Vale Mac Wilson, game’s oldest survivor

Mac Wilson – until Wednesday Carlton’s (and the AFL’s) oldest surviving former player – has died at the age of 103 years, one month and one day.

Prior to Wilson, only Newton Septimus Weston Chandler – ‘the grand old man of Princes Park’ as he is remembered – reached the three figures. Chandler, the 69-game footballer, recruiter, secretary, vice-president and treasurer, was in fact 103 years, six months and six days when he finally met his maker on March 24, 1997.

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Newton Chandler, the 69-game Carlton footballer, recruiter, secretary, vice-president and treasurer, was 103 years, six months and six days when he died. Chandler is pictured here circa 1919. (Photo: Supplied)

In July 2014, Wilson became Carlton’s second member of the ‘Ton Up Club’. On that occasion, he received a card signed by members of the current playing group, amongst them Dennis Armfield who wears Wilson’s old No.27 on his back.

With the passing of Chandler and now Wilson, Carlton’s only surviving Ton Up Club member is Keith Rae, the 15-game former centreman of 1939 and ’43 who turned 100 on July 30 this year.

Andrew McDonald ‘Mac’ Wilson was born in the Yarra Valley town of Woori Yallock on July 9, 1914, 19 days before the official outbreak of the First World War. Not long after, his family relocated to the Nyah region on the other side of Swan Hill in the Mallee, only to return to Woori in 1934.

Having played at Piangil where the ’45 Carlton premiership player Jim Mooring also chased the leather, Wilson later returned to Woori Yallock for a season (and represented the Woori team in its first Grand Final victory in ’47), before joining Sunshine with the promise of a job. Sunshine, in the Footscray sub-district League, must have doubled as football’s school of hard knocks for Mac, although one of his contemporaries there at the time was none other than the fearsome Bob Chitty, later the Carlton captain, premiership player, dual best and fairest and lord protector.

“He (Chitty) was a hard, tough fellow and he trained just as hard as what he played you know,” Wilson said in an interview with this reporter in 2009. “If you happened to knock him over at training you were likely to get into a fight with Chitty.”

Wilson, like Chitty, ultimately crossed to Carlton – in the former’s case on the recommendation of Mooring, as Wilson explained.

“During the war the Air Force used to play games at Carlton, and my brother was in the Air Force. Anyway, he and I were walking around the ground looking at things and I was particularly good friends with Jimmy Mooring and Jimmy came from Piangil and he was a mate of mine,” Wilson said.

“Now he was walking around with Harry Bell (the then Carlton secretary) and he (Mooring) said to Bell, ‘This is the chap I’ve been telling you about’. Bell asked me then, ‘Come out and have a go’ and I said ‘Yeah, righto’ – but I wasn’t much interested in it . . . I liked playing football but I wasn’t much interested in playing League football. I was too shy I was.”

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Mac Wilson relaxes at his Thornbury home, August 2009. (Photo: Supplied)

Wilson’s nine-game career would encompass the 1933 and ’44 seasons, at a time when the Allies gained momentum in World War II.

A late starter, (Wilson was 29 years, 21 days when he completed his senior League debut), he joined Carlton from Footscray District League club Sunshine at a time when young men continued to volunteer for military service and footballers were something of a rare commodity.

Seven of Wilson’s nine matches for Carlton would be as 19th man. Remarkably, his first and last games would result in 100+-point thrashings of Collingwood and Geelong, and his first full game would be a final.

According to the record books, Wilson followed his captain Jim Francis onto the field for the first time in Round 12, 1943, in what was the match with the black and whites at Victoria Park. Warming the pine as 19th man, Wilson must have sat there in awe as Francis (with eight goals) and Jack Wrout (seven) completed the rout, 28.10 (178) to the black and whites’ 11.8 (74).

It may well be that Mac didn’t get a run in this match, as he cites the Round 14 match versus Essendon at Windy Hill – Francis’ last game – as his first real League foray. As he said: “Arthur Sanger broke his arm and I was 19th man . . . and the first bloke I played on was ‘Dicky’ Reynolds”.

Wilson took his place in the dugout in three of his team’s last four games of the ’43 season, ending with Fitzroy at Brunswick Street Oval. The visitors’ 15-point win in that one earned them another shot at the Maroons in the first semi final, and Wilson got the call-up fir his first full game at half-back, replacing the injured Frank Anderson.

Regrettably, Fitzroy emerged 51-point victors and duly ended Carlton’s September campaign.

