Hello everyone in Carlton land! It’s me, Jesse, back again to write about my favourite footy team for another year. Since I last wrote we lost one of my favourite players, Fev, but I’m getting used to our new forward line now and reckon we’re going to do okay. I have watched every match so far this year, the first three on TV (I cried when we lost to Brisbane because I really thought we had it won) and in Round 4 I finally got to see them play live over here in SA. I’m going to write about the match later this week, but for now I am just busting to tell you all about my exciting Saturday morning at the Spirit Of Carlton pre-match function!
The function was held at The Lakes Resort, just near AAMI Stadium. Many past Carlton champions were there, but I was mainly looking forward to seeing Anthony Koutoufides for the first time since he, Ang Christou and I had a kick of the footy in Melbourne last July. I had made up a special card to give Kouta, together with a photocopy of a story I wrote at school after those holidays in which I mentioned our kick-to-kick. When Kouta arrived he looked very happy to see our family – he gave me a hug and my Mum a kiss and shook my Dad’s hand and then I gave him my card with the story and a picture inside. On the front of the card was the photo that Ang took of Ang, me and Kouta. I think Kouta really liked it and he went to put it straight in his bag to keep it safe.
Past player from SA, Mark Naley, was there to host the show, and he remembered me from previous functions and get-togethers to watch games at the Rob Roy Hotel. He welcomed us all, including the Spirit Of Carlton boys. One was a player I hadn’t yet met, David Rhys-Jones, who was also helping to MC the function. My Mum had told me what a tough player for Carlton he was, but he wasn’t at all scary – he even gave me a hug. David talked of how Spirit Of Carlton first started about four years ago, when things weren’t looking so good for our great Football Club. He and other past players had a meeting about what to do to help the club they love during its “hour of need”, and they decided to give something back by raising money themselves to inject some funds for player facilities and equipment. They do this by having Spirit Of Carlton functions like this, and also golf days and auctions. They have spent around $250,000 on the club so far on various equipment, and plan to continue on, as they also have such fun getting together and talking about old times.
Then David asked ex-Adelaide player Chris McDermott and Kouta to come up on the stage to give a preview of the match being played that afternoon. Chris McDermott spoke about Adelaide not going too well, and said that the Adelaide supporters would “eat their own” if Adelaide were to lose today! Kouta was asked about the surprise omissions of Thornton and Waite, and he admitted that he was shocked, but that Ratts and his Match Committee would know much more than anyone else about why certain decisions are made. He thinks that our forward line is doing really well even with Fev gone and he was really looking forward to seeing Simon White debut. David then asked both Chris and Kouta for a tip – Chris picked Adelaide in a close match and Kouta, of course, picked the Mighty Bluebaggers! He got lots of cheers at saying that.
David Rhys-Jones then interviewed past champions Jim Buckley and Val Perovic. Val talked of playing footy in Ballarat, and not believing how lucky he was to be asked to play for Carlton. He reckons he’s been blessed to come to the best footy club in the land. David then said that Val holds a unique record in Melbourne of drinking 37 cans of beer in 1 hour and 47 minutes. He asked Val “what were you thinking?” to which Val replied, “I wasn’t thinking at all!”. David then asked Jimmy which of the 79, 81 and 82 premierships was the best for him, and Jimmy said the 1979 one, because that was his first. He spoke of premierships being such a bonding time for each player, having such a great respect for one another, and still all being good mates today. Jimmy said that last night he had been comparing Testimonials with Kouta and they found it quite funny – recent players have made some money from their Testimonials, but back in Jimmy’s day he had a joint Testimonial with Wayne Johnston (Mum’s first footy hero). It took them a while to find out how much money they’d made, and when they finally asked Collo about it, they were told that “Jimmy owes Carlton $1,000 and Johnno owes $2,000!”.
An announcement was then made about another past club champion who had a really bad car accident at the start of his second year with Carlton, Peter Motley. I’ve met Mots at the last two Carlton functions and I think he’s really funny and nice. He and his partner are expecting a baby in July! Mots was asked to come up on stage, and as he always does when he takes the stage, he told us all a joke. He then talked of really great memories of Carlton Football Club. David interrupted Mots to talk about the 1987 premiership, which is the year that Peter had his accident. He said Motley’s accident was a great inspiration to all Carlton players that year, and he’s sure that’s why they were able to win the Grand Final. Mots said that on the oval after that Grand Final, the Dominator and Braddles each gave him their own premiership medals………but after all the television reporters and cameras had left, they took them back!
Then it was time for some of the really big framed footy guernseys and prints to be auctioned to raise some funds for our club. The first was of David Rhys-Jones, for being the most reported player in VFL/AFL history. Mark told us David was reported 25 times, and only pleaded guilty once. David said when he pleaded guilty, he got four weeks for hitting a Melbourne runner called Peter Smith, so he never pleaded guilty again. He later discovered that the runner was Norm Smith’s son – David felt a bit guilty about winning the Norm Smith Medal after that!! The Rhys-Jones print was auctioned for $1,200.
The print of the most famous mark ever, Jesaulenko’s, was auctioned next. I wasn’t even anywhere near being alive when this mark was taken 40 years ago, but I have seen it many times over and I always pretend I’m Jezza – in fact, my nickname is Jezza! I’d love to meet him one day. His print was auctioned for $900.
A framed guernsey, signed by all players and coach of the 1982 premiership team, was auctioned for an amazing $2,050 – bought by our friend Denise! Stephen Silvagni’s 1988 Mark of the Year was the next one to be auctioned – this print was a beauty with four continual photos in the one picture. It went for $1,100.
During the break while our yummy breakfast was served to us, Kouta and I had a chat and our photo taken. I think Kouta is really special, and I have the feeling that he thinks I’m alright too!
