79. One of his charges at that time was a young David Glascott, who later credited Quirk with having a big impact on his development. When he made the Carlton senior squad in 1981, Glascott requested the vacant No.32 as a mark of respect for a man he much admired, and went on to wear it in Grand Final victories for the Blues in 1981, 1982 and 1987.
In 1982, Quirky stepped up a grade and took charge of Carlton’s Reserves team for two seasons. He later said that he was content at that level, and never harboured any ambitions to take on the senior job. But he obviously had a gift, because in 1987 he stepped into the role of caretaker coach at VFA club Oakleigh, and took them to a second division flag in his second season.
To the legion of Blues fans who watched Carlton's mop-haired blonde number 32 throughout his career - gathering the ball in space, streaming into attack with a couple of bounces, then launching a long torpedo punt for goal – Bryan Quirk will always be an icon of the times. Already a Life Member of the club, he was elected to the Carlton Hall of Fame in 2006.
50 Games : Round 16, 1967 vs St Kilda
100 Games : Round 2, 1971 vs Essendon
150 Games : Round 12, 1974 vs Melbourne
100 Goals : Round 3, 1972 vs South Melbourne
1965 - Terry Ogden Memorial Trophy: Best First Year Player Award
1968 - Premiership Player
1969 - Perc Bentley Trophy: 3rd Best & Fairest
1974 - 10th Best & Fairest
1974 - B. J. Deacon Memorial Trophy: Best Clubman Award
1975 - Reserves Best & Fairest Award
1975 - Carlton Supporters Reserves Best & Fairest Award
Happy 80th birthday to Don Nicholls.
Career: 1956 - 1961
Debut : Round 2, 1956 vs Melbourne, aged 19 years, 150 days
Carlton Player No. 701
Games : 77
Goals : 32
Guernsey No. 12
Last Game: Round 12, 1961 vs St Kilda, aged 24 years, 227 days
Height : 178 cm (5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight : 80 kg (12 stone, 8 lbs.)
DOB : November 23, 1936
Best First Year Player 1956
Although his career was largely overshadowed by the exploits of his champion brother John Nicholls, Don Nicholls was himself a stylish centreman who played a creditable 77 games for the Blues in six seasons at Princes Park.
Nicholls first attracted interest from VFL clubs when he starred for his home side Maryborough in 1955. Eventually, he was faced with the choice of joining either Geelong or Carlton, and to the everlasting gratitude of every Blues’ supporter, Don chose Carlton. He arrived at Princes Park in early 1956, and wore guernsey number 12 in his senior debut (as nineteenth man) in a heavy defeat by Melbourne in round 2 of that year.
The following week, against St Kilda at the Junction Oval, Nicholls started the match in the middle of the ground and did well, as the Blues beat the Saints by 22 points. From then on he was a regular in a Carlton side that was in finals contention mid-season, but stumbled through the last few games and missed the finals by just two points. Nevertheless, one of the real positives to come out of that disappointing year was the steady emergence of Nicholls, who played 15 solid games, kicked five goals and collected Carlton’s Best First Year Player award.
Don’s bright start to his VFL career soon focussed the recruiting spotlight on his younger, taller and heavier brother, John – who had moved to Melbourne to live with Don, but was still travelling home to play senior football with Maryborough each weekend. After inviting the youngster to training, Blues’ captain Ken Hands was convinced that the ‘other’ Nicholls had a bright future in VFL football – all he needed was confidence in his own ability.
History has since proven that Hands’ assessment was spot-on. The Nicholls boys teamed up in Carlton’s senior team for the first time against Hawthorn at Princes Park in round one of 1957, and, although the Hawks handed out a football lesson, John Nicholls began a magnificent career that would ultimately include 328 games, three Premierships, and just about every team and individual honour that the game could bestow.
Both brothers had good individual seasons in 1957. Playing in the centre, on a wing or a half-forward flank, Don didn’t miss a game all season. Carlton made the finals in fourth place, but fell to Hawthorn by 24 points in a remarkable first semi-final that saw the MCG covered in a blanket of hailstones after a storm during the half-time break.
Some judicious recruiting in 1958 lifted the Blues, as talented newcomers like Berkley Cox, Chris Pavlou, Peter Barry and John Heathcote established themselves in Carlton’s senior team. Meanwhile, Don Nicholls’ good luck with injury ran out in round 16 of 1959, when he tore a muscle against Melbourne. That setback cost him three games while Carlton battled through to a Preliminary Final meeting with Essendon. He came back to the team as 20th man for that match, but wasn’t called onto the field as his valiant team went down by seven points in a thriller.
Throughout the next two seasons, Nicholls increasingly found himself squeezed out of his favourite centre position by Berkley Cox, and under added competition for a place on the wing or flank. He was tried in defence, but never really settled there and became a regular bench warmer. Eventually, Don decided that he would leave the future on-field exploits of the Nicholls family at Carlton in the large and capable hands of his champion brother. He played his last game for the Blues at full-back in round 12 of 1961, signing off with a five-goal victory over St Kilda at Princes Park.
Later, he joined VFA Division 2 club Box Hill and gave the struggling Mustangs loyal service over a number of barren seasons.
50 Games: Round 1, 1959 vs Essendon
Don Nicholls’ father Alex was one of four brothers; Charlie, Alex, Percy and Roy, all of whom were prominent players for the Castlemaine Magpies during the 1920s. Charlie Nicholls was the Bendigo Football League’s top goal-kicker in 1925 with 58 majors, and all the Nicholls boys were part of Castlemaine’s first BFL Premiership team in 1926.
Happy 50th birthday to Gerard Butts.
Debut: Round 6, 1988 vs St Kilda, aged 21 years, 170 days
950th Carlton Player
Last game: Round 7, 1989 vs Melbourne, aged 22 years, 175 days
Guernsey No. 51 (1 game, 1988), 40 (2 games, 1989)
DOB: 19 November, 1966
Butts played 3 games over 2 years for Carlton after debuting in 1988. He was recruited from North Albury via North Melbourne Reserves and U/19's. He was also selected in the All-Australian Team for the 1983 Teal Cup after representing NSW in the carnival. He made his debut in the same game as Michael Garvey and Phil Poursanidis.
During the 1990 season, Butts was cleared to Tasmanian club North Hobart.
1987 - Reserves Premiership Player
1989 - 3rd Reserves Best & Fairest