Somehow lost in last Saturday’s match with Brisbane at Etihad Stadium was a significant history-making achievement completed by Carlton’s cult hero Dennis Armfield
. In fronting up for his 131st senior appearance for the club, Armfield eclipsed Ollie Grieve
’s record for most games in the No.27 guernsey - a record that has stood the test of time for almost 64 years, or more precisely, 23,282 days.
As Armfield said this week: “I’ll be rapt if my record holds up for that long”. Armfield never coveted the No.27. “When I first came to Carlton I wanted No.10 because I knew Nathan Shine, the son of Brad who played in the No.10 here,” he explained.
“In the end they gave out available numbers in order of how you were drafted, so Kreuzer got 8, Steven Browne got 15 and I ended up with 27.
“I wore 26 at Swan Districts, which was close, and I remember at the end of my first year at Carlton asking Joey Anderson if he wanted to swap. Luckily for me he didn’t.” Armfield recalled that when he completed his 100th senior appearance in the 20th round of 2013, thoughts first turned to the previous keepers of the No.27.
“Then earlier this year, my fiancée Abby whose family all live out at Bacchus Marsh where Ollie Grieve came from, asked me who the record holder was,” Armfield said.
“When I told her that ‘Ollie held the record with 130’ she said ‘You’re only five or six away’, so I thought ‘That’s my first goal’.” Immensely proud of earning Carlton Life Membership in 2015, Armfield was equally gratified to have made it to game number 131. “Anytime that sort of recognition comes along is a real honour,” Armfield said.
“Getting your name on the locker was a proud moment because you then realise you’re part of the history forever.
“As for breaking Ollie’s record, this is a real ‘Wow’ moment because you know you’ve created your own history. You hear the stories of Ollie and Des English
, so wearing their number is a real badge of honour.”
, the famed Carlton Premiership full-back whose on-field career was interrupted by wartime service, first turned out in six senior games in the No.6 and a further match in the No. 13, before reverting to the No.27 in Dark Navy.
Late on the afternoon of Saturday, September 6, 1952, following the first semi-final against Fitzroy on the MCG, Grieve brought the curtain down on his 130-game tenure in 27. Joining Ollie in retirement after that match was Jack Conley, Fred Davies and Fred Stafford, all of whom had savoured ultimate success with Grieve on Grand Final day five years previous.
Grieve bowed out in a Best and Fairest Award-winning season, on a day in which the Blues’ inaccuracy - 8.20 (68) to the Gorillas’ 10.9 (69) – brought an abrupt and premature end to his team’s year. This was also the day in which Grieve’s teammate Keith Warburton
almost died of abdominal complications following an accidental on-field collision with Bill Stephen.
At the 2007 national draft, some fifty-five years after Grieve followed “Soapy” Vallence from Bacchus Marsh to Carlton, Armfield was taken with the club’s third round selection at 43 after Matthew Kreuzer
at selection 1 and Steven Browne
Armfield never got to meet Ollie Grieve, who died at the tender age of 58 almost 40 years ago - nor has he meet any of the recent members of Club 27.
But the number will shortly be tattooed to Armfield’s right calf, albeit for vastly different reasons.
“When I first got drafted to Carlton my Dad gave me a Club 27 tee-shirt for all those musicians who died at 27 . . . Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain . . . so I’ll carry the number for them.”
Since 1912, 35 Carlton senior players have worn 27 onto the field of battle, but Armfield and Grieve are amongst just four 100-gamers (together with Des English and Darren Hulme) to have had their names etched into the No.27 locker. English and David Dickson, like Grieve, wore the No.27 into winning Grand Finals – in English’s case 1981 and ’82, and in Dickson’s ’72.
Carlton’s first known Indigenous player, Alf Egan
, also wore 27 into 36 matches from 1931 through to ’33. But the number now belongs to Armfield and as the popular clubman wryly suggested: “If I can keep the younger fellows at bay I’ll keep going”.
Blueseum: Dennis Armfield
| Ollie Grieve
| 2016 Records