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Black, white and blue all over – Remembering Harry

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  

Harry Sullivan, Carlton’s 31-game senior forward (and later full-back in Collingwood’s historic 1958 grand final victory), has died at the age of 84.

Just 17 years of age and a student of Brighton Technical School when he first came to Princes Park in 1949, Sullivan experienced individual and team success in his maiden season with the under-19s as a club best and fairest and premiership player for the ’49ers.

Progressing through reserve grade ranks, Sullivan got the call-up for his first senior game in the Round 18 match of 1950, against South Melbourne at Princes Park. Following Carlton captain Ern Henfry down the race, Sullivan booted one goal in a match in which the home team emerged 12-point victors, and the great Ken Baxter slotted five in his final senior appearance.

Sullivan, who first wore Jack Silvagni’s recently-vacated No.2 and later the No.3 of the current captain Marc Murphy, was seen as a future centre half-forward and heir apparent to Baxter - the only member of all three of the Blues’ 1938, ’45 and ’47 teams and a leading club goalkicker on six occasions.

Regrettably, Sullivan was quite literally unable to get the score on the board, with his first 15 matches up front yielding just 12 goals in total.

In 1953, Sullivan was briefly trialled in Carlton’s defence with largely unspectacular results. He finished off the season with grand final victory at reserve grade level, but after his 31st and final senior appearance – against Melbourne at the MCG in the unlucky 13th round of ’54 – he successfully requested a clearance to Collingwood.

In early 1956, Sullivan was given the opportunity to ply his craft at full-back and it was there that he made the most of Dame Fortune’s intervention. His 78-game tenure with the black and whites took in the Grand Final loss to Melbourne in ’56 and the sweetest of victories against the arch foe, then striving for their fourth flag in as many years, in ’58.

Carlton's under-19 premiership team of 1949. Harry Sullivan is the fourth player from the left in the back row. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

That year, Sullivan also represented the Big V.

The 30-game former Carlton centreman Ron Robertson, one of Sullivan’s few surviving teammates at Princes Park, remembered his contemporary from schoolboy football days.

“I go back a bit further with Harry to the days when I was at the Bendigo junior technical school and we’d sometimes play city teams,” Robertson said.

“I can remember one day we played a team from the city, can’t remember which team it was, but Harry lined up at full-forward and kicked 12.

“The game was played at the Showgrounds, we were thrashed by the city team and Harry was a very dominant player. He was a monster of a kid compared to the rest of us.”

Robertson, a fellow member of Carlton’s ’53 reserve grade premiership team, remembered that the Club’s senior coaching fraternity may have lost a little patience with Sullivan up front, “which is probably why he went to Collingwood and found his niche as a defender”.

In 1960, and as a consequence of the pressures of his burgeoning business interests, Sullivan at 28 surprisingly gave League football away.

Harry Sullivan died on February 5. He is survived by his wife Jan, sister Ann, sons Peter, Bret, Mark and Tim, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Another son, John, predeceased him.

A notice for Sullivan placed by his family read: “You were talented, charming, loving, generous, brave, and a true gentleman”.

Such sentiments were shared by Robertson. As he said: “Harry was a good bloke, a gentlemanly sort and a lovely person”.

More By Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media


Hands’ 90th celebrated

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

The birthday boy: Carlton great Ken Hands celebrates his 90th birthday.

The birthday boy: Carlton great Ken Hands celebrates his 90th birthday.

Ken Hands, Carlton’s last surviving member of both the 1945 and ’47 premiership teams, turns 90 on Wednesday - and in the lead-up to the big day, club luminaries joined family and friends in celebrating the significant milestone with the former captain, coach and best and fairest.

Rarely do you see the Nicholls brothers Don and John together - but Hands originally had a hand in their recruitment to Carlton and there they were, photographed flanking their former teammate beneath his old No.1 guernsey, at a birthday gathering at Richmond at the weekend.

In a previous interview for the publication Out of the Blue, Hands reflected on the recruitment some 60 years ago of Don and his younger brother John Nicholls, the latter considered Carlton’s greatest player ever to lace a boot.

“In those days the coach, the captain, the secretary and a few others used to do the running around Victoria trying to sign players,” Hands said.

“I can recall going up there not long after Don had won the best and fairest in the Ballarat League when he was 14 or 15, and that’s who we went up to sign.

“We were at the Nicholls farm outside Primrose talking to the boys’ father when John and Don got off the bus. I can still see John now with his short pants and great big tree trunk thighs and I can remember saying to Perc Bentley, ‘God, have a look at him!’ And the old man said, ‘Well, if you get one you’ll get them both’.”

John and Don followed Hands down the race and onto Princes Park in the opening round of 1957, in what doubled as ‘Big Nick’s senior debut - and the latter learned much from the then Carlton ruckman and captain.

