Blueboy Bill convenes ‘Club No.2’ catch-up in Bendigo

Carlton’s current No.2 Lachie Cowan met Bill Redmond – Carlton’s oldest-known surviving player – during the Club’s community camp.

IT’S MORE than three quarters of a century since Bill Redmond – at 96 years, nine months and 258 days, the Club’s oldest known surviving senior player – last laced a boot for Carlton.

That happened in Round 5 of 1948 against Collingwood at Victoria Park – Redmond’s seventh and final game wearing the No.2 on his back.

Over the years, Redmond’s been photographed with other keepers of the number – amongst them his best man, the late Ken Hopper, from whom he inherited the number, and the great John Nicholls the games record holder in it.

Today, in La Trobe University’s Sports Stadium not far from his home in Flora Hill, Bill fronted up to meet with Carlton’s current No.2 custodian – boyhood Blue Lachie Cowan, a participant in the Club’s 2024 AFL Community Camp.

Two Navy Blue No.2s: Carlton player No.620 Bill Redmond and player No.1234 Lachie Cowan.

“I still love the Club and with the boys heading here, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” said Redmond, sporting the No.620 medallion on his lapel as Carlton’s 620th player to complete his senior debut since 1897.

“I’m having a bit of trouble walking with my balance right now, but my son Philip, who lives next door, helped get me there.

“There were people everywhere but I got to meet Lachie and that was terrific. I gave him a souvenir of the ’47 premiership, a pennant with the players’ names on it. I had a photo taken with Lachie and also with the captain Patrick Cripps, who was kind enough to say hello. By gee he’s tall.”

Redmond shares some Carlton memories with his current-day contemporary.

The Carlton of today is so very different to the Carlton of Redmond’s youth – a case in point the club’s balance sheet of 1948, a copy of which he recently perused. As he said with some amusement: “It cost around £9,000 ($18,000) to run the whole club back in ’48. Now players are getting a million a year”.

Born William George Arthur Redmond in North Melbourne on 29 May 1927, Bill spent his formative years in nearby Brunswick, finding work as an engineering pattern-maker between games of football and cricket.

Accepting an invitation to join the Carlton under 19s in its inaugural season of 1946, Redmond earned the Ken Luke Cup as the team’s best player afield in its Grand Final loss to North Melbourne. Not long after, he was adjudged joint Best and Fairest with Ron Dunn – “and I don’t mind telling people that Richard Pratt, Sergio Silvagni and Adrian Gallagher were winners after me”.

Redmond’s recollections of those Carlton days are all fond ones, particularly the pleasant Sunday mornings “when they put on biscuits and cheese”.

“I remember that the senior coach Percy Bentley was interested in trap shooting, and one day he arranged for a driver to take every member of the team on a trap shooting trip,” Redmond said.

“We all climbed into the back of this old furniture van with drop-down sides and we took off up the bush somewhere. Anyway, the driver failed to negotiate a bend in the road and the van rolled over. The paper never picked it up, but every player could have been killed. As it happened we all got out of it okay and the only person hurt was Mrs Bentley, Percy’s wife.”

A marvellous raconteur, Redmond related another untold tale involving the spiteful 1945 Preliminary Final between Carlton and Collingwood at Princes Park – a portent of what was to come in “The Bloodbath”.

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps meets Bill Redmond.

“Before I played for the Carlton under 19s I used to turn up at Princes Park in the days when they opened the gates and you’d get in for nothing at three quarter-time,” Redmond said.

“I remember fronting up to the preliminary final at three quarter-time, with Collingwood 28 points up – a lead they stretched to 34 when one of their players booted the first goal of the last quarter.

“It was then that an absolutely magnificent little player named Jimmy Mooring came on and turned the game.

“Now Jimmy was a barman in Bendigo, but when I joined Carlton we became teammates and I remember asking him about that game. He said ‘Let me tell you something. I was 19th man sitting on the bench and at three quarter time Percy Bentley said ‘Look Jim we’re in trouble. I want you to go out there in the last quarter and cause a stir’’.

“Did he cause a stir.”

Redmond added that Mooring told him that he charged on to Princes Park, “went bang and dropped a Collingwood player”.

“From then on, every other Collingwood player was only worried about catching me to even up, and in the end we made them pay.”

Carlton overcame the Magpies to win the prelim by 10 points – in no small part through Mooring’s act – and seven days later rolled South Melbourne by 28 in the big one.

Redmond’s maiden season at Carlton was a premiership season – and while he never made the final cut for the ’47 team which prevailed by a point over Essendon, he is the last man standing of the 20 who formed a guard of honour when the ’47 premiership pennant was unfurled at Princes Park in Round 2 of the following year.

“I can remember carrying my Gladstone bag to the match, getting changed and being told to run out onto the ground for the unfurling of the pennant,” Redmond recalled.

“I was the youngest player in that team of course. I stood next to Bert Deacon, who was probably as good a Carlton player as there was in my time there, although ‘Chooka’ Howell was a good player.”

The unfurling of the 1947 premiership pennant: Bill Redmond, the only surviving member who took to the field that day, is the third player from the left.

Through 1948, Redmond established himself as a regular member of the senior team, out of a back pocket alongside the champion full-back Ollie Grieve.

He strung together five matches in succession, until mid-May when rival club North Melbourne protested to the VFL that Carlton had signed Redmond in contravention of the League’s zoning rules. Redmond, it seemed, lived on the wrong side of the street in West Brunswick, which served as a boundary between the two club zones – and in the end the VFL sided with the Shinboners, and revoked Redmond’s playing permit.

North was intent on getting Redmond to Arden Street, and flatly refused him a clearance to Carlton. The Blues, in turn, dug in their heels and ultimately Redmond signed with Williamstown, which trumped both clubs by almost doubling his match payments.

At Williamstown, Redmond lined up at full-forward in the Seagull’s 1948 Grand Final team that lost to Brighton. Then in 1950 he transferred to Bendigo Football League club Eaglehawk, before joining North Bendigo in the Heathcote District Football League as captain-coach two years later.

Redmond, whose sister Rose is the grandmother of Geelong’s Grand Final-winning Guthrie brothers Cameron and Zach, was voted Best and Fairest in the HDFL in 1954, then switched to South Bendigo to star in its ’56 premiership team. Premierships also followed at Inglewood in 1958 and South Bendigo reserves in ’59 and ’60, and Redmond served as captain-coach in all three.

By 1963 Redmond was chasing the leather for Bridgewater where he savoured further Grand Final glory and took out the League’s goalkicking honours with 51.

The following year, he hung up the boots at the ripe old age of 37 – and his love for Carlton has never waned.

Bill Redmond holds his old player photo from 1947.

Tributes pour in for Mitchell, with Carlton Life Membership confirmed

The Carlton Football Club is mourning the passing of significant contributor, Harold Mitchell.

THE depth and breadth of Harold Mitchell’s power and influence as a media buyer, advertising icon and dedicated philanthropist has been fittingly acknowledged since his sudden passing on Saturday following knee surgery.

Less well known was Mitchell’s quiet but significant contribution over many years to the Carlton Football Club, notably towards its redevelopment, gender equality and community programs – which is to now result in him being awarded Life Membership posthumously.

