Following on from a lack-lustre season in 1950, Carlton approached 1951 with much the same list of ageing stars – including a number of veterans of the 1945 and ’47 Premiership teams. As he was always prone to do, coach Percy Bentley kept faith with those who had served the club so well in the past, but it must be said that in hindsight, some of the Blues of 1951 were retained for one season too long. As a consequence, there were to be regular injuries and very little improvement.
The year began on a sensational note when debut full-forward Keith Warburton; “an acrobat in football boots,” kicked seven goals in a big win over Hawthorn in round 1. Three consecutive losses then dropped the team to eighth, before a brilliant victory over the undefeated Fitzroy at Brunswick St revived Carlton’s hopes.
However, a shock defeat by lowly Melbourne in round 6 sparked a mid-season slump, and condemned the Blues to the lower third of the ladder for the rest of the year. There were some memorable highlights – an 11-goal demolition of North Melbourne at Arden St in round 10, and a very unlucky draw with Fitzroy in round 16 stood out - before the season wound up amid controversy and rancour, when Essendon full-forward John Coleman and Carlton defender Harry Caspar famously clashed in round 18, and Coleman was suspended from the finals.
Overall, the season fell well short of expectations, although there were more than a few consolations. Three excellent players in Warburton, Doug Beasy and Bill Milroy were among those who started their careers with the Navy Blues in 1951, and both lower grade teams won their respective Premierships. Under coach ‘Mickey’ Price, the seconds won Carlton’s fourth Reserve Grade Premiership, while the Under-19 team claimed their third flag in four years. Coached by Arthur Sanger, the thirds beat Collingwood by four points in the Grand Final played at Victoria Park.
People of 1951Coach: Percy Bentley
Captain: Ern Henfry
Vice Captain: Ken Hands
Leading goal scorer: Keith Warburton - 48 goals
MilestonesDebuts: George Stafford, Bill Milroy, Tom Jones, Johnny Blake, Harvey Dunn jnr, Adam Inglis, Doug Beasy, Keith Warburton
Lower LevelsReserves: Carlton would win the Reserves Premiership in this year.