Left to right: John Nicholls, Ken Hands and Don Nicholls beneath Ken's framed No.1 guernsey at Hands' 90th birthday celebrations.

“Apart from his coaching, Ken showed me by example what a good captain should be; of the advantage it was for a team to have a strong leader - a ruckman for preference, but a leader who set an example, who will protect the players, who will kick that valuable goal when needed and will give the necessary lift to a side. Certainly Hands did this,” said Nicholls in an interview for the aforementioned book.

“In his years as coach, Ken taught me the importance of the use of the body in marking duels and ruck duels, and how to go about getting your body between your opponent and the ball.”

Also present for Hands’ 90th birthday celebrations was the former Fitzroy half-back of the 1940s and ‘50s Bill Stephen - as were Hands’ daughters Janet and Robyn, son John, grandchildren Callum, Alastair and Louise and all staff of Ken Hands Agencies.

Recruited to Carlton from amateur club Geelong Scouts, Hands’ lifelong association with the club commenced in the closing days of the Second World War. Considered one of the most significant figures in Carlton history, Hands represented the old dark Navy Blues in 211 matches between 1945 and ’57. From ’59, Hands commandeered Carlton teams from the coach’s box, taking the ’62 team to the VFL Grand Final.

Though he made way for Ron Barassi on the eve of the 1965 season, Hands’ place in Carlton history was already assured - and along the way he was rewarded with his naming in the club’s Team of the 20th century, induction into its Hall of Fame and subsequent elevation to Legend status.

More By Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media


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.


Carlton 49ers convene on Lygon St

Left to right: Carlton 49ers Don Hyde AM, Hugh Cornell and George Handley.
Left to right: Carlton 49ers Don Hyde AM, Hugh Cornell and George Handley.

Their ranks may be thinning – it’s 67 years ago after all – but members of Carlton’s under-19 premiership team of 1949 – “the Carlton 49ers” – this week celebrated past glories with gusto at a reunion in neighbouring East Brunswick’s Gelobar Café.

Of the 19 who took the chocolates from Geelong in that Grand Final (9.8 (62) to 7.9 (51)), only three managed to make it along – chief organiser Hugh Cornell, George Handley and Don Hyde AM.

Notwithstanding the seven team members who have since died and a further five whose whereabouts remain unknown, four more including captain Alan ‘Alby’ Mangels (the father of Carlton’s 88-gamer Alan jun.) fired in their apologies for various reasons.

But there lending support was Alan Bell (son of the then Carlton Secretary Harry Bell, the Spirit of Carlton’s Dennis Munari and the club’s resident statistician Stephen Williamson.

“When I think about the ’49ers I think about those players who went on to become top players at League level,” said Hyde, who so capably called League football on radio and television for almost 40 years.

“I think of Harry Sullivan, Keith Robinson, Max Thomas and so on. I think back and I say to myself, ‘Gee, I played with those guys’.”

Brunswick-born and bred, and an old St Joseph’s North Melbourne boy, Hyde later represented the Kangaroos at reserve grade level because he was residentially tied to the club. He also chased the leather at Deniliquin and Maryborough, during which time he began to pursue a career in radio.

“I remember one day at Deniliquin the manager said to me ‘Our main commentator is not available – you play, so you must be able to broadcast’ – and that’s how it all started,” he said.

The ’49 triumph completed back-to-back grand final victories for the team, whose members also include Ian Clover and Dick Gill, the sons of Carlton greats Horrie Clover and Frank Gill respectively. Jim Francis, the Carlton Premiership player at senior level in 1938, served as coach throughout that period, having assumed control of the junior outfit when it was first admitted to the Northern District Football Association in 1944.

Francis, who succumbed to a knee injury the previous season,imparted his football nous on the players, with University High School sportsmaster Mr. Gaynor offering his services as an administrator.

The then Secretary Harry Bell, in his season overview for the 1944 Annual Report, somewhat prophetically reported:

“Mr. Gaynor and Jim Francis formed the ideal combination for the control of the boys, and it is hard to assess their value to your Club, but it is thought that full realisation of the plan may be expected in two or three years, when five or six of these boys will be regular First Eighteen players, and when this is achieved it may then be recognised that the fielding of an under 18 years team in the N.D.F.A. was one of the most progressive steps ever undertaken by the Carlton Club”.

Cornell recalled that in those fledgling years of the Under 19 competition, Collingwood was the only team not represented, “which is somewhat surprising when you think about it”.

“I think the 12th team at that time was a TAA team,” he recalled.

Cornell also remembered his old mentor with great affection.

Don Hyde AM views the team photo.

“Jim Francis was a wonderful coach. He asked his players to play hard and fair,” Cornell said.

“He was a real gentleman. He was always very measured and he never lost his temper.”

