Career : 1956 - 1959
Debut : Round 1, 1956 vs Essendon, aged 24 years, 294 days
Carlton Player No. 697
Games : 57
Goals : 11
Last Game : Preliminary Final, 1959 vs Essendon, aged 28 years, 86 days
Guernsey No. 16
Height : 192 cm (6 ft. 3 in.)
Weight : 84.5 kg (13 stone, 4 lbs.)
DOB: 25 June, 1931
Kevin Clarke was an honest West Australian ruckman who gave Carlton effective service for four seasons between 1956 and 1959. Beginning his senior football career with West Perth, he was plagued by injury in his early years, but eventually recovered full fitness and became one of the most influential big men in the competition.
As well as taking a leading role in West Perth’s celebrated 1951 WAFL Grand Final victory over South Fremantle, Clarke had represented WA on six occasions by 1954, when he was transferred to Melbourne by his employer. When the news of his pending arrival broke, Melbourne stepped up to sign the 23 year-old, and he made his VFL debut as 20th man for the Demons against St Kilda in round 1, 1955.
Soon afterwards however, the League ruled that Clarke had not fulfilled the necessary residential qualifications, and he was forced to sit out of the game for the rest of the year. Before the start of the 1956 season, Clarke was training with (and had agreed to play with) VFA club Williamstown - on the proviso that he would be allowed one more crack at breaking into the League ranks. Melbourne - who were blessed with a strong ruck division - gave him permission to train with Carlton, and the rest is a tribute to the big fellow’s determination.
Allocated the number 16 guernsey previously worn through six seasons by reliable defender John Brown, Clarke played his first game for the Blues against Essendon at Windy Hill in round 1, 1956, and thereafter, didn’t miss a game for two seasons. Tough and resilient, he gave the Blues a more than competitive ruck division throughout his four year stay, playing alongside Ken Hands, Graham Donaldson and a promising youngster from Maryborough in John Nicholls.
Clarke’s third finals match, and last game for Carlton, came in the 1959 Preliminary Final against Essendon. With Donaldson out injured, Clarke was switched to the back pocket, and Nicholls was handed the huge responsibility of first ruckman. On a cold and wet afternoon in front of 65,000 fans at the MCG, the depleted Blues lost by 7 points in a thriller. Clarke was valiant throughout in defence, while Nicholls showed that he would soon be a worthy successor.
After departing Princes Park, Kevin Clarke lived and worked in many parts of Australia. He passed away on October 31, 2009 in the Queensland town of Proserpine, at the age of 78.
Milestones50 VFL Games: Round 5, 1959 Vs Melbourne
50 Carlton Games: Round 8, 1959 Vs Geelong
LinksArticles: Vale Denning and Clarke
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Kevin Clarke | Clarke's Blueseum Image Gallery