Career : 1937 - 1942, and 1944
Debut : Round 3, 1937 vs Melbourne, aged 20 years, 15 days
Carlton Player No. 534
Games : 78
Goals : 228
Last Game: Round 18, 1944 vs Footscray, aged 27 years, 132 days
Guernsey Nos. 23 (1937 - 1942) and 21 (1944)
Height : 178 cm (5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight : 79 kg (12 stone, 5 lbs.)
DOB : 23 April, 1917
Premiership Player: 1938
Leading Goalkicker: 1940, 1941, 1942
Born in Korrumburra and recruited from local club Princes Hill in 1937, Paul Schmidt embarked on a remarkable career with the Navy Blues – a career that saw him evolve from a promising centreman into one of the most dangerous and deadly small forwards of his era. Before his time at Carlton was all but ended by military service in World War II, Schmidt played in the 1938 Carlton Premiership team in only his eleventh senior game, represented Victoria, and was the Blues leading goal-kicker for three successive seasons.
Carlton’s recruiters liked the look of the classy, 19 year-old Schmidt from the time they first saw him in action for local club Princes Hill in 1936. A balanced and evasive mid-fielder, he turned on a threepenny bit, and kicked long with a raking right foot. When he arrived at Princes Park to play on match permits the following year, Schmidt couldn’t be left out of the senior team for long. Carlton’s coach Percy Rowe selected him in the centre for his debut in the round three game against Melbourne at Princes Park in early May 1937, only for the Demons to spoil the occasion when they thumped the Blues by six goals.
While Schmidt wasn’t disgraced in his debut match, he didn’t get another opportunity at senior level for precisely one year – by which time the Blues were being honed into genuine flag contenders by their new captain-coach, Brighton Diggins. A former Premiership star at South Melbourne, Diggins ruled by quiet authority and led by example. He was a superb tactician on the field, and a thorough planner off it.
Diggins recalled Schmidt to Carlton’s seniors for the round three match against Essendon at Windy Hill in May 1938. Running off a half-forward flank, Schmidt provided a lively target and kicked two goals, while Carlton beat the Bombers by one point in a thriller. Eight more games followed, before a tapering of form forced Diggins to send Schmidt back to the seconds in early August. Carlton promptly lost their next two matches, but were still sitting on top of the VFL ladder and comfortably leading St Kilda in the last round of the regular season when an incident occurred that had far-reaching implications for two Carlton players. The first was rover Ron Cooper, who decked St Kilda’s Doug Rayment in sight of the field umpire, and was subsequently suspended for four weeks by the VFL Tribunal. The second was Paul Schmidt, who, as a result of Cooper’s indiscretion, was called back into the senior team for the semi-final against Geelong.
Brighton Diggins kept team changes to a minimum for his first final as a coach, shifting Mickey Crisp from the centre to a forward pocket, and offering Schmidt the challenge of controlling the pivot. The youngster took on the task and did all that was required, repeatedly pumping the ball forward to where Ken Baxter was a star for the Blues with eight goals. Carlton destroyed the Cats after half time, and qualified for another Grand Final showdown with arch-rivals Collingwood.
In the eyes of every Carlton supporter, Brighton Diggins set the seal on his greatness on Grand Final day, 1938, when Diggins himself controlled the ruck while he out-coached the legendary Jock McHale. Carlton won Premiership number six with a clinical carve-up of the Magpies before an enormous record crowd of more than 96,000. Part of Diggins’ tactical plan was to isolate Carlton’s star centre half-forward Jack Wrout and his opponent, by playing half-forward flankers Harry Vallence and Paul Schmidt wide and deep, and all went to plan. Wrout provided a constant marking target and kicked four majors, Baxter at full-forward contributed three, and Vallence and Schmidt chipped in with a handy three more between them. The final victory margin was 15 points to the Blues, with rover Jack Hale outstanding. Paul Schmidt, in only his eleventh senior match, had grasped his holy grail.
Regrettably, the euphoria of Premiership success was transformed into a monumental hangover for Carlton in 1939, and the Blues slipped out of finals contention. One real positive however, was the developing on-field chemistry between Carlton’s two key forwards, Baxter and Wrout, and Schmidt. The latter’s anticipation and reading of the ball off the packs demanded that he be played closer to goal, and by mid-season Schmidt was almost permanently stationed alongside Baxter in Carlton’s forward pocket.