For the record, Carlton’s Trophy winners in the ’49 Premiership year included Harry Sullivan (Best and Fairest), Tom Jones (Most Consistent), Keith Robinson and Noel Rundle (who tied for Best Team Man), Max Thomas (Most Serviceable Player) and George Ferry and Gerald Burke (who tied for Most Improved Player).

With the exception of Rundle, all award winners later represented Carlton at senior level – Ferry in 139 games, Burke (87), Sullivan (31), Thomas (24), Jones (seven) and Robinson (two).

Cornell has dutifully convened reunions of the Carlton 49ers in every year since 1999 – the 50th anniversary of their famous victory at the old Princes Park ground.

“It was a difficult task after 50 years trying to find out where all the lads were, but we’ve effectively been meeting every year since ’99,” Cornell said.

Carlton FC Under 19 Premiers, 1949

Carlton players pictured are as follows;

3rd row: Jim Johnson, Brian Amarant, Ray Clover, Keith Robinson,

Harry Sullivan, Tom Jones, Ron Price, Don Hyde, Dick Gill

2nd row: Ambrose Curtis, Hugh Cornell, George Ferry, Alan Mangels (c.), George Stafford, Noel Rundle, George Handley

front row: George Crowley, Max Thomas, Maurie Rossi, Charlie Blake, Gerald Burke, Ken Reed

Coach Jim Francis stands is in the back row, fifth from the right.

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Blue Jewry begins with Barney

Barney Lazarus was Carlton's first Jewish footballer.

Barney Lazarus was Carlton's first Jewish footballer.

When the Carlton Football Club acknowledges the many and varied contributions of members of its vibrant Jewish community at the President’s Luncheon this Sunday, thoughts tend to turn to the Smorgons and the Pratts at board level rather than those who have made their mark as Carlton players.

True, Richard Pratt, in another life as the club’s resident Under 19 ruckman, took out the 1953 Morrish Medal for competition best and fairest before life led him on a vastly different career path.

Before Dick was Fitzroy’s three-gamer of 1897 Herbert (“Bert) Rapiport – acknowledged as League footballer’s first Jewish footballer – who fronted up for Carlton in a few exhibition matches through the 1800s – amongst them an exhibition game on the MCG in tribute to A.G Spalding, a visiting American whose family established the famous sporting goods chain.

But as neither Pratt nor Rapiport played a senior League game, one must turn back the hands to 1902, to identify Carlton’s first Jewish senior footballer - one “Barney” Lazarus - who completed his senior debut for the Old Dark Navy Blues, against Geelong at Corio Oval, in the eighth round of 1902.

Named on a half-back flank, Barney was part of Carlton history on that winter afternoon in June, as the visitors’ narrow four-point victory was their first over the Pivotonians since the VFL’s inception five years previous.

Barnett Joseph Lazarus was born in London on December 18, 1879. He was a boy of six when his parents led him down the gangway of a Sydney-bound sailing ship before relocating not long afterwards to the colony of Melbourne.

Recruited to Carlton from Carlton Juniors after plying his early footballing craft at neighboring Princes Hill (and possibly Prahran), Barney would represent the seniors in just seven appearances, the last of them the 15th Round of 1902, in what was Jack Worrall’s maiden season as club secretary.

At some point following the completion of his Carlton career, Barney relocated to Sydney. The NSW Australian Football History Society records that Barney turned out for Redfern through the 1907-’10 seasons, during which time he also represented the Combined Sydney outfit in matches against the likes of South Melbourne, Norwood and Fitzroy; and New South Wales against Geelong, Collingwood, Queensland and North Adelaide.

Little is known of Barney’s life after the game (and only this grainy image puts a face to the name). But the dedicated Carlton supporter and part-time genealogist Bernie Kuran recently shed more light.

Barney, it seems, married in 1912 and died 50 years later, on May 6, 1962 at the age of 83. He was laid to rest at Sydney’s Rookwood Jewish Cemetery - according to cemetery records in plot 259 in section 19, row 13.

At Rookwood, his Hebrew name is identified as Boruch ben Leib (Son of Leib).

But at Blueland, it’s Barney.


Carlton & Vin Catoggio (x 2) – A True Blue Tale

From left to right: Vin Catoggio sen., Vin Catoggio and Dom Catoggio.

From left to right: Vin Catoggio sen., Vin Catoggio and Dom Catoggio.

The Afro, the pirouette, the sidestep – it was all part of the Vin Catoggio persona when the great man was strutting his stuff through winter Saturdays at Princes Park.

And yet, who would know that one of the most endearing of all Carlton footballers followed in the footsteps of another Vin Catoggio – “Uncle Vin” to the 71-game cult hero?