In February of the following year, Wilson enlisted in the RAAF, where basic training deprived him of any football for months. Not until Round 8 did Wilson make himself available and he got the call-up for another encounter with Collingwood, this time at Princes Park.

This time, Carlton won.

Wilson sat on the bench twice more, before taking his place in the starting line-up for the Round 17 match against Geelong at Princes Park. Another serving member of the RAAF turned out for the first time in that one – the West Australian-born future Carlton premiership captain and club champion Ern Henfry – who was near-best on the ground in the Blues’ 106-point demolition of the Pivotonians.

Wilson was either unavailable or omitted for what proved to be a controversial last game of the home and away season against Footscray the following weekend, when a hotly-disputed goal after the final bell gave the Bulldogs victory by one point and forced Carlton out of finals contention.

By then it was all over for Mac the player – but Mac the citizen would live on for almost three quarters of a century.

Wilson, whose wife ‘Billie’ predeceased him in 2001, died after a short illness. He is survived by his son Neil and daughter Anne.

His funeral is to be held next Wednesday, August 16, at Ern Jensen’s Funerals, 6 Bruce Street, Preston, commencing 2pm.

Blues sharpshooter Hamilton dies

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

Kevan ‘Icy’ Hamilton, who took Carlton’s goalkicking honours after just 11 senior appearances through the Melbourne Olympic year of 1956, has died at the age of 84.

Hamilton joined the club from the VFL powerhouse that was Melbourne. It was said that he was sacked by the Redlegs’ legendary senior coach Norm Smith, who believed the player had sworn at him in a pre-season game.

This was an accusation long denied by Hamilton, who in truth maintained a friendship with Smith well beyond his playing days. As Hamilton’s daughter Joanne Adams was quoted saying: “The papers made more of a deal out of it than what it actually was. He (Hamilton) would go around and have cups of tea with him afterwards, so it wasn’t a big deal . . . he was friends with him afterwards.”

Hamilton found his way to Royal Parade having won Melbourne’s reserve grade goalkicking honours with 35 for the 1955 season. Plying his craft as a forward pocket and sharing roving duties with the late Frank Munro, ‘Icy’ warmed the hearts of the Carlton faithful – booting four goals on debut for the old dark Navy Blues against St Kilda at the Junction Oval (Round 3, 1956) and following up with another four-goal haul against North Melbourne at Princes Park.

As the ’56 season progressed, and closer opposition attention was paid, the goals began to dry up for Hamilton. Nonetheless, he still managed 14 more to earn goalkicking honours for the season, albeit with the lowest tally at the club since Vin Gardiner’s 22 in 1917.

Carlton ended the ’56 season in fifth place, just two points adrift of a finals berth, and Hamilton, for whatever reason, sought a clearance to his original club McKinnon. The clearance was denied, but Hamilton spent most of the ’57 season in the reserves and never again got a Carlton senior call-up.

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Kevan Hamilton marks strongly up front for the mighty Blues, versus Hawthorn at Princes Park – Round 8, Saturday, June 2, 1956.

Bowing to the inevitable, the Blues duly released Hamilton at season’s end, and he returned to McKinnon in the capacity of captain-coach. Clearly Carlton’s loss was McKinnon’s game, for Hamilton rose in stature to become one of the all-time greats of the old Federal Football League.

Through the course of the next 10 years, Hamilton won his competition’s Best and Fairest award, the JW Allnutt Trophy, no less than five times – including four in a row from 1961 through to ’64) – and not surprisingly was inducted into the Southern Football Netball League Hall of Fame two years ago.

Will Hunter, in his critique of Hamilton for the Hall, wrote that Icy’s greatest asset was his lethal right foot. “With an uncomplicated, fluid action, he was a beautiful kick of the football and rarely missed a target,” Hunter noted. “He could give the ball a mighty roost as well, and regularly practiced having shots at goal from the centre of the footy ground with his older brother.”

Hamilton’s kicking prowess was such that in 1969 he was seconded to Richmond by his good friend the late Tom Hafey to assist the players as kicking coach. For three years at Punt Road, Hamilton imparted the finer points of goalkicking to the likes of Rex Hunt, Neil Balme and Ricky McLean.

Don Nicholls, the older brother of John and 77-game former Carlton centreman, made his senior debut the week before Hamilton and remembered his old teammate with affection.

“From my memory Kevan was a small bloke who played more as a rover – and a good shot for goal he was too.”

“Kevan was a nice little bloke. They called him ‘Icy’, although why that was I have no idea,” Don said.