Though he didn’t live long enough to receive his Life Membership in person – the 81-year-old was to have been presented at the Spirit of Carlton Hall of Fame induction on March 18 – Mitchell was recently told by his lifelong friend and fellow advertising magnate David Nettlefold that the Board of Directors had seen fit to bestow Life Membership upon him.

“I was able to tell him a week before his operation that he was to be awarded Carlton Life Membership and he was rapt because he significantly contributed to Carlton. In the days when games were played there he always had a corporate box and he availed his plane to take Carlton and AFL people to places like the Northern Territory,” Nettlefold said, who was himself awarded Life Membership in 2020.

“He was a committed philanthropist, he gave away millions to the poor and needy, and he was an incredible man. A great man.”

In the days since his passing, Mitchell’s life has been lauded by anyone and everyone from the Prime Minister down for his incredible impact on society, notably through the Harold Mitchell Foundation, in support of health, education, the arts and sport.

Along the way he also served as chair or board member of august organisations including the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the New York Philharmonic, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum Board of Victoria, Opera Australia, CARE Australia, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tennis Australia, the Deakin Foundation, the Melbourne International Festival of Arts and the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

But Nettlefold, in reflecting on Mitchell’s life, identified modest beginnings.

“He came from a humble background, a sawmilling family in Stawell, and he moved to Melbourne when he was 20. He applied for a job with an advertising agency in the city – and the rest, as they say, is history,” Nettlefold said.

“When Harold and I first came together the one thing we had in common was that we were Carlton diehards from an early age. We go back 60 years, to when Harold gave me my first order in advertising through a media buyer D’arcy MacManus in Queens Road. He gave me my first billboard space for Uncle Ben’s.”

For The Love Of The Ground wall, featuring plaque acknowledging Harold Mitchell AC.

Nettlefold acknowledged Mitchell’s resilience in overcoming his own personal demons, and his hard, but fair industry philosophy.

“Harold was a smoker and a drinker in the early stages of his life, which he overcame, and he had a problem with his weight which he also fought,” Nettlefold said.

“In business he was a fearsome competitor and he reorganised the advertising agency. He brought all the small ad agencies together as one so they could get a bigger deal with the corporations, which is exactly what happened.”

Former Carlton President Mark LoGiudice, who was instrumental in leading what was the greatest infrastructure redevelopment ever to occur at IKON Park, acknowledged Mitchell’s incredible support as both friend and mentor at the time he assumed the Presidency in 2014.

“With the passing of Harold Mitchell, Carlton has lost a good friend,” LoGiudice said.

“It was through David Nettlefold and our passion for the Carlton Football Club that we came together, around 10 years ago. I had just become President and I think it was more Harold’s curiosity in knowing what was going on at the Club that we first met.

“Harold and I spent a lot of time talking about Carlton. He was always keen to know what was going on with all our teams, our people and our community programs, and he had a very keen interest in the redevelopment. He was a great sounding board given his experience and his wisdom in life. He was around a long time and achieved much in his life.

“He was a very smart person and a very generous person. He had a big heart. In the end he made a significant contribution to the Carlton Football Club – and he left a legacy on it and many other organisations around Australia and the world.”

In the foyer at IKON Park, by the premiership trophies, Hall of Fame wall and Legends Locker Room, can be found a tangible reminder of Mitchell’s seismic contribution to Carlton.

Inscribed on a perspex plaque by the wall appropriately marked “For The Love Of The Ground” are the following words:

In recognition of
HAROLD MITCHELL AC
who significantly contributed to the redevelopment
of IKON Park and the Spirit of Carlton.

The story of Daryl Christie — Carlton’s first known Vietnam veteran

Only recently has Carlton become aware of a reserve-grade player who served in the Vietnam War.

IN THE tranquil surrounds of Princes Park, within short walking distance of the old Carlton ground, stands a stone memorial and an Aleppo pine tree – evocative reminders that through the course of two world wars the Carlton Football Club was not untouched.

The memorial carries the names of 17 former footballers who gave their tomorrow for our todays – 12 in World War I, five in World War II. The lone pine, propagated from the seed of a cone recovered by a soldier on the Gallipoli battlefield in August 1915, similarly serves as a salient reminder of those wartime sacrifices.

The Carlton Football Club’s annual reports carry the names of dozens of players who answered their nation’s call in those global conflicts, but only recently has it become aware that one of its own – a reserve-grade player from Ararat by the name of Daryl Christie – served in the Vietnam War.

Flick the yellowing pages of the 1964 Annual Report and you’ll find his name – Daryl Christie, then 17, amongst a group of 11 country hopefuls to have signed with the Club, in what was Ken Hands’ final season as Senior Coach.

Daryl Christie, IKON Park, August 2023.

Featured with Christie in that group of prospectives are North Hobart’s Peter Jones, South Warrnambool’s Terry Board and Kerang’s Robert Lane – each future Carlton senior players – with ‘Percy’, a four-time Carlton premiership player, coach and director the most prominent.

Christie joined Carlton after earning his chops at Ararat where he first turned out for the juniors with his lifelong friend the future Collingwood centreman Barry Price – and in 1963, on the recommendation of a Carlton spotter, he accepted an offer to participate in two practice matches early in the following year.

“I was told not to sign anything by the people in Ararat, but after those two games Ken Hands got me to sign on – which I was quite keen to do anyway because I was a keen Carlton supporter as was my dad,” Christie said.

“My first memory of Carlton came in the very first practice match at Princes Park, and I was on John Nicholls’ team. Before the ball was bounced, John came over go me, introduced himself and said: ‘As soon as the ball is bounced, you run, I’ll get the footy and handball it to you’, which he did.

“That made me feel really good.”

Following that brief Carlton foray, Christie headed home to Ararat and played out the ’64 season under the watch of the former Carlton and St Kilda footballer Brian Moloney.

In 1965 Christie returned to Carlton to give League football a serious crack – coincidentally when the late great Ronald Dale Barassi rocked the football world to the core in accepting the role of Carlton Captain-Coach.

Christie was included on the Club’s supplementary list of players and by way of permit turned out for a handful of reserve grade games in 1965 and ’66 wearing the No.43 later made famous by David McKay and Anthony Koutoufides. In that time he struck up a friendship with fellow players Jim Pleydell and the gangly Coburg teenager Robert Walls.

Daryl Christie’s name appears amongst the list of country hopefuls in the Club’s Annual Report of 1964.

And then his name was called as a conscript for two years of National Service.

“That happened around July 1966,” Christie said. “I was still at Carlton at the time and somehow or other I had a phone number I could ring to see if I’d been called up. I rang that number and was told my birthdate had come out of the barrel and that I’d been in the Army by September.

“I was quite happy about it. At the time I was still a bit homesick for Ararat, having first moved to Glen Iris, then Burwood, and working at the Commonwealth Bank at Chadstone – and had I not got injured in a reserve game for Carlton against Collingwood I might have been close to getting a senior game – but that’s life, and I told the then secretary Gerald Burke that I was off to the Army.”

Military records attest that Lance-Corporal Daryl Charles Christie, service No.3789736, served with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam from 18 March-30 July in the Carlton premiership year of 1968.