The existence of Vin Catoggio I came to light recently when Jamie Sanderson of forwarded an image (below) to the club of the Carlton District Grand Final team of 1958. Featured amongst the Rovers’ ranks, sporting the famed CFC guernsey, is Vin Catoggio esq., who we’ll refer to as Vin Catoggio sen. for the purposes of this article.

Carlton District, 1958 premiers. Vin Catoggio sen. is pictured on the far left in the middle row.

Vin Catoggio jun., when contacted for comment this week, confirmed that the Vin in question was one of three Catoggio brothers, and a lifelong Carlton Member and supporter to boot.

“Vin was a brother to my father Leo who died last year and to Uncle Joe who died 12 years ago, so he’s the last of that line,” Catoggio jun. said.

“With respect I still call him Uncle Vin. Him and his dear wife Betty, together with my cousin Dom and his wife Evon, always ring mum up and take her out to lunch, and she’s 90 now.

“Uncle Vin ended up playing for Preston in a Premiership in the VFA in the early 1960s. He was a left footer, a very good kick, and he played off a half back flank, but you know what? I’ve never asked him if he could twist or turn and I don’t know if he wore No.4.”

Catoggio jun. also revealed that another uncle on his mother’s side – Dom Catoggio, now nearing 80 – was a contemporary of Sergio Silvagni’s in the Carlton thirds of 1955/56.

“Uncle Dom was a Catoggio also, even though he was on the other side of the family. His father and my mother’s father were first cousins. Dom was a good player too, he played a few reserves games for Carlton in ’57, but he did his knee later on at Yarragon, and that was the end of him.”

The Catoggio name is still inextricably linked with both the football club and the Carlton area, remembering that Vin’s mother lives within the shadows of the old Princes Park ground on Garton Street – not far from where Vin, at 124 Garton, was once domiciled.

Uncle Dom, meanwhile, lived on Rathdowne Street, across the road from the old taxi depot.

When this reporter made a follow-up call to Catoggio sen. recently, the voice on the other end replied: “Have you got the right Vin?”.

Once that was settled, Catoggio sen. conceded that his name had posed an issue or two over the journey – particularly when Vin jun. was up and running in the ’70s. As he said: “Supporters used to ring me thinking I was the bloke running around for Carlton in the No.4, but I played for Carlton Rovers and I wore the No.20”.

“In saying that, I just dragged out an old record from when I was playing for Carlton fourths, and would you I’m listed in the team sheet as No.4.”

Catoggio sen., now 77, explained that after completing his national service at Puckapunyal in April 1957 he pursued his own football career at senior level.

“I thought about going over the road to try out at Carlton, but I thought the list was already set, so I followed a mate of mine, Bernie Quix, to Carlton Rovers,” he said. “Not walking across the ground to ask the question is the one regret I have, because who knows?”

Catoggio sen. was no slouch either, as Carlton Rovers was part of what was then a vibrant Sunday competition, which drew big numbers and attracted League types like North’s Jock Spencer and Jack Edwards, Richmond’s Don “Mopsy” Fraser and Essendon’s Norm McDonald - the latter whom Catoggio sen. once stood.

“Carlton Rovers used to play on the No.1 Oval where the Carlton Cricket Club is based now. We shared the ground with Carlton Stars,” Catoggio sen. said.

“In 1958 we played Kensington in the Grand Final. Jock Spencer was playing for Kensington, while Jack Streader - a Fitzroy ruckman and pretty good player – played for us. I think we got up by five points and I had a good game.”

Catoggio sen. remained with Rovers until the end of the ’61 season, before joining VFA outfit Sandringham in ’62.

That proved a logistical nightmare.

“I had to drive from North Carlton to training and by the time I got to training they were walking off,” Catoggio sen. said.

“I only played reserves there and in ’62 I went to Preston (now Northern Blues). Having played most of the season for Preston reserves I was called up for the finals and was part of the winning Grand Final team of ’63. We beat Waverley and the game was played at Toorak Park.”

He then turned out for a few more Preston senior games in ’64, took line honours in the club’s reserve grade best and fairest count , then got his marching orders in ’65. He turned out for one more season with Diamond Valley Football League outfit Reservoir Lakeside, then gave the game away.

Then, when Catoggio jun. burst onto the scene, Uncle Vin was back with a vengeance.

“Watching Vin play was really enjoyable. I used to go to every match at Princes Park with cousin Dom, and the two families never missed.”

Former Carlton cult hero Vin Catoggio pictured in 1979. 

Though the days of Carlton Rovers are long gone, the spiritual home, to this day, remains fundamental to the Catoggio raison d’etre.

“Even now I walk Princes Park every Sunday,” said Catoggio jun., “and when I get to the ground I go into a daze.

“That’s when I think about getting a footy and balking the elms like I used to in the old days.