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Hopper's gift a lasting legacy

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It was the late Ken Hopper’s express wish that the sepia-toned snapshots from his days at Princes Park would find a new home in the football club archive – and so it was that Ken’s daughter Vicki Eddison followed up on the request.

Vicki recently paid Ikon Park a visit armed with her father’s precious images from a time when he served the club as a 17-game senior player in the Premiership year of 1945.

Though Hopper, who died last June at the age of 93, never made the cut for the infamous “Bloodbath” Grand Final against South, he was nevertheless presented with a ’45 Premiership medallion, a precious keepsake Vicki will retain.

But to the club go Hopper’s Box Brownie pics.

“Dad said to me that if there was any Carlton-related material I didn’t want to please send them to the club,” Eddison said.

Vicki Eddison holds a photo of her late father, Ken Hopper. (Photo: Carlton Media)

“Dad’s wishes were so clear, and although I was never going to give the ‘Bloodbath’ medal away the photos were always going to make their way to Carlton.”

Born in South Melbourne in June 1924, but raised in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Hopper played for Pascoe Vale alongside another future Carlton player, the late Allan Greenshields.

Hopper was called up for his Carlton senior debut, against Melbourne, in the opening round of the 1945 season. Sporting the No.2 on his back, he took his place on a flank alongside Alex Way and Charlie McInnes, players who would later make the cut for “The Bloodbath”.

The Redlegs accounted for Carlton by 21 points in that opening round, but Hopper maintained his presence in the seniors for a further 13 games on end. However, he was omitted in the wake of the team’s three-point loss to Essendon in the 14th round, when the visitors’ Bill Brittingham goaled after the siren.

For the next month, Hopper sought form in the seconds and won a recall from senior coach Perc Bentley and the match committee for the 19th round match with Geelong. Regrettably, he was again dropped despite the Blues’ 94-point hammering of Geelong at Princes Park – and he watched on from the stands when the Chitty-inspired Carlton juggernaut powered its way to the ’45 Premiership.

Hopper, the 601st player to represent Carlton at senior level, was part of the club’s celebratory bus tour to Sydney and Canberra in 1946. The tour, which ferried Carlton players and officials to such destinations as Gundagai, the Blue Mountains, Bateman’s Bay and Sydney Harbour, was fully-funded by the club as fitting reward for the team’s landing of its seventh and hardest-earned pennant. A highlight for Hopper was meeting the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies (later Carlton's No.1 ticket holder) in Canberra.

All the way, Hopper and his trusty Kodak captured precious moments in sepia – from the first roadside luncheon stop at Dandenong through to the sand and surf of Manly, and everything in between.

A classic image of Bob Chitty looking down from a balcony at the Australian War Memorial was also taken through Hopper's lens.

“In those days most teams usually took off on yearly trips to wind up the season, but the money wasn’t around then and our trips were usually confined to Bendigo or Ballarat,” Hopper said back in 2008.

“But this particular trip was completely paid for by the club. Even our caps and blazers were paid for from the premiership donations.”

“That trip was absolutely tops. To head off interstate was something that never took place in that era and to think we were heading to Sydney and Canberra on a premiership trip was just unbelievable.”

Members of the touring party included the then President Kenneth Luke, Vice-President Horrie Clover and Committeeman Jim Francis. Also aboard were coach Perc Bentley, Chitty, Ken Hands, Jim Clark and the late Jim Mooring.

In later life at Glenferrie Oval, Hopper was afforded greater opportunity and found his niche as a capable utility who could play anywhere. From 1947 to ’51, he racked up 66 senior games for his second club, during which time he earned a handsome reputation as a most popular and respected team man.

Hopper was also rewarded with Hawthorn Life Membership, having served as President of the Hawthorn Past Players Association on no less than seven occasions.

The Hawthorn Football Club is also the beneficiary of Hopper’s generosity, by way of relevant club memorabilia handed over by his daughter.