AS CO-CAPTAIN, Patrick Cripps shoulders a leadership responsibility once shared by fellow Western Australians Brighton Diggins, Ern Henfry and Mike Fitzpatrick – the capable leaders of Carlton Premiership teams in 1938, ’45 and 1981/’82 respectively.

Ponder the contributions of George Bailey, Syd Jackson, Ken Hunter, Jon Dorotich and Earl Spalding to name a few, and it’s clear that Carlton has fared spectacularly well in its recruitment of players from across the Nullarbor.

But Blues fans old enough to remember might want to look away now, as the following is a story about the one who got away . . . none other than BarryCable, later the North Melbourne dual Premiership player and Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Carlton Football Club Committee minutes of August 11, 1964

Flick the yellowing pages of the Carlton Football Club Committee minutes back to August 11, 1964, and there you will find the following entry;

“B. Cable, Perth. Signed K. Hands.”

The Carlton overture to the great Barry Cable was led by Barry’s first coach at Perth – the former Carlton premiership captain Ern Henfry - who was more than mindful of the young rover’s prodigious talents.

Henfry’s old teammate at Princes Park and the then Carlton Senior Coach the late Ken Hands made the trip across the Nullabor to get his man by way of a “Form Four” – a statutory declaration that tied the 19 year-old Cable to Carlton for the 1964, ’65 and ’66 seasons if he wanted to pursue his playing career in Victoria.

“I signed Barry Cable,” Hands told this report a couple of years ago. “He worked for the Master Butchers in Perth and when I got off the plane I went straight there. I took him and his girlfriend out for dinner that night and had no trouble signing him.”

Carlton Annual Report, 1964

Hands remembered that no money changed hands at the time and he always lamented the fact that “the club wasn’t as quick on the job as it should have been” in getting Cable across.

But Cable said from Perth that Carlton was exemplary in the way it handled the matter and that his decision not to join had nothing to do with the club’s actions.

“I don’t remember that Ken came to see me at Master Butchers but I do remember that he came to see me at the Perth Footy Club,” Cable said. “I then signed the Form Four which covered me for 1964, ’65 and ’66.

“Because Ernie (Henfry) was coach of Perth we had some discussions and then my wife Helen and I flew across to Carlton. I remember meeting Gordon Collis, who had just won the Brownlow, and I’d just won the Sandover.

“They (the club) put my wife and I up in an hotel just across the road at Princes Park and I had a bit of a training run at the ground where I met some of the other players.”

In 1966, during a break in the Australian Championships, Cable, then representing Western Australia, met up with Victoria’s most capped footballer, John Nicholls.

“John and someone else connected with the Carlton Football Club came to see me,” Cable said. “They tried to get me to sign again, but by then I’d worked pretty hard in Perth and got myself organised, so I just didn’t want to go. They offered me the usual, but I said no, because I didn’t want to have that on my conscience.

“I should say that Carlton did everything right, but in the end the timing just wasn’t right. The fact that I emphatically said ‘No, I’m not going to Melbourne’ put a lot of the other clubs off, which was a good thing for me personally because other clubs were also chasing me.”

Barry Cable would eventually make his way to Melbourne, albeit North Melbourne

Cable was one of eleven players who signed on with Carlton in ‘64. Of the eleven, only three – South Warrnambool’s Terry Board, North Hobart’s Peter “Percy” Jones and Robert “Rocky” Lane –would represent Carlton at senior level.

Board wore the dark Navy Blue guernsey into 41 senior games between 1965 and ’68; Jones emerged as a four-time Premiership ruckman, club Best and Fairest and universal crowd pleaser through 249 contests from 1966 to ’79; and Lane was a two-game player for Carlton in 1966 who 13 years later was tragically shot and killed in the line of duty as a valued member of the Victoria Police.

Cable had no desire to move interstate despite the repeated urgings of a club which not long after landed Ron Barassi as Captain-Coach in a move which rocked the football world to its foundations.

The great irony of course is that Cable finally made the move to Melbourne (specifically North Melbourne) in late 1969 “because I’d done everything I’d wanted to do in Perth”- and, in his second stint at Arden Street under Barassi’s watch found his niche as a feted member of North’s historic 1975 and ’77 Premiership teams.

But “Cabes” at Carlton? Who knows? Perhaps the Grand Final outcomes of 1969 and ’73 would have been very different for Blue Barry’s presence.

Barry Cable fact file

Full name: Barry Thomas Cable MBE

DOB: September 22, 1943

Place of birth: Narrogin, Western Australia

Height/Weight: 168cm/70kg 

Playing career

Perth FC 1962-’69 & ’71-’73 – 225 matches, 325 goals

North Melbourne FC 1970 & ’74-’77 – 115 matches, 133 goals

East Perth FC 1978-’79 – 43 games, 50 goals 

Representative team honours

Western Australia 1964-’78 – 20 games, 35 goals

Victoria 1975 – one game, 0 goals

Career highlights

Sandover Medallist: 1964, ’68 & ’73

Perth best and fairest: 1965-’69, ’71 & ’73

All-Australian team member: 1966 & ’69

Tassie Medallist: 1966

Perth premiership player: 1966, ’67 & ’68

Simpson Medallist: 1966-’69 & ’77

North Melbourne best and fairest: 1970

Perth captain: 1972 & ’73

North Melbourne Premiership player 1975 & ’77

East Perth Premiership player: 1978

Sport Australia Hall of Fame inductee: 1986

Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee: 1996

West Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee: 2004

North Melbourne Team of the Century rover

Indigenous Team of the Century rover