Ray Garby, one of the last surviving members of Carlton’s 1947 premiership team, has died at the age of 86.

With Garby’s passing, only five members of the coveted ‘47 Grand Final twenty remain – Jim Clark, Allan Greenshields, Ken Hands, Doug Williams and Fred Stafford, whose left foot snap in the dying seconds of the Grand Final landed the club’s eighth premiership and one of its most famous.
Garby, a dashing half-forward in 85 senior appearances for the old dark Navy Blues, was the son of a Lebanese migrant raised in the northern Victorian town of Cohuna. He later schooled at the famed football factory Assumption College in Kilmore, and in 1940 made the trek to Princes Park – only to suffer a broken ankle which put paid to his season.

After returning to Cohuna, the teenage Garby enlisted for wartime service. It was 1942, and Garby’s commitment to King and country meant his senior League career would not begin until the opening round of 1946, when Carlton and South Melbourne met for the first time since the ’45 “Bloodbath”. Coincidentally, Garby lined up on South’s first-gamer Len Holland, who also attended Assumption.

Wearing the No.20 later worn by the likes of Wes Lofts, Geoff Southby, Fraser Brown, and, now, Rhys O’Keefe, Garby managed 15 senior matches for a 21-goal return in that maiden season of ’46, and his play was marked for his excellent high-marking and accurate torpedo punt kicking. During that time he boarded with Ken Hands, a lifelong friend, at a premises in De Carle Street, Brunswick.

Garby was a potent force on a flank in the ’47 Grand Final. Earning Noel Allanson as his opponent, Garby barrelled a glorious long goal late in the game as his team overran the red and blacks to win by one glorious point – 13.8 (86) to 11.19 (85). A famous press photograph shows a bare-chested Garby following captain Ern Henfry from the field moments after the final siren signalled the victory.

But the post-match celebrations were tame by today’s standards.

“It was nothing very well-organised. We went back to Carlton, opened a barrel, had a bit of supper and that was it,” Garby said. “But the next day we carried on a bit.”

In a final interview, recorded in October last year, Garby fondly remembered Carlton as a “rough old place” in the post-war period.

“Perc (Carlton coach Perc Bentley) used to say to us that he got nine pound a week which he used to put to an 18-gallon drum of beer for us blokes’. Every Sunday morning he’d put an 18 on, and that was his wages,” Garby said.

Doug Williams, now 86, described Garby as “a lovely chap” and ”a real gentleman” who maintained his composure in the most difficult of circumstances.

“There’s one thing that sticks in my mind . . . and I won’t mention clubs or names . . . but Ray was on a half-forward flank and I was on my wing, and Ray was on a chap who was noted to be a pretty rough diamond on the ground. Anyway, he was calling Ray the filthiest of names, he went on and on and on right through the game, and I just couldn’t understand how Ray put up with it . . . still don’t . . . . I think it was just his lovely nature that helped him to play the game.

“Ray had a gift of taking a mark, then going back to take his kick, feigning the kick and spinning around the chap on the mark to kick the goal. He was noted for that and he often did it. It only seems like yesterday that he and I played in the Grand Final. When you reflect on it, it doesn’t seem that long ago.”

At the conclusion of the 1950 season, Garby returned to Cohuna to assist with the family business, and lend support to the local football team as both player and coach. He managed the Cohuna Hotel for nigh on 20 years (and, later, the local supermarket) before relocating to a retirement home in Rosebud.

Garby died peacefully on Saturday. He is survived by his wife Jean, whom he married in that memorable year of ’47, sons Greg and Trevor, nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

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