Career : 2005 - 2013
Debut : Round 1, 2005 vs North Melbourne, aged 18 years, 120 days
Carlton Player No. 1084
Games : 184
Goals : 290
Last Game : Semi Final, 2013 vs Sydney, aged 26 years, 262 days
Guernsey No. 19
Height : 173 cm (5 ft. 8 in.)
Weight : 75 kg (11 stone, 11 lbs.)
DOB : 26 November, 1986
The Eddie Betts story was another example of triumph over adversity. Born into disadvantage and a divided family, but blessed with football skills far above the norm, he came to Carlton in 2005 only because of a twist of fate. Faced with the challenge of making a success of his life through football - the one viable path open to him - or squandering the opportunity like so many others, Betts grasped his chance, and made his mark among the most skilful and dangerous small forwards in the game.
Eddie was born in Port Lincoln, South Australia, but spent most of his childhood in Kalgoorlie, WA. Although his first sporting interest was soccer, by his early teens he was playing junior Aussie Rules with the Mines Rovers club. His parents had separated when he was quite young, and in his early teens Eddie was convinced to further his promising junior career by moving back to Port Lincoln to live with his father, Eddie senior. There, he went to the local school and joined Mallee Park - a prominent club that had found success by attracting indigenous youngsters like Betts’ cousin Byron Pickett, Graham Johncock. and the Burgoyne brothers; Peter and Shaun. Football with the Peckers was fun and success on the field was routine – however the social activities outside of the club were a major distraction. As an impressionable 14 year-old, Betts fell in with the wrong crowd, and a series of incidents involving truancy, alcohol and trips to the Port Lincoln lock-up threatened to send him spiralling into a life of lost hopes and broken dreams.
When Eddie’s mother Cindy became aware of the situation, she made the life-changing decision to take him to Melbourne and enrol him in a TAFE program for promising indigenous footballers, run by former North Melbourne star Phil Krakouer. At first she wasn’t confident that her only son would agree to relocate, but to her delight he did, and by early 2001 mother and son had found a new home in the northern suburbs at Glenroy.
Under the TAFE program, Betts was obliged to play for Templestowe in the Eastern Football League. It was a long way from Glenroy, but that didn't deter him. Using buses, trains (and walking when necessary) he made it to every training session, and his dedication paid off. Playing as a midfielder/forward, he won the EFL Under-18 Best and Fairest after a sensational debut year, and was quickly picked up by the Calder Cannons in the elite TAC Cup competition. Continuing to impress, he won successive premierships in 2003-04 for the Cannons, and in 2003 was selected as an All-Australian.
However, in 2004 an early-season groin strain persisted far too long and restricted Eddie’s season to a handful of games. Although he recovered in time to play in the finals and celebrate his second flag with the Cannons, he was devastated in September when he was completely overlooked in the AFL National Draft. So he headed back to WA and was about to celebrate his 18th birthday with his extended family, when another fork in the road moment came along. The Carlton Football Club called, inviting Betts to training, and an assessment session prior to the Pre-Season Draft.
For Eddie it was a life-changing moment. "I wasn't sure whether I wanted to, because I had all my family coming over for the party," he later recalled. "But I remember it was Sarah Mulkearns who rang me - she was the Calder Cannons fitness coach, and her husband Peter worked at Carlton - and she said, 'If you want to make something of your life, you have to make a move. So I flew back, and they had the party without me."
When draft day rolled around, the Blues had pencilled in former Brisbane and St Kilda ruckman Trent Knobel as their number 3 pick, while keeping Betts in mind as a Rookie Draft selection. However, Richmond surprised everyone by snatching Knobel with their number 1 selection, leaving Carlton temporarily at a loose end. On impulse, Blues coach Denis Pagan called Betts’ name at number 3, and suddenly, Eddie was a contracted AFL player. His dedication, and the faith and belief of those close to him, was about to pay off.
After an impressive 2005 pre-season, during which he dazzled with his elusiveness and often freakish goal-kicking, Betts was included in Carlton’s senior side for the first game of 2005, against North Melbourne at Docklands. He started on the interchange bench and rotated through the forward pocket that night, picking up six possessions and two opportunistic goals to get his career off and running. Although rival clubs are quick to point out 2005 as the year Carlton collected a second wooden spoon, Blues fans will always remember it as the year a new star in guernsey number 19 played his first 19 games and kicked 19 goals, winning over Carlton fans with his infectious smile, enthusiasm and dazzling skills as permanent forward pocket.
In 2006, as his strength and endurance improved, Eddie became an even more dangerous proposition. His tackling was a weapon, and few defenders could outrun him. He lifted his average possessions per game to 11, and provided one of the few bright spots in a long, bleak season for the Blues when he kicked Goal of the Year against Collingwood in round 21 at the MCG.
