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Swan snaps Blues' '72 World Tour

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  January 14, 2016 3:41 PM

Vin Waite and Rod Austin touch down in London, October 1972. (Photo: David McKay)

Vin Waite and Rod Austin touch down in London, October 1972. (Photo: David McKay)

David McKay’s jaw might have been wired shut, but the Swan's eyes were saucer-like as he took in the sights of London, Athens and Singapore through the famed “Carlton-Orlando World Tour” of 1972.

Armed with his trusty Minolta SR-T101, the ’72 Premiership player captured a glorious portfolio of photographs, which he has now graciously shared with Carlton Members and supporters.

A busted jaw (courtesy Neil Balme) incurred in the ’72 Grand Final triumph put paid to McKay’s on-field contributions on the tour, but at least afforded him the chance to capture what he saw through a truly remarkable sojourn.

“I was messing around with a bit of photography at the time. I was also indisposed due to a mouth full of metal. I was an ‘extra’ on tour because I couldn’t play,” McKay said.

Amongst McKay’s unique collection are photographs of the then Carlton secretary and 1947 Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon, a resplendent Syd Jackson, the late Premiership players Vin Waite and the late John O’Connell, and the officiating field umpire the late Don Jolley.

Syd Jackson touches down in London. (Photo: David McKay)

McKay himself is featured in a rare photograph (selfies didn’t exist in ’72) standing on a hill overlooking Hydra, one of Greece’s idyllic Saronic Islands.

To set the scene leading into the tour, the Carlton players under Captain-Coach John Nicholls had just savoured one of the all-time great wins, booting a record 28.9 to overwhelm bitter rival Richmond in the ’72 Grand Final. That contest, by virtue of the drawn second semi, was staged a week later than anticipated, on Saturday, October 7.

David McKay stands tall, with the stunning backdrop of Hydra, Greece. (Photo supplied by David McKay)

The following weekend, Carlton met the respective WAFL and SANFL Premiers East Perth and North Adelaide on Adelaide Oval. The East Perth contest is remembered in infamy as the match in which Mal Brown went berserk, with the likes of Trevor Keogh and co. on the wrong end of Brown’s “cut lunches”.

An injury-ravaged Carlton XVIII met the Roosters the day after the bruising East Perth encounter, and gamely went down by a point. The then Carlton secretary and 1947 Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon, in acknowledging the players’ heroics, noted that the club “would not be prepared to subject players to such a tortuous series again, a Grand Final one Saturday, celebrations throughout the week and then two more Grand final-type games on the following Saturday and Sunday”.

Carlton secretary Bert Deacon (middle) and director Gordon Newton, pre-match. (Photo: David McKay)

“This is asking too much,” Deacon wrote in the ’72 Annual Report. “If this Championship series is to continue then Clubs must not be asked to play two games in two days. A week later, when players left on the Carlton-Orlando World Tour, a number were still bearing the marks of the injuries received in the game against East Perth. Even a wonderful trip overseas was not compensation for such treatment. ”

On October 22 of that year, a touring party of 29 Carlton players boarded a chartered Qantas Boeing 707 for the three-week World Tour, which was in part bankrolled by wine company Orlando. A further 22 players drawn from all over Australia and dubbed the “All Stars” – amongst them Peter Bedford and Gary Dempsey, and prominent interstate players Mal Brown, Barrie Robran and Glynn Hewitt (father of Lleyton) – also completed the flight.

Left to right: Greg Kennedy (partially obscured), Kevin Hall, Geoff Southby and Robert Walls arrive in London. (Photo: David McKay)

Ultimately, players from both teams met in a three-match series – the first in London (through the support of the former Australian Prime Minister and long-serving Carlton devotee Sir Robert Menzies) – then Athens and finally Singapore.

At Kennington Oval in Surrey, Carlton Captain-Coach John Nicholls introduced the Prince of Wales to fellow players assembled in a pre-match guard of honour and later accepted a trophy donated by the Bank of New South Wales from Lord Cornwallis.

Though The Oval’s the centre wicket area was roped off and the players played around it, the Carlton-All-Stars contest was in fact the first exhibition match ever staged in old London town.

The Carlton-All-Stars match at The Oval, London. (Photo: David McKay)

After completing their on-field commitments, the tourists holidayed in England for 12 days, before spending a further five days in Greece and another four in Singapore, during which time they competed in matches in both countries.

McKay has no memory of the results of any of the three games. He does however recall the Athens fixture being staged on a soccer pitch “and if memory serves people had to hold the goalposts up”.

The Blues warm up on the Athens soccer pitch under the watchful eye of captain-coach John Nicholls. (Photo: David McKay)

He also recalls an incident in Greece involving M. Brown esq., who also bobs up in one of McKay’s pics riding a donkey.

Said McKay: “Mal Brown was arrested in Greece, but was fortunately bailed out by Greg Pavlidis for swimming nude in the Aegean Sea”.

Former Carlton player John Warden (left) and Mal Brown, the man on the donkey. (Photo: David McKay)

On his return, McKay handed his tour blazer over to his uncle “who later wore it on the farm”. Today his memories of the tour are rekindled by the precious pics, and he unhesitatingly volunteers the game at The Oval as the highlight.

“It was fantastic just to be able to set foot on the hallowed turf of The Oval, let alone playing footy on it,” McKay said.

“I took a lot of shots of the England game and the game in Greece, but unfortunately I don’t think I took any of the game in Singapore and it was as hot as buggery there.

“I remember that there were issues with hair length in Singapore. Bruce Doull had long hair and so did I, and I had to get a special entry permit as a result, and I’ve still got the passport which is stamped ‘special entry – long hair’.”