Christie’s wartime story – juxtaposed with the less-publicised horrors of the battle of Coral – only came to Carlton’s attention after 60 years when he reconnected with the Club in August. That happened when he fronted up to IKON Park in August for the launch of Dan Eddy’s book Blue Brilliance, which details the ferocious Carlton-Richmond rivalry of the late 1960s and early ’70s.

At the launch, and with some trepidation given his quiet and humble nature, Christie approached the two-time Carlton premiership player and dual club best and fairest Geoff Southby.

“This was the best thing that happened,” Christie said of the encounter.

“I got to the book launch a little bit early, saw Geoff and said to him ‘I’d like to shake the hand of a Carlton Legend’. I got him to sign a copy of the book, and while he was signing it I said ‘I used to be down here myself, in Barassi’s first two years 1965 and ’66’.

“Geoff said to me ‘You should join the Spirit of Carlton’, and I then told him I got called up in the Army and went to Vietnam.”

Of his time in Vietnam, the war and how it impacted upon him, Christie said “I became a man pretty quickly”.

The following is his story in his own words.

Daryl’s story

To say my life revolved around football and my support for the Blues would be an understatement.

I grew up in Ararat a small country town in the Wimmera District. My parents always said that if they couldn’t find me, the first place they looked was a footy field or the back paddock.

Daryl Christie’s official conscription photograph, 1966.

School took second place and was never a priority as I would wag school to kick the footy around and play with my mates.

I played with Ararat Football Club from a young age. Then in 1964 when I was 17 years of age I was invited to play a couple of practice games with Carlton.

That resulted in me being recruited to Carlton in 1965. If I thought that footy training was hard, it reached another level all together under Ron Barassi.

The life around an elite club was and still is an amazing experience for me. It was a time of fitness, growth and maturing into a higher level of football.

The Vietnam War was ‘on’ but really didn’t touch the lives of many Aussies, as it was ‘somewhere over there’!

Then in the mid 1960s, conscription hit many families and football clubs as all young men were mandated to register for National Service.

Playing football for an elite club did not qualify as a reason to be excluded from conscription. I registered in mid-1966, and waited impatiently as the footy season was in full swing. Until I finally rang to be advised I had been conscripted for two years of Military Service, finally enlisting in the Army towards the end of the footy season in September 1966.

Things moved rapidly from then and after some intense training in jungle warfare, I was sent to Vietnam with the 1st Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment, (1RAR). It became obvious when I landed with an advance party that this war was ‘real and deadly’.

On 12 May 1968, we were tasked to set up a Fire Support Patrol Base (FSPB) named Coral, to impede the enemy progress into and out of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

Lance-Corporal Christie, Saigon, 1968.

On 23 May another separate FSPB was set up under the name of Balmoral a distance away from us at Coral.

Our move into Coral was delayed due to the urgent need for helicopters by the Americans as they were engaged in heavy fighting with the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong.

One of our Commanders flew over the areas and was very concerned that we were to be helicoptered into a very hot zone. Delays and general confusion saw us not fully dug in by nightfall. As a result of this our Mortar Platoon and the Artillery Guns of 102 Field Battery were left isolated from the rifle company’s which in the normal course would be protecting them. The enemy were watching.

Then in the early hours we were hit by huge numbers of enemy seeking to gain control of our guns and mortars.

Needless to say, it was ferocious, bloody and the first time since the Second World War that Australian soldiers had been involved in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. It was Mother’s Day 1968. I also ‘celebrated’ my 22nd birthday in the jungle and battlefield of Vietnam at Coral.

Due to the bravery of the Aussies that night, control of the guns were wrested back from the enemy.

In the morning I will never forget the sight of dead enemy and some of my mates on the battlefield. All the bodies had to be removed by the soldiers who had fought that night. This was to set the scene for the biggest, bloodiest, longest and most sustained battle fought by Australians in Vietnam.

We were constantly under attack, or under fire in the jungle, often for weeks at a time. Coral was overrun by large forces of enemy soldiers on two occasions, in the early hours of 13 and 16 May. Coral went from 12 May 1968 till 6 June. Nearly a month of ever-present danger.

Twenty-one were killed at Coral, and over 100 wounded. I lost some good mates. Many of these Aussies were in their early 20s.

We remember and commemorate every year on 12 and 13 May.

Everyone has heard of the battle of Long Tan, that went for about three hours, yet no one knows of the huge, bloody battle of Coral. Because of the number of casualties, the Government of the day kept it quiet from the public.

When I was interviewed by Neil Mitchell many years later, he was amazed that this battle had not been recognised.

Many veterans who went to Vietnam would share different stories, as some were in base and never went outside the wire on patrol to engage the enemy. The time I was at Coral; most of it was spent outside the wire away from the safety of the base. The jungle was unforgiving, biting ants, leeches and no fresh hot food for weeks on end.

We loved getting back to base, shower, clean clothes, fresh food and clean fresh water.

Fifty years after the event, and with the freedom of information, the Battle of FSPB Coral was grouped with FSPB Balmoral and other units to be awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry — long overdue recognition.

After returning from Vietnam, I was lucky to go back to my hometown of Ararat. Once again footy was my healing and saving grace as I again played football and linked up with my mates. This helped me settle with few hassles, whilst many Vietnam veterans received an awful time. For me, no-one talked about it, and I put it to the back of my mind as much as possible, as most people really didn’t understand or care about an unpopular war.

However, many years later – as is often the case – I had to face and address what had happened during my time in Vietnam and more particularly at Coral. Thankfully, with the help of my wife, I came through it.

I was fortunate to meet my wife a couple of years after returning from Vietnam, and we went on to have three amazing (now adult) children, and now have four precious grandchildren.

Daryl Christie, together with his and wife Robyn’s three children – Peta in the pink top, Ben next to Daryl, and Olivia.

We often reflect that the children of war veterans see and hear things, and inherently learn things that most other kids would have no perception of.

One of the positive things the kids laugh about is that they were Blues fans and members before they even knew there were other footy teams.

I am also proud that our grandchildren have been recruited: it’s one of my lasting proud legacies.

I managed to play 120 games with Ararat and have been awarded Life Membership to the club as I played in Wimmera League teams and played with Shepparton in the Goulburn Valley league.

Country living, involvement in football, community and family is very healing and beneficial for a veteran. The various clubs I played with in several leagues all helped enormously as my job took me on a journey for many years around Victoria.

Over many years I have had a commitment, like many Vietnam Veterans, to ensure services and support is available to all veterans. My involvement with Tramways East Melbourne RSL Sub-branch (soon to be amalgamated with Camberwell RSL Sub-branch) as Treasurer has spanned years, with an underlying deep commitment to assist my mates wherever possible.

There has also been a commitment to talk to people about Coral, and the impact it had on families. The same with every combat veteran, talking about it has allowed me to be closer to my wife and kids.

So once again I am grateful to be able to provide a brief glimpse into an ex-Carlton footballer’s time at the Battle of Fire Support Patrol Base Coral.

I am now able to reflect on my fortunate life with a family and many friends and Army mates.

We survived.

