“THIS is a very special place to me.”
When describing his football journey to someone who doesn’t know his story, Mil Hanna was quick to tug on the heartstrings.
The much-loved premiership Blue was back at Ikon Park on Tuesday, catching up with Anthony Rahayel — the popular Lebanese food blogger and Carlton’s newest member.
Hanna is well aware of the ‘All of Us’ nature when it comes to the Carlton family: he was the first Lebanese-born player in the VFL/AFL and is a member of the Club’s Hall of Fame.
Speaking to the man behind the ‘No Garlic No Onions’ handle, Hanna said the return to Royal Parade evoked special memories.
“It’s quite surreal, actually. I was here when I was 15 and I’m 54 now… it means a lot to me,” Hanna said.
“It made up half of my life and I have some amazing memories out on this ground.
“I look around and think about some of the massive games we played here and the crowd roaring — it’s a special time in your life.”
Of course, Hanna is very familiar with Carlton as a club and suburb, with his family having settled in East Brunswick.
Initially started out as an under-19s player in 1982, Hanna ultimately earned his senior debut in 1986 before retiring in 1997.
While the return to Carlton was a poignant one, it won’t compare to what’s going to come for the former No.13.
“I’ve been in Australia for that many years: I started at Carlton when I was 15 and played until I was 32,” he said.
“I came to Australia when I was five and, believe it or not, I actually have not been back to Lebanon. I’m really excited in the next year or two because the whole family - my son, my wife and my daughter - are planning a trip back in 2021.
“It’s going to be a bit of a homecoming for me. It’ll be quite a sentimental and emotional journey back to where I was born in the village which I can’t remember much of as a five-year-old.”
Having welcomed Rahayel to be the latest member of the Carlton Football Club, Hanna’s message to him said it all.
“Welcome to Carlton, welcome to Melbourne. You’re a part of the family now, you’re a Carlton member,” he said.
“You’ve got a beautiful jumper with my old number on it.
“Spread the love around the world about Carlton, about what you do and hopefully we see you here again soon.”