|Rounds:||1 to 5||6 to 10||11 to 14||15 to 18||19 to 22|
Between 1897 and 1944, the Victorian Football League’s home and away season ran for 18 rounds. In 1945 the League experimented with an expanded 20-round format, and from then until 1969, seasons varied between 18, 19 and 20 games each year, plus finals. It wasn’t until 1970 that that the 22-game season was adopted.
Carlton’s first-ever round 19 match resulted in a spectacular victory over Geelong, and the thrills, spills and clashes of wills have continued ever since. So let’s begin our look back at the highlights of round 19 with that memorable game on Saturday, August 25, 1945, when Carlton captain Bob Chitty led his Blueboys out onto the wide expanses of Princes Park to do battle with the Cats.
1945 – SKINNING THE CATSHad the 1945 VFL season not been extended from 18 to 20 rounds, the brutal truth is that Carlton would not have won that season’s flag. After 18 weeks we were sitting fifth on the ladder, four points and percentage shy of the finals – but charging into contention after four wins on the trot. Even so, another victory over last-placed Geelong in round 19 was imperative to keep our finals hopes alive.
From the opening bounce that afternoon, Carlton made their intentions clear with five goals in the first term, and another seven in the second. Geelong’s forwards were impotent, and the Cats trailed by 63 points at the main break. Thanks to a constant supply of quality ball from Clinton Wines in the centre, Carlton’s star full-forward Ken Baxter, and nippy rover Herb ‘Stumpy’ Turner ended up with six goals apiece, and at the final bell the margin in favour of the Blues was a whopping 94 points. It was an emphatic victory, setting a record margin that wasn’t topped for 21 years.
After the game there was further joy when news came through that Footscray and North Melbourne (third and fourth respectively) had both suffered shock defeats. Suddenly, Carlton was well and truly back in the finals race.
1946 – TWO BIG FAREWELLSHaving played key roles in the saga of Carlton’s 1945 Grand Final victory, both Bob Chitty and Clinton Wines retired from VFL football after round 19, 1946. Fittingly, their last game together was a fighting win by sixth-placed Carlton over second-placed Collingwood in one of the games of the year at Princes Park. In front of a customary packed house, the Magpies broke away to lead by 32 points at the first break, but from then on the home side steadily pegged them back. At half-time, Carlton coach Percy Bentley swapped his key forwards Ken Hands and Jim Baird, and Hands became the match winner. Ranging across half-forward or leading deep to either forward pocket, ‘Solvol’ provided a reliable marking target and kicked seven big majors – including the sealer, as the Blues piled on six goals straight in the last term to win by five points.
The short but exclusive list of other prominent Blues to have retired after round 19 includes reliable defender Ritchie Green (1952), legend of the game Ron Barassi (1968), controversial forward James Cook (1995), hugely popular Premiership player Earl Spalding (1997) champion midfielder and club captain Craig Bradley (2002) and much-travelled utility Justin Murphy (2003).
1970 – COLLINGWOOD’S PREMATURE EXCLAMATION...After 18 of the 22 rounds of season 1970, Collingwood and Carlton occupied the top two rungs on the VFL ladder – one win and eight percentage points apart. So when these two heavyweights met again at Victoria Park in round 19, the match was billed as a Grand Final preview. It turned out to be anything but.
In a Colosseum-like atmosphere in front of 40,000 spectators, Collingwood was hot, and Carlton was inept. The Blues kicked a miserable two goals for the entire game and were outclassed by a slick home-side combination. At full-forward for the Pies, Peter McKenna’s pace on the lead was too much for Carlton’s Wes Lofts, and the Collingwood star’s radar-like accuracy when taking set shots produced eight majors. Predictably, the Magpie hordes were in raptures at the final siren. The finals were barely a fortnight away, and they had just thrashed their main rival for the flag by a huge 77 points. Oh yes, they told us, the Premiership’s a cake walk......
1976 – SMASHING THE SAINTS...ONCE, TWICE, THRICEFor a decade after the mid-seventies, the Navy Blues dominated games against St Kilda at Princes Park in round 19, scoring three huge wins, each by more than 100 points. The first came in 1976, when second-placed Carlton and fifth-placed St Kilda faced off. The Saints started brilliantly, and were travelling like winners half-way through the second quarter, before Carlton’s defence slammed the shutters down and our forwards took total control. The Blues piled on 14.12 after half time, while restricting St Kilda to a paltry 0.3 for the half. Carlton won by 101 points, with Robert Walls (5 goals) and Alex Jesaulenko (four) heading the score sheet.
Barely three years later - by round 19, 1979 - the situation had changed significantly. Flag-bound Carlton was two wins clear of North Melbourne at the top of the ladder, while St Kilda languished in last place, and the game was played out as expected. Again Carlton’s defence was watertight, and the hapless Saints were restricted to a miserable 0.7 by three-quarter time. The shell-shocked visitors eventually found some grit in the last quarter, when they lifted to post six majors and finish with 6.9 (45), while Carlton wound up with 22.17 (149) and cruised to an effortless win by 104 points. Key forward Mark Maclure (5 goals) and rover Jim Buckley (four) starred for the Blues.
