Former Carlton captain and coach Ken Hands has paid the old ground a very special visit to view a display of his items of memorabilia amassed over his stellar years as a Premiership player for his club and as a Big V representative.
One of the most influential figures in Carlton history, Hands, who turned 89 late last month, recently availed his glorious collection of memorabilia to the football club - some 70 years after he completed his senior debut at Princes Park, against St Kilda in the 5th round of 1945.
Hands approved of the showcasing of the old No.1 Carlton woollen long-sleeve guernsey (which he inherited from the ’38 Premiership player Frank Anderson) worn through 200 senior appearances for the mighty Blues. In viewing the jumper, he was pleasantly surprised to renew acquaintance with Stephen Silvagni - the club's List Manager who similarly wore the No.1 with distinction through 312 games in 17 seasons.
Ken Hands with Stephen Silvagni.
“I had to stand out in ’44 because I was tied to Geelong. I was 18 when I first played in ’45 and I was the youngest then,” said Hands in reflecting on his on-field career.
“In those days I was still living with my family in Highton, about five miles out of Geelong,” Hands said. "I used to ride a bike to Geelong station, catch the train up to Melbourne to play, then catch the train home that night. I did that for five years and never missed a game.
“I remember all the khaki in the crowd towards the end of the ’45 season. Our soldiers were returning from the war and at Princes Park the club arranged a spot for them on the hill - there were no seats then - so they could watch the Carlton games for nothing."
Ken Hands with his son John and granddaughter Louise. (Photo: Carlton Media)
Included amongst the precious assortment of Hands memorabilia are treasured Victorian guernseys, club Premiership mementoes of 1945 and ’47 and framed VFL 200-game and Life Membership certificates, together with assorted press clippings.
Asked why he thought it right to complete the handover, the only surviving member of Carlton’s “Bloodbath” Premiership team of 1945 replied: “What was I going to do with it. Stick it in a drawer? I’ve had my time”.
Hands, who also represented his team in the '47 Grand Final triumph, commanded authority as Carlton’s resident ruckman through 211 senior appearances in 13 seasons to 1957 - during which time he earned his club’s best and fairest in 1953.
A Carlton Team of the Century and Hall of Fame member, Hands also served as mentor to the budding young ruckman John Nicholls, whom he signed as club recruiter. As a senior coach in six seasons from 1959, he is also one of only three coaches (joining Norman “Hackenschmidt” Clark and Brett Ratten) to have represented Carlton in a minimum 100 senior matches as both player and coach.
Hands’ son John perhaps put it best when he said of his father’s Princes Park connection: "Carlton was a very big part of Dad's life, absolutely. His career as player and coach encompassed 20 years and that’s a big part of anyone’s life”.