In memory of Sir James and life in Carlton

Sir James Gobbo, the former Supreme Court judge and later Governor of Victoria, was a staunch follower of the Carlton Football Club prior to and beyond his public life – perhaps a throwback to a time when the game was territorial and the club and its vibrant Italian community were inextricably linked.

Sir James – “Giacomo” as he was christened – was born in Carlton’s Royal Women’s Hospital in 1931 to Italian parents Antonio and Regina Gobbo (nee Tosetto). Antonio, who hailed from Cittadella in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, traversed the globe to Australia in 1927; his wife following with their oldest son Flavio aboard the steamship Regina d’Italia not long after.

In a series of articles for the newsletter of the Italian Historical Society of which he was chairman, Sir James recalled with affection the early family years in Carlton.

“My links are personal as I was born in Carlton and lived in Newry Street and later, after a childhood in Italy, returned and eventually settled in Carlton,” he wrote.

“Our first home was in University Street, near Tibaldi’s salami factory. Later we moved to 501 Drummond Street, a house with a great deal of character and a long garden covered with grape vines. At the rear was a sleep-out, where for years we had as a friend and lodger Chenno Baggio – who still bakes some of the best bread in Melbourne at San Remo Bakery.”

Sir James’ parents later found permanent lodgings at 501 Drummond Street within walking distance of the Carlton ground. It was here in 1951 that Sir James learned that he had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for Oxford University.

Clearly, Sir James inherited his great empathy for migrants through his father and mother. The historians Michelle Stevenson and Laura Mecca noted that Antonio, a terrazzo worker, sponsored many people from his hometown to Australia and supported them in the assimilation process. On Sundays, these new Australians would all gather at the Gobbos house for a meal, and during the Great Depression Regina took in Italian boarders, enclosing the veranda of their terrace house with calico to create sleeping quarters.

In 1935, Antonio returned to Italy with Flavio, James and the youngest child Natalina. Three years later the children followed him back to Australia. To quote Sir James: “We came back here in 1938, so at this point I was truly a migrant. I did not speak any English and I went to school initially at St George’s in Carlton (later St Joseph’s North Melbourne and Xavier College)”.

In 1939 Antonio and Regina purchased the St Kilda Grill Rooms cafe at 274 Victoria Street, North Melbourne (opposite the Victoria Market) and Regina’s sister Savina, who later married an Italian POW Bruno Bianchi, supported them in managing the café.

Regina, it has been said, was the driving force behind her son James’ academic success, from his schooldays at St Joseph’s North Melbourne and later Xavier College, through to the University of Melbourne and Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar in 1952, James was also a member of the crew that took line honours in the 100th Oxford-Cambridge boat race and he also served as President of the Oxford University Boat Club.

Sir James returned to Melbourne to pursue a life in the legal professional, and in 1957 married Shirley Lewis, a former librarian. Together they raised five children.

In 1978, following a successful career as a barrister, Sir James was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. In 1997, he was appointed Governor of Victoria, the state’s 25th Governor and the first Australian of non-English speaking background to be elevated to that office.

Sir James was honoured with a knighthood in the Carlton back-to-back Premiership year of 1982 for services to the community. In 1993, he was honoured with the Companion of the Order of Australia for his contributions to the law, multicultural affairs and hospitals.

 (L-R) Sir James Gobbo, Jim Buckley and John Elliott.

At Carlton, the 1968 Carlton Premiership player and former Chief Executive and President Ian Collins remembered Sir James as an understated, but passionate devotee.

“I’m very sorry to learn of Sir James’ passing,” Collins said. “Sir James was very quiet, but very supportive. His family was one of those classic Italian migrant families who came to Australia and settled in Carlton.

“As with Sir Robert Menzies, Manning Clark and BA Santamaria, Sir James was a guest speaker of the club, invariably at player inductions or guernsey presentations whether at the Southern Cross, or in the Social Club or the John Elliott Stand.

Sir James’ address to the Carlton players on the eve of what would be the 1981 Premiership season remains firmly in the memory of the three-time Carlton Premiership player, ’81 club Best & Fairest and former Director Ken Hunter – a promising West Australian recruit in that particular year.