Perhaps the greatest reflection is that I consider my time at Carlton, and the fitness and discipline I learned there, helped me a great deal during my Army days. Also, the fact that I had a welcoming community and footy club in the country to return to helped me a great deal.

At a recent speech delivered at the Victoria Barrack Officers Mess I talked about my football career and the impact it had on my life, health and fitness, plus the special people I met when I captained 1RAR to a premiership prior to leaving for Vietnam.

I will be forever grateful for the mates I have through football and the Army, and now being able to go full circle back to the Club I admire and respect to tell my story and thank for allowing me membership of the Spirit of Carlton.

Most of all, to be associated with the best club ever. Carlton. The Mighty Blues.

Blues greats relive old times on eve of Naughton’s 150th celebrations

Carlton’s revered premiership players of the 1980s headed to Naughton’s on the eve of its 150th anniversary.

ON THE eve of Naughton’s Parkville Hotel’s 150th anniversary celebrations, a select number of its loyal former patrons – Carlton’s revered premiership players of the 1980s – have reunited over lunch at the famous watering hole.

Carlton’s dual premiership captain and former AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick was in the room, as was the three-time premiership coach David Parkin. So too were Rod Ashman, Rod Austin, Jim Buckley, Des English, David Glascott, Ken Hunter, Warren ‘Wow’ Jones, Alex Marcou, Peter McConville and Val Perovic, along with Norm Smith Medallists Wayne Harmes and David Rhys-Jones.

Absent at the time the team photo was taken were Glascott and Parkin, in what was perhaps his first foray into the Royal Parade public house.

Rhys-Jones said that the function was organised by the Sydney-based Jones, who was on the wrong end of a breakdown in communication when the previous catch-up was abandoned at the last minute.

“A little while back some of the boys organised a catch-up, then cancelled it – and they forgot to tell ‘Wow’,” Rhys-Jones said.

“‘Wow’ lobbed from Sydney but didn’t realise it was cancelled, so he sent out 20 invitations to this one – and although five were away, 15 turned up.”

The salubrious surrounds of Naughton’s bear little resemblance to those Rhys-Jones remembered in his eight seasons as a Carlton senior footballer. As he said: “It’s a bit different now than when it was . . . . only drunken footballers and uni students back then”.

“In the old days most of the blokes who lived down south used to go there on Monday nights after training – blokes like ‘Sellers’ (Mark Maclure), Tom Alvin and ‘Deany’ (Peter Dean) – and Jimmy (Buckley) and ‘The Dominator’ (Wayne Johnston) went there too,” Rhys-Jones said.

“We’d knock down half a dozen pots then go home.”

Naughton’s Parkville Hotel has been recognised as one of Melbourne’s oldest, continuously licensed hotels. Until 2006, only two families had ever owned the pub.

Naughton’s Parkville Hotel, 43 Royal Parade, Parkville.

The hotel’s fascinating story was recently documented by Charles Reis, the grandson of JB Naughton, who graciously availed the following details.

Naughton’s was established as the Port Phillip Agricultural Hotel and commenced trading in 1873 at a time when Parkville was still rural in character and is built on the site of Melbourne’s early Hay, Corn and Horse Market. The first application for a licence in 1872 was rejected on account of the proposed hotel’s proximity to Melbourne University, but this was overturned on appeal 12 months later allowing trade to commence. As Parkville’s population grew and the area become increasingly urbanised, a tram line was laid along Royal Parade. It was about this time that the hotel was renamed the Parkville Hotel.

History records that John Bernard Naughton purchased the hotel in 1916, a week after his marriage. His new wife, Mary Elizabeth Hickey, was herself born in a hotel – the Edinburgh Castle in North Melbourne.

JB Naughton on the right, shaking hands with an unknown Melbourne Town Hall clerk.

Through the 1920s, JB Naughton acquired the adjoining properties in Royal Parade and in 1924 extended the hotel to its present size (with the bottle shop added in 1941). For nearly 20 years covering the period from the Depression through to Melbourne’s Olympic Games, JB Naughton also served as a councillor representing the people of Parkville at the City of Melbourne.

JB’s civic involvement became so synonymous with the hotel, that it became locally known as Naughton’s Parkville Hotel, or as recalled by one prominent CEO, simply ‘Johnny Naughton’s Hotel’. The present name was formally adopted for the business by his daughter Nancy and her husband Kevin Reis following JB Naughton’s death in 1963.

The rich history of Naughton’s has been largely shaped by its colourful patrons. Prior to the gentrification of Parkville, customers in the corner bar comprised an eclectic mix of the inner-city working class juxtaposed against aspiring university students from Melbourne’s leafier suburbs. Future barristers, surgeons and scoundrels stood shoulder to shoulder with battlers and workers. Legend has it that Sir Robert Menzies, for years the Carlton Football Club’s No.1 ticketholder, enjoyed a quite ale in the corner bar while studying law at Melbourne University.

His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, was a patron at Naughton’s Parkville Hotel on a previous visit to Melbourne, while Australia’s first satellite, ‘Australis’, was designed on the back of a beer coaster there.

One of the nation’s most accomplished writers, philosophers and social commentators, Cyril Pearl, requested that the ABC record its television tribute to him at the hotel – and ‘Aunty’ obliged.

The pub even became the subject of a book penned by Jim Young entitled ‘Any Old Eleven’ about the Naughton’s Old Boys Cricket Team of the 1980s.

In the 1970s a series of rolling strikes by bar staff saw virtually every hotel in Melbourne forced to close its doors – except Naughton’s. Nancy Naughton and her husband Kevin Reis were able to continue trading with the help of their nine children (who lived in the residence above the hotel). Even Kevin’s brother, a Catholic Priest, swapped his religious collar for a barman’s apron to help keep the doors open.

On the footpath flanking the noted establishment on Royal Parade stands a steel bench seat at which Stephen Kernahan belted out an extraordinary version of the Tammy Wynette classic Stand By Your Man on the Monday after the Blues’ meritorious 1987 Grand Final victory.

Stephen Kernahan always stood by his man at Naughton’s.

The hotel’s structure is still largely original, with its bluestone cellars and a flat roof that commands a panoramic view across Parkville to Royal Park. The corner entrance is consistent with early Victorian hotels, and the general character of Naughton’s is largely unchanged to that of a century ago.

More than a million students have passed through the university since the hotel was built, many of them simultaneously earning a diploma in the school of life from their time in the ladies lounge or saloon bar of Naughton’s Hotel – and just as many football devotees who have saluted the latest victory at JB’s old haunt.

In celebration of its sesquicentenary, Naughton’s Parkville Hotel, together with the Parkville Association (whose President is the former Carltonians coterie President Robert Moore) convened an evening in which the Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and members of the Reiss family (the original owners of Naughtons Hotel) addressed invitees.

AFLPA Golf Day 2023

All AFLPA members are invited to attend the 2023 AFLPA Victorian Alumni Golf Day.

  • WHAT: AFLPA Alumni Golf Day
  • WHEN: Friday 24th November 2023
  • TIME: 9am arrival and registration
  • WHERE: Moonah Links Golf Course, Fingal VIC
  • PRICE: Complimentary to all AFLPA Alumni members (former VFL/AFL/AFLW players who played at least one (1) VFL / AFL / AFLW senior game), includes carts, golf, food, drinks, prizes and polo shirt

ELIGIBILITY: All attendees must be AFLPA Alumni members (former VFL/AFL/AFLW players who played at least one (1) VFL / AFL / AFLW senior game).

