THIS Saturday, August 29, marks 50 years to the day since Alex Jesaulenko became Carlton’s one and only footballer to kick the ton.
It happened in the opening minute of the last quarter of the final home and away match of 1970, against Melbourne on the MCG – four weeks to the day before ‘Jezza’ took the game’s most iconic mark in the greatest Grand Final of them all.
Jesaulenko’s fifth goal for the game gave the full-forward his 100th for the season – and while Brendan Fevola came excruciatingly close almost four decades later, the former’s goalkicking feat has not been equaled in this football club’s 156-year history.
The following is the story of how Alex Jesaulenko booted his 100th goal amid manic scenes on the paddock that grew – and of how the man in white played a vital part in Jezza’s incomparable milestone.
When John Craven filed his detailed match report for the final edition of The Herald on that wintry Saturday evening in August 1970, the seasoned sports journalist quite rightly noted that Alex Jesaulenko’s historic 100th goal for the season came “when he took a pass from [Adrian] Gallagher and gave Carlton a 17-point lead”.
But that was only the half of it. For Gallagher revealed to this reporter almost 40 years after the event that the officiating field umpire Ray Sleeth also had a hand in ‘Jezza’s’ historic fifth goal - from a set shot in the opening minute of the final quarter of that Round 22 match with Melbourne.
More of that later.
The Melbourne-Carlton fixture pitted the 12th placed Redlegs against Barassi’s Blues, then second and six match points adrift of the all-conquering Collingwood on the Victorian Football League ladder. Maybe this was THE year for Bob Rose’s Magpies.
Lou Richards, in his preview of the Melbourne Carlton contest for The Sun on the morning of the game, made passing reference to Jesaulenko’s approaching milestone in a column article buried within the back page. “Main interest for the Blues will be seeing if Alex Jesaulenko can reach his 100,” Richards wrote. “He can and he will”.
For once, the “Kiss of Death” got it right.
By Round 22 in 1970, Jesaulenko was just two goals adrift of Harry Vallence’s tally of 97 – then the most goals kicked by any Carlton footballer in any season - set in 1932, the year Geelong’s George Moloney topped the ton with 109. ‘Soapy’ had given the three figures a fair old nudge too, having booted four, 11 and five goals in Carlton’s three finals appearances, in what was ultimately a disappointing series for the team.
A five-goal return would afford Jesaulenko exalted status as the only Carlton footballer to kick 100 goals in a season - a feat Brendan Fevola, also wearing the famous No.25, fell tantalisingly short of achieving with his 99-goal return in 2008.
A bag of five for Jezza would also signal a first for the competition - the first time in which three League footballers - Jesaulenko, Hawthorn’s Peter Hudson and Collingwood’s Peter McKenna no less - each broke the ton in the course of the season.
On the Friday evening before the Melbourne match, The Herald ran a glorious back page image of Jesaulenko practising his goalkicking at Princes Park.
Beneath the headline ‘He seeks Blues record’, the brief article read as follows:
Only five more goals to go and Carlton full forward Alex Jesaulenko will have that elusive 100 goals for the season. If he can do it, he will be the first Carlton player to reach a century of goals. Jesaulenko, who has scored 95 goals, needs only three more to break the Carlton record held by Harry ‘Soapy’ Vallence. Vallence kicked 97 goals in 1932, the year George Moloney (Geelong) topped the VFL goalkicking with 109 goals. Jesaulenko was hard at work practising his goalkicking for the game against Melbourne at the MCG tomorrow when BOB BUCHANAN took this picture.
For the round 22 fixture, Carlton recalled its vicecaptain Wes Lofts and Dennis Munari as replacements for Barry Gill and Ian Robertson, both injured. Though Lofts and Munari were part of the long awaited premiership of 1968, neither would feature in the 1970 finals series, as the Melbourne match would be their last for Carlton.
A crowd of 40,973 - the fortunate few, really - were there to see Carlton win the match - 14.17 (101) to 12.15 (87) - and Jezza boot five to bring up the three figures . . . but not without a struggle.
The front page of The Herald’s final edition of that Saturday night acknowledged Jesaulenko’s historymaking feat in the wake of some harrowing moments in the lead-up. Two photographs - one of Jesaulenko bent over in frustration having missed a set shot, the other, of John Nicholls endeavouring to settle his player down - were featured in print.
The following account of the historic moment was reported by The Herald’s Greg Hobbs.
