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It has already been well-documented that the Carlton Football Club’s first few years in the VFL were desperately unsuccessful – typified by Essendon’s big victory in the very first round 15 game between the two clubs in 1898. Within five years of that debacle however, our fortunes had turned completely, and it would take exactly 100 more seasons before an opponent was again able to muster the skill and resolution to beat us by more than ten goals at this stage of the year. Over that same time, the Old Dark Navy Blues hammered opposition teams by sixty points (or more) on ten occasions, with some of the greatest forwards the game has seen literally gorging on goals. In addition, there have been milestone matches galore in this round, more notable debuts, and as usual, the odd sensational incident for good measure.
1898. The Same Old were totally dominant in general play, but their wayward shooting for goal saw their final score at 9.21 (75). Carlton on the other hand, managed an abysmal 1.2 (8), with follower Jim Pender kicking his side’s only major in the second quarter. That awful result still stands today as Carlton’s lowest-ever score against the mob from Windy Hill.
Jack Worrall. After winning landmark triple VFL Premierships in 1906, ’07 and ’08, and losing the next two Grand Finals by a combined total of 16 points, the Blues were sitting solidly in third place on the ladder and gunning for another chance at finals glory when round 15, 1911 rolled around. Our opponent on that afternoon at Princes Park was ninth-placed St Kilda, and Carlton showed the Saints little mercy. Winning all over the field from the first bounce, the Blueboys surged into attack time and again. Chief beneficiary of Carlton’s dominance was our lively full-forward Vin Gardiner, whose sure marking and elusiveness at ground level brought him a staggering 21 shots at goal – but Vin’s customary accuracy mysteriously deserted him from the start, and he finished the match with a personal tally of 10 goals, 11 behinds as Carlton won by 114 points. This was the first time ever that a Carlton player had booted double figures, and it stood as a club record in this round for 18 seasons.
Harry ‘Soapy’ Vallence – one of Carlton’s legendary figures, and a champion whose name appears time and again in this series of round reviews. Playing his 50th game for Carlton in round 15, 1929 at Princes Park, Soapy booted a magnificent 11 goals at full-forward against South Melbourne, helping the Blues win a high-standard match by 38 points. Nine seasons later (at the age of 33 years, 63 days) Vallence celebrated his 199th game as a Bluebagger by repeating the dose, and steering through another 11 great goals while his team thumped Fitzroy by 50 points at the Brunswick St. Oval.
round 15, 1939. Launching a last-ditch assault on a finals place, the Blues slaughtered the struggling Bulldogs by 88 points, with forwards Ken Baxter and Paul Schmidt kicking 8 goals each, and clever rover Creswell 'Mickey' Crisp helping himself to another five. Between them, this lethal trio contributed 21 of Carlton’s 24 goals for the match.
Indeed, round 15 has proven to be a rich hunting ground for Carlton spearheads ever since Vin Gardiner set the ball rolling in 1911. Among the many other big bags kicked by Bluebaggers down through the years, Horrie Clover got eight against Melbourne in 1920, smart rover Martin Cross notched another eight against South Melbourne in 1961, and controversial forward Brendan Fevola had a day out when he booted nine in Carlton’s 20-point victory over Richmond in 2009. Paul Schmidt helped his average when he notched a separate 7-goal haul against North Melbourne in 1943, and Matt Clape was at his dangerous best when he booted seven against Adelaide in 1995. But it is doubtful if there has ever been a more electrifying seven goals scored than those kicked by Carlton’s Jim Baird against Fitzroy in round 15, 1942.
