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Missed a Grand Final - Mentioned in Despatches

Frank Triplett


Career : 1912 - 1915
Debut : Round 2, 1912 vs Fitzroy, aged 26 years, 359 days
Carlton Player No. 264
Games : 30
Goals : 3
Last Game : Round 4, 1915 vs Essendon, aged 30 years, 4 days
Guernsey Nos. 20 (1912) 18 (1913-14) and 25 (1915)
Height : 170 cm (5 ft. 7 in.)
Weight : 66.5 kg (10 stone, 6 lbs.)
DOB: 10 May, 1885


Frank Triplett was born and raised in Carlton, and probably fulfilled a boyhood dream when he went on to play VFL football for the old Dark Navy Blues. Though he suffered the ignominy of being dropped from the team on the eve of the 1914 Premiership, he more than compensated for any deficiencies when he later went to war for his country, and was twice decorated for outstanding service.

Station Street, Carlton in 1885 was a sparsely-populated, rural area of market gardens and dairy farms. Frank grew up there, and it’s not hard to imagine him kicking a football with his neighbours and schoolmates at every opportunity. He played his junior football with Carlton District, and later with Brunswick in the VFA, before linking up with the Blues in 1912.

Six days before his 27th birthday – on Saturday, May 4, 1912 – Frank pulled on Carlton guernsey number 20 to play his first senior match for the Blues against Fitzroy at Brunswick St. Running off a half-back flank, he wasn’t over-awed by the occasion, and fulfilled his part in a 23-point victory by the Blues. He held his place in the side for 11 games in that first season, although he wasn’t selected for either of Carlton’s finals teams. The Blues beat Geelong easily in one Semi Final, before losing by just 4 points to Essendon in the Preliminary Final.

Carlton dipped to sixth on the ladder in 1913, then embarked on a campaign of recovery through strong recruiting. But overshadowing the expectations for the new season – and indeed everyday life - was the serious threat of war in Europe. Germany was rattling its sabre, while France and Great Britain drew a line in the sand and dared the Kaiser to step over it.

Triplett began 1914 no doubt intent on cementing a place in a team that lacked consistency. Two draws and three losses in the first seven matches didn’t help the situation, but by August – when German troops invaded Belgium to ignite World War One – the Blues had clicked as a combination and were headed toward the top of the ladder. Despite his best efforts, Frank was playing just his fifth match of the year when he lined up on a wing for Carlton in the Preliminary Final against South Melbourne.

Under VFL rules of that era, Carlton – as minor premiers - would take the Premiership if we beat the Bloods. If we lost, we still had the right to challenge South to a Grand Final showdown for the flag. And that is precisely what happened. South were the better team in the second half of the Preliminary Final, holding Carlton to a miserable one point after half time. The final margin was 19 points, but South’s inaccuracy (they kicked 5.13-43 to 3.6-24) flattered the Blues.

As expected, Carlton coach Norman Clark galvanised his team for the Grand Final by making changes. But in something of a surprise, only two players paid the price of failure; Stan McKenzie and Frank Triplett. They were dropped from the side in favour of Alf Baud and George Calwell, and Carlton turned the tables on the Bloods to snatch our fourth Premiership with a hard-fought, six-point win.

Like thousands of other young (and not so young) Australians, Frank had signed on to fight for his King and his country in the very early days of a rapidly expanding war. On Saturday, May 15, 1915 – five days after his 30th birthday, and less than a month after the glorious, ill-fated ANZAC Corps landing at Gallipoli – Frank played his 30th and last game for the Carlton Football Club when Essendon outplayed the Blues to the tune of 25 points at Princes Park.

Mere days later, he was at Broadmeadows Army Camp to begin a new life as number 8028 – Driver Frank Arthur Triplett of 18 Company, Australian Service Corps, attached to the 8th Infantry Brigade Supply Train. On November 10, 1915, he embarked on a troopship bound for Marseilles, and early in the New Year he was busy hauling food, ammunition and general supplies to Allied front line units on the Western Front.

Some at home thought that driving a truck behind the lines had to be a safe and comfortable job, with little danger from direct enemy fire. In truth, the supply columns were prime targets of German artillery and aircraft. Heavy rains for much of the year, and constant bombardment turned supply routes into boggy death-traps. It took dogged persistence and courage to get vital supplies to the fighting men, and Frank set a fine example.

In February 1917 he was promoted to Corporal, and in September was Mentioned in Despatches for outstanding conduct. The citation submitted by his Commanding Officer read; ‘This NCO has set an exceptional example to his supply section, of courage and devotion to duty under all circumstances.’ At the same time, he was offered further promotion, but declined because of the possibility of a posting to another unit.

In the last year of the war, as the Allied forces were bolstered by America’s manpower and industrial might, the task of supplying the war machine changed rapidly, from stockpiling for static defence, to keeping up with an army that was advancing across a broad front. In September 1918, less than four weeks before the Armistice, Frank was again honoured, this time with a Meritorious Service Medal.

The citation read; ‘For exceptional ability in supply work throughout the period 25th February 1918, to 16th September 1918. His energy and devotion to duty are above the ordinary, and he has always set an example to the men under him, under the most adverse conditions, meriting the highest respect for his ability.’

With the ceasefire at last on the 11th of November, all troops thoughts turned to getting home. Those who had enlisted first were generally first in line, but there were a few exceptions – especially among the Service Corps units. The cessation of hostilities brought an even bigger workload for the transport sections as civilian aid, prisoner and refugee transport was added to an already daunting work load. As always, they just rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in.

Finally, in June 1919 - more than seven months after the war had ended - Frank Triplett stepped ashore at Princes Pier at last. Little is known of his life after that time, only that he lived at New St in Brighton for many years, and that he passed away on the 26th February, 1967, aged 81.

Send-Off To Volunteers

September 25 1915, the Carlton Football Club held a farewell at the London Tavern, for the players who had enlisted in the Army. President Jack Gardiner presented Alf Baud, Frank Triplett, George Challis, Herb Burleigh and George Muir with gifts from the club.
To read the article in full with a response from Blues' captain Alf Baud, which appeared in the Nagambie Times, October 01, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141828831

Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Frank Triplett | Tripletts' Blueseum Image Gallery

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