“McKay ... to the wing position on the Members Stand side . . . W0000AAAHHHHHHHH!! JES-AU-LENKO ... YOU BEAUTY!”
Early on the afternoon of Grand Final day 1970, the man who would soon capture the game’s most iconic image on film lugged his lens and his tripod to the first tier of the then Western Stand.
This was no easy task for The Sun News-Pictorial’s second-year photographer Clive Mackinnon, having to haul an 80-pound camera and its support to his precarious vantage point in the front row, high above the half-forward flank by the old Smoker’s Stand at the city end of the MCG.
More than 40 years after the event, Mackinnon believes that the Jesaulenko mark has endured “because Jezza got so high”. “Funny thing, Jezza used to say that there were other instances where he got up higher, and I’m not sure if he was joking,” Mackinnon said.
The mark has meant many things to many people. The then Carlton Coach Ron Barassi, perched high in the MCC’s Smoker’s Stand that afternoon, remembered exactly how he felt when Jesaulenko launched himself northward. Said Barassi: “The best thing about Jezza’s mark was that we kept possession.”
David McKay, whose torpedo punt kick found its way into Jesaulenko’s incredible grasp, said it still amazes him that the catchcry “Jezza” reverberates the school ground when any young kid launches for the elusive ‘specky’ in the schoolground or neighbouring park. “The image has also been used to promote the mark of the year, too, which guarantees the recipient far more materially than it did for Jezza back in 1970,” said McKay.
Or, for that matter, Mackinnon.
“If you took that picture now you’d make a lot of money, but I don’t think I’ve made a zac out of it,” said Mackinnon. “Cadbury made wrappers out of the pictures using my image and they did send me a box of chocolates, but the chocolates are gone now – all I’ve got is the empty box.”
For Dr Celestina Segazio, a Senior Historian for the National Trust – and herself the daughter of Italian post-war migrants – Jesaulenko’s famous mark carries a profound resonance.
“In my view, Jezza’s breathtaking mark in the 1970 Grand Final and Mike Williamson’s comment are iconic in Australian sporting life. I cannot think of a comparable example in Aussie Rules that evokes the same level of recognition, inspiration and admiration, especially for migrants,” Dr Segazio said. “I can remember the great excitement that my parents and other migrants felt when Carlton, against all odds, overcame a large deficit at half-time to win and what pride they felt that migrants had played a role.
“The Jesaulenko mark was one of the main talking points of the win and symbolized the success of migrants in rising from adversity and being accepted as part of the Australian community. Mike Williamson’s very remark, ‘Jesaulenko, you beauty!’ encapsulate this, is typically Australian and gives a stamp of approval to a man who was born overseas, had an exotic name, and who helped inspire an unlikely Grand Final win. One of the most highly valued cultural experiences for many Australians.
“As a teenager at that time, and as I got older, I reflected on the significance of the soaring mark. It was a symbolic moment when migrants had ‘made it’ in Australian eyes. If you can succeed at football then you are really one of us. Currently in my role I am involved in a project to recognise Migration Icons to celebrate the rich and diverse contribution of our community. If I had a vote Jezza’s mark would be one of the iconic moments of my migrant experience.”
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