“I distinctively remember Sir James as guest speaker. He delivered an eloquent address about Carlton and what it meant to him. That was on the eve of the ’81 season and for me it was incredibly inspiring,” said Hunter some 40 years after the event.

“Sir James spoke about Carlton and what it meant to his family. He spoke about the significance of representing the club and the impact on Members and supporters. It made me want to go out and play straight away.

“Sir James made me feel how fortunate I was to be representing the Carlton Football Club.”

Sir James Gobbo, AC, CVO, QC served as Governor until 2000 under Premiers Jeff Kennett and Steve Bracks.

In 1997, he shared the podium with the then Lord Mayor of Melbourne Ivan Deveson and Carlton President John Elliott when Premier Kennett formally opened the Legends Stand at the Carlton ground prior to the Round 3 match with Adelaide, on April 13. The following year, he returned to the ground, officiating at the launch of “The Old Dark Navy Blues”, Dr Lionel’s Frost’s definitive history of the club; and in July 2000 he was amongst the dignitaries present for the last suburban battle with Collingwood at Carlton, which ended with the Blues’ record 111-point hammering of the hapless black and whites.

Dr Frost remembered Sir James as “a sincere, down-to-earth fellow”.

“I can recall Sir James’ speech from the book launch in which he talked about watching Carlton games from the outer wing in front of the old Northey Stand at Princes Park,” Dr Frost said.

“Interestingly, he also considered the 1972 Grand Final our greatest win – not 1970 as most people think.”

After leaving office as Governor, Sir James took up the position of Commissioner for Italy for the Victorian government until June 2006, and continued on various boards and councils. He officiated as Chairman of the Council of the National Library of Australia and Chairman of the Australian Multicultural Foundation. He also served as vice-president of the Order of Malta, which supported home-based palliative care in Victoria through Eastern Palliative Care (EPC).

But for all his lofty achievements in life, Sir James Gobbo – the son of Italian migrants – remained true to his humble origins . . . and his lifelong love for Carlton and the Carlton Football Club never waned.

Vale Alan Rees

Alan Rees, a Life Member of the Carlton Football Club, has passed away in a Brighton nursing home four weeks short of his 99th birthday.

A former member of The Carltonians coterie, Alan was awarded Life Membership of the club in 2006, the same year Brendan Fevola and Matthew Lappin were so honoured.

Born in nearby Brunswick on November 14, 1922, Alan was a five year-old when he was gifted his first Carlton Football Club Membership by his father. So began a 93-year association with his beloved Blues.

The owner of Richmond’s Sydenham Hotel, Alan regularly availed his licensed premises to Carlton officials and players through the 1970s and ’80s. As the long-serving former runner Bob Lowrie recalled: “We used to go down there after Sunday morning training . . . and Alan was the perfect host.”

It was at the Sydenham that Alan’s raucous voice quite literally caught the ear of the football club’s patrons – amongst them the three-time Premiership player Jim Buckley who gave him the nickname “Bullfrog”.

For a time Alan owned and operated the Ampol service station (later Dan’s Car Wash) on the corner of Rosanna Road and Burgundy Street in Heidelberg. Prior to his retirement, he managed The Grandview Hotel in Pearson Street, West Brunswick.

Alan was photographed with Lowrie and the late property steward Ken Kleiman for the front cover of the AFL Record on the occasion of Carlton’s 150th year celebrations in 2014.

In later years Alan was a regular at the club’s Bequest Society Luncheons.

Alan’s beloved wife of 65 years June predeceased him.

There were no children.

From Hale to Voss: The enduring coaching legacy

By Tony De Bolfo, 

IN SEPTEMBER 1961, in the aftermath of what was then its first Grand Final victory in League football history, Hawthorn Premiership Coach the late John Kennedy sen. acknowledged the influence of his former coach the Carlton Premiership hero of 1938 Jack Hale.

As coach, Hale mentored Kennedy through most of his 164-game career, and clearly influenced the latter’s coaching methodology. 

To quote Kennedy: “Jack Hale taught Hawthorn to hate defeat”.

Sixty years on, and the Hale legacy endures, through a generational coaching connection with some of the game’s true luminaries – from Kennedy through to David Parkin, Leigh Matthews and now Michael Voss. 

Carlton’s 26-man squad, including the 19 members of its 1938 Premiership team. Jack Hale sits at the far left in the second row.

