Allan Greenshields is one of only three Carlton men still around to tell the tale of the team’s 1947 Grand Final triumph . . . and not a day goes past that he doesn’t ponder what might have been.
As 20th man on that fateful September Saturday against Essendon, Allan took his place on the timber alongside Ken Baxter, the only player of that era to represent the Blues in the two premierships that bookended the Second World War – 1938 and ’45 - as well as ’47.
These of course were the days prior to interchange and, as fate would have it, Allan never got the call-up. When Freddy Stafford sunk Essendon with that match-winning snap in the dying moments of the ’47 Grand Final, Allan was still watching on in his dressing gown.
“Have I thought that it might have been me in that position?,” said Allan in a recent interview? “Oh absolutely . . . absolutely . . . it would have been nice”.
“I didn’t get a run and that was tough because we were struggling all day long. We were behind Essendon all day and Essendon should have won it because of all those behinds. We’d kicked something like eight straight to half-time and they’d kicked 8.11.
“We finished up winning it by one point (13.8 (86) -11.19 (85)) as you know . . . and on the fence, where the coach (Percy Bentley) sat with the selection committee, they were imploring Perc to put me on because we weren’t getting the result we were looking for - and Freddy Stafford hadn’t had a touch for the whole game.”
Allan remembers that as the match wore on, members of the Carlton’s brains trust gained voice as they called on Bentley to make a change.
“They (the selectors’) were saying ‘Put Allan up for Fred, but he (Bentley) wouldn’t do it. He said, ‘No, we’ll just wait a bit longer’,” Allan said.
Well as it happened, the ball came out from a throw-in by the boundary, landed in Fred’s arms and being a right footer he turned around and goaled with a left foot snap of all things . . . 25 yards out from goal, right through the centre.
“So he (Bentley) was vindicated and I was left lamenting,” (laughs).
Don’t get him wrong, there’s no bitterness in Allan. He understands that Bentley got it absolutely right and he appreciates that he himself contributed to the Carlton cause, even if 10 of his 13 senior appearances through ’47 came when he emerged from the dugout – including the second semi when he replaced the injured Bert Deacon and stood the Essendon captain Dick Reynolds.
“That was something you didn’t have much time to think about. You just got out there and all the boys around me, particularly Jimmy Clark, gave me a lot of encouragement,” Allan said.
“It was a great experience because he (Reynolds) ran everywhere. He had great stamina for a man who was much older than me.”
Regrettably, Allan’s senior career was confined to just 16 matches in total. Though he joined Carlton in 1944, wartime duties as a trainee pilot for the RAAF put his on-field appearances on hold until ’46 (as reserve grade captain) and two breaks to the same arm on separate occasions through the ’48 season hardly helped his cause.
By 1950, Allan saw the writing on the wall and switched camps, turning out in 57 senior matches for St Kilda over the ensuing six seasons.
Not that it impacted on his long-term allegiance to the mighty Blues. He still has a great love for the game and for his club, which not so long ago rewarded each and every Carlton premiership player with life membership. And he still gets along to the games, always taking a particular interest in Heath Scotland, who wears the No.29 he wore with pride some seven decades before.
“My time at Carlton was probably one of the best things that happened to me,” Allan said. “It’s a wonderful thing when people from all walks of life come up to you and say ‘Carlton player’. It gives you a good feeling to be a member of the Carlton club.”
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