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Naley a starter for '87 reunion

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  August 16, 2017 8:42 AM

Throwback Thursday | '87 Grand Final Relive Carlton's 1987 Grand Final triumph ahead of this Saturday's 30-year anniversary celebrations.

He’s been through hell these past few months, but Carlton’s 1987 premiership player Mark Naley was never going to miss the 30th anniversary of his team’s famous Grand Final victory over Hawthorn. 

Still recovering after having one of two brain tumours removed, Naley is jetting in from his hometown of Adelaide to be part of Friday’s and Saturday’s celebrations of that well-earned 15th flag.

“I’ll be over with a few mates who wanted to come across. I’m looking forward to it,” he said this week. 

Naley’s serious neurological problems emerged late last November when the 65-game former Carlton player and ’91 Magarey Medal-winner collapsed unconscious.

“I had a seizure, which started it,” Naley recalled. “At the time I was turning into a street, saw the street sign and that was it. The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital an hour and a half later.” 

Now 56, the 1987 Tassie Medallist and All-Australian was discharged from hospital after undergoing surgery last December to have the first tumour removed.

“I got 30 stitches in my head. I’ve got a constant headache, but it’s to be expected,” Naley said following the operation.

“Something like this knocks the s..t out of you. It’s given me a real scare.”

Naley hasn’t worked since November and isn’t sure what the immediate future holds in terms of his professional career. As he said, “it’s a waiting game” – and negotiating the next round of chemotherapy is the immediate priority. 

“I’ve got one more month of chemo which starts at the end of this month. I’ll have five days of that then I’ll have a break for a little bit, hopefully between now and Christmas, to get the poison out of my body,” Naley said.

“Last time we spoke they got the one big one tumour out, but they didn’t want to attack the other because it could have ended up costing me my sight or maybe movement in my arms or legs.

“So I underwent nearly three months of radiation then chemotherapy to kill it and it’s done the job. It’s effectively put the tumour to sleep, which is good.

“It’s the chemotherapy that knocks you around, which confines you to bed to get your energy back, and I’m on a steroid medication which means I’ve put on 15 kilos or so . . . but I think I’m through the worst of it.”

For all that, Naley considers himself truly blessed. He can still enjoy a beer and a laugh, and his memory’s fine.

As he said: “It hasn’t affected me”. 

“I was on Facebook before and saw that someone had put up a highlights package of the ’87 Grand Final, so I enjoyed watching that for a few minutes – which was good as we who played only catch up once every five years now.” 
 

Casting his mind back to that sultry one day in September, Naley talked fondly of the others who made up the starting 20 under coach Robert Walls’ watch.

“If you look back at the team we had there were stars on every line,” Naley said. 

“There were the blokes who played in Grand Finals before - experienced blokes like Wayne Johnston who was remarkable in how he started in that game and Kenny Hunter in his twilight. Then there were the emerging talents - Stephen Silvagni, the greatest captain (Stephen) Kernahan and (Craig) Bradley – and on top of that players like Kennedy, Robertson, Aitken and Murphy who all did their bit.” 

Naley famously took to the sweltering 31-degree conditions sporting the long-sleeved No.17 guernsey on a day in which Hawthorn’s No.17 Michael Tuck opted for the rare short sleeve. It was generally thought Naley opted for the long sleeves to gain a psychological edge given Carlton had earned the week’s break, but the South Australian volunteered a different reason for his choice of apparel. 

“I came into the last few weeks of the year wearing a long-sleeved jumper and I found a bit of form,” Naley said. “I had a good second semi-final wearing long sleeves so I thought ‘Oh well, I’ll go with them on Grand Final day’. But it was ridiculous, it was just too hot and I ditched them at half-time.”

So Naley will be there with his mates come the weekend, as he continues to strive for a return to normalcy – and despite the prospect of another round of chemotherapy after the next, he’s adamant he’ll find a way – just as he found a way through that wall of brown and gold to slot that sensational running goal in the big one 30 years ago. 

“I’m going all right,” Naley declared. “When people see me they’ll see that my hair’s growing back and I’ve got ‘The Flying Doormat’ white beard happening too. 

Who knows, I might even don the headband.”