Still smarting from that defeat, St Kilda were hammered for a third time in eight years when the two teams met once more in round 19, 1983. Adding to a joyous celebration of champion defender Bruce Doull’s 300th game, Carlton unleashed a trademark third-quarter blitz of nine goals to snuff out the Saints’ hopes, and the final margin this time was a new record 107 points. In a very even team performance, ruck-rover Spiro Kourkoumelis stood out. Gathering possessions at will, he kicked three goals, while nine other Blues scored two or more, in a 25.18 (168) to 8.13 (61) one-sided contest.
1981 – SO LONG, SOUTH MELBOURNE...For the many Carlton supporters sympathetic to the plight of cash-strapped South Melbourne, the round 19 match between Carlton and the Swans on Sunday, August 9, 1981 at the MCG was a poignant occasion. After 84 years of passionate competition – including the infamous 1945 ‘Bloodbath’ Grand Final – this was to be the last time these two great rivals met for Premiership points. From 1982, South were destined to become the Sydney Swans, and play their home matches in the harbour city.
The game was also notable for two other reasons; one, because it marked the debut as a Blue of boom youngster Frank Marchesani, following his clearance wrangle with Fitzroy, and two, because on the Friday beforehand, the VFL was thrown into chaos when all senior field umpires went out on strike over a range of grievances. Faced with an unprecedented crisis, the League cobbled together a panel of replacements from the Under 19 competition, and all games went ahead as scheduled. Remarkably, many spectators commented afterward that they didn’t notice any difference!
Furthermore, the weather on that Sunday afternoon was atrocious. Driving rain, strong winds and a temperature hovering near single figures turned the game into a slog. Carlton led by 44 points at half time, but South wouldn’t be shaken off, and reduced the deficit to 23 points at the final siren.
1986 – ANOTHER GREAT DAY FOR "THE DOORMAT."Only football fans can understand the reverence that generations of the Carlton faithful held – and hold still - for our champion of the back half; Bruce Doull. While it’s true that we embraced his irreverent and rather silly nickname of the ‘Flying Doormat,’ we will not for a moment concede that any better defender has ever played the game. Which helps to explain why more than 75,000 people turned up to the MCG for round 19, 1986, when Carlton once again faced Collingwood, and Bruce become the first Blue to appear in 350 senior games.
Apart from the long-standing enmity between the clubs, this was a vital encounter - particularly for Collingwood. With four matches left in the season, Carlton was solid in third place, but the Maggies’ fifth position was under serious threat from Footscray and Fitzroy. The Pies were nervous, and it soon showed. In trying to knock the Blues off their game, some of the Collingwood players took their eyes off the ball, allowing their steadier opponents to skip away to a good lead of 22 points at the main break.
After that it was all Carlton, despite numerous incidents like Magpie Dennis Banks’ blatant round-arm strike from behind to David Rhys-Jones’ jaw – a blow that concussed ‘Hyphen,’ and left his team a man short for the last quarter and a half. Even so, the Blues still kicked seven goals to five in the last term, with defenders Peter Motley, the evergreen Doull, and Stephen Silvagni all impassable. Carlton came out on top by 49 points, while Collingwood dropped out of the top five that afternoon and stayed there – eventually losing out on a place in the finals by 11 percentage points.
2009 – SKINNING THE CATS ...AGAINIn August 2009, the round 19 exploits of the Old Dark Navy Blues came full circle with another famous victory over Geelong in a blockbuster Friday night encounter at the MCG. After successive Grand Final appearances in 2007 and 2008, the Cats were gunning for their second flag in three seasons and sitting a solid second on the ladder behind St Kilda. Carlton, meanwhile, had shown promise all year. We were clinging to seventh ladder position, but we hadn’t gotten close to the Cats in our previous five meetings, so not surprisingly, few pundits gave us any real chance of knocking off the competition’s pace-setters.
Therefore, there were plenty of raised eyebrows in the press box after the tenacious young Blues more than matched their accomplished rivals, and triumphed by 35 points. Brendan Fevola’s classical set-shot goal from the boundary line right on the final siren never looked like missing, and capped off Carlton’s best win for years. Apart from the scale of the victory, it was the emerging talent of Bryce Gibbs, Marc Murphy and Paul Bower – led by the sheer class of captain Chris Judd - that set every Bluebagger’s heart a-thumping.
