Ringholt only got to wear the No.35 into four senior matches for the Blues “and five got you a club blazer” as he lamented. But the boy from up the road at Coburg takes great solace in the fact that he shared the number with his maternal uncle, Jack Conley, whose 135 matches in nine seasons with Carlton included the’47 Grand Final won with Fred Stafford’s famous snap.
Seventy-seven-year-old Ringholt and his wife Dot recently completed the sentimental journey from their home of Yarrawonga, as part of a seven-day Melbourne sojourn which also took in a visit to Ringholt’s former teammate Graeme Anderson in Mornington.
“Gee the facilities have changed a lot,” Ringholt conceded of the place formerly known as Princes Park, “but even when I was playing back in those days we all thought what we had was the best available.
“They were great days, both in terms of football life and social life . . . and I guess we had a lot more freedoms than the players enjoy these days.”
Ringholt’s formative years were spent in the family home at 22 Campbell Street, Coburg. They took in schooldays at Moreland Primary and later Coburg Tech, where he chased the leather conveyance with an old teammate the late Wes Lofts.
At Coburg Tech, Ringholt’s football philosophies were shaped by the legendary Hawthorn mentor John Kennedy sen., the school’s resident coach at the time.
“‘Kanga’ (Kennedy) really left an impression,” Ringholt recalled. “When I laid injured on the ground in a school game he told me something about getting up. At the time I thought ‘He really means it’ and I learnt later on that his message was that you don’t let the opposition know you’re hurt.
Zoned to Carlton, Ringholt embarked on his football journey with the unswerving support of his father Stuart (a winner of Coburg’s Best & Fairest in 1940 and six-time West Coburg Premiership player) and of course Uncle Jack.
“I remember having a kick-to-kick with Uncle Jack in the street, and him telling me ‘can you hit the top rail of that fence with a stab kick?’. I said to him ‘I don’t really think so’ and he replied ‘when you can you might be a League footballer’.
“I ended up pretty good stab kick, but I don’t think I ever got to hit the top rail.”
Ringholt turned out for the Carlton Under 19 and reserve grade teams under the watch of the respective coaches Tom Booker and Jack Carney. He broke into the Ken Hands-coached Carlton senior team in the sixth-round match of 1963 with eventual Premiers Geelong at Kardinia Park. Starting on the pine with John Reilly, Ringholt got the chance to pit his skills with the likes of Denis Marshall and the late ‘Polly’ Farmer . . . and the Blues went down by a goal.
Ringholt’s next senior foray came a fortnight later, against Collingwood when 38,000 spectators crammed into Princes Park on the Queen’s Birthday weekend. The Blues went down by two points after resident rover Bruce Williams fluffed a kick for goal on the final siren - but the game was marred by an ugly incident in which the resident field umpire Ron Brophy was hit with a half-full long neck hurled from over the fence.
As fate would have it, Ringholt’s third appearance came against Collingwood, in the fifth round of the ’64 season at Victoria Park. Named on a wing alongside Ian Collins, Ringholt featured in Carlton’s best and earned a call-up for the following game against St Kilda at the Junction Oval – his last senior appearance for the club on a day the three-time Carlton Premiership over Adrian Gallagher completed his senior debut.
“I thought I was doing very well up until half-time, before I got in the way of Gordon Collis and Darrel Baldock,” Ringholt said of the encounter.
“They hit me from behind and I ended up flat-out on the cricket pitch, which left me with a back injury and semi-concussion. Ken Hands said to me ‘How do you feel?’ and I told him ‘Not too well’, so I exited the game at half-time and have probably regretted it ever since.”
Through the Carlton network, Ringholt was sounded out about pursuing his career interstate - either to Tasmania or to Western Australia. Ringholt pitched for Perth because of the warmer weather, representing Claremont in 114 senior appearances in the WAFL and committing 46 years of his life to Western Australia life, which took in his experiences as a sailor involved in ocean racing.
Since returning the Garden State, Ringholt has rediscovered his passion for all things Dark Navy. From Judd, through to Murphy and the current keeper of the No.35 Ed Curnow, Ringholt has delighted in his old club’s revival in a cut-throat 18-team comp.
Of Carlton and what the club means to him, Ringholt responded that it was all about the people.
“The club was such a formative part of my life,” he said. “The friendships with the players I met have been ongoing and we still catch up.”