Thankfully, Kevan’s daughter Joanne can put that matter to rest, as the nickname stemmed from his childhood penchant for icy poles in the days when the Hamilton family ran a milk bar in the McKinnon area.

Kevan Hamilton died on Sunday morning with family by his side. He leaves behind his wife, Sue, children Joanne, David (Ian) and Sharon, and 10 grandchildren.

His funeral will be held this Thursday, August 3, at Blair Chapel, Springvale Botanical Cemetery, commencing at 2.45pm.

Keith Rae’s 100th

Happy 100th birthday to Keith Rae!

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Career : 1939, 1943
Debut : Round 15, 1939 vs Footscray, aged 22 years, 5 days
Carlton Player No. 550
Games : 15
Goals : 2
Last Game : Round 16, 1943 vs Fitzroy, aged 26 years, 28 days
Guernsey Nos. 29 (1939) and 23 (1943)
Height : 180 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 70 kg (11 stone)
DOB : 30 July, 1917

Keith Stanley Rae was a capable midfielder whose career at Carlton was heavily interrupted by World War II. After playing in two memorable games for the Blues late in 1939, he joined the Royal Australian Navy, where his wartime duties kept him away from Melbourne for three full seasons. Back at Princes Park in 1943, he racked up another 13 matches, but was left out of Carlton’s Semi Final team and departed at the end of that year.

Rae’s path to Princes Park began at Williamstown in the VFA, the suburb in which he was born. He later joined Carlton’s affiliated amateur side, Carlton Juniors, and in 1939 was training with the Blues when captain-coach Brighton Diggins told him that he would be playing his first senior game for Carlton in the following weekend’s round 15 clash at home against Footscray.

Named in the centre, with Jack Carney and Bob Green as his wingers, Rae’s debut was an unforgettable experience. Sitting one win out of the top four, but with the second-best percentage in the competition, Carlton launched a last-ditch assault on a finals place and slaughtered the Bulldogs by 88 points. Forwards Ken Baxter and Paul Schmidt kicked 8 goals each, and clever rover ‘Mickey’ Crisp bagged another five.

That great form continued with another big win the following week, against Hawthorn at Princes Park. This time, the margin was 62 points, as Baxter and Schmidt starred again with four goals each. However, Rae was omitted from the team after just those two appearances, and Carlton missed out on playing finals football when we crashed to a heavy defeat against Richmond in round 17 at Punt Road.

A few weeks later, just as the ‘39 finals began, the world was plunged into crisis by the outbreak of another war in Europe. Because he was already serving with the RAN Volunteer Reserve, Rae was quickly called up by the navy, and spent the following three years in various ships and naval depots in Australian waters. Keith survived the sinking of his ship the HMAS Nestor in the Mediterranean June 1942. In 1943 he was posted back to Melbourne, and wasted little time in rolling up at Princes Park, where coach Percy Bentley made him welcome.

Rae’s comeback match, a home game against Richmond in the first round of the new season, resulted in another huge win to the Blues, and another brilliant individual effort by a Carlton forward. This time it was Jim ‘Bones’ Baird who provided the game’s highlight, by booting ten great goals in a 44-point victory. Rea was a handy contributor on a centre wing, and from then on held his place in the side for most of the season.

Carlton wound up the ’43 home and away season in fourth place on the ladder – one win behind minor premiers Richmond, but with a healthier percentage. The Blues were considered a real chance of pinching the flag that year, but stumbled when it mattered most and were bundled out of contention by Fitzroy in the first Semi Final. Although Rae had appeared in thirteen of the sixteen regular season games, he was omitted from the Semi Final side, and never represented the Blues again.

The Navy called Keith back to the colours in 1944. Football again took a back seat, and he was still on duty when World War II eventually ended in August, 1945. One of those who could genuinely claim that they served ‘for the duration,’ he was eventually discharged in May, 1946.

Later that same year, he turned up at Richmond, where he impressed enough to be given a go by the Tigers, but managed only two more senior games and one goal.

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Trove: Smith’s Weekly 1941 November 08 p17

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Possibly Keith two behind the man in front holding the ship’s bell.
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100 up for a one in a million Rae

Carlton historian Tony DeBolfo caught up with Keith Rae on the eve of his 100th birthday.
Congratulations Keith, from all at Blueseum.
http://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/2017-07-29/100-up-for-one-in-a-million-rae

Keith’s WW2 Rescue

Williamstown Chronicle, September 26, 1941
“Mr. and Mrs. Stan Rae, of 32 Hosking-street, have received word that their son Keith, who was a gunlayer on an armed cruiser, has been saved after his ship was sunk by enemy action. Prior to his enlistment Keth was a well known athlete, being a centreman with the Williamstown and the Carlton Football Clubs and also a cricketer with the Colts team, graduating from the Williamstown Cricket Club.”