As mentioned previously, the Carlton Football Club didn’t play a round 20 match until 1945, when the VFL experimented by increasing the home and away season from 18 to 20 games. Our fans have been grateful for that decision ever since, because it wasn’t until after the very last game of that year that the Blues made the top four, and from there went on to win our seventh flag in the most controversial Grand Final ever played. This round has also seen another 10-goal haul by a champion Carlton forward, more truly memorable matches, and a series of farewells to some familiar names. We begin our look back at the history of round 20 on the first Saturday of September, 1945, when a Carlton side hell-bent on playing finals football – yet needing a minor miracle to get there – took on Footscray at the Western Oval.
1945 – A WESTERN OVAL MIRACLEAfter 19 rounds of VFL football in 1945, the top four sides were South Melbourne, Collingwood, Footscray and North Melbourne. Carlton was fifth, equal on points with Footscray and North, but trailing the Shinboners by a hefty 8 percentage points. After a horror start to the season, the Blues had evolved into the form side of the competition - racking up five straight wins in an impressive finish to the year. Still, to make the finals we faced the enormous task of beating Footscray - on their home ground - by eight goals or more, while trusting that eighth-placed Essendon could get up against North Melbourne.
Switched on in the sheds by the calm wisdom of their coach Percy Bentley and the fiery intensity of their captain Bob Chitty, the Navy Blues took the Bulldogs by the scruff of the neck in the first quarter, kicking seven goals to two and establishing a break that the home side couldn’t overcome. Carlton was five goals up at half-time, and from there the margin steadily increased to 53 points on the final siren.
Minutes afterward, amid the celebrations, news came through that Essendon hadn’t managed to knock over North Melbourne – but they had hung on to lose by only six points. Therefore, Carlton had displaced Footscray in the final four, by 2.04%!
1968 – BIG NICK TAKES OVERThe VFL reverted to a 19-round season in 1946, and it wasn’t until 1968 – another Carlton Premiership year – that we next rounded off a season at round 20. Our opponent on this occasion was last-placed North Melbourne, who put up spirited resistance and got to within 21 points of the Blues on the final siren. Best on Ground was first-time Carlton captain John Nicholls, who had assumed the on-field leadership of his team after Ron Barassi had hung up his boots the previous week to concentrate on coaching. At full-forward for the Blues, Brian Kekovich booted five goals, helping to lift his team into second spot and the vital double chance. A fortnight later, Carlton edged out Essendon by three points in a dour, wind-blown Grand Final to claim our first VFL flag for 21 long years.
1970 – 13 GOALS STRAIGHT AGAINST HAWTHORNThe next major change to the VFL fixtures came in 1970, when the home and away season was extended to 22 rounds, thereby ensuring that all 12 teams met each other twice before the finals. Coming off a humiliating hiding by ladder-leaders Collingwood in round 19, Carlton was in real danger of surrendering second place to St Kilda if we couldn’t quickly rebound with a win over Hawthorn in round 20. The Hawks had beaten Carlton at Princes Park earlier in the year, and many pundits were sure they could do it again, especially because this return match was to be played at Glenferrie Oval.
But after Carlton made six changes to the team, including the return from injury of flamboyant ruckman ‘Percy’ Jones to partner Nicholls in the ruck, the Blues jumped back into gear with a vengeance, kicking 13 goals straight before registering their first behind - to Alex Jesaulenko - at the 22 minute mark of the third quarter. By that stage, Carlton was well on top, and we cruised to an easy win by five goals. The Blueboys were back in town, with the finals just around the corner.
1981 – WAIT A MINUTE, FITZYTop place on the ladder was at stake when Carlton hosted Essendon at Princes Park in round 20, 1981, meaning that the game was as fierce and willing as it almost always is when these two traditional rivals meet. There was only a point in it at half time, but after Blues captain Mike Fitzpatrick got right on top of the Bomber rucks in the third quarter, Carlton kicked away to a 28-point lead approaching time-on in the last term.
However, Carlton then began to tire, and Essendon surged. The visitors slammed on 2.3 to reduce their deficit to 13 points, and only Fitzpatrick’s saving mark at centre half-back halted another forward thrust. In an effort to give his team as much time as possible to catch their breath and pick up their men, ‘Fitzy’ tucked the ball under his right arm and walked slowly backwards from the mark, signaling his intentions and trying to milk every precious second off the clock. Meanwhile, field umpire Ian Robinson was calling on him to “move it on.” Fitzpatrick soaked up 35 seconds before shaping to send the ball downfield – but Robinson had lost patience. He blew his whistle, and paid a sensational free kick against Fitzpatrick for time-wasting. That was all Essendon needed. They swarmed all over Carlton in the three minutes remaining, kicked another 2.2, and tipped over the wilting Blues by a solitary point.
1984 – GEOFF SOUTHBY SIGNS OFFFew champions have been as universally respected throughout the game as Carlton’s two-time Premiership full-back Geoff Southby - whose 14-year, 268-game career concluded when Carlton beat North Melbourne by 13 points at Princes Park in round 20, 1984. Geoff cruelly suffered another soft-tissue tear late in that match, and his season ended before the final siren. A few days later, every Blues supporter was saddened to hear that he had hung up his iconic number 20 guernsey for the last time and would retire at season’s end. Given better luck with injury during his celebrated career, Geoff would surely have added at least two more flags to his outstanding record.
