IN THE dark of night, and long after the last player had filed out of the place, he appears . . . a silhouette in the moonlight at the main entrance to the old Carlton ground.
The glass doors part and through he walks, catching first glimpse of the 16 Premiership cups (he had a hand in four of them), his 1981 Norm Smith Medal (hard-earned on Craig Davis) and his unmistakeable visage on the 200-game wall.
Venturing outside to the landing, to the site of what was once the Robert Heatley Stand, the great Bruce Doull – perhaps the most universally respected and admired footballer ever to lace a boot – casts a judicious eye over the blessed turf . . . and his mind takes him back to another time.
For the man David Parkin once declared “the best team player I ever coached”, Bruce is happy to be home.
It’s the evening of Wednesday 11 July 2012, and Carlton’s (and the AFL’s) Team of the 20th Century half-back agrees to tell all in a to-camera interview for the Club’s benefit.
For Bruce this is no easy task. In the 356 games through 18 seasons in which he played, the No.11 never gave interviews in any medium - save for the chat with Peter McKenna for World Of Sport on the Sunday after the 1981 Grand Final; a few words for The Sun’s Daryl Timms on the eve of his 350th game in 1986; and the classic Clayton’s chinwag for Driving with Sam Pang in 2014.
In the eerie sanctuary of the players’ vacated dressing room, Bruce pulls up a pew by the famous No.11 locker, where his name shares door space with the likes of Rod McGregor, Jack Hale, John Goold and Earl Spalding - Carlton premiership players one and all. Then, with the camera rolling, this intensely shy and humble character opens up on his unique football odyssey.
Bruce Doull speaks.
For the next 90 minutes, Bruce recounts with incredible insight never-before-told tales of his childhood, his recruitment to the Club, his emergence under Barassi, his spectacular successes under Nicholls, Jesaulenko and Parkin, and his occasional setbacks along the way.
In doing so, this most unflappable of football characters reveals a more human side. This is a man with foibles and frailties like anyone else.
A tiny excerpt of Bruce’s interview is screened at the Spirit of Carlton’s 1972 and ’82 Premiership Reunion Luncheon at the Docklands in August 2012, as Bruce is the only Carlton player to have featured in both Grand Final triumphs. Regrettably, those few precious seconds are lost in the cacophony of boisterous conversation and clinking glass that reverberates through the Victory Room.
How wonderful, after all these years, that @CarltonFC should release first excerpts of a 90-minute to-camera interview that the great Bruce Doull granted in mid-2012 for the club’s benefit.— Tony De Bolfo (@tony_debolfo) July 16, 2021
Here Bruce recounts the 1981 Grand Final and the Parkin factor.https://t.co/vAg4qeokyJ
Today, almost a decade after the event, the life and times of one of the game’s all-time greats - as told by the man himself - can hopefully now be shared with all Carlton people, in keeping with Bruce’s original wish.
For me, the incredible privilege of interviewing the great Bruce Doull on that wintry Wednesday night in 2012 remains the highlight of my 40 years as a football writer - and a good deal more as a Carlton follower.
For Doull's recollection of the 1981 Grand Final, watch the video in the player above.