100 up for one in a million Rae

Keith Rae remembers his Mum sending him off on his first errand to the local corner shop in Williamstown.

Then a kid of eight or nine, he can still picture that moment in his mind’s eye. “Mum handed me a shilling,” Keith recalled. “First time I ever saw one”.

Born before the Armistice was signed, and hardened by the tribulations of the Great Depression, Keith Stanley Rae is of that fast disappearing generation who also served his country through the Second World War (in his case as a leading seaman).

Between times, the boy from Williamstown chased the pigskin in the VFL – in 15 games out of the centre for Carlton through 1939 and again in ’43, and in two more for the Tigers after the guns fell silent in ’46.

Carlton’s 550th player to complete his senior debut, Keith was appropriately enough born in the Blue Room of his grandfather’s Stag’s Head Hotel in ‘Willy’, one hundred years ago this Sunday, July 30, 1917. He was the oldest of five siblings, with three sisters and a brother following.

Keith carried his books to the local Williamstown state school, and later Footscray Technical School, despite his father’s best efforts. “Dad wanted me to go to Scotch College and I said ‘Why go all the way out there?’”, said Keith.

Not long after finishing up at Footscray Tech, Keith took on a welder’s course at the Williamstown naval dockyards, “but in the end I joined the Navy because I was 16 and I couldn’t get a job”.

That move would later have significant ramifications.

As with his professional career, Keith’s football life had its origins at Williamstown, where his prowess as a midfielder first came to the attention of the renowned Carlton talent scout Newton Chandler.

“I reckon it was Newton who approached me at a game at Williamstown and said ‘Son, we think we could use you’,” Keith recalled. “In the end I went up to Carlton to practice and I remember breaking into the team and running down the race.”

Records attest that Keith’s first game came against Footscray in the 15th round of the 1939 season, after the then Carlton premiership captain-coach Brighton Diggins gave him the nod.

“He was quite a good bloke Diggins. He told me I was playing and I couldn’t wait to tell my father,” Keith said.

Keith was named in the centre, between Jack Carney and Bob Green. He followed Diggins down the race with the likes of Baxter, Chitty, Crisp and Hale. Together they contributed to Carlton’s 88-point annihilation of the visitors, with Paul Schmidt and Baxter booting nine and eight goals respectively, and ‘Micky’ Crisp putting another five over the goal umpire’s hat.

Omitted after the following match against Hawthorn, Keith’s ’39 season was done and dusted when Carlton failed to make the cut for September.

And then the war came . . . and Keith, already serving with the RAN Volunteer Reserve, was called upon by the navy. The ensuing three years would see him fulfil various duties on a number of ships, amongst them the destroyer HMAS Nestor which, in June 1942, was amongst a convoy attacked from the air by the Luftwaffe, by U boats and by E boats.

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Keith Rae, proudly sporting his Carlton guernsey, at a naval camp in Portsmouth, England, in late 1941. The guernsey later went down with a sinking ship in the Mediterranean. (Photo: Supplied)

Both engine rooms of the Nestor were flooded and four stokers were killed in that incident.

Keith lived to tell the tale.

“The plane came over and dropped a bomb. The bomb hit the yard arm of the mast and deflected into the water,” he said.

“I’d just come off the wheel and wooden pieces of it came flying down, some of it hitting me in the leg. It’s why I’ve still got this crook leg, but I was lucky. I sat on top of the deck until a rescue ship came by.”

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24 year-old Keith Rae, HMAS Nestor, Egypt, 1941. (Photo: Supplied)

In 1943, Keith was posted back to Melbourne, and wasted little time resuming his playing career by Royal Parade, under the watch of Diggins’ successor as Carlton senior coach, Percy Bentley.

Keith got a call-up for the opening round match of the ’43 season, and in the lead-up stood with his teammates to observe a minute’s silence for his old teammate Jim Park, who had been killed in action in New Guinea.

After the lone bugler played The Last Post, the ball was bounced, and the Carlton players attacked it with sheer ferocity. Prominent amongst them was Jim Baird with 10 goals, and Keith was acknowledged for his handy contributions on a wing.

