All roads lead to Carlton for Crowe

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

Bob Crowe meets Liam Jones - Carlton's keepers of the No.14. - Carlton,Carlton Blues,AFL,Ikon ParkBob Crowe meets Liam Jones – Carlton’s keepers of the No.14.

BOB Crowe last laced a boot for Carlton in 1964. On Saturday, for the first time in 54 years, the spritely former Carlton half-back flanker returned to the old Princes Park ground, resplendent in his dark navy blue blazer.

That blazer, a Solway standard for players back then, fitted Crowe like the proverbial glove. As the 82-year-old quickly reminded – “I played at 11-stone-four and I now weigh in at 11-five”.

Originally recruited to the Club from Mentone on the sayso of the then Mentone coach and dual Carlton premiership player Jim Baird, Crow’s tenure with Carlton lasted 11 seasons – and these were happy times both on and off the field for him.

“Looking around the ground now, I remember where the Robert Heatley Stand once stood. They used to put a dance on underneath and there’d be a barrel on,” Crowe recalled.

“They were good days.”

Crowe joined Carlton in 1954, the year after training with Melbourne under Norm Smith’s watch. Why the move? Put it down to the persistence of the then Carlton captain Ken Hands and a teammate Ron Robertson, who repeatedly and vociferously mounted the Carlton case.

Round 17, 1954 – the match with Fitzroy at Princes Park – coincided with Crowe’s first senior appearance. Curiously, Crowe’s 129th and final game would also involve the Lions – and to quote Crowe, “I also did my knee against Fitzroy, running down the race at Brunswick Street”.

“The race was like an old suburban dirt road – potholes and everything,” Crowe recalled of the place where he came to grief before the opening bounce in the 10th round of ’59.

“I played for a quarter with pain killers, but the knee was a bloody mess and in those days a cartilage injury meant a major operation. I remember I was a week in hospital, a week at home and a week at work. I resumed training with the stitches still in and I reckon I played in about seven weeks.”

Crowe finished up at Carlton in late ’64 at around the time of Ron Barassi’s landmark appointment as senior coach . . . “but that was of my own choosing”.

As he said: “I was living at Dandenong and I ended up playing a year there, but I never played again”.

Fifty-four years on, Crowe came back, only this time accompanied by his wife Judith, son Simon, his three grandchildren Sarah, Grace and Xavier and his daughter-in-law Jane – who captured these wonderful images for posterity on a day in which the Club’s past players were invited to a post-training meet and greet.

Together with the clan, Crowe posed by the No.14 locker into which his name is etched. Later, he renewed acquaintance with one of his old Carlton contemporaries Sergio Silvagni. Together they fought the good fight in the losing grand final of ’62 (“one game too many” given the drawn preliminary final with Geelong), the same year Crowe joined John Nicholls in representing the Big V.

Bob Crowe and his family in front of the No.14 locker.

Bob Crowe catches up with Sergio Silvagni as Jacob Weitering listens intently.

For Crowe, ‘Big Nick’ was Carlton’s best, although he often wonders what might have been had a barrel-chested bloke from the Riverina hung around.

“We had a bloke here named Des Lyons, a centre half-forward from Barellan,” said Crowe. “Now he only played a couple of games and he got homesick, but in my opinion he would have been the best of the best.”

At training’s end, Crowe was introduced to today’s keeper of the No.14 Liam Jones with whom he enthusiastically compared notes. Crowe, you see, was relocated from forward to back by the then coach of the day Ken Hands, just as Jones was more recently repositioned by Brendon Bolton – inspired decisions in both instances.

Bob Crowe meets Marc Murphy and Matthew Kreuzer.

“I remember playing forward and the ball wasn’t coming down much,” Crowe said.

“I eventually said to Jack Wrout ‘Give me a game on the backline’, ‘Handsy’ put me back there and it actually worked out quite well, because it usually follows that if a player has played forward he’s got a fair idea what the backman’s doing.”