More of that later, but for the moment it’s important the Hale story is told.   

Raised just a stone’s throw from the Carlton ground in nearby Richardson Street, Jack Hale’s childhood days invariably took in the terraces of Princes Park where he and his father watched on in wonderment as the likes of Horrie Clover and Paddy O’Brien strutted their stuff in dark navy.

Taking his highcuts to Carlton in the early 1930s, Hale broke through as a senior player in the third round of 1933, against Geelong at Princes Park, when he was named on a half-back flank alongside Jim Park. Ultimately he found his feet as first rover for the greater part of his 123-game, nine-season career which was prematurely ended when he badly broke his leg – the best of them the drought-breaking Grand Final victory over Collingwood in 1938.

Carlton ended a 23-year Premiership drought on that one day in September – in no small part due to Hale whom captain-coach Brighton Diggins had assigned the task of curbing the Magpies’ star rover Des Fothergill. Before a then record audience of more than 96,000, Hale kept Fothergill in check and played a blinder, booting the sealer to secure the Blues’ sixth Premiership in League competition.

“To be part of the team which defeated Collingwood that day was a great experience,” Hale said later. 

“The crowd was so massive that it spilled over the MCG fence to sit three deep behind the boundary line. I just couldn’t do anything wrong. It was one of those days when the ball just seems to follow you.”

Hale maintained his Carlton connection as coach of its reserve grade teams for four years, before accepting an offer to coach the South Melbourne seniors in 1948. Amid bitter acrimony at board level, Hale resigned from the position after just two seasons, and in ’52 he took on senior coaching duties at Hawthorn.

“When I went to Hawthorn I took the Carlton spirit with me,” Hale said later. “I wanted to create a Hawthorn spirit by encouraging the local kids to become involved. I suppose it was the start of the ‘family club’ tradition.”

At Glenferrie, Hale took Hawthorn from rock bottom to its first ever finals appearance – the 1957 first semi final, ironically against Carlton – and the Hawks triumphed in a contest best remembered for a freakish half-time hailstorm.

Beyond his years as Hawthorn coach, Hale continued to give back to the great Australian game as a member of the VFL Umpires Appointment Board, a role he held for 15 years. A Life Member of Carlton, Hawthorn and the AFL, he died at the age of 88 in June 2001. 

But in the 20 years since his passing and the sixty since Hawthorn’s maiden Grand Final triumph, Jack Hale’s coaching legacy has not only endured, but come full circle – through the Kennedy-coached Hawthorn Premiership player and Hawthorn and Carlton Premiership coach David Parkin; who as with Kennedy coached the Hawthorn Premiership player and Collingwood and Brisbane Premiership Coach Leigh Matthews; and now the Matthews-coached Carlton mentor Michael Voss – a three-time Brisbane Premiership captain under Matthews and the man Voss cites as his greatest influence.



At Carlton
Senior player (123 matches, 1933-’41, including the victorious 1938 Grand Final)

At Hawthorn
Senior Coach (146 matches for 61 wins, 84 losses and a draw) 1952-’59


At Hawthorn

Senior player (164 matches, 1950-’59, including eight seasons under Hale);
Senior Coach 1957, 1960-’63 and 1967-’76 (299 matches for 181 wins, 116 losses and two draws); Premiership Coach 1961 and ’71


At Hawthorn
Senior player (211 matches 1961-’64, including the victorious Kennedy-coached 1971 Grand Final);
Senior Coach 1977-’80 (94 matches for 57 wins and 37 losses); Premiership Coach 1978

At Carlton
Senior Coach 1981-’85 and 1991-2000 (355 matches for 219 wins, 134 losses and two draws); Premiership Coach 1981-’82 and 1995


At Hawthorn
Senior player (332 matches 1969-’85, including the victorious Kennedy-coached 1971 Grand Final and the victorious Parkin-coached 1978 Grand Final)

At Brisbane
Senior Coach 1999-2008 (237 matches for 142 wins and 92 losses and three draws); Premiership Coach 2001-’03 


At Brisbane
Senior player (289 matches 1992-2006, including the victorious Matthews-coached 2001-’03 Grand Finals);
Senior Coach 2009-2013 (109 matches for 43 wins, 65 losses and one draw)

At Carlton
Senior Coach 2022-