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Bill's 'I was there the day' moment

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  March 14, 2017 1:09 PM

Bloodlines | Giacomo to Jack Carlton youngster Jack Silvagni embarks on a journey of exploration to learn more about his great-grandfather, Giacomo.

The recent return of the lost 1947 Premiership pennant has elicited a healthy response from a solid cross section of supporters, amongst them the 89 year-old former Carlton footballer Bill Redmond who stood with the team on Princes Park the day the flag was first unfurled.

A resident of the old golf mining town of Bendigo, Redmond couldn’t hide his joy with the flag’s comeback. As he declared: “When I caught up with my friends from Probus on our regular walk, the first thing I said to them was ‘Did you hear the news? We’ve got the 1947 flag back’.

Redmond, an emergency for the ’47 Grand Final against Essendon, was amongst the 20 Carlton players who formed a guard of honour when the wife of then acting President Arthur Reyment completed the unfurling on the afternoon of Saturday, April 24, 1948 – just moments before the round two match with Fitzroy.

Other than Ken Hands, Redmond is the only surviving member who took to the field that day, some 69 years ago. Redmond identified himself as the third Carlton player from the left after the captain Ern Henfry and Bert Deacon in the photograph of the moment the flag was released. Redmond also remembered Frank Curcio and Allan “The Baron” Ruthven amongst the Fitzroy players respectfully observing the ceremony.

The first unfurling of Carlton's 1947 premiership flag. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

Moments later, Redmond, took his place in a back pocket for the match against the Gorillas, one of his seven senior appearances for Carlton through 1947 and ’48.

Asked what he remembered most of the Fitzroy match, Redmond replied: “We got beat!”.

“I can remember carrying my Gladstone bag to the match, getting changed and being told to run out onto the ground for the unfurling of the pennant,” Redmond said.

“I was the youngest player in that team of course. I stood next to Deacon, who was probably as good a Carlton player as there was in my time there, although ‘Chooka’ Howell was a good player.”

Asked how close he was to getting a call-up for the 1947 Grand Final, famously won with Fred Stafford’s goal seconds before the final siren, Redmond believed he was within a whisker.

“In those days there were 19 home and home games, but prior to the 17th game, and it was recorded in the newspaper, the selectors couldn’t decide on the centre half-forward - Hands or Redmond – as Ken wasn’t playing so well at the time,” Redmond recalled.

“When I arrived at the ground for that game, (Carlton President) Ken Luke came up to me and said: ‘Look Bill, we’re nearing the finals, we’re sticking with Ken . . . ’. I actually appreciated the fact that he told me face to face.

On Grand Final day, Redmond took his place in the grandstand with teammate Ken Hopper, the best man at Redmond’s wedding, to see the Blues prevail by a point in sensational circumstances at the MCG. 

The day wasn’t without its drama for Redmond, or, more to the point, his father.

“After I left early to go to the game, my father got a telegram forwarded to me by (Carlton Secretary) Harry Bell stating ‘Bring your bag to the Melbourne ground’,” Redmond said.

“My father grabbed the bag, got on his pushbike and rode from our house in Dawson Street West Brunswick to (teammate) Kenny Baxter’s  grocery in a side street off Sydney Road in East Brunswick - but the first I heard about it was when Ken Hopper and I went into the Carlton rooms after the game and I saw my bag.

“There might have been doubt on one player, and for memory Bert Deacon came off late that game, and though I never got the full story I must have been pretty close. I only wish I’d kept that telegram, but I didn’t think much about it in those days.”

Redmond, who turns 90 in May, is also remembered as Carlton’s inaugural recipient of the under-19 best-and-fairest award, first introduced on the cusp of the 1946 season.

Former Carlton player Bill Redmond. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

The 1947 premiership flag was last week returned to Carlton more than 25 years after it went missing. The treasured piece of club history, thought lost to the club since 1990, was handed in by a man known only as ‘Macca’, who had stored it in his shed on a property in the Victorian town of Eddington.