Blues ’64 Brownlow Medallist rubs shoulders with Cripps & Co.

Brownlow Medallists met when Gordon Collis linked up with Patrick Cripps at IKON Park.

By Tony De Bolfo

IT’S 60 years this August that Gordon Collis was declared the winner of League football’s highest individual honour. Today, Carlton’s oldest surviving Brownlow Medallist returned to the old stomping ground where he posed for an historic photograph with the Club’s most recent Medal recipient Patrick Cripps.

Now 83, Collis – the former Carlton centre half-back – rubbed shoulders with Captain Cripps, coach Voss (Brisbane’s 1996 Medallist), assistant coach Aaron Hamill and a number of current players including Tom De Koning, Alex Cincotta and Mitch McGovern – a fellow key position defender with whom Collis compared notes.

Collis also viewed the current squad’s training session at IKON Park with another welcome visitor, the four-time Carlton premiership ruckman and Club best-and-fairest Peter ‘Percy’ Jones. He later posed in front of locker No.17 – the number he wore on his back in 95 games through seven seasons under coaches Ken Hands and Ron Barassi.

Gordon Collis meets AFL Senior Coach – and fellow Brownlow Medallist – Michael Voss.

“It’s been quite memorable,” Collis said of the experience. “To have been made to feel welcome is a big thing and the players and coaches I have met have been so engaging.”

By his own admission, Collis – a Carlton Life Member and Hall of Fame Inductee – maintains a fairly low profile – and part of the motivation in returning to his former Club was to be pictured with Cripps to appease a long-time business acquaintance across the Nullarbor.

“My friend in Albany has an interest in football history and had asked if I had a photograph I could share,” said Collis, who tomorrow heads to Albany on a five-week road trip.

“So I thought a bit outside the box and have been very fortunate to jump in a photo with Patrick Cripps.

“I’ve always been impressed with Patrick as a leader. He’s been quite outstanding. There’s no doubt he sets a terrific example on the field, both at ground level and in the air.”

Gordon Collis at the No.17 locker, the guernsey in which he played 95 games.

Recruited to the Club despite Fitzroy’s advances, Collis joined Carlton on the eve of the 1961 season and ironically completed his senior debut against the Lions in the second round of that year.

Collis learned of his 1964 Brownlow victory by way of a radio broadcast from VFL headquarters at Harrison House – the votes having been called by the former Carlton dual Premiership coach Perc Bentley, the then chairman of the League’s Permit and Match Arrangement Committee.

Then 23 and a game short of his 70th for the Blues, Collis secured the coveted Charles Brownlow Trophy (the club’s third after Bert Deacon and John James) with 27 votes from Hawthorn’s Phil Hay and Esssendon’s Ken Fraser, the joint runners-up with 19.

Six days later, Collis was named Carlton best and fairest ahead of Ian Collins and John Nicholls.

Having earned the respect of the football world for his consistent showings at centre half-back, Collis was destined to turn out in just 26 more senior matches for Carlton, before illness precipitated his retirement at just 26 following the 1967 Preliminary Final loss to Geelong.

It’s a little-known fact that Collis actually laboured with a duodenal ulcer from his teenage years and through the duration of his entire League career.

“I played my whole career with the ailment and it was pretty destabilising at times,” Collis recalled.

Gordon Collis with his 1964 Brownlow Medal.

“I actually had a haemorrhage at the time that I played and there was no cure for it, so all I could do was somehow control it with diet. I would have dearly loved a longer playing career, but with that issue and a stress fracture in the foot I was quite proud of the fact that I was able to live with that adversity.

“With medical science advancements as they are, I was fortunate in the long run, as in around 1990 it was discovered there was a bug in the system that caused the issue, and if it was knocked out there was a good chance of recovery. A gastroenterologist at St Vincent’s named Greg Whelan, set me up on this course of antibiotics and I haven’t had a problem since.”

In pondering the 60th anniversary of his Brownlow victory, Collis conceded “I sometimes have to scratch myself as a realisation that this time has actually gone by”.

And as he said: “I actually doubted whether I’d actually reach this age, because I had a bit of a chequered run with my health”.

Blues mourn the passing of Berkley Cox

Old contemporaries have paid tribute to former Carlton centreman, Berkley Cox.

By Tony De Bolfo

OLD on-field contemporaries have paid wonderful tribute to the uncompromising former Carlton centreman Berkley Cox, who died in Launceston General Hospital on Monday 13 May at the age of 90. 