1942. Sitting fifth and sixth respectively on the ladder, a loss by either side would have ended their finals aspirations, and the game was played accordingly. Throughout the first half, it was a dour, defensive struggle, and at half-time Fitzroy led 3.9 (27) to Carlton 3.6 (24). With his side lacking spark, Carlton coach Percy Bentley rang the changes; sending his captain Bob Chitty from full-forward to centre half-back, and versatile defender Jim Baird from defence into the attacking goal-square. Baird gave the Blues a target, and booted two of Carlton's four goals for the quarter – but the Maroons got on top all over the field and, aided by a strong breeze, added 7.10 to lead by exactly five goals at the last change of ends. A worried Bentley rallied his Blueboys, demanding more direct football to maximise the wind advantage, then watched on as his team grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. With Chitty impassable across half-back, and the likes of Ron Cooper and Lance Collins pumping the ball forward, ‘Bones’ Baird began marking everything that came his way. He kicked another five spectacular goals for the term - finishing the match with seven - as the Blues came roaring back and vanquished a stunned Fitzroy by 17 points; 17.13 (115) to 13.20 (98). Popular 1938 Premiership defender Don McIntyre played his 100th and last match for the Blues that afternoon, ending his career in unforgettable circumstances.
John Nicholls was firmly established among the games’ elite ruckmen. Carlton’s Best and Fairest in 1959, he had already twice worn the Big Vee in interstate matches. Rival coaches planned long and hard to limit his influence, and frustrated opponents sometimes resorted to mindless aggression against him. One such incident occurred at Princes Park in Rround 15, 1961, while Carlton was busy thrashing South Melbourne. Earlier that year, rugged Swans ruckman Ken Boyd had been suspended for eight matches when he was found guilty of striking both Nicholls and Blues rover John Heathcote during a spiteful round four game at the Lake Oval.
After serving his sentence, Boyd was immediately included in the Swans’ team for the return match against the Blues – a decision that made fireworks inevitable. Sure enough, it wasn’t long after the first bounce before the pair clashed again, and Boyd was sent reeling out of the pack. When he got up, he ran to Nicholls from behind, and king-hit him – leaving the Blues colossus dazed and bleeding. Apparently, no umpire saw what happened, and therefore no reports were made. But some spectators did see the incident, including a reporter from the Sporting Globe newspaper. The scribe sought out Boyd for a candid interview after the match, and the aggressive Swan surprised when he said; ‘We went for a throw-in. He (Nicholls) went up and drove his boots right into the middle of my stomach. I was in excruciating agony. When I got up I went straight back and hit him as hard as I could. That was behind the play.’
Nicholls vehemently denied Boyd’s accusations, saying that he never used his legs or knees in general ruck play or at centre bounces for anything else but protection. Amidst claim and counter-claim, the VFL stepped in, and, armed with Boyd’s very public confession, suspended him again - his time for 12 games. Boyd’s tempestuous career ended right there. Over all, he had played 60 league matches, and missed another 30 through suspension.
Michael Young joined the Blues from Clarence, Tasmania. Former Melbourne captain Greg Wells swapped clubs and played first up against his former team in this round in 1980, and two years later, another Premiership star in Paul Meldrum also made his debut against the Demons at this stage of the season. They were followed in turn by Simon Minton-Connell (1989), Matthew Allan (1994) and Aaron Hamill (1996).
round 15, 1992, because no fewer than five Blues achieved important career milestones in that game. Club captain Stephen Kernahan, and vice-captain Craig Bradley both registered their 150th games for the Blues; champion centreman Greg Williams brought up AFL match number 150, and crowd favourite Mil Hanna made it to game number 100. As well, former Melbourne goal-sneak Brent Heaver wore guernsey number 55 in his first senior outing for his new club – but Richmond spoiled the celebrations by holding out the Blues by 3 points in a grandstand finish.
Among a galaxy of other Carlton stars who have celebrated milestones in round 15, Hall of Famer Rod Ashman played his 200th game in a good win over Collingwood in 1984. Ken Baxter (1950) and Val Perovic (1983) both brought up their 150th appearance, while Wayne Harmes (1983), Peter Dean (1990) Anthony Koutoufides (1997) and Heath Scotland (2008) all posted their 100th senior game in this round.
Down through the years, round 16 of the season has provided the stage for some of the most memorable games in Carlton Football Club history. Yet again, our champion forwards have terrorised opposition defences, allowing the Navy Blues to celebrate victories by ten goals (or more) on twelve occasions. By contrast, we have lost by 60 points only six times in the last 110 years, and there have been another half-dozen draws. Before we explore those details however, let’s start our look back at the history of round 16 by recalling a drought-breaking episode from the club’s very early days.
