WITH Perth now the epicentre for all things Carlton, it’s timely to reflect on the seismic on-field contributions of Western Australians to the club – from the Boulder-born ‘Clarrie’ Uren back in 1924 through to Broome’s Jack Martin, in this his maiden season in Dark Navy.
So who are the Blues’ best of the west? Well, with the grim realisation I’m on a hiding to nothing, this correspondent has seen fit to identify Carlton’s top 10 Western Australians.
For the purposes of this exercise, players eligible for selection had to meet two key criteria, in that they:
- played most of their junior and senior football in Western Australia; and
- represented Carlton in a minimum 50 senior games.
Based on the first criteria, Western Australian-born players ineligible for selection include the three-time Premiership player Mark Maclure, whose junior pathway predominantly played out in Queensland and New South Wales. Based on the second, Brighton Diggins (the 1938 Premiership captain-coach whose on-field appearances were confined to just 31) and Premiership players Ross Ditchburn (28) and Bert Thornley (24), could not be considered.
So here are Carlton’s western stars, in reverse order. Today, we begin with Nos.10 and 9.
10. Ron ‘Socks’ Cooper
157 matches, 170 goals (1932-’42)
Grand Finallist (1932)
It was the 1938 Carlton Premiership hero Jack Hale who perhaps put it best when he said of Ron Cooper:
“Ron could do anything with a football. He could hide himself in a game, and then whammo – he would take on the world. He had few defensive skills, but that didn’t matter, as the opposition had to worry about what he was going to do.”
Carlton knew what it was getting with Ronald Thomas Cooper – a brilliant Claremont-Cottesloe rover, who in 1931 at just 18 years of age had emerged runner-up in the Sandover Medal for competition fairest and best. Within a year, Cooper was amongst the Blues’ 19 to end just nine points adrift of Richmond in the Grand Final – the first of 11 seasons at Princes Park.
Famously known as ‘Socks’, Cooper apparently inherited the nickname for going socks down in head-to-head contests with Fitzroy’s three-time Brownlow Medallist Haydn Bunton. Cooper apparently took umbrage to Bunton’s fastidious on-field appearance - the highly-polished boots, whitened laces, pressed shorts and knee-length socks – and opted to go garterless.
Cooper was considered leech-like in his close-checking tactics, but with Hale as an able ally his flair and creativity came to the fore. Without question, he was considered one of the best Carlton players of his era.
In 1938, Cooper was cruelly denied a second Premiership medal after being suspended for four matches on the eve of the finals series. When he gave the game away four years later, ‘Socks’’ record for most games in the No. 19 guernsey remained intact for almost 70 years until Eddie Betts broke it in 2010.
9. Jon Dorotich
132 matches, 103 goals (1986-1993)
Premiership Player (1987)
4th best & fairest (1986)
6th best & fairest (1988 & ’92)
Jon Dorotich traversed the Nullarbor to Princes Park at a time when the South Australian triumvirate Stephen Kernahan, Craig Bradley and Peter Motley also called Carlton home... and team success inevitably followed.
A formidable on-field presence, what with his aerial strength, size. mobility and that prodigious left foot, the former South Fremantle key position player, whether forward or back, impacted from the outset.
Completing his senior debut at centre half-back in the opening match of the 1986 season, Dorotich stood Dermott Brereton – one of a host of big name forwards (read Lockett, Taylor and Merrett) with whom he’d rub shoulders in the weeks, months and years that followed.
In avenging the 1986 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn in the following year, Dorotich found himself up front (with David Rhys-Jones pitted against Brereton in a coaching masterstroke) as the perfect foil for Kernahan – and for a brief period gave the resident ruckman Justin Madden a chop out.
Beyond his 132-game career at Carlton, ‘Dorra’ headed home, and at South Fremantle rounded out his career as a goalkicking machine, topping the WAFL tallies with 78 and 88 in the 1995 and ’96 seasons respectively, and amassing another 120 through the Premiership year of ’97.