Career : 2009 - 2015
Debut : Round 7, 2009 vs Fremantle, aged 18 years, 142 days
Carlton Player No. 1122
Games : 119
Goals : 90
Last Game : Round 22, 2015 vs Fremantle, aged 24 years, 272 days
Guernsey No. 13
Height : 180 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 84 kg (13 stone, 3 lbs.)
DOB : 19 December, 1990
AFL Rising Star Nominee: Round 1, 2010
When West Australian Chris Yarran was still available at number 6 in the 2008 National Draft, Carlton’s recruiting team couldn’t have been happier. In a draft with some exceptional talent available - especially in the first round – Carlton’s Chief Recruiting Officer Wayne Hughes was sure that the shy indigenous youngster had all the skills and potential to be considered as a number 1 selection.
Yarran grew up in the suburbs of Perth and joined Midvale Junior Football Club, where two of his closest friends were Nick Natanui and Michael Walters. By coincidence, both would also later be picked up in the same draft as Chris - Natanui by West Coast, and Walters by Fremantle. In 2008, Yarran was recruited by WAFL club Swan Districts. Playing mainly as a permanent forward pocket, the elusive 17 year-old kicked 39 goals in 13 matches, while also representing WA at the Under-18 National Championships. He stood out there as well, and was one of the first prospects invited to the AFL draft camp that led him on to Princes Park.
During one of his early training runs, Blues coach Brett Ratten couldn’t decide whether the shy recruit with a big smile was a natural right or left-footer – such were his effortless skills. "I don't know about that," Chris said later when asked, "but it's probably one of my best assets. I'm a right-footer, but I like to kick on my left a fair bit. It just came naturally." Although he suffered a broken wrist during a pre-season boxing session, Yarran recovered quickly, and, after finding his feet at VFL level with the Northern Bullants was selected for his senior debut against the Fremantle Dockers at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast in round 7, 2009. Carlton went into the game as warm favourites, only to be beaten by 7 points.
“Yazz” began his maiden AFL match at half-forward in guernsey number 13, and steadily worked his way into the contest. He kicked an opportunist goal late in proceedings, and showed enough to ensure that he would be retained in the side for the next two games. Carlton then fell to Adelaide in round 9, and he was sent back to the Bullants for a breather. In all, he played six senior matches for the year, and was still yet to reach his 19th birthday when the season concluded.
Benefitting from a thorough pre-season in 2010, Yarran created real excitement when he began the year with an outstanding display in the Blues’ demolition of Richmond in round 1. Ranging across half-forward, he kicked three goals, set up as many more, and earned himself a Rising Star nomination. By May, the Blues were entrenched in the top 8 and making back page headlines thanks in a large part to “Setanta’s Little Helpers” – Carlton’s trio of brilliant small forwards in Yarran, Eddie Betts and Jeffery Garlett. Combining well with athletic tall forward Setanta O’hAilpin, the trio were influential in some big wins by the Blues – notably over Geelong in round 5, and St Kilda in round 7. Later, after O’hAilpin’s departure to Greater Western Sydney, they became colloquially known as the Three Amigos. Chris missed out on a place in the Carlton side that narrowly lost to Sydney in an epic Elimination Final at Homebush Stadium, but still finished 2010 with 19 goals in 16 matches. He was gaining confidence with every match, and it seemed his best was yet to come.
As season 2011 got underway, the rapid evolution of the game brought a rethink among Carlton’s coaching staff, and Yarran was given the task of playing at half-back, to set up attacks with his bold running and pin-point disposal. As he adapted to the role, Carlton jumped away to another promising start to the year, and lost only one of the first six games. In round 7, the confident Blues faced 2010 Grand Finalists St Kilda in a huge Monday night encounter at Etihad Stadium. Yarran’s game that night – especially in the first half – was all poise, and all class. His decision-making was faultless, his disposal radar-like, and few of his 27 disposals were wasted. In the Round 19, 2011 win over North Melbourne, Yarran broke the club record for most running bounces in a match with a tally of 18.
Yazz finished his breakout year by playing with growing maturity in both of Carlton’s finals matches – a huge Elimination Final victory over Essendon, and a heart-stopping, 3-point Semi Final loss to West Coast on his former home ground at Subiaco in WA. Over the season he had more running bounces than any other player in the competition, and in October he celebrated his first top-10 finish in the John Nicholls Medal.
When Carlton’s 2012 campaign got underway with the almost-traditional Thursday night clash against Richmond at the MCG in round 1, Yarran started kicked a sensational last-quarter goal to inspire a big first-up win by the Blues. Approaching the half-way stage of the term, he accepted a handpass from his captain Chris Judd, and sprinted off along the boundary line at left half-forward. Corralled by two Tiger defenders, Yazz jinked, baulked, and bounced his way clear, then coolly slotted a sensational right-foot major from the tightest of angles. Throughout the rest of the year, no-one else was able to match Chris’s brilliance, and he was duly acknowledged with the AFL Goal of the Year award.
Having beaten the Tigers convincingly, Carlton followed up with consecutive crushing victories over Brisbane and Collingwood. Suddenly, the Blues were perched on top of the ladder as flag favourites – but only for a week. The following Saturday afternoon at the MCG in round 4, Ratten’s men were out-paced and out-played by Essendon, as Yarran suffered a foot injury that would hamper him for almost two months.
While Chris was sidelined by that complaint, the Blues suffered a raft of injuries that , triggered a form slump and ultimately wrecked the season. Yarran came back to play some good games late in the year – notably against Collingwood in round 15, and Essendon in round 21 – but by then a finals berth for the Blues was out of the question. Carlton slid to tenth on the ladder at season’s end, just as Ratten was sacked and replaced by former Collingwood and West Coach Premiership coach Mick Malthouse.