Norman ‘Hackenschmidt’ Clark ranks alongside Jack Worrall as the most influential figure in the early years of the Carlton Football Club. A star defender in our first three Premiership teams in 1906-07-08, Clark played a remarkable 93 games before he kicked his first career goal in the Bluebaggers’ 8-point loss to Essendon in this round in 1910. By the time he retired from the field two years later, ‘Hacky’ had improved his aggregate to three majors in 126 games. In 1914, he took over as coach of the Blues with immediate success; guiding his team to consecutive flags in 1914-15.
the first-ever round 16 draw between the competition’s bitterest rivals on Saturday September 1, 1923, at Princes Park. Fifteen points down at half-time, the Blueboys staged a third quarter revival, and at the last break, were five points in front. But in a torrid finish, Collingwood kicked 3.2 to Carlton’s 2.3, and scores were all tied up at the final bell.
Other drawn matches in this round came in 1950 against St Kilda, and 1951 against Fitzroy, before the Blues and the Pies finished all square yet again in 1964. On that sunny afternoon at Princes Park, tenth-placed Carlton seemed on the verge of a boilover when we led the top four-ranked Magpies by 27 points at three-quarter time - only to falter in the last ten minutes, and a scrambled goal to the visitors right on the bell levelled the scores. Another 25 seasons passed before the Blues next shared the points, when we hung on for a draw against a fast-finishing Footscray at the Western Oval in 1989.
The sixth, and most recent draw for the Navy Blues in round 16 came against that other much-despised opponent; Essendon, at the MCG in 2006. A big crowd of almost 50,000 turned up to see two struggling teams finish with scores level after a typically-willing scrap. Essendon’s key forward Scott Lucas’s strength on the lead was threatening to take the game away from the Blues in the first half, until our promising defender Bret Thornton was switched onto him, and quelled the Bomber star. Even so, Essendon held sway until the final few minutes, when Carlton’s livewire small forward Eddie Betts evened the score with two terrific pressure goals from set shots. As always however, the draw pleased neither side.
Paul Schmidt played a key role in Carlton’s great victory over Collingwood in the 1938 Grand Final, and went on to be the Blues’ leading goal-kicker in three consecutive seasons from 1941 to 1943. On Saturday, August 16, 1941 at Princes Park, Schmidt played one of the all-time great individual matches by a Carlton player, when he tore the St Kilda defence apart, booting 11 goals as the Blues destroyed the Saints by 57 points. That stellar effort stood as a round record at Carlton for 41 years, until the day when a laconic wheat farmer from WA named Ross Ditchburn did even better, and kicked a superb 12.2 from fourteen shots in another huge win by the Blues over St Kilda at VFL Park in 1982.
Full-back of the Century Stephen Silvagni proved time and again throughout his great career that he could be equally as effective in attack, as was demonstrated when he booted 10 goals at full-forward against Fitzroy at Waverley in round 16, 1993. With that triumph, ‘Son of Serge’ climbed above another Bluebagger champion in Alex Jesaulenko on Carlton’s list of round 16 goal-scoring maestros. ‘Jezza’ too, had destroyed St Kilda - and finished with 9 goals to his credit - at Princes Park in 1970.
In another famous home game in round 16, 1992, Carlton captain Stephen Kernahan joined Jezza on the club’s honour board by booting nine goals as Carlton demolished the Brisbane Bears. Kernahan’s successor at centre half-forward, Lance Whitnall, then matched ‘Sticks’ feat and racked up a 9-goal haul as the rebadged Brisbane Lions copped another caning from the Blues at the Gabba in 2000. Other star forwards who have kept the statisticians busy in this round include Lance Collins, who kicked seven when St Kilda were hammered by 57 points in 1945, and stocky rover Brian Walsh, who brought up six goals in the first half, and finished with seven, as the Bluebaggers knocked over Collingwood by 36 points at Waverley in 1974.