Crowe and his loved ones filed out of the old ground, having completed their sentimental journey. For Crowe, timing was everything, for he wanted to lend the Club his undying support when it was most needed – and as he said, “It’ll turn around . . . it always does”.

Alex Marcou’s 60th

Happy 60th birthday to Alex Marcou.


Career : 19791986
Debut : Round 3, 1979 vs Essendon, aged 20 years, 268 days
Carlton Player No. 879
Games : 158 (134 at Carlton)
Goals : 165 (148 at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 11, 1986 vs North Melbourne, aged 27 years, 338 days
Guernsey No. 34
Height : 178 cm (5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : 6 July, 1958
Premiership Player: 1979, 1981, 1982
Carlton Hall of Fame (2006)

Alexander Marcou was a member of Carlton’s fabled Mosquito Fleet of brilliant small men of the 1970s and ‘80s – a lightning quick, three-time Premiership rover renowned for his ball-handling skills and excellent goal sense. After being recruited from VAFA club Thomastown at the age of 18, he won Carlton Reserves Best and Fairest award in 1978, and the following year began his senior career.

Upon arrival at Princes Park in 1976, Marcou was allocated the Blues’ guernsey number 50 before switching to the number 34 previously worn by three-time Premiership star Ian Robertson. Like Robertson, Marcou would go on to win three flags, and as at 2016, his 134 games still stand as the club record for most appearances in this number. Of mixed Greek and Macedonian heritage, Alex grew up in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and inherited his love of Australian football from his father, who at that time was a rusted-on Fitzroy supporter.

Although he was eligible to play at Under-19 level, Marcou started with Carlton Reserves and served a lengthy apprenticeship of 33 games over two seasons, primarily as a winger or centreman. His coach in 1978 was Carlton Legend Sergio Silvagni, and it was Serge who convinced the Blues’ match committee to include Alex in the senior team for the opening round of the 1979 season against Essendon at VFL Park. Three other first-gamers in Wayne Johnston, Robbert Klomp and Peter Francis were also included for that Saturday afternoon match, and all were destined for Premiership glory. Playing as second rover to Ken Sheldon, Marcou collected 15 disposals, 2 marks and 2 goals in an eye-catching debut. Carlton won by 21 points, and from that day on, Alex was an automatic selection in the Blues’ senior side.

Midway through that first fairytale season, in his 13th senior game, Marcou (already nick-named “Marcel” after the famous French mime artist Marcel Marceau) was named Best on Ground when he kicked five goals in the Blues’ big win over Richmond at Princes Park. By September, Carlton was two wins clear of North Melbourne on top of the ladder, and raging hot favourites to claim another flag when they met the Roos in the Second Semi Final at VFL Park. Marcou and Rod Austin warmed the interchange bench for much of that afternoon, before Marcel was unleashed and got busy with eight effective possessions. Carlton won convincingly, and marched straight into the against Collingwood.

A fortnight later, having played every game of the season for an excellent return of 34 goals, Marcel sat next to “Curly” Austin on the bench again on Grand Final day at the MCG, surrounded by an enormous crowd of more than 113,000. A boggy surface, cold wind and intermittent rain didn’t dampen the ferocity of the contest between the game’s greatest rivals, until some individual heroics by Wayne Harmes during time-on in the last quarter won the games’ biggest prize for the Navy Blues. Marcou was on the ground at the final siren, having had a shot for goal that just missed with his 12th possession After just 24 games, Alex had joined the exalted ranks of Carlton Premiership players.

Season 1980 saw upheaval at Princes Park when President George Harris was voted out of office in tumultuous circumstances. Former champion ruckman “Percy” Jones replaced Alex Jesaulenko as senior coach, but the Blues never really gelled as team before crashing out of the finals in straight sets. Marcou had another fine year (apart from spending a month on the sidelines with an ankle strain) and kicked 17 goals in 19 matches. Late in the season he was selected in the VFL squad for a match against a combined ACT team in Canberra. Alex did well and was named among the three best for the Vics, but in a huge upset, the home side won by 13 points. Back at Carlton, Jones was sacked at season’s end and replaced by former Hawthorn Premiership player and coach David Parkin.