Please RSVP by Friday 17th November (spots are limited, first in – best dressed).

Booking Instructions:
Please register via AFLPA

For those registering a group of up to four people, please remember to include full name, email address and Golflink number (if you have one) for each member of the group.

If a player does not have a Golflink number, they will be given the automatic handicap of 18.

Barassi to the Blues: The behind-the-scenes story

A look back at Ron Barassi’s needle-shifting move to the Blues.

WITH the passing of Ron Barassi at the age of 87, so ends a glorious life dedicated to the great Indigenous game – and as the football world remembers a giant, thoughts at Carlton turn to the behind-the-scenes machinations which led to what remains – almost 60 years on – the most audacious signing in League history. 

The following story, a slightly abridged version of which appeared some time ago in the publication Out Of The Blue, reveals how the city’s powerbrokers of the day came together to wrest Barassi from the Melbourne establishment’s grasp and revive Carlton’s flagging fortunes as Captain-Coach. 

Barassi’s personal recollections of the monumental sliding doors moment in his life, also follow, in his own words.   

Barassi to the Blues

The signing of Ron Barassi as captain and coach of the Carlton Football Club in late 1964 undeniably remains the most audacious signing in league history. How did Carlton, on the end of its team’s worst standing in 100 seasons of existence, wrest the game’s greatest name from the clutches of the Melbourne establishment?

Over the years, many have laid claim to their part in the push to “Get Ron” from the Redlegs to deliver the old dark Navy Blues from the football backwater. Back in 1995, when surviving members of George Harris’ famed Progress Party gathered for the 30th anniversary of “Barassi to the Blues”, all magnanimously declared it a joint effort.

In truth, the push for Barassi was on in earnest months before the Progress Party swept into power at Princes Park – and central to it were two leviathans of the city’s business sector, a prominent Melbourne solicitor and a fearsome former Carlton footballer who forged an equally imposing reputation as both a powerbroker and a kingmaker.

The four men – Sir Leo Curtis, Sir Maurice Nathan, Graham Emanuel and Laurie Kerr – were also bound by an unswerving loyalty to the Carlton Football Club.

A story which in part tells the whole in respect of their unqualified allegiance relates to Sir Leo and Sir Maurice. It is a tale told by the late Ken Hands, who was six seasons into his senior coaching tenure when forced to make way for Barassi.

Hands, a dual Carlton premiership player whom John Nicholls long regarded as his mentor, well recalled the pair rubbing shoulders with well-heeled supporters as far back as the war years.

“I don’t know what it’s like now, but a lot of supporters used to come into the rooms afterwards – people like Maurie Nathan and Leo Curtis,” Hands said.

“There was a group who used to meet over lunch in Lonsdale Street before Carlton games. They’d have their little punt on the game, and quite often through ’45 and ’47, if we won, we’d probably get an extra couple of quid.

“That’s how the money came about. Perc Bentley might announce ‘If you win by three goals today there’s two pound a man’, and if you’d get three quid to play and two quid on the side, it was pretty good.”

Sir Leo, Sir Maurice, Emanuel and Kerr have all since died, and, at the time of writing, only one member of the Progress Party – Gordon Newton – is still around to shed any light on the stunning coup to secure Barassi on a three-year term at a cost of £9000 plus bonuses.

But Kerr’s widow and the Carlton’s Football Club’s No.1 female ticketholder Vivienne Kerr, together with the great Ronald Dale himself, drew on their collective memories to detail the behind-the-scenes machinations which ultimately led to football’s most audacious signing.

“Maurice Nathan loved Laurie, and Leo was one of our dearest friends. I always used to go to the footy with Leo and Maurice Nathan and we’d sit together. Laurie delivered a speech at Leo’s 90th birthday party, we were all best friends and a great part of our friendship was our love of the club,” Vivienne said.

“In mid-1963 – I can’t remember the date but one Sunday night – Sir Leo Curtis phoned Laurie. The discussion went that perhaps Laurie might sound Ron Barassi out, so Laurie arranged a luncheon with Ron, I think at the Hotel Australia.

“Laurie was very satisfied emerging from the lunch. He didn’t put Ron in an embarrassing position by saying ‘This is what you must do’. It was just to sow the seed. This was what Laurie did, and that was how he operated. He did some amazing things in his life.

“It was maybe 10 months later that Ron was approached by Graham Emanuel and Kevin McEncroe on behalf of all members of the [Carlton Football Club] board to put the thing to Ron.”

Vivienne said that her husband and Barassi had forged a lifelong friendship when the two were locking horns in Carlton-Melbourne contests through the Redlegs’ halcyon days of the 1950s.

“Laurie and Ron had built a rapport with each other from their playing days, and Ron delivered the eulogy at Laurie’s funeral,” Vivienne said. “Ron said that the first time he met Laurie ‘was when his shoulder hit mine’, and they were both pretty tough, but they had a great, great relationship.”

There can be no doubting Barassi’s great respect for Kerr. Once asked to name his heroes in life, the game’s famous No.31 volunteered Rupert Murdoch “for proving himself in a diabolically competitive field”, Herb Elliott as “a fantastic guy, and his own man”, Barry Jones, for “a sense of humour and top Australian” and Laurie Kerr for his “ability to get people with him, and a good listener, but tough”.

Barassi also concurred with Vivienne’s take on this chain of events, including the pivotal rendez-vous with Kerr at the Hotel Australia.

“Laurie Kerr rang me up and said ‘What about going to lunch?’ I said yes [to the luncheon engagement] because I really admired his qualities as a person and as a footballer,” Barassi said. “We’d played interstate football together and we’d had battles on the field, but not centreman versus centreman as I was too scared to go into the centre to go against him (laughs).

“I left Laurie about 90 minutes later let’s say, and as I was getting into my car I thought ‘Why would he take me to lunch?’. There was no relevant discussion during the lunch or reason behind it, and I always took it that he [Kerr] was sizing me up for the coaching position.

“I always thought that happened during 1963, but it could have happened in ’64 and I’m not certain on that point – either way, it was certainly some time before the coaching thing came up as a definite proposition.”

Barassi said he never knew that Kerr, Curtis, Nathan and Emanuel had, from the outset, volunteered his name as a prospective Carlton coach.

Vivienne, meanwhile, has denied that the Barassi plan was hatched by Curtis alone, insisting that “they [the clique] would have all chatted about it”.

“Laurie, Leo Curtis, Maurice Nathan and Graham Emanuel were probably the only ones who knew [about Barassi]. The point was that the team was going nowhere and the club was still experiencing the destabilising effects of the Hands-Francis fallout. There’d been all this fighting and upheaval, and they [the club] needed a lift,” Vivienne said.

She also remembered that the initial plan to get Ron was concocted independently of Harris for the simple reason that Harris’s Progress Party had not yet been swept into office. However, she believed that Kerr informed the-then Carlton president Lew Holmes of his initial meeting with Barassi.

