Career : 1900 - 1905 and 1908
Debut : Round 1, 1900 vs Geelong, aged 24 years, 97 days
Carlton Player No. 89
Games : 100
Goals : 24
Last Game : Round 9, 1908 vs University, aged 32 years, 143 days
Height : 174 cm (5 ft. 8 in.)
Weight : 69 kg (10 stone, 12 lbs.)
DOB : 16 March, 1878
Charlie Roland was one of Carlton’s early stars; a classy, fleet-footed winger who was equally adept at half-forward or taking a turn on the ball. He played exactly 100 VFL games for the Blues, and represented Victoria six times in interstate matches. But on the verge of the club’s history-making first-ever VFL Premiership, Roland departed Princes Park to play in Western Australia.
Born Charles Henry Roland on the cattle property Quat Quatta - located between Howlong and Corowa, just inside the NSW border, in 1878 – Charlie rose to sporting prominence with local clubs Rutherglen and Chiltern. He was 24 years old when he arrived at Princes Park in 1900, and from day one became a regular in a the Blues’ senior team.
In June 1901 - halfway through his second season – Roland was selected as Carlton’s only representative in the inaugural VFL team that defeated South Australia in a high-standard match at the MCG. By coincidence, the SA side included George Bruce, the brilliant West Adelaide winger who would join Roland at Carlton in 1903, and indirectly effect Charlie’s career.
Before then however, a pivotal moment in the history of Australian Football occurred in 1902 when former Fitzroy champion Jack Worrall was appointed as Secretary-Manager of the Carlton Football Club. Essentially the game’s first full-time coach, Worrall was as much a disciplinarian as he was a visionary – so differences of opinion with his players became commonplace.
In 1903, Worrall took the Blues into the finals for the first time, and lost a tough Semi Final to Collingwood. Roland played only 11 games in the first half of that year, but came back to the side and underlined his value as Carlton continued to improve and charged back into the finals in 1904.
By then, George Bruce and Ted Kennedy were Worrall’s preferred wingers, so he asked Roland to play across half-back late in the season. Sure enough, Charlie’s pace was decisive when the Blues narrowly defeated Essendon in one Semi Final, only to fall to Fitzroy in Carlton’s maiden Grand Final appearance a fortnight later.
It was a similar story in 1905. Third on the ladder after the home and away rounds, Carlton destroyed Collingwood by 46 points in one Semi Final, with Roland providing plenty of options in an outstanding game from a half-forward flank. Two Saturdays later in the Preliminary Final, Charlie filled the same role, as the Blues once more had their flag hopes crushed by Fitzroy.
Having reached the Premiership play-offs two years in succession, Worrall and just about everyone at Carlton was itching for the next season to begin. Then Roland shocked the club by requesting a clearance to Western Australia to play for Goldfields Football Association club Boulder City. Not wanting to lose him completely, the Blues eventually complied, with the assurance that if things didn’t work out on the other side of the continent, there was always a place for Charlie at Princes Park.
Over the following two years, the Carlton Football Club embarked on a golden era of success, claiming the 1906 and ’07 VFL flags under Worrall’s iron discipline. At the same time in WA, Boulder City won the 1907 GFA Premiership, and Roland decided that it was time to come home. By the time he arrived back at Princes Park early the following year, the standards in all facets of VFL football had lifted dramatically. Worrall had fine-tuned the Blues into a fit, confident and well-drilled combination, destined to complete a fabulous hat-trick of Premierships.
At the age of 32, Charlie played only four more matches in 1908, bringing his total for Carlton to an even 100. His last game was significant in that it marked the first contest in the VFL between Carlton and University – played at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground on a Saturday in late June. In a spirited effort, the Students stuck with the reigning premiers throughout, before going down by only 6 points.
Although Roland’s VFL career ended that afternoon, he wasn’t quite finished with the game. Shortly afterwards, he joined Essendon Town in the VFA to complete one last season. Playing in the centre, he rounded off his football journey as one of the Dreadnaughts’ best in their Semi Final defeat by Brunswick.
Thirty years later on February 3, 1938, Charlie Roland died at Balmain, NSW, a few days after his 62nd birthday.
Milestones50 Games: Round 1, 1903 Vs Collingwood
100 Games: Round 9, 1908 Vs University
FootnoteOn August 17, 1933, The Western Mail (Perth) published an article about football and boxing in the WA goldfields entitled "Footballers and Fighters."
It mentions "the Boulder City team of 1907, Goldfields premiers of that year, and a carnival team, the like of which has never before - or since - left the gold fields to meet metropolitan players. It thrashed a combined Perth and Fremantle team, and then played the (WAFL) premiers of that season; East Fremantle. One outstanding incident of the match in its last term was the action of C. Rolands - an even time runner - who paced the length of the field unmolested to score a goal for Boulders. The team had seven or eight men who would play interstate, including George Renwick, a rover, and C. Rolands, a wingman, both for Carlton.