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Player's precious scrapbook surfaces

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  September 4, 2017 12:23 PM

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

An 88-year-old scrapbook, once the treasured possession of the 135-game former Carlton half-back Eric Huxtable, has been loaned to the Club by a family member.

Crammed with newspaper clippings, certificates and photographs from as far back as 1929, the scrapbook chronicles Huxtable’s football journey from Hobart to Melbourne, in a 14-season career interrupted by world war.

The scrapbook found its way to Ikon Park through The Carltonians’ former vice-president John Redmond, a neighbour of Huxtable’s daughter-in-law. Pages of the scrapbook have since been digitised and are now safely stored in the football club’s ever-expanding electronic archive.

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The front cover of Huxtable's scrapbook. 

One of the first footballers lured to Victoria from across Bass Strait, Huxtable’s football origins can be sourced to Hobart’s St Virgil’s College. At 15, he wore the green and gold of Tasmanian Football League club New Town at senior level and from the outset raised the eyebrows of the good judges – most notably Dan Minogue, who had coached Huxtable at Newtown in ’28.

Appointed Carlton coach the following year, Minogue arranged for the player’s transfer to Princes Park on the eve of the 1930 season and in the sixth-round match against Fitzroy at Princes Park, Huxtable donned the dark navy blue guernsey for the first time. 

Through the 1930s Huxtable built on his handsome reputation as the mainstay of his team’s back six, whether Carlton or Victorian. He was amongst Carlton’s best in its narrow Grand Final loss to Richmond in 1932, and after a particularly stirring showing for the Big V, he was dubbed 'Untouchable Huxtable' by a South Australian scribe reporting the contest. 

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A clipping of a 1932 Grand Final report features on page 29 of Huxtable's scrapbook. 

Rated by a journalist reporting for The Sun as “the most dashing half-back flanker in the game”, Huxtable was also named by the legendary Haydn Bunton snr. as amongst the top-10 players of the day in season ’36. 

In April of that year, Huxtable sustained severe concussion when a car in which he was travelling and a motor lorry riven by Bill Ralston, the Coburg follower and Melbourne recruit, collided. 

The Sun reported that following the accident, Ralston, who was unhurt, hot-footed it to the Carlton players’ room at Princes Park seeking help for Huxtable. 

Affixed with sticky tape to one of the scrapbook’s yellowing pages is a 1938 VFL medallion awarded to those players who led the Blues’ drought-breaking Grand Final victory over Collingwood under captain-coach Brighton Diggins’ watch.

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Included on page 60 is a 1938 VFL premiership medallion.

Cruelly, a broken thumb sustained through the ’38 home and aways severely impacted on Huxtable’s on-field fortunes in the run-home and ultimately deprived him of his place in Carlton’s first premiership team in 23 years. After aggravating the injury in the semi-final against Geelong – his last game for the Club – he was left to sit in the stands and watch on as his mates did the noble deed on that last Saturday in September.

But such was Huxtable’s standing at Princes Park that a premiership medal was cast for him – just a few months after he earned Carlton Life Membership.

Cleared to Yarram in 1939, Huxtable put his VFL nous to good use, captaining and coaching the Gippsland League team to a thrilling one-point win over Maffra in the grand final.

But he had little time to celebrate, for when the league disbanded due to the onset of world war the following year, Huxtable took up duties as captain-coach of Dimboola. Dimboola advanced to the 1940 Grand Final, but the outfit finished seven points adrift of Stawell.

Huxtable then enlisted with the RAAF, but while awaiting his call-up accepted an offer from his former Carlton teammate Joe Kelly, the newly-appointed South Melbourne coach.

At 33 years of age, Huxtable gave South valuable service in 22 matches through 1941 and ’42 - and a South team photo featuring Huxtable and the likes of Herbie Matthews, Jack Graham, 'Gentleman' Jim Cleary and 'Basher' Williams can be found in the scrapbook.

To round out his meritorious on-field career, Huxtable captained the RAAF Laverton team to the Southern States Premiership in 1942. Laverton won the contest 10.18 to No. TG’s 6.15, with VFL stars like Bob Green, Alby Pannam, Ron Todd and Jack Regan chasing the leather in the Grand Final held at Victoria Park - and a team photograph can be found in the old scrapbook.

A father to two boys and four girls raised with his wife Gwynneth whom he married in 1935, Huxtable’s sons Neil and Gary (Ross’s father) were recruited to Carlton under the father/son rule in 1953 and ’57 respectively, although neither managed a senior appearance.

Eric Huxtable died in Melton at the age of 81 in 1990. He is remembered by all his loved ones, who these days follow the fortunes of the old No.9 through its current keeper Patrick Cripps - when they’re not flicking the yellowing pages of a precious scrapbook.

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