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'Mulga'

Fred Davies


Career : 1941, 1946 - 1952
Debut : Round 14, 1941 vs Hawthorn, aged 19 years, 353 days
Carlton Player No. 563
Games : 125
Goals : 137
Last Game : Semi Final, 1952 vs Fitzroy, aged 31 years, 23 days
Guernsey Nos. 35 (1941) and 28 (1946-'52)
Height : 188 cm (6 ft. 2 in.)
Weight : 89 kg (14 stone)
DOB : 14 August, 1921
Premiership Player: 1947



Fred ‘Mulga’ Davies was another of the many memorable characters to have played for the Carlton Football Club. An enormously popular team man who missed four complete seasons of football while on active service during World War II, he returned home to Princes Park in time to play a leading role in Carlton’s 1947 Premiership victory.

Davies came to the Blues in 1941 from Seaford, where he had impressed as a high-marking ruckman-forward who was generally reliable in front of goal. Desperately short of quality players because of the war, Carlton fast-tracked him into the senior team, and he made his debut in August of that year in the Blues' 40 point win over Hawthorn at Glenferrie Oval.

Only days after his first taste of senior football however, Davies was called to the colours. Four years of soldiering followed, until Japan followed Germany into unconditional surrender to the Allied forces in August 1945. Fred arrived back home in early 1946, and wasted no time in finding his shorts and footy boots to head out to Princes Park for training.

Three months short of five years after making his debut, Davies was selected for his second game for the Blues, as 19th man against St Kilda at the Junction Oval in May. Carlton (the reigning Premiers) blitzed the Saints by 77 points on the way to a disappointing sixth place on the ladder at season’s end. However, the imminent return of star West Australian Ern Henfry, and the continued improvement in the team as our ex-servicemen settled back in, meant that things were looking up again for the Old Dark Navy Blues.

In post-war Melbourne, one of the more curious social experiments of the time was the introduction of restricted trading hours for hotels. By law, pubs had to cease trading at 6 pm each night, and stay closed on Sundays. This brought about the so-called ‘6 o’clock swill’ when workers hurried to their local after work and lined up a row of full glasses as the clock ticked toward closing time. For special occasions, or when a more leisurely social evening was desired, it became the norm for hosts to buy a 9 gallon (43 litre) keg of beer, and tap it at home.

Many football clubs took advantage of these laws by holding Pleasant Sunday Mornings – a gathering of players and supporters around a barrel of beer or two every Sunday morning in the club rooms. On these occasions, and indeed any time the team got together off the field, it didn’t take much urging for Fred to provide some entertainment by bursting into song, or reciting the works of Australia’s great poet; A. B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson – particularly his classic; Mulga Bill’s Bicycle. Laughter was invaluable in forging a spirit of mateship within the team, and quickly led to Fred being nicknamed ‘Mulga’ – which he didn’t mind at all.

Even more importantly, as the ’47 season got underway, Fred hit his straps on the field to become one of the Blues’ real attacking weapons. Although his aerial skills were his strength - which made him a handful as a key forward - he was also a more than capable tap ruckman who was rarely injured. A remarkable run of 119 consecutive games made up the majority of his career at Carlton.

Led by their captain Henfry, and Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon, the Blues of 1947 finished on top of the VFL ladder after the home and away games, one win clear of their main rival for the flag, Essendon. A somewhat lucky Semi-Final victory over the Dons (Carlton won by 16 points, as Essendon missed a number of shots from close range) put the Blues into their second Grand Final in three years. And while Carlton enjoyed a week off, Essendon had to battle hard to beat a plucky Fitzroy in the Preliminary Final.

The 1947 Grand Final between Carlton and Essendon was another skilful, willing scrap between the two best teams in the competition. Essendon showed no sign of finals fatigue, and served it up to the Blues from the first bounce. Although their forwards were inaccurate again, the Bombers had led all day and were looking like winners at the last break. Still, Blues coach Percy Bentley was certain that Essendon would eventually hit the wall. He demanded that his team to throw everything they had left at their rivals in the last quarter, and the Blues responded.

