THE Carlton Football Club and the Northern Blues have today been forced to make the incredibly difficult decision to dissolve their partnership.

The Covid-19 situation has decimated the AFL industry, with this sad reality meaning that the alignment between the two clubs is no longer financially viable in its current format.

The impact of these circumstances has meant that the Carlton Football Club is no longer in a position whereby it could financially support the operations of the Northern Blues.

Carlton is in the process of providing the Northern Blues’ Directors with all the support necessary to assist in finalising the operations of their club and determining the very best way to manage the individual situations of all Northern Blues staff, players and key stakeholders.

The partnership between the two clubs extended back to 2002, when the Northern Bullants joined the Carlton Football Club as its VFL affiliate.

From that point on the alignment proved to be a proud development pathway for Navy Blue talent on and off the field. This included Carlton’s current Senior Coach David Teague, who began his coaching career with the Bullants, taking them to two successive VFL Grand Final appearances in 2009 and 2010.

In 2011, the two football clubs moved even closer, with members of the Northern Bullants voting at a Special General Meeting to change their name to the Northern Blues.

Over nearly two decades Carlton and Northern formed an endearing connection that was shared between players, staff and supporters.

Carlton CEO Cain Liddle said that today’s announcement was made with a heavy heart.

“It is hard to put into words how difficult a decision this has been,” Liddle said.

“Northern have been part of the Carlton family for the last 19 years. While being an incredibly proud club in their own right, they have also provided a terrific pathway for our players and coaches to thrive in their development.

“Preston City Oval was a second home on the weekends for many Carlton players, staff and supporters. This is an extremely sad day for so many involved but Northern will always have a special place in the history of the Carlton Football Club.

“We are currently working with Northern Blues players to ensure they have access to ongoing support and resources. Should the VFL season go ahead, Carlton will be offered the opportunity to enter a team of our own and we would obviously be leaning heavily on existing Northern Blues players to complement our listed players.”

Northern Blues president Stephen Papal expressed his disappointment at the unavoidable outcome.

“To see our football club unable to continue its operations is as difficult as it gets,” Papal said.

“I can say nothing more but express my eternal gratitude to every player, coach, administrator, sponsor, member and supporter that has be part of the Northern Blues Football Club and kept us going year after year.

“Our history extends 138 years and we are proud of each and every one of those seasons. This football club has a rich history and we will do everything possible to ensure it remains in the hearts and minds of our supporters forever.

“Thank you also to the Carlton Football Club for their support over nearly 20 years. The affiliation has been a strong one, full of great memories and life-long friendships. While we are gutted it is unable to continue, we are grateful our football club was able to exist for another two decades as a result of the partnership and we are proud of what we were able to achieve together.”

A football club with as proud and as long a history as any other, the Preston Football Club was established back in 1882 and joined the VFA in 1912.

Its connection with Carlton extends back 80 years, with the Blues’ first Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon playing for the Bullants as a 17-year-old back in 1940 before returning to captain-coach the Club in 1951 after 106 games for Carlton.

Champion Bullants players included Ray Shaw, Ted Henrys, Harold Martin, Peter Weightman, Laurie Hill, Trevor Durward and Frankie Raso just to name a few, with premiership success enjoyed with back-to-back flags in 1968 and 1969 and once again in 1983 and 1984.

The Carlton Football Club will ensure the history shared between the two clubs over the last 19 years remains.