Better known later as the manager of a stable of champion AFL players like Gary Ablett Snr., Wayne Carey, Matthew Richardson and Ben Cousins, Ricky Nixon played the last of his four games for Carlton in round 20, 1985, when the Blues thumped Fitzroy by 28 points at Princes Park. The following year, Nixon was cleared to St Kilda. He represented the Saints in 51 matches, before moving on to Hawthorn for another eight games. A decade later, Nixon was named by The Age newspaper as one of the five most influential figures in the game.
Another Blue destined to make his mark elsewhere was Peter Rohde, whose 46-game stay at Princes Park concluded with an emphatic 11-goal destruction of Geelong at Kardinia Park in round 20, 1987. In 1988 Rohde crossed to Melbourne, where he played a further 117 games before retiring to take up a coaching role at South Australian club Norwood. He took the Redlegs to a flag in 1997, and that led to his appointment as senior coach of the Western Bulldogs in 2003-04. Later still, he was football operations manager at Port Adelaide.
Other notable Blues who played for the last time in round 20 include Premiership players Ian Aitken (1992) and Dean Rice (2001), as well as Collingwood-bound Chris Bryan (2006), Matthew Lappin and Luke Blackwell (both 2007) and former Swan Jason Saddington (2008).
1987 – CARNAGE AT KARDINIA PARKThe clash of ladder-leaders Carlton and fifth-placed Geelong at Kardinia Park in round 20, 1987 was considered a danger game for the visitors, but ended in triumph - thanks to the deadly efficiency of our key forwards Kernahan and Sartori. Kicking with the wind in the second term, Carlton piled on 7.3 to Geelong’s 1.2, and repeated the dose in the last quarter with 9.3 to 3.1. At full-forward, Blues captain ‘Sticks’ Kernahan booted eight goals, and lively ex- West Australian centre half-forward Peter Sartori steered through seven, to sweep aside a shell-shocked Geelong by 68 points.
Carlton’s only win in round 20 by a bigger margin than that was achieved 15 years earlier - in 1972 - at Arden St, when the Navy Blues destroyed the ‘Roos by 89 points. On that memorable Saturday afternoon in the shadow of the gasometer, Carlton spearhead Greg Kennedy helped himself to eight majors, while Robert Walls and David McKay chipped in with four each.
1988 – RHINO CHARGES IN!!Thus far, the only round 20 debutante for Carlton to make a lasting impression came along in 1988, when 20 year-old Luke O’Sullivan capped his climb up through the Under 19 and Reserves teams to play his first senior game against North Melbourne at Princes Park. The match was a cracker, won by the Blues in a barn-storming finish from 14 points down at the 28-minute mark of the last quarter.
Over the next decade, ‘Rhino’ O’Sullivan would become a cult figure with Blues fans, despite playing only 62 games in a career dogged by injury. ‘Rhino’ endeared himself to the Princes Park faithful with his loyalty in the face of adversity, his unfailing enthusiasm, and his whole-hearted commitment every time he took to the field for his beloved Blues.
1989 – STICKS SLOTS TENWhen Carlton (ninth) met St Kilda (tenth) at Princes Park in round 20, 1989 all that was at stake was pride. Even so, the Blues and Saints turned on a free wheeling, high-scoring thriller in one of the matches of the season. St Kilda led by 14 points at the last change, with their lively half-forward Nicky Winmar proving near-impossible to stop. But the Blues had a trump card too, in captain Stephen Kernahan at full forward. ‘Sticks’ ignited his team with two big pack marks in the first few minutes of the last term, and the resulting goals levelled the scores. From then on, the lead changed every few minutes right through to the final siren, which brought victory to Carlton by one precious point.
Winmar finished with eight goals in a superb effort for the Saints, while ‘Sticks’ Kernahan was the match-winner yet again. His ten big goals from 19 possessions and a dozen strong marks kept his team in the game throughout, and underscored his enormous value to the Blues. Trivia buffs recognise this clash as Carlton’s last-ever VFL game in Victoria, because from 1990 the sport’s governing body changed its name to the Australian Football League.
1993 – BEEN WAITING LONG?Saturday, August 15, 1993 was a very auspicious day for the St Kilda Football Club. On that fine afternoon at Princes Park, the Saints defeated Carlton by 7 points, and finally ended one of football's longest losing streaks - a drought that had stretched to 29 years!
Prior to this, the last time St Kilda had beaten Carlton on our home ground had been way back in round 17, 1964. Little wonder then, that the visitor’s rooms were jumping afterwards – but in fact, it was a near-run thing. Down by 15 points at three-quarter time, Carlton attacked incessantly in the last 15 minutes, but our wayward kicking for goal produced 2.6 (and a couple out of bounds), while the Saints scrambled another 1.4 - and hung on for a desperately lucky win.
