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'68ers turn back the hands

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  May 15, 2018 12:50 PM

Classic Matches | Essendon Prepare yourself for the Blues' game this week with a trip down memory lane to a classic Carlton match. This week's classic match is from the 1968 Grand Final.

Members of Carlton’s Premiership team of 1968 have celebrated the old dark Navy Blues’ first victory of the season in fine style, reuniting at the MCG on Saturday some 50 years after landing the club’s drought-breaking ninth Premiership, appropriately enough over Essendon.

Of the 18 survivors of the senior 20 who represented the club in that famous Grand Final victory 7.14 (56) – 8.5 (53) –13 joined their coach Ron Barassi in reliving the past glory in the Keith Miller Room of the MCG’s Great Southern Stand.

In attendance was the ’68 Premiership captain John Nicholls, Bill Bennett, Neil Chandler, Ian Collins, Garry Crane, Adrian Gallagher, Barry Gill, John Goold, Alex Jesaulenko, Peter Jones, Bryan Quirk, Ian Robertson and Robert Walls.

Nicholls Barassi Image
1968 premiership captain John Nicholls with coach Ron Barassi. (Photo: Carlton Media)

Apologies were received from Brent Crosswell, Kevin Hall, Brian Kekovich, Dennis Munari and Sergio Silvagni, Carlton’s Best & Fairest player in that famous year.

Peter McLean died in April 2009 and Wes Lofts in May 2014.

Adrian Gallagher, who was in possession of the football when the final siren sounded on Grand Final day,

“We’ve had a great day,” said Gallagher on his old teammates’ behalf. “It was terrific to see Bill Bennett, who never played for Carlton again, and Neil Chandler who came up from Yarram where young Jed Lamb hails from.

“‘Gooldy’ (John Goold) looked immaculate and ‘Perc’ (Peter Jones) was in fine form.”

Reflecting on the 1968 Grand Final, in which Carlton posted the only victory of any team before or since with less goals than its opponent, Gallagher recalled the awful cross-wind that ruined the contest as a spectacle.

“It was a hot day, the ground was hard and there was a really severe westerly,” Gallagher said.

“It was a tough game physically. I copped a knock early but played through it, and (Brent) Crosswell, who was only an 18 year-old kid, played with a shoulder injury he copped in the semi, which was a magnificent effort by him.

“To think that Brian Kekovich kicked four of the team’s seven goals for that game – all of them in the first half - says as much about his kicking technique as anything else. To kick four goals out of seven in those conditions . . . well . . . he won the game. ”

“I remember we played in a practice match at Myrtleford to pay for Brian’s transfer fee, and Brian’s kicked four in a Premiership side on Grand Final day.”

Gallagher believed that Barassi brought a real professionalism to Princes Park at a time when the Carlton brand had been battered, but he also inherited a fairly handy contingent of footballers.

Does he see any parallels with the Carlton 2018 model under senior coach Brendon Bolton?

“The thing with ’68 was that we had a really good leadership group of Nicholls, Silvagni, Lofts and Collins that ‘Barass’ was able to nurture, but we also picked up some pretty handy recruits like (Alex) Jesaulenko and Crosswell,” came the reply.

“Imagine throwing Jesaulenko and Crosswell into the mix now?

“When you look at that ’68 team today, it’s amazing to think about what the players also contributed to the club in later years – Nicholls, Jesaulenko and Walls as Premiership coaches, Collins as CEO and President, Lofts as Chairman of Selectors and Hall as a director. That was an influential group.”

Having also been part of Carlton’s 1970 and ’72 triumphs, Gallagher has on more than one occasion been asked to nominate a favourite – which he concurs is like being asked to volunteer your favourite kid.

“1968 was so good in respect of the joy that it brought after so long to so many supporters,” Gallagher recalled. “That was the year the social club opened at Princes Park and I reckon a replay of that game was projected onto a big screen they set up in front of it – and the replay ran for two weeks in glorious black and white.”

The 1968 Grand Final attracted a then record audience of 116,828. On Saturday, 44,669 fronted up to see Carlton open its account with a hard-fought 13-point victory over Essendon, with ’68 Premiership player Garry Crane having sounded the old time bell pre-match and teammates Neil Chandler and Barry Gill conspicuous by their presence in the winner’s circle afterwards.