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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


Legends Lunch – March 4th

Football at Princes Park is back! Soak up all the pre-game excitement and rub shoulders with past Carlton greats, including the likes of Stephen ‘Sticks' Kernahan, Geoff Southby and David ‘Swan' McKay. For $150 you will enjoy a two-course lunch, premium beverages and reserved seats to watch the Blues take on St Kilda.
Each table will be hosted by a past Carlton player, so get in quick before tickets sell out.
Event Details:
Date Saturday, 4 March 2017
Time 12:15pm - 2:00pm
Venue George Harris Room, Ikon Park
Dress Code Smart Casual - Collar required

Stephen Edgar’s 50th

Happy 50th birthday to Stephen Edgar.



Stephen Edgar


Career : 1990 - 1991
Debut : Round 1, 1990 vs Sydney, aged 23 years, 58 days
Carlton Player No. 965
Games : 14
Goals : 1
Last Game : Round 9, 1991 vs Richmond, aged 24 years, 106 days
Guernsey No. 9
Height : 175 cm (5 ft. 9 in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : 1 February, 1967

Edgar was drafted from East Fremantle, WA with Carlton’s selection 7 in the 1989 National Draft. A lightly-framed defender with good all-round skills, he had represented his home state against a VFA representative team in 1988, and impressed enough at WAFL level with the Sharks to convince Carlton to pick him up.

Edgar played his debut game for the Blues against Sydney at Princes Park in round 1, 1990. Stationed in a back pocket alongside Adrian Bassett and David Kernahan, he was travelling alright at half-time, when his team led by 45 points - but after that, Sydney came roaring back to squeeze out the Blues by 5 points in a tight finish.

Edgar was one of those to lose his place after that debacle. He wasn’t able to force his way back into the seniors until round 18, but then played out the season on the last line of defence as Carlton wound up an inconsistent year ranked eighth on the ladder. When the finals got underway, the Blues’ seconds – with Edgar solid in a back pocket - brought some optimism back with a good win over Melbourne in the Reserves Grand Final.

Season 1991 brought David Parkin back to Princes Park for his second term as senior coach, replacing the great Alex Jesaulenko. Parkin wasted no time in evaluating the playing list, and one of the first to be put under the microscope was Stephen Edgar. In the first eight matches of the year, Edgar played in five different positions between half-forward and half-back. He kicked his one and only career goal in round 5, against Geelong at Kardinia Park, but it was soon obvious that he was too lightly-framed to hold a regular place in Carlton’s defence, and not quick enough to consistently play as a midfielder or forward.

After Carlton’s good win over Richmond at Princes Park in round 9, 1991 – highlighted by Simon Minton-Connell’s six goals at full-forward – Edgar would have a knee reconstruction which basically ended his time at Carlton. So sometime later he returned to WA and to East Fremantle, where he played on a half-back flank when the underdog Sharks beat favourites Claremont in the 1994 WAFL Grand Final.

Incidently, he was drafted by St Kilda in the 1992 mid-season draft but he dd not play a senior game with the Saints.

Career Highlights

1990 - Reserves Premiership Player




Ben Nelson’s 40th

Happy 40th birthday to Ben Nelson.


Career: 1997-2001
Debut: Round 3, 1997 vs Adelaide, aged 20 years, 80 days
1016th Carlton Player
Games: 40
Goals: 6
Last Game: Round 19, 2001 vs Adelaide, aged 24 years, 200 days
Guernsey No. 15
Height: 184cm
Weight: 92kg
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.

Career Highlights

1999 - The Past Players' Association Encouragement Award


Chris Mitchell’s 70th

Happy 70th Birthday to Chris Mitchell.

Playing Career: 1971
Debut: Round 15, 1971 Vs Geelong, aged 24 years, 190 days
Carlton Player No.: 830
Games: 5
Goals: 6
Last Game: Round 19, 1971 Vs Richmond, aged 24 years, 218 days
Guernsey No.: 9
Height: 193cm
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


Bryan Quirk’s 70th

Happy 70th birthday to Bryan Quirk.



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

Career Highlights
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