In round 15 of that year, against Footscray at Princes Park, the Blues’ two-pronged blitzkrieg resulted in an 88-point hiding for the ‘Dogs. What Baxter didn’t mark and convert was immediately collected and finished by Schmidt, as they each wound up the day with eight goals to their name. Overall, 38 goals from 14 matches for the year was a good return for Schmidt, but even better results were coming.
In September 1939, World War II began with Australia joining Great Britain in declaring war on Nazi Germany. Over the following six years, the entire country would be plunged into deprivation and uncertainty. VFL football was able to continue throughout the war, but every club struggled at some time due to the shortage of players. Schmidt was Carlton’s leading goal-kicker in 1940 with 55 majors, during a difficult year when Carlton missed out on a finals berth, and Brighton Diggins ended his short but spectacular tenure at Princes Park when he was called up for military duty. Diggins was replaced as coach of the Blues by ex-Richmond champion, Percy Bentley, under whose encouragement Schmidt became an even more potent force.
In round 3, 1941, Schmidt kicked nine goals in Carlton’s 47-point thrashing of Hawthorn at Princes Park, and in the following weeks followed up with bags of seven each against Melbourne and North Melbourne. By mid-season he was third on the VFL goal-kicking list, behind recognised full-forwards Sel Murray of North Melbourne, and Norm Smith of Melbourne, and his hot streak of form simply demanded a place in the Victorian state side. Later on in that year, on Saturday August 16, 1941 at Princes Park, Schmidt played one of the all-time great individual matches by a Carlton player when he tore the St Kilda defence apart, booting 11 goals while the Blues destroyed the Saints by 57 points. He finished the home and away season with a tally of 75 majors, but more importantly, with Carlton perched again on top of the ladder.
The reasons why the Blues crashed out of flag contention with successive finals losses to Melbourne and Essendon in 1941 is no more explainable now than it was then. Bentley’s boys had beaten the Dons and the Demons twice each during the regular season, but faltered when it counted most and were tipped out in straight sets. The only consolation for Schmidt was he added another two goals to make his total 77 for the year, and won Carlton’s goal-kicking award for a second time.
He made it three in a row in 1942, when he banged through 47 majors in fourteen games, with a top score of seven in round 8 against St Kilda. Continuing the pattern of rise and fall, the Blueboys started the year poorly, came good mid-season, then missed out again on a finals place on percentage. Schmidt had enlisted in the Australian Militia by then, and when he was called into uniform he was unable to play VFL football for nearly two years.
When he was welcomed back to Princes Park late in 1944, there were only two games left in the season. The Blues were clinging to fourth with a healthy percentage, but knew that they had to win both remaining matches to be sure of a place in the finals. Schmidt celebrated his return to the senior side by kicking three goals first up in a huge win over Geelong at Princes Park, and it all came down to the last match of the year – another home ground clash against fifth-placed Footscray.
As expected, the game against the Bulldogs was a close and hard-fought affair. Carlton clawed their way to a three-goal lead with less than fifteen minutes remaining in the last quarter, before Footscray rallied to draw level. With only seconds to go, Bulldog centreman Harry Hickey marked in the clear a long way out. As the siren sounded, Hickey unleashed a huge drop kick that appeared to be marked right on the goal line by Carlton’s Bob Chitty. But the goal umpire – much to the crowd’s dismay – awarded the goal, and Carlton’s flag bid ended in uproar.
At the end of that season, Schmidt shocked the Blues by revealing that he had accepted a lucrative offer to join Tasmanian club Devonport as their captain-coach. Carlton tried hard to convince their prolific scorer to stay, but to no avail, and in early 1945 he crossed Bass Strait to play out his career in the black and white strip of the Tassie Magpies.
There is no doubt that Paul Schmidt’s VFL career at Carlton ended prematurely. At just 27, his 78 games had produced 228 goals - at an average of just under three per game. What makes those figures even more impressive, is that for a large part of his first two seasons, he was playing in the middle of the ground.
Sadly, Paul’s life also ended far too early. He was just 45 years old when he passed away in 1961.
Milestones50 Games: Round 7, 1941 vs Melbourne
100 Goals: Round 18, 1940 vs Footscray
200 Goals: Round 7, 1942 vs Footscray
LinksArticles: The Magical 'Three Goal Average'
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Paul Schmidt | Paul Schmidt's big goals hauls | Schmidt's Blueseum Image Gallery