Wearing the No.9 of the current captain Patrick Cripps, Cox represented the club in 102 senior matches between 1958 and 1965, including the 1962 Grand Final. He was named amongst the Blues’ best players afield in all four matches of the ’62 finals campaign and in ’65 was named Best Clubman and awarded Life Membership.

Cox was recruited to Carlton from NTFA club City-South, the club having unsuccessfully sought to lure his father Albert ‘Tracker’ Cox 32 years earlier. In an interview with this reporter nine years ago, Cox recalled sharing digs with a number of Tasmanians who had crossed Bass Strait to try their luck at Princes Park.

“We lived in a house in Melbourne with another friend of ours who’s passed away called Allan Wilson. It was called ‘The Tasmanian Embassy’ because all the Tassie players who used to come over went there,” Cox said.

“There were a few blokes over from Tassie at the time – Maurie (Sankey), John Heathcote, Johnny Chick and myself.

“One thing I remember is that when we had to move out of the flat in Coburg we had to get rid of the empty bottles (longnecks) – and when the chap came to collect them he said he’d never seen so many. He said, ‘Do you mind if I ring The Herald (evening newspaper)?’, to which we replied ‘You better not’.”

Berkley Cox and Peter Jones, Life Members Luncheon, Kew Golf Club, April 2019.

Cox was selected for his first Carlton senior match against the old enemy Collingwood, on the afternoon of Saturday, August 9, 1958 at Princes Park. He was named on a half-forward flank in the starting 18, which included the club’s greatest footballer John Nicholls in a back pocket.

“Berkley was a lovely man. He was four years older than me and he wasn’t all that young when he came over,” Nicholls said.

“His best place was in the centre and by gee he was tough. He was a clone of Ian Collins and he had a bit of trouble at the Tribunal on occasions. I reckon he got four weeks for accidentally bumping a boundary umpire named Cliff Green.

“Berkley was always a great Carlton man. Even after returning to Tassie he remained a great Carlton advocate and he always kept an eye out for a future Carlton footballer.”

A case in point – the prodigiously-gifted Campbell Town footballer and future dual Carlton Premiership player Brent Crosswell. Though Crosswell and Cox never met, the former acknowledged the latter as “the man who alerted Carlton of my existence”.

The three-time Carlton Premiership rover, club Best & Fairest and Team of the Century rover Adrian Gallagher recalled Cox’s welcome presence when ‘Gags’,  then 18, ran out for the first time as a senior player, against St Kilda at the Junction Oval in May 1964.

In that particular game, Cox whacked St Kilda ruckman Carl Ditterich of all people – an offence which later earned him a four-match suspension – and as Gallagher reminded in a previous interview: “Berkley was my size, but he looked after me. He was at locker number 9 and I was at 10”

“Cox’s Clone” – the Carlton Hall of Fame Hall of Fame Legend, 1968 Premiership player and former CEO and President Ian Collins – vouched for Nicholls’ assessment of the Tasmanian’s on-field physicality.

“Berkley used to throw more punches in a game of football than a boxer in a ten-rounder,” Collins said.

“Not long after Berkley got to Carlton he broke a leg in one of those practice matches in the sticks, so he had to overcome that setback. He played half-forward and in the centre, and in the ’62 Grand Final he was part of the centreline of Kick, Cox and Collins.

“Berkley was always popular amongst his teammates. He was a good friend of Bob Crow’s. Unfortunately another has fallen from the perch.”

Cox’s on-field Carlton career was bookended by years of sterling service to City-South, and his contributions to the Redlegs and to the game in Tasmania speak for themselves –

140 matches 1954-57, 1966-69;
Captain-coach, 1968-69;
NTFA premiership player 1954, 1956, 1966;
City State premiership player 1954, 1966;
Club Best and Fairest 1967;
Tasmanian National Carnival representation 1966 (Hobart);
Six-time Tasmania state representative 1955-66;
City-South Team of the Century (centre); and
Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame inductee 2005.

On his return to the Apple Isle from Carlton, Cox married his beloved June Keep – a fellow Tasmanian who died last year – and together they raised five children; Felicia, Jennifer, Linda, Stuart and Sarah. Linda was born with Down Syndrome which prompted Cox to coach the football team at St George’s special school, and he was a lifelong supporter of the Special Olympics.

As indeed he was of Carlton.

“Dad loved Carlton. Being a Life Member was a source of great pride,” Felicia said this week.