Parkin’s methods and discipline took Carlton into the finals again in 1981, thanks in no small way to the Blues’ array of brilliant, versatile small men – the Mosquito Fleet of Rod Ashman, Jim Buckley, David Glascott, Trevor Keogh, Ken Sheldon and Alex Marcou. In the Second Semi Final against Geelong, Buckley and Marcou shared the roving duties and the Blues had so many stars in their 40-point victory that Alex’s 26 disposals, 5 marks and one goal wasn’t good enough to earn a mention among his team’s best five players. Two weeks later, Carlton took on Collingwood for the flag for the second time in three seasons, and triumphed by 20 points after trailing by 21 half-way through the third quarter. In front of another huge crowd of 112,000 at the MCG, Marcou started from the interchange bench, but was soon in the thick of the action, racking up 31 disposals and six marks on the way to collecting his second Premiership medal.

Alex enjoyed his most consistent and rewarding season the following year, when Carlton survived four consecutive tough finals to claim their third flag in four years. The Blues’ opponent in the 1982 Grand Final was their other great traditional rival, Richmond – who began the decider as strong favourites after cleaning up the Blues in a rugged Semi Final. As part of his game plan, Parkin ran three rovers in Ashman, Sheldon and Marcou, and all three became influential as the contest unfolded. With their team behind by 11 points at half-time, Carlton ruckmen “Wow” Jones and captain Mike Fitzpatrick seized the initiative in the second half and the Blues came storming back for a gritty 18-point win. That evening, amid the euphoria of a third flag win in four years by the Blues, Alex’s remarkable career statistics stood at 9 finals, three Premierships and 112 goals in 87 games.

Highlights kept coming for Marcel in 1983, despite a couple of muscle strains that cost him the odd game or two. In May, he played his first and only State of Origin game for Victoria against South Australia in Adelaide, in a famous match that produced an aggregate 43 goals and a 56-point victory to the Crow Eaters. In July, Alex celebrated game number 100 for Carlton with a 6-goal victory over Fitzroy at Waverley, before playing his 20th final when the Blues suffered a devastating Elimination Final loss to Essendon. Perhaps that was a portent of things to come, because in an all too common story, Lady Luck seemed to turn her back on Alex from that time on.

Having already suffered a series of persistent soft tissue injuries, Marcou had his jaw broken in 1985, and again in 1986. Over those two seasons he managed only 10 senior games, and his frustration was compounded when he was on track for a return to the senior side on the eve of 1986 finals, only to tear a hamstring. Before that injury his form with Carlton Reserves had been good enough to see him finish third in the voting for the Gardiner Medal (Reserves Best and Fairest) despite only playing half a season.

Carlton’s heavy defeat by Hawthorn in the ’86 Grand Final turned a blowtorch on the Blues’ roster of players, and indirectly ended Marcou’s career at Princes Park. When club secretary Ian Collins bluntly told Alex that his place in Carlton’s senior team could no longer be guaranteed, it prompted the 28 year-old to consider a fresh start another club. Mainly because a number of ex-Blues were already playing there, he eventually chose St Kilda, and Carlton did not stand in his way.

Alex’s first season with the Saints in 1987 saw him used at both ends of the ground, and his experience was invaluable in a young team. However, hamstring and calf injuries slowed him down in 1988, and when he fell out with his coach Darrell Baldock, he made the decision to retire at season’s end. In two seasons at Moorabbin, he had played 24 games and booted 17 goals.

Although finished with League football, Marcou wasn’t quite ready to hang up his boots for good, so in 1989 he signed on with VFA club Springvale, where he was coached by his dual Premiership team-mate Phil Maylin. In 1993, Marcou, Maylin and another Premiership-winning Blue in Peter McConville formed an organization called the VFL – Virtually Forgotten Legends – as a social club and support network for former players and officials. Later, Alex returned to Princes Park as an energetic member of the Past Players Association, and in 2006 he was inducted into the Carlton Hall of Fame.


