Career : 1937 - 1946
Debut : Round 7, 1937 vs Footscray, aged 20 years, 336 days
Carlton Player No. 536
Games : 147
Goals : 32
Guernsey No. 33 (1937) and 6 (1938 - 46)
Last Game : Round 19, 1946 vs Collingwood, aged 30 years, 57 days
Height : 175 cm (5 ft. 9 in.)
Weight : 78.5 kg (12 stone, 5 lbs.)
DOB : 4 July, 1915
Premiership Player 1938, 1945
Captain 1945 - 46
Best and Fairest 1941 and 1944
Carlton Hall of Fame 1991
Team of the Century
During his successful and controversial career, Bob Chitty was widely regarded as one of the hardest, most single-minded players of all time. Hated by opposition supporters and revered by his own, he was utterly ruthless in his pursuit of victory, and heaven help any opposition in his way. In an era of uncertainty and deprivation in the midst of World War II, Chitty gave the Carlton Football Club pride and confidence. No-one pushed the Blues around when he was on the field.
Chitty will forever be famous as Carlton’s captain in the 1945 "Bloodbath" Grand Final win over South Melbourne. But it should be remembered that he was also a Premiership player in 1938; that he twice won the Blues’ Best & Fairest award, and that he finished fourth in the 1941 Brownlow Medal count. While his courage was legendary, he was also very skilled. Although 'only' 175 cm tall, his surprising pace, balance and solid 78 kg frame allowed him to mix it with just about anyone. A well, he had steely concentration, good hands and kicked the ball a mile.
One of twelve children born into a pioneering family from Cudgewa in the high country of northern Victoria, Chitty was recruited to Carlton from VFA Club Sunshine in 1936. He trained with the club in 1935, brought down from the Upper Murray on the recommendation of former Carlton player Jack Greenhill. He played almost a full season in the Reserves team before making his debut against Footscray in June 1937, wearing guernsey number 33. Carlton beat the Bulldogs by ten goals that day, and Bob Chitty never played seconds football again. In his first few matches he played in the centre, before settling on a half-back flank where his tenacity and accurate kicking to position were features of his game. By the time he was one of the stars of Carlton's 1938 Premiership win over Collingwood, Chitty had swapped to guernsey number 6 and earned a reputation as one of the hardest men ever to pull on a football boot.
How tough was Bob Chitty? Well, consider this. Only a few days prior to the Blues’ crucial Preliminary Final clash in 1945, he had the top joint of one of his fingers chopped off in an accident at work. He asked for the wound to be stitched and bandaged, then defied doctor’s orders to take his place in the side. Carlton won, and Chitty carried the injury for the rest of the year. An eyewitness account of this game has been provided to the Blueseum by a trusted contributor, and can be read here. There is also a tale that has almost reached folklore status in Benalla, of the day Chitty took a mark, then landed awkwardly and broke his ankle. Why is this story so extraordinary? Because he got up, and kicked a goal before hobbling off!
Chitty captained the Blues in 1945 and led the team into the Grand Final against South Melbourne at Princes Park. (The MCG was unavailable because it was being used as a transit camp for American troops destined for the war zones in the islands north of Australia). South started strong favourites, mainly because Carlton had had to dig deep the week before, storming home for a narrow win over Collingwood in a hard, often violent Preliminary Final. Meanwhile, South Melbourne were at full strength and coming off a week's break. It was shaping as a classic confrontation between South’s speed and finesse, and Carlton’s vigour and determination.
On a cool, cloudy Melbourne afternoon, the game erupted in the second quarter. First, Chitty cleaned up South’s Ron Clegg and Billy Williams in quick succession, before Carlton’s Ken Hands was knocked senseless. An all-in brawl ensued, in which Jack “Basher” Williams and Ted Whitfield were prominent for South, while Chitty and Rod McLean stood tall for the Blues. As the half-time siren sounded, and heavy rain began falling, hardly a player stood outside a wild melee that was only broken up by a contingent of uniformed police. The game settled down in the third term, before spilling over again in the last. Chitty was blind-sided by South's Laurie Nash, then players, umpires, trainers and police all tangled in another huge fight. In the midst of it all, Carlton’s Fred Fitzgibbon – who was already under suspension – ran onto the ground in his street clothes and joined in.
