EVEN through the most difficult days - and there were many of them in recent years - Mark Edwards, the athletic former Carlton ruckman who died last Friday (December 11) at the age of 52, kept a spot for his old club.
Mark never represented the Blues in an official senior match for Premiership points mind you. But he was out there with Kernahan and Co. when all hell broke loose in the London exhibition match forever remembered in football infamy as “The Battle of Britain” - and it’s fair to say he made an impression.
In his only listed ‘senior’ appearance for the Blues – Sunday, October 11, 1987 - the then 19 year-old was reported and suspended for two matches for striking North Melbourne’s hard-nosed backman John Law, who later required 12 stitches for getting his head in the road.
David Rhys-Jones, the Norm Smith Medallist of 1987 and one of the chief protagonists in the match with North at The Oval, remembered the moment.
“Big Mark split John Law right down the middle of his nose with a straight right. It was a ripper,” Rhys-Jones said.
“Mark was a big lumbering kid, but he was a nice bloke, as quiet as a mouse. When he stiffened John Law we all looked at eachother and said ‘Where did that come from?’.
“John Law was a tough character too, but that rattled him.”
Born in the club’s drought-breaking Premiership season of 1968, Mark lived with his family in a couple of terrace houses at 55 and 57 Station Street, Carlton. He turned out in Dark Navy for the first time as a Little Leaguer through 1978 and ’79, before representing the nearby Princes Hill and East Brunswick football teams. He was included in Carlton’s Under 19s squad for the 1985 season - the same season he represented Victoria at Teal Cup level.
When the Edwards family relocated from Carlton to Bulleen, Mark would hitch a ride to and from training with Peter Dean, who had joined the club from South Bendigo in 1984 and would later represent the club in two Premierships through 248 matches in 15 seasons.
Progressing to reserve grade level, and wearing the old No.42 of the then Senior Coach Robert Walls, Mark was adjudged winner of the reserves’ Best First Year Player Award in 1987. The athletic big man also featured prominently in the team’s Grand Final victory over St Kilda, in the curtain raiser to the senior Grand Final also won by Carlton.
During his time at Princes Park, Mark completed his apprenticeship as a glazier, but as his mother Joan, now 84, explained this week, he soon gave the profession away.
“Then all of a sudden he gave up the professional glazing,” Joan said.
“I asked him why and he said ‘I’m going to be a professional footballer’. He knew from the age of 12 that he was going to sign with Carlton, because back then we were living in the local area and Milham Hanna was a local boy.”
Regrettably, the game wouldn’t be kind to Mark. A succession of knee injuries resulted in reconstructive surgeries in 1988 and 1989 seasons that effectively ended his chances of fulfilling his childhood dream. The following year he joined VFA club Prahran with fellow teammates Jon Henry, Scott Langan, Peter Mark, Tim Taylor, Michael Scicluna and Mike Barron-Toop.
On his retirement as a footballer, he headed to Far North Queensland to join his brother who was then working at Mareeba. For a time he managed security in nightclubs in Cairns, before heading home to Melbourne after ten years.
In 2007, as a cruel consequence of saving a truck driver from falling from his vehicle, Mark, incurred an injury to his right leg, the good one.
“They were unloading computers and he tried to save the driver from falling head first into the concrete,” Joan said.
“Mark pushed the driver back up into the truck, but he ended up hurting his back and his ‘good knee’. There were complications on and off, he ended up having hundreds of operations along the way. Three years ago he had his right leg amputated and ended up in a wheelchair.”
The loss of the right leg put pressure on the left, which in turn posed further complications for Mark and warranted his hospitalization just prior to the New Year. When infection set in on the left knee not long after his discharge from hospital, Mark was again hospitalized where he remained, save for a six-week lockdown period in a nursing home, until his discharge on September 26.
He then returned to the villa he had shared with his mother at a retirement village in Point Cook for the past three years.
“He tore the quadricep in his leg which also carried an iron bar from the top of his thigh to his lower shin, which meant that he had to keep his leg straight,” Joan said.
“That meant he had no muscle in his leg working and for the past couple of months he’d been trying to get the muscle in his leg to work, but it wouldn’t work.
“He then did physio down at Waurn Ponds, but he wasn’t getting anywhere and then he got gout. He was then trying to arrange for physio through the hospital so that he could train twice a day for a month to break the cycle and get into walking again.”
Joan said that about a week ago her boy had mentioned venturing out to watch the local bowls, “but once he could walk with a prosthetic limb rather than in a wheelchair”.
“He was looking forward to that, but gave no indication of doing what he did.”
A single man, Mark died suddenly at the villa. He is survived by his mother, brothers Paul and Craig, and their families, and his dearest friend Janine. His father Jack predeceased him.
Mark’s funeral will be held in the Chapel of Repose at Altona Memorial Park, Dohertys Road, Altona North at 12.00pm this Saturday, December 19, 2020.
“Mark loved Carlton. He loved his club,” Joan said. “I had always tried to encourage him to go back there, but he wasn’t prepared to go back. Though he had a disability, maybe he wasn’t prepared to show it.
“He had a lot of problems in life, but he was good. He had a lot of friends.”
If you require immediate support, call Beyond Blue on 1300 224636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Image courtesy of Robert Nelson Funerals.