Peter 'Percy' Jones, made his senior debut for the Blues against Melbourne in this round in 1966. Part actor, part comedian and an all-round quality footballer, Percy was destined to wear his number 28 guernsey in 249 games for Carlton, during which he kicked 294 goals and was an integral member of four Premiership teams. Three years later, in 1969, another double-Premiership Blue in Barry Armstrong played the first of his 204 games against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval. Other fondly regarded Blues who left their mark after starting their senior debut in round 16 include Fred Gilby (1926), Bill Milroy (1951), Brian Buckley (1956) Berkley Cox (1958) and Simon Fletcher (1999).
round 16, 1970. Determined to honour captain John Nicholls – who broke the club record of 236 games previously held by Rod McGregor in this game – the Blueboys faced an equally-committed St Kilda side. The first half was fierce and even, and only the influence of Ian Robertson – clearly on top in the centre - and the brilliance of full-forward Alex Jesaulenko saw Carlton to a 12-point break at half-time. After that however, the Blues clicked into top gear, and slammed on six goals in the third term to take control. Up front for Carlton, Jesaulenko was at his devastating best, and one of the game’s great full-backs in Bob Murray couldn’t hold him. Jezza finished the match with 9 goals, while Carlton took a giant step toward the finals with an emphatic 39-point victory. Jezza’s game was exceptional, but clearly best on ground for the Blues was ‘Robbo’ Robertson, who controlled the middle of the ground throughout, and whose long, accurate drop-kicks to position in the second half turned the game.
Alex Jesaulenko at Princes Park on July 22, 1972. Essendon held a four-point lead at quarter-time that day, before a human cyclone in navy blue number 25 tore the game from the Bombers’ grasp, kicking six great goals in eleven minutes of individual magic. Carlton piled on 12 goals straight for the term, and withstood a late comeback by the Bombers to run out 16-point winners. Jezza finished the match with seven goals, and the Blues consolidated top spot on the ladder en route to the 1972 flag.
July 4, 1992, when we destroyed the hapless Brisbane Bears at Princes Park. In his brother David’s 50th game for Carlton, club captain Stephen Kernahan was the dominant player of the match, kicking 9.6 from a wealth of opportunities. Precisely a year later, the Blueboys went closest to topping that mark when we destroyed Fitzroy by 96 points at Waverley, with ‘SOS’ Silvagni reaping his famous ten-goal haul. Our next best result in this round was a 79-point victory over Melbourne in 1979 – a win which would have been much greater, had Carlton not squandered some frustratingly easy opportunities close to goal.
Greg ‘Diesel’ Williams played the last of his 109 quality games for Carlton against Essendon in round 16, 1997. Determined to honour one of the club’s most respected sons in his 250th AFL game, the Blues gleefully handed the Bombers a 78-point hiding, with Stephen Silvagni a star at full-forward with 6 goals. Brett Ratten, Anthony Koutoufides and Craig Bradley dominated the midfield, and set up a percentage-boosting, 9-goal last quarter.
Other Bluebaggers who have called it a day after round 16 include 1948 Premiership ruckman Jack ‘Chooka’ Howell (1954), 1950 Best and Fairest Arthur Hodgson (1952) goal-kicking rover John Heathcote (1962) along with resolute defenders John Benetti (1965) and Graeme Anderson (1968). We also lost the ruck skills of Matthew Allan, and widely-appreciated courage of utility Adrian Hickmott in 2003.
round 16, 2009, one of the longest losing sequences in the modern era of the Carlton Football Club was finally broken. Prior to that game, the Blues hadn’t beaten Sydney - at home or away - since round 8, 2000 - but on a memorable Saturday afternoon at Docklands Stadium, Brett Ratten’s team gave every Carlton supporter a huge lift when they dominated the last quarter, and thrashed the 2005 Premiers by 61 points. That morale-boosting victory strengthened the Blues position in the top eight, giving our already-healthy percentage another kick along, and finally convincing those few remaining doubters that the Blues were indeed worthy finals contenders.
