THE dark Navy Blue guernsey worn by the late Carlton ruckman Graham McColl through his one and only senior League season of 1958 has found a new home back at the old ground.
The No.36 long sleeve woollen garment, lovingly maintained by Graham’s wife of 65 years Dorothy, was generously handed over for inclusion in the football club archive, along with various football records of the day, by their son Glenn.
“I think this is the right place for Dad’s guernsey to go. I’d hate to see the old jumper just rot away,” Glenn said.
“I haven’t got any kids to pass the guernsey on to, and with the new Blues museum I think it’s fitting. I know Dad would be chuffed as Carlton meant so much to him.
“The same with the records. They have nowhere to go and I’d rather they go to the club than wind up on eBay.”
Glenn, a Parks Auditor with the City of Melbourne, is, as with his sister Meryl, a lifelong Carlton supporter.
“I was brainwashed from a very early age,” Glenn conceded of his true Blue ties. “When I was about four or five, my grandfather took me to the Carlton ground to watch my Dad out on the field. After the game, my grandfather would take me into the room to see Dad, and I’d go into the inner sanctum with my autograph book.
“Sometimes I’d follow Dad into the rooms at half-time. A memory I have of these experiences is seeing the bootstudders quickly working their craft. The players were so very good to me too and if you ask me to nominate a favourite I have a soft spot for Bruce Doull for the way he went about his football and because he was such a nice man. I also had a great relationship with Rod Ashman.”
Graham McColl, whose association with the Club would endure for more than a quarter of a century – but not as he anticipated – passed away back in March after a short illness in Geelong Hospital.
Recruited to the Club from neighbouring VFA outfit Coburg, McColl – a Life Member of Carlton – completed his debut with Bill Arch and Chris Pavlou in the Round 2 match of 1958 against North Melbourne at Princes Park – but he was just 10 games into his maiden season when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
McColl suffered the injury in the night Grand Final against St Kilda at the Lakeside Oval that September. He resumed training the following March, only to break down with the same injury, and at 24, his League career was over before it had begun.
Princes Park, March 1959. Graham McColl, wearing his No.36 long sleeve guernsey, breaks down with a recurrence of the ruptured ACL incurred the previous September. An anxious Carlton Senior Coach Ken Hands watches on as McColl is assisted from the ground by trainers, and at 24 the budding ruckman’s career is over.
The proverbial silver lining came with McColl’s subsequent pursuit of recovery techniques – which in turn piqued his interest in becoming a club trainer – and 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 three-time premiership player Mark Maclure (who wore McColl’s No.36) and the late Graeme Whitnall were similarly honoured.
By then, McColl’s son had been on hand for each of the five Carlton premierships including the ’68 droughtbreaker, with more to follow. To quote Glenn: “It was a fantastic era for Carlton and I was truly blessed”.
“It’s been a long time between drinks since 1995, with an entire generation of Carlton supporters who haven’t experienced success, so it’s fantastic to see the progress today’s players are making,” he said.
“And the next Carlton premiership will be the greatest of them all because it would have been the hardest earnt.”
In a lovely postscript to this story, members of the McColl family were out in force at Marvel Stadium on Sunday to savour the Carlton team’s 36-point win over the visiting Greater Western Sydney . . . and maybe Graham was looking down.
“I know Mum was especially chuffed to have attended having not been to a live match in about 40 years since Dad last worked at the Club,” Glenn said.
“It was terrific for her and for all of us to be there for the win – a great result for the club – and to see Josh Honey running around in Dad’s old number and kick a goal was a genuine highlight.”
The McColl family and members of extended family at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Pictured from left to right are Liam Whiteside, Bill Whiteside, Dorothy McColl, Glenn McColl and his partner Jacqui Kinder, Meryl Whiteside (née McColl) and Max Kinder. This photograph was posted at the main change by Meryl Whiteside (née McColl) on Facebook with the caption: “For Dad. Go Carlton, half time”.