With five minutes left in the game and Essendon still 12 points up, Mulga Davies took a big pack mark at half forward, then calmly went back and slotted his fourth goal for the match. Carlton surged forward again. A behind was rushed through to make the difference 5 points, but Essendon cleared from the kick-out and seemed destined to hang on for a marvellous victory.

It was then that Henfry won the ball once more in the centre of the MCG. His long kick forward spilled off the pack, and into the arms of Carlton’s Fred Stafford who had been rarely sighted all game. Fred’s instinctive left-foot snap sailed through for a goal, and 44 seconds later, the siren sounded to confirm another Carlton Premiership – this one by the smallest possible margin.

In the days and weeks after that last-gasp victory, Carlton’s celebrations were enthusiastically led by Mulga Davies, which probably explains why the Blues suffered a monumental Premiership hangover, and faded to sixth in 1948. Then, when Bentley’s team recovered sufficiently to make their second Grand Final in three years in 1949, they ran into a red-hot Essendon team with a budding champion named John Coleman at full-forward. Coleman kicked six goals on Grand Final day, and Carlton was slaughtered by 73 points.

That was to be the second to last finals match for Davies, as the Blues’ fortunes dipped, and we missed the finals again in both 1950 and ’51. In 1952, Ern Henfry was forced into retirement by a chronic knee injury. Vice-captain Ken Hands took over as on-field leader of the club, and Mulga Davies was a popular choice as his deputy. Carlton improved to finish fourth on the ladder, only to crash out of flag contention after a cruel one point defeat by Fitzroy in one Semi-Final.

After that disappointment, Fred decided that it was time to capitalise on his reputation and experience by taking up an attractive offer to captain-coach Tasmanian club Longford in 1953. He was farewelled with genuine affection by everyone at Princes Park, and travelled across Bass Strait to more fame, more fortune and a permanent place in Tasmanian football folklore.

Mulga’s impact at Longford wasn’t immediate – it took a year or two for the Longford players to adjust to the tall, talkative, happy-go-lucky bloke from the mainland who preferred to teach them rather than criticise them, and who led by example on the field. But when they realised just how good Mulga was; that he was as fair as he was tough; and that he was always the life of the party, the Tigers gelled into one of the most powerful clubs in the Island State.

Longford were NTFA Premiers in 1955, 1957 and 1958, and beat their southern rivals in ’57 to win the Tasmanian State Football Championship. In the middle of all this, Mulga himself won The Mercury newspaper’s Best and Fairest Player award in 1956. Little wonder then, that when the Longford Football Club sat down to select its Team of the Century, Fred was one of the first named, as captain-coach and first ruckman.

Sadly, Mulga Fred Davies wasn’t given anywhere near enough time to enjoy the honours and the goodwill that came his way. Just three years after retiring as a player, he fell ill and died suddenly, just one day short of his fortieth birthday, on 13th August, 1961.

Addendum:

Fred's son Ian became the most famous basketball player from the state of Tasmania. Ian Davies played college basketball in the US and competed for Australia in two Olympic games, 1980 and 1984. In fact in the Moscow 1980 olympics Ian Davies was the top scorer from all countries with 209 points at an average of 29.9. He was also a part of Tasmania's only NBL winning team in 1981 and was made a member of the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame. Tragically Ian like his father also died too young, in 2013 Ian passed away at the age of just 57.
Tasmania Loses Basketball Legend
Basketball superstar Ian Davies changed the game in Australia for the better

Milestones

50 Games: Round 1, 1949 vs South Melbourne
100 Games: Round 13, 1951 vs Footscray

100 Goals: Round 4, 1951 vs Geelong

Video



Articles: Great Wins over the Bombers

Blueseum: Stat Shot for Fred Davies | Career Breakdown | Davies' Blueseum Image Gallery

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