Heading into the seventeenth week of the season, what stands out most clearly is the number of great players whose careers at Carlton have ended at this point. While the majority have succumbed to the combined effects of age and injury, some others have sought wider opportunities at lesser clubs. In one case however, a draconian suspension was responsible, and in another, one of our club legends was retired by the committee against his will. Further highlights from round 17 include yet more spectacular Carlton victories, another double-figure haul by a Blues full-forward, and a host of milestone matches for some of our club’s very best.
Robert Heatley, and the game’s first professional coach in Jack Worrall, the Blues began a well-organised campaign that culminated in our fabled 1906-07-08 hat-trick of Premierships.
Since then, while Carlton has been busy collecting another 13 flags, no other team has beaten the Blues in round 17 by anywhere near the margin that Essendon managed more than a century ago. The closest attempt came in 1963, when a slick, flag-bound Geelong side won by 61 points at Kardinia Park.
Mick Grace and George Topping - who kicked 4 goals each - Carlton totalled 16.11 (107) to the Saints’ 7.7 (49), and celebrated the first time that the Blues had ever scored 100 points or more in a VFL game.
George Bruce and dual flag-winning big man Jim Marchbank were the first two high profile Blues to retire after round 17, following Carlton’s loss to Geelong in 1913. Handy defender Andy O'Donnell, and fiery rover Jack Baquie also finished up that day; O’Donnell headed for retirement, and Baquie on the way back to his former club, Melbourne.
Eleven years later, there was another exodus when Carlton bid farewell to Rupe Hiskins, Billy Blackman and Stewart McLatchie; all of whom had all served their country in the First World War. Hiskins had been one of our iconic Light Horsemen, Blackman was wounded in action three times and survived, while McLatchie was awarded a Military Medal for his steady bravery under fire. All three hung up their boots after our narrow, home-ground victory over Geelong in 1924.
By 1927, Carlton seemed headed for a finals berth again when we played host to Richmond at Princes Park in round 17. The Blues eventually won a low-scoring slog by 7 points, while no less than five players were knocked unconscious during that tough, physical clash. Two men from each side ended up on report, including Blues defender Frank ‘Sailor’ Irwin, who was charged with striking Richmond’s glamour centre half-forward, George Rudolph. At the subsequent tribunal hearing, most of the charges were thrown out – except the main one involving Sailor. He was hit with a crushing 18-match suspension – a full season – and never played VFL football again.
Les Allen created a sensation at Princes Park in just his second senior game, when he kicked eight goals from a forward pocket in a big victory by the Blues over South Melbourne in 1930. Yet within another twelve months or so, Allen had fallen out with Carlton’s match committee, and made it obvious that he wanted to leave. So after being held goalless in Carlton’s shock loss to Footscray at Princes Park in round 17, 1931, Les was cleared to North Melbourne. In his short, productive career with the Blues, he had booted 87 goals in only 29 games.
Next was Charlie McInnes; one of the most popular clubmen ever to grace Princes Park. Honest, courageous and versatile, Charlie was 19th man in Carlton’s 1938 and 1945 Premiership teams, and played the last of his 118 games in round 17, 1946 when the Blues beat St Kilda by 15 points at Princes Park.
Another player admired for his character as much as his football skills; Maurie Sankey, played his last match for Carlton in round 17, 1965. Having just celebrated his 100th game, the big ex-Tasmanian’s promising career was cut short when he was tragically killed in a traffic accident in August of that year.
