FORMER Carlton wing/half-back Graeme Whitnall, the father of the club’s 200-game former captain Lance, has died in Darwin at the age of 69.
Hailing from Talbot, within close proximity of John Nicholls’ home town of Maryborough in 1973, the 21 year-old Whitnall found his way to Princes Park, having earned Maryborough Football Club’s senior Best and Fairest award at 19 and savoured Premiership success with Maryborough the following season.
After earning Best and Fairest honours at Carlton reserve grade level, Whitnall broke into the seniors for the first of 66 senior appearances – the opening round match of 1974, against Melbourne at Princes Park. He was named on the bench in that one, alongside Castlemaine’s Peter Hall, a future National member of the Victorian Lesgislative Council. A month later at Victoria Park, Whitnall slotted two goals against Collingwood and was on his way.
Whitnall’s strength was in his versatility, and in 1977 was the only Carlton player to feature in all 22 senior contests of the home and away season, Ray Byrne aside. But an apparent difference of opinion with Carlton Captain-Coach Alex Jesaulenko saw Whitnall’s appearances confined to just four in ’78. On being refused a request for a clearance at season’s end, Whitnall returned to Maryborough and duly took out the club’s ’79 B & F.
A former teammate, the 158-game three-time Premiership player Alex Marcou, was deeply saddned with the the news of Whitnall’s passing – for it was Whitnall who showed the way to him and fellow members of the famed Mosquito Fleet, the likes of Buckley, Harmes and Sheldon
“I was just starting out and Graeme was playing in the back pocket. He was a quiet achiever, a nice guy, he was respectful and he helped the young guys coming in,”Marcou said.
“Graeme loved a beer and I always enjoyed his company. He was a passionate Carlton player who loved the Blues and he was a great man.
Following Jesaulenko’s much-publicised departure in support of the incumbent President George Harris, Whitnall accepted an invitation to return to Princes Park. He managed another 11 senior appearances through 1980 (the same year he took out the reserve grade’s award for Club Champion) and ’81 – but he gave the League caper away after being overlooked for the finals campaign in what was ultimately a Carlton Premiership year.
Graeme Whitnall was the 842nd player to represent the Carlton Football Club at senior level. Sixteen years later, Graeme’s son Lance Whitnall – the heir apparent to Stephen Kernahan in the front half – donned the famous old dark Navy Blue guernsey for the first time, in a career that would bring him the captaincy of the club, a Grand Final appearance in 1999, All Australian selection, the 2006 John Nicholls Medal, and 216 senior League appearances – while another boy Shane flew the Carlton flag at reserve grade level.
In August 2018, when Lance was inducted into the Carlton Football Club’s Hall of Fame with Brent Crosswell, Graeme was there to savour the moment.