“He maintained friendships all of his life with old footballers and those associated with football like Ian Collins, ‘Bobby’ Crowe, Paul ‘Badger’ Luttrell, Graeme Wilkinson and Wesley Lofts. My brother is named Stuart Wesley after him and his four sisters; Marie (deceased), Joyce, Barbara and Suzanne are all staunch Carlton supporters.

“Like a lot of ex-footballers he became a publican. He taught us children a lot of life skills – like how to use your elbow to disable your opponents without alerting the umpire! In later years he enjoyed collecting Apple labels and oil paintings, growing tomatoes and strawberries.”

In April 2019, Cox jetted in from Launceston with his son to for what would be his last official Carlton engagement – a gathering of Life Members at Kew Golf Club. On that occasion he was photographed for posterity with another fellow Taswegian, the four-time Carlton Premiership ruckman Peter ‘Percy’ Jones.

Perhaps the Carlton Secretary Gerald Burke put it best in the 1965 Annual Report when, in noting Cox’s recognition as Best Clubman, he wrote: “This newly innovated award has been won this year by a player who is renowned for his value as a Clubman in all respects, and as a player who gives support and encouragement on the field when it is most required. To Berkley we trust this award conveys the attitude of all at the Club towards him”.

The Carlton senior players will wear black armbands into Friday night’s match with Sydney at the SCG as a mark of respect to the late Berkley Cox.

Three Blues earn NSW HoF inductions

Tom Carroll, Craig Davis and Mark Maclure inducted into the NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame.

By Tony De Bolfo,

FORMER Carlton forwards Tom Carroll, Craig Davis and Mark Maclure are amongst the 100 players, coaches, administrators, umpires and media personalities recently inducted into the NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame.

The Inductees and Legends were formally inducted at a function attended by more than 350 people at the SCG last Friday night.

Carlton full-forward Tom Carroll by the pickets at Princes Park, circa 1963.

Tom Carroll was a leading goalkicker in both the Riverina and the VFL. In 1956, and at the tender age of 17, Carroll lined up at full-forward for Ganmain and was part of its ’56 and ’57 back-to-back Premiership teams. He booted 103 goals for the club in 1960 and was recruited to Carlton on the cusp of the ’61 season.

Carroll represented the old dark Navy Blues in 55 senior matches from 1961-63, and earned Carlton’s first Coleman Medal (awarded retrospectively) in his maiden season with 54 goals. He was the Club’s leading goalkicker in each of his three seasons – 54 goals in 1961, 62 in 1962 and 27 in 1963 – before returning to the family farm in Ganmain.

Carroll accepted the role of Ganmain Captain-Coach and led the Maroons to premierships in 1964 and 1965, topping the goalkicking in both seasons. He took on the Grong Grong Grong Matong coaching role from 1968 to 1970, and then returned to Ganmain as non-playing coach in 1980.

Eighty-four year-old Carroll was unable to attend Friday night’s ceremony, but in reflecting on his induction declared: “You play your footy, you finish your career and they give you a tick”.

Hailing from Ross and recruited from Launceston in 1972, Craig Davis followed his cousin Brent Crosswell to Carlton – and there he inherited the No.23 worn by Bert Deacon, the club’s inaugural Brownlow Medallist and then Secretary. Davis represented the team in 42 senior matches through three seasons, was a member of the 1973 Grand final team and took out the club’s goalkicking honours with 45 in his final season. 

A head-knock sustained in the pre-season period of 1976 put Davis’ playing career on hold, and he ultimately resolved to pursue his playing career with North Melbourne for what was a ten-game cameo through 1977 and ’78. He then represented Collingwood in 102 matches and booted 251 goals through five seasons for the Magpies, and rounded out his League career with nine appearances for the Swans.

Round 11, 1974, v St Kilda at Princes Park – Carlton from full-forward Craig Davis uses ‘Big Nick’ as a stepladder, on his way to a seven-goal haul in his team’s 45-point win.

Davis spent the better part of two decades putting his heart and soul into New South Wales football. Following an Assistant Coaching role with the Swans, he assumed the role of NSW AFL development manager from 1988-90 before stepping up as its General Manager from 1991-2000. More recently, he coached and mentored young players at the Maroubra Saints Junior Football Club, amongst them the Swans’ Errol Gulden.

“What a great night it was,” said Davis of the induction ceremony at the SCG. “Forty-eight of the 60 living Inductees fronted up, including ‘Plugger’ (Tony Lockett), and I got a photo with him. I told Plugger that between him and I we kicked 1400 and if we’d kicked straighter it would have been 2000.