Since 1970, round 21 has been the platform for the second-last game of the home and away season – except for a brief period between 1991 (when Adelaide joined the AFL) and 1994. During that time, the competition was expanded to 24 rounds - but each team was allowed two byes, so the finalists were still decided over 22 games. Although its history is relatively short, round 21 has nevertheless produced plenty of great memories, including a famous, somewhat surreal match against St Kilda in 1971 that was played in a thick blanket of fog. A year after that, we were treated to one of the all-time great goal-kicking displays by a Carlton forward. On a more poignant note, round 21 has also heralded the end of some great careers.
1970 – THE SYD, JEZZA (AND BERNIE) SHOWCarlton’s first-ever round 21 match was played against Footscray at Princes Park on the Saturday afternoon of August 22, 1970. By that stage of the season, the top four teams were Collingwood, Carlton, St Kilda and South Melbourne, with only the order of the finalists yet to be decided. Carlton’s clash with the seventh-placed Bulldogs was a definite danger game for the Blues – after all, they had beaten us impressively earlier in the year, and they had a match-winner in Bernie “Superboot” Quinlan at full-forward. But Carlton also had a star in the goal square in Alex Jesaulenko, and the 21,568 spectators who filed through the turnstiles on that brisk winter afternoon were treated to a brilliant exhibition of forward play by both sides.
Carlton led 10.6 (66) to the Dogs’ accurate 9.1 (55) at half time, with both Jesaulenko and Quinlan on top for their respective teams. When the Blues launched their trademark third-quarter blitz, it was inspired by the pace and precision kicking of Syd Jackson, whose three scintillating goals from a half-forward flank set up a very handy 22-point advantage for his team at the last break. Quinlan then inspired a Bulldogs’ counter-attack with some telling marks, and two long bombs that sailed through for full points. Although they never really threatened to overhaul the Blues, clinical accuracy kept the Bulldogs in contention right through to the final siren, which saw Carlton; 18.14 (122) account for Footscray, 17.6 (108) by 14 points. Jesaulenko, Jackson and Quinlan all finished the game with five majors apiece, and the Blues tightened their grip on second ladder position.
1971 – FOGGIN’ AROUND AT THE JUNCTION OVALSurely there has never been a more bizarre game of VFL/AFL football than the round 21 match between Fitzroy and Carlton at the Junction Oval, St Kilda in August 1971. Needing a solid win over the Lions to keep our faint finals chances alive, Carlton trailed by 15 points as the second half of that game began – just as the bright sunshine was obliterated by an enormous wall of fog that rolled over the ground from nearby Port Phillip Bay. The fog was so dense that suddenly, players only metres apart couldn't see each other, and were forced to rely on their ears as much as their eyes in an effort to find the ball. Meanwhile, the scorers and time keepers caught just brief glimpses of the play, and had to use the emergency umpire to relay the scores. In the end, Fitzroy’s local knowledge gave them the edge. While the Blues groped around in the murk, the Lions finished all over them. Late in the final quarter, the ball came bouncing past Carlton ruckman Peter Jones, who had dropped back into defence. 'There it is!’ he shouted - and a Fitzroy opponent pounced on the ball and goaled. Fitzroy won by four goals, and Carlton missed the finals by 2 points.
1972 – KENNEDY’S DOZEN DESTROYS THE HAWKSBlues supporters were licking their lips after round 21, 1972, when our exciting first-year full-forward Greg Kennedy played a blinder against Hawthorn at Princes Park. Enjoying silver-service delivery of the football from the likes of Alex Jesaulenko, Ian Robertson and Syd Jackson, Kennedy’s pace and agility bewildered the Hawks’ Premiership full-back Kelvin Moore, and the Carlton tyro finished the day with 12 big goals in Carlton’s emphatic 68-point victory. Only the great Horrie Clover has done better for Carlton, with 13 majors against St Kilda way back in 1921.
Ten years afterwards, in 1982, another first-year Carlton full-forward in Ross Ditchburn took North Melbourne apart in similar circumstances. Ditchburn’s intelligent leading and physical strength was too much for North’s star full-back David Dench, and the powerful West Australian helped himself to nine goals, as the Blues destroyed the Shinboners by 70 points at Princes Park.
Four other Blues have chalked up 7-goal hauls in round 21. In historical order they are; Ken Hunter (1983 versus North Melbourne), Warren Ralph (1986 against Footscray), Stephen Kernahan (1993 versus Collingwood) and Brendan Fevola (2009 against Melbourne).