Fitzgibbon was restrained, and eventually escorted off the ground by police while Chitty was sent to a forward pocket, with blood streaming from a huge gash above his left eye. Obviously concussed, he spent some time leaning against a point post, willing himself to recover. Meanwhile, the mayhem further up the ground continued as the Blues began to assert their authority. When the ball spiralled downfield late in the match, a gun-shy South defender infringed against Chitty, who was awarded a free kick. Carlton’s captain calmly wiped the blood from his eyes, went back, and sealed the match with a goal from 40 metres out on a 45 degree angle.
Carlton had concentrated on playing football long enough to go on and win the flag by 28 points in what is still regarded as one the most vicious and spiteful matches in VFL/AFL history. Ten players - Chitty included - were reported by the umpires. Chitty copped eight weeks suspension; Fitzgibbon four and “Basher” Williams twelve. South’s Ted Whitfield was outed for the entire 1946 season, mainly because he had refused to give the umpire his number, then pulled his guernsey over his head and run back up the ground in an effort to avoid being identified.
Carlton missed the finals in 1946, so Chitty decided that it was a good time to accept a lucrative offer to captain-coach country side Benalla. Reluctantly, Carlton bid farewell to their enforcer, after 147 games and 32 goals in ten seasons. Captain for two years, he was Best & Fairest in 1941 and 1944, and played in two Premiership teams – the second as captain. Despite his fierce reputation, he was suspended only four times in his VFL career, for a total of 16 matches.
While at Benalla, Chitty was invited to play the role of Australia’s most notorious bushranger; Ned Kelly, in a feature film; The Glenrowan Affair. This prompted Richmond legend Jack Dyer – a willing antagonist of Chitty throughout his career – to pay tribute to his old foe by saying 'this was the first time that Chitty ever needed armour.'
Carlton Football Club mourned when our grand old warrior passed away in 1985 at the age of seventy. Six years later, he was elected to the Blues’ Hall of Fame, and in May 2000 he was named as one of four emergencies in the Carlton Team of the 20th Century.
Peter Chitty and the Changi Brownlow
While Bob Chitty spent the war years of 1939 to 1945 playing football for Carlton, four of his brothers enlisted for active service. Bob always intended joining up too, but was talked out of it by the rest of the family, who wanted at least one male of his generation to stay at home in Australia to support their parents. Bob’s blossoming football career made him the obvious choice to stay back, and as events panned out, he was sorely needed.
All four Chitty brothers saw active service. Three of them; Ron, Phillip and Arthur were sent to the Middle East, where Arthur was killed in action in July, 1942. Ron and Phillip were both captured by the Germans, and spent many months in a Prisoner of War camp before being repatriated home.
(Arthur Chitty played for the Carlton Reserves in 1940)
The fourth of the brothers; Les (who preferred the name Peter) also carved his name into Australian Football history in a unique way - as the one and only winner of the Changi Brownlow Medal.
Peter played two senior VFL matches with St Kilda in 1936, before returning to the family farm at Cudgewa. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he too, enlisted for active service, and by March 1941 was serving in Singapore as a corporal with the 2/2nd Motor Ambulance Convoy. Less than 12 months later, Singapore fell to Japanese forces. Thousands of Allied troops were captured, and imprisoned in Singapore’s infamous Changi gaol. Among them was Peter Chitty, and Fitzroy Football Club’s champion wingman, Wilfred ‘Chicken’ Smallhorn – winner of the 1933 Brownlow Medal
Facing an uncertain future, the Australian prisoners, led by Smallhorn, decided to organise a football competition based on the VFL. Six teams were created; Carlton, Collingwood, Melbourne, Richmond, Essendon and Geelong. Umpires were appointed to every game, infringements were reported and an independent tribunal sat in judgement. There was an official ladder, clearances between teams had to be approved, and ‘fairest and best player’ votes for the Changi Brownlow Medal were cast by the umpires after each match.
