By the end of the Second World War, five Carlton footballers had been lost in conflict, with many more experiencing career interruptions throughout hostilities – amongst them Ern Henfry, who returned to lead Perc Bentley’s Blues to Grand Final honours in ’47, in the famous one-point victory over Essendon by way of Fred Stafford’s trusty boot.
As luck would have it, Carlton’s next Premiership would again come at Essendon’s expense – the drought-breaking Grand Final of 1968 under coach RD Barassi.
In a contest marred by an awful cross-wind, Carlton completed a sugarsweet three-point win with one less goal – 7.14 to Essendon’s 8.5 – and Brian Kekovich remarkably booting four of his team’s seven.
The blindly courageous Garry Crane was adjudged best player afield with 30 effective possessions off a wing, on a day in which a record 116,828 patrons turned out.
Fittingly, Carlton Captain John Nicholls raised the cup aloft, in the glorious aftermath of his 200th senior appearance.
Of the 20 senior players named for the 1968 Grand Final, only seven – Ian Collins, Adrian Gallagher, Barry Gill, John Goold, Wes Lofts, John Nicholls and Sergio Silvagni – were there for the opening round of 1965 against Hawthorn at Glenferrie Oval, Barassi’s first game as Carlton Captain-Coach.
Adrian Gallagher, who was in possession of the footy when the siren sounded a dramatic end to both the 1968 and ’70 Grand finals, put it best when he said recently:
“The recognition of the people is what I remember of ’68. When you’re 22 and you’re playing, it’s magnificent, but what you realize as you get older is what it actually meant to people, and ’68 meant more than most to a lot . . .
“That was special because it was the first one in 21 years, and because the years go so quick, this is what you come to realize.”
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