CARLTON'S 79-game half-back Graeme Anderson, a Life Member whose father Frank played off a flank in the Club’s victorious 1938 Grand Final team, has died after a long illness.

He was 83.

Recruited to Carlton under the father-son rule after spending his formative years in neighbouring Brunswick, Graeme was destined to play for Carlton – and yet he was chasing the leather for the Watchem-Corack Football Club (and later Cobram) in north-western Victoria when the Blues came calling, as Frank was then running the local Watchem Hotel.

Graeme Anderson, Carlton player No.740, circa 1961.

So it was of no surprise that when Graeme made his way to Princes Park on the cusp of the 1961 season, Frank lent his son his full support by relocating to Melbourne and accepting a coaching role with VFA outfit Preston.

Graeme was duly handed the No.43 later worn with distinction by David McKay and Anthony Koutoufides. It is a matter of record that Graeme was the first Carlton footballer to sport that number on the back of his guernsey, although he later reverted to the No.26.

Named at full-back between Bruce Comben and Brian Buckley, Graeme completed his Carlton senior debut in the Round 9 of 1961 against Essendon, when he followed John Nicholls down the race and onto Windy Hill.

Graeme’s 79 senior appearances took in the coaching tenures of Ken Hands (a close friend of the Andersons as both families were virtual neighbours in East Brighton) and Ron Barassi with whom he also enjoyed a healthy relationship. Under Barassi’s watch, Carlton emerged as a competition powerhouse, but fate would cruelly rob Graeme of the chance to be part of the drought-breaking premiership of 1968, as his son Scott explained.

The Suns News-Pictorial flags Anderson, the prospective Carlton debutant. 17 June, 1961.

“Dad talked about getting an injury to his elbow in a marking contest in the ’68 season,” Scott said. “He accidentally punched John Nicholls in the back of a head, broke some bones in his elbow and that was it.”

Graeme’s final senior appearance in Dark Navy came in Round 16 against Footscray at the Western Oval. Eight weeks later, he watched on from the stands at the MCG as his old team took the flag with less goals kicked. By then Carlton’s Best Clubman of 1966 had forged friendships for life – the closest with teammates Kevin Hall and Garry Crane.

Crane - the three-time Carlton premiership player, Club best-and-fairest winner and Team of the Century member - remembered Graeme as “a tight-checking player who was hard to get kicks on”.

“Graeme wasn’t flamboyant, he wasn’t stylish, but he was very effective,” Crane said.

“Funny thing, I got to know him better after football. He looked after me when I took ill and he gave me employment when I didn’t know what to do. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now and I thank Graeme for his support along the way. He was very helpful and pretty kind. He was a very nice man.”

In the early 1970s, Graeme and Peter Poynton took out joint ownership of the famed watering hole the Carlton Club Hotel on Grattan and Cardigan Street corner, where many a Carlton identity toasted the latest team win into the wee hours of a Sunday.

1938 premiership backmen Frank Anderson and Frank Gill flank 1960 teammates Graeme Anderson (son) and John Gill (nephew).

After selling the pub in 1984, Graeme and his wife Gael, whom he had met in ’63 on an end-of-season trip to Surfer’s Paradise, relocated to Elsternwick (and later East Brighton), and Graeme established a landscaping business. True to his beloved Blues, Graeme employed former players like Tom Alvin and Ken Hunter to lend a green thumb, and through it all he and Gael raised their two children – daughter Jane and son Scott.

“Dad was a very strong family-driven man. He was very loyal and tight with his friends and he was a popular publican at the Carlton Club Hotel,” Scott said.

“Dad loved Carlton and Carlton was in his blood. He was heavily involved with the Carlton Past Players and he served the association as secretary. He had a passion for Carlton like there was no tomorrow, and the same applies for me and my four kids and Jane and her three.

“Dad kept up the connection for as long as he could, but the early onset of Alzheimer’s was what took him away.”

Graeme Anderson died at Benton’s Lodge in Mornington on Monday (7 November). He is survived by his beloved wife of 55 years Gael, son Scott and daughter Jane, their respective spouses Sarah and James, and seven grandchildren.

The funeral service for Graeme Anderson is to take place at Tobin Brothers, 189 Boundary Road, North Melbourne, on Monday, November 21, commencing 12.30pm

Refreshments will be served at the Carlton Football Club (Ikon Park), 400 Royal Parade, Carlton North, from 2.00pm

The Carlton team, including first-gamer Graeme Anderson, which met Essendon at Windy Hill in Round 9 – Saturday 17 June, 1961

B:         Bruce Comben                   Graeme Anderson                 Brian Buckley
HB:       Vasil Varlamos                   Bob Crowe                           John James (acting vcapt.)
C:          Bill Arch                           Berkley Cox                          Chris Pavlou
HF:        Dave McCulloch                Gordon Collis                         Ian Collins
F:          Maurie Sankey                  Tom Carroll                           Martin Cross
Ruck:     John Nicholls (act. cpt.)     Sergio Silvagni                       Leo Brereton
Res:       John Williams                   Graham Gilchrist              

Coach:  Ken Hands