1986 – A VERY BIG DAY AT WAVERLEYThere were highlights galore for Carlton fans in round 21, 1986 when the third-placed Blues met Footscray (fifth) in the Match of the Day at Waverley Park. In with a chance of snatching second ladder position from Sydney if we could beat the Bulldogs, our impetus was boosted in the days leading up to the game with the news that three of our most popular players in Wayne Johnston (150 games), Des English (100 games) and Fraser Murphy (50 games) were all due to reach career milestones against the Dogs. That was all but forgotten on selection night however, when a rash of injuries forced the match committee to make wholesale changes to the team. Out went Justin Madden, Jim Buckley, Ken Hunter, Tom Alvin and Shane Robertson; and in came Murphy, Warren Ralph, Mick Kennedy, Peter Rohde and Warren McKenzie. With those changes, the scales of probability swung heavily in favour of Footscray.
But as soon as the ball was bounced on that cool August Saturday afternoon, the Blueboys showed they had come out to play. Carlton’s fleet of midfield runners in Wayne Harmes, Paul Meldrum, Bernie Evans and Wayne Blackwell provided a constant supply of the ball to recalled full-forward Ralph, who capitalised on his opportunities to kick five first-half goals, and finished the match with seven. The Blues rattled on six goals in the first quarter, seven in the second, and another seven in the third to lead by a whopping 90 points at three-quarter time, before coasting in the last to end up winners by 79 points. It was an impressive, confidence-boosting victory for Carlton, but ultimately nothing changed, and we went into the 1986 final series still in third place.
This game was also significant for an incident in the second quarter when Footscray coach Mick Malthouse – angry and frustrated at his team’s inability to cope with a slick Carlton combination – decided to make a statement. He dragged the reigning Brownlow Medallist Brad Hardie off the ground, and Hardie reacted with equal anger. After ripping off his guernsey, he brandished it above his head in the direction of the Footscray coaches box - a gesture of defiance that ended his season and his brief, meteoric career at the Western Oval.
1999 – RONNIE AND BRAD DEPARTWhile nearly two dozen Blues have ended their careers at Princes Park in round 21, no doubt most of them didn’t plan it that way. A late-season injury or omission usually leads to some quiet soul searching, and often the realisation that this is the perfect time to either retire or move on. Even so, Carlton fans would have loved the opportunity to farewell two of their real favourites when Brad Pearce and Ron De Iulio both ended their time as Blues after playing together in an emphatic win over St Kilda in round 21, 1999.
Former Brisbane Bear Pearce had been instrumental in Carlton’s dominant 1995 Premiership team, where his lightning-fast leads and accurate left foot made him he perfect foil for key forwards Stephen Kernahan and Earl Spalding. De Iulio’s dedication – he persisted for ten seasons to play 104 games - was widely appreciated by the Carlton masses, as was his enthusiasm and genuine joy whenever one of his 71 successful shots on goal split the uprights.
The mercurial, brilliant, two-time Carlton Premiership star Peter Bosustow was at the peak of his powers during a celebrated win by the Blues over North Melbourne in this round in 1983. But ‘The Buzz ‘ and team-mate Mario Bortolotto were both reported and suspended for striking during the game, and neither played for Carlton again.
Other familiar figures who left their mark at Princes Park and retired as players after round 21 include Rod Galt and Greg Towns (1979), Barry Armstrong and Graeme Whitnall (1981), Steve Da Rui and Richard Dennis (1991) and Barry Mitchell (1996).
2004 – CARROTS’ SECOND COMINGRemarkably, 34 seasons were to pass before a top quality, long-term prospect made his senior debut for Carlton in this round. The player concerned was Andrew Carrazzo, and his story is one of persistence and self-belief. After spending two seasons on Geelong’s rookie list (and winning a Best and Fairest with their VFL side) ‘Carrots’ was released by the Cats. Disappointed but by no means deterred, he found his way to Princes Park, where he claimed a hotly-contested spot in Carlton’s rookie squad, and made his senior debut for the Blues in a boilover victory at home against Melbourne in round 21, 2004. Three years later he won the John Nicholls Medal, and at the time of writing has established himself not only as one of the most effective mid-field taggers in the AFL, but as a true leader of the team.
In the year that Carrazzo was judged Carlton’s Best and Fairest, a 201 centimetre former soccer player from Mt Gravatt, Queensland, played his first senior game for Carlton in a huge loss to North Melbourne at Docklands in round 21, 2007. Since then, Carlton’s true believers have watched Shaun Hampson develop his impressive physique and his skills with genuine excitement. It may take a little time yet, but lots of good judges believe “Hammer” is going to be something special.
Apart from the years 1991, 1992 and 1994, round 22 has finished off each AFL home and away season since 1970. Those odd three seasons in the early nineties were extended to 24 games because the competition had been expanded from 14 to 15 teams with the admission of the Adelaide Crows, and the AFL was busy experimenting with an extended final series. Most of those ‘extra’ matches were significant for the Carlton Football Club, so we have included them in this review, which begins way back on a very, very special day for the Old Dark Navy Blues.
