IT'S MORE than three quarters of a century since Bill Redmond – at 96 years, nine months and 258 days, the Club’s oldest known surviving senior player - last laced a boot for Carlton.

That happened in Round 5 of 1948 against Collingwood at Victoria Park – Redmond’s seventh and final game wearing the No.2 on his back.

Over the years, Redmond’s been photographed with other keepers of the number – amongst them his best man, the late Ken Hopper, from whom he inherited the number, and the great John Nicholls the games record holder in it.

Today, in La Trobe University’s Sports Stadium not far from his home in Flora Hill, Bill fronted up to meet with Carlton’s current No.2 custodian – boyhood Blue Lachie Cowan, a participant in the Club's 2024 AFL Community Camp.

Two Navy Blue No.2s: Carlton player No.620 Bill Redmond and player No.1234 Lachie Cowan.

“I still love the Club and with the boys heading here, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” said Redmond, sporting the No.620 medallion on his lapel as Carlton’s 620th player to complete his senior debut since 1897.

“I’m having a bit of trouble walking with my balance right now, but my son Philip, who lives next door, helped get me there.

“There were people everywhere but I got to meet Lachie and that was terrific. I gave him a souvenir of the ’47 premiership, a pennant with the players’ names on it. I had a photo taken with Lachie and also with the captain Patrick Cripps, who was kind enough to say hello. By gee he’s tall.”

Redmond shares some Carlton memories with his current-day contemporary.

The Carlton of today is so very different to the Carlton of Redmond’s youth – a case in point the club’s balance sheet of 1948, a copy of which he recently perused. As he said with some amusement: “It cost around £9,000 ($18,000) to run the whole club back in ’48. Now players are getting a million a year”.

Born William George Arthur Redmond in North Melbourne on 29 May 1927, Bill spent his formative years in nearby Brunswick, finding work as an engineering pattern-maker between games of football and cricket.

Accepting an invitation to join the Carlton under 19s in its inaugural season of 1946, Redmond earned the Ken Luke Cup as the team’s best player afield in its Grand Final loss to North Melbourne. Not long after, he was adjudged joint Best and Fairest with Ron Dunn – “and I don’t mind telling people that Richard Pratt, Sergio Silvagni and Adrian Gallagher were winners after me”.

Redmond’s recollections of those Carlton days are all fond ones, particularly the pleasant Sunday mornings “when they put on biscuits and cheese”.

“I remember that the senior coach Percy Bentley was interested in trap shooting, and one day he arranged for a driver to take every member of the team on a trap shooting trip,” Redmond said.

“We all climbed into the back of this old furniture van with drop-down sides and we took off up the bush somewhere. Anyway, the driver failed to negotiate a bend in the road and the van rolled over. The paper never picked it up, but every player could have been killed. As it happened we all got out of it okay and the only person hurt was Mrs Bentley, Percy’s wife.”

A marvellous raconteur, Redmond related another untold tale involving the spiteful 1945 Preliminary Final between Carlton and Collingwood at Princes Park – a portent of what was to come in “The Bloodbath”.

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps meets Bill Redmond.

“Before I played for the Carlton under 19s I used to turn up at Princes Park in the days when they opened the gates and you’d get in for nothing at three quarter-time,” Redmond said.

“I remember fronting up to the preliminary final at three quarter-time, with Collingwood 28 points up – a lead they stretched to 34 when one of their players booted the first goal of the last quarter.

“It was then that an absolutely magnificent little player named Jimmy Mooring came on and turned the game.

“Now Jimmy was a barman in Bendigo, but when I joined Carlton we became teammates and I remember asking him about that game. He said ‘Let me tell you something. I was 19th man sitting on the bench and at three quarter time Percy Bentley said ‘Look Jim we’re in trouble. I want you to go out there in the last quarter and cause a stir’’.

“Did he cause a stir.”

Redmond added that Mooring told him that he charged on to Princes Park, “went bang and dropped a Collingwood player”.

“From then on, every other Collingwood player was only worried about catching me to even up, and in the end we made them pay.”

Carlton overcame the Magpies to win the prelim by 10 points – in no small part through Mooring’s act - and seven days later rolled South Melbourne by 28 in the big one.

Redmond’s maiden season at Carlton was a premiership season – and while he never made the final cut for the ’47 team which prevailed by a point over Essendon, he is the last man standing of the 20 who formed a guard of honour when the ’47 premiership pennant was unfurled at Princes Park in Round 2 of the following year.

“I can remember carrying my Gladstone bag to the match, getting changed and being told to run out onto the ground for the unfurling of the pennant,” Redmond recalled.

“I was the youngest player in that team of course. I stood next to Bert Deacon, who was probably as good a Carlton player as there was in my time there, although ‘Chooka’ Howell was a good player.”

The unfurling of the 1947 premiership pennant: Bill Redmond, the only surviving member who took to the field that day, is the third player from the left.

Through 1948, Redmond established himself as a regular member of the senior team, out of a back pocket alongside the champion full-back Ollie Grieve.

He strung together five matches in succession, until mid-May when rival club North Melbourne protested to the VFL that Carlton had signed Redmond in contravention of the League’s zoning rules. Redmond, it seemed, lived on the wrong side of the street in West Brunswick, which served as a boundary between the two club zones – and in the end the VFL sided with the Shinboners, and revoked Redmond’s playing permit.

North was intent on getting Redmond to Arden Street, and flatly refused him a clearance to Carlton. The Blues, in turn, dug in their heels and ultimately Redmond signed with Williamstown, which trumped both clubs by almost doubling his match payments.

At Williamstown, Redmond lined up at full-forward in the Seagull’s 1948 Grand Final team that lost to Brighton. Then in 1950 he transferred to Bendigo Football League club Eaglehawk, before joining North Bendigo in the Heathcote District Football League as captain-coach two years later.

Redmond, whose sister Rose is the grandmother of Geelong’s Grand Final-winning Guthrie brothers Cameron and Zach, was voted Best and Fairest in the HDFL in 1954, then switched to South Bendigo to star in its ’56 premiership team. Premierships also followed at Inglewood in 1958 and South Bendigo reserves in ’59 and ’60, and Redmond served as captain-coach in all three.

By 1963 Redmond was chasing the leather for Bridgewater where he savoured further Grand Final glory and took out the League’s goalkicking honours with 51.

The following year, he hung up the boots at the ripe old age of 37 – and his love for Carlton has never waned.

Bill Redmond holds his old player photo from 1947.