Most of us would love to have been a fly on the wall in the negotiations that lead to Chris Judd coming to the Blues. Players have been wooed by clubs away from home since the game of Australia rules began towards the end of the gold rush. For the most part the machinations behind the scenes remain private.

At the Blueseum however, we have received personal letters from a past Carlton player that reveals a little of how players were courted in days gone by. These letters not only unravel some of the mysteries of how players were approached in the past, but also provide insight into the culture of various VFL clubs at the time.

Image Our subject is Charlie Parsons who was a fine player for Carlton over two seasons in 1929 and 1930. By the end of his prestigious career he had played in every state in the land over eighteen years with several premierships and never once missed a year of finals football.

In 1928 Charlie played for a Wimmera representative side at the MCG and caught the eye of eager talent scouts wanting to land the next ‘bushie’ star to play VFL. Charlie was running a successful family business in Warracknabeel at the time, so an offer to move to the big smoke would have to be a good one.

The first letter (see below) Charlie would have opened after checking his mail was a plea from the Footscray Football Club. The sons of the west had only been in the VFL competition three short years after a successful time in the VFA. The 1927 season saw Footscray finish 10th place out of 12, so they were understandably eager for new recruits. The letter in question is obviously a follow-up (‘I am dropping you another note’), and immediately displays a tinge of desperation (‘very anxious to secure your services’). The rest of the letter is pretty standard and gives the impression of a club that knows what it is about.

The next letter (see below) is from Hawthorn and they begin to lay the honey on thick straight away (‘the great impression your grand exhibition of football made’). The carrot is then dangled none too subtly (‘to become a regular member of our team’), and to labour the point at the end of the letter (‘you would immediately included in our list of regular players’). To give Hawthorn some credit they were not exactly spinning any yarns to Charlie. They too had only joined the VFL in 1925 and were not travelling as well as Footscray. In 1927 they finished bottom with just one win from 18 games, in 1928, the year this letter was written the team repeated the dose except this time did not win a game for the year. Little wonder then that they were offering regular senior games.

It is little wonder that Charlie did not take up either offer from these teams, while they could both offer the comfort of regular senior football they did not offer much else. Moving from the country to the city to be involved in regular thumpings week in week out would not have been very tempting.

Next come Essendon (see below) much later in the year. Despite finishing 8th in 1927 and 5th in 1928 they were one of the powerhouse clubs of the competition with several premierships and a strong and established financial and supporter framework. This letter reeks of arrogance and not a little disdain (‘we are always on the look out for promising material’). They could not even summon up an effort to actually have seen Charlie first hand (‘from the reports we have’). Not only that they actually put his abilities at below VFL level (‘with a little tuition from our coach you would hold your own in League company’). By this time it seems that Charlies signature was already with Carlton, but one would wonder how tempted a player would be with a letter like that. Essendon certainly do show in the tone of this letter that they see themselves as a powerful VFL club.

Finally, the professional handwritten note from the Blues (see below) confirming that Charlie would join them for season 1929. It is a well written piece (‘I can assure you that we are congratulating ourselves on securing your services as we feel certain that a footballer of your qualifications will be a distinct acquisition to our club’). A warning follows that signing anything from another VFL club will disqualify him from playing any VFL football. The Blues had finished 4th in both 1927 and 1928 so offered a chance of finals football. But the bug lure would have been a promise made by the club that he would gain employment at a large Melbourne grocery firm. Sadly for Charlie upon arriving in the big smoke he discovered that the firm in question had no position for him and had never even heard of his arrival. Having secured their man, the Blues then refused a clearance back to Warracknabeel and Charlie was stuck to do his best in 1929 in the VFL. Proving once again how cut-throat the world of football was then and hinting about how tough it is now as well.


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