Carlton ended the ’43 home and away season in fourth place, only to be bundled out of the finals by Fitzroy in the first semi. Keith, despite appearing in 13 of the 16 regular season matches, was omitted for the that Gorillas game and never again took to the field in dark navy.

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The Carlton team, photographed before the 13th round match of the ’43 season – ?Saturday, August 7- versus Hawthorn at Princes Park. Keith Rae is the dark-haired player in the back row, seventh from the left. (Photo: Supplied)

In 1944, the Navy called Keith back to the colours, and he was still on duty when World War II ended. Amongst those who could genuinely claim that they served ‘for the duration,’ Keith was finally discharged in May 1946 – and fronted up for two senior games at Richmond before calling it a day as a League footballer.

At Carlton, Keith is accredited with just two career goals – two too many as he dryly suggested.

“I remember one game there was a boundary throw-in, I got the football, swung around and kicked a goal, even though the centre half-forward Jack Wrout was calling for it,” Keith said.

“After that happened and the ball was being taken back to the centre, he (Wrout) came up to me and said: ‘I kick the goals’.”

Through his days as a League footballer, Keith was paid three pound a game for his troubles – with all proceeds handed over to his mother.

“Not that she needed it,” Keith said. “It was more that money never meant anything to me.”

This coming Sunday, Keith will celebrate his 100th birthday with family and friends on the Mornington Peninsula where he now lives in coastal tranquillity. The best wishes card from Her Maj has already founds its way to his modest home, as has a card from the PM.

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Keith Rae on the eve of his 100th birthday. (Photo: Carlton Media)

He becomes the third former Carlton footballer known to notch the three figures after Newton Chandler, who died at the age of 103 years and 196 days in 1997, and Mac Wilson – at 103 years and 20 days currently the AFL’s oldest living ex-player.

He also becomes Richmond’s first centurion in terms of age.

Keith fully expects to be around for a few more birthdays too. As he said: “Have a look at me. I never smoked, I never had an argument, and when you live to be 100 it’s got to mean you’re happy.”

Keith Rae’s first senior game for Carlton,  Round 15, Saturday, August 5, 1939, versus Footscray at Princes Park:

B: Don McIntyre, Frank Gill, Jim Park

HB: Bob Chitty, Jim Francis (vc), Frank Anderson

C: Jack Carney, Keith Rae, Bob Green

HF: Ron Cooper, Jack Wrout, Creswell Crisp

F: Harry Hollingshead, Ken Baxter, Paul Schmidt

FOLL: Brighton Diggins (cc), Rod McLean, Jack Hale

19th man: Jack Skinner

Darren Hulme’s 40th

Happy 40th birthday to Darren Hulme.

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Career: 1997-2004
Debut: Round 10, 1997 vs Port Adelaide
1018th Carlton Player
Games: 110
Goals: 56
Last Game: Round 9, 2004 vs Western Bulldogs
Guernsey No. 47 (1996 – 1997) and 27 (1998-2004)
Height: 175cm
Weight: 80kg
DOB: 19 July, 1977

AFL Rising Star Nominee: Round 10, 1998

Taken with Pick 8 in the 1997 Pre-Season Draft from Dandenong Stingrays U/18’s (originally from Frankston Bombers), Darren Hulme was a feisty 175 cm midfielder who played over 100 games with the Blues. “Pup”, who wore a tattoo on his left shoulder, became a regular with the Blues from late 1997 until 2003, other than some occasional soft tissue injuries and a serious knee injury in Round 5, 2002, which would keep him sidelined for the remainder of that season. He would return to being a regular in the side in 2003, playing 20 games (missing 2 due to injury). But after playing 7 of the first 9 games in 2004, he would miss the remainder of that season with a groin injury and then be delisted.

He would generally alternate on the ball with short stints in the forward line. He would earn an AFL Rising Star Nomination in 1998. One of Hulme’s most memorable games was Round 9, 2001, when he would inspire a Blues’ revival. He would take on two Roos players, yet was still able to beat them both to win the ball and force a turnover, which would result in an important goal that would change the course of the game. He would end up taking the 3 Brownlow votes that game and would record 10 for the year – the equal highest at the club.

Pup would take a few scalps with him on the way – a few wins in a row against Adelaide Legend (not yet a Legend but will be) Andrew McLeod, before the sheer pace of McLeod ended that move. Pup was also famous for his short kicking distance, at times looking like 30 metres was his distance.

In the struggle of 2002 and 2003, Carlton coaches would lament our inability to rotate players through the midfield, and Hulme’s name would often be mentioned in the mix. He was a hard, key player for the Blues before succumbing to injury as our slide down the ladder in 2002 / 2003 was complete.