1970 – JEZZA’S TONCarlton went into the last match of season 1970 against Melbourne at the MCG in good form, and with a firm hold on second ladder position. It would have taken a couple of major upsets for the Blues to miss out on the double chance, so the focus of the game was on Carlton’s champion full-forward Alex Jesaulenko, who needed a five-goal haul to claim a unique record as the first Blue to kick 100 goals in a season. The Demons however, put up spirited resistance against their more accomplished opponents, and actually led at half-time by two points. But from then on, Carlton exerted their authority. At every opportunity, the Blues looked to give ‘Jezza’ the ball, and this made their pattern of play predictable. Manned-up by multiple opponents and understandably nervous, Jesaulenko had four goals and at least as many misses to his name half-way through the last quarter, and the tension began to rise with each passing minute. The magical moment finally came when rover Adrian Gallagher marked at the top of the goal square, turned, and fired a (very) short pass backwards on to the chest of Jesaulenko. Despite protests from every Melbourne player in the vicinity, field umpire Ray Sleeth paid the mark, and hundreds of Blues fans clambered on to the MCG fences, ready to charge onto the field if their hero put number five on the board. Taking a couple of deep breaths, Jezza lined up, kicked truly at last – and was immediately mobbed by a delirious, chanting throng.
1974 – VINNY’S SEVEN SINKS THE SAINTSAlthough best known as a hard, straight-running dual Premiership defender, Vincent ‘Vinny’ Waite played some handy games as a pinch-hitting forward during his 153-game career for Carlton between 1966 and 1975. He always seemed to do particularly well against Melbourne – perhaps because of the confidence gained when he goaled with his first two kicks on debut against the Demons at the MCG in round 5, 1966. That was an especially sweet victory for the Navy Blues, because it was our first at the home of football for 13 seasons!
Eight years later in 1974, Waite set a new round 22 goal-scoring record when he used his strength to advantage in the mud and slush of Moorabbin Oval and booted seven majors as Carlton beat St Kilda by 22 points. Vin had that distinction all to himself until round 22, 1982, when Ross Ditchburn joined him by notching seven in Carlton’s big win over Fitzroy at Waverley. Since then another two Blue Premiership stars in Stephen Kernahan (1992, versus Footscray) and Fraser Brown (Round 23, 1994 against Richmond) have added their names to the top of that list.
1977 – IAN THOROGOOD EXITSPopular assistant coach Ian Thorogood was thrust into the hot seat at Carlton on the Thursday night prior to the start of the 1976 season, after John Nicholls shocked the club by announcing his immediate retirement. Thorogood stepped into the senior role, and took the Blues to within one kick of qualifying for that year’s Grand Final.
He was retained by the club for another year, and with a group of exciting youngsters including Jim Buckley, Wayne Harmes and Ken Sheldon making their way through the ranks, the Blues were confident of climbing that one last step come finals time. Unfortunately, that chance never came. Although Carlton stayed camped in the top five for most of the season, a surprise loss to our nemesis Footscray at the Western Oval in round 22, 1977 dropped the team to sixth place, and Thorogood became the first of three senior Carlton coaches to finish their tenure with the last match of the modern season.
The second was club legend Alex Jesaulenko, whose magnificent yet turbulent career at Princes Park - as both a Premiership player and coach - culminated with a 12-point loss to Fitzroy at Princes Park in round 22, 1990. The third was Wayne Brittain, who was at the helm of the Blues for the last time in 2002. Essendon thumped Carlton by 55 points at the MCG that afternoon, and condemned the Blues to the humiliation of finishing last on the ladder for the very first time in our history. Shortly afterwards, Brittain’s contract was terminated in favour of former North Melbourne Premiership coach Denis Pagan.
1986 – BOMBA’S BIG SEND-OFFA key member of Carlton’s “mosquito fleet” of brilliant rover-forwards during the 1970’s and 80’s, Ken ‘Bomba’ Sheldon played the last of his 132 games for the Blues against Melbourne at Princes Park in round 22, 1986. Bomba’s team honoured him with a massive 86-point win over the struggling Demons, with South Australian recruit Craig Bradley at his scintillating best. ‘Braddles’ kicked six goals from his wing, and third-year full-forward Warren Ralph added five, as Carlton tuned up for the finals in a solid third place.
A host of other players - some champions, many journeymen - have retired after round 22, and the list is far too long to list them all here. But among the very best and most celebrated are Wes Lofts (1970), Serge Silvagni and Ian Collins (1971), David Rhys-Jones (1992), Stephen Kernahan and Mil Hanna (1997), Peter Dean (1998), Ang Christou (2002), Scott Camporeale (2005) and Lance Whitnall (2007).