Next up David interviewed Alex Marcou and Peter McConville. Alex came from Lalor, where Kouta & Lance Whitnall are from, and while he barracked for Fitzroy as a kid, he used to watch every Carlton game on TV (back when Jezza and Southby were playing) and he decided he wanted to play for them, too. He never forgets the day he was asked to play for the Blues, and how in awe he was of being in the same company as players like Jezza and Southby. Peter talked of the Fevola betting incident, saying “we had a few of them” – the papers would have had a field day in their time! Ken Hunter was another player in the room who could vouch for that. The President of our club, Stephen Kernahan (Sticks) arrived then and posed for a photo with me.
Sticks was welcomed by David and invited up on stage to talk to us. David asked him how he balances now being President after having such a long association with Carlton as a player – Sticks said for one thing he’s no good at public speaking – “look at the voice I’m stuck with!”. He stressed that he was only there by default, and was just doing it to help out the club until someone else was able to step into the role. David then mentioned the decision to move on Fevola – David thinks its the right decision but realises it has divided the club and asked Sticks how will we go forward from here. Sticks replied that Fev’s still one of the biggest merchandise sellers at the club, and is a much-loved character. But that over the 11 years he was with us, “we’ve all saved him 25 times over behind the scenes”, and while we miss him, it can’t all be about one person. He feels we’re better off now, and really hopes Fev can get his issues sorted out. David asked about the coach and moves he’s made so far this year, and Sticks replied that the media is already “all over the coaches” this year, Dean Bailey the first week, Mark Harvey also, and now it seems to be our turn this week because we lost to our arch rival in Essendon. He said all of Carlton’s players, employees and coaches are annoyed, and are very fired up,determined to win and make amends today. He said Ratten is doing okay, that “it’s Round 3, chill out – get behind the coach” as it really peeves Sticks some of the rubbish that goes on in Melbourne about him! When talking of the upcoming match, he said that last year he came over a day before the game against Adelaide to see his Dad and catch up with the Spirit Of Carlton boys, ending up a big night with him feeling rather seedy on match day. This time he flew over this morning and is sober as a judge while the Spirit Of Carlton boys all arrived yesterday and had a huge night – Stick is doing his bit to help the team! (Kouta told my Mum he got to bed at 6.30am so it WAS a big night for them all!).
While Sticks was there the next of the remaining items was auctioned off, a framed print and signed guernsey of the man himself. This print sold for the highest amount of the day – $2,500. It was purchased by our friend Cynthia who sat at our table!
Judd’s signed guernsey was the next to go – it went for $1,700.
And then came Kouta’s print (complete with Collingwood’s Nathan Buckley in the background) and signed guernsey. Daddy had checked this out earlier in the day, and had decided he wanted to bid for it, since Kouta means so much to our family, and especially to me from the time of my heart surgery. I was quite excited about this although we didn’t think he would be the successful bidder. But he was! We got it for $1,800. Wow. It will be well looked after by us, I can assure you!
Kouta was rather chuffed that we were the ones to purchase his print – Daddy took a photo of him with me and Mummy (who reminded me that Kouta was her hero long before I came along!).
After that, several individual current player prints and fancy footballs were sold off to the highest bidder. I had been checking out the footballs, each signed by the Spirit Of Carlton boys, because they were such cool colours. They went for various amounts between $150 and $350. The last one was a gold one, and Peter McConville purchased it for $250. And guess what? He gave it to ME! Daddy couldn’t believe it. Apparently he purchased it with me in mind. How lucky am I? Mum took a photo of me with Peter and my brand new footy.
And you’ll never guess what happened next!! THIS is what I have been busting to tell you! Mark Naley got up on stage for one last official announcement. He actually talked about ME! He said that I am a special friend of Spirit Of Carlton, and that I write stories for the Carlton website. He asked me to come up onto the stage and I had to walk up the steps and stand there in front of all those people! They all clapped and cheered and I have to tell you I felt very nervous (I took my new gold footy with me for good luck). When I got up there, Mark asked me who was going to win today and I told him Carlton would. And then he asked me who my favourite player was, and I told him Chris Judd. He asked if I remembered seeing Jimmy Buckley play, and everyone laughed because of course I didn’t! He then said that one of my original favourite players was here to present me with something special, and Kouta came up onto the stage with me, holding something. When Kouta took the microphone he ruffled my hair and told everybody there that he has known me ever since I was a baby – he bent down to ask me “was that seven years ago, Jess?” to which I nodded. He said that I am actually his son’s age so he knew that, and he told the people in the room about my open heart surgery and how Mum brought me down to the club to meet him and Ratten at the time, and then he bent down to me again and said “and we’ve stayed friends ever since, haven’t we, Jess?” to which I nodded again. I was so excited and nervous I thought I was going to cry from happiness, I told Mummy & Daddy later! But instead I stood there and said inside my head, ‘don’t cry, don’t cry”, which is why I could only nod. Kouta then told everyone how he and Ang had a kick of the footy with me and Mum & Dad last year, and he said that I could kick the ball further than Ang (I can’t, really!). He then said on behalf of the past players, because they know I’m a “very special kid” and that I mean a lot to him, too, he wanted to present me with a plaque of every Carlton premiership from the past. He said there are sixteen premierships on there, with two spaces for the next two premierships, and “hopefully you’re playing in that one”. (Mum told me later no way – we need a premiership well before I get old enough to play AFL!). How exciting – I got an Honorary Spirit Of Carlton Membership from Sticks two years ago, and this year a special plaque from Kouta. Dad was pretty impressed with it, and I now like looking at all those scorelines and who we beat in all those years.
So that was a great end to the function for me! I then had the game to look forward to………but that’s another story! I’ll be back to tell you about THAT excitement very soon!