NEIL Chandler - whose 76 senior appearances for Carlton included the famous Grand Final victories of 1968, ’70 and ’72 - has passed away suddenly at the age of 73.
On the recommendation and the former Carlton ruckman and then Morwell coach Graham Donaldson, Chandler was recruited to the Club from the South Gippsland regional town of Welshpool. It was the summer of 1967 and Chandler suddenly found himself sharing locker space with the likes of Alex Jesaulenko and Brian Kekovich, all budding recruits under Ron Barassi’s watch.
In the presence of champions through a golden epoch in Carlton history, the understated ruck-rover who first wore the No.47 and later the No.22 contributed significantly to the Club’s on-field cause.
In the Round 14 of 1968, at just 19 years and 75 days, Chandler completed his senior debut against Essendon at that most inhospitable of venues, Windy Hill. The visitors went down by a goal in that one, but Chandler was a dozen games from Grand Final greatness and revenge was swift.
In the low-scoring Grand Final of ’68 against Essendon, having shared bench space with the late Peter McLean, Chandler held up his end with a number of crucially contested marks in midfield; in the unforgettable Grand Final of ’70 against Collingwood he again played his part in what was perhaps the game’s greatest come-from-behind victory; and in the ’72 Grand Final against Richmond – in what was his 50th senior appearance – he contributed one of his team’s record-breaking 28 goals off a wing.
Adrian Gallagher, the 165-game Carlton rover who hailed from the South Gippsland township of Yarram, turned out at Windy Hill when Chandler completed his senior debut — and like Chandler savoured the sugarsweet Grand Final successes of 1968, ’70 and ’72.
“Neil was in the right place at the right time, three premierships in 50 games, and he was an important player in each of them,” Gallagher said.
“He took those important marks late in the ’68 Grand Final and was an important replacement for ‘Gooldy’ (John Goold) in the Grand Final two years later.
“He was a ruck-rover-type and ‘Barass’ loved him. He played the game in the right manner and he was an excellent bloke. He was a great country boy, straight off the farm, and he and I always liked to talk about the local footy back home. He was always measured and he was very laidback.”
Chandler’s on-field career ended in 1974 with six senior appearances for St Kilda - Carlton’s opponent at Marvel Stadium next Friday night - but in the ensuing years he always partook in the various premiership reunions and club functions.
He was on hand at Carlton’s Life Members Luncheon at Kew Golf Club back in March and more recently at a gathering of 13 of the surviving 18 of the ’72 Grand Finial when the Blues and Richmond met at the MCG in the opening round.
He would have been a welcome presence at the upcoming 1972 premiership reunion at Marvel Stadium. Sadly, that is not to be.
Chandler was the 806th player to represent the Carlton Football Club at senior level since the formation of the Victorian Football League.
The Carlton senior players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect for the late Chandler in Saturday afternoon’s match with Fremantle at Marvel Stadium.