Let’s not undervalue Hulme – a tough, hard at it competitor for the Ball, and a favourite of fans despite his sometime wayward (and short) kicking. His 102 games in the #27 guernsey (on top of 8 in the #47) was just enough to earn him a place on the locker- only the third Blue to do so.

Milestones

50th game in Round 15, 2000 against Adelaide
100th game in Round 17, 2003 against Collingwood

Career Highlights

1998 – 3rd Reserves Best & Fairest
2001 – 8th Best & Fairest
2001 – Equal Peter Sullivan Memorial Trophy (Most Carlton Votes in the Brownlow Medal)
2003 – 5th Best & Fairest

McColl reflects on football and fate

It’s almost 60 years since Graham McColl completed his senior debut for the Carlton Football Club. For McColl, the game against North Melbourne in the second round of 1958 would herald in an association that would endure for more than a quarter of a century at Princes Park – but not as he had anticipated.

Just 10 senior games into his maiden season, in the night grand final against St Kilda at the Lakeside Oval in September ’58, McColl ruptured the anterior cruciate in his right knee. Resuming training the following March, the young ruckman again broke down with the same injury. At 24, McColl’s League career was over before it had begun.

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McColl is carried from Princes Park in a training mishap in March 1959. (Article by The Sun)

The proverbial silver lining came with McColl’s subsequent pursuit of recovery techniques – which in turn piqued his interest in becoming a club trainer. So it was that McColl embarked on his new career at Carlton, rising through the ranks of the support staff from thirds, to reserves and ultimately seniors.

In the premiership season of 1981, McColl’s contributions to Carlton as trainer were rewarded with Life Membership – the same year in which players Mark Maclure and Graeme Whitnall were similarly honoured.

Now 83, McColl recently penned the following reminiscences of his life and times at Carlton.

“Before I reminisce about my life to date as a player, member of the training staff, member of past players’ association and Life Member, it may be of help to give you some prior history of my football life with some details of how I became a Carlton player in 1958.

Early school years (commencing 1940) were at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. I attended Forest Hill school, located outside the Aerodrome, on which I lived. I played Rugby and represented the school in athletics to year six.

After the War, we moved back to Melbourne and various parts of Victoria, which resulted in me attending many different schools. Eventually we moved to East Coburg where my parents obtained a home and my father was discharged from the R.A.A.F.

At this time I went to Preston Technical School and, after learning NOT to RUN with the ball under my arm (as in Rugby), I played in the school’s Australian Rules team, where we played against other Technical Schools in the metropolitan area and won many games. Ron Barassi (who later went to Melbourne) played as a half-forward flanker, and Brian Pert (later to play for Fitzroy) and myself were the wingmen.

I was invited to play for the Carlton Under 19s, however I wasn’t able to play a game, as family commitments forced me to look for a club in the vicinity and that’s how I came to play at Coburg in the VFA, playing 68 games. I feel my summer training with Preston Harriers and at Preston Tech., in running, high jump and hurdles, helped me with my ability to play in various positions if required.

1950s saw me as a telephone technician in training, working in many exchanges in Melbourne and country areas, and moving through various levels. With a transfer for eight weeks to Geelong Exchange, my father arranged for me to train at Geelong Football Club, with Reg Hickey as coach. I learnt a lot there and won Coburg Football Club’s Best & Fairest in 1956. Geelong asked me to sign a Form 4, however, Carlton was aware of this and claimed me as their player, where I played ten games in 1958 for the seniors. Of interest during this time was the payment the players received, which was 12 pounds for a full match and the Provident fund only being available after 50 games!

My first game was against North Melbourne, where I played as centre half-forward, my opponent being Albert Mantello. He tried me out physically and I more than held my own, with two goals. I also gave Mantello a hefty bump to which his teammate commented: ‘You’ve got one here, Albert’.

The night series at the South Melbourne ground saw me playing in the ruck, where I received my knee injury in a final against St Kilda. Medical staff didn’t know how serious my injury was. I drove home and went to work the next day. My boss sent me off to the local doctor and then to a physiotherapist. He didn’t know what the full extent of my injury was either. I missed the next year and so I wrote to the American National Football Association and received a strapping procedure – 30 strips of tape – but not much help.

When Dr. Arnold Cooper came to the club he explained what the problem was an I was offered a position on the training staff, with ongoing training by Dr. Cooper and our new physiotherapist Geoff Luke.