It’s worth noting here that Sir Edward Leo Curtis was, at the time, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. Sir Leo had forged his handsome reputation as the director of Bradman’s Stores, served as President of the Retail Traders Association, and was also a member of the advisory board of the Mercy Maternity Hospital.

Sir Maurice Arnold Nathan, the chairman of the furniture retailing firm Patersons, preceded Sir Leo as Lord Mayor of Melbourne. He served from 1961-63, about the same period that John F. Kennedy occupied the White House.

By the time Sir Maurice had hung up his chains, the long-serving councillor had actively involved himself in the establishment of Tullamarine Airport, Moomba and the Southern Cross Hotel, and had also headed the Melbourne Olympic Games organising committee.

He would also serve as the VFL chairman and a racing industry board member and formed the Victorian Promotion Committee (the original Victorian Major Events Company) with the-then Premier Sir Henry Bolte.

Graham Emanuel, according to club records, was elevated to the vacant position on the Carlton committee on October 10, 1961. The vacancy had been created following the sudden death on September 12 of Harvey Dunn senior, a former Carlton footballer in the 1920s whose son Harvey junior was the first League footballer recruited under the father/son rule. Ronald Dale Barassi, as it happened, was the second.

Emanuel, who would also serve as a member of the club’s finance committee and as an honorary Carlton Ground Representative, was described in the 1961 annual report as “a professional man of standing”, with the club expressing every confidence “that he will prove an acquisition to our administrative ranks”.

And then there was Laurie Kerr.

Kerr was born Lawrence Kitchin-Kerr on June 25, 1928. Legend has it that he opted for the abridged version of his surname so that it would fit in the Footy Record.

Named as an emergency in the Carlton Football Club’s exalted Team of the Century, Kerr represented the old dark Navy Blues in 149 senior matches between 1950-59. He also pursued a career in journalism, and in the years following his retirement steadily built his public relations empire IPR.

Somewhat paradoxically, Kerr preferred to work in the background. Regardless, he was universally acknowledged in his extraordinary lifetime as one of the country’s great movers and shakers, and the Carlton Football Club was not untouched.

Few would know that Kerr originally supported Collingwood and that his links with Carlton were first forged through Vivienne, who in her childhood years shared her mother’s allegiance to the now-defunct Fitzroy.

“As a wee kid I used to be taken to the footy to watch Fitzroy and Haydn Bunton because Bunton, Frank Curcio and ‘Chicken’ Smallhorn were my mother’s heroes,” Vivienne said. “Laurie loved Collingwood, and he used to ride his bike from Kew to Collingwood, chain his bike up and watch the team play.

“I barracked for Fitzroy before Laurie went to Carlton. I saw the last premiership Fitzroy won. I remember Fred Hughson, Noel Jarvis and Alan Ruthven, and they’re the ones that Laurie subsequently played against.”

Vivienne said that she and Kerr married young. “We had a child and very nearly another, and at that time he was a reporter for The Argus and they sent him to university to do his BA,” she said.

“He was a professional runner and he also played football for Auburn, but not all the time. He was too busy with his studies and they [Auburn] only got him to play when they needed him.”

Vivienne revealed that the first Carlton overtures came when The Argus posted her husband to Canberra to cover parliament.

“My father, Harry Devine, idolised Laurie and couldn’t believe that into his family had come this fellow who was fast and who could kick a football. My Dad had played footy for Carlton and Fitzroy seconds … and he knew Harry Bell, the secretary of Carlton, very well,” Vivienne said.

“My father said to Harry: ‘Laurie’s very good’, and he’d already mentioned the same to Ken Luke because Ken Luke was one of my Dad’s best and oldest friends.”

Vivienne said that on Kerr’s return from Canberra, her father arranged for Bell to visit the home of Laurie and Vivienne in Ivanhoe. She said that following an interview with Bell, Kerr begrudgingly agreed to front for a training session at Princes Park.

“Laurie ran around once while Ken Luke, Harry Bell and Newton Chandler were watching. It was not long after the premiership year, and they needed a new wingman,” Vivienne said.

“Anyway, they called him over and Ken Luke said: ‘You’re in – you’ll be playing in the first game on the wing’. Laurie graduated at Melbourne Uni on the day of the last practice match, and he raced over to Carlton and he played. He sprained his ankle and wasn’t able to play for another 12 weeks, but as soon as he got fit he broke into the Carlton team, against North Melbourne.”

Kerr’s contribution to the Carlton team encompassed all of the 1950s, but it could be successfully argued that his influence was greater in the years after he hung up the No.11 guernsey.

“The Carlton Football Club was everything to Laurie. Playing football for Carlton meant a lot to him,” Vivienne said. “He was loyal to Carlton, loved Carlton and tried to help Carlton in any way that he could. He gave his all for the club.”

Vivienne said that while her late husband never divulged the details of his conversation with Barassi at the Australia Hotel, “I knew what was happening and that they [the Sir Leo Curtis clique] wanted Ron to go [to Carlton].

“I never pried into his [Kerr’s] business but I know why he was approaching Ron, for sure,” she said.

“If Laurie wanted to tell me these things, he would. He definitely told me why he was approaching Ron, and I said ‘Ripper!’.

“It was terrific when Ron came to Carlton. Mind you, I could have killed him when he played for Melbourne. He was so fierce and aggressive.”

A famous photograph captured in the rooms before Carlton’s practice match against St Kilda in early 1965 shows Barassi, hands on hips and resplendent in navy blue strip, delivering the edict to a captive audience of senior players. Behind Barassi can be found a plethora of football identities, from the President George Harris through to the resident club barber Ernie Angerame and the ever-vigilant newshounds Alf Brown and Ron Carter. Also there, head bowed, is Ken Hands, the man who made way for Ronald Dale.

Newly-appointed Carlton Captain-Coach Ron Barassi delivers the edict to a captive audience of senior players prior to the 1965 practice match with St Kilda.

Barassi was one of four men – all of them untried as coaches – known to have been interviewed for the Carlton job. Collingwood’s Murray Weideman, along with Essendon’s Jack Clarke and Bill Hutchison, were all in the mix, but Barassi was the peach. Undeniably, Barassi was torn by his historical links to the grand old flag for whom he and his father so grandly represented, but Harris was relentless in making the great grandson of an Italian migrant an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Ronald Dale Barassi was officially appointed captain-coach of the Carlton Football Club on the night of Thursday December 22, 1964. But more than a month lapsed before Melbourne granted its long-serving premiership player a clearance.

On the night the paperwork finally came through, Barassi was photographed flanked by committeemen Harris, Emanuel, Eddie Fakhry and Rod McLean, each one of them fawning over the club’s recruit of the year.

“As a coach, I have no revolutionary ideas,” Barassi told reporters privy to what was history in the making, “but my ideas are proven ones and I am confident they will work at Carlton.

“I will try to mould the perfect team. No-one has achieved this yet, but if you aim high I think you have a better chance of success.”

Barassi commandeered Carlton to its breakthrough premiership of 1968 and its stunning Grand Final victory in 1970. John Nicholls, who accepted the prized cup on both occasions, said that his old coach brought much of Norm Smith’s and Melbourne’s success and discipline to the table.