MAD DAY AT THE MCG
Alex Jesaulenko caused chaos and a mass stampede at the MCG on Saturday. The Carlton full-forward brought up his 100th goal for the season, amid one of the biggest and most embarrassing on-ground crowd scenes ever seen at the MCG.
Jesaulenko would still be on 99 goals only for the unselfish play of half-forward Syd Jackson. Jesaulenko's third goal for the match and 98th for the season came in the second quarter when Jackson shepherded one of Jesaulenko’s kicks through. Jesaulenko kicked the ball off the ground and in normal circumstances Jackson would have helped the ball through the goals with his own boot. After the match, goal umpire Ray Schwensen said: “It was one of the greatest sporting acts I’ve seen”.
Jesaulenko kicked his 100th goal at the one minute-mark of the last term and for the third time he was mobbed by about 3000 excited children. Big John Nicholls, a few other players, and police, tried to guard Jesaulenko against the onslaught. Order was restored after a four-minute hold-up. The timekeepers had blasted the siren several times in a bid to hurry the children off the ground. “It’s a terrifying sight to see everyone coming at you from all directions,” a relieved Jesaulenko said in the dressing rooms later.
Thousands of children jumped the fences and began milling around the boundary line early in the third quarter. They stretched back to the centre on either side of the ground. Police worked overtime as the crowds began spilling on to the playing area. At the ten-minute mark Jesaulenko kicked a point. The crowd thought it was a goal, and, thinking the 100 was up, swarmed over the Carlton forward. Ten minutes later, ]esaulenko kicked another point. Again, the anxious boundary watchers thought it was a goal. Again, ]esaulenko was mobbed.
At three quarter-time, two police protected Jesaulenko as he ran back for coach Ron Barassi’s address. Melbourne Cricket Club secretary Ian Johnson then appealed to the on runners over the amplifier, “You will be doing Jesaulenko a greater service by staying off the ground. While you stay there you are putting Jesaulenko and Carlton under greater pressure”.
Craven wrote that after Jesaulenko gleefully accepted Gallagher’s pass and brought up that historic fifth goal, members of the Victoria Police, together with the officiating umpires, took four minutes to clear the crowd from the ground, and that with Carlton in front, the famed No.25 “was wisely taken from the field in the last quarter to prevent him being mobbed again”.
But the real story belongs to Gallagher, Carlton’s three-time premiership player and its club champion in that extraordinary year.
“I think it was a pretty miserable day at the MCG, there weren’t a hell of a lot of people there, but they kept running onto the ground because ‘Jezza’ wouldn’t kick the bloody goal,” Gallagher recalled in an interview for the book Out of The Blue.
“I don’t know how many points he kicked, but they came on at least three, maybe four times and it took 10 minutes to get them off because back then it was all acceptable and there were no terrorists running around then.
“Early in the last quarter I was running into an open goal, quite literally in the I0-yard square, so it was an absolute certainty and the field umpire Ray Sleeth’s yelling out to me, ‘Give it to Alex!’. So I kicked it to him and I reckon it went five yards,” Gallagher recalled.
“Anyway, Ray Sleeth paid the mark and Jezza finally got it over with. The bottom line is that I kicked the ball to Alex Jesaulenko in the goalsquare because the umpire kept yelling ‘Give it to Jezza!’.”
It was the game which changed it all.— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) August 25, 2020
The comeback. The mark. The crowd. The jubilation.
Watch the highlights of THAT day 50 years ago... it'd be rude not to. #OwnTheFuture
It’s history now that Jesaulenko’s dream season of 1970 ended with a return of 115 goals, 72 behinds from the 25 matches in which Carlton was involved, at an outstanding average of 4.60 goals a game. Incredibly, the great man contributed almost a third of his team’s goals - 32 per cent in fact - in what was, to say the least, a very good year.
As Gallagher said: “It was a big deal then because we’d never had anyone kick 100 goals in a season, and when you think about it, it was a damned good effort for him to go on and kick 115 . . . Fevola didn’t even make the ton, and it still holds up easily, doesn't it?”
That the historic film footage of Jesaulenko’s 100th goal in 1970 cannot be found in the Seven Network’s substantial archive is truly tragic, for this was and still remains a one-off.
‘Fev’ got damned close . . . and if only the field umpire had displayed the same sense of Ray Sleeth romanticism in the closing seconds of that match.
To date, no known footage of Jesaulenko's 100th goal exists. If you are able to help the Carlton Football Club source the vision, please get in touch with Carlton Historian Tony De Bolfo via email (email@example.com).