The competition lasted just one season, because soon afterward most of the players and spectators were sent off to be worked to death on the infamous Burma railway. Richmond won the premiership, and Peter Chitty (captain of Geelong) was a popular winner of the Changi Brownlow.
The medal itself – thought to have started out as a soccer medallion obtained from the British prisoners, then altered, polished and suitably engraved – was presented to Peter Chitty prior to the last-ever game of Aussie Rules at Changi in January, 1943. That match saw Victoria (captained by Chitty) score 14.9 (93) to defeat the Rest of Australia 10.5 (65) in front of a huge crowd of prisoners, guards and garrison soldiers.
Only weeks later, Peter Chitty was enduring the living hell of the Burma railway, where a life was the price of every sleeper. Somehow, he survived the ordeal and was repatriated home after the Japanese surrender in August, 1945. After some weeks in hospital, he was discharged in December of that year.
In 1947, former Sergeant Peter Chitty was awarded the British Empire Medal for his ‘unselfish conduct and courage’ while working on the railway as a POW. ‘During long marches through dense jungle, he continuously helped the sick by carrying their kit as well as his own, and constructing shelters for them when halted,’ the citation reads. ’By these means he undoubtedly saved lives. His devotion to duty was outstanding.’
Through all this, Chitty had carried his Changi Brownlow with him, calling it his good luck charm, and treasuring it until his death in 1996. According to his son Roger, Peter Chitty was proud of his official medal, but it ‘didn’t hold a candle’ to his very own, unique Brownlow, which the Chitty family later donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Right: Bob's brothers Ron and Phil visiting brother Arthur's grave at El Alamein Egypt in November 1943.
Ron and Phil both of the 2/2nd Field Ambulance were P.O.W.'s of Rommel's Afrika Korps and had been repatriated in 1943.
Pte. Arthur Chitty had played for the Carlton Reserves in 1940.
Image: AWM MEA0959
FootnotesAt the Carlton AGM held in February 1938, Bob Chitty won the trophy for the Best First Year Player.
In 1939, Carlton were in Sydney to play NSW on the Sydney Cricket Ground, July 29.
The Sydney Morning Herald of July 25, wrote about each Carlton player;
R. Chitty, 22, 5ft. 8in. 12st. 3lb. A fast, dashing half-back and good kick.
After Carlton's 1945 Premiership victory, the Sunshine Advocate featured an article about Chitty, the former Sunshine player.
To read the story, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74736477.
In 1950, Chitty was appointed playing coach of Scottsdale in Tasmania, when the Magpies were admitted into the Northern Tasmanian Football Association (NTFA). He remained a celebrated figure in the Island State for almost a decade, and in 1955 made headlines once again by leading NEFU club Ringarooma (The Robins) to an overdue flag. At 40 years of age, Bob parked himself at full-forward, and kicked 105 goals for the season!
Reviewers of the day said the film "The Glenrowan Affair" was the worst Australian film ever made. The National Film and Sound Archive has made the film available through various outlets such as Kanopy. This writer watched the movie, and the reviewers were close to the mark. However it was interesting to see Bob Chitty in the leading role. He played the part reasonably well. In fact I thought he was one of the better actors. As a side note, it was interesting to see some the "Kelly Country" where the film was shot and the steam train which the gang tried to derail at Glenrowan. The old train was probably still in regular use with the Victorian Railways back in 1951!
Milestones50 Games: Round 10, 1940 vs Hawthorn
100 Games: Round 15, 1943 vs North Melbourne
LinksArticles: That Other Great War - Carlton v Collingwood | Carlton's controversial finishes | Footy Folklore: Chitty's Finger | Chitty as Ned Kelly!
Blueseum: The Tribunal: Bob Chitty | Summary of Chitty's playing career | Career Breakdown | Chitty's Blueseum Image Gallery