Malthouse never made a secret of his admiration of indigenous footballers, and in 2013 at Carlton he had at his disposal three of the best. However, as his game plan evolved, he found difficulty in fitting all of the Three Amigos into his team – because each lacked the elite endurance necessary for a regular midfield role, and because he was not convinced that Yarran was of most value to the team in defence.
Chris made a solid start in Malthouse’s debut season, only to strain a hamstring against St Kilda in round 7. After a fortnight on the sidelines, he was about to play his second match back, in a Friday night blockbuster against Essendon in round 11 when he was told that he would be sitting on the bench from the start as Carlton’s substitute – and as the whole country was about to find out, he wasn’t happy about it.
At three-quarter time Carlton led by 14 points, but Essendon was surging and the Blues needed a lift. So Malthouse substituted Yarran for Mitch Robinson, and in the first minute of the final quarter, Yazz was involved in a chain of handballs that led to a Levi Casboult goal. From that moment on however, Chris was hardly sighted and his body language was as alarming as it was unexpected. In the whole of that last term, while the Blues wilted under Essendon’s pressure, and the Bombers snatched victory with a last-minute goal – Yarran had just three possessions, and seemed disinterested.
Understandably, a storm of criticism broke over him afterwards, and he was dropped from the side for the round 12 clash against ladder-leaders Hawthorn. He was recalled for the week-after game against Sydney, but Malthouse hammered home the lesson by assigning Chris the yellow substitute’s vest again. To his credit, Yazz accepted the consequences of his actions and the criticism levelled against him, saying; “My head was somewhere else, and not in the game that night. It was just footy. I don't know what it was. It was the heat of the moment and I got upset. Everyone gets upset in games, it's just how you react to it. My reaction was pretty poor after it.”
Perhaps spurred by that incident, Yarran knuckled down and put in a strong second half of the season. His determined effort in Carlton’s season-ending Semi Final loss to Sydney impressed even his harshest critics when he collected 23 possessions and 10 marks on that Saturday night at the Olympic Stadium, as the Blues went down to the defending premiers by 24 points. Over the season, he kicked 26 goals in 21 matches, and laid a career-best 76 tackles in a testament to his new-found hardness at the contest. Then, just as the dust was settling on a turbulent year for the Navy Blues, Eddie Betts shook things up again when he accepted a big offer to join the Adelaide Crows under the AFL’s free agency rules.
The era of the Three Amigos may have ended with Betts’ departure, but in 2014 Yarran had his most consistent season. Playing across half-back or on a wing, he missed just one game through injury all year, and contributed many much-needed highlights in a miserable year for his club. On a Friday night at Docklands in mid-July, Chris played his 100th senior match in the Blues’ upset win over North Melbourne, on the way to enhancing his reputation as one of the most creative link-up runners in the game. Unfortunately for Chris and for Carlton, that reputation was to take a battering over the ensuing 12 months, and culminate in his exit from Princes Park.
The Blues began 2015 with optimism after a busy trade period, only to suffer heavy defeats in the first three rounds. Yarran was reported for striking during Carlton’s loss to Essendon in round 3, and the three-match suspension he was handed seemed to bring out his petulant side once more. He came straight back into the side for round 7, but played without conviction until he damaged an ankle two weeks later. When he eventually returned for Carlton’s Saturday afternoon clash against Port Adelaide at the MCG in round 12, the Blues had a new caretaker coach in John Barker and a beacon for the future in the shape of outstanding teenager Pat Cripps. Carlton beat the Power in a thriller and Chris got busy at last with 25 possessions, but over the next six weeks his contributions tapered off alarmingly. In round 18, he played across half-back against North Melbourne and didn’t lay a tackle. He was dropped for the following week, and played his last game in navy blue when he was brought back for the round 22 game against GWS at Blacktown Oval. Carlton was demolished by 81 points, and Chris strained a hamstring to finish an awful season one week early.
For most of 2015 it had been obvious that Yarran was no longer happy at Princes Park, so it was no real surprise when the news broke in October that he was seeking a trade to Richmond. After some protracted wrangling between the two clubs, Yazz became a Tiger in exchange for Richmond’s pick 19 in the National Draft, and left Carlton supporters with mixed feelings about his departure. Undoubtedly, his talent had never consistently blossomed in navy blue, but at the same time his commitment to the team was not all that it could have been.
Sadly, Yarran’s move to Punt Road wasn’t successful, and he didn’t play again at AFL level. After remedial surgery on another foot injury early in 2016, he was eventually allowed to return home to WA to recuperate. In November, he came back to Melbourne for pre-season training, but arrived emotionally distressed and overweight. After intense discussions, the Tigers, Yarran and his manager agreed that it would be best for all concerned to part ways – despite another two years remaining on his contract.
2017 - Yarran came out of retirement to play 6 reserve games with Swan Districts and kicked 1 goal with Richmond's permission, the Tigers would delist Yarran at the end of 2017.
2018 - Yarran would line up with Swan Districts
Milestones50 Games : Round 8, 2012 vs Adelaide
100 Games : Round 18, 2014 vs North Melbourne
Career Highlights2010 - AFL Rising Star Nominee
2012 - Goal of the Year
2014 - 4th Best and Fairest
FootnotesYarran featured in the award-winning 2010 documentary film, Three Boys Dreaming, which followed the lives of three young indigenous footballers over a four-year period.
LinksArticles: Carlton's First Picks...
Blueseum: Summary of Yarran's playing career | Yarran's Blueseum Image Gallery