Half way through the second quarter of that Sunday afternoon clash, Carlton’s Heath Scotland was felled by a high hit from Collingwood’s Alan Didak in the centre of the ground. A melee ensued, with Betts right in the middle of it – until the umpires paid a free kick to Carlton and Eddie sprinted forward. Seconds later, a long bomb spilled from the pack in the right forward pocket, and Collingwood’s Tarkyn Lockyer collected it. Lockyer went for a handball over the top, but Eddie jumped high and knocked the ball toward the boundary. Cat-like, he scooped up the ball and, hard up against the line, snapped a near-impossible banana goal with his right foot. It was so good in fact, that most people at the ground didn’t realise what had happened until the replay went up on the big screen.
Eddie played the first eight games of the year in 2007, before suffering a hamstring tear. At that stage, he was averaging about 10 possessions a game, and had booted 11 goals in a somewhat subdued start to his third year. After being sidelined until round 13, he brought up his 50-game milestone against Melbourne a week later. It was obvious that his confidence was down however, so he was sent back to the VFL to freshen up and regain his touch. Back with the Blues after a fortnight, and with his zest and sparkle restored, he was thrust into the midfield in round 17 against St Kilda and responded with 23 possessions. Then in the last game of the season against Sydney at the SCG, he chalked up a career-high five goals from 26 disposals in a huge loss to the Swans.
In 2008, Betts was in rare form early, and produced another spectacular Goal of the Year contender in round 2, when Carlton met St Kilda at Docklands. Although the Blues were well beaten, Eddie brought some joy to the Carlton faithful in the last few minutes of the match when he swooped on the ball in the left forward pocket and threaded through another brilliant 6-pointer on his left foot from right on the boundary line. The next week he played probably the best game of his career to that point, racking up a career-high 27 disposals and kicking another outstanding goal as the improving Blues fell to Essendon by 16 points. He rounded off the year with 25 majors from 18 games, as Carlton climbed from 15th place on the ladder in 2007 to finish eleventh.
Eddie’s fifth season at Carlton in 2009 started with a bang when he kicked five majors against Richmond on the opening night of the season at the MCG, and another three in the following week's victory over Brisbane. Those games marked the start of a breakout year for Betts, thanks to renewed confidence in his ability, and a complete turnaround in his personal life. Through the club, Eddie had returned to school part-time, while undertaking the role in mentoring promising youngsters at Assumption College, Kilmore. By then he was also in a close and supportive relationship with his partner Anna, and had bought a new home for his very proud and delighted mother.
After eight years in the football wilderness, Carlton returned to the finals at last that September, playing Brisbane at the Gabba in an Elimination Final. Soaking up his first taste of finals football in his 97th senior match, Betts was busy as usual from a forward pocket, but managed only one major as the Blues fell to the fast-finishing Lions by an agonising 7 points. Controversial full-forward Brendan Fevola played his last game for Carlton that night, bringing to an end a productive five-season partnership between he and the livewire Betts.
A few weeks later, Eddie’s halo slipped when it was revealed that he was involved in an embarrassing series of alcohol-fuelled incidents during, and after, the Blues’ Christmas party, aboard a chartered boat on the Yarra River. The adverse publicity that resulted infuriated the club, and the three main culprits; Betts, Andrew Walker and Ryan Houlihan, were immediately fined and suspended from 2010 pre-season training for a month. Furthermore, they were packed off to a boxing gym, where they underwent a punishingly-intensive fitness program. Happily, that had the desired effect, and the trio applied themselves so well that they all achieved personal-best fitness levels, convincing the club that they truly regretted their actions. More details on the “booze cruise” affair can be found in this report and this article.
Despite the absence of Fevola, the emergence of another two brilliant crumbing forwards in Jeffery Garlett and Chris Yarran gave Carlton's attack a completely new look in 2010. As the self-appointed leader of the ‘Three Amigos', Betts' average possession count increased to over 15 a game, and he was constantly dangerous anywhere near goal. He brought up his 100th AFL game in round 3 and kicked two majors against Essendon at the MCG, but in the absence of captain Chris Judd, the Blues were well beaten.
Still, Carlton was a team on the improve, and Betts was soon in career-best form. He booted three bags of five goals during the year, and for some time around mid-season was being talked of as a potential All-Australian. That turned out not to be the case, but his 42 goals still won him Carlton’s Leading Goal-kicker Award, as well as his first top 10 placing in the Best and Fairest.
