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Why Carlton is Wayne's world

Bloodlines | Darcy Vescio Carlton star Darcy Vescio embarks on a journey of exploration to Hong Kong and Italy to trace her family roots.

When he files through the gate for the Carlton-St Kilda practice match at the old ground tomorrow night, Wayne Robinson will have completed a 17,000-kilometre odyssey to watch the Blueboys play on the hallowed turf.

It’s been 40 years since Wayne was last in Melbourne - and yet the boy from Manchester, pictured here with Brendon Bolton and Patrick Cripps in the football club’s reception area yesterday, has already ticked a bucket list item or two.

So what does Carlton mean to the man on the cusp of realising a lifelong dream? In his own words as follows, Wayne answers that lofty question.

My name is Wayne Robinson. I am a lifelong Carlton supporter.

My parents, together with myself and my sister, emigrated to Australia from England in 1962 or thereabouts, as part of the wave of ‘ten pound poms’. I was born in 1959 so would have been three years old at the time.

We originally lived with my Dad’s brother, in his garage, as he sponsored us, then we rented a few places and eventually bought a plot for a house built in Glen Waverley, I think for about $4000. 

My connection with Carlton came almost immediately, and the reason for it was Ronald Dale Barassi. The school playground was full of kids supporting various VFL teams, but I always favoured the Blues because of ‘Barass’. 

Ron joined Carlton on the eve of the 1965 season, just as I was getting into Australian Rules. One of my earliest memories is of a friend of my father’s asking me who my favourite player was and I replying, without hesitation, “Ron Barassi”. I remember the guy saying something like “Oohhhe’s a good’un”.

Wayne Robinson with senior coach Brendon Bolton. (Photo: Supplied)

One problem for me was that my Dad favoured English football over my Aussie Rules. He was a keen Manchester United supporter, having attended home and away matches in England during the 1950s, and seeing members of his beloved team perish in the Munich air crash of 1958. Those players averaged just 21 years of age and were ready to dominate English and European football for the next decade. 

As I also supported Manchester United this was not an issue, but it meant I had to go it alone with my passion for Carlton. My Dad never took me to a match, so I listened mostly to the radio commentary of games in the late 1960s and early 1970s until I was old enough to go with mates (and I still have an audio recording of 3AW’s call of the 1972 GF that I taped in my bedroom).

Living in Glen Waverley meant that VFL Park was an easy venue to access, and I also went to the MCG. But with no parental support and being so young, one of my lifelong regrets is never seeing a game at Princes Park. 

My parents always wanted to retire in England and in 1975, due to family issues too long and complicated to go into, I returned to the old country with them.  

I remained in England for a couple of years, but got terribly homesick, as did my parents(!), and so we returned to Australia in December 1977. Unfortunately for me they opted for Perth over Melbourne, which didn’t really work out - and so we went back to England in 1978, never to return until now.

Why? Again, it’s complicated. I got married, had two children, embarked on a career and time literally passed by In truth, we simply couldn’t afford such a holiday.

Wayne Robinson with his wife Julie at a recent Ghosts of Princes Park tour. (Photo: Carlton Media)

However, my passion for the Blues never diminished and as social media developed and TV coverage became possible I was once again able to connect with Carlton.

Having kept many Footy Records and newspaper articles and displayed team photos on a wall inside my home in Manchester, conversation with my wife Julie constantly involved Carlton as I recounted the exploits of the teams I remembered in the 1970s - and I might add that Julie and the kids knew all the words to the club song from an early age!

With the advent of international TV coverage I was able to watch Carlton matches, which usually meant getting up at one, two or three o’clock in the morning depending on the starting time.

I regularly emailed The Carlton Shop and have bought many items over the years, including DVDs and jerseys - and yes, in England I have worn my Carlton jersey with pride.

Not so long ago, Julie and I decided to retire and head off on an extended holiday in Australia. In planning the trip, I was desperately keen to see today’s Blueboys play, but I also understood that as we were to arrive in the summer it probably wouldn’t be possible.

I was delighted however to book for the Ghosts of Princes Park Tour, so as to visit the old ground and fulfill a lifelong dream. 

An hour or so before the tour, Julie and I stopped by ‘Percy’ Jones’ pub the North Fitzroy Arms for a beer. We were so happy to see Perc and to chat to him about all things Carlton. A fine man he is too.

Julie and I arrived early for the tour and met Tony De Bolfo in the reception area. I told Tony a little of my story and was absolutely thrilled to be taken around the ground by him on our own personal tour!

Wayne with Carlton vice-captain Patrick Cripps. (Photo: Supplied)

Along the way, I mentioned that a bucket list item of mine was to kick a goal on a ground, any ground - so imagine how delighted I was when Tony handed me a football and said “Go on then, see what you can do”.

My wife recorded my stepping onto the hallowed turf of Princes Park, and positioning myself directly in front, not too far out, (ha ha!). Having not kicked a footy for 40 years, I was every bit as surprised as Tony to see the ball fly between the big ones. Wow! I had just kicked a goal at the legendary home of the Carlton Football Club! Thanks Tony.  

We then joined Carlton Members on the  Ghosts Tour, which was amazing. Tony has a brilliant knack of creating the atmosphere and engaging the crowd. Imagine my surprise when he asked me to briefly recount my story to the group. 

Another lucky break is that Carlton is participating in a pre-season match against St Kilda, so I get to see the Blueboys play at Princes Park after all. 

Well, that’s my story, sorry it dragged on a bit. I just wanted to outline my life’s passion for this amazing footy club and to say that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world you never lose the connection with and passion for your team.

Go Blues!