Career : 1943 and 1946
Debut : Round 1, 1943 vs Richmond, aged 22 years, 305 days
Carlton Player No. 577
Games : 15
Goals : 8
Last Game: Round 15, 1946 vs Fitzroy, aged 26 years, 27 days
Guernsey Nos. 7 (1943) and 32 (1946)
Height : 175 cm (5 ft. 9 in.)
Weight : 68 kg (10 stone, 8 lbs)
DOB : 6 July, 1920
One of the many young men whose VFL careers (as well as their day-to-day lives) were heavily influenced by the Second World War, Tom Dillon played 15 matches for Carlton in two seasons spanning four years. The Blues won a Premiership while he was overseas on active service, and another the year after he retired at the age of 26. Had the world political situation not descended into the chaos that it did between 1939 and 1945, Dillon’s career could well have included higher honours.
A lightly-framed centreman from Bendigo, Tom had already volunteered for overseas duty, and was awaiting his call-up when he made his debut at senior level for the Blues against Richmond at Princes Park in round one, 1943. It was a very anti-climactic occasion for him, because he sat on the bench all match while the Blues cruised to a 44-point win. He had to wait another month for his first full game, but then helped create club history in round five, when he played in the centre against St Kilda at Toorak Park in Carlton’s first and only match at this venue.
In his tenth senior game, Tom’s career highlight came when Carlton met Fitzroy at the MCG in the 1943 first Semi Final. In front of a vocal crowd of almost 40,000, it was an even contest in the first half, before a couple of behind the play incidents distracted the Blues, and Fitzroy went on to win easily.
By the time the 1944 football season began, Tom was wearing army greens and sweating his way through the jungles of New Guinea. Working as a topographer, he helped to survey and produce maps of the battle zones for Allied forces, in a little known, yet vital part of the war effort. He was eventually posted back to Australia in late 1945, after the Japanese had been bombed into submission and the war was over.
In May 1946, Tom at last returned to the field for Carlton and watched from the bench as Ken Baxter kicked five goals in a round five home-ground victory by the Blues over North Melbourne. Tom made three more appearances over the next seven weeks, but by mid-season, had realised that while he had been away, others had cemented their places in the team ahead of him. From then on, he would find it hard to get a game.
On the first Saturday in August, 1946, Carlton lost to Fitzroy at the Brunswick Street Oval in a clash vital to Carlton’s slim chances of making the finals. It was a forgettable match -Tom sat on the bench all day - and afterward decided that he had played his last game. It was an unkind end to a career that never really got going, but throughout the rest of his long life, Tom never let the circumstances of his retirement cloud his deep affection for the Old Dark Navy Blues. Not even when three of his nephews; Ray, Neville and Tony Shaw, all became stars at Collingwood.
After Tom passed away at the age of 87 in August 2007, his son Bryan was interviewed about the family connection to both clubs, and was adamant in his response; ‘the Dillon family is one-eyed Carlton, and has never wavered,’ he said.
LinksArticles: Vale Tom Dillon: 1920-2007
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Tom Dillon | Dillons' Blueseum Image Gallery