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Harry Matheson

Career : 1911 - 1912
Debut : Round 1, 1911 vs Essendon, aged 19 years, 321 days
Carlton Player No. 249
Games : 7
Goals : 3
Guernsey No. 21
Last Game : Round 5, 1912 vs Melbourne, aged 20 years, 348 days
Height : 173 cm (5 ft. 8 in.)
Weight : 72.5 kg (11 stone, 6 lbs.)
DOB : June 12, 1891


A versatile utility who was born in Nagambie and recruited from Clifton Juniors in the Brighton District, William Henry (Harry) Matheson played a total of 23 VFL games at three clubs; St Kilda, Carlton and Collingwood, between 1909 and 1914. He was involved in a draw against Essendon on debut for Carlton, and became the first official wearer of our number 21 guernsey in his last match for the Blues.

Aged 19 when he first played for St Kilda against Fitzroy in 1909, Matheson managed seven matches in his two seasons at the Junction Oval, before heading off to Princes Park in 1911. His debut outing for the Blues, against Essendon at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, was significant in that it was former Carlton triple-Premiership coach Jack Worrall’s introductory match as coach of the Same Old, and it ended in a hard-fought draw.

Matheson’s seventh and last appearance for Carlton came in a 5-point defeat by Melbourne at the MCG in round 5, 1912. Harry became the first official wearer of our navy blue number 21 guernsey that afternoon, having been allocated the number (but not selected) during the previous year’s finals series. By coincidence, Matheson played against only three clubs in his seven appearances for Carlton - twice each against Melbourne and University, and three times against Essendon.

In 1914, after bobbing up at Collingwood for another nine games to round off his VFL career, Harry joined the many thousands of Australians who volunteered for military service in World War 1. Within six months, he had been promoted to the rank of Corporal, and was serving with a company of Field Engineers on the shell-swept slopes of Gallipoli.

In July 1915, Matheson was promoted further to Sergeant, and just nine months later, was commissioned Lieutenant, on the eve of his unit being sent into the maelstrom of trench warfare in France. The experiences of soldiers of both sides in those horrendous campaigns have been well documented, and Harry was one of the casualties. In October 1916, he was evacuated to hospital suffering from what authorities then called ‘neurasthenia’ – later, it would be better known as shell shock.

Harry probably never fully recovered from his experiences in the trenches, even though he was invalided home in April 1917, and honourably discharged a few weeks later. He returned to his trade as a cabinet maker for the best part of two decades, before answering the call a second time when Australia went to war against the Axis alliance in 1939.

In the early stages of World War II, veterans of the Great War were welcomed back into uniform as administrators and instructors in all of the services. Although he was 51 years old when he signed up again in July 1941, Matheson was quickly restored to his former rank of Lieutenant, and allocated an administrative post with the Australian Ordnance Corps. Ironically, this was the section of the army responsible for the design, manufacture and supply of artillery shells.

Harry was honourably discharged a second time in May 1945, soon after the German surrender, and three months before the atomic bomb forced the Japanese to follow suit. By then, he had spent seven years of his life in wartime service of his country – a factor that surely contributed to his early passing at the age of 65 in November, 1956.

An item in the The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 3 May 1911. (p8)
N.S.W.F.L. Umpire and Permit Committee;
Granted a permit for A. Mathieson from North Shore to Carlton. (Vic)
Same player?

Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Harry Matheson | Matheson's Blueseum Image Gallery

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