100 Games : Round 16, 1983 vs Fitzroy
100 Goals : Round 18, 1982 vs Footscray

Career Highlights

1978 – Reserves Best & Fairest
1979 – Premiership Player
1980 – Victorian Representative
1980 – 7th Best & Fairest
1981 – 10th Best & Fairest
1981 – Premiership Player
1982 – 7th Best & Fairest
1982 – Premiership Player
1983 – Victorian Representative
1983 – 6th Best & Fairest
1985 – 3rd in Gardiner Medal (VFL Reserves Best and Fairest)

Vale Allan White – true Blue to the end

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

ALLAN White, an opportunistic Carlton forward in the early years of John Nicholls and Sergio Silvagni, has been laid to rest in the Strathbogie Shire town of Avenel, the place from which he was recruited to Princes Park more than 60 years ago.

At the age of 84 and after a long illness, White died in a Shepparton aged care facility last Friday (June 27). Surviving him is his beloved wife Joyce (the great aunt of Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom), daughter Anne-Maree, son Richard and their families.

Born in Carlton in November 1933 and raised in nearby Fawkner, White ultimately relocated with his family to Avenel where he found work as a woodchopper. Chasing the leather for Avenel Swans on weekends, White first attracted the interest of a South Melbourne talent scout, but instead resolved to follow his football dream with the Blues whom he’d supported as a kid.

Completing his Carlton senior debut in the 17th round of 1957 – and carrying the No.38 of Ciaran Byrne on his back – White was named on a flank alongside centre half-forward Graham Donaldson and Denis Strauch for the match with Fitzroy at the old Princes Park oval.

The late Allan White signs a footy for some young fans. (Photo supplied by Heath Armstrong)

The home team, under the watch of the then coach Jim Francis, comfortably accounted for the visitors – 11.13 (79) to 5.11 (41) – on a day in which John Chick was reported and subsequently suspended for eight matches for kicking Fitzroy’s Wally Clark.

The resident Carlton captain Ken Hands also had his number taken for allegedly striking the Lions’ half-back flanker Brian Pert – a charge later thrown out by the learned members of the Tribunal.

Alternating from half-forward to full-forward between 1957 and ’59, White would find the big sticks on 23 occasions in as many senior appearances for the old dark Navy Blues, including a bag of five to get them over the line by two points against Hawthorn in the 17th round of the ’59 season.

Allan White and John Nicholls on the MCG in 1957. (Photo supplied by Heath Armstrong)

As with the late Doug Beasy and Peter Webster, White’s last hurrah for Carlton came in the 1959 second semi-final with Melbourne. Before an audience of more than 72,000 in miserable conditions on the MCG, the Hands-coached Carlton players were outclassed by the Redlegs – 11.15 (81) – 4.13 (37) – with John Nicholls and Ron Barassi best afield for their respective teams.

During his time at Carlton, White worked at a nearby box factory to help make ends meet. Then in April 1960, quite possibly for financial reasons, White successfully sought a transfer to Sunraysia Football League club Mildura Imperials whom he captained and coached.

Webster, who coincidentally captained and coached rival team Merbein, remembered his old Carlton teammate with affection.

“Gee, this goes back a long way,” Webster said. “Allan wasn’t that big size wise, about 5’11” in the old measurement, but he was quite a good kick – a long kick – and he was a nice fellow too.”

Wearing his Carlton Football Club blazer, White was buried in Avenel Cemetery on Monday. Down the road at Avenel Football Club, he is immortalised as a member of the Swans’ Team of the Century.

This week, White’s grandson Heath Armstrong, who supplied two wonderful images from the old Carlton days, paid a very personal tribute.

“My grandfather taught me how to kick a footy – my only discernible skill when it comes to playing the game,” Armstrong said.

“He was very passionate about his sport and he loved the Carlton Football Club. We always used to chat about the state of the team, this was something we really pondered a lot.