Noel ‘Nobby’ O’Brien was a brilliant young full-forward from Echuca whose career was wrecked by a serious ankle injury in a 1956 pre-season practice match. In round 17, 1954 – his debut season – Nobby kicked a superb 10 goals from 12 set shots in Carlton’s crushing 52-point win over Fitzroy at Princes Park. More than fifty years afterwards, that haul still stands as a club record in round 17, and O’Brien’s average of 3.69 goals per game remains the best in the Blues history.
round 17, 1971. Sitting in sixth spot on the ladder (but only percentage short of third place) Carlton showed no mercy to the cellar-dwelling Swans and slaughtered them by 87 points. The Navy Blue onslaught was led by ex-Richmond star Billy ‘Bugs’ Barrot, who free-wheeled his way from the centre and kicked six goals in a Best on Ground display. Almost as good was rover Adrian Gallagher, who joined in the party to boot seven, while at full-forward, Alex Jesaulenko was at his spectacular best and matched Gallagher’s effort. Twenty of Carlton’s goals came from these three stars, in a score line of 24.16 (160) to the Southerners’ 11.7 (73).
John Nicholls was contemplating retirement from the field at year’s end – especially since the Blues were seemingly destined to miss the finals. Before he was able to make his intentions clear however, the decision was taken out of his hands. On the Tuesday night following the Blues’ round 17 loss to South Melbourne at the Lake Oval on Saturday, July 27, club President George Harris called Nicholls aside to advise him that while he could continue as coach of the Blues, Big Nick’s playing days were over – effective immediately. It was a risky decision by Harris – Nicholls was every bit as single-minded and determined as his President, and many Carlton insiders were certain that he wouldn’t stay under the circumstances. But to the credit of both men, Nicholls accepted the situation – although the rift it caused between he and Harris never truly healed. So, after seeing his magnificent 17-year playing career ended on 328 games, Big Nick stayed on, and steered Carlton into the finals yet again in 1975 - losing both games by narrow margins. He then resigned his post only days before the first match of 1976.
Sunday, July 25, 1999 to see the tenth-placed Blues take on a struggling Collingwood. Intent on honouring defender Simon Beaumont in his 50th game, and popular utility ‘Rockin’ Ronny’ De Iulio in his 100th, the Blues were aiming for a big win to lift us back into the top eight. Carlton coach David Parkin surprised the Pies before the first bounce by sending Beaumont to play at full-forward (alongside first-gamer Brendan Fevola ) and the quick-leading Blue capitalised on a dominant midfield, helping himself to an astonishing eight goals by half-time. Carlton smashed Collingwood by nine majors to two in the second term, and although their defence was more accountable after half-time - especially when Beaumont copped a corked thigh and didn’t add to his tally - the margin had blown out to 57 points by the final siren. That afternoon, thousands of Bluebaggers went home ecstatic again.
Anthony Koutoufides retired after Carlton’s narrow loss to St Kilda at Docklands Stadium in round 17, 2007. Once described by a rival coach as the perfect footballer, ‘Kouta’ wound up his 278-game career as one of the most respected players in the history of the game. Under caretaker coach Brett Ratten (who had replaced Denis Pagan after the Blues’ horrendous defeat by Brisbane in round 16) Carlton seemed headed for another heavy loss when they trailed the Saints by six goals at three-quarter time. After that however, the Blues rallied, and surged back into the contest with a six-goal last quarter to fall short by 10 points on the siren. In his 250th AFL game, Matthew Lappin was as tireless and dangerous as always, while Brendan Fevola posed a constant threat to the Saints’ defence and kicked five goals.
round 17, 2008 was billed as a season-defining match for the Navy Blues. Sitting eleventh on the ladder and six points out of the top eight, our finals chances seemed all but gone if we couldn’t upset the free-running, second-placed Bulldogs – who had lost only twice all season, and started the game as red-hot favourites.
But inspired by captain Chris Judd in his 150th career game, and six majors from a dominant Brendan Fevola at full-forward, the Blues brushed the Bulldogs aside after half-time to record a magnificent win by 28 points. In his 100th senior match, Simon Wiggins kicked four goals, and rightfully earned the first Brownlow Medal votes of his career, while Mark Austin and Adam Hartlett experienced the joy of playing in a winning team for the first time. It had taken a while, but now, every other side in the competition knew we were coming.....