“‘Barass’ was very, very good. He was very lucky in two areas – number one, we had the nucleus of a fantastic side which he helped mould, and the second thing was we had a fantastic match committee, of which Rod McLean was initially chairman, and then Jack Wrout, who was wonderful,” Nicholls said.

“Jack had the ability to walk around after Ron picking up the pieces because ‘Barass’ was like a bull in a china shop. He’d knock people down and ‘Wrouty’ would pick them up again.

“[George] Harris was good, the committee was good, Barassi was good and the players were good. And ‘Barass’ probably brought it all together.”

AFL Chairman and dual former Carlton premiership captain Mike Fitzpatrick, in recently proposing a toast to the club’s breakthrough team of 1968, said of Barassi’s legacy: “It’s history now that the Barassi era set off the most successful period in Carlton history – eight premierships over a 27-year period, beginning with the big one in ’68.

“Though Ron was untried in the coaching caper, Carlton knew exactly what it was getting – a ferocious competitor, a supreme motivator and above all else, a winner,” Fitzpatrick said.

Carlton knew exactly what it was getting – a ferocious competitor, a supreme motivator and above all else, a winner.

– Mike Fitzpatrick

“The 1968 Grand Final serves as a salient reminder that success at a football club can only be achieved when everyone from the President and the board, through to the administration, the coach and the players, are committed as one to the common cause.”

Ron Barassi – in his own words

“I received a phone call from a fellow who would become a member of what I later learned to be the new Carlton committee, because there was going to be quite a stoush at the ballot boxes for the members. So I met a couple of guys [Graham Emanuel and Kevin McEncroe], had lunch at a very nice restaurant near the corner of Exhibition and Lonsdale Streets, a favourite haunt of one of the fellows, and I came away from there with what they had in mind from the point of view of the offer.

I got back to work at about half past two or three o’clock I suppose, and I then rang Jim Cardwell the CEO, or secretary in those days, of the Melbourne Football Club, and said to him, ‘Jim, this is what’s happened’. I’ve told Carlton I’ll consider it for a couple of days and say ‘No’ or ‘Let’s talk further’. I told him ‘I think it’s the right thing to do, to tell Melbourne via you’. I didn’t ring the coach, Norm Smith, because I thought it was more of a secretary’s thing, and whether I’m right or wrong on that is irrelevant. Anyway, that all happened on a Thursday.

In those days there was a first edition of The Herald which came out just before noon. And on the Friday morning I got a call from Alf Brown, the doyen of football writers at that time, and he said: “Ron, I believe this has happened – is this so?” He reeled off the circumstances of the Carlton situation, and the figures, and I’ve gone ‘Gee, I thought this was supposed to be confidential’. He then said ‘Ron, what are you going to do?’ and I said ‘Alf, I’ll ring you back in half an hour with my answer’.

I rang Jim Cardwell and said ‘Jim, did you bloody tell Alf Brown?’. ‘No’ came the reply, and I don’t know to this day whether he did or not, so I took it as ‘No’. So I then took it to be one of the Carlton guys. So I rang one and he was out, so I rang the other guy, Graham Emanuel I think it was, and said ‘If this is the way you’re going to run a football club, well forget it’. And that was it.

I then rang Alf, and by Friday it was in the news.

On the Sunday the Melbourne Footy Club held a Christmas party down at the MCG for the kids, and I went down there with my wife and the kids. And Norm Smith said ‘Ah, writing your own stuff these days’ …  you know, a bit of a dig. Other committeemen were giving me dirty looks and I thought ‘Gee, I’ve just knocked back a fantastic offer, chance or whatever you want to call it’ and I got really steamed up. So on my way home I said to my wife, ‘I think I’ll ring Alf Brown to see if this can be regurgitated and I can get the thing going again’. And the rest is history.

I probably drove Carlton mad, but it had nothing to do with money. I just found it extremely hard to leave my Melbourne. I certainly couldn’t have done it just as a player – the coach thing attracted me. And it was interesting because about two years before, and this was probably at the start of the Melbourne problem where Norm Smith was having hassles with the committee and a few of us down at Melbourne knew this, I remember thinking ‘Here’s the best coach in Australia, he’s coached five premierships and played in four, and I thought ‘Who wants to be a coach?. An idiot? Two years later when I had the opportunity, I must have forgotten all about that stuff.

Carlton President George Harris presents Ron Barassi with the famous No.31 guernsey.

I’d said ‘No’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, so I’d given two ‘nos’ before the final ‘yes’. By then they threw the heavyweights in, and it wasn’t until very late in the piece that I actually spoke to George [Harris]. He did speak to me for a while, he was quite persuasive and I did take a lot of persuading because leaving Melbourne was where I’d spent my whole life as a kid, where my father played and all that sort of stuff. But I never met him [Harris] until after I said ‘yes’.

At the committee meeting, George got up and officially announced to the committee that I’d been appointed. I then got up and said how pleased I was to have been asked. And after I’d finished, one of the committeemen, Rod McLean, the-then chairman of the match committee, stood up and said “this is terrific – but, Mr President, the match committee knew nothing about this … and that is not right.” And I thought, ‘So this is my first experience of a committee meeting’. (laughs). But that was Rod all over. He was a man of great principle, and whilst he agreed with the end result, he didn’t like the way they’d gone about it. And when you think about it, I don’t know why they didn’t approach the match committee. Anyway, that night was memorable for me on a few counts.

It was hard to make that decision in the beginning, but once made then, well, you’ve got to go flat out to make that decision work – otherwise you’d look stupid. It’s a bit like going for a footy mark in a way – once you decide ‘I’ve got to get this mark’, then everything else goes out the window except the objective of getting that mark. It’s a similar sort of thing really.

It turned out to be the best thing personally for me to happen, particularly in terms of my coaching career, because I didn’t do much here in the way of playing. I became involved with a great group of players and a great committee because they were all determined. They were sick of Carlton being down and out and not doing much, so it was a great time to be here.

Melbourne had just come off a premiership, and if they did read that an explosion was not far off occurring, then they read it better than I did. I was flabbergasted when I got half way through my first season of coaching Carlton when I got the news that Norm Smith had been sacked. I got in my car, drove straight over to the CEO and let him have it. It had nothing to do with me, by the way, and I knew I was doing the wrong thing, but Melbourne in a way has never recovered.

One of the things I learned at Melbourne was that a player and a coach has no hope unless the club is properly administered, particularly over time. You might fluke one premiership, but if you want consistent success, you won’t have it without very, very good leadership off-field. And when I started to think about coaching I thought ‘Well, I’ve definitely got to go to a place that’s properly administered’.

With Carlton, I took a bit of a punt there because who knew what the new administration was going to be like? But on meeting some of them and hearing about the rest I thought, ‘Well, I think it’s going to be pretty good’. So I made a good punt there, because it was a very, very good committee.”

Vale, Ronald Dale Barassi

A legendary figure in Australian Football history, Ronald Dale Barassi has passed away.

RONALD Dale Barassi, a legendary figure in the Australian Football League (AFL), passed away on 16 September 2023, leaving behind a legacy that will forever be etched in the annals of Australian football history. Born on 27 February 1936, in Melbourne, Ronald’s passion for the game was evident from a young age, and he went on to become one of the most influential figures in the sport.

