In March 2009, in the lead-up to the season opener against Richmond at the MCG, Shane Robertson put a call in to Jeff Garlett.
Robertson, Carlton’s 80-game club record holder in the No.38 guernsey and its only Premiership player to wear the 38 on his back, took the liberty of wishing the then 19 year-old kid the very best for his first senior game.
Fast forward to April 2013, and Robertson has again seen fit to acknowledge Garlett, on the eve of the latter’s 81st and record-breaking game in the No.38.
“It’s about bloody time, it’s been 22 years,” Robertson dryly suggested of Garlett’s landmark match this week. “For a while many a comment had come about along the lines of ‘When is someone going to take hold of that number and do something with it?’ and he (Garlett) goes all right . . . it’s really good to see.”
Robertson, whose locker was sandwiched between Wayne Harmes’ at 37 and Mark Williams’ at 39 through the 1980s, remembered first inheriting the No.38 after a brief stint in the number 60 “and then the 55 or thereabouts”.
“I shouldn’t say this, but back then blokes like me were classified as the ‘s..tkickers’ of the club,” Robertson, now the coach of Goulburn Valley Football League outfit Seymour, said this week. “You had the superstars and then others like me who were just given what we were told, and if you got anything below 40 you were privileged.
“But I was lucky. I played in the ’87 Grand Final at 23 years of age with the No.38 on my back, so that was never going to change, and to this day my sons still run around wearing 38 . . . and I’m quite happy with that.”
Recruited to the club from neighbouring North Melbourne Old Boys, Robertson’s place in Carlton history was assured with his naming on the wing for the 1987 GF. Of the game itself, and notwithstanding the searing heat, ‘Robbo’s’ overriding memory is that his team went in as rank outsiders, but truly delivered.
As he proudly declared: “There were half a dozen of us like me who could have been in the bottom six and really hurt our side - players like Warren McKenzie, Mick Kennedy and Fraser Murphy - who stood up to the occasion and helped the superstars on the big bucks get across the line.”
In more recent times, Robertson has watched on with great interest as Garlett’s on-field career has unfolded. Clearly, there is an acknowledgment of the prodigious gift (“he (Garlett) is an exceptional talent and he’s got a lot more to give), but there is still much to be done.
Mindful that none of the previous wearers of the No.38 achieved the 100 games required to get their names on the locker, Robertson believed Garlett was presented with a massive opportunity to not only hit the ton but also earn a place in the coveted 200 Club.
“If I had the chance to say anything to Jeff now it’d be for him to get the absolute utmost out of himself for as long as he possibly can,” Robertson said.
“I wish the boy all the best on the eve of him passing that HUGE milestone of 80 games, but I wish him 200 games, not 81. He has an opportunity to play 200 and the emphasis should be on playing a couple of hundred and continuing to do the number and the jumper proud.”
born: December 27, 1963
recruited from North Melbourne Old Boys
Carlton player: 910
guernsey No. 38
80 games, 23 goals 1983-1991
Premiership player: 1987
senior debut: Round 13, 1983 versus Footscray at Princes Park, aged 19 years, 173 days
final game: Round 8, 1991 versus Hawthorn at Waverley Park, aged 27 years, 135 days
Click here to learn more about Shane Robertson.
born: August 3, 1989
recruited from Swan Districts, selection six, 2008 rookie draft
Carlton player: 1116
guernsey No. 38
80 games, 135 goals 2009-
senior debut: Round 1, 2009 versus Richmond at the MCG, aged 19 years, 235 days
Follow Tony De Bolfo on Twitter: @CFC_DeBolfo