“He was genuinely pretty quiet, a man of few words, but not afraid to tell you what he thought if he thought about it strongly.”

Carlton great Keith Warburton dies

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media

Keith Warburton was endearingly remembered by Carlton supporters as the 'the acrobat in football boots'. (Photo: Boyles) - Carlton,Carlton Blues,AFL
Keith Warburton was endearingly remembered by Carlton supporters as the ‘the acrobat in football boots’. (Photo: Boyles)

KEITH Warburton, endearingly remembered by Carlton old-timers as ‘The acrobat in football boots’, has died at the age of 90.

That the high-flying ‘Warby’ lived so long is something of a miracle – for in truth the 74-game great of the early 1950s suffered an horrific injury in his one and only finals appearance – and hovered precariously between life and death as the denizens of the football world held their collective breath.

It happened at the MCG on the afternoon of Saturday, September 6, 1952, in what was Warburton’s one and only finals appearance, the first semi-final involving the now-defunct Fitzroy.

Carlton lost to the Gorillas by a miserable point – 8.20 (68) to 10.9 (69) – with the golden point booted in the dying seconds by Fitzroy captain Alan Ruthven.

But the match was overshadowed by Warby’s dreadful injury – the result of a wayward blow to the lower abdomen incurred in the opening quarter of the contest.

“I got an accidental elbow to the lower stomach early in the game from Bill Stephen, one of the fairest players of the game,” Warburton told this reporter in what was his last interview a little more than two years ago.

“I actually turned around in a pack as Bill was coming through. He put his arm up to protect himself and he collected me. I was dry reaching all through the game, but played it out. It was then that I got into trouble. In the rooms after the game I passed blood in the toilet and later collapsed at the club dance.

“I was bundled into a car and taken to the Royal Melbourne, but was later ferried to Prince Henry’s Hospital by a little mate of mine from Cheltenham, Lexy Robertson.

“We got there and it was full of drunks. There I collapsed and a sister came in and put me straight into the operating theatre. After the op my condition worsened over the next few days.”

Warburton underwent emergency surgery to have part of his bowel removed – the legacy of a severed minor artery leading to the bowel – and as news of Warburton’s perilous condition filtered through, supporters gathered for a vigil outside Prince Henry’s.

Back at Princes Park, all from Carlton President Ken Luke down were mobilised into action, with Ken Hands and Jack Howell amongst the many answering the blood bank’s appeal for precious plasma.

This was big frontpage news, with The Argus of Tuesday, September 9 carrying a report headlined ALL WORRY ABOUT SICK STAR.

The article featured an image of Warburton’s wife of 65 years Rose in the company of nurse Aileen Keilan, who was afforded the lofty task of tending to the desperately ill footballer. Another image featured two young Carlton fans, Ike Weir and his brother Sam, hovering around the Bakelite radio in their pyjamas awaiting updates on their hero’s condition. A further image featured a hospital switchboard attendant taking calls from concerned members of the public.

The newspaper report, in part, read as follows;

While Keith Warburton, Carlton football idol, still battled for life in Prince Henry’s Hospital, countless thousands of people throughout the State yesterday waited anxiously for news.

The news late last night was “No change. He is still on the danger list, but is maintaining the slight improvement he showed on Sunday”.

Doctors at the hospital are confident that Warburton’s fine physical condition will help him recover. 

The Warburton drama has aroused greater interest than any injury to a player has ever done before. Yesterday it even drove interest in the end-season matches into the background.

Just before noon yesterday it was widely rumoured that a wireless station had announced the young forward’s death. The rumor spread quickly throughout the city. In hotels, clubs, shops and on the street the topic was “bad luck about Warby”. 

The hospital, receiving telephone inquiries at the rate of six a minute, finally was forced to issue an appeal to the public to desist – they were interfering with the work of the hospital. 

Hundreds rang from factories and offices to pass on the news to workmates. Hospital officials reported that they could not recollect when so many inquiries had been received about a patient’s condition.