Ronald’s football journey began at the Melbourne Football Club, where he made his debut in 1953. Known for his exceptional skills, versatility and leadership qualities, he quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Over the course of his 12-year career at Melbourne, Ronald played a pivotal role in the club’s success, helping them secure six premierships in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1964. His ability to dominate the field as a midfielder and forward made him a formidable opponent for any team.

In 1965, Ronald made a move to the Carlton Football Club, where he continued to excel both as a player and a leader. His impact on the team was immediate, and he was appointed Captain-Coach in his first season. Under his guidance, Carlton reached new heights, winning premierships in 1968 and 1970. Ronald’s ability to inspire his teammates and lead by example earned him the respect and admiration of players and fans alike.

Ronald’s coaching prowess did not go unnoticed, and in 1981, he was appointed as the inaugural coach of the Sydney Swans Football Club. Tasked with rebuilding a struggling team, Ronald once again proved his ability to turn a club’s fortunes around. Under his guidance, the Swans experienced a resurgence, reaching the finals for the first time in over a decade in 1996. Ronald’s dedication and commitment to the club earned him the title of AFL Coach of the Year in 1996.

Throughout his illustrious career, Ronald was not only a successful player and coach but also a mentor and inspiration to countless individuals. His passion for the game, unwavering determination and ability to bring out the best in his players set him apart as one of the greatest figures in AFL history. Ronald’s impact on the sport extended far beyond the field, as he played a crucial role in shaping the future of Australian football.

Ronald Dale Barassi will be remembered as a true icon of the game, whose contributions to the Melbourne Football Club, Carlton Football Club, North Melbourne Football Club and Sydney Swans Football Club will forever be etched in the hearts of fans. His legacy will continue to inspire generations of players and coaches, ensuring that his name lives on as a symbol of excellence and dedication in Australian football. Ronald’s passing leaves a void in the AFL community, but his spirit and influence will never be forgotten.

“Arguably our game’s greatest name, a giant of Australian Football, who left a legacy at every club whose doors he walked through the doors of, none more so than our own,” Carlton President Luke Sayers said.

“It was late 1964 that Ron donned the Navy Blue, and for the proceeding decades, the Carlton Football Club never looked back.

Ron Barassi with the 1968 premiership cup.

“The Captain-Coach of our Club for the drought-breaking flag in ‘68, followed by coaching what is considered the greatest victory of them all, the 1970 Grand Final comeback over Collingwood.

“Ron transformed the game and indeed the clubs who were privileged to be graced with his presence.

“How fitting that just last night, two clubs in which he left such an impact should play out a final that typified the toughness, ferocious competitiveness and passion that symbolised so much that was great about Ron.

“On behalf of the entire Carlton Football Club, our most heartfelt condolences go out to the Barassi family and we thank them deeply for allowing us and our game the honour of having the great Ron Barassi as forever part of it.”

“My brother and my friend forever”: Big Nick’s tribute to the late Don Nicholls

Vale, Don Nicholls.

DON Nicholls, the former Carlton centreman whose younger brother and Club Legend John followed from Maryborough to Princes Park, has died at the age of 86 after a short illness.

When Don joined Carlton as a 19 year-old in 1956, his reputation as an outstanding Victoria country footballer already preceding him. At 15 he’d taken out the League’s Best and Fairest Senior Player Award.

Don completed his senior debut for the Blues in the second round of 1956 at Princes Park – ironically against Melbourne, the team Carlton meets in Friday night’s semi final.

In July 2017, during a welcome visit to the old Carlton ground with John and family members, Don reflected on his years with the senior 20 when he wore the No.12 guernsey now on the back of Tom De Koning.

“I haven’t been back for a while, so when I look out over the ground the first thing that comes into my mind is how much the ground’s improved,” Don said at the time.

July 2017, clockwise from left to right: Taylor Secomb, John Nicholls, Don Nicholls, Neil Nicholls, Max Nicholls, Benjamin Nicholls, Ollie Lanza and Mia Secomb.

“The centre area used to be a mound of black mud where the cricket pitches were placed. I remember that Bruce ‘Bugsy’ Comben lost a contact lens in there once and everyone was wallowing around in the mud looking for it . . . they found the contact lens too.”

“To avoid the gluepot, play was down one wing or the other. Players found a way around it.”

In those days long stops and woollen sleeves were in vogue, and only one match-day ball was ever used. Consequently on wet days, players were actually weighted down by what they wore, and the air conveyance invariably lost its shape.

Not that it particularly phased Don.

Don Nicholls, Atlantic Football Card, 1958.

“I was always keen to play here come down and they wanted me to come down earlier, but I wanted to finish my schooling in Maryborough,” Don said. “I was on my own when I first came down and all my family came down of a Saturday.”

Adjudged winner of the Terry Ogden Memorial Trophy for the Club’s Best First Year player in 1956 (with ‘Big Nick’ following suit in ’57), Don represented Carlton in 77 senior matches between the Melbourne Olympic year and 1961.

Little brother John, on debut, joined Don in the opening round of the 1957 season against Hawthorn – and the rest, as they say, is football history.

Carlton’s 1968 premiership player and former Chief Executive and President Ian Collins, who completed his senior debut in the opening round of 1961 against St Kilda on a day the Nicholls brothers played, remembered Don for his versatility.

“Don could play half-forward, centre and half-back. The thing with him was his versatility,” Collins said.

John Nicholls, the Premiership captain of 1968 and ’70 – and ’72 as Captain-Coach – described his brother, affectionally known as ‘Donny’, as a child prodigy in terms of his football ability.

“Donny was 15 years of age when he won the best and fairest in the Maryborough League and 16 when he took out the Courier Trophy in the Ballarat League, which was the best of all the country leagues,” John said.

The Nicholls brothers John and Don – IKON Park, July 2017.

“He played at a time when unfortunately bad treatment for an ankle injury really cost him. He should have kept playing. He was a good athlete and excellent exponent of the drop kick and he could play in a number of positions, whether half-forward, centre or half-back.

“When I followed Donny down to Carlton in ’57 I started off in the back pocket. At one stage Donny was playing half-back and I was always accused by my late wife Janet of kicking the ball to my brother.

“Donny was my brother and my friend forever.”

The players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect to the late Don Nicholls, Carlton player No.701, at the MCG on Friday night.

The Carlton Football Club also acknowledges the passing last Friday of four-game rover David Browning, the Perth recruit who completed his senior debut in Round 3, 1955 – a year before Don Nicholls.

Don Nicholls’ first senior game
Round 2, 1956: Saturday 21 April
Carlton v Melbourne
Princes Park
Backs: Bruce Comben Keith Robinson Vic Garra
Half-backs: Denis Zeunert George Ferry Bob Bosustow
Centreline: John Chick Doug Beasy Max Ellis
Half-forwards: Laurie Kerr (vc) Peter Webster Bob Crowe
Forwards: Bill Milroy Graham Donaldson Ron O’Dwyer
Followers: Ken Hands (c) Kevin Clarke Kevin Bergin
Reserves: Don Nicholls Vin English
Coach: Jim Francis