There wasn’t a round 18 game played in the VFL until 1908, when Richmond and University joined an expanded 10-team competition, and the Navy Blues of Carlton completed our ground-breaking hat-trick of Premierships. Since then, while the deprivation of two world wars, club mergers and a vigorous expansion program has influenced it's fixtures, Australia’s major national football code has fluctuated between 12 and 22 games - plus finals - per season. Prior to 1970, the home and away rounds concluded with the eighteenth game of the year, which explains why so many of Carlton's champions have called time on their careers at this point. Even so, round 18 has just about always delivered headlines, including the following memorable moments from the long history of the Old Dark Navy Blues.
Saturday, September 10, 1927 – round 18 of the season - fourth-placed Carlton met seventh-placed St Kilda at Princes Park. The Blues blooded two recruits that afternoon; flanker Allan Skehan, and 21 year-old ruckman-forward Charlie Davey, whose first approach to join his favourite VFL club had been rejected some eighteen months earlier. One can only imagine the reaction of those responsible for turning Charlie away when the tall, well-balanced tyro took the St Kilda defence apart, kicking six goals from centre half-forward in one of the all-time great debut performances. Davey went on to carve out a fine career with his beloved Blues, playing 143 games and captaining the club, before a chronic knee problem brought his playing days to an end in 1935. He then served as a member of the club committee for another 26 years, and was inducted into the Carlton Hall of Fame in 1994.
1932, his debut season in the VFL, classy West Australian rover Ron ‘Socks’ Cooper played in Carlton’s Grand Final team that fell to Richmond by 9 points. Six seasons later, he was eagerly anticipating another crack at a Premiership when the ladder-leading Blues took on the also-rans St Kilda in the last round of the season at Princes Park. St Kilda trailed by only 3 points at half-time, but when the Blues began a third quarter surge, frustration got the better of some of the Saints and fisticuffs erupted. During one of these incidents, Cooper was reported by the field umpire for striking St Kilda’s Doug Rayment, and to the horror of the club and supporters in general, was suspended for four matches by the VFL tribunal. A fortnight later at the MCG, Ron watched on from the sidelines as his team triumphed over Collingwood by 15 points on Grand Final day.
Ken Baxter, set a club record that still stands when he booted nine goals in Carlton’s 56-point demolition of Essendon at Princes Park in round 18, 1939. Thanks to Baxter’s brilliance, Carlton ended the year with the league’s second-best percentage – but still missed out on a place in the finals by four points. For more than fifty seasons after that, no Carlton forward went close to matching Baxter’s feat, until Tasmanian import Simon Minton-Connell struck career-best form and steered through eight big majors in the Blues’ good win over Footscray at the Western Oval in 1990.
In turn, Minton-Connell’s effort was almost equalled by 1995 Premiership wingman Scott Camporeale, who finished with seven goals after Carlton thumped Fremantle by 61 points at Princes Park in round 18, 1996. On that fine August Saturday afternoon, ‘Campo’ was played out of a forward pocket by his coach David Parkin and, aided by the midfield dominance of Craig Bradley and Barry Mitchell, tore holes at will in the Docker defence, in one of the highlights of his 233-game career.
round 18, 1944, with a place in the finals on offer to the victor. The Blues appeared home when they led by 17 points midway through the last term, but the Bulldogs rallied valiantly, drawing level with less than a minute left on the clock. It was then that Footscray centreman Harry Hickey took a strong pack mark, 50 metres out from goal, and as he walked back to take his kick, the final bell sounded across the ground. Hickey unleashed a big drop-kick, and the Carlton crowd roared as Bob Chitty appeared to mark the ball right on the goal line. But the goal umpire - after consulting the field umpire - signalled a point, and sent the Blues crashing out of the finals. Carlton players were adamant that Chitty had marked the kick inside the field of play, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
Adding injury to insult, four of Carlton’s best contributors were lost to the Blues after that loss. Jack Wrout broke his leg in what proved to be his final game, and stalwart 1938 Premiership defender Frank Anderson finished up to join Preston in the VFA as captain-coach. Incumbent Blues captain Bob Atkinson also returned to the VFA with Coburg, while brilliant forward Paul Schmidt announced his retirement after a notable 78-game career that produced 228 goals.
round 18, 1951, the clash produced one of the most sensational incidents in VFL/AFL history, and became a touchstone for the mutual loathing between the Blues and the Bombers that exists to this day. Premiers of 1949 and 1950, Essendon had high hopes of flying a third successive flag over Windy Hill in 1951, but one man was irreplaceable in their line-up; their full-forward extraordinaire John Coleman. Virtually any footy fan you can find who saw him play will tell you that Coleman was the best full-forward of all time – and his amazing career record of 537 goals in only 98 games backs that up.
