This week – Wednesday 22 June 2022 to be precise - marks the 125th anniversary of the first match involving a Carlton team on its spiritual home.

On the afternoon of Tuesday June 22 1897, Jimmy Aitken led the Carlton team onto to what was known as the Recreation Reserve at Princes Park for the first of 962 VFL/AFL matches to be played through 109 seasons at that venue.

In what also marked the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign, the home team appropriately met Collingwood for the first time in League competition – Collingwood having hosted Carlton at Victoria Park when the two teams first met in the-then VFA some five years previous.

Ald. James Moloney, who christened the ground “with an old-fashioned Irish punt” when the players formed a pre-match guard of honour.

Prior to the match, the-then Melbourne City Council Alderman James Moloney christened the ground with the first ceremonial punt kick.

“The Rover”, writing for the Weekly Times, noted: “I congratulate the Carltonians most heartily upon having at last secured a suitable field, and wish them long life and good health to enjoy it”.

In greater detail, Donald McDonald, the long-serving sports correspondent for The Argus writing under the nom-de-plume “Observer”, reported the events of that afternoon in the following morning’s edition:

“The Carlton Club opened their ground in Prince’s-park yesterday, and did it in a manner worthy the best traditions of the old club.

It was a coincidence that as Carlton was the first team to play at Victoria-park, when Collingwood commenced their career as seniors, so it fell to Collingwood now to meet Carlton on the occasion of opening their ground.

The ground, which is the same size as the famous M.C.C. enclosure, is well fenced, both outside and round the playing space, but as yet there are no buildings.

As it is however, a joint occupancy by the local football and cricket club, improvements will come in good time. Half the ground is covered with a matter sward of couch grass, is covered with half, which had to be levelled, has only been recently sown.

As the teams lined up preparatory to the start, Mr. A. H. Shaw, president of the Carlton Club, called for three cheers for the Queen, and he then asked Alderman Moloney to have the first kick on the new ground, which was, of course, an old-fashioned Irish punt.

Again, at half-time, the president invited the visitors to refreshments, and the health of Her Majesty having been honoured, the ground was again opened, Alderman Moloney drawing attention to the fact that they had two of the lions of old Carlton present, in Messrs. John Donovan and John Gardiner, the first-named gentleman appropriately holding the position of chairman of the ground trust.

Both these heroes of old days were cheered to the echo.

How The Argus reported the historic match.

Mr Geo. Robertson, the famous Carlton follower, was there too, somewhat broader in beam than when, with a pebble in his mouth instead of the fashionable chewing gum, he charged through the Melbourne ruck.

There was everything in the surroundings to fire the light-looking juniors who make up Carlton’s twenty to-day to play an exceptional game - and play they did, in a style that Carlton has not rivalled for years past. By 4 points only they failed to gain a victory against the powerful Collingwood, but hardly a man on the ground would deny that they deserved a victory.”

For the record, Carlton lost to Collingwood by six points, 6.5 (41) to 5.5 (35) – a final scoreline amended in 2012 after the AFL determined a behind was wrongly awarded to the home team – with Alfred Richard Wallace (“Wally”) Ocock accredited as the first Carlton footballer to boot a goal on the hallowed turf.

This was also the seventh and final appearance of Carlton’s Castlemaine recruit Arthur Cummins, who held the unique distinction of having turned out against all seven other VFL clubs at seven different venues in seven consecutive rounds.