I was employed as a trainer for the Under 19s. In addition to looking after injured players, I became a messenger to players from the coach. Some of the players who started in the Under 19s were Adrian Gallagher, Jim Sullivan, Ray O’Halloran, Mark Maclure, John Morrison and Bruce Doull. The Under 19s won the premiership in 1963. 

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Trainer Graham McColl (middle row, far left) with members of Carlton’s under-19 premiership team of 1963, which includes Adrian Gallagher and Denis Pagan.

During my time as a trainer, the senior team won four Grand Finals in 1968, ’70, ’72 and ’79 – the latter in which Wayne Harmes (a local boy with a ‘never-say-die’ attitude) saved the ball on the boundary to enable Ken Sheldon to kick the winning goal. This is still a matter of discussion for Collingwood supporters. Alex Jesaulenko captained and coached his grand final team, but we had to carry him off with a serious ankle injury. However, with true spirit, he was there to receive the premiership cup at the end of the game.

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McColl tends to Sergio Silvagni’s knee in 1966. 

Back in the ’70s, a VFL Trainers’ Association was established by a couple of Hawthorn trainers. The association established a training scheme for those persons who wanted to become members of their club’s medical team and be present on the ground during games. Interested parties were required to participate in a six to 12-week practical course, which involved resuscitation and different methods of strapping. The course was conducted at the Collingwood ground.

As the years rolled on, my employment with Telecom caused me, at one stage, to resign my position with the senior XVIII staff. I was able to overcome this, as management moved me to a position that enabled me to attend training sessions during the week. Later, I was offered the position of Head Trainer, but had to decline as my work for Telecom would not allow me to be at the ground for commencement of training and in time for strapping.

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McColl to the rescue of Rod Ashman, elimination final vs. Geelong, VFL Park, September 1978.

On a brighter note, I enjoyed assisting those who were new to the club, the camaraderie and the interaction between training staff and players was excellent, even though we were all on various levels. Sunday morning recovery sessions consisted of lap running, hot and cold showers and rubdowns and a drink of some description to finish off. On many occasions, players, trainers and staff got together with wives and girlfriends, sometimes not getting home until mid-afternoon. 

I tended to lose my interest when we basically became ‘waterboys’. However, nowadays the players have doctors, physios and mini-ambulances available to get them to more specialised treatments – and they sure need it with the game edging towards a Rugby format. I’ve always known the game as Australian Rules football (but there’s a) number of ball-ups (scrums), handling the ball incorrectly (throwing) and running the ball down the ground before kicking or shooting for goal (basketball). Umpires should also be able to assess that players are required to bounce the ball within 10-20 metres of running, or otherwise be penalised. I feel the umpires need to be re-trained in these areas.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time with Carlton. In writing these reminiscences, it has brought back some wonderful memories, of trips away, pride in winning Premierships and watching new players develop their skills.

Thanks for your interest in my time at Carlton, and to finish – Go Blues!”

Graham McColl (No.36)

Gary Lawson-Smith is 70

Happy 70th birthday to Gary Lawson-Smith.

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Playing Career : 1970-71
Debut : Round 10, 1970 vs Footscray, aged 22 years, 341 days
Carlton Player No. 823
Games : 7
Goals : Nil
Guernsey No. 16
Last Game: Round 11, 1971 vs Collingwood, aged 23 years, 349 days
Height : 191cm (6’3″)
Weight : 87.5kg (13.11)
Date of Birth : 30 June, 1947

Lawson-Smith debuted for the Blues in 1970, playing 7 games over 2 seasons.

Gary Smith was born in South Australia on June 30, 1947 and was recruited from Central District and had to stand out of football for the 1969 season, when he kept fit by being Carlton’s match day runner while waiting for his clearance. He played in guernsey number 16 and debuted in Round 10, 1970 against Footscray at the Western Oval at the age of 22 years and 341 days old in this 10 point loss where he was named on the half back flank. He was listed as 6′ 3″ (191cm) and 13.11 (87.5kg) and he played 3 senior games during 1970.

Before the start of 1971 season he married and changed his name from Smith to Lawson-Smith (Lawson being his middle name). He was one of the two Carlton players to change their surnames for this season the other one being Andy Lukas who shorted his name to Lukas. These stories are explained in great detail in the attached link.

Gary played 4 games during 1971 and played his last league game in Round 11, 1971 and was aged 23 years and 349 days old. Four of his 7 Carlton senior games were played off the interchange bench and he played in 4 wins at a winning ratio of 57.1%.