However, the Bomber champion came into that last round of the season in 1951 with a nasty boil on the back of his neck. Blues' full-back Harry Caspar, either deliberately or inadvertently - depending on your allegiance - made heavy contact with the sensitive area during a marking contest in the second quarter, and Coleman reacted as one might expect. He turned and threw a flurry of punches at Caspar, and in the aftermath, both players were reported, Coleman for "retaliating".
On the following Tuesday night, amazing scenes ensued outside VFL headquarters as hundreds of Bomber fans waited anxiously for the tribunal to consider the charges. Essendon pleaded extreme provocation on Coleman’s behalf, but widespread anger and disbelief were the order of the day as word of Coleman's four-match suspension was announced. In a memorable newspaper photograph of the time, the Bomber star was shown in tears, surrounded by a horde of angry supporters.
Essendon subsequently lost the Grand Final to Geelong by 11 points, and no-one would argue that John Coleman wouldn't have made the difference. The annals of the game will forever link Coleman with Harry Caspar, and his part in denying Essendon a Premiership they seemed to have had at their mercy.
round 18, 1981 was one of the many highlights in a Premiership year for the Blues. Sitting four points apart in second and third spots on the ladder behind Collingwood, both sides treated the game as a final, with Geelong starting as strong favourites against a seriously-depleted Carlton side. Southby, Harmes, Jones, Perovic, Austin, Marcou, Klomp and Armstrong were all missing when Carlton took to the field – but champion defender Bruce Doull was playing his 250th game for the Navy Blues, and coach David Parkin inspired his men with a passionate speech, imploring them to honour ‘The Flying Doormat’ with a victory over one of their main rivals for the flag.
The match provided an enduring highlight for every football fan with Peter Bosustow's breathtaking Mark of the Year in the forward pocket at the Heatley Stand end. Launching himself into the stratosphere above Geelong ruckman John Mossop (and another noted aerialist in Carlton's David McKay) 'the Buzz' took one of the all-time great grabs (on his chest!) and landed, cat-like, on two feet. It took him an eternity to line up for the easy goal, such was the excitement among the crowd, and from then on the Blues played inspired football to run out 33-point winners.
Stephen Kernahan returned to his home state in August 1997. Leading his Blues out onto the field for the 224th time in that Sunday afternoon clash against the second-placed Crows at Football Park, ‘Sticks’ set a new record as the longest-serving captain in VFL/AFL history.
However, after an even first quarter, the match turned into an anti-climax for Carlton supporters when both Kernahan and central defender Michael Sexton left the field injured. This gave the Crows a huge advantage, and they gradually took control to run out winners by 41 points. On the same day, popular clubman and crowd favourite Luke O'Sullivan played his last game for Carlton. ‘Rhino’ was reported for striking, copped four weeks holiday at the tribunal, and retired at season's end.
John Elliott and the AFL. Although we could have seated far more fans at the MCG, Elliott insisted that the game be played at our fortress, and the result was one of the most memorable days in the long history of the CFC.
A 28-goal jamboree by a red-hot Carlton team, including 11 majors in the third term and eight more in the last, brought up the Blues’ 13th successive win to consolidate our second spot on the ladder behind Essendon. A dominant Blues’ ruck and midfield gave 'Big Red,' Lance Whitnall, and former Magpie Trent Hotton a myriad of opportunites up forward. Both kicked five goals, in Carlton’s highest-ever score and greatest winning margin over the team we ardently despise above all others.
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