Although the Navy Blues came up short at finals time – beaten in a nail-biting finish by Sydney in an Elimination Final – Carlton’s fan base had plenty to be optimistic about. And sure enough, the team took another big step forward in 2011. Despite some key injuries late in the year, Juddy’s boys fought their way through to the Semi Finals, only to fall to West Coast by 3 points in yet another thriller at Subiaco. On the way, Eddie had his most consistent and effective season to date. He didn’t miss a game, booted 50 majors in 24 matches, and for the second year running was short-listed for All Australian honours.
He was unlucky to miss out, too, especially after the Blueboys emerged from a mid-season slump to destroy Essendon by 74 points on a glorious Saturday night at the MCG in round 18. Betts tore the Essendon defence to shreds that night, kicking eight majors - including another Goal of the Year contender when he bamboozled three Bomber defenders before snapping a right-foot ripper from close in. But even that brilliant effort was overshadowed in the last quarter, when Blue Andrew Walker perched on the shoulders of Essendon ruckman Jake Carlisle to take one of the all-time great high marks.
A few weeks later, the Bombers were on the receiving end of another Betts onslaught in the first week of the finals, when the same two sides met in an Elimination Final and the result was much the same. Eddie booted four goals, as Carlton crushed Essendon by 62 points. That triumph however, was followed by a far tougher Semi Final assignment against West Coast at Subiaco. Heavily tagged and pushed up into the midfield in a cut-throat contest, Eddie registered just one goal in a narrow, heart-rending defeat.
Season 2012 began brightly for Carlton and its legion of fans, with a 44-point drubbing of Richmond in round one, followed by a 91-point demolition of the Brisbane Lions in round 2. The latter match was highlighted by two fabulous high marks by Betts – both soaring ‘hangers’ that were yet again Mark of the Year nominations. A third big win on the trot (by 10 goals over Collingwood in round 3) shot Carlton to early flag favouritism – before the mountain of expectation came crashing down amid a cruel run of injuries to key players.
While the Blues faltered, then tumbled down the ladder to finish tenth, Betts was one of his team’s shining lights. Displaying admirable consistency, he played every game, led the club goal-kicking list with 48 majors, and earned a third-successive All Australian nomination. Then in October, his standing at Princes Park reached a new level when he finished a close second to Heath Scotland in voting for the 2012 John Nicholls Medal.
In 2013, a whole raft of factors – including the departure of senior coach Brett Ratten, the appointment of former West Coast and Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse, Essendon’s suspension on the eve of the finals and the introduction of free agency rules for out of contract players set the stage for a tumultuous 12 months.
Betts’ season got off to a bad start when he suffered a broken jaw in the first quarter of round 1 against Richmond. He recovered to play 18 games and kick 27 goals for the year, but it was painfully evident to all throughout the latter stages of the season that he was not playing with his customary zest and enthusiasm. And when he and his manager delayed signing a new contract, it was obvious that big dollars were being offered in attempts to lure him away from Princes Park.
Shortly after Carlton’s Semi Final loss to Sydney, North Melbourne and Adelaide emerged as serious suitors, before it was revealed that Eddie’s father was ill at his home in South Australia. So when a formal offer was made by the Adelaide Crows – a four year contract valued in excess of $2 million – the Carlton faithful knew that we had lost him.
Carlton football manager Andrew McKay praised Betts' contribution to the Blues, but said the club had simply been unable to match the Crows' offer. "It has been exciting to watch Eddie’s development over the past nine years. His presence at the football club will be missed, and we wish him nothing but the best," McKay said. "We would have liked him to stay, however our list management strategy of putting the club's best interests first, comes above all else."
FootnoteOn October 29, 2012, Eddie and his fiancee Anna celebrated the safe arrival of their first child, a son named Lewis.
Eddie's two magnificent marks; Round 2, 2012
Milestones50 Games: Round 14, 2007 vs Melbourne
100 Goals: Round 5, 2009 vs Western Bulldogs
100 Games: Round 3, 2010 vs Essendon
200 Goals: Round 18, 2011 vs Essendon
Leading Games for an Indigenous Blue: Round 18, 2011 v Essendon, when he overtook Syd Jackson
150 Games: Round 6, 2012 vs Greater Western Sydney
250 Goals: Round 17, 2012 vs Western Bulldogs
Career Highlights2005 - Best First Year Player
2006 - Phil Manassa Medal for AFL Goal Of The Year
2007 - Pre-Season Premiership Player
2010 - Leading Goalkicker
2010 - 9th Best and Fairest
2011 - 8th Best and Fairest
2012 - Leading Goalkicker
2012 - 2nd Best and Fairest
LinksArticles: X-Blues: Blues reps playing finals for new Clubs
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Eddie Betts | Career Breakdown | Goal of the Year | Betts' Blueseum Image Gallery