“Mark Maclure was also there, which took me back 50 years. I remember in ’74 when Maclure came to Carlton and I was his mentor. I was 19, he was 18 and it seems like only yesterday.”

Mark Maclure was first identified by East Sydney after taking out the Sydney competition reserve grade best and fairest award as a 17-year-old. Recruited to Carlton, Maclure completed his senior debut in Round 13, 1974 – the first of 243 through 13 seasons – amongst them the Grand Final triumphs of 1979, 1981 and ’82.

Maclure earned the Best Clubman Award in 1981, and again in 1986, the year he captained Carlton. Following his retirement, he gave back as an assistant coach at Brisbane and Sydney, and maintained his involvement with the game through his radio and television work. In 2019, Maclure was named on interchange in the New South Wales AFL’s greatest team.

Mark Maclure finds the big sticks for the Blues again, circa 1986.

In his appreciation of the Induction accolade, Maclure reflected on his years with East Sydney and the local League.

“I there as a junior, played Under 19s at 13 then Reserves at 15 and the main games at 16. East Sydney was a terrific football club and the president Jack Dean was a legend,” Maclure said.

“In those days, work took players there from WA, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland, so there was a good cross section of players. Does it seem like yesterday? No, it seems like 50 years.”

Nine of the 100 inductees were elevated to Legend status in the Hall – Haydn Bunton Snr., Richard Colless, Terry Daniher, Jack Dean, Harry J. Hedger OBE, Tony Lockett, Paul Kelly, Jim Phelan and Ralph Robertson.

In 2020, AFL NSW/ACT established the New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame to commemorate the 140-year anniversary of the NSW Australian Football Association.

According to its charter, the Hall of Fame recognises and enshrines players, coaches, umpires, administrators, volunteers and media representatives “who have made a most significant contribution to the game of Australian Football in NSW since its inception in 1880”.

Inductees of the NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame cover all levels of football in New South Wales, from the elite to the community.

Hall of Fame 2024


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Carlton greats gather for Life Members Luncheon

Greats of yesteryear gathered for the annual Carlton Life Members Luncheon on the eve of the 2024 season.

FORMER players and officials united by Navy Blue through the past eight decades of Carlton Football Club history have turned out in record numbers for what was the annual Life Members Luncheon at Kew Golf Club.

In what was a rare gathering of genuine Dark Navy royalty at the weekend, former Carlton premiership coaches, captains and players broke bread with former Presidents and officials in a gathering which attracted a total of 121 Life Members.

Present in the room was everyone from former Carlton premiership captain and coach John Nicholls, who completed his senior playing debut back in the opening round of 1957, through to Ed Curnow, the Club’s most recent retiree in the penultimate home-and-away game of 2023.

Carlton Premiership Captains Mike Fitzpatrick and Stephen Kernahan were also there – and joining Kernahan in his capacity as former President were fellow former Presidents Ian Collins and Mark Lo Giudice. Life Members who had passed away since last year’s Luncheon were also acknowledged – notably Ron Barassi, Dr. Don Hall, Ted Hopkins, Vivienne Kerr and Harold Mitchell (the latter having been advised of his Life Membership not long before his death).

“It’s very nice to be part of a community of ex-players when you’ve finished as a footballer. They are good people to be around,” said Curnow, who is now embarking on a career with Lorne as senior playing coach.

“I sat next to ‘Wow’ Jones who was very good to listen to . . . very entertaining. I think I need him down at Lorne footy club this year to straighten out a few of the players.

“It was also exciting to see Bruce Doull in the room, as well as old teammates Heath Scotland, Chris Judd and Brad Fisher.

“For me it was a pleasure to be part of a really unique experience. It made me realise there’s something bigger than just playing football.”

The Life Members Luncheon, now in its sixth year, continues to build – in no small part due to the welcome acceptance of house rules that there are no speeches, nor raffles or auctions.

“We started in 2019 and this event has become bigger and better,” said former Carlton Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gough, who together with Frank Brosnan, Sharon McColl and Shane O’Sullivan convenes the Luncheon as part of his role with the Life Members committee.

“The attendees cover those admitted as Life Members from the ’60s to the current day, and it’s a great cross section of Carlton people,” Gough said.

The committee, with the support of the club, recently championed the recent installation of Life Members boards on the wall by the foyer inside Gate 6 at IKON Park.

Carlton Life Members Day