Carlton supporters come to the aid of their hero, as reported in this article from The Argus.

Warburton was forever thankful to all those who helped him through his darkest hour.

“I can remember many people popping in to offer blood. It was unreal,” he said. “I had a ruptured bowel and burst intestine. My belly blew right up. I can remember looking down and all I could see was a great big stomach.”

In time, and to the relief of all football lovers, Warburton came through. Remarkably he made the cut for the opening round match of the 1953 season, against Footscray at Princes Park, albeit with the necessary safeguards.

“I later had to play with a big belt on. It was like a girdle around my midriff and it slowed me up a bit,” Warburton said.

“I had it stuck there in the cupboard for a while and only a year or so ago I threw it away.”

At 26 years and 24 days, Warburton’s on-field career came to an untimely end. It happened in Round 11, 1955, against Richmond at Punt Road Oval after the club realised it was not in a position to cover the player’s insurance.

On leaving Princes Park, he accepted the role of captain-coach at Tatura. “I was only supposed to hang around for 12 months as coach of Tatura as I was going to head up to Mildura,” he recalled.

“But ‘Spider’ O’Toole, who was, the big cattleman here said ‘See that land out there? You can take what you want, put a house on it and stay here’ and that’s what I finished up doing.”

Years later, Warburton watched on with pride when his son Peter completed his Carlton senior debut in coach Ron Barassi’s final season of 1971. Throughout it all, the old man pursued his post-game interests.

“I had a nursery for a while, grew veggies and kept dogs,” Warburton explained. “I trained greyhounds and made a stack out of it. It was cash and it kept me going. I was an owner/trainer.

“I never retired from work until late – I used to pick horses and greyhounds up for people.”

Warburton readily admitted he lost interest in an ever-changing game. As he said: “It’s played so differently now and I’ve said so before, but I’ve also been told I’m out of touch.”

And yet, he still kept a place in his heart for the place he remembered as Princes Park and the people who made it famous.

“When I joined Carlton in 1951 I used to catch the train from Bonbeach to Flinders Street and the tram up Royal Parade to the ground. Back then I was playing for two quid,” Warburton said.

“It’s hard thinking about some of these things at Carlton now because it’s such a long time ago. My wife bought out the scrapbooks and there were players in some of the teams I just don’t recall, but I do remember Dennis Zeunert, Peter Webster, Johnny James, Bill Milroy and Ken Hands.”

At two pound a game, “Warby” was undoubtedly underpaid. For few at Carlton, with the probably exception of Peter Bosustow, crammed so much so soon into his career highlights reel.

“Carlton people remembered me as a mad acrobat and I’ll tell you why,” Warburton said.

“As a kid I once got into a circus to have a look. I got under the tent and watched the acrobats perform all these tricks. From then on everything I did was acrobatic and that’s why they called me ‘The Acrobat’.”

A resident of the Moyola Gardens Retirement Village, Warburton died there yesterday morning (June 27) after a short illness, surrounded by family members. Two weeks ago, he was inducted into the Goulburn Valley Football League Hall of Fame.

The late Keith Warburton. (Photo: Supplied)

Keith’s beloved  wife of 65 years, Rose, died 12 months ago. They are survived by daughter Lizzie, son Peter (himself a four-game Carlton senior player through 1971 and ’72), Susan, David and Tracey, together with 14 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.

Carlton’s senior players, Kade Simpson in game No.300 included, will wear black armbands into Saturday’s match with Port Adelaide as a mark of respect to Warburton, whose funeral will take place at the Tatura Bowls Club next Monday, July 2, commencing at 11.00am.

Speaking for his family, Peter offered a fascinating insight into Keith Warburton the man.

“To the day he died, I never ever heard Dad swear, never saw him intoxicated, never saw him raise his hands to anybody within or outside the family, or raise his voice in anger,” Peter said.

“If you go back to his footy that’s why he never hit back. He always used to say ‘I’m out there to play football’.”