Their ranks may be thinning – it’s 67 years ago after all – but members of Carlton’s under-19 premiership team of 1949 – “the Carlton 49ers” – this week celebrated past glories with gusto at a reunion in neighbouring East Brunswick’s Gelobar Café. 

Of the 19 who took the chocolates from Geelong in that Grand Final (9.8 (62) to 7.9 (51)), only three managed to make it along – chief organiser Hugh Cornell, George Handley and Don Hyde AM. 

Notwithstanding the seven team members who have since died and a further five whose whereabouts remain unknown, four more including captain Alan ‘Alby’ Mangels (the father of Carlton’s 88-gamer Alan jun.) fired in their apologies for various reasons.

But there lending support was Alan Bell (son of the then Carlton Secretary Harry Bell, the Spirit of Carlton’s Dennis Munari and the club’s resident statistician Stephen Williamson. 

“When I think about the ’49ers I think about those players who went on to become top players at League level,” said Hyde, who so capably called League football on radio and television for almost 40 years. 

“I think of Harry Sullivan, Keith Robinson, Max Thomas and so on. I think back and I say to myself, ‘Gee, I played with those guys’.”

Brunswick-born and bred, and an old St Joseph’s North Melbourne boy, Hyde later represented the Kangaroos at reserve grade level because he was residentially tied to the club. He also chased the leather at Deniliquin and Maryborough, during which time he began to pursue a career in radio. 

“I remember one day at Deniliquin the manager said to me ‘Our main commentator is not available – you play, so you must be able to broadcast’ – and that’s how it all started,” he said. 

The ’49 triumph completed back-to-back grand final victories for the team, whose members also include Ian Clover and Dick Gill, the sons of Carlton greats Horrie Clover and Frank Gill respectively. Jim Francis, the Carlton Premiership player at senior level in 1938, served as coach throughout that period, having assumed control of the junior outfit when it was first admitted to the Northern District Football Association in 1944.

Francis, who succumbed to a knee injury the previous season,imparted his football nous on the players, with University High School sportsmaster Mr. Gaynor offering his services as an administrator.

The then Secretary Harry Bell, in his season overview for the 1944 Annual Report, somewhat prophetically reported: 

“Mr. Gaynor and Jim Francis formed the ideal combination for the control of the boys, and it is hard to assess their value to your Club, but it is thought that full realisation of the plan may be expected in two or three years, when five or six of these boys will be regular First Eighteen players, and when this is achieved it may then be recognised that the fielding of an under 18 years team in the N.D.F.A. was one of the most progressive steps ever undertaken by the Carlton Club”. 

Cornell recalled that in those fledgling years of the Under 19 competition, Collingwood was the only team not represented, “which is somewhat surprising when you think about it”. 

“I think the 12th team at that time was a TAA team,” he recalled. 

Cornell also remembered his old mentor with great affection.

Don Hyde AM views the team photo.

“Jim Francis was a wonderful coach. He asked his players to play hard and fair,” Cornell said.

“He was a real gentleman. He was always very measured and he never lost his temper.” 

For the record, Carlton’s Trophy winners in the ’49 Premiership year included Harry Sullivan (Best and Fairest), Tom Jones (Most Consistent), Keith Robinson and Noel Rundle (who tied for Best Team Man), Max Thomas (Most Serviceable Player) and George Ferry and Gerald Burke (who tied for Most Improved Player). 

With the exception of Rundle, all award winners later represented Carlton at senior level – Ferry in 139 games, Burke (87), Sullivan (31), Thomas (24), Jones (seven) and Robinson (two). 

Cornell has dutifully convened reunions of the Carlton 49ers in every year since 1999 – the 50th anniversary of their famous victory at the old Princes Park ground. 

“It was a difficult task after 50 years trying to find out where all the lads were, but we’ve effectively been meeting every year since ’99,” Cornell said. 

Carlton FC Under 19 Premiers, 1949

Carlton players pictured are as follows;

3rd row: Jim Johnson, Brian Amarant, Ray Clover, Keith Robinson,

Harry Sullivan, Tom Jones, Ron Price, Don Hyde, Dick Gill

2nd row: Ambrose Curtis, Hugh Cornell, George Ferry, Alan Mangels (c.), George Stafford, Noel Rundle, George Handley

front row: George Crowley, Max Thomas, Maurie Rossi, Charlie Blake, Gerald Burke, Ken Reed

Coach Jim Francis stands is in the back row, fifth from the right.