Lawson-Smith also wore Guernsey No. 26 whilst playing with Carlton reserves in 1969.

Career Highlights

1971 – 4th Reserves Best & Fairest

‘Bloodbath’ year Blue dies

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

Ken Hopper, a 17-game half-forward flanker and senior-listed player in Carlton’s premiership season of 1945, has died at the age of 93.

Born in South Melbourne in June 1924, but raised in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Hopper played for Pascoe Vale alongside another future Carlton player, the late Allan Greenshields.

Hopper was called up for his Carlton senior debut, against Melbourne, in the opening round of the infamous 1945 season. Sporting the No.2 on his back, he took his place on a flank alongside Alex Way and Charlie McInnes, players who would later make the cut for “The Bloodbath”.

The Redlegs accounted for Carlton by 21 points in that opening round, but Hopper maintained his presence in the seniors for a further 13 games on end. However, he was omitted in the wake of the team’s three-point loss to Essendon in the 14th round, when the visitors’ Bill Brittingham goaled after the siren.

For the next month, Hopper sought form in the secondsand won a recall from senior coach Perc Bentley and the match committee for the 19th round match with Geelong. Regrettably, he was again dropped despite the Blues’ 94-point hammering of Geelong at Princes Park.

Named as an emergency for the Grand Final, Hopper took his “gear” to Princes Park, but watched on from the sidelines when the Bob Chitty-inspired Carlton juggernaut powered its way to the ’45 flag.

Ken Hopper Later Life Image
A recent photo of Ken, proudly sporting the 1945 team photograph. (Photo: Carlton Media)

Though he didn’t win ’em and wear ’em in “The Bloodbath”, Hopper was part of Carlton’s celebratory bus tour to Sydney and Canberra the following year. The tour, which ferried Carlton players and officials to such destinations as Gundagai, the Blue Mountains, Bateman’s Bay and Sydney Harbour, was fully-funded by the club as fitting reward for the team’s landing of its seventh and hardest-earned pennant. A highlight for Hopper was meeting the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies (later Carlton’s No.1 ticket holder) in Canberra.

All the way, Hopper and his trusty Kodak captured precious moments in sepia – from the first roadside luncheon stop at Dandenong through to the sand and surf of Manly, and everything in between. A classic image of Bob Chitty looking down from a balcony at the Australian War Memorial was taken through Hopper’s lens.

Some 63 years later, Hopper graciously availed his unique Box Brownie snapshots to the football club and its Members and supporters – and shared his precious recollections of the tour with this reporter.

“In those days most teams usually took off on yearly trips to wind up the season, but the money wasn’t around then and our trips were usually confined to Bendigo or Ballarat,” Hopper said back in 2008.

Canberra Trip Image
Carlton players Vin Brown, Jim Francis, Ken Hopper and Dzongkha Williams. (Photo: Supplied)

That trip was absolutely tops. To head off interstate was something that never took place in that era and to think we were heading to Sydney and Canberra on a premiership trip was just unbelievable.”

Hopper turned out twice more for the old dark Navy Blues in 1946 before accepting a transfer to rival club Hawthorn. As fate would have it, Hopper’s last hurrah for the old dark Navy Blues came in the 14th round match of ’46 against the Mayblooms at Princes Park, when Ken Hands, the only surviving member of Carlton’s 1945 and ’47 premiership teams – booted a lazy five.

That Hawthorn match also brought down the curtain on the career of Carlton’s acting captain on the day, Rod “Madcap” McLean (father of Ricky, grandfather of Brock), whose 128 senior appearances took in the premierships of 1938 and ’45.

Chitty War Memorial Image
Carlton Premiership captain Bob Chitty at the Australian War Memorial. (Photo: Ken Hopper)

At Glenferrie Oval, Hopper was afforded greater opportunity and found his niche as a capable utility who could play anywhere. From 1947 to ’51, he racked up 66 senior games for his second club, during which time he earned a handsome reputation as a most popular and respected team man.

Hopper was later rewarded with Hawthorn Life Membership, having served as President of the Hawthorn Past Players Association on no less than seven occasions.

Ken Hopper, the 601st player to represent the Carlton Football Club at senior level, died on Thursday (June 29). He is survived by his daughters Vicki and Coralie and their partners John and Barry, grandchildren Lauren, Olivier, Shane, Bailey, Colin and Alex, and great grandchildren Marcel and Mathilde.

A funeral service for Ken Hopper will be held at Le Pine Funerals, 1048 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill, this Wednesday, July 5, commencing 10.30am, with a private cremation to follow.