1987 – STICKS’ LAST MINUTE HEROICSNorth Melbourne looked like spoiling Carlton's hopes of finishing on top of the ladder when they led by 16 points at half time in the last round of the home and away season in 1987. Carlton surged back into the contest to lead at three quarter time, only for North to rally and hit the front by 2 points with less than a minute to go. It was then, at a boundary throw-in, that Blues' ruckman Justin Madden plucked the ball out of the air, and kicked it forward as hard as he could. Camped under the high ball, Carlton captain Stephen Kernahan was sandwiched between two North defenders in the right forward pocket - but he launched himself skyward to take a fabulous pack mark, 20 metres out on a tight angle - just as the siren sounded. Under enormous pressure, he settled, and calmly slotted one of the most important kicks in Carlton’s history – a definitive captain’s goal. Had he missed, Hawthorn would have finished on top of the ladder and gained the vital week's rest in the first round of the finals. ‘Stick’s’ Kernahan's pressure goal ensured that the Blues would get that badly-needed break, and ultimately, our fifteenth flag.
1991 – ANG CHRISTOU ARRIVESTrivia buffs have been in raptures ever since Evangelis Christou made his senior debut for Carlton in the last round of the 1991 season. Ang was destined to become a 1995 Premiership star, an All Australian, and one of the most popular Blues of his era. At the height of his career he was one of the game’s most recognisable faces, particularly when his raking left-foot kicks began to be accompanied by a loud cry of “woooof !” from his many fans. What made Ang’s career so beloved of football tragics was the odd fact that in his first senior game, he wore guernsey 56 – the first and only time in Carlton’s entire history that that particular number has been worn throughout a match. In 1992 he switched to number 39, and carried it with great distinction another 150 times. Only two other players have made their senior debut for Carlton in the last match of a season; and both also went on to play in Premiership teams; Mick Kennedy (who first played in round 22, 1984 in a big win over Sydney) and Brett Ratten (who started his stellar career in a 12-point loss to Fitzroy at Princes Park in round 22, 1990).
2001 – THE MILBURN-SILVAGNI INCIDENTLate in the Carlton-Geelong clash at Princes Park in round 22, 2001, the Blues were ten goals up and cruising toward victory, when our champion full-back Stephen Silvagni was crashed to the turf and heavily concussed by a front-on shoulder charge from young Cat Darren Milburn. While Silvagni was being helped from the field, the home crowd vented their fury at Milburn, who responded with a single-finger salute even as one of the field umpires placed him on report. Milburn’s deliberate attack on the man instead of the ball - and his provocative response - was deeply resented by all Carlton supporters, and was never forgiven. Although he was found guilty of charging at the tribunal (and suspended for three matches) from that day on, and throughout his lengthy career, Milburn was roundly hooted by Blues fans each and every time Carlton played Geelong.
2008 – THE FEV AND BUDDY SHOWCarlton finished the 2008 home and away season with a Saturday night clash at Docklands against eventual Premiers Hawthorn, in a match that was pivotal for two of the biggest names in the game. By then, the Blues were well and truly out of finals contention, but our gun full-forward Brendan Fevola was playing consistently well and had booted 92 goals for the year. Hawthorn were second on the ladder - a whopping four wins behind Geelong - yet running into ominous form, with their athletic spearhead ‘Buddy’ Franklin poised on 98 majors for the season. Either or both of those stars seemed sure to crack the ton that night, so almost 50,000 fans turned up to see history made.
Intent on getting Franklin to his milestone as quickly as possible, the Hawks burst out the blocks with a six-goal first term. But promising Blues defender Paul Bower held Buddy in check for 22 minutes, before Hawthorn’s midfield pressure burst the game open. Approaching time-on, Franklin worked his way into space, marked, and drilled his first major. Three minutes later, he repeated the dose - registering his first-ever century, and sparking a wild ground invasion by hundreds of delirious Hawk supporters.
Meanwhile, up the other end, Fevola had a forgettable first half, with a poster, a shank that didn’t make the distance, a behind, and another shot out on the full. The Blues were being totally outplayed, and trailed by 38 points at the main break. Eventually however, Carlton found some system in the third term. While Hawthorn maintained their dominance, the Blues made a number of successful forward thrusts, and Fevola worked hard to kick four goals and take his tally to 97 from three strong marks and a trademark snap from a forward pocket. In the last quarter, with the Hawks totally in control and the game out of reach, the Blueboys did all they could to get their spearhead to triple figures, while the Carlton supporters in the crowd willed them on. The biggest stumbling block was Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, who stacked his backline in the last ten minutes with the doubtful excuse that he wanted to avoid another time-consuming ground invasion. Even Hawk forward Jarryd Roughead - who had kicked five goals - was sent back into defence to crowd out the increasingly desperate Fevola. With only seconds left, Fev made one last despairing attempt to mark, but gave away a free kick and on the siren, ended up stranded on a heart-breaking 99 goals for the season..
|Rounds:||1 